Why Does God Tell Men Information About the Future?
Does God really want people to know the future? And if so,
why does He want this?
The Apostle Paul informs us we are not to be ignorant
concerning certain prophetic events, nor are we to become
unsettled or alarmed concerning the existence of
speculations and the false prophecies of some religious
unbelievers which are certain to come (Acts 20:20, 26-31;
1 Thess. 4:13-5:6; 2 Thess. 2:1-6, 10, 18; cf. 2 Pet.
Think for a moment. If God didn’t believe that personal
knowledge of the future was important, why would He have
Consider just a few illustrations that show how practical
the knowledge of prophecy can be. In the early Church, God
"predicted that a severe famine would spread over the
entire Roman world" (Acts 11:28). This famine happened
during the reign of Claudius and because of this prophecy,
the early Christians were able to prepare for the famine
and survive it.
Jesus’ prediction of the coming massive destruction of
Jerusalem (Lk. 21:20-24) "was so vivid that the early
church in Jerusalem was able to escape almost certain
destruction by fleeing the city before Titus destroyed it
in A.D. 70."1
The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah both predicted the Jewish
Babylonian captivity. Isaiah predicted it over 100 years
in advance – when Babylon was such a third rate power that
none could expect it to rise to prominence (Isa. 39:5-7).
But Jeremiah predicted that this captivity would last only
70 years and, that afterwards, the Jews would be brought
back into their homeland (Jer. 22:11-12, 25:8-14;
29:10-14, see Ezra 1:1-2:1; Ezek. 12:10-28).
Such information was undoubtedly of unparalleled comfort
to the Jews who experienced captivity under the cruel hand
of the Babylonians (see Daniel 9:2). We don’t think anyone
would argue that knowledge of such prophecy was
unimportant or irrelevant to these individuals. Thus, just
as important is the fact that the Bible predicts events
that may concern everyone now living.
The most prophetic book in the New Testament is the book
of Revelation which is 63% predictive.2 At the
beginning and end of the book, God Himself calls the one
who reads it and keeps its message blessed: "Blessed is
the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed
are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in
it, because the time is near" (Rev. 1:3).3
God never intended the book of Revelation as a puzzle for
interpreters. What must not be forgotten is that most of
the book is a revelation; that is how it received
What is revelation? Webster’s 20th
Century Dictionary defines
revelation as "(1) a revealing, or disclosing; (2)
something disclosed; disclosure; especially, a striking
disclosure, as of something not previously known or
realized; (3) in Christian theology, God’s disclosure or
manifestation to His creatures of Himself and His will…."4
A revelation is thus intended
to be understood.
Further, it must not be forgotten that this last book of
the Bible claims to be a revelation of Jesus Christ.
The book begins "The revelation of Jesus Christ…"
and informs us it is "the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev.
1:1-2). Verse 1 also informs us that God gave this
revelation for a specific purpose. He gave it to Jesus
Christ Himself "to show His servants what must soon
take place." In other words, the purpose the book
was given is to reveal future events. Jesus Himself
emphasized that in His teaching He has "spoken openly to
the world" (Jn. 18:20). No one can deny that the book of
Revelation must be considered part of Jesus’ teaching.
Thus, even with its symbolism and imagery, we must expect
the book to contain a great deal of plain, clear
information. If it is read in a normal fashion and not
spiritualized into a mystical book offering endless
subjective interpretations, it is indeed a revelation
of stupendous proportions. Dr. Weldon remembers well his
first reading of this book as a new Christian. There was
much he did not understand. But even as someone almost
entirely uninformed about the Bible and Christianity,
there was a good deal that was also plain and clear.
Jesus Himself ends the book of Revelation by emphasizing,
"Behold I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the
words of the prophecy in this book.... He who testifies to
these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon’" (Rev. 22:7,
The conclusion to all this would seem obvious. If God
plainly taught that the book was given to reveal
what "must take place" in the future and expects His
servants to "keep the words of the prophecy in this book,"
then God certainly intends the book to be understood. Over
and over again, at least seven times we read the phrase,
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit
says to the churches" (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).
God even issues a stern warning that no one is to dare
tamper with the contents of this book. Apparently then,
God does not think that the book requires revision to make
it clearer; it says exactly what He wants it to say in the
manner He wants it said:
everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this
book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to
him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone
takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will
take away from him his share in the tree of life and in
the holy city, which are described in this book. He who
testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon."
All this assumes that God Himself considers the content of
this book very important and that He wants us to
understand what it teaches. (Good commentaries on the
book, like that of Walvoord, can be helpful to Christians
who wish to take advantage of someone else’s years of
study on this book.)
But is there a specific reason God wants us to know the
future? We think so. Again, when God offers predictions of
future events, they are given with the express purpose of
proving that He alone is the one true God of the earth and
of encouraging faith in Him among both believer and
For example, in Ezekiel there are no less than sixty
five occurrences or variations of the phrase "Then
they will know that I am the Lord."
When David predicted his completely unexpected victory
over Goliath, he did it so that "the whole world will know
that there is a God in Israel" (1 Sam. 17:46, cf. 47).
King Solomon declared that both prophecy and God’s undying
faithfulness to Israel were present "so that all the
peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and
that there is no other" (1 Kgs. 8:60, see v. 1-59).
Indeed, "Not one word has failed of all the good promises
he gave…." (1 Kgs. 8:56) and "Every promise has been
fulfilled; not one has failed" (Josh. 23:14). Obviously,
only God can predict the future, and if the Bible predicts
the future, then it must be written by God.
