The Abuse of Prophecy
Does it Deserve the Contempt it Receives?
by Dr. David R. Reagan
Let’s face it — prophecy is held in contempt by most people. Non-Christians scoff at the very idea of supernatural knowledge about the future. The ironic thing is that in doing so they fulfill a prophecy of Peter: “In the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?'” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
The ApostatesThe real tragedy concerning God’s Prophetic Word is that so many Christians share this same scoffing attitude. Apostate Christian seminaries have pretty well rejected the whole concept of prophecy. Most now teach that prophecy is really history written after the fact but written like prophecy to make it more interesting.
This rejection of prophecy on the part of apostate Christians is a natural outgrowth of their worship at the man-made altar of what theologians call “historical criticism.”
This despicable methodology rejects the Bible as God’s revelation to Man, arguing instead that it represents Man’s faltering search for God. Its proponents have concluded that the Bible is full of myth, superstition, and legend.
Since they have rejected the supernatural, these people cannot accept the idea of prophecy as revealed pre-knowledge of history. This is the reason the book of Daniel has been a focus of their scorn and ridicule. It is not at all unusual to hear one of their scholars say, “The book of Daniel is just too accurate. It had to be written after the events it claims to prophesy.” This is nothing but blatant unbelief which calls into question our Lord’s own acceptance of Daniel as authentic (Matthew 24:15).
This attitude is also a fulfillment of prophecy, for Jesus said that in the end times there will be a great apostasy within the professing Church (Matthew 24:10-12). As Paul put it, the end times will be marked by men “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Timothy 3:5).
Prophecy has also suffered abuse at the hands of those who have specialized in spiritualizing it. Liberals and conservatives both have been guilty of this practice.
When I speak of “spiritualizing,” I am referring to the methodology which holds that prophecy does not mean what it says. In practice this always leads to a symbolic interpretation of prophecy. The plain sense meaning of prophecy is denied, and prophetic books like Revelation are treated like they were adult Alice in Wonderland books with a vague, general message but no specific meaning.
This spiritualization of prophecy on the part of liberals is easy to understand. It is a natural extension of their tendency to spiritualize all of Scripture. They have spiritualized the miracles of God in the Old Testament and the miracles of Jesus in the New Testament, so why should they accept the plain sense meaning of prophecy, especially when it teaches a supernatural consummation of history?
It’s the conservative spiritualizers who are such a perplexing mystery to me. They accept the Bible as the Word of God. They agree that the Bible contains supernatural revelations about the future. They interpret virtually all non-prophetic passages literally. They even interpret the First Coming prophecies literally. But for some strange inexplicable reason, they insist upon spiritualizing all the Bible’s prophecies concerning the Second Coming.
Thus, they deny the coming reality of the Tribulation, the Millennial Reign, and the New Earth. They take a passage like Zechariah 14, which says Jesus will return to the Mt. of Olives and reign on the earth, and they spiritualize it to mean that when you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, He comes into your heart (the Mt. of Olives) and begins to reign in your life (the reign on earth). Such people should be granted Ph.D’s in imagination!
If the prophecies concerning the First Coming of Jesus were all fulfilled in some literal way in their plain sense meaning, then why shouldn’t the Second Coming prophecies be fulfilled the same way?
The ApatheticThen there are those Christians who are simply apathetic about prophecy. They couldn’t care less.
Many of these Christians think prophecy has no practical relevance to their daily lives, so they ignore it. They have never read the Major Prophets. They couldn’t even find the Minor Prophets. And they certainly aren’t going to waste their time with that “Chinese puzzle” called the Book of Revelation.
My own church heritage fits this description. Our apathetic attitude was motivated by the peculiar belief that all Old Testament prophecy had been fulfilled and therefore the study of prophecy was a waste of time.
Other Christians have become apathetic about prophecy because it has been so badly abused by fanatical sensationalists, especially date setters. These Christians are weary of weird interpretations that have brought reproach to the Body of Christ.
Even as I write this paragraph, the newspapers are trumpeting stories about two groups, one in Korea and one in America, which have gained international headlines by predicting the Lord would come back in the past few days. The dates they set have passed. We’re still here. And the world laughs.
Another cause of apathy is that many people have been turned off by the specialized vocabulary of prophecy. When they hear technical terms like “premillennial,” “postmillennial,” and “amillennial,” their eyes usually roll back in their heads and they space out, concluding that prophecy is a field of study for experts only.
The FanaticsFinally, there are the fanatics. These are the people who apply their fertile imaginations to prophecy and then speculate and theorize all sorts of fanciful future events.
They usually are obsessed with date setting or speculating about whether or not a person like Henry Kissinger is the Antichrist.
They are often rumor mongers who spread wild stories about vultures gathering in Israel, Belgian computers taking over the world, the Jews collecting building blocks for the Temple, the Social Security Administration stamping numbers on people’s hands, and Jane Fonda’s name having the numerical equivalent of 666!
A Satanic ConspiracyI believe that Satan himself has inspired all this abuse of God’s Prophetic Word. Satan does not want anyone studying prophecy, because prophecy contains the revelation of Satan’s ultimate and total defeat.
Satan used to defeat me all the time by constantly reminding me of my past sins. But my study of Bible prophecy has given me a new weapon to fight Satan with. Now, every time he reminds me of my past, I remind him of his future! He responds by sulking away in defeat.
The book of Revelation begins with the words, “The revelation of Jesus Christ.” The book of Revelation, like the rest of prophecy, is meant to reveal the future. It is meant to be understood. God wants to build our hope in the midst of a dark and troubled world by revealing to us the great victories that lie ahead in His master plan.
I exhort you to stand firm against Satan in his attempt to convince you that God’s Prophetic Word is not to be taken seriously.