In this unsettled world, there is renewed interest in Bible prophecy. A search on Amazon, the world’s biggest marketplace, will easily generate a list of 100 books the retailer “recommends,” which only scratches the surface of the number written on the subject. Most of them have one thing in common: They are wrong.
While many books claiming knowledge of prophetic matters may seem to contain elements of truth, they often misunderstand or misapply the Scriptures, and thus completely fail to interpret prophecy correctly.
Prophetic misinformation is not confined to books. Religious television programming on prophecy is very popular and, you guessed it, most “televangelists” and so-called experts also get it wrong. There have been several popular movies with Bible prophecy as a theme, which simply filled the minds of viewers with false ideas. And while communication via the Internet and social media has great potential for good, it is also used to disseminate a vast amount of false information—including false prophecies!
Prophecy is a hot topic because it is interesting and exciting. However, it is important to understand how God uses prophecy.
What is required to understand prophecy or, for that matter, any part of God’s word? Psalm 111:10 provides the answer. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments.” Understanding the Bible, including prophecy, is directly tied to obedience to God’s Law and Way of life. Additionally, understanding the identity of the tribes of Israel in modern times is a key that unlocks Bible prophecy.
Some groups and individuals try to interpret the intricate details of prophecies by assigning current dates and names to make prophecy fit their pet theory or a self-serving view of how it will work out, sometimes giving dates for prophetic fulfillment. This approach is a misuse of prophecy.
But important questions remain: What purpose does prophecy serve, and what good is it, anyway? Scripture reveals the following:
What are the benefits of prophecy? Based on the writings of Paul, three benefits are clearly defined:
The Apostle Peter gave this important instruction: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (Peter 1:20).
Finally, the Apostle John recorded this stern warning in the final words of the Book of Revelation at the end of the New Testament: “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this Book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book: and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18–19).
Prophetic scripture makes up about 25 to 30 percent of the Bible, so understanding prophecy—what it means and how to use it—is essential for a good understanding of God’s word. The Tomorrow’s World Bible Study Course and our many study guides on biblical subjects, including prophecy, are available free of any charge. You may also want to consider the eye-opening article “Why Study Bible Prophecy?” or the telecast "Unlock Bible Prophecy!"