“He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day’” (Luke 24:44-46).
“For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).
As the word hangs there in the ether, what comes to mind? A hairy man in burlap, pointing his finger and shouting? A one world government? The end of the world? For many of us, the only thing we definitely associate with prophecy is a big question mark. Yet, as the preceding scriptures show, the New Testament contains some clear statements about prophecy. Jesus taught that all scripture, prophecy included, found its fulfillment in Himself. While every prophecy has an historical fulfillment relating to the circumstances in which it is given, its full meaning is only realized in the person and work of Christ. This holds true even of prophecies whose fulfillment we still await.
The “end times” seem to be a continual sources of curiosity, intrigue, and confusion among Christians. Mountains of books—fiction and non-fiction—have been written on the subject. Movies have been made and remade. Every teacher worth his salt has weighed in. Theologians and fanatics alike have fastidiously woven scripture and world events into timelines. What has been lost in all of this is Jesus. Many have searched the prophets more diligently for the antichrist than for Christ, though the prophets themselves did not do this (1 Peter 1:10, 11). Wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilence, and persecution are clues in a cosmic “who dunnit” instead of being seen for what they are: signs of His coming (Matt. 24:3-14). When Christ ceases to be the center and interpretation of the end-times, it is little wonder that there is so much confusion about them among believers.
To put this in theological terms, the chief value of prophecy lies in its Christology, not its eschatology. Jesus said the law and the prophets all hang on two commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-40). “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16). Prophecy has no purpose other than to draw us into Christ and to make us living sacrifices in His image (Rom. 12:1, 2). If our treatment of prophecy does not compel us to live for Jesus instead of ourselves, we may fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, but, not having love, will be nothing in the sight of God (2 Cor. 5:15; 1 Cor. 13:2).