“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going.” “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:1-6).
Ever since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 on the United States, the current events in the Middle East, and the COVID-19 global pandemic, there has been a renewed interest by millions of people all over the world about what it is that the Bible has to say about the future. Why? Because only in the Bible we do find God revealing to us in detail the future of this planet and its inhabitants.
“The good news is that God has given answers to us in His prophetic Word. In fact, 28 percent of the Bible was prophetic when it was first written. In all, there are over 1,000 passages of Scripture that were prophesies at the time they were written, and more than half of them have already been fulfilled. This track record of fulfillment is our assurance that the prophesies not yet fulfilled will come to pass when their time is coming.”1
Although Scripture is clear that the exact time of these future events is unknown and that Christians are not to attempt to set dates and times, many scholars and students of prophecy agree that their time of fulfillment is quickly approaching. The Bible tells us that the general period can be known, and without a doubt, the signs of the times clearly seem to indicate the nearness of these events.
Reasons for Studying Prophecy
To Know the Counsel of God
Indeed, the Lord God does nothing without revealing his counsel to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors by the prophets at different times and in different ways (Heb. 1:1).
As these verses indicate, the prophets received revelation from God and when they wrote, they wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Knowing that God has revealed himself and much about the future to the prophets should cause us to have a genuine and deep desire to know God and things concerning the future. God has spoken through His prophets, and as we study the prophets, we are studying the movements of God.
It Is Important to God
One third of this collection of books we call the Bible is made up of prophetic writings. Most of the books in the Bible were written by prophets; approximately 20 of the 66 books are books on prophecy while many other books contain either prophetic passages or subjects.
The fact that God has included so much of prophecy in Scripture is indicative that He wants believers to take the study of prophecy seriously. In fact, think of it this way, if you fail to study prophecy, you are failing to study almost one-third of the Bible. This would be inconsistent with what Paul taught when he said that,
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Consider the following statistics regarding the amount of prophecy in the Bible:
- Number of Verses in the Bible – 31,124
- Number of Predictions in the Old Testament – 1,239
- Number of Old Testament Verses that Contain Predictions – 6,641 out of 23,210
- Percent of the Old Testament that is Prophecy – 28.5%
- Number of Predictions in the New Testament – 578
- Number of New Testament Verses that Contain Predictions – 1,711 out of 7,914
- Percent of the New Testament that is Prophecy – 21.5%
- Percent of the Whole Bible that is Prophecy – 27%
- Number of Separate Prophetic Topics in the Bible – 737
Think about these facts John MacArthur provides:
- Of the 333 prophecies concerning Christ, only 109 were fulfilled by His first coming, leaving 224 yet to be fulfilled in the Second Coming.
- There are over 300 references to the Lord’s coming in the 260 chapters of the New Testament—one out of every 30 verses.
- Twenty-three of the 27 New Testament books mention the Lord’s coming.
- Jesus refers to His second coming at least twenty-one times.
- [There are] 1,527 Old Testament passages [that] refer to the Second Coming.
- For every time the Bible mentions the first coming, the Second Coming is mentioned eight times.
- People are exhorted to be ready for the return of Jesus Christ over fifty times.3
Charles Swindoll documents these facts about prophecy:
- One-twentieth of the entire New Testament is dedicated to the subject of our Lord’s return.
- In the Old Testament, such well-known and reliable men of God as Job, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and most of the minor prophets, fixed at least part of their attention on the Lord’s return.
- Christ spoke of his return often, especially after he had revealed his death. He never did so in vague or uncertain terms.
- Those who lived on following his teaching, who established the churches and wrote the Scriptures in the first century, frequently mentioned his return in their preaching and in their writings.4
It Serves as Evidence for the Divine Origin of the Bible
Think about it, what better evidence is there to prove that the Bible is of divine origin than fulfilled prophecy? Let me capture and summarize the conclusion by providing the following quotes,
“Other books claim divine inspiration, such as the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and parts of the (Hindu) Veda. But none of those books contains predictive prophecy.”5
“The question is why? Because predictive prophecy that fails to come true in all its details will expose those writings as false and non-inspired. The Bible, on the other hand is loaded with predictive prophecy, much of which (the exception being that which is yet to be fulfilled) has been fulfilled literally down to the minutest details, showing once again that the Bible is inspired and that everything it says is true and accurate”.6
“It is absolutely astonishing to see how many fulfilled prophecies the Old Testament contains. These prophecies provided details not just generalities, and when they were fulfilled, they were fulfilled down to the minutest detail. We find three kinds of prophecies in the Old Testament: (1) About Jesus the coming Messiah, (2) about people, cities, and countries, and (3) about the Jews.
