Reasons for Studying Biblical Prophecy
Four reasons why the study of biblical prophecy is important were presented in previous articles. This present article will present the fifth reason.
Fifth, the study of biblical prophecy is intended by God to purify the believer’s life and to change his or her priorities. Two aspects of prophetic revelation serve that purpose.
The first aspect: The imminency of Christ’s return
The English word “imminent” means “hanging over one’s head, ready to befall or overtake one; close at hand in its incidence” (“imminent,” The Oxford English Dictionary, 1901, V, 66). Thus, an imminent event is one that is always hanging overhead, is constantly ready to befall or overtake a person, is always close at hand in the sense that it could happen at any moment. Other things may happen before the imminent event, but nothing else must take place before it happens. If something else must take place before an event can happen, that event is not imminent.
One never knows exactly when an imminent event will happen. Because of this, a person cannot count on a certain amount of time transpiring before an imminent event occurs. Thus, one should always be prepared for it to happen at any moment.
In light of the meaning of “imminent” and the fact that the next coming of Christ has not yet occurred, the concept of the imminent coming of Christ is as follows: His next coming is always hanging overhead, is constantly ready to befall or overtake us, is always close at hand in the sense that it could happen at any moment. Other things may happen before His coming, but biblically nothing else must happen before it takes place. If something else must happen first, then His next coming is not imminent.
The concept of the imminent coming of Christ prompts the conclusion that we do not know exactly when He will come. Because of this, we cannot count on a certain amount of time transpiring before His coming. Therefore, we should always be ready for Him to come at any moment.
Numerous Bible scholars from various church and theological backgrounds have concluded that the New Testament teaches or implies the imminent coming of Christ in the following passages:
1 Corinthians 1:7, 4:5, 15:51-52, 16:22
Philippians 3:20, 4:5
1 Thessalonians 1:10
2 Thessalonians 3:10-12
1 John 2:28
Revelation 3:11, 22:7, 12, 17, 20
We shall examine James 5:8-9 as an example of a passage that teaches the imminence of Christ’s return. James wrote the following to believers:
“Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.”
It is important to note that James used the Greek perfect tense in the verb forms translated “draweth” in the expression “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” and “standeth” in the expression “the judge standeth before the door.” The Greek perfect tense refers to an action that was completed in the past, but the results of that action continue into the present. Thus, in the first expression, James was saying that the next coming of Christ drew near in the past before he wrote his epistle, and that it continued to be near in the present while he was writing his epistle.
In the second expression, James was claiming that there was a genuine sense in which Christ took His stand as judge at the door of Heaven before he wrote his epistle, and that He continued to stand at the door of Heaven in the present while he was writing his epistle. James thereby implied that Christ could step through the door of Heaven at any moment and confront His Church saints as judge at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:10-4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
James clearly indicated that, in light of the fact that Christ could return at any moment and confront His Church saints as judge, Christians should be careful how they treat their fellow believers (v. 9). He thereby implied the following truth: The fact that Christ’s next coming is imminent should make a difference in the way Christians live. They should be living holy, godly lives every moment of every day, because in the very next moment Christ could step through the door of Heaven and confront them face-to-face.
The Apostle John emphasized the same truth when he wrote the following to Christians: “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28).
The second aspect: The future destruction of the present earth and universe
In 2 Peter 3 the Apostle Peter wrote, “The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and all the works that are therein shall be burned up” (v. 10).
Peter thereby foretold the future destruction of the present earth and universe, including every thing that mankind has designed and made during the history of this earth. This means that all of our present material possessions will be totally destroyed.
In light of the certainty of this future destruction, Peter then said the following to Christians: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness” (v. 11).
His point was this: The fact that the present earth, universe and all our material possessions will be destroyed in the future should make a difference in our values, priorities and how we live in the present. We should be holy in our daily conduct. The thing that should motivate us and give us ultimate meaning and purpose in life is the glory and pleasing of God, not money, material things, or the present world system. Because all these earthly things are temporary and doomed for destruction, we should conform our values and priorities to those of the future eternal state (vv. 13-14).
Are you investing your life in the things that will perish or the things that will last forever? How are you training your children to invest their lives?
Is your bank in Heaven, or is your heaven in the bank?