Does the teaching of Bible prophecy encourage evangelism and holy living?
Bible prophecy is one of the most ignored topics in churches today. Pastors avoid it like a plague. They usually assert that it is either too controversial or too difficult to understand. They often claim it is too other-worldly, meaning it has no relevance to Christian living here and now. The result is that one-fourth to one-third of God's Word has been put on the shelf, and the average Christian ends up living with no anticipation or even yearning for the Lords' soon return.
There are two areas of God's Word that have been terribly ignored and abused in the history of the Church. They are the opening of the Bible and the conclusion of the Bible — the books of Genesis and Revelation. People have tended to spiritualize the opening of the Bible by claiming that the 6 days of Creation were really 6 million or 60 million or 600 million years. When you start out spiritualizing the Bible by claiming that it doesn't really mean what it says, there is a tendency to do the same thing with the ending of the Bible, arguing that the book of Revelation really doesn't mean what it says.
But, the abuses of Bible prophecy applies to more than just the book of Revelation. It applies to all of God's prophetic word, and that is a shame, because the study of Bible prophecy is very important for many reasons.
I'm going to give you nine reasons why all Christians should be interested in studying God's Prophetic Word. The following are the fifth and sixth reasons.
5. Tool for Evangelism
Another reason to study Bible prophecy is it is a great tool of evangelism. Most people don't realize this. Bible prophecy is a tremendous tool of evangelism. It can be used as an effective tool to win people to Jesus. The very first Gospel sermon ever preached is proof positive of it. Read Acts 2, that short sermon that Peter preaches. All he did in that sermon was say, "The prophets said the Messiah would do this; Jesus fulfilled it. The prophet said the Messiah would do this; Jesus fulfilled it. The prophet said the Messiah would do this; Jesus fulfilled it." That is all Peter's sermon is — one prophecy after another. Suddenly the people interrupted him and asked, "What must we do to be saved?" They were convicted by the teaching of Bible prophecy and him showing them that Jesus had fulfilled prophecy.
Or, consider Philip and the Eunuch. Philip is given a horizontal rapture. He is taken over to another road. He sees this Ethiopian eunuch coming down the road reading a big scroll. He stops and they start talking. The Eunuch asks, "What is this scroll?" He quotes from it. What's the passage? It's Isaiah 53. Philip asks, "Do you understand it?" The Eunuch replies, "I don't understand it." Philip said, "Let me explain it." He explains how Yeshua (Jesus) was the fulfillment of Isaiah 53. The man is baptized and then goes on his way rejoicing. He's the first African convert and probably the guy who founded the Coptic Church. All with Bible prophecy!
Second Timothy 3:15 states, "From childhood you, Timothy, have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." That was written before the New Testament existed. When Paul says "from childhood you've known the sacred writings," he's not talking about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He's not talking about anything in the New Testament. He's saying, "Timothy, from the time you were a child you have been taught the Torah. You have been taught what we call the Old Testament. From that alone you received enough wisdom to lead you to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." I would submit to you that wisdom is gained primarily through the study of Bible prophecy.
6. Tool for Moral Teaching
Another reason to study Bible prophecy is that it's a great tool of moral teaching. The prophetic Word is a great repository of moral teaching.
Most people don't realize that if you go through the prophets you will find three or four times as much forth-telling the present rather than foretelling the future. They spent most of their time reading the riot act to people. They spent most of their time talking about religious hypocrisy and things of that nature. For example, here is a quote from Amos. I love Amos! I call him the "Harry Truman of the Old Testament" because he spits words like bullets. Look at what he says. He is speaking for God and he says to them:
"I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them. And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from me the noise of your song. I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream."
God is interested in justice. He is interested in righteousness. The Word is full of passages about His concern for widows and orphans, and for people using unjust scales. He is concerned about social justice. Yes, He is. He is more concerned about the salvation of our souls, but He is also concerned about social justice.
What Amos is saying here is not that these things are unimportant, for they are important. But, they are unimportant if you go through all this religious rigmarole and then you go home and cheat on your wife and cheat on your business partner and cheat on your taxes. What good is all the religious rigmarole? It's all a bunch of hypocrisy!
Let me show you how this will preach. Here is Dave Reagan's paraphrase version:
"I hate; I reject your Gospel meetings. Nor do I delight in your worship services. Even though you offer up to me your tithes and offerings, I will not accept them. I will not even look at your communion services. Take away from me the noise of your hymns. I will not even listen to the sound of your pianos. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream."
The prophets are powerful in talking about morality.
In the fourth part of my teaching on the importance of Bible prophecy, we'll look at the seventh and eighth reasons why we should all be studying God's prophetic word.