Jesus Himself also emphasized this theme of prophecy as
something confirming our faith: "I am telling you now
before it happens, so that when it does happen you will
believe that I am He" (Jn. 13:19). "All this I have
told you so that you will not go astray…. But when
he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all
truth" (Jn. 16:1, 13). "I have told you now before it
happens so that when it does happen you will believe"
(Jn. 14:29). And, "I have told you this, so that when the
time comes you will remember that I warned you" (Jn.
16:4; cf. Matt. 24:25; Mk. 13:23; 1 Pet. 1:11).
Consider another illustration of how God intends prophecy
as evidence that He is the one true God. The Bible
predicts that at some future point in history a massive
military invasion of Israel will occur from the North, in
which God will miraculously destroy the invading armies
(Ezek. 38-39). God repeatedly emphasizes that the purpose
for such prediction and fulfillment is so that all the
nations of the world will know that He is the Lord:
nations will know that I the Lord am the Holy One in
Israel. It [the invasion of Israel] is coming! It
will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord.
And so [in
destroying those armies] I will show my greatness and my
holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight
of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.
Now consider the prophecies concerning the historic
worldwide scattering and re-gathering of the Jews.
Although prophesied 2,600 years ago, this prediction has
been and is still being fulfilled with the rebirth of
nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord
have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted
what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do
it. (Ezek. 36:36, see verses 1-38)
…And I will
settle you in your own land. Then you will know
that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it,
declares the Lord. (Ezek. 37:14)
…I will show
myself holy through them in the sight of many nations.
Then they will know that I am the Lord their God,
for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I
will gather them to their own land, not leaving any
behind. (Ezek. 39:27-28)
Prophecy brings glory to God. Prophecy is one of the most
credible evidences that the Bible really is God’s Word.
Prophecy is one of the greatest inducements to godly
These facts reveal why the devil has fought so hard to
discredit the subject of prophecy. Consider for example,
the subject of eschatology as it relates to the end of the
world – something more easily subject to speculation and
distortion. Today there is an increasing conviction that
we may be approaching specific "last days,"5
the period preceding the Second Coming of Christ.
Unwarranted speculation will tend to increase as some
individuals dogmatically seek to relate current events to
biblical prophecy in a fashion that is unwise. What
happens when the speculation proves incorrect? How often
has the Bible been discredited in the eyes of both the
unbeliever and believer alike by someone’s dramatic claims
concerning an "end time" event that soon proves false?
Many individual Christian leaders have given prophecies
that turned out to be false. Some predicted the 1991 Iraq
war was the beginning of Armageddon. A few Christian
authors made daring predictions about the date of the
rapture that soon proved false. They even changed their
false predictions one or more times, only to be
embarrassed again. All these false predictions – and there
must be hundreds by now – undoubtedly encouraged thousands
of naïve Christians at the time they were given, until
they were proven false. Many people who accepted these
predictions, who trusted them and made important decisions
based on them, became discouraged and suffered loss when
they did not come to pass.
Here is where some in the Church become like those in the
cults – giving false prophecies that harm people and bring
disrepute upon the faith one wished to uphold. Among the
Jehovah’s Witnesses, one reason the rate of mental
illness, including suicide, is so high is because of the
harm wrought by false prophecies. As Dr. Jerry Bergman
pointed out in "Paradise Postponed…And Postponed: Why
Jehovah’s Witnesses Have a High Mental Illness Level":
"Those who are not part of the Watchtower often do not
understand the critical significance that failed prophecy
and erroneous teachings have in the lives of Witnesses."6
But it not only happens in the lives of Jehovah’s
Witnesses. And it is not just the specific prophecies that
are discredited by speculative date setting or other false
prophecies. For many unbelievers, the entire Bible and all
it teaches is discredited. Right or wrong, what is
discredited is not merely the prophecies, but the Book
containing the prophecies.
Unfortunately, the Church itself has sometimes taken one
of its most powerful weapons for apologetics,
sanctification, and evangelism, and by sensationalism,
date setting, and unwarranted speculation tarnished its
reputation so that even many Christians avoid discussions
of the subject. Yet these are the very people God most
desires to be encouraged and blessed. Misuse of prophecy
does not and cannot invalidate the importance of the
subject. But it does have consequences.
Discarding prophecy merely because some people misuse it
is equivalent to throwing the baby out with the bath
water. No one argues that dirty bath water should not be
discarded. But babies are too precious to throw away. The
fact is, the prophecies are there, in detail, in black and
white. They have been there for over two thousand years.
They are precious. Approaching them with reverence,
objectivity and careful scholarship is glorifying to God,
edifying to the Church, and highly rewarding in personal
study and evangelism.
1 John F.
Walvoord, Armageddon: Oil and The Middle East Crisis
– What The Bible Says About The Future of The Middle
East and of The End of Western Civilization (Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990, rev.), p. 15.
2 J. Barton
Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy: The
Complete Guide to Scriptural Predictions and Their
Fulfillment (NY: Harper & Row, 1973), p. 675.
3 cf. Sir
Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince (Grand Rapids,
MI: Kregel, 1977 rpt., 10th ed.), p. 7.
4 Jean L.
McKechnie, (Editorial Staff Supervisor), Webster’s
Twentieth Century Dictionary Unabridged, 2nd Edition
(New York: World Publishing, 1971), p. 1550.
the "last days" as a general term began with the first
advent of Christ (see Acts 2:16-18).
Christian Research Journal, Summer, 1996, p. 40.