We’re going to finish our study of compliance by pondering how to apply prophecy. This can be one of the more difficult types of biblical literature to apply. That is due mostly to the fact that it is one of the more difficult genres to interpret.
Since we have talked about how to interpret prophecy, we’ll start with the assumption that you have correctly interpreted the passage you’re studying. (Nice starting point, eh?)
What I’m calling declarative prophecy was basically preaching. Three elements make it different from New Testament preaching, though. First, it was given by direct, divine inspiration. (Pastors proclaim an existing revelation instead of presenting new revelation.) Second, God’s Spirit decided that it should be included in God’s written revelation. Third, it often revealed hidden realities in the current situation.
This kind of prophecy isn’t hard to apply. Here are some questions you can ask yourself about declarative prophecy:
- If this prophecy condemns sin in the time of the prophet, am I guilty of that sin today?
- If this prophecy suggests corrective measures, have I taken them?
- If the prophecy offers hope to the original audience, am I in similar circumstances and do I have reason to share in their hope?
Here’s an example:
(1) The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. (2) Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. (3) The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. (4) Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. (5) Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. (6) From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. (7) Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. (8) And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. (9) Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. (10) Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. (11) To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. (12) When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? (13) Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. (14) Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. (15) And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. (16) Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; (17) Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (18) Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isa 1:1-18)
The beginning of Isaiah’s prophecy puts blame for Israel’s miserable condition on their sins and their forsaking the Lord. God pleads with them, asking how much more suffering they will have to endure before they finally repent. He tells them that their religious rituals and their prayers don’t impress Him. Then God calls tem to repent and begin to do right in some specific ways. He promises to cleanse their sins if they will heed His call.
You may not be in the identical circumstances to Israel, but you might be in trouble because of sin in your life. Maybe you’ve blamed it on bad luck, or a failure on God’s part, but the problem is you. You need to realize that going to church, singing in the choir, putting money in the offering, and even praying disgust God as long as you persist in your sin. Like Israel, you also have God’s promise of forgiveness if you will repent (1Jo. 1:9)
Predictive prophecy reveals events that will happen some time after the prophecy is given. Sometimes these events happen within the lifetime of the prophet. Often, though, they predict events that will happen far in the future. To the degree that the prophecies deal with sin and the need for repentance, you apply them in much the same way you do declarative prophecy.
When you come across predictive elements in prophecy, here are three questions you can ask to apply them:
- Has this prophecy been fulfilled? If so, how? (Prophecies about the birth of Christ, for example, were made long before Christ came, but are history to us.)
- If the prophecy remains to be fulfilled, does it apply to you personally or to a group that you’re a part of?
- Does the predicted event impact someone you care about?
Here’s an exciting prophecy for you to consider:
(13) But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (15) For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. (16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (18) Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1Th 4:13-18 )
This prophecy predicts the return of Jesus Christ to catch away those who are in Christ. Some questions you might ask yourself as you try to apply this passage:
- Am I in Christ? That is, have I trusted Jesus Christ as my Saviour? If you are, then you are part of a group that is effected by this prophecy.
- Am I prepared for His return (1Jo 3:2-3)? Getting saved is the most important aspect of being ready for Christ’s return, but it’s not the only one. Are you living like someone who expects Christ to return at any moment? Do you have any unfinished business in your life that would make you want to stay here a little longer after the trumpet blows?
- Am I eagerly watching for His return (Rev. 22:20)?
- Are my loved ones in Christ so that we will be reunited when Christ returns?
Read More About It
Read Revelation 3:14-22. Interpret and apply this passage to your life.