Although prophecy constitutes almost one-third of the Bible, its importance is constantly downplayed by those who dismiss it as having no practical significance or by those who object to it on the grounds that it is a "fad" that takes people's eyes off Jesus.
A good example of what I'm talking about can be found in the immensely popular best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren.1 He mocks Bible prophecy when he writes, "If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy." He then goes on to characterize prophecy as a "distraction" and says that anyone who lets himself get involved in distractions like studying prophecy "is not fit for the kingdom of God."
Such cavalier dismissals of Bible prophecy fly in the face of scriptures like Revelation 19:10 which says that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Thus, if prophecy is properly taught, there is no reason for it to divert anyone's attention away from Jesus. In fact, it should serve to emphasize the centrality of Jesus.
Is prophecy practical? Consider that all the New Testament writers testify to the fact that living with the anticipation of the Lord's return will motivate holy living. What could be more practical than that? Here are some examples:
The Apostle Paul: "The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts" — Romans 13:12-14.
The Apostle Peter: "The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God... so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" — 1 Peter 4:7-11.
The Apostle John: "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" — 1 John 3:2-3.
Prophecy does not have to be either faddish, other-worldly, or impractical if taught properly. Nor does it have to be a playground for fanatics. It can and should be green pastures for disciples.
In the next segment of our topic concerning the importance of Bible prophecy, I look at the many reasons why we should study God's prophetic word.
1) Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), page 286.