Monday, September 16, 2013

BookPastor >> "A Concise Guide to Biblical Prophecy" (Stan Guthrie)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on July 30th, 2013.


TITLE: Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy, A: 60 Predictions Everyone Should Know
AUTHOR: Stan Guthrie
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013, (176 pages).

We read a lot about people predicting the future. Movies like 2012 predict the end of the world according to an ancient Mayan prophecy. Others use the Bible as a way to predict a doomsday scenario. For example, Harold Camping has even led his followers to sell all they have and prepare for the worst. Even a typical Church member will be left mystified by what exactly is biblical prophecy. So what is Bible prophecy? According to Stan Guthrie, it means at least three things. First, it is a statement by God and from God. The prophecy can come through people such as prophets, but the fact remains is that the words and prophecy is divine from above, and does not originate from men or the mouths of men. Second, all prophecies find its origin from God through Scripture, and all prophecies in Scripture point and ends in Christ. That is why some people, like the author makes an explicit distinction in the words "Bible prophecy" so that people will know. Third, each prophecy is but a pointer to the whole. It is not meant to be taken in itself as the complete fulfillment of isolated prophecies. In other words, each prophecy is a part of the whole.

According to Hugh Ross, about 2000 of the 2500 prophecies in the Bible have already been fulfilled. Another 500 are still awaiting eventual fulfillment. Guthrie maintains that it is only God who knows what the true exact numbers are. In a way, Guthrie also says that the precise number does not matter. What matters is that all of them point to Christ, and will glorify God eventually and fully. Choosing "60 predictions" Guthrie also claims that these need to be the ones "everyone should know."

The first eleven chosen prophecies are on the chosen state of Israel. Prophecies that have come through in Israel being a blessing to the nations; its struggles through history; its judgments meted out due to disobedience; and how the Gentiles are grafted back to the new Israel. In Jesus, the blessings are shared widely and more perfectly. In Jesus, the struggles are made real in a person. In Jesus, the world is saved.

The second set of prophecies cover the nations of Egypt, Nineveh, Syria, Tyre, Edom, Philistia, Ammon, Moab, Babylon, and many of the nations surrounding Israel. It shows how God is at work in the famine of Egypt, using Israel to save Egypt from calamity. The stories of Nebuchadnezzar amazingly detail the providence and protection of God on Israel despite the chosen state being exiled in a foreign land. Through it all, the central thread is that God protects Israel both within as well as without.

The third set of prophecies cover the royalties of David leading up to the Son of Man in Jesus. What Guthrie tries to show is that the early prophecies of Genesis 49:10 of a coming great king, finds fulfillment in the birth of Christ.

The next three sets of prophecies cover the birth, the life and ministry, and the death and resurrection of the Son of God in Jesus. Here is where the bulk of the prophesies see clear fruit. Many of the gospels bear testimony to the Old Testament fulfillment, with Jesus himself bearing witness.

The last two sets of prophecies are about the Church and the end times. With the Church comes the Great Commission and the great outpouring of the Spirit on the people of God. It is proclaiming far and wide the great fulfillment of the prophecy in Christ.

The last section will probably be of great interest to many readers. There is a reference to the Second Coming of Christ, the new heaven and the new earth, and how the future looks like. Broadly speaking, the message is since no one knows exactly when the last day will be, the best we can do is to be faithful and to live our lives readying to see Christ at anytime. Guthrie ends with a declaration that in Christ, the prophecies have been fulfilled, and in Christ, all other prophecies will also be fulfilled.

He closes the book with some basic principles of interpretation and contextual reading; as well as a listing of some popular schools of thought with regards to prophecy and interpretation.

So What?

Guthrie maintains a consistent focus on the Person of Christ throughout the book. He has done this with both the Old and the New Testaments with a sharp Christological focus. If in doubt, focus on Christ. Right from the start, know that in Christ all will be fulfilled. In a way, readers will feel as if there is nothing really new in this book. Some may be thinking: As long as people know that all fulfillment is in Christ, then why read the book?

I think there are three reasons to buy this book. The first reason is knowledge. I know of Christians who are basically reluctant to talk about prophecies lest they be associated with doomsday prophets or false teachers such as Harold Camping, whose predictions tend to harbour on the extreme views of the end times. At the same time, there are believers who feel that many of these things are not profitable for them as no one can actually know when the end times will be. Having said that, prophecy is something that is important for all believers to know. Even if one does not feel a need to learn about prophecy, what if someone else likes to know more? Are we going to just roll our eyes and ignore these questions? Learning more about prophecy will give us some handle on how to approach the topic, even if it is an elementary understanding.

The second reason is witness. This comes together with the passion for right teaching. If we do not learn how to understand prophecy properly in the first place, we will not be helpful witnesses at all. Just like the prophets of old have testified to a coming Messiah, we too as disciples of Christ are to proclaim the Name of Jesus as the Saviour of the world. This is not just a job for people with the title of prophets. This is a responsibility for all believers.

The third reason is the methodology. Personally, I would have preferred the "Different approaches to Interpreting Prophecy" to have more coverage in the main part of the book, rather than being sidelined all the way to the end. That said, I can understand why Guthrie decides that the best place for that is at the Appendix. His methodology is simple and written for the layperson. With the single focus on Christ, readers will have a good start on learning how to read and how to link the different narratives, prophetical writings as well as New Testament works together. This methodology is most helpful and clear, though it may not satisfy those who are more scholarly and desires more "meat" in terms of archaelogical works and research.

If there is any critique, I will say that the title of the book sounds rather bold. What makes the author so sure that these 60 prophecies are what people should know? Why only 60? While it is concise, there are also times in which after having my appetite whetted, the chapter ends. It makes me feel like the book is a mere devotional at times. However, if you have no idea what prophecy is all about, maybe, this book is a good starting point.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Baker Books and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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