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Everyone wants to know what the future holds. Most have no idea. So many are confused, not knowing where to turn for answers to the great questions about the future!
Suppose you could know the direction and conclusion of world events—world history—before the outcome. What if you could know the courses of nations in advance? Imagine knowing tomorrow’s biggest headlines before they come to pass, and how events will affect you, and all human beings, personally.
About one-third of the Bible is prophecy—history written in advance. Over four-fifths of this future history is yet to be fulfilled. Tragically, most Bible readers are unaware of awesome, impending world events, soon to involve all nations. Vast sections of Scripture remain outside their understanding—completely hidden to them.
Here is why God records prophecy in His Word—and the keys to unlocking it!
Many have opinions about Bible prophecy, but few know how to find real answers. Others think they already understand prophecies of the Bible, but are ignorant of vital life-changing knowledge.
Any study of prophecy begins with the definition of what it is. Most lack even this most basic knowledge. Bible prophecy is “the inspired, divine revelation or foretelling of historical events, written in advance of those events, pertaining to the unfolding of God’s Plan for mankind.” A shorter definition is “foretelling the future.”
Prophecy is factual history recorded in advance! God foretells major events before they happen. He wants His servants to know what the future holds—what lies ahead for the world. The Bible is about 750,000 words. This means 250,000 are devoted to prophecy. With over 80 percent unfulfilled, many major events must yet come to pass.
Let’s ask: What purpose would God have for devoting so much of His divine Word to a subject, and then leave mankind in the dark about it?
What keys unlock Bible prophecy?
The first key is that prophecy is for God’s servants—no one else. Many have been taught or believe that God’s intention is to leave all prophecy sealed, closed from understanding. Yet the introduction to the book of Revelation shows God’s intent is to reveal to “His servants” what lies ahead for all nations. The apostle John records, “The Revelation [meaning a revealing] of Jesus Christ [not John]…to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass…signified…unto His servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ…Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Rev. 1:1-3). The end of Revelation states for emphasis: “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book” (22:10).
How many have known this? More important, how many have concerned themselves with whether or not they truly are God’s servants? Be careful assuming who is.
Obviously, none can keep the prophecies of Revelation, or any others, unless they understand them. God must provide the necessary clues to make this possible. You are about to learn them.
Notice that Matthew 24:15 concludes referring to “Daniel the prophet” and the admonition “whoso reads, let him understand.” Most will never understand the events soon to smash into civilization. Here is one big reason. God’s servants obey Him (Acts 5:32). Understanding flows from obedience to God. Notice: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments” (Psa. 111:10).
Grasp this. All real understanding of God’s Plan and spiritual truth comes from God. It is only the action of His Spirit that opens one’s eyes. Notice: “The God of our Lord Jesus Christ…give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened” (Eph. 1:17-18).
All who yield themselves in obedience to God, wishing to be His servants will come to understand all the great prophecies to be fulfilled in the last days—prophecies now almost upon us! Professing Christianity refuses to obey God, rejecting His authority over them—and remains blind as a result. No amount of puzzling over prophetic passages will unlock God’s purpose to those who ignore His commands.
The great first key then to grasping the meaning of biblical prophecies—small and large—is that they are intended for, and will only be understood by, God’s people—those who truly obey Him. All others will remain in confusion, mangling and misunderstanding the great, world-shattering events that will soon directly impact every person on the planet!
All Prophecy Sealed Until “the End”
A crucial second key must be identified by all seeking to grasp God’s end-time purpose. Without it, nations have remained in total blindness regarding even the question of human survival. Scales cover their eyes. Of course, unable to understand, cynics and skeptics have dismissed all the prophecies of the Old Testament as dusty, antiquated, “old Hebrew literature and poetry, of no use to us today.”
They will soon learn how terribly wrong they have been—and how they should have done much more homework while they could!
Note this second key well, for few have understood it. Most major prophecies of the Bible have been sealed by God until the “time of the end”—the “last days.” This key speaks to the group that says prophecy is sealed. Close to the truth, they have missed a central point. All the great prophecies are no longer sealed!
You do not need to take my word for it. The prophet Daniel makes this point plain—for all who will believe it. Recognize as we read in a moment that God is speaking through Daniel, rather than Daniel giving some personal opinion about future events.
Daniel’s book spans over 2,500 years, detailing the fulfillment of events then all yet to occur. Generations of Bible students, unwilling to believe God—and of all stripes of belief and practice contrary to God—have attempted to interpret Daniel’s prophecy. All have failed, resulting in endless disagreement and confusion.
