I have never understood why some preachers shