Applying Biblical Prophecy

How can we draw practical modern applications from biblical prophecy?

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Alright, I want to talk about how to draw practical modern applications from biblical prophecy, but I want to talk a little bit first about how not to draw practical modern applications from biblical prophecy, and let that serve as a backdrop to some more viable and helpful approaches. It's very common, sells a lot of books, very popular sometimes, to look at biblical prophecy as though what God has done has provided a crystal ball so that modern, contemporary, suburban American Christians can get a peek at what the future has to hold in case they're curious, you know? "Just thought you might be interested in what's going to happen 100 years or 1,000 years from now, so that you could see what's going to happen." And probably just as bad, if not worse, is approaching prophecy as though it's designed to, newspaper in hand, try to identify who these prophetically foreseen characters are. "Ooh, I think this one's the antichrist." "You know, I never liked this political candidate anyway. I think he's, sinisterly, actually the antichrist." Or that preacher that I disagree with, "I think that's the false prophet," and try to identify specific figures with specific imageries and whatnot. That's probably unhelpful, wrongheaded. It's been going on a long time. Martin Luther thought, as early as the mid-sixteenth century, that the pope at the time was the antichrist. I mean, so that's been going on for a long time, but no one's been right yet. And we've had enough misses on that that we probably ought to learn the lesson that that is not the most helpful way to approach prophecy. Rather, biblical prophecy is given to God's people, generally anyway, as a set of warnings or a set of promised blessings in reward of faithfulness. So, we're under some of the same obligations that God's people have always been under to obey, to be faithful, to persevere under trial, to persevere to the end, to not succumb to temptation, to not be mistaken into thinking that God's people are going to lose in the end, and to not succumb to the temptation to think that this is all there is so I might as well get all the joy and pleasure I can get out of this life; I might as well just cave to the forces of evil in this life. Biblical prophecy comes along and says, "No, persevere." The price may be high. The cost may be heavy. The persecution may be great. You're not the first ones to suffer so, you're not the first ones to be called to rise above temptations and persevere. You're part of a long line of believers that have been called to just such cost, just such perseverance. And biblical prophecy can be applied in such a way as to continue to encourage God's people to be faithful, and to continue to warn God's people of what the disciplinary price will be for disobedience.

Answer by Dr. Todd Mangum

Dr. Todd Mangum is Professor of Theology and Academic Dean of Biblical Theological Seminary.