The Bible contains a great deal of prophecy. In fact, between a fourth and a third of the Word of God is prophetic. And students of the Bible know that Jesus Christ plays a prominent role in many of these prophecies—especially those set in the end time. If God saw to it that so much of our Bible concerns prophecy, there must be a good reason for it.
So why prophecy? What does it have to do with practical matters of Christian living? And why should you take any interest in the subject?
Prophecy proves who God is
Through Scripture we learn that God accurately foretells the future. The prophet Isaiah recorded His words: "Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done" (Isaiah 46:9-10). Unlike false gods, the true God accurately and faithfully tells His people about the future, what's yet to come and the hope beyond the time of trouble.
God also throws out a challenge when He asks, "Who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, let them show these to them . . . Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one" (Isaiah 44:7-8).
These passages tell us that only God can reveal the end of the story as well as the beginning.
In the prophecies of Isaiah, we find references to the birth of a great Persian king named Cyrus. Cyrus was used by God to bring down the powerful Baby-lonian empire and let the Jews go free from captivity and return to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4).
These were momentous events in the history of the Jewish people back then. But the most amazing thing is that Isaiah prophesied in the late 700s B.C., long before Cyrus was even born! In fact, Cyrus didn't conquer Babylon and free the Jews until 539 B.C., more than a century and a half after Isaiah prophesied of him by name (see Isaiah 45:1), as well as his role in God's plan. So awesome is our God that He made this known long before the fulfillment of the event!
Prophecy impacts the lives of God's people
Just as the Jews were impacted by the Babylonian captivity and the fall of Babylon some 70 years later, so people will yet be impacted by the events foretold in Scripture. Wars will take place; freedom to worship God in peace will be taken away; persecution, and even martyrdom, will come upon Christians.
Before Jesus Christ returns to rule the earth, the Bible speaks of a time of trouble called the "great tribulation" (Matthew 24:21). It will be a time of suffering for all the world, but especially for the nations called "Israel" in the Bible—that is to say, the English-speaking nations of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as much of northwestern Europe.
To learn more about God's perspective on prophecy and what He says will happen to these nations, download or request our free booklets You Can Understand Bible Prophecy and The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.
Our younger readers have never lived in a world at war. The last world war ended in 1945, well before most of us were born.
Yes, there have been other wars since: Korea, Vietnam, various wars in the Middle East, the Balkans and Africa, and more recently two wars in Iraq. Yet these wars have had less impact on our lives than the future wars described in the Bible or the two great wars of the 20th century. For most of us, life has provided relatively uninterrupted safety and prosperity. We've never had to go hungry and never had to run to a bomb shelter for cover.
Yet the Bible tells us such bad times will come on the world, and with greater force and power than ever before! Hard as it is to imagine, the world will have to suffer much more before the second coming of Jesus Christ than at any other time in history. And Christians—God's own people—are not going to escape without feeling the impact of some of these events.
For those who have never experienced the pain and suffering of world war, it's a good idea to learn a little about what it meant to live through the horrors of the late 1930s and the 1940s. Study the history, visit some of the war museums and read some of the biographies and autobiographies of those who went through it. As you do, remember that it will be God who will bring an end to the wars that are yet to come before the return of Jesus Christ.
Prophecy prompts us to grow
In the face of hard times to come, the New Testament contains many admonitions about the attitude and actions God's people should adopt.
Notice Jesus Christ's warning: "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36). In other words, these prophetic warnings aren't there just for fascination, but to prompt us to righteous living. We have to do something with the knowledge of prophecy!
The apostle Peter ties it in. "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness . . . ?" (2 Peter 3:11). Prophecy is a prompt for us to live God's way, to follow the ways described as holy conduct and godliness.
I recall a conversation I once had with a young man who had come to study at a Bible college as a result of his interest in end-time prophecy. His fascination with prophecy didn't immediately carry over into Christian living. He told me he came to study prophecy, but later discovered, "Now I have to do all that other stuff too!"
That's right, we have to do all the "other stuff" too! It isn't all mysteries about beasts and speculations about dates. If we understand prophecy, we must live right, according to the laws and instructions of the Bible. And really, that's much more of a challenge than coming up with lots of details about prophecy!
Prophecy provides hope!
When we think of prophecy, especially end-time prophecy, we most often focus on the horrors to come at the end of this age.
Yet the most certain event in all biblical prophecy is the one that's most hopeful—the second coming of Jesus Christ. Many prophecies stress that God determined long ago that Christ will come again, establish the Kingdom of God and save humanity from itself. That's about the best news any of us could possibly hear!
The time of suffering will be short. The Bible tells us the worst of it will last only 31/2 years (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 11:2-3; 12:14; note, "a time and times and half a time" refers to a year, years and half a year). Afterwards, these terrible days will begin to seem like a bad dream as the saints of God begin to reign with Christ in the Kingdom of God (Daniel 7:27). A much, much better time awaits us and all humanity.
Prophecy ultimately points us to some very, very good news: that Jesus Christ will return! That He will set up a glorious Kingdom on earth, which will provide the world with a far better life than it ever experienced under any human government! And that God Himself will offer life and happiness to all, through His laws and His Son Jesus Christ!
Isn't that good news? GN