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My friend made a statement that shocked me.

He declared he had zero interest in unfulfilled prophecy. Yet, he self-identified as a Christian of many years who believed the Bible.

Granted, there is a lot of so-called prophecy "out there" that is absolute nonsense – but we will be talking about unfulfilled prophecy in the Bible. I'll also have to acknowledge that there are some well-meaning people who distort and misuse prophetic texts from the Bible – but we're not dealing with that here.

Asked the reasons for his position, my friend told me he had listened to people who wanted to talk about nothing else – mapping out the future in great detail based upon their understanding of the Bible. There didn’t seem to be any point, so he concluded that the study of unfulfilled prophecy was irrelevant.

He also had heard heated debates among sincere Christians. Some contended the return of Christ would be pre-Millennial, others post-Millennial, and yet others a-Millennial. Some argued there was no Rapture, while others argued just as vehemently there was, but then they disagreed among themselves on whether it was pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, post-tribulation, or pre-wrath – and so on. 

He grinned as he repeated the witticism, “I suppose I’m a pan-Millennialist. I believe it will all pan out in the end.” 

Babies and bathwater

You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” It’s a warning that when you get rid of unwanted elements (i.e., dirty water), make sure you don’t throw out the essentials (i.e., the baby) as well.

I can understand my friend’s desire to avoid the confusion and distaste left by argumentative people. But, to dismiss unfulfilled biblical prophecy altogether was “throwing out the baby.”

My response was to ask whether he believed that Jesus Christ was going to return to earth physically some time in the future. 

He acknowledged that he believed that, but he was no longer interested in the finer details that some saw as so crucial. 

Fair enough, it looked like the “baby hadn’t been thrown out” after all – he still believed in the future physical return to earth of the Lord Jesus. 

Prophecy is important

To avoid quibbles about the meaning of “prophecy,” our discussion will focus on unfulfilled prophecy, or predictive prophecy. Some may use the word “eschatology.” In this context, eschaton is the Greek word for “last” – so, eschatology is the study of last times, or last things. 

Here are two reasons why biblical prophecy is important.

First, there is a lot of unfulfilled prophecy in the Bible. Some has been fulfilled since it was written or declared – but much remains unfulfilled. It is estimated that about one-quarter to one-third of the Bible is prophecy. That’s a lot.

Based on sheer volume, prophecy is important.

Second, there have been significant godly people throughout biblical history who were prophets. These people include, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), Anna (Luke 2:36), Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen (Acts 13:1), Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21:10), and a host of others. Their service was important to God and his people. 

Prophecy is practical

Unfulfilled or predictive prophecy has practical benefits. 

For instance, in John 14 Jesus told his disciples that he would be going away and that he would be returning. This referred to his Ascension into Heaven after his Crucifixion and Resurrection, to be followed by his Return. In this context, he states: 

  • “Do not let your hearts be troubled …” (14:1);
  • “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (14:27b). 

They were distressed at his impending departure. He told them of the future to give them assurance they were not being abandoned – he was coming back for them. His intent was to give peace and hope in the present

We could multiply examples to demonstrate the present practical purposes of unfulfilled prophecy. Here are quotes from two Bible scholars that summarize and confirm this: 

  • “Every item of predictive prophecy was given to a particular historical people to awaken and stir them to righteousness by revealing in part what God will do in the future. Any disclosure of the future was given to influence present action. … The future aspect of prophecy was intended to instruct, to reprove, to encourage, to call people to repentance.” (A. Berkeley Mickelsen)
  • “A great deal of predictive prophecy of Scripture is yet unfulfilled. In the time before a prophecy comes to pass, it is designed to affect present thought and conduct, not to satisfy curiosity concerning the future.” (J. Robertson McQuilkin) 

Here is a sampling of some more “predictive prophecy” and the intended influence upon our present thought and action: 

  • Paul’s eschatological teaching in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 ends with this purpose for influencing present action: “therefore encourage each other with these words” (4:18).
  • Peter’s eschatological statement, “The end of all things is near” is immediately followed with this present practical impact, “Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray” (1 Peter 4:7).
  • The apostle John writes of the coming of the Lord with the intent that “everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself …” (1 John 3:1-3). 

 I encourage you to refresh your understanding of predictive prophecy, or eschatological statements, in the Bible. As you read, discern the impact the prophetic statement is intended to have on your present thought and conduct.

Have you anything that you’d like to add? You can contact me here.

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