The Agora
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Study of prophecy, the

There are many among us with an intense interest in the study of prophecy, and everything possible should be done to encourage them. However, as the years pass and more and more divergent interpretations are bantered back and forth, it seems that the entire subject has become a stumbling-block for some. There seem to be more and more "non-student" brethren who are hindered rather than helped by the uncertainty of conflicting opinions. Is this because we sometimes lose sight of the true purpose of Bible prophecy -- that is, to prepare us for the coming of Christ? An open policy in regard to non-essentials is a good thing, certainly better than a strict adherence to tradition, come what may. But let each writer or speaker be careful to point out that in such areas his predictions are his alone and are not infallible. Let each conjecture be "salted with (a grain of) salt"; thereby the failure of one will be less likely to "turn off" your audience or reflect unfavorably on the indisputable truths you hold.

There is probably a large section of Christadelphia who would say, "I have no head for prophecy." To them we would reply, "Perhaps not, but have you a heart for Christ? Surely if you love Christ, you will love his appearing although you think you have no capacity for prophetic exercises". An affectionate wife may have no head for her husband's business affairs, but she has a heart for his return from the office each evening. His appointment book may baffle her, but she knows his footstep and recognizes his voice. The saint who feels lost in the Apocalyptic realm should not take pride in his ignorance, of course. But neither should he be unduly discouraged. If only he has affection for his Lord and Master, and a firm resolve to keep his commandments, even the novice may entertain the most fervent desire to see him. This is the paramount hope of each of us -- to be accepted by Christ when he comes, not to guess correctly what will happen before he arrives!

The great apostle said to the Thessalonian brethren by way of commendation, "Ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven" (1Th 1:9,10). Evidently, these new brethren had quite an imperfect knowledge of prophecy, since they were perplexed about the "simple" matter of resurrection in the divine time-table (4:13). Yet at the same time, they were in perfect possession of the greatest hope of the ecclesia -- even the return of God's Son! Let us by all means study prophecy, and even disagree if we must; but let us not lose sight of our objective. Let us emphasize the unencumbered hope of the true believer, the coming of the bridegroom. This simple desire, not the names and the dates and the numbers, is the spirit and essence of all Bible prophecy. Robert Roberts succinctly expressed this thought:

"The signs of the times -- the events and movements among the nations that indicate the near approach of the Lord... are very interesting and challenge research while we are waiting; but let him appear, and that instant we shall cease all care about the drying of the Euphrates, the increasing aggrandisement of Russia, and so forth" ("My Days and My Ways").

At some point in the near future, all our personal appraisals of current events will become suddenly meaningless; we will stand before Christ awaiting his direction -- to the right hand or to the left. If our present study of God's word -- whether prophecy or otherwise -- has not prepared us, and helped us to prepare others, for that awesome day, then it will have been time wasted. Prophecy is devalued in its fulfillment, but faith and hope and love abide forever. If our lives have manifested these qualities, then we may have been wrong in some of our political expectations, but it will hardly matter. We may have known only in part, but then by the Father's grace we shall know even as also we are known.
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