Why should God's people be studying prophecy from the Bible? Studying prophecy is difficult because many of the prophetic passages in the Bible lack essential details. Our minds want to know exactly what is going to happen and when so that we feel as though we have a sense of control. But prophecy of the future is written so that we have only an overview of future events. We are told these things so that we will not lose hope, and so that when they come to pass, God will be glorified.
The best reason to read prophecy is because we are commanded to be have an awareness of these things. In Mark 13, Jesus is asked by his disciples about His second coming and the signs of the end. Jesus finishes his explanation in Mark 13:37 by emphatically telling the disciples to watch for these things to happen. It has been 2,000 years since Jesus said these things, and the command to watch has been in place all that time.
Jesus begins his explanation in Mark 13 with a warning that His disciples not be led astray. This warning is repeated often in Mark as well as the parallel passages in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. The time of the end will be a time of great deception. The apostles continued to repeat this in their writing after the resurrection of Jesus. Paul warns Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1 of deceitful spirits. In Revelation, those who take the mark of the beast do so because they have been deceived. Jesus in Matthew 24:24 warns of great signs and wonders and that the deception will be so intense that, if it were possible, even the elect could be misled. Paul echos Jesus' warning of false signs and wonders in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 and reveals that God will send a strong delusion so that those who refused to believe the truth will believe what is false. The warnings of deception in the present and in the future are given to us by Jesus and the apostles throughout the New Testament. In 2 Timothy 3:12-17 Paul tells Timothy that deception will continue to get worse. But Paul also gives us the remedy for deception.
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:12-17 (ESV)
Paul's solution for deception is a thorough knowledge of scripture. The Bible is the revealed truth from God. And it is only by a thorough knowledge of the truth that we will be able to recognize lies and deception when we encounter them. So when someone says that they know that Jesus will return on a certain day and time, we know that they are lying. If someone tells us that Jesus has already secretly returned, or is not going to physically return, we know from the Bible that these things are also not true.
Furthermore, there is another class of prophetic teaching, and that is speculation. Be aware that there are many people who will teach opinion as if it were established fact. It is up to you to be noble like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and search the scriptures to see if these things are true. Speculating on details of future events that are not clearly spelled out in scripture is not wrong and can be very instructive. It is important when studying to be able to discern fact from speculation and outright fiction. The student of the Bible must approach his studies with a humble heart, always holding out the possibility that he is wrong in his speculations. And like the Bereans, search the scriptures daily to see if these things are true, even if the things came from your own mind. And be humble, not allowing your opinions to cause division between you and fellow Christians. Romans 14:1 commands us not to argue about matters of opinion.
Another reason to study Bible prophecy is that it is such a large part of the Bible and many future events are core Christian beliefs. The coming Kingdom of God formed the central teaching of John the Baptist. When Jesus began his ministry, He began to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, the same as John. While the Kingdom is already here in many ways, there is also more to come. Ten days after Jesus ascended, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples on Pentecost, Peter's sermon to those who were there began with a quote from the prophet Joel in which Peter announced that the "last days" had begun.
The return of Jesus to the earth is mentioned in many of the epistles. Paul calls it our "blessed hope" in Titus 2:13. Jesus said he would come back in glory several times, for instance Matthew 16:27. And Jesus said that he would be back for us in John 14:3. The angels said Jesus would return in the same manner that he ascended in Acts 1:11. This event is described in Revelation 19. Also, in the Old Testament there are more prophecies about Jesus' second coming and the establishment of His Kingdom on earth than prophecies of His first coming.
When Jesus returns, the dead in Christ will rise from their graves. This is explained by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. The resurrection of the dead and the hope of eternal life are core beliefs of Christianity. Many of the other doctrines of the Christian Church hinge on the resurrection from the dead. The resurrection of the dead is such a core belief of Christianity that Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:17 that without it, our faith is futile. While we have the hope of eternal life, the resurrection of the dead is an event that is yet future and is prophetic.
The first prophecy of Christ was in Genesis 3:15.
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel. Genesis 3:15 (NASB)
From that point, the Bible could be viewed as an ongoing fulfillment of that prophecy. It is a story of creation, corruption and redemption. If the Bible is read as a group of stories and wisdom that are just a good set of moral teachings, then the main point has been missed.
God has given us the wonderful gift of His word written down in the Bible. The Bible's prophecies give us hope that helps us to persevere through the trials that we face in this life. The knowledge of the prophetic gives us the tools that we need to avoid being deceived by the works of Satan in this world. We need to make use of all of the advantages that God has given us as we wait for our blessed hope, the return of Jesus Christ.