An angel instructed Daniel at the end of his prophecy: “But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (12:4). (Seven times, in just this one chapter, it speaks of the “end,” “time of the end,” or when all things would be “finished.”)
Unsatisfied, and not grasping what he was told, Daniel again sought to understand: “I heard [he writes], but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?” (vs. 8).
The angel repeated: “Go your way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (vs. 9-10). Remember Jesus was citing Daniel when He repeated that “the wise shall understand” events to occur at the end of the age. And also remember, God says obedience brings understanding. No wonder Daniel adds, “none of the wicked shall understand.” Any who rebel against God’s Law, regardless of how they see themselves, fall into this category.
Daniel foretells a time when “knowledge shall increase.” His book reveals the compelling—electrifying—story of what God plans to do in our time. Daniel’s message had no application for his own time!
God’s promise was to unseal the prophecy when the end time arrived!
So, the second vital key to properly understanding Bible prophecy is that all previous generations—of even God’s true servants—had no chance—none!—to comprehend events in Daniel’s book, or passages related to it.
The Bible’s greatest prophecies now thunder a powerful warning to all who will hear—and heed!
The apostle Peter wrote how God intends that prophecy illuminate the understanding of those who study it: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place…” (II Pet. 1:19). This verse reveals God’s purpose—His “sure word of prophecy,” bringing “light” to “dark places”—so people will “take heed.” You must be willing to heed what is written.
Now continue: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (vs. 20).This is crucial. No single verse—or even any two or three passages—is enough to bring full, correct prophetic understanding on big events.
Grasp this. All verses on every aspect of prophecy must be carefully assembled first. And building the truth begins with the most clear and obvious passages. These are two of the greatest rules of Bible study when exploring any of this Book’s topics. Sadly, these rules, and the rest of the 12 rules of Bible study, are not followed by, or even known to, almost any who read God’s Word. Supposed prophecy experts are no exception.
Back to II Peter: “Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (vs. 21). In short, prophecy comes from God, through His servants, as He inspires them to record His words.
Many of the Bible’s greatest servants were prophets. These men held high office. In fact, most whom God worked through in the Old Testament held this office. And their names jump from Scripture.
Acts 3:19-21 shows prophets announce the coming Kingdom of God. Every prophetic Old Testament book records something about God’s coming Kingdom, with only one exception, Jonah. Most prophets also delivered powerful warnings.
Prophecy can be summarized as having four distinct purposes. Yet first you must realize there is only one source for true prophetic knowledge—the Holy Bible. Psychics and seers can sometimes see elements of the future, but their visions invariably have errors alongside any correct elements—because they are connected to the wrong side of the spirit realm.
Despite this, few go to the one infallible source, which foretells—and with astounding, absolute accuracy—all the important events that will soon come upon the entire world! So plain is the proof, you can easily learn it! And afterward, you can rest assured that what you have learned will occur—that it is no less certain than tomorrow’s sunrise. You need never again doubt the authority of anything in the Bible—including all subjects discussed in its other half-million words.
So then, the first purpose is that, when proven to have been fulfilled, prophecy becomes undeniable evidence of the existence and power of God. God alone can fulfill prophecy. No human being has even the knowledge of what are world-shattering future events, let alone the power to bring them to pass centuries or even millennia beyond his lifetime. For this reason, it has been said that prophecy is the challenge skeptics dare not accept!
God openly taunts skeptics. This is from Moffatt’s translation: “The Eternal cries, bring your case forward, now, Jacob’s King [God] cries, state your proofs. Let us hear what happened in the past, that we may ponder it, or show Me what is yet to be, that we may watch how it turns out; yes, let us hear what is coming, that we may be sure you are gods; come, do something or other that we may marvel at the sight! You are things of naught, you can do nothing at all!” (Isa. 41:21-24).
This passage is God’s challenge to disbelievers.
Now another bold statement in Isaiah: “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them” (42:9).
God is careful to ensure the credit for foretelling events goes to Him alone, not any false prophet or false god. Again from Isaiah: “I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of My mouth, and I showed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass. Because I knew that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew, and your brow brass; I have even from the beginning declared it to you; before it came to pass I showed it you: lest you should say, My idol has done them, and…has commanded them” (48:3-5).
God does not guess the future. He is not just a good or the best forecaster or prognosticator. Acting deliberately, He brings to pass what He says will happen. If He tells us something—anything—is to occur, it will occur! Moffatt renders verse 3, “What has occurred I foretold long ago; it fell from My lips, I predicted it, then suddenly I acted—it was done.”
Now Isaiah once more: “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (46:9-10).
