[Note: Our guest contributor, Dr. Robert Jeffress, is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Dallas. His “Pathway to Victory” television program impacts lives around the world for Christ.]
Why should we study Bible prophecy? Many people think prophecy is not relevant today. They prefer to talk about topics like how to improve your marriage or how to have a better prayer life. Let me share three reasons why it’s important for us to understand Bible prophecy.
Prophecy Is a Major Theme of the Bible
First of all, prophecy is a major theme of the Bible. One way to know what’s important to God is to know what subjects are covered the most in His Word. And prophecy is a major theme. For example, did you know there are 1,800 references in the Bible to the Second Coming of Christ? In the New Testament, one in every 30 verses has to do with the return of Jesus Christ. In fact, 23 of the 27 books of the New Testament deal with the subject of Christ’s return.
And in the Old Testament, for every prophecy about the first coming of the Messiah, there are eight verses about the second coming. Clearly, the return of Jesus Christ is a major theme in the Bible, which is why we need to understand it.
Prophecy Helps Us Interpret and Apply the Bible
Second, Bible prophecy helps us interpret and apply the Bible accurately. You cannot fully understand the Old Testament prophets, the teachings of Jesus, or the epistles without understanding prophecy. Prophecy is the framework on which we hang the rest of the Bible. Let’s look at two illustrations of that, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.
The first example is Isaiah 65:20,
“No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; for the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred will be thought accursed.”
Isaiah is talking about a time when infants won’t die and the average life span will be one hundred years. What time is Isaiah talking about? He obviously isn’t talking about now. Even with our advances in medicine, babies still die, and few people reach the age of one hundred. Was Isaiah talking about heaven? No, Revelation 12:4 says there won’t be any death in heaven.
So what time was Isaiah talking about? He was talking about a future period called the Millennium when Jesus will reign on earth for a thousand years. During that time, the curse of sin will be partially removed. You can’t understand that without knowing Bible prophecy.
The second example is Matthew 25:35-40 where Jesus said:
“I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'”
You cannot fully understand the Old Testament Prophets, the teachings of Jesus, or the Epistles without understanding prophecy. Prophecy is the framework on which we hang the rest of the Bible.
I once heard somebody say, “I’m a Matthew 25 kind of Christian. My faith is centered around taking care of the least of these.” Now, we should be merciful to those who are in need. That’s certainly the fruit, the evidence of being a Christian. But is that the core of the Christian faith? Is doing good things for the least of these the heart of Christianity? Is that what the apostles proclaimed and gave their lives for? No, doing good for others is the evidence of Christianity, but the core of Christianity is repentance from sin and the forgiveness of God through the blood of Jesus Christ.
When Peter preached that great sermon on Pentecost that resulted in more than three thousand people being saved, what was his message? Feed the hungry and you shall be saved! Clothe the naked and you shall be saved! Visit those in prison and you shall be saved! No. Acts 2:38 tells us his message: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”
If that’s the heart of Christianity, then what was Jesus talking about in Matthew 25? In this passage, Jesus was teaching about the end times. The disciples asked Him, “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus was referring to the 144,000 Jewish witnesses who are saved during the Tribulation. Even though those witnesses are protected by God, they suffer, they are imprisoned, and they are denied food and drink. Jesus was saying to that future age: “How you treat these witnesses of Mine reveals whether you are truly saved. When you feed them, clothe them, and take them in, it is a sign of your love for Me.”
You can’t understand that teaching of Jesus if you don’t understand how it fits into Bible prophecy. Prophecy is the key to interpreting and applying the Bible correctly.
Prophecy Motivates Us Toward Godly Living
Third, Bible prophecy motivates us toward godly living. The reason God tells us about the end times is not to satisfy our curiosity; it is to increase our obedience to Him. Realizing that everything around us is coming to an end ought to motivate us to live godly lives.
Revelation 22:7 says, “Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” Understanding Bible prophecy should motivate us to obey God. That’s why we study prophecy.