I just got back from a Mission trip to Haiti last night. If you're not familiar with the conditions there, they are terrible. Everything there is broken. The government, the culture, the land, the economy, the health of the people. Everything.
It's almost as if the land itself if cursed. Even satellite images like the one above (Haiti at left, the Dominical Republic across the border at right) tell a story. Generations of corruption and greed, voodoo practice, a lack of vision, and a lack of education, have kept this country among the poorest in the world. I have been to some of the poorest areas of Brazil and the Dominican Republic but I've never seen the level of poverty and brokenness that I saw in Haiti.
It has an official 80% unemployment rate, but it's really worse than that. Even someone selling vegetables once a week is considered "employed". It's probably more like a 95%+ unemployment rate by real numbers. Most people in the villages eat once every other day. Starvation and malnutrition are common place.
As a prophecy student, I found myself wondering if many Christians would think that a focus on Bible-Prophecy (when there are so many basic real-life needs) might be a waste of time, not just in Haiti, but for the Church in general. More than a few times, I've heard that argument from fellow believers.
Here are five reasons teaching Bible prophecy is not only relevant, but vital to discipleship and evangelism.
1. IT GIVES PEOPLE A DEEPER CONFIDENCE IN SCRIPTURE
One-third of the Bible is prophetic in nature and one out of four verses in the Bible talk about prophecy. Prophecy intersects with every category of theology and progressively reveals key themes that are introduced in Genesis and converge in the book of Revelation.
A study of Bible prophecy demonstrates the incredible cohesiveness and grand design of the Bible. There is no other document like it in history. A study of prophecy deepens our overall knowledge of scripture -- something we are challenged to do as believers.
The more we know truth, the more we will spot error and the better equipped we will be for ministry and life. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that "all scripture" is profitable (2 Timothy 2:15, Acts 17:11, 2 Timothy 3:16). The book of Revelation even tells in the beginning and in end of the book that there is a special blessing for those who read the words of Revelation and act on them.
So, even the book of Revelation is a practical book that calls us to obedience and results in blessing for those who study it.
2. IT ANCHORS OUR FOCUS ON AN ETERNAL HOPE
We led a Bible study in Haiti with a group of people from the village our church supports and one of the verses we studied was Romans 12:12 which reads -- "Rejoice in confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying." Think about how relevant that verse is to someone who lives in extreme poverty, not knowing when their next meal is coming or what tomorrow may bring.
An old blind man in our group talked about being patient in trouble and prayer with a smile on his face. I asked the rest of the group about the first part -- the part that gives the ability to be patient in trouble. I asked what the hope is that Paul talked about. "What was our confident hope?" Without skipping a beat, one of the younger men, with utmost confidence and joy in his eyes, said in creole, "When Jesus comes back for us or when we die and go to him."
This confident hope is our anchor. In Haiti, the believers are not blinded by wealth and comfort. There, they have a raw Acts chapter 2 type of faith. They know everything else is unreliable -- everything except our confident hope!
3. IT PURIFIES OUR WALK
There's something about reminding ourselves of Jesus' promised return that moves us from being lukewarm to regaining a faith that is on fire with passion to serve him. Since 2000 years have gone by, we're easily lulled into sleep and complacency -- or even sinful compromise -- because we've lost any sense of urgency.
When we study Bible prophecy and are reminded that He is a promise-keeper, and that many of the signs of His return have been falling into place the past 70 or so years, we begin to live with more excitement, purpose, purity, and commitment. I am thoroughly convinced that the enemy desperately wants to get our focus off of Christ's return because he knows it leads to a victorious Christian walk and another important aspect of our faith...
4. IT PUSHES US TO SHARE OUR FAITH
We tend to share our faith more effectively and more often if there's a sense of urgency. The Bible teaches that the rapture is imminent (can happen any moment) and we see the conditions falling into into place for everything end-times related.
A careful, non-sensationalistic study of Bible prophecy reminds us that there are still many people we know who have not heard the Gospel. Perhaps the Lord has brought someone to mind even as you read this. Don't wait. Tell them about Christ.
5. IT HELPS PEOPLE MAKE SENSE OF THE WORLD
There's no denying our world is going crazy right now. I recently launched a Bible Prophecy Survey and one of the key areas of focus that came up again and again was global instability.
It's the elephant in the room. These are scary times. But it all makes sense when viewed through the grid of Bible prophecy. What we see today is EXACTLY what Bible prophecy unveils for the end-times.
I believe that a careful study of Bible prophecy is extremely healthy and necessary for Christians today. Focusing our attention on the Lord's return will help move our faith from an arid wasteland to one that is growing and thriving.
An accurate view of Bible prophecy is truly relevant for everyday life and ministry.