Why Study End-Time Prophecy?- By Rev. Melwyn M.
Many Christians today don’t feel the need to study what the Bible teaches about the end times since they know that, in the end, God wins. Yet, contrary to this popular view, there are many reasons to know the details. Here are 10.
• THEY’RE PART OF GOD’S WORD. It’s been estimated that up to a third of the Bible is prophecy. Over 300 detailed prophecies were fulfilled at Christ’s first coming. Many more await fulfillment at His second coming. If we’re truly students of God’s Word, then we’ll be students of the prophecies. As the apostle Paul told his young disciple Timothy: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
• THEY PROVE THAT THE BIBLE IS GOD’S WORD. Only God could know minute details of what would happen to individuals, cities and nations thousands of years in advance. When people see the end-times prophecies being fulfilled, they’ll have solid reason to put their faith in the God of the Bible. Jesus spoke of the apologetic value of prophecy when He said, “Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe” (John 14:29).
• JESUS GAVE US SIGNS of His second coming and commanded us to watch for their fulfillments. (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21)
• GOD PROMISES A SPECIAL BLESSING FOR THOSE WHO STUDY THE END TIMES: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3, see also 22:7).
• THEY PREPARE US FOR WHAT’S COMING. Contrary to the pretribulational rapture teaching, the prophecies reveal that Christians will have to go through a time of terrible persecution by the Antichrist (Matthew 24:21-22, Mark 13:19-20, Revelation 6:9-11, 7:14, 13:7-10 and 15, 14:12-13). Knowledge of this will help us prepare mentally and spiritually.
• THEY HELP PROTECT US AGAINST SPIRITUAL DECEPTION. The Bible warns that false prophets will precede the coming of the Antichrist, and many professing Christians will follow them. End-times prophecies show us what to watch out for. (Matthew 24:24-26, Mark 13:21-22, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Revelation 13:11-18)
• THEY INCREASE OUR WORSHIP OF GOD. Christians who see prophecies fulfilled before their eyes will marvel at His sovereignty over the nations and the power of His unseen hand.
• THEY GIVE US STRATEGY FOR MINISTRY. Like the men of Issachar who understood the times and drew up their battle plans accordingly, Christians who have insight into the end times will have knowledge for spiritual battle (1 Chronicles 12:32).
• THEY GIVE COMFORT, ENCOURAGEMENT AND HOPE. When the time of tribulation comes, those who see the prophecies will know they only to have to endure for a limited time.
• THEY STIR US TO EVANGELISM, GOOD WORKS AND HOLY LIVING. Reflecting on the end times frees us from a careless, temporal perspective (Titus 2:11-13). Those who are alive during their fulfillment will have an increased urgency to share the gospel while there is still time.
Reasons People Don’t Study End-Time Prophecy
Although end-time prophecy makes up a good chunk of the Bible, many Christians admit they don’t know much about it. There are a number of reasons they give for this. Here are five.
• IT’S TOO HARD TO UNDERSTAND. It’s true that end-time prophecy is a difficult subject. Revelation — with its many strange symbols — is one of the most difficult books of the Bible to interpret. Yet, just because it’s hard to understand doesn’t mean it should be ignored. If anything, that’s a reason it should be studied more carefully. Like other important things in life, understanding prophecy takes time and effort. God knew Revelation was a difficult book; perhaps that’s why He started and ended it with the promise of a special blessing to those who study it (Revelation 1:3, 22:7).
• IT’S NOT IMPORTANT. Many Christians think it’s not important to know the details of the end times since we know that, in the end, God wins. Yet, the details are important. Why? For starters, God gave us the details in His Word. So, He must have wanted us to know them. To ignore end-times prophecy is to ignore a significant portion of the Bible.
• THERE ARE TOO MANY DIFFERENT INTERPRETATIONS. Yes, there are many different interpretations of the prophecies. Yet, just because there are many ways to interpret them doesn’t mean Christians should ignore them. After all, there are many ways to interpret many passages in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore them. Through sound principles of biblical interpretation and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, God will lead us to truth if we persistently and humbly seek it (Matthew 7:7-11).