Some examples of detailed prophecy fulfilled in Christ:
Without question, the Bible, unlike any other literary work of antiquity, enjoys an unparalleled amount of evidence that clearly demonstrates beyond any doubt that the Bible we hold in our hands today is as accurate and faithful to the original autographs as we could possibly have. Any discrepancies are minimal and negligible which in no way undermine its historic reliability. How did this happen? Well, God not only authored the Bible, He preserves it as well.”7
“One cannot deny the force of fulfilled prophecy as evidence of divine guidance. Furthermore, these are prophecies that which could not possibly have been schemed and written after the events predicted.”8
Fulfilled prophecy will bring us tremendous confidence regarding the divine origin of the Bible. Dr. Peter Stoner, who was a professor of mathematics and science, looked at 11 fulfilled prophecies concerning the first advent of Christ. All the prophecies he looked at were well known prophecies such as Christ’s:
- Place of birth
- Entrance into Jerusalem riding a donkey
- Betrayal by a friend
- Sale for 30 pieces of silver and how that money would be used
- Silence at his trial
- Clothing being gambled for
According to Dr. Stoner, if you were to take only the 11 selected prophecies, the odds of them being fulfilled would be one out of 1 followed by 24 zeros (a trillion trillion or a septillian). Now keep in mind that these are the odds for only the 11 selected prophecies. In His first advent, a whopping 109 were fulfilled down to details.
It Reminds Us of God’s Nature and Sovereignty
Prophecy exalts God, and it causes us to see Him for who He is in all His splendor and glory. It reminds us that neither we nor the material universe exist in an empty vacuum where both seem to travel aimlessly through time and space without rhyme or reason. Prophecy teaches of God’s attributes, such as His omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, eternality, justice, mercy, and love, just to mention a few.
Prophecy clearly demonstrates that God is in control over all creation, that He is sovereign over all. This Sovereign God is demonstrated to be the King of the universe who not only reigns over it now but will reign over it in the future. Consider the words of Psalm 12,
Help, Lord, for no faithful one remains;
the loyal have disappeared from the human race.
They lie to one another;
they speak with flattering lips and deceptive hearts.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips
and the tongue that speaks boastfully.
They say, “Through our tongues we have power;
our lips are our own—who can be our master?”
“Because of the devastation of the needy
and the groaning of the poor,
I will now rise up,” says the Lord.
“I will provide safety for the one who longs for it.”
The words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined in an earthen furnace,
purified seven times.
You, Lord, will guard us;
you will protect us from this generation forever.
The wicked prowl all around,
and what is worthless is exalted by the human race.
It Reminds Us of God’s Goodness
Many Christians in many parts of the world experience hardship and severe persecution. Others experience sickness, discrimination, and unresolved problems. But this life is not all there is, prophecy tells us of the joy and victory and glory that the child of God will experience for eternity in the presence of Almighty God. Paul, who experienced tremendous suffering and persecution, was able to declare without hesitation,
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us (Rom. 8:18).
In his book Finding God, Larry Crabb rightly observed that,
“What happens in our lives when we live as he directs is up to God. Sometimes the blessings come. Sometimes they don’t. Only when we lose hope in formulas that guarantee success will we develop true hope in a God who can be trusted when life makes no sense, because one day he’ll take us home.”9
In glory we will for the first time ever, experience unhindered worship and fellowship with God, completely free of the consequences of the Fall and the presence of sin. Knowing and understanding the goodness of God allows us to say along with Job,
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21).
