This address was given at a Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony Conference at Brighton on 26th April, 1997.
There are reasons why we should give ourselves to know what God has said concerning the future, but, before we look at those reasons which compel us to give attention to this subject, there are some things which need to be said.
First of all, I want to stress the word ‘study.’ I am not talking about the reading of Prophetic Scriptures. I trust you do read your Bible regularly, day by day. However, it is vitally important, not only to read the Bible, but to study the Bible. You have probably been challenged by many preachers about the necessity of reading the Word of God every day. That is a valuable lesson and a most important thing for the Christian. Every day he should take time to be alone with the Lord, reading His Word to hear the voice of God.
But I want to go a step further than that. I want to impress upon you the importance not only of reading the Word of God, but of studying the words of Holy Scripture.
I have found in not a few cases, superficial views about what the Bible teaches, not only on prophecy, but also on other aspects of truth. It has come about because people have only a limited, or a very superficial, view of the Bible, They have read certain verses in the Bible and are familiar with them but they have not taken time to really think through and study for themselves, with the help of God, what these things really mean. And when views that are contrary to the teaching of Scripture are advanced, they are unable to counter them, because all they have done in the past is simply read the words and never thought what they really mean.
One reason that people do not really know what they believe or what the Bible teaches even on prophetical matters is that they have not taken time to study what God has said.
The Lord Jesus Christ said in John 5:39, ‘Search the Scriptures.’ This is a very fundamental injunction put to us by the Lord. If we are to search the Scriptures, it will demand effort, It will require application of our mental energies to this Book. We will need to make effort. We will have to take time. We should endeavour, under God, to determine what this Book teaches, what these passages really say. It is not just merely running through
The Psalmist said in Psalm 19:9-10, ‘The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold.’ The Bible is worth more than gold.
You will know a little about the various gold rushes that have occurred in the history of this world. Whenever gold was discovered in a particular area, there was a mad rush. Many people wanted to go to that area to be the first to get their hands on the gold. They were diligent. They searched endlessly. They put themselves to great effort to get their hands upon this gold that was to be found in the earth. They worked hard. They worked long hours. They worked with diligence, untiringly, in order to get just a little of this precious substance.
The Word of God is more precious than gold. How you and I should really search after it! How we should determine to get to know this Book! How we should use diligence and effort in order to understand what God has said in this Book. We need to study the Word of God.
Superficial and far-fetched views of prophecy prevail because people have not taken time to study the Scripture. Some really ludicrous and foolish opinions have been propounded because men have just read a verse and thought that it means something, and they have not taken time to study through what the proper teaching of Scripture is on this subject. They have just taken a few words and they have arrived at a wrong conclusion because they have not set themselves to study God’s Holy Word.
Let us then set before you some reasons why we should study the prophetic Scriptures.
Prophecy Forms a Large Part of Scripture
First of all, we should study the prophetic Scriptures because they form a large part of the inspired canon of Scripture. We believe in an inspired Bible. We believe, unapologetically and unequivocally, that God has given us an inspired revelation.
We believe, wholeheartedly and without any equivocation, the truth set forth in 2 Timothy 3:16, ’All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.’ Notice that word ‘all’ and the words ‘is profitable.’ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable.
The Prophetical Scriptures are as much a part of the inspired canon of Holy Scripture as the historical parts of the Bible. We do not believe in secondary degrees of inspiration. We do not believe that one part of the Bible is more important or more inspired than any other section. Our Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, every part of it, prophetical, historical, is equally inspired of God. It is important to grasp this. That all the Bible, every part of it, has been given to us by God, and every part of it is inspired.
Some people take the view that they need not bother themselves with what the Bible has to say on prophetical matters. They leave it out of their Bible study. They come to a section in the Bible that is prophetical, and as they cannot understand it, they turn over some pages or leave out the section entirely, and never bother to read it, They think that they do not need to give too much attention to prophecy.
