It is not uncommon in our day to hear people say that prophecy is not important. They insist that we ought to focus on more important matters like evangelism or discipleship and not waste precious time on secondary matters like prophecy. While I empathize with their commitment to evangelism and discipleship, this prioritizing is myopic and fosters an artificial dichotomy between the first and the second coming of Christ. There is zero tension between prophecy (the second coming) and evangelism (the first coming)—at least not in God’s mind. Whatever tension exists is the result of man’s mishandling of God’s redemption.
The following points suggest that prophecy should be a vital part of our evangelism and discipleship, indeed it should be woven into the very warp and woof of our Christian faith.
First of all, nearly thirty percent of the Bible is predictive prophecy. Approximately half of these prophecies were fulfilled in either Old Testament times or in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The remainder await fulfillment in the last days. The Lord would not have incorporated such a high percentage in his revelation to man if prophecy wasn’t important in the big picture. By way of comparison, there is very little predictive prophecy in the Quran or the Hindu Vedas. If we want to accurately reflect God’s emphasis on prophecy, then fifteen percent of our ministry should be on future events.
Second, prophecy is a vital part of the evidence that God is the only true God and that the Bible is the very Word of God. God Himself, in Isaiah 46:9-10, says of his use of prophecy, “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.” And in Isaiah 44:6-7 he says, “Thus says the Lord the King of Israel, and His Redeemer the Lord of Hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside Me there is no God. Now who shall proclaim things like I do? Let him declare it and set it in order for Me?” The following paraphrase brings out the sarcasm a little better, “Who shall predict the future like I do? Let him declare the future and make it happen. I want to watch.”
God has a good reason for His sarcasm. No other god and no other holy book predict the future with any kind of accuracy, much less the flawless accuracy of the Bible. Prophecy sets God and the Bible apart. They have no peers. Those who marginalize prophecy are snubbing one of the most powerful apologetic tools we have in our evangelism toolbox. The stage for the last days is being set before our very eyes, and anyone who studies Bible prophecy and pays attention to the major developments of our time regarding geo-politics, the Middle East, and the New World Order can easily see the correlation. The stage the Bible foretold is the stage we see being set.
Third, you cannot rightly preach the gospel without incorporating prophecy. Many who preach the gospel have not noticed or considered that the two primary motives given to man in the gospel are prophetic matters. I speak of the two destinies that the gospel sets before men: eternal punishment and eternal blessing. Make no mistake, heaven and hell are prophetic matters of the utmost importance. Ultimately, every person on the planet, indeed every person in history, will spend eternity in the one or the other.
On top of that, the gospel warns that judgment is coming upon the present evil world—not some of the world, but all of the world. Not the worst of its inhabitants but all of its inhabitants. The present world is appointed to a cataclysm of fire even as the past world was appointed to a cataclysm of water. This should stir the unsaved person to action. If they do not desire to perish with the world, they must flee the world and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Fourth, the globe of the redemption message revolves around two prophetic poles—the first coming and the second coming of Christ. The first coming was a matter of prophecy for nearly 4000 years before it materialized. The second, after nearly six thousand years, is still a matter of prophecy. If you embrace the erstwhile prophetic message of the first coming as important but decline to give the same emphasis on the future prophetic message of the second coming, you are shortchanging half of the redemption message, and the message will be unbalanced. You put a premium on redemption paid for and discount redemption delivered. You de-emphasize the resurrection of the believer, the judgment and cleansing of the world, and the redemption of the earth when creation enters into the glorious freedom of the children of God. This is wrong. The Lord Jesus endured the sufferings of his first coming because He had his eye on the second coming, when He would be united with his heavenly bride and His redeemed earthly people. “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). We ought to be looking forward to the rapture and the second coming with the same joy and expectancy.
Fifth, eternal reward is one of the primary motives given to disciples to inspire them to service and faithfulness. We best fulfill our obligation to be steadfast, unmovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord when we set our sights on treasure in heaven, even the gold, silver, and precious gems that are available at the judgment seat of Christ. This is a matter of intelligently directed diligence. Entrepreneurs willingly take up sacrifice, hard work, and hardship for temporal gain. When they get discouraged or tired, they turn their eyes upon the rewards that excite their dreams. Disciples should be focused in a similar manner, except that they embrace sacrifice, hard work, and hardship for eternal gain. When they get discouraged or tired, they should turn their eyes upon the prophetic promises that hold out reward in heaven. Furthermore, we do our fellow disciples a disservice if we do not continually encourage them to keep their eyes on the prize, particularly as held forth in prophetic passages which address the rapture, rewards, and the judgment seat of Christ.
Sixth, a biblical focus on the coming of the Lord and its attendant events is a purifying focus. The Bible holds forth such principles as “everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). What hope? The resurrection when being the sons of God is no longer a promise but a reality. What purification? Not merely from the sins of the flesh but from the distractions and time wasters of the world. When our hope is set on the glory that shall be revealed to us, the attractions of this life and world are seen for what they really are, soap bubbles that are hard to catch and harder to keep.
There is divine blessing when we implement prophecy in our evangelism and discipleship.