Is Bible prophecy something that we need not—or perhaps cannot—understand? Or is it vital to the daily life, and future hope, of Christians? Why did God give us Bible prophecy? You need to know!
Bible prophecy reveals your future—and the future of the world. What is its role in your life?
Most of us wonder what will happen in the years ahead. Will meteors destroy the earth? Will World War III cause "the end of the world"? Regular readers of Tomorrow's World know that the Bible gives the answers to those questions. We have shown that many ancient prophecies have been fulfilled, exactly as predicted in your Bible. But can we know what God has predicted for the future? Yes, we can!
Many "religious hobbyists" are curious about Bible prophecy, but they do not know its real significance and purpose. Some professing Christians dismiss Bible prophecy as insignificant and unimportant. They may concede that prophecy can be interesting, but they say it does not have anything to do with salvation. Can you see the fallacy? Remember: in one sense, no true Christian today will be finally saved until the prophesied great resurrection at Christ's return. As Christ said, in His own words: "But he who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13).
The Bible instructs God's people to be faithful to the end. True Christians look forward to the future when Jesus Christ will establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Notice what Christ says in the very next verse: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (v. 14).
Christ will powerfully end mankind's immoral and degenerate civilizations, and will establish His kingdom and government on this earth. That Kingdom will bring joy, happiness and lasting world peace to all the nations! Notice—what gospel did Jesus proclaim? The gospel of the Kingdom! In other words, the very gospel Jesus preached is prophetic!
The good news—the hope of the world—is the future Kingdom of God, which Jesus Christ will soon establish right here on the earth! True Christians right now are preparing to be transformed and to enter into that Kingdom, at Christ's return. As the Apostle Paul wrote: "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory'" (1 Corinthians 15:51–54).
The resurrection of faithful Christians will take place at the "last trumpet"—the seventh trumpet blast, announced in Revelation 11:15. Those who "endure to the end" will be saved, as Jesus said. For some, the "end" will be the end of a faithful Christian life. Others will still be alive at Christ's return. All these faithful Christians will be resurrected and changed at Christ's return, and will enter the prophesied Kingdom of God.
Some do not recognize that there is a future Kingdom of God. They miss the significance of Paul's reminder that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption" (1 Corinthians 15:50). If you are a flesh and blood Christian, you are preparing to inherit the Kingdom, but you have not yet inherited the Kingdom! You will receive your full inheritance at the time of the resurrection (John 3:5–6).
Jesus Himself emphasized that this inheritance will take place at the end of this age: "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'" (Matthew 25:34).
Some wrongly try to disconnect prophecy from God's plan of salvation, but this cannot be done. What exactly is prophecy? First, let us consider what it is not. As Unger's Bible Dictionary states: "Prophecy is not intended to open the future to idle curiosity, but for the higher purpose of furnishing light to those whose faith needs confirming" (Moody Press, 1967, p. 892).
Does your faith need confirming? Unger's continues: "The revelation of future events may be needful in times of discouragement to awaken or sustain hope, to inspire confidence in the midst of general backsliding, and to warn of evil threatening the faithful. The predictions against Babylon, Tyre, Egypt, Nineveh, and other kingdoms, were delivered to the people of God to comfort them, by revealing to them the fate of their enemies" (ibid.).
Unger's defines prophecy very simply: "The oral or written message of a prophet" (ibid., p. 893). The Greek word is prophetes, which means "foreteller" or "inspired speaker." As the Anchor Bible Dictionary states: "In the secular world, the word 'prophet' was used… to mean 'one who speaks for a god and interprets his will' to human beings" (Vol. 5, p. 496).
God's true prophets revealed His will to the people. They also warned the peoples of ancient Israel, and of many other nations. For example, after the death of the priest Jehoiada, Judah nation abandoned the true God and worshiped idols: "Therefore they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass" (2 Chronicles 24:18). How many people today worship modern idols of power, possessions and position? In the pages of this magazine, and on the Tomorrow's World telecast, we have been warning our western nations to repent. What action did God take when Judah and Jerusalem committed idolatry? "Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the Lord; and they testified against them, but they would not listen" (2 Chronicles 24:19).
Eventually, God sent the kingdom of Judah into Babylonian captivity for its wickedness. We need to listen to God's warnings to us today! God's word, the Bible, gives us sobering prophecies and warnings that we need to heed!
The prophets were God's messengers. They gave both instruction and revelation. Unger's Bible Dictionary comments on the role of the prophets: "The predictive element was a frequent part of the content of the prophet's message. But this is not the only element. The prophets frequently appear in the role of social and political reformers, stirring preachers of righteousness and religious revivalists in addition to being predictors of judgment or blessing, as the occasion demanded. The prophet's message was ever religious and spiritual, announcing the will of God to men and calling for complete obedience" (p. 893).
So, as we have seen, God sent prophets to help reform nations from their immorality. The prophets also revealed God's plan for the future. After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ referred to some of the many prophecies concerning Him: "Then He said to them, 'These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.' And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures" (Luke 24:44–45). By "Scriptures," Jesus was referring to what we now call the Old Testament. The Old Testament was organized into three divisions: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. The book of Psalms is the first book in the Writings. Jesus emphasized the importance of Bible prophecy in foretelling His first coming and His Messiahship. Many Old Testament prophecies also predict His Second Coming.
Prophecy is at the foundation of the New Testament Church. As Paul wrote: "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:19–20).
Yes, the very foundation of the Church consists of the "apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone." Did God inspire these prophets? What does your Bible say? The Apostle Peter had seen prophecy fulfilled. He had seen the resurrected Christ. Peter wrote: "And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 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" (2 Peter 1:19–21).
