Summary: Prophecy is also perverted in every generation by those who feel it was all written for just their day. There is a whole graveyard full of old prophecy books that died along with the people who are suppose to be the anti-Christ.
In no area of biblical studies have Christians been more often deceived then in the area of
prophecy. The early church fathers got caught up in wild spiritualizing of the Old Testament. They
found profound revelations where there were none. It became so subjective that you could make
Scripture mean anything you wanted it to mean, and this abuse led to reaction which went to the
other extreme of literalism. This led to just as foolish conclusions as the other extreme. A cult in
East Africa, for example, says you must have 2, 4, 6 or 8 wives because the Bible says, “Do not be
unequally yoked together.”
This an extreme example, but it is not isolated. When a freshman at Bethel, I and my
roommate ran on to a book by a well known evangelical that found predictions in the prophets of all
kinds of modern inventions such as cars, planes and bombs. We were excited and thought this was
proof of the Bible’s inspiration, and many Christians think the same way today because they think
the Bible foretells everything that is going on in the world. This is a totally erroneous view of
Revelation that ignores the basic truth that the Bible is a revelation of God’s redemptive plan, and
not to be used to satisfy the curiosity of people by seeming to predict modern inventions. This
degrades the Bible and puts it in the same category with those who pretend to predict the future
Prophecy is also perverted in every generation by those who feel it was all written for just their
day. There is a whole graveyard full of old prophecy books that died along with the people who are
suppose to be the anti-Christ. Many Popes, kings, and rulers, like Napoleon, and more recently
Hitler and Mussolini, were all thought to be the fulfillment of prophecy. Men who can pinpoint
God’s plan, and even name names, always draw good crowds, but so far they have never been right.
Those who name him when the real anti-Christ appears are bound to at last be right, but then no one
will need a book to tell them, for it will be obvious.
Meanwhile the dangers of self-appointed prophets are great. They often cause division and get
Christian people to be lopsided in their view of God’s plan. They try and make you think that
figuring out which ten rulers or nations are the ten heads of the beasts is the real goal of Bible study.
Andrew Murray once led a group of people who would not come to hear him preach because the
notes in their Bible said the ten heads of the beasts were kings of Europe, one of which was the king
of England, and since Murray was a salaried servant of the British Empire he was considered to be a
servant of anti-Christ. Murray said he hardly knew whether to weep or smile at some of their
explanations of the prophecies.
In every age the cults major on prophecy. The Jehovah Witnesses have volume after volume
on prophecy, and they do an amazing amount of research in this area. I have read some and find it is
usually no more wild in its speculations than are those of evangelicals who consider themselves to be
authorities in this area. It seems that no one can tolerate a mystery, and so everyone must have
definite answers no matter how subjective they may be. Louis H. Evans in his book Life’s Hidden
Power writes, “Some people have placed too much emphasis on prophecy; their minds have run
rampant on the subject, and they have given themselves over to an unregenerate form of “guessing”
to weird predictions and prophetic fantasies. Taking advantage of a natural desire to look around
the corner of the day after tomorrow, many “prophets” have become profiteers. This abuse of
prophecy has arisen out of a disuse of prophecy; so many teachers and preachers have shied away
from the subject that they have left their poor congregations without any standards of interpretation
that are either sane, scholarly or scriptural, and their people have become easy prey to those wild
cults of prophecy which have spawned in a vacuum existing only because the church has not been
willing to deal with the problem in a sensible and scholarly fashion.”
Before we look then at Peter’s interpretation of prophecy let me share with you 3 basic rules
of interpretation, which if followed will keep you from many perversions of God’s Word.
1. The New Testament interprets the Old Testament. Then New Testament fulfills, modifies and
eliminates much of the Old Testament. Nothing in the Old Testament is now applicable that
contradicts the New Testament, or is incompatible with God’s final revelation in Christ.
2. Systematic passages interpret the incidental. It is by neglecting this principle that the Pharisees