• TOO MANY CHRISTIANS HAVE BEEN WRONG IN THE PAST. Yes, it’s true that many end-times speculations have failed. But failed speculations don’t mean we should stop paying attention to the prophecies because one day they will be fulfilled. And Jesus commanded us to watch for their fulfillments (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). Our faith shouldn’t be placed in the speculations, but in what God’s Word says about the prophecies.
• IT’S MORE IMPORTANT TO FOCUS ON EVANGELISM THAN STUDYING PROPHECY. Evangelism and study of the end times are not sworn enemies. In fact, they go hand in hand. Showing people Bible prophecies that have already been fulfilled is a powerful witnessing tool. Also, we’re not just commanded to share the gospel with people, but also to make disciples of them, teaching them everything Jesus taught (Matthew 28:19-20). And a portion of his teachings addressed the end times, including his famous Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21).
How to Study End-Time Prophecy
End-time prophecy is a difficult subject, especially if you don’t know where to start. Avoid these four common pitfalls.
MISTAKE 1: NOT FOCUSING ON ISRAEL. Many Christians forget that, in prophecy, the geographical focus is always Israel. For example, some U.S. Christians will speculate endlessly about the United States’ role in prophecy, although there is no clear reference to it in the Bible. From God’s point of view, Jerusalem is the center of the world. He said through the prophet Ezekiel, “This is Jerusalem; I have set her at the center of the nations, with lands around her” (Ezekiel 5:5). God chose to work through the nation of Israel to reveal Himself to the world. Jewish prophets penned the Scriptures, and Jesus, the Messiah, came from Jewish lineage. During the Millennium, Jesus will reign for 1,000 years from Jerusalem. So, Bible prophecies focus mainly on Israel and His dealings with Israel through the surrounding nations.
MISTAKE 2: IGNORING THE OLD TESTAMENT. Many Christians try to figure out the meaning of the symbols in the book of Revelation without looking at the clues given in the rest of Scripture. For example, many Christians have attempted to identify the great harlot (or “Babylon the Great”) in Revelation 17. Their suggestions have ranged from the Roman Catholic Church to the United States. But they forget that the Word of God must be taken as a whole. The prophecies in the New Testament can’t be correctly understood apart from the Old Testament. So, to correctly determine what Babylon represents, they must go back to where ancient Babylon had its beginning — at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. The Tower of Babel was humankind’s first attempt at coming together to build a government without God. So, Babylon the Great appears to involve the nations’ final and most powerful attempt at uniting apart from God. Today, this might be best seen in the efforts of the United Nations.
MISTAKE 3: NOT STUDYING THE BOOK OF DANIEL. Many Christians don’t realize that the book of Daniel holds the keys to understanding the book of Revelation. So, they try to understand Revelation without studying Daniel. Yet, many of the symbols contained in the book of Revelation are first introduced in Daniel. For example, Revelation 13 speaks of a beast with 10 horns. Many people wonder who this beast could possibly be, but they don’t know that this same beast made an appearance in Daniel 7, where the interpretation is given.
MISTAKE 4: NOT SEEING THE FOREST FOR THE TREES. Some Christians watch for the details of prophecy to be fulfilled and lose site of the larger fulfillments. For example, the Bible tells us that, before the end comes, there will be an increase in the frequency of earthquakes and famines (Matthew 24:7). So, some Christians point to every earthquake or famine as evidence that Christ is returning soon. Yet, they don’t remember that Christ said these are “merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:7-8). It’s true that the Bible gives us many amazing details of the future, but we must keep our eyes on the clear road signs so we don’t go off course. Some of these road signs include the return of Israel as a nation in 1948 and the revival of the Roman Empire in the form of the European Union, beginning with the Schuman Declaration in 1950.