Prophecy exposes God’s goodness. It provides us with the final chapter which tells us that there is an eternal blessing that will be experienced by all who trusted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. In fact, Jesus, the One who hung and died on a criminal’s cross, epitomizes the goodness, love, mercy, and grace of God.
It Provides Assurance in Difficult and Troubled Times
This truth is clearly illustrated in Genesis 18 and John 13. In Genesis, Abraham, the friend of God (cf. 2 Chron. 20:7), had received God’s promises and covenants. God never withheld from Abraham anything He purposed to do. God told him about the judgment that would fall on Sodom and Gomorrah and prepared him so that when he witnessed the judgment of the two wicked cities, he would not be surprised but rather have confidence in Him. The Lord said,
Should I hide what I am about to do from Abraham? (Gen. 18:17).
Because God moved according to the revealed plan, Abraham’s faith remained unshaken and he continued to walk with God after he witnessed the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah did not cause Abraham to doubt God’s character, purposes, or his own safety and security. He could move through the judgment in perfect rest and peace because God had revealed what would come to pass before it did.
In John 13 the Lord prepared the disciples for the most significant event in the history of the world. The Lord Jesus Christ would soon be crucified. The disciples would soon experience not one but two separations from their Lord. The first after His death and burial, the second His resurrection and ascension. How did he prepare the disciples for the separations? In John 13:19 Jesus said,
I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am he.
By doing so, he prepared his disciples for the two separations they would soon experience. In obedience to his command, they gathered in the upper room until he came to them post resurrection. John 20:19 says,
When it was evening on that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
By telling them ahead of time of that which would come to pass, Christ prepared them so that their confidence in the prophetic program, in who He was, His power, and His mission, would not be shaken.
It Guards Us against False Teachings and Prophets
There are many passages in the Bible that discuss Satan’s work and strategy in the world. Scripture clearly teaches that in the latter days, false teachers and false teachings will increase substantially in number, certainly something we are experiencing more and more today. Consider the following passages regarding false prophets and teachers:
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves (Matt. 7:15).
I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock (Acts 20:29).
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim. 3:12-13).
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
The warnings about what they will teach are also enumerated for us in God’s Word, consider the following:
- Deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1),
- Destructive heresies (2 Pet. 2:1),
- Myths (1 Tim. 1:4; 2 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:14),
- Perverse things (Acts 20:30),
- Commandments and teachings of men (Col. 2:22; Titus 1:14),
- Foolish and ignorant speculations (2 Tim. 2:23),
- Worldly fables (1 Tim. 4:7),
- False knowledge and empty chatter (1 Tim. 6:20),
- Philosophy and empty deception and the tradition of men (Col. 2:8).10
It Serves as a Light Shining in a Dark Place
Many books written since the use of the first atomic bomb, clearly show the uncertainty and concern that man has about the future. The wars following World Wars I & II, the rise of militant Islam, the events of 9/11 in America, and the COVID-19 pandemic, just to mention a few, have only added to that uncertainty and concern.
The New Testament clearly teaches us that the prophetic Scriptures are vital as to a lamp shining in a dark place. Consider the words of 2 Peter 1:19,
We also have the prophetic word strongly confirmed, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Peter has just related what he had seen and heard on the Mount of Transfiguration in verses 16-18,
For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased!” We ourselves heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.
A vision and a voice from heaven was testifying of the glory of Jesus Christ. Peter says that we have the prophetic word as a confirmation of God’s plans which he himself saw and heard on the Mount of Transfiguration. The prophecies we have in the Old Testament are completely trustworthy. In a time of distress, uncertainty, fear, and darkness, the only lamp shining in a dark place is the prophetic word. How foolish if we neglect the only shining lamp that can afford much knowledge about the future.
It Motivates Us to Holy and Righteous Living
Considering what prophecy reveals to us not only about the future of the universe and about our personal future, but about God Himself, it should serve as a tremendous motivator for living holy and righteous lives. John tells us that we are to,
…remain in him so that when he appears we may have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming (1 John 2:28).
And again, he states,
And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure (1 John 3:3).