Prophecy is simply God telling human beings what He will do!
God has a steady hand in the affairs of men. He is capable of thwarting and overthrowing the purposes of governments and nations. Notice: “The Eternal wrecks the purposes of pagans, He brings to nothing what the nations plan; but the Eternal’s purpose stands forever, and what He plans will last from age to age…The Eternal looks from heaven, beholding all mankind; from where He sits, He scans all who inhabit the world; He who alone made their minds, He notes all they do” (Psa. 33:10-15, Moffatt translation).
Yes, men may have their plans about how to solve the big, complex problems facing civilization, but God “wrecks” them, “bringing them to nothing.” God has plainly told us how He plans to do this at the end of 6,000 years of human affairs.
A second purpose for prophecy is to encourage Christ’s true followers. Jesus understood that the Christian way involves trials and difficulties throughout life. This is an inescapable fact for those in whom God is working. These are essential to the character-building process.
One of these trials is persecution. Just before His crucifixion, Jesus warned, “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). He had just reminded His disciples, “I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (vs. 19). Of course, Jesus was persecuted, horribly tortured and crucified.
The apostle Paul recorded, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12). “All” means what it says! Jesus said His servants would be hated! But He reassured them, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).
Another element of encouragement flows from prophecy itself.
Some may assume that all biblical prophecy is “gloom and doom” and “fire and brimstone.” This is not true! In fact, far from it. The ultimate message of prophecy is the most positive news in all history. Hundreds of verses preview a time of universal peace, prosperity and happiness—drawing closer daily—that all people will have an opportunity to experience.
Those who choose to yield to God and learn His way of life now look forward in a special way, and draw encouragement from these prophecies.
A careful study of the Bible demonstrates that God always warns before punishment—whether it be the destruction of cities such as Nineveh, or Sodom and Gomorrah—or of individuals such as wayward kings of Israel and Judah—or of the whole inhabited world before the Flood.
God gives us this certain promise of what will happen in advance of events He intends to fulfill: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He reveals His secret unto His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). God keeps His promises. He always reveals major events before they happen. And they are recorded in the prophets.
So a third purpose of prophecy is that a loving God gives human beings—free moral agents who must choose between right and wrong—space to repent.
Ancient Israel has been the main recipient of such admonitions. Notice: “If My people…shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chron. 7:14).
When giving the prophet Ezekiel his commission, God stressed what His servants were to do: “Son of man, I have set you a watchman unto the house of Israel [these are today modern nations descended from ancient Israel]; therefore you shall hear the word at My mouth, and warn them from Me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die; if you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at your hand. Nevertheless, if you warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul” (33:7-9).
It has been my long and sad experience that most people will not truly listen to what God says. They cannot seem to make themselves take seriously His commands, instructions and warnings.
With each warning through the ages, some few do heed and repent. Those who do not—having been warned!—bear responsibility for their choices and actions.
A fourth purpose of prophecy is to motivate those who wish to seek God and claim His promise of protection. Knowledge of what is ahead—both the terrible and wonderful elements—motivates true Christians to serve God more fully.
The most serious events just before Christ’s Return will descend like a snare on an unsuspecting world—except for those who “watch,” “pray” and “escape” (Luke 21:36). Let’s read: “As a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth” (vs. 35). It becomes clear then that a group is promised to be protected during the times just ahead.
Paul wrote this sobering warning: “Of the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction comes upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief… Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (I Thes. 5:1-6).
Those who take the Bible seriously know what is coming, and live their lives accordingly.
Isaiah explained that God’s Word is written, “Precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little…” (28:13). Nowhere is this Bible pattern more true than of prophecy. The passage continues with God explaining why His Word is this way: “That they [readers] might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.”
Again, Revelation is written to God’s servants—to show them—not others—what must “shortly come to pass.” Isaiah underscores that prophecy cannot be understood by those who do not seek to serve and obey God. God has scattered bits and pieces of information on prophecy (and all other subjects) throughout His Word in a way that will cause the mere casual reader to “fall backward, be broken, snared, and taken”—how?—by false understanding!
They will not comprehend. Visit rcg.org and look at all the titles we offer just on prophecy—the truth of prophecy, and that are all free—not the confusing gobbledygook by so many who write books for sale—for money—who pretend to understand prophecy in order to make a living. These men do not know what they are talking about and do not speak with God’s authority.
In just a handful of minutes, you have learned more about prophecy than most will ever know.
This article ought to sober each reader, who should now be asking, “How serious am I about understanding—and acting on—Bible prophecy?” Now is the time to consider this question.