The study of prophecy has a great spiritual value. Here again the objectors to prophetic study are very much mistaken. They say it is unprofitable; that it leads men and women to become dreamers, that it paralyzes Christian service and activity. If this were so then let us eliminate it from the Bible, for it could not stand the test of 2 Timothy 3:16: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." If we could find any portion of Scripture which is not profitable, then either the words of Paul are not true, or that Scripture is uninspired and therefore not trustworthy.
The study of prophecy has an immense, inestimable spiritual value. No true believer can get along without it. Hundreds who neglected prophecy have testified to it, that when this neglected truth was taken up it produced a wonderful quickening of the inner life and brought about a change almost as marked as in the new birth. During our long teaching ministry of over forty years we received hundreds of letters testifying to this fact. What then is the spiritual value of prophecy?
1. It is a lamp which gives us light. This is Peter's inspired statement. He speaks of it as a light shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1:19). The dark place is our age. It does not get lighter, but the darkness is increasing. We need a lamp for our pathway, and prophecy furnishes this light. It shows us the way of separation in which we are to walk. It shows the dangers ahead.
2. It strengthens faith and increases confidence in the Bible as God's infallible Word. We read what is written about this age and its end; when we look about us we find it all confirmed. Nineteen hundred years ago the Spirit of God revealed the future of Christendom in the second Epistle of Paul to Timothy. He gave a picture of the liberalism of collapsing Protestantism (2 Tim. 3:1-5, 4:1-4). It is here today. We study other prophecies and find their minute fulfilment in the past. This strengthens our faith and we know God will keep all His promises and predictions.
3. It keeps us from false doctrines and false hopes. There is a false hope in Christendom, it is the hope that the world is to be converted by the activity of the Church during this age. This is an unscriptural conception. If we study prophecy intelligently we will be delivered from this. On account of this false hope all kinds of false doctrines and false, unChristian practices have been adopted by the professing Church. It has produced modernism. The preaching of the Gospel of Grace and the salvation of the individual is considered too slow a work. They speak of bringing in the kingdom by saving humanity as a mass, by legislation and education. The true Gospel, the only power of God unto salvation, is abandoned. Then they go a step further and turn to Socialism as a possible means of ameliorating present evils in human government. Worse still, they fraternize with vile Hinduism, atheistic Buddhism, sensual Islam and lying Confucianism. They can pronounce such a lost soul as Gandhi of India a great man, almost next to Christ. The neglect of prophecy, and the denial of it, leads to the denial of Christ and the Gospel. The study of it delivers from false doctrines and hopes.
4. It produces and encourages holy living. We let Scripture speak: "Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2). This is prophecy. But what follows? "And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." The believer in His coming, who studies these things prayerfully, does not shuffle cards, but turns the leaves of his Bible. He who gazes into the coming glory has no desire for the moving pictures of a fading age. Again in Colossians we read an exhortation to holiness. Paul writes, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col. 3:4). What follows? "Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth." The prophetic Word has in it a great separating power.
5. It makes the Unseen real and creates the atmosphere of heaven in our lives. All believers suffer from a lack of reality of the unseen. The seen things are more real to us than the unseen things above. The study of prophecy makes the unseen real and creates in our lives the atmosphere of heaven. A believer who reads the last book of the Bible frequently breathes in the reading of Revelation the atmosphere of worship, and it will become evident in his life.
6. It gives power and joy in tribulation and affliction. Those who study prophecy "rejoice in the hope of the glory of God" and as a result when tribulation and affliction come they "glory in tribulation." They know "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18). The study of prophecy gives them this assurance—"our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17). The vision of the promised glory lifts over all dark and depressing circumstances of time.
7. It produces loyalty to Christ and true self-sacrificial service for Him. Through prophecy the believer is stirred up to contend earnestly for the faith delivered unto the saints, and remains loyal to Christ, knowing that the day is coming when at the Award-seat of Christ a promised crown awaits him. "Hold fast what thou hast, that no one take thy crown." The study of prophecy leads to untiring, self-sacrificial service. The noble band of missionaries, those who have gone forth bearing the precious seed to the regions beyond, those who labor in the China Inland Mission, or the African Inland Mission, in India, in the islands of the sea and elsewhere, are all believers in the return of the Lord. They realize the Gospel must be preached still as a witness, to call out the members of the body of Christ, and this has been the mighty incentive to sacrificial service, knowing that the time is short. The charge that prophecy leads to indolence is unjust.
8. It makes the believer satisfied to be nothing now. Prophecy makes the believer satisfied to serve, like our Lord served, in an unostentatious way. He who looks forward to the coming of the Lord, seeks not the honor of the world but the honor which comes from God only.
He heeds the warning, which the Spirit of God sent to Baruch, Jeremiah's secretary: "Seeketh thou great things? Seek them not" (Jer. 45). The un-Christian ambition to do something big, to be big in service and everything else, becomes impossible, when there is a true heart-belief in prophecy.
9. It delivers from Sectarianism. Sectarianism is the work of the flesh and not the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 1:11-14; Gal. 5:19,20). We are exhorted to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3). The study of prophecy reveals the future glory of the body of Christ, the Church. There is but one body, to which all new born believers belong. When we have a spiritual knowledge of this, it lifts us over all the man-made divisions of Christendom. This is evident today in Bible conferences in which the blessed hope is taught. The Spirit of God produces through that blessed hope a fresh realization of the unity of all believers in Christ.
10. It gives the true Comfort in Sorrow and Bereavement. The anodyne of the great physician is contained in two passages of Scripture; in John 14:1-3 and in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. He has promised to come again and take us to Himself. Then in the Epistle to the Thessalonians, by His own Word, He gives the fullest comfort and assurance. He is coming to awaken those who have fallen asleep (as to the body). Then together with them the living ones will be caught up in clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we be for ever with the Lord. "Wherefore comfort one another with these words." Those who brand these blessed words as apocalyptic Jewish tradition have no hope of resurrection and re-union. Study prophecy, for it has an immense spiritual value.
Copied for WholesomeWords.org from Meat in Due Season: Sermons, Discourses and Expositions of the Word of Prophecy by Arno C. Gaebelein. New York: Arno C. Gaebelein, Inc., [19--?].
Selections from Meat in Due Season