I was interested in prophecy even before I encountered the Lord: first, because it was thrilling and a bit frightening, and now because I love the Lord so much I want to know everything about what He’s doing. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned that can make the study of Biblical prophecy more enriching and productive:
1) The heart of all prophecy is the revelation of Jesus the Messiah. While it can be easy to get caught up in solving the riddles and filling out the charts, if we miss what Jesus is saying about Himself, then we’re missing the point. It doesn’t matter how much head knowledge we gain if the relational part is missing.
2) Jesus shares His deep secrets with His friends. Being a “Christian” doesn’t qualify us as being His friend–spending time getting to know Him does. Understanding prophecy is very easy–it’s a lot of patience and a lot of listening, starting on a foundation of friendship. Jesus will reveal layer after layer of deep wisdom in His timing and as per His priority.
3) The Bible has a lot to say. When God speaks we should listen, yet when it comes to reading the Bible, many assume that it can’t mean what it says. The truth is, the Bible is straight-forward most of the time. When we don’t understand, we should pray into it, rather than assume it must be saying something else.
4) It doesn’t take brilliance to hear from the Lord, but some study is required. I’ve met intellectual Christians who over-complicate simple spiritual truths and spend more time on the word level of the Bible than the main picture and miss the point; and I’ve met emotionally oriented Christians who trust in verses out of context and can’t rationally defend their faiths. Either extreme is not good, but we can trust that God has called all people, regardless of personality and ‘smarts’, to follow Him. Our relationship with Him takes diligence in both learning and listening.
5) Prophecy can’t be learned through books and commentaries! I’m not saying not to read commentaries, but to read them with care. Even if the author is brilliant and right on, spiritual wisdom must be passed through spiritual methods–it doesn’t help to have rote understanding of what may be if we can’t hear it from the Lord ourselves. We must all cultivate our own relationships with the Lord.
6) End time prophecy is sealed until the appointed time. I strongly believe that the appointed time is quickly nearing and that we have increasingly more understanding of what the Spirit has been saying to the church since the beginning; but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We learn, and ask, and listen for understanding and are given it one new piece at a time. We need to be careful not to fill in the missing pieces with our own knowledge. It’s okay to admit that we don’t understand everything right now.
7) Prophecy is more than just the “prophetic” passages. To get God’s full message, we study everything He says and everything He does. We study the history of His people the Jews, the history of the church, and we even examine our own lives for clues to what He’s been doing in the past and present that reveal His heart for the future. It’s not just about Revelation and Daniel and so forth; when we know His heart, we know His battle plan.