Why is it Important to Study Biblical Prophecy?
Ed. Note: This article is excerpted from a sermon given by Dr. Ankerberg, and has been slightly modified for publication.
I’d like to start by explaining why I think every Christian ought to study prophecy; it’s not something you should put on the shelf. Here’s the reason: approximately 27% of the entire Bible contains prophetic material. If you were to sort this out,
- in the Old Testament’s 23,710 Bible verses, you’ll find 6,641 contain prophetic material. That’s 28.5% for the Old Testament.
- in the New Testament, there are 7,914 Bible verses—1,711 contain prophetic material, or 21.5%.
So, of the Bible’s total 31,124 verses, 8,352 of those verses are prophetic material. Twenty-seven percent of the whole Bible is prophetic material.
And there are 1,800 verses in the Bible that deal with the topic of the second coming of Jesus Christ, so every 25th Bible verse in the New Testament is about the second coming of Jesus Christ.
That means that if you were to stand before God and say, “Look, I don’t believe we ought to look at prophecy,” what you would be saying is, “Of the Bible that you gave to us, which is 27% prophetic material, I don’t think that’s important, God.” Want to say that to God? Want to get your scissors out and cut out a fourth of the Bible and say, “I don’t think we ought to read that”? I don’t think so. If God put it in there, then we ought to study it.
Now, second, the prophets are not the ones that originated this message. The message came from God Himself. Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:20-21: “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of men, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” And he says in verse 19, “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it.” You would do well to pay attention to it, Peter said.
Then, in 1 Peter 1:10-11: “Concerning this salvation [what Christ brought], the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted [and notice what he predicted] the sufferings of Christ [Christ’s first coming, He would go to the cross] and the glories that would follow.” That would be His second coming.
They saw it all as one event. We, from this perspective, know Christ had to come in His first coming to suffer; in His second coming, He will come to go into His glory.
Peter says, “It was revealed to [the prophets] that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. Therefore,… set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (1 Peter 1:12-13). Peter said, “Look, God’s the one that gave this to the prophets. It wasn’t the prophets themselves. And you would do well to pay attention to it.”
The third reason why I think you ought to look at prophecy is that God says it’s important. In Isaiah 45:21-22 God says, “Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord?” He’s the One who gave prophetic information. Then He says, “And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior, there is none but me. Turn to me, be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” So God says He’s the one that foretold the prophecy.
And then, fourth, Jesus Himself says that we ought to look at prophecy and study it. In Luke 24:25, He’s on the road to Emmaus with two of His disciples, and they’re kind of blue because Christ has been crucified. They think He’s dead; He’s gone; won’t ever come back. That’s it. They’re back to their homes.
He’s traveling with them, but they still do not know it is Him. “[Jesus] said to them, ‘How foolish you are and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!’” See, Jesus thinks that what the prophets had to say was good stuff, and they should have looked at it. Verse 26. “Did not the Messiah [Christ] have to suffer these things?” Didn’t He have to go to the cross? Didn’t you recognize that from Isaiah 53 and other places? What do you think Zechariah was talking about when he says, ‘I’m the one they will pierce,’” talking about God Himself? He said that He would be pierced. And then, verse 27, “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Jesus chided the disciples out for not knowing the information about His first coming. And these are all tied to His work period on earth—both His suffering and His glory. They’re tied together.
So three reasons why we should study biblical prophecy. Number one, God is the one who gave it, not the prophets; number two, God said it was important; and number three, Jesus said it was important.
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