Now that Harold Camping and his followers have raised a huge question in the minds of millions of people about prophecy by setting a false date for the Rapture, and then by recalculating the date (as we warned he would do), it is time for pastors and Bible teachers to adopt sound scriptural teaching on this subject and warn their students against setting dates for the Lord’s return.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. – 2 Timothy 3:16
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. – Hebrews 1:1-2
Sound Scriptural Teaching
Nearly 1/3 of the Bible is prophecy! Pastors and Bible teachers dare not just ignore the subject. First, we need to know and teach about the detailed predictions in the Old Testament that have already been literally fulfilled by the first coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ. These prophecies form the greatest proof of the validity of the Bible and of the person and work of Christ. Then we need to be able to give basic answers to questions about those prophecies that have not yet come to pass.
Great theological writers have developed what is known as “Systematic Theology.” These major projects seek to draw together all the main biblical concepts on various aspects of theology. Some of these topics are Theology Proper (the study of God), Christology (the study of Jesus Christ), Pneumatology (the study of the Holy Spirit), Soteriology (the study of Salvation), Anthropology (the study of mankind), Angelology (the study of Angels – including fallen angels like Lucifer and the demons), Ecclesiology (the study of the Church), and other sub-topics of theology.
There is a final category of Systematic Theology known as Eschatology (the study of last things). This subject deals with biblical teaching about future events. Qualified theologians have collected and harmonized Old and New Testament prophecies about the future and have presented the material in an orderly way to show the “big picture” of coming developments. Those who are grounded in the basics of Eschatology will be better prepared to understand what is happening in the world. They can then share their findings with others with confidence and caution. Some worthy examples of “Systematic Prophecy” are Lewis Sperry Chafer’s volume on Eschatology and Dwight Pentecost’s classic book, Things to Come. Bible students and teachers may use these books to provide a basic foundation of what God’s Word says about the future.
Our own new book, Connecting the Dots: A Handbook of Bible Prophecy, was written in this same systematic way. It follows the prophetic Scriptures about Israel, God’s Chosen People, the Church, future believers of the Tribulation Period, the Millennium, and beyond.
In the next few blogs, we will continue this topic by addressing three other vital aspects of this great subject:
Principles of Interpretation
Teaching with Humility