Updated: Dec 24, 2019
Eschatology - that part of Christian theology concerned with the final events of
history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity (end-time prophecy)
1. The ultimate purpose of prophecy is to show the victory of Christ.
The last book of the Bible has been called many things. One of them is “The Revelation of St. John”. However, the first five words of the book reveal not only its purpose, but the purpose of all prophecy, and indeed the whole Bible. Those words are “The revelation of Jesus Christ”. The prophecies of the Old Testament and its entire content serve to point us to Christ. Near the start of His earthy ministry Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil (Mt 5:17).” Near the end of it He said, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me (Lk 24:44).” Paul wrote, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Gal 3:24)” Peter wrote of the prophets in the Old Testament: “the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister…(1Pet 1:10-12).” Revelation 19:10 says, “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy”. The prophecies of the Old Testament points mostly to the first coming of Christ, while the prophecies of the New Testament point to His second coming.
2. Why study prophecy?
Some people shy away from studying prophecy. They either think it is too hard or impossible to understand, they think it is too controversial, or they see no benefit in it. Here are several reasons the Bible itself gives for doing it.
A. We should study prophecy so we can understand God’s plan. God does not want His people to be completely ignorant of what He is doing and planning to do.
1. Dan 1:17, Dan 5:11-14, Dan 8:16-17, Dan 9:22-25, Dan 10:1 & 11-14, Mt 24:15
2. Lk 24:35 & 45 – He opened the scriptures
3. 1Cor 6:2-3 - Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?
4. 2Cor 5:6 - we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God
5. Eph 1:18 - that ye may know what is the hope of his calling
6. 1Thes 4:13 - I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren
7. 2Pet 3:17 - therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before
8. 1Jn 3:2 - we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him
9. Rev 13:18 - Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count
B. We should study prophecy so we can understand the times we are living in. The men of the tribe of Issachar in the days of David were men “that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do (1Chr 12:32)”. The Lord criticized the religious leaders of His day for being able to read the sky and forecast the weather but being ignorant of the signs of the times (Mt 16:3). The prophecies of the Old Testament that they professed to know so much about were being fulfilled right before their eyes and they did not get it. Jesus warned His disciples that when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies, they were to flee because it would be about to be destroyed (Lk 21:20). Although according to Josephus over 1 million Jews died when Rome invaded, but not one Christian did according to historians Eusebius and Adam Clarke. They took heed to the prophetic warning of Jesus and were spared. He has warned the church of the last days likewise, and given it signs to be aware of (Lk 21:31). We do well to also take heed. The church has been given prophetic knowledge of signs to be aware of that will lead up the return of the Lord:
1. 1Thes 5:1-2 - But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night
2. 2Thes 2:6 - And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
3. 2Tim 3:1 0 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come
4. 2Pet 3:3 - Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers
5. 2Pet 3:8 - be not ignorant of this one thing
6. 1Jn 2:18 - we know that it is the last time
C. Fulfilled prophecy confirms the Bible as God’s word.
1. Is 42:9 - new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them
2. Jn 14:29 - And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe
D. Reading the book of Revelation and keeping its sayings are a blessing (Rev 1:3). John was told to write Revelation 13 times (Rev 1:11, 1:19, 2:1, 2:8, 2:12, 2:18, 3:1, 3:7, 3:14, 10:4, 14:13, 19:9, 21:5). What was the point of him writing it if we don’t read it? If we read it and do not understand, we pray, and study, and get good teaching. The solution to difficult passages of the Bible is not ignoring them. It is studying them.
3. Here are some guiding principles to follow when studying prophecy and the Bible in general.
A. Don’t add or take away from what is actually in the Bible (Deut 4:2, Prov 30:5-6, Rev
22:18-19). Adding seems to be much more common than taking away. Read what the
scripture actually says, not what people think it says or want it to say (2Pet 1:20-21). Avoid repeating something someone else said without verifying it yourself. Don’t perpetuate mistakes or false doctrine ignorantly. The Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonicans because they searched the scriptures to verify what they heard preached (Acts 17:11).
B. The plain reading and literal meaning is normally the right one unless there is clear
reason for another like symbolic prophetic passages.
C. The Bible is not a secret code book, although in some places the meaning requires more effort to find. The word mystery appears in the Bible 22 times, all in the New Testament. It means something that was not before revealed but now is almost all 22 times. That means it is meant to be understood. This word usually refers to the New Testament plan for salvation which before was not revealed. It does not mean something occultic. Jesus said. “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God (Lk 8:10)”.
D. Use the context – scripture interprets scripture.
1. The context of the passage
2. The context of the book (author, audience, intent and theme, historical setting)
3. The same topic in other passages
4. The context of the whole Bible
5. Word definitions
6. First mention - the first time something is mentioned, progressive mention - getting more information as the subject moves forward in the Bible, full mention - considering all scriptures on a subject
E. Don’t overspiritualize, allergorize, or mysticize it
F. There is one primary meaning, but many applications.
G. Prophecies sometimes have more than one time reference and apply more than once. Isaiah spoke of stammering lips and another tongue (Is 28:11, Is 32:4, Is 33:19 ). Paul said this applied to speaking in tongues as a gift of the Spirit (1Cor 14:1). Hosea referred to the Exodus of Israel from Egypt by Moses (Hos 11:1). Matthew quotes this and applies to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returning from Egypt when they fled from Herod (Mt 2:14-15). Jeremiah spoke of Israel mourning for their slain loved ones in the Babylonian invasion (Jer 31:15). Matthew applies this to the murder of babies by Herod when the wise men came (Mt 2:17-18). However, none of us today is authorized to write scriptures so we must be careful not to take undue liberties with them.
H. The OT prophets mostly did not see the church age. For example, compare Isaiah 61:1- 2 with Luke 4:17-21. When Jesus quoted Isaiah, he stopped in the middle of the verse because there is a time gap there. It was not yet time for God’s vengeance. It is commonly understood that there is a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel’s prophecy (Dan 9:23-27). This is often described as mountains and valleys. The prophets saw the mountaintops that pertained to Israel but not the valley of the church age in between.
I. Phrases like “latter times” and “last days” do not always mean the end of the world.
J. Sound doctrine is not optional. It is essential (1Tim 4:16). Yet we should not
succumb to debating non-essential issues to contention and division. Peace and unity
in the body of Christ are essential. We should avoid meaningless arguments and
focus on that which glorifies God, edifies the believers, and wins souls (1-2Tim,
Titus). Knowledge puffs up but charity edifies (1Cor 8:1). Humility is essential.
There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom (Jam 3:13-18).
K. Pray. The understanding comes by revelation, not carnal intellect (Mt 16:17, Rom 8,