Excerpted from Prophecy for Today – J. Dwight Pentecost (1961).
The first great result of the study of prophecy is that the prophetic Scriptures prove to us the authority of the entire Word of God. The Bible is different from every other religious book. There is no other book upon which a religion has been founded which includes prophecy within it.
These books upon which false religions or false cults are founded seek to interpret the past or the present, but they are entirely silent upon the future. And yet the Word of God, from the opening chapters of Genesis right through the closing chapters of the Book of Revelation, contain countless prophecies.
These revelations of coming events are authentications of the fact that the Bible is of divine origin and therefore both trustworthy and true. The test of the truth of prophecy is always its fulfillment and if that which was prophesied came to pass, we would know that the prophecy was divinely inspired. There is no greater test for proof of the inspiration, validity, authority and trustworthiness of the Bible than the proof of fulfilled prophecy. This could be illustrated briefly by some of the prophecies concerning the coming of Christ.
Hundreds of years before He was born, the Old Testament told us the time of His birth in Daniel 9; the fact of the virgin birth in Isaiah 7; the place of His birth in Micah 5, the intimate details of His life and death in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53; the fact of His resurrection in Psalm 16. One mathematician has figured out, considering only the prophecies concerning the first coming of Christ, that there is only one chance in 87 plus 93 zeros that the Bible could be right on the basis of guess alone.
God has revealed prophecy and then fulfilled some of the prophecies to prove that Scripture is of divine origin, is trustworthy, and is to be studied with confidence. After all, all that we know of God is that which is recorded for us in this Word. If it is not trustworthy, we have no revelation at all. But fulfilled prophecy proves to us that a God who can tell us what is yet in the future is a God who is to be trusted.
Words of Grace for Strength
Dr. Pentecost goes on to talk about the study of Scripture revealing the power, wisdom and purposes of God. There is much to commend itself to the study of prophecy within the Bible. The fact that prophecy makes up such a significant part of the Bible is a clear indicator that it has much that God would have us know about Him, and therefore God would have us study and meditate. However, the Bible is a book which is easy to pull verses, passages and even whole chapters out of context and use them to support a position that is in effect, not biblically grounded; to use them to teach in ways that are not biblically accurate.
Dr. Pentecost warns of the dangers of studying prophecy, of thinking too much of your station, status or knowledge to judge others faith walk or ministry in the context of their prophetic knowledge in comparison to yours. Always remember that it was the Holy Spirit who opened your eyes, who gave you the wisdom and discernment to understand the Word of God. You are no better than others, although you may be more obedient to the Lord’s desires that we study the Word of God.
I sat in enough lectures under the teaching of Dr. Pentecost to know he would never think it wise to study prophecy to the exclusion of the rest of the Bible. The Lord gave us His complete Word in the Bible; it is all the Word that He chose for us to have. As all we know of God is what is revealed in Scripture, the Bible is all God chose to show of Himself. That makes every section of the Bible too important not to read, not study and meditate over.
In commenting in his mid-90s on a passage of Scripture which he said he had taught for 70 years, Dr. Pentecost revealed in class an insight he said had never occurred to him before. He didn’t feel that made him wrong in the past but that “The wealth of Scripture is inexhaustible.” That quote, burned in my memory, represents a most concise argument for reading and studying the Bible every day, reading and studying the entire Bible over and over again.
Those who ignore prophetic Scripture as foolish imaginings, who view those studying it as mentally unstable or living in a fantasy world are ignoring the fact that prophecy was given to us by God that we may know Him better—know His character better. God has chosen to reveal Himself to us through His Word, and a large part of it is prophetic. To ignore it is to be ignorant of the wisdom and revelation of God.
Conversely, those who study prophecy alone and candle all they view against prophetic Scripture are equally guilty of ignoring large swathes of Scripture. Their ignorance manifests itself in a different way, but has the same cause. The Bible is a book containing God’s complete Word as He chose to give it to us through the inspired writing of His chosen human instruments.
Why study prophecy? Because it is in the Bible. The better question to ask is why not study prophecy.
Rafter Cross Ministries