The Creator God inspired His prophets to give us instruction, revelation and warning. It is important, therefore, to know who is a true prophet, and who is falsely claiming that role. Jesus warned us: "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many" (Matthew 24:11). How can you know who God's true servants are? Scripture gives us the answer. "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20).
If someone today claims to be a prophet, but contradicts the plain words of Scripture, putting his own words above the faith "once for all delivered" (Jude v. 3), he is a false prophet. God's servants preach and teach according to His word, the Bible! That applies to me, and to this magazine. Test us—prove our words in your Bible—and be sure to test others who say that they teach God's word.
Many religious hobbyists create wild misinterpretations of prophecy, taking their "pet ideas" and trying to set them in the context of Scripture. Sometimes these self-made prophets are innocents who have been deceived, but sometimes they are deceivers trying to mislead the innocent. Be careful!
Bible prophecy has been given for many purposes. Here, we will consider four of the most basic and most important. First, Bible prophecy warns people and nations to repent, so they can avoid punishment.
John the Baptist moved many by his preaching. What was his message? "In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!'" (Matthew 3:1–2). Jesus Christ soon afterward preached this same message of repentance (see Mark 1:14–15).
How did people respond to John's preaching? "Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he [John] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, 'Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance'" (Matthew 3:5–8).
We must all heed this warning, and bear fruits worthy of repentance. If we truly repent, Jesus Christ promises protection for those who are faithful. The Apostle John records this message Christ delivered to the Church at Philadelphia: "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth" (Revelation 3:10).
An hour of trial is coming upon our rebellious and wicked world. Jesus warned us that a Great Tribulation is coming (Matthew 24:21). But God will protect those who listen to His prophetic warnings, and change their lives. The book of Jonah shows a rare example of a people actually heeding a warning from God, and changing its ways. Will we also repent nationally and individually?
God determined to destroy Nineveh unless its people repented. And they did repent! How did God view their repentance? "Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it" (Jonah 3:10). The prophetic warning resulted in God's blessing on the people. Will we respond to today's prophetic warnings as ancient Nineveh did? If we do not, we will experience the severe punishment of the Great Tribulation.
A second purpose of Bible prophecy is that it warns people to repent in captivity. Prophecy reveals that many who do not repent before the Great Tribulation will be able to remember God's prophetic warnings, and repent during the pain and suffering of the Great Tribulation. God gave this warning—and promise—to those who will in the future suffer national slavery and captivity: "And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. And there you will serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice (for the Lord your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them" (Deuteronomy 4:27–31).
Jesus said that the Gospel of the Kingdom would be a witness to all nations: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). Many will hear the gospel, but they will not respond to it at first. As a result, they will not be able to avoid the Great Tribulation. However, prophecy indicates that many who have heard the true Gospel will repent during that future time of national captivity. If you are one of them, please remember God's promise when you are in captivity. He will rescue you. He will deliver you, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul!
A third purpose of Bible prophecy is to announce the coming Kingdom of God on the earth. For nearly 6,000 years, mankind has practiced the way of sin, selfishness, war and greed. Humanity has not learned the way of peace. Only under the rule of the Prince of Peace—our Savior, Jesus Christ—will people ever enjoy lasting world peace.
Prophecy gives us the encouraging news that Jesus Christ will establish His Kingdom here on earth, and faithful Christians will rule with Him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4-6). Then will come the "Great White Throne Judgment," when all those who lived and died without hearing God's Truth will be resurrected and given their first actual opportunity to accept His message and live His way (for more on this topic, please request our free booklet, Is This the Only Day of Salvation?).
You can read some of the millennial prophecies in Isaiah 2, 11, and 35, and in Micah 4. These are inspiring prophecies that give us real hope.
Edersheim's Prophecy and History in Relation to the Messiah observes: "The one pervading and impelling idea of the OT is the royal reign of God on earth…. This Messianic idea is the sole raison d'etre of the OT viewed as revelation" (pp. 48, 135). Jesus Christ will return as King of kings and Lord of lords, as it states in Revelation 19:16. "The royal reign of God on earth," as Edersheim described it, will bring world peace and prosperity.
Government without God, in the hands of man, has only brought suffering. Unless God intervenes, it will bring mankind to total destruction. As Jesus said: "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:22). The Bible prophesies that there will be a time of restoration for the earth. Remember Peter's words, that God will "send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began"! (Acts 3:20–21). God will restore the earth to natural, unpolluted beauty and prosperity, under the divine government and Kingdom of God. We can all rejoice at that good news.
A fourth purpose of Bible prophecy is that it demonstrates God's total sovereignty and power. Nothing can deter God's plan of salvation. That plan is revealed in your Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. God has an awesome purpose for every human being who will respond to Him. That purpose is to become God's glorious, immortalized children, for all eternity. As we already read: "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:53). God's great power, through His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, will bring this to pass.
Almighty God declares His power and sovereignty: "Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,' calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it" (Isaiah 46:9–11). God Almighty will powerfully fulfill His purpose and prophecy.
The prophet Amos warns us that a time will come when the truth that you are now reading will not be available: "'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord God, 'That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it'" (Amos 8:11–12).
You need to act on the truth while it is available. Read this magazine, and watch the Tomorrow's World telecast. And, most importantly, read your Bible and put its truths into practice in your life!
Jesus Christ promises a benefit to those who seek Him, sincerely wanting to understand. "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near" (Revelation 1:3). You can be blessed, as you sincerely study God's word, and understand its many prophecies. A wonderful future awaits, beyond the greatest of your hopes and dreams!