Quick Links Quick Links

Is Bible Prophecy Important

by Robert Garrett

RobertGarrett(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

The Words of Life committee have asked me to give a lesson on Bible prophecy. Now I hope you will not be turned off by this subject. I know that there has been a lot of sensationalism, distortion and even erroneous teaching on this subject.  And that has caused some to avoid the subject. But if you are a believer you know that there is the devil, Satan, the great deceiver with his vast demonic army who blinds the minds of unbelievers and seeks to confuse the minds of believers.
Now while there have been many excellent teachers of the Word who have presented Bible prophecy faithfully, there have been others who have sensationalized or distorted and in some cases even falsified the clear Bible teaching. And that has caused some to turn away from the subject. Some might say: I just want to hear the gospel. Or: I just want to know how to live triumphantly as a Christian. Prophecy just confuses me.

But the fact is that you cannot divorce the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ from prophecy.  Because in it, that is, in the gospel are fulfilled some major prophecies. And understanding of these prophecies which have been fulfilled with aid or identification and understanding of prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled.

Consider 2 Timothy chapter two verse eight.  Remember Jesus Christ raised from the dead descended from David. This is my gospel. Here we learn that in the gospel we find the fulfillment of two important prophecies made almost 1000 years earlier. In this verse there are two statements about Jesus Christ.  One the fact that he was to be a descendant of David and, as such, would inherit the promises made to David concerning his kingship over Israel.  And the second fact was that his physical resurrection from the dead. These same prophetic truths were earlier explained by the apostle Peter in the first gospel sermon recorded in the second chapter of Acts.   Peter quotes from the prophecy in Psalms 49 and presents these two things as incontrovertible evidence that Jesus was, indeed, the prophesied Messiah.

He said: Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried and his tomb is here to this day.   But he was a prophet and knew that God has promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.   Seeing what was ahead he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.   God has raised this Jesus to live and we are all witnesses of the fact.

Now the gospel that Peter preached and the gospel that Paul preached were the same.   And both presented the awesome truth of fulfilled prophecy.

The gospel by which we are saved is explained to us in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 where we are told that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Now that phrase, according to the Scriptures, is referring to prophecies made hundreds of years earlier.   Now the Bible is a prophetic book. It contains a multitude of fulfilled prophecies and a great number yet to be fulfilled. The fulfilled prophecies all found a literal fulfillment. Therefore, we should expect that unfulfilled prophesies shall also have a literal and recognizable fulfillment in the future.
Bible prophecy was given to God’s children that they might know the certainty of things past and that they might have a sure and living hope in the future.   Unbelievers may scoff at what they call pie in the sky by and by, but Bible prophecy not only points to the salvation that Christ at his second coming will bring to those who are waiting for him, the Bible also tells us the things that will take place before his return, of persecution, of abounding sinfulness, of thins political and economic, of uproars and devastations that will take place before he returns.

The Lord Jesus in Luke 21 and verse 25 on he said these words. There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars. On the earth nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.   Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.

Now while men may faint from terror at that which is to come, the child of God who has been forewarned by the prophetic Word will not faint, but will be sustained by faith in the promises of God.  Indeed, prophecy is not a small, unimportant part of the Bible.   It is, in fact, a major part of God’s revelation to his children. If you were to take a Bible and tear out every page that has some prophecy, whether fulfilled or unfulfilled, by the time you were finished, you would have very few pages left.  Yes, some Scriptures are difficult to understand as even the apostle Peter said of the writings of Paul. He said: His letters contain some things that are hard to understand which ignorant and unstable people distort as they do the other Scriptures to their own destruction.

 

As we study, we must not set Scripture against Scripture as some do.   That is, they build a doctrine on one verse taken out of context without considering the rest of the revealed Word. That is a favorite trick of Satan who quoted and misapplied a Scripture in his temptation of Jesus.   He said to Jesus: It is written. It is true that the verse that Satan quoted did apply to Jesus, but he applied it wrongly and Jesus answered: It is also written.  While freely admitting our failure to understand some things, let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater, but prayerfully seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and humbly seek to be, in the words of 2 Timothy, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Before we start to investigate the return of Jesus Christ and things like Armageddon and the trumpets and bowls of wrath of Revelation and such things as the mark of the beast, we need to lay a basic foundation.  That is, the biblical framework within which all predictive prophecy of the future is found and comes to fruition.

It has been well said that our Lord Jesus Christ is the focus of all prophecy.   It is well to keep in mind that all the prophecies about the first coming of Jesus Christ were fulfilled literally. We should then expect that the prophecies around his second coming will also be fulfilled literally. We reject the allegorical or metaphorical or symbolic method or the spiritualizing of prophecy. Those methods were first devised by the man Origen who lived in then the second century after Christ and later popularized by Augustine. Origen was a great admirer or pagan, Greek philosophy and sought to reconcile Christianity to pagan Greek philosophy.  The basic part of that philosophy was that the material world was evil an only the spiritual was good.   This is in fundamental contradiction to the fact that when God created our material world, he said that it was very good. We read that in Genesis chapter one verse 31.   Our material world is not bad. It is sin which has come into it that is bad.

Origen thought to find a deeper spiritual meaning in the Bible, which, according to him could be understood only by an elite set of Christians well advanced in mysticism. The wisdom or lack of wisdom of that method of interpretation can best be illustrated by his treatment of the parable of the Good Samaritan.  You will remember that the Lord Jesus gave that parable to answer the question:  Who is my neighbor?  But Origen explained it this way.   The man who fell among the thieves was Adam and the robbers were the devil and his forces. The priest, he said, stands for the law and the Levite for the prophets.   The Good Samaritan was Christ and the donkey was Christ’s body. The inn was the Church and the two coins are the Father and the Son.  And the Samaritan’s words—when I return—is the second coming of Christ.