But to neglect, or to set aside, prophecy is to throw away a vital part of the inspired revelation, It is to despise and to undervalue the priceless treasure that God has given to us. It is, in fact, to our detriment that we neglect, abandon, or throw away any part of the Word of God, even should it be a small part of the Word of God. To not give attention to the prophecies of God’s Word is to say that these things are not essential.
Yet God, in His infinite wisdom, has put prophecy in His Word because He knows it is good for us to understand. The Lord has put prophetical truth into His Word because He wants us to know, That is why the prophets of old were inspired of God to write these things, because the Lord wants us to know about them.
If you have a proper view of inspiration, that this Book has been Divinely given by God, then you will not want to neglect any part of it. You will want to know what the Lord has to say on prophetical matters just as much as what He has to say about historical or doctrinal matters. We need to be clear in our minds that we hold a right view of the inspiration of this Book. And if you have that view of inspiration of this Book then you will want to give attention to all that God has said. You will be compelled to give attention to the prophecy of God’s Word.
Let me give you a quotation that sets forth far better than I could, the view that we ought to possess of inspiration. J. W. Burgon said, ‘The Bible is none other than the voice of Him that sitteth on the throne. Every book of it, every chapter of it, every verse of it, every word of it, every syllable of it. Where do we stop? Every letter of it is the direct utterance of the Most High.’ What a statement! And that is the kind of view we ought to have of the inspiration of this Book.
Every part of it that God has given to us is something the Lord wants us to know. Not only is prophecy a part, but it forms a large part of the inspired Bible. As you read through your Bible, stop for a moment and think how much of this Book is actually prophetical. Much of it has been fulfilled but you will be amazed, if you read your Bible carefully, to discover how much of this Book is still to be fulfilled.
If we neglect prophecy or think it is not important, then we are actually leaving out large sections of the Bible. We are saying that a large portion is not really important. Any who adopt that kind of approach has a very low view of Scripture.
I remember, some time ago, seeing a documentary about a modern gold refining plant. The person in charge of this gold plant said that the overalls the men wore whilst they were working in this plant had to be taken off when they left the plant, and washed on the site, because there was the possibility of some of the gold dust being in their garments. They were so washed and the water drained off to save any gold dust that might possibly have been in the garments. They said that they even went with a feather duster along all the surfaces, dusting off particles of gold dust which had settled along the ledges. The gold was so precious that they swept it up. They did not want any of it to be lost.
And if you and I come to value this Book, and to consider it to be the inspired revelation of God, then we will value every part of this Book - the prophetical part, as well as the historical part, being very precious, we must not neglect it. We will study prophecy more than we have done in the past, because we realize the prophetical parts of the Word of God are inspired. They form a large part of this Book, and they are just as valuable as the rest of Scripture.
Prophecy Reveals the Sovereignty of God
Secondly, we should study the Prophetical Scriptures because they will cause us to see the sovereignty and omnipotence of God.
Daniel was a man that was greatly favored of God. To him the Lord gave some remarkable prophecies as you will know from your reading and study of the book by his name. In Daniel 7:3-8, the Lord showed to Daniel things that were to take place in the future. Without going into the detail of these verses, Daniel was told that, in due time, certain kingdoms would arise, After one kingdom there would come another kingdom. And then, in turn, another would arise and defeat the former king and take power, and so on through the four kingdoms.
As Daniel reflected upon these prophecies, and considered the changes that would be brought about with these kingdoms in that area, he would have been brought to see that God Is sovereign. He saw that the sovereign purpose of God would stand, that His will must be done regardless of the difficulties that might appear to be in the way of these things coming to pass. Through the prophecies that were given to him and by being able to live through that period when these prophecies were being fulfilled, Daniel was able to see God’s sovereign purpose would stand, and though there was a man who seemed to be in control, and seemed to be mighty and powerful, yet, God had said another, an inferior king, would arise, who was to overcome him who appeared superior.
As you look at that prophecy, you will see that the weaker overcomes the one occupying the position of greatest power and influence. Daniel was learning that the purpose of God cannot be thwarted.
And as we view prophecy, whether or not we actually see the fulfillment of it, we will be brought to affirm the truth of Proverbs 19:21, ‘There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.’ If you look at those prophecies that have already been fulfilled, you will learn that whatever difficulties might have been in the way, the fulfillment of those prophecies came about, That is a good thing to keep in mind.
The purposes of God will be fulfilled irrespective of what difficulties you might foresee. You might read your Bible, and say to yourself that God has said that something is going to happen but you cannot see how it could happen. I will acknowledge that there are things in the Word of God that I, from a human standpoint, certainly at this present time, could not see being capable of fulfillment, there are so many difficulties in the way. But we learn, as we look at prophecy that has been fulfilled, that whatever difficulties there might be in the way, God is nevertheless still able to fulfill those prophecies exactly. His sovereign purpose and plan will come to pass. If you cannot work out how some prophecy could come about, do not doubt it. God will bring it to pass.
I have met those who have, in a mocking fashion, questioned what I believe is going to happen, because they could never see how it could take place. That does not bother me. If God has said it, it will be done. God is sovereign. He has the power to carry out His plan.
And as you consider the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to this earth, you will see that His coming is connected with power. The omnipotence of the Lord is very much to the fore in relation to the second coming.
In Matthew 24:30 we read, ‘And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.’ When the Lord Jesus Christ comes, He is coming back with power.
This world will undergo great changes in the last days, in the end times. We read in 2 Peter 3:7,10, ‘The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.’ The return of the Lord Jesus Christ will be with power.
You see the power of God displayed as you look upon His handiwork now. You see His power in creation. But you will see the power and hand of God again made bare at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 20:10 shows the power of the Lord Jesus Christ at His second coming, for at the end of the 1000 years, we are told, ‘the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.’ Here we see the powerful hand of the Lord, taking Satan himself and casting him into the lake of fire. As you study prophecy, you will be brought to realize that our God is all powerful.
That should fill the Christian with confidence. As he looks at prophecy, he sees a God Who is all powerful, One Who is able to fulfil His purpose.
Reveals Detail Of The Future
That God Wants Us To Know
Thirdly, we should study the Prophetical Scriptures because they will give us that view of the future that the Lord wants us to possess. The Lord wants you to know about the future. The reason we have the Prophetical Scripture is because there are things that an all-wise God wants us to know.
Romans 15:4 says, ‘Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning.’ The things God has put in His Word are written for our learning, and we dare not say that that is only true of the historical and that there is nothing we can learn from prophecy. No, all Scripture is given to us for our learning. The Lord does not want us to be in ignorance concerning prophetical truth. The prophets and the apostles wrote because they wanted to tell us about future events.
The apostles did not want the Church to be ignorant on eschatology. In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5, Paul says, ‘But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you (and he is talking here about prophecy). For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night (the word ‘perfectly’ there means accurately’ or ‘with accuracy’). For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape (there will be people who will be caught unawares, who are totally in the dark concerning some of these things). But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness.’ Paul says that believers are not in the dark concerning these things. They know perfectly, accurately, about these times and seasons.
Romans 1 1:25 brings out the point even more powerfully that the apostles did not want the Church to be ignorant on eschatology. Eschatology is a big word which means ‘last things, things concerning the end time.’ It takes in more than just the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul the apostle does not want the Church of Christ to be ignorant about things concerning the end. He says, ‘For 1 would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.’ Paul did not want the Church of Jesus Christ to be ignorant. He wanted them to know these things.
And he wanted them to know the Lord’s plan and purpose for the Jewish nation. Is it not ironic that, though we have these very words in the Bible from the pen of the apostle Paul, yet we find in this day, that a lot of God’s people are ignorant concerning prophecy in general, and ignorant in particular concerning God’s dealings with the Jew? Paul would not have us ignorant, and yet many of God’s people are ignorant. They do not know. We can know the future.
God has put these things into His Word because He wants us to know that He has a future for Israel. In Romans 11:11-12, Paul says, ‘I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?’ Paul is essentially saying, if through the Jews’ rejection of Christ and their being set aside the Gentiles (that is, those who are not Jews) have benefited so much from the gospel, how much more blessing will there be at the time of the Jews’ fullness? There will be a time when Israel again will share in these blessings.
And Paul goes on to say that Israel again will come back to enjoy to the full the blessings that they forfeited. He says in verse 26, ‘And so all Israel shall be saved.’ The Lord would have us know that there is a future for Israel. He would have us know certain things about the order of events in the end times.
In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul says that he does not want the people of God to be in ignorance because ignorance leads to instability, to uncertainty, to trouble of heart where there ought not to be trouble of heart. Paul speaks of the second coming of Christ as we see from verse 1, ‘Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him.’ Then he goes on to say in verse 3, ‘Let no man deceive you,’ because undoubtedly, some people were being misled, thinking that Jesus Christ could come at any moment. So Paul says, ‘For that day (the day of the return of Jesus Christ) shall not come except’ and the first thing he says is, ‘there come a falling away.’ Paul is speaking here about the great apostasy, because the word in the Greek is the actual word from which we get our English word ‘apostasy.’ So Paul says that the Lord Jesus Christ will not come except there come first of all, the great and gross departure from the truth of God.
But he goes on to say a second thing, ‘that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.’ This second thing, which will have to be manifested before Jesus Christ comes back, is the Antichrist.
There is, first of all, the apostasy, and then, secondly, the Antichrist, ‘who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped.’ And he goes on to the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. I could say more on those verses. I simply leave them before you, a synopsis of some of the events that must take place before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Prophecy Leads Us To Christ
Fourthly, we should study the Prophetical Scriptures because they will lead us to see and to cherish Jesus Christ more. What is the theme of this Book? It is Jesus Christ and Him crucified, He is the central figure of Holy Scripture.
The Lord Jesus Himself taught His disciples this following His resurrection from the dead. On His appearance unto the two on the road to Emmaus it is recorded in Luke 24:27, ‘And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.’ The Lord Jesus was able to go back to the prophecies of the Old Testament and say that they were speaking of Him, And the prophecies of this Book still speak of Him, They point to the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophets spoke of the Lord Jesus Christ, not only of His first coming but also of His second coming.
Isaiah 63 is a misunderstood chapter. Verse 1 reads, ‘Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.’ Many people think that this is talking about the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, about His suffering upon the cross at Calvary, because His garments are dyed red. Verse 2 continues, ‘Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth the winefat?’ They think this is talking about the sufferings of Christ.
If you read it carefully, you discover that it is not talking about that. It is actually referring to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His treading down of His enemies, It is Him coming as judge, and conquering all His foes, For in verses 3-4, we read, ‘I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with Me: for I will tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments, and I will stain all My raiment, For the day of vengeance is in Mine heart and the year of My redeemed is come.’ Christ did not come the first time in wrath.
As you read these prophecies, your thoughts will be led to see Jesus Christ, and that great work that He will do upon His return.
Prophecy Comforts Us
Fifthly, we should study the Prophetical Scriptures because they will comfort us in our Christian walk, For the child of God, the doctrine of the last things, of the return of Jesus Christ and the events that surround and follow that return, fills his heart with comfort, with cheer, and with hope.
Yet I can look back to a time, even after I was saved, when 1 heard some people speak of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, it caused my heart to fear. It caused me to tremble. Why was that? Because, looking back now, I can see that I had not understood these things aright.
A proper understanding of truth concerning the return of the Lord Jesus Christ will comfort the true Christian heart.
Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 tells us, talking again about Christ’s return, and the resurrection of the dead in Christ at that return, says, ‘Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.’ These are things that are meant to minister consolation. To think of the return of Christ ought to bring comfort to our hearts.
The return of the Lord Jesus Christ is spoken of in Titus 2:13 as a 'blessed hope.’ And as we reflect truly upon these things, it will comfort our hearts, because, on that day truth will triumph.
Reprinted from "Watching and Waiting" October/December 1998, Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony.
Baptist Ministries ©