Why do I – or does anyone – study Bible prophecy?
I was talking about this with a close friend the other day, and I appreciate the fact that she doesn’t consider me too eccentric because I’ve started focusing so much on Bible prophecy. Still, I wish the church at large taught us more about Bible prophecy, because I feel like I’m in a shrinking minority within an already shrinking minority – studying prophecy and being a Bible-believing Christian, respectively. We’re missing out on the joy, assurance and motivation to live for Christ that a thorough knowledge of prophecy can bring!
For the last 25 years of my Christian life (which is all of it), up until a few months ago, I knew prophecy in the Bible was important, but it seemed a heavy subject, and, though generally decipherable, honestly, a bit confusing. It was something to study once in a while, and to instead just focus on the reality of Christ here and now in my daily study. (Although Bible prophecy is actually focused on Christ, too – more on that later.)
So what’s changed? What switch flipped in my brain?
It was the hope I found in Bible prophecy – a hope like nothing else. It is the promise of a future that is literally the best imaginable (not just by me, but by any human brain), which is so certain, that, for all intents and purposes, it’s happened already (because in a way it has, since God’s the one who’s making it happen)! I’ll be with Him, and every other believer, separated from death, sorrow and suffering forever. God’s put down His own Holy Spirit as a guarantee of that!
Specifically, what got me started, was that I was dwelling on heaven because my grandpa went up there back in March, and, boy, does the hope of heaven get real when someone who’s lived in the same house with you goes to be in the physical presence of Christ! That’s one aspect of that hope I was talking about, and another one that got me really excited is that I’ll be there, too, one day – and it might be closer than I’d thought.
So I started digging deeper, and I didn’t realize how out of the loop I’d been! The Middle East has been simmering away very nicely, as well as the decaying state of the church and the world, just like I’d been hearing for years that they would be but didn’t expect to see for a while yet.
It was like I’d been working on a puzzle, looked down at the ground for a second, then when I looked up, someone had put all the pieces together! Well, almost all.
It was 2020 that seems to have put every timeline into warp speed. I think we can all agree it was an unusually chaotic year – and in ways that lead straight down the road to Bible prophecy.
I watched one video, then another, then a lot more, and everyone kept pointing out the ways that events in the world are lining up unusually closely to what the Bible says will happen in the last days. It was so exciting – and a bit alarming – that I wanted to really study the Bible for myself to see if these teachers were right and to have the prophecies at my fingertips so that I could observe events to see if things were as far along as they seemed.
**A word about teachers: If they consistently line up with what the Bible says – what all of the Bible says – and interpret Bible prophecy literally, keeping God’s character and person in mind (and keeping Him as the plumb line), then they’re teaching is reasonable, powerful, and consistent. (They don’t set dates or contrive complicated calculations for the day of the rapture, either.)
So I started digging into Revelation, Daniel, Matthew 24, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and reading Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah and all the old testament prophets, looking up words and writing timelines – and my perspective grew more hopeful and more excited…
In fact, I had a major shift in my perspective.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.1 Thessalonians 4
Now, this no longer seems like a distant promise. I’m not saying with 100% certainty that the rapture will occur in my lifetime, but if we put this promise in the context of all the other prophecies yet to happen, I’m ready for the rapture to happen any time!
You see, there are no signs or prophecies that must precede the rapture, but after some study and learning I realized that there are prophecies that must precede the tribulation and Christ’s return to earth, and those can be observed. I’d never thought about that before. I assumed that the world would become more God-less before the rapture came, but that there was nothing that could give us any hint that it’s getting close. But, like I said, there are observable signs that the events after the rapture are getting close – which also means that the rapture is getting close!
I also didn’t realize just how many prophecies there are in the Bible. Lots of Christians (including me up until a few months ago) think of prophecy as a peripheral subject in the Bible, but 27% of all of God’s word is prophetic! I’ve mentioned this before, but it still strikes me quite forcibly. Now, this does include prophecies from Christ’s first coming, but, out of the 300+ prophecies about Christ Himself, only 100-something have happened, which leaves over 200 left that will happen!
Which means, that if we don’t study Bible prophecy, there will be significant gaps in our understanding of God through His word. The Bible is God revealing Himself to us – He wants us to understand Him, or He wouldn’t have bothered to give it to us – so prophecy is included in that. He wouldn’t have put prophecy in there if He didn’t expect us to be able to understand it (especially in these days, when we have completed Bibles). Prophecy is in there for very important reasons.
One of these reasons is in 1 Thessalonians 5:
For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.1 Thessalonians 5
People say that we shouldn’t spend too much time studying Bible prophecy because we can’t know when Christ will rapture His church – this passage is even misinterpreted to say we can’t see the signs of the last days before they’ve started. But it’s those “who shall not escape” who will be taken by surprise – not those who’ve been reading the words God gave us. He doesn’t want us to be taken by surprise! Why? Because knowing what will happen – especially knowing it’s getting close – is purifying (like John says in 1 John 3:3): we’re driven to share Christ’s salvation to the world and we don’t lose heart because we know we’ll be seeing our beloved Savior soon (literally at any moment).
For those who have trusted in Christ, our joy, our finish line, our rest is coming! We know for certain that it is – we don’t know when, but we know God keeps His promises, because He always has. And He gives us the signs of prophecy to give us hope.
One of the greatest, most precious effects of studying Bible prophecy is seeing just how faithful and able God is to keep His promises. He kept them so precisely and definitely in the past that I know I can 100% rely on Him to keep every promise for the future.
This is why studying Bible prophecy is hopeful and exciting! God promises that the hope of seeing Christ face-to-face is purifying – yet how can we be changed by this hope if we don’t see the great ways that God has kept, is keeping and will keep His promises?
For anyone who hasn’t trusted in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life, Bible prophecy is literally the most terrifying thing possible.
But if you are in Christ, literally the most wonderful promises are what Bible prophecy is talking about as far as you’re concerned!
1 Thessalonians 4 says it best: comfort one another with these words.
Thanks for reading! I pray that God will use this humble effort to help reveal the precious truths of Him and His promises to all who read this!
Maranatha! Until next time, unless the rapture comes first…