His interpretation actually destroyed the parable. He also taught against the apostolic belief in a literal fulfillment of the kingdom of God at the return of Christ and the prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel. Unfortunately, there are those today who follow this line of reasoning.

The apostle Peter warned us against the danger of false teachers and pointed us towards the sure word of recorded prophecy, 2 Peter chapter one from the 19 on through the first verse of chapter two. I will read here from the New Living Translation.

Because of that we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets.   Pay close attention to what they wrote for their words are like a light shining in a dark place until the day Christ appears and his brilliant light shines in your hearts.  Above all, you must understand that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophets themselves, or because they wanted to prophecy. It was the Holy Spirit who moved the prophet to speak from God.   But there also arose false prophets in Israel just as there will be false teachers among you.

How can we be sure? How can we be confident that God’s Word will be fulfilled when the circumstances around us seem to point in the opposite direction? We can have confidence by looking to the word of prophecy which has been fulfilled exactly as predicted.

As we have already seen, you cannot separate prophecy from salvation.  Peter in 1 Peter chapter one speaks of our salvation and he says: This salvation was something the prophets wanted to know more about.   They prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you even though they had many questions as to what it all could mean.  They wondered what the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ suffering and his great glory afterward. Thy wondered when and to whom all this would happen, from the New Living Translation.

Now this tells us that the prophecies concerning Jesus Christ can be divided under two basic headings. A) the sufferings of Christ and B) the glories that should come afterwards. In other words, first the prophecies concerning his second coming which has already been accomplished and then the next heading would be his second coming which is still future.

Now prophecies of both these things were abundantly given in the Old Testament, but the prophets were unable to separate the sufferings from the glories. We today are able to understand only because we are on this side of the cross. Now if the prophecies concerning the first coming of Christ were fulfilled literally—and they were—then it is only logical to look for literal fulfillment of the prophecies concerning his second coming and all things associated with it.

Now there is a certain fundamental framework that will aid our study and help us to answer such questions as:  What is the relationship of Israel to the Church? Is the Church the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the kingdom of God?  Is Israel to be restored? Is the book of Revelation prophecy or history?  The Bible gives us a framework that will help us to understand these questions and understanding this framework will help us to avoid confusion.

Now this framework is revealed to us in three special oaths which God made in the Old Testament and repeated and confirmed for us in the New Testament. Now among men the swearing of an oath is made to emphasize a person’s commitment to something. In our courts of law a witness must swear an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  If the witness should then lie he or she is guilty of perjury and can be punished with imprisonment.

Now in order to emphasize the absolute surety of what he was going to do, God often emphasized something by swearing an oath. The Scripture tells us that there are two things which are absolutely unchangeable. These two things are God’s promise and God’s oath. The importance of the oath is explained to us in Hebrews chapter 6:13-18. And I will read again from the New Living Translation.

Here speaking of God’s promise to Abraham he says: Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name.  And then verse 16. When people take an oath they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding.   Verse 17. God also bound himself with an oath so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given us both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable, because it is impossible for God to lie.

Now the biblical revelation of God’s plan of redemption for fallen mankind, yes, indeed, for the whole creation, is bound up in three oaths which God made, one to Abraham, one to David and one to Jesus Christ.   That is right. God swore three major oaths, one to Abraham, one to David and one to his Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now if we examine these three oaths, we will, indeed, be able to see that here is the basic framework of all predicted prophecy. It will help us also to answer these controversial questions.   Will Israel be restored to the Land God promised to Abraham?   Will the kingdom be restored to Israel?   Have the promises to Israel been transferred to the Church?  Is the Church the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the kingdom? Will the promised return of Jesus Christ be a bodily return?   Will Christ be physically present on this earth or only spiritually?  Does the book of Revelation speak mainly of things yet to take place? Or is it just symbolic history?  Will believers and unbelievers, that is, the saved and the lost, are they all to be raised at exactly the same moment?  Or is there more than one resurrection?

Examining these three particular oaths will help us to answer these questions and that we want to do in future lessons as God enables.

Now how does this apply to you personally?   If you were to take prophecy out of the gospel, you would not have any gospel at all, for prophecy is tied up in it, past, present and future.   Hebrews 9:28 tells us that Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people and he will appear a second time not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. There we have one of the many clear and positive prophecies of the return of Jesus Christ. He is coming back.

The first time he came to this earth he came to bear our sins on the cross. He arose from the dead and ascended to heaven.  But he is coming back. When he comes he will bring salvation to those who are waiting for him, those who are eagerly longing for him.   That is the gospel. That is the good news.

My friend, are you ready for Jesus to return? Do you want Jesus to return?   Have you repented of your sin and accepted and confessed Jesus as the Son of God, your Lord and Savior? Have you obeyed Christ in baptism, been immersed for the forgiveness of yours ins? If you have, then the return of Christ will be sweet to you.  But, if not, you can only expect judgment, not salvation when he returns.

So we have seen that Bible prophecy is not something to be ignored. It is an integral part of the gospel of salvation. It is, indeed, a light shining in a dark place, by which God upholds us in our Christian walk.

 

Robert Garrett is a missionary to Zimbabwe




Leave a Reply

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4