In other words, believers who live in anticipation (and we should) of Christ’s second coming, will live in such a way that their lives will be characterized by consistent purity and holiness. The presence of sin in their lives will not be allowed because it would hinder the work of the Spirit in achieving personal purity. Christians, who allow sin to take residence in their lives, are Christians who do not understand the importance of living in anticipation of His return. Christ illustrates this very point when He states that those who seem to have an “I don’t care” attitude concerning His return, become guilty of living in a way that will stimulate or encourage sinful behavior. Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:48-51,
But if that wicked servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delayed,’ and starts to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with drunkards, that servant’s master will come on a day he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
If the Lord’s return could occur at any moment, say tomorrow, how will that reality cause me to live today? If He returns today, what kind of life do I want Him to find me living? What work do I want Him to find me doing? The awareness of His imminent return will encourage me to surrender to His Lordship and yield to the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit which will produce in me personal holiness and purity and His righteousness manifested and lived out in me.
It Brings Us Hope
Often the only things that keeps some people from completely giving up on everything is a ray of hope. Man will continue to move forward even if he is stripped of most things, but take hope away from him, and he has nothing left. Hope is that dim light at the end of an exceedingly long tunnel, a tunnel man is willing to travel through as long as that light is not extinguished. Unfortunately, the hope many have today is a false hope, yet they fail to understand that. Living without Christ is like traveling through that tunnel with nothing more than the illusion of light at the end of it rather than the reality of said light. Dying without Christ is complete hopelessness.
The biblical definition of hope is to have “firm confidence.” As Christians, we can have that firm confidence because we know what the future holds and who holds the future. Hope results from two things, (1) from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ which comes from having trusted Him as Lord and Savior, and (2) from the study of God’s Word which includes the study of prophecy. Hope comes from the confident expectation that God will do and accomplish everything He has promised. Why do you think God included prophecy in Scripture, well, among other reasons, because He wants prophetic truth to change the way we think, the way we behave, the way we live, and the way we view Him. You see, only real hope can bring about that kind of change. In writing to Titus, Paul stated,
While we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).
There is a great deal of comfort and hope for all Christians who love and study the Word of God. In Romans 15:4, Paul wrote,
For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures.
It Promotes Active Service
The expectation that the Lord might return for His people at any moment certainly provides much incentive to remain active in service in His name. In 1 Thessalonians 4-5, Paul, in dealing with the truths concerning Christ’s return for His people, points out the practical result in the Christian’s life:
Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you (1 Thess. 5:12).
The text is clear in indicating that His return for the saints will be unannounced, when least expected. Does a thief ever announce beforehand the time when he intends to commit the criminal act? Although the Scriptures speak of many signs that will herald to the world that Christ will be returning to rule after the seven year tribulation period, there are no signs given to Christians indicating His return to the clouds to rapture His people prior to the tribulation period.
For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. When they say, “Peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape (1 Thess. 5:2-3).
Paul states that unbelievers, because of their ignorance, who hear the truths of the Lord’s coming at any moment, will turn away and scoff and remain unmoved when they see events preparing for the final drama. And that a judgment will come on them as sudden as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they shall not escape. Then he addresses a word to believers:
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the dark, for this day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness. So then, let us not sleep, like the rest, but let us stay awake and be self-controlled (1 Thess. 5:4-6).
“So then” is significant because it gives the logical conclusion or application to the truth just stated. Since we have the benefit of having and understanding the prophetic Scriptures and are able to see how all the parts fit together, “So then, let us not sleep,” which here indicates idleness and cessation of all activity or service. He admonishes,
So then, let us not sleep, like the rest, but let us stay awake and be self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled and put on the armor of faith and love, and a helmet of the hope of salvation (1 Thess. 5:6-8).
It Will Help Us Establish and Maintain the Right Priorities
Prophecy has a way of reminding us what matters; it gives us perspective. It helps us distinguish or differentiate between the unimportant, somewhat important, important, and most important things in life. Peter, in 2 Peter 3:10-13, tells us of the coming judgments in the Day of the Lord and then proceeds to admonish us on how we ought to live here and now in light of the coming end-time judgments in the Day of the Lord and then exhorts us on how we ought to live in light of these ultimate realities.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for the day of God and hasten its coming. Because of that day, the heavens will be dissolved with fire and the elements will melt with heat. But based on his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
Louis Barbieri insists that,
“Peter’s application demonstrates a link between what one believes and how one lives. What effect should these events have on believers? These should not lead to apathy or despair, but to an expectant hope of the Lord’s coming.”11
Edwin Blum goes on to explain that,
“In view of what is in store for the world, Peter asks his readers, “What kind of people ought you to be?” Since the day of the Lord will soon come to punish the wicked and reward the righteous, believers should live “holy and godly lives.” Holiness entails separation from evil and dedication to God; godliness relates to piety and worship.”12
God’s people should be doing things, making decisions, and setting priorities with a conscious thought of future events and an awareness of the coming Kingdom of God. When we do that, our perspective will be different and how we use the time, riches, and talents God has given us will be change. The goals and purposes of life are often altered by an understanding of future realities. Prophecy will help us choose the better and more important things in life, things that have eternal value.
It Promotes Evangelism
Charles Ryrie explains that,
“Frequently preachers of the New Testament had this end in view in their use of certain facts about the future. In the first weeks of the church’s existence, Peter preached a sermon which is almost entirely prophetic (Acts 3:12-26). Regardless of how the full meaning and intent of his words concerning the kingdom are interpreted, this prophetic message convicted and converted many hearers.
James referred to an Old Testament prophecy when deciding the matters that came before the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:16-17). Paul preached the details of prophecy to the Thessalonians during his brief stay in that city (Acts 17:2; 2 Thess. 2:5). Shortly afterward, in Athens, he spoke of coming judgment; as a result many were convicted and a few converted (Acts 17:31-34). When he said farewell to the Ephesian elders, he told them that he had not “shunned to declare … all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), which must have included prophecy. In the last glimpse we have of Paul, he was in Rome “preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:31).”13
In the long history of the Church, church history has taught us that the greatest evangelistic periods of the church were the periods when prophecy was both studied and taught. Consider for example the church in Thessalonica; this was an evangelistic church precisely because the apostle Paul had spent time teaching them prophetic truth. After the Dark Ages, the Bible was translated into the common language and the Bible was once again being read and studied. By the nineteenth century, the study of prophecy had been rediscovered, which resulted in the birth of the greatest missionary and evangelistic endeavors of the modern church era.
In fact, prophecy is one of the greatest evangelistic tools we have for reaching others for Christ, in addition to the fact that it serves as undeniable proof and evidence for the existence and sovereignty of God and for the divine origin of the Bible.
1 Tim LaHaye, Understanding Bible Prophecy for Yourself (Eugene: Harvest House, 2001), pp. 7-9.
2 J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), 674–75.
3 John F. MacArthur Jr., The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (Valencia, CA: Word of Grace Communications, 1981), 1.
4 Charles R., Swindoll, “The Scriptures Anticipate His Coming” in 10 Reasons Why Jesus is Coming Soon (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1998), pp. 16-17.
5 Norman Geisler and William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody, 1986), p. 28.
6 Miguel J. Gonzalez, An Introduction to the Essential Doctrines of Christianity (Denver: Outskirts Press, 2007), p.36.
7 Ibid., pp. 39-40.
8 Paul E. Little, Know Why You Believe, rev. ed., (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 70.
9 Larry Crabb, Finding God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993), p. 172.
10 Gonzalez, An Introduction to the Essential Doctrines of Christianity, Op. cit., pp. 136-139.
11 Louis Barbieri, “2 Peter,” in The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2014), p. 1972.
12 Edwin A. Blum, “2 Peter,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 12: Hebrews through Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981), p. 287.
13 Charles C. Ryrie, The Final Countdown: God’s Blueprint for Future Events. 1982. (Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.), p. 11.
Copyright © 2006–2021 by Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D.
Dr. Miguel J. Gonzalez is the Founder and President of Reasons for Faith International Ministries. He served as a pastor for ten years in Charlotte, NC and has taught in churches and conferences throughout the United States. He currently hosts the Time in the Word and Truth To Live By podcasts and writes at KnowingChristianity.blogspot.com.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.