THE IMPORTANCE OF PROPHECY
Biblical Research Monthly
By Dr. David L. Cooper
DURING the last two or three decades we have heard more concerning the present fulfillment of prophecy than at any time during the Christian centuries. It is true that for certain types of mind, the prophetic word has a special attraction. These portions of the Scriptures have therefore been the happy hunting ground of many who have desired to learn about the future, but it seems that in the last few decades, the interest in the study of prophecy has been heightened.
An interest in this portion of the Scriptures normally indicates a healthy spiritual condition--a desire to know more perfectly what God has revealed. An absence of this desire to study the predictions of the Word is indicative of an abnormal growth or distorted or perverted ideas regarding the truth. Something therefore is radically wrong with the person who is not concerned about the prophecies.
The one who is acquainted with current thought and fundamental expositions and who has studied prophetic themes as they have been expounded for the last two or three decades is aware that something is very radically wrong with a large body of the teaching on such subjects. Especially is this true with reference to off color groups, which hold to a certain amount of fundamental truth but which hold to and advocate peculiar and unscriptural doctrines contrary to the "faith once and for all delivered to the saints." By such bodies of people prophecy is expounded and is set before the people as an attraction in winning followers.
The misuse of prophecy and the misinterpretation of the same is not to be confined to the off color groups entirely. Even in certain fundamental circles, there have been found much guessing and speculation, which have brought disrepute upon the study of prophecy and which have caused thinking men who desire to avoid mistakes to step shy of this most important section of the Word. Often, thinking men and women, seeing what glaring errors have been made by amateur expositors of the prophetic word, come to the conclusion that it is impossible for anyone to interpret prophecy correctly. They therefore, wishing to avoid errors, devote their time to those portions of the Word and those matters mentioned therein about which there need not be any guessing or speculation.
As I have gone throughout the length and breadth of this land, I have talked with outstanding leaders of the various denominations. I have come to the conclusion that many excellent and good men are turning from the study of prophecy and are giving their entire attention to other things.
This condition is unfortunate indeed. God gave all the Bible for us to study and to follow. To skip over any one portion of the Word is to make a great and grave error.
Instead of refusing to consider any longer the prophecies, let each of us come to them afresh with open minds and study them most diligently, imploring the Lord to enable us to see exactly what the prophets had in mind. Then let us in true faith trust God and proclaim His Word from the housetop--fearing not what men may say or do to us. If God be for us, who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)?
AT THE beginning of this year doubtless most of us made excellent New Year resolutions. This is a very fine thing for anyone to do. One should not, however, wait until the New Year to make good resolutions. We always ought to formulate our purposes and desires and arrive at our conclusions, saying that we by the help of God will carry out such desires and purposes. No one is able to accomplish anything of enduring value apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. Among our New Year resolutions, many of us have placed our Bible reading, meditation, and prayer foremost, which program is proper and right. Spiritual things should take the precedence over material affairs. By my saying this I am not ignoring the material side of life. Life consists of spiritual realities as well as of food, clothing, and shelter. If, however, we put God and His kingdom first, He will add all of these things to us. He will give us all things that are necessary for our material life and our functioning in the capacities wherein He has placed us.
We need a well rounded spiritual diet. This is to be found in the entire Word of God. If we study the Bible in spots, we cannot grow, as we should, in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. It takes all of the Word to make the truth. The sacred writer in Psalm 119:160 said, "The sum of thy word is truth; And every one of thy righteous ordinances endureth forever." If I select certain portions of the New Testament or certain sections of a New Testament book and at the same time ignore the Old Testament, I am certainly not getting a full rounded, spiritual diet.
Paul wrote to Timothy that he from a babe had known the Sacred Writings. Of course, this passage refers to the Old Testament books, which were taught to Jewish children in pious homes. Concerning these Paul said to Timothy that they were able to make one wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ. All of the Old Testament pointed to the coming of Messiah and His redemption. Thus they were designed to bring the Jew to Christ.
Following this statement Paul further asserted that every writing God breathed was also profitable "for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work" (II Tim. 3:16-17). To what did Paul refer in this last verse? What did he mean by the statement, "Every scripture God-breathed is also profitable?" Paul used a different word here from the one which is rendered "sacred writings" in verse 15. Both Timothy and Paul agreed that the Old Testament Writings, which were recognized as the inspired revelation of God, were profitable in bringing a man, a Jew, unto salvation through faith in Christ. In addition to this, declared the Apostle, "Every writing which is God breathed is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." The word rendered "scripture" in this verse simply meant "writing". Anything that was written at that time was considered or called scripture. Paul, however, told Timothy that only those writings--in addition to the Old Testament books--which are God breathed are inspired by the Spirit and are profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction in righteousness. In other words, this statement implies that there were at the time when Paul wrote this letter other writings in addition to the Old Testament which were God breathed and to which Timothy had access. When we look at the development of the New Testament we know that the following books had already been written by this time: I and II Thessalonians, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, Mark, Matthew, Luke, Philemon, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Acts, I and II Peter, Jude, I Timothy, and Titus.
From this we see that a goodly portion of the New Testament was written at that time. Paul, knowing this, asserted that all of these Writings which he knew were God breathed were also profitable for teaching and instruction along with the books of the Old Testament Canon. He therefore asserted that they are profitable to prepare the man of God and make him complete, furnishing him completely unto every good work.
Should one refuse or neglect to study any portion of the Scriptures, he cannot be perfect unto every good work. In view of these facts, I urge all of my readers to study the Scriptures systematically and thoroughly, beginning with Genesis and continuing the study to the end of the Book of Revelation. May God use this little exhortation to His glory and to our good is my sincere prayer.
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