Why Study Biblical Prophecy? Part 1 of 4 :: By Renald E. Showers

Different Attitudes of People
Many people have negative attitudes toward the study of biblical prophecy. For example, there are those who say, “I’m only concerned about the present, so don’t bother me with ideas about the future.” A scientist friend of mine ran into such people while on a commercial flight. In a letter to me, he gave the following account of what happened while he was in the process of reading a book on the Rapture of the Church:

I’d read the first several chapters by the time the stewardess had noticed how enthralled I was with the book. She asked what it was that I was finding so interesting (instead of her I presume), so I explained my excitement in such a scholarly treatment of the rapture question. It only took about 17.6 seconds for a frigidness to quash her formerly bubbly self.

The next thing I knew was that she was wondering loudly why “people like me are always worrying about that stuff. There isn’t enough love being shown now, and if God is love then we should be spreading more of it around instead of worrying about the future.” She had most of the First Class passengers nodding in agreement and looking at me like I had just brought the plague on board. Talk about instant isolation. She didn’t even give me the chance to say that the imminence of the concept would encourage that very lifestyle (as well as other more Godly living, which I began to realize was the real problem). Needless to say, it was a long, long six hour flight!

Other people express a second negative attitude toward the study of biblical prophecy. It goes like this: “Nobody can understand the prophecies in the Bible, so why bother to study them? Such effort is a useless waste of time.” There was a prominent pastor who spent many years preaching systematically throughout the entire Bible. When he came to the Book of Revelation, this is what he told his congregation:

You will not see me for several weeks. During that time I am not to be disturbed. In essence, I am going into hiding. Here is the reason why: When I was a student in seminary, my professor of New Testament said, “We shall not study the Book of Revelation, because no one can understand it.” Due to this lack in my seminary training, I know almost nothing about the last book of the Bible. Because of this, during the next several weeks I shall bury myself in the study of Revelation so that I can preach it to you.

The negative attitude of this pastor’s professor of New Testament toward the study of the Book of Revelation is tragic for at least two reasons. First, those who ignore Revelation will miss the following special blessing that Jesus Christ proclaimed in conjunction with that book:

“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein” (Rev. 1:3).

Second, the very fact that the Book of Revelation and all other biblical prophecies were given by God to mankind through divine revelation and were recorded accurately through the means of divine inspiration (1 Cor. 2:9-13; 2 Pet. 1:19-21) indicates that God wants human beings to possess these prophecies and to pay attention to them. Otherwise He would never have given them to mankind. In light of this, those persons, who for any reason fail to heed them, will miss what God intends and desires for them.

A third negative attitude toward the study of biblical prophecy is expressed by some Chris-tians. In essence it is this: “There are very few, if any, prophecies in the Bible concerning events that will transpire in the future beyond our present time. Almost all biblical prophecies were fulfilled by the end of the First Century A.D. For example, the great tribulation to which Jesus Christ referred in Matthew 24:21-22 was fulfilled by the events associated with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and Israel as a nation state in 70 A.D. This was Christ’s coming in judgment upon the Jewish nation that had rejected Him.”

A fourth negative attitude toward the study of biblical prophecy is the result of the mishandling of the prophetic Scriptures by some Bible teachers and preachers. Tragically, over the years some have claimed that the prophetic Scriptures gave them information that enabled them to set a date for the Rapture or Second Coming of Christ, or to identify the personal name of the Antichrist. For example, during the era of World War II, some prominent Bible teachers and preachers in Great Britain and North America claimed that Bible prophecy indicated that Hitler or Mussolini was the Antichrist.

More recently, a prominent Christian leader used a book, radio broadcasts, billboards and other means to promote the idea that Christ would return in His Second Coming to destroy the world in the fall of a specific year that is now past. When time proved these men to be wrong, this not only seriously wounded the credibility of their personal ministries, but it also gave the unsaved more cause to ridicule biblical Christianity and soured the attitude of many Christians toward the study and teaching of biblical prophecy.

Two things should be noted in conjunction with this fourth negative attitude. First, instead of learning from the past mistakes of teachers and preachers, some today continue the same mishandling of the prophetic Scriptures by setting dates for the Rapture or Second Coming of Christ, or by claiming that a certain prominent individual today is the Antichrist.

Second, those Christians who are negative toward the study and teaching of biblical prophecy because of these past or present abuses are guilty of throwing out the baby with the dirty bath water. Instead of rejecting the study and teaching of biblical prophecy because of abuses, they should reject the abuses, but hold on to the valid study and teaching of the prophetic Scriptures. They should do so because there are significant reasons why the study and teaching of biblical prophecy is important.

My next article will look at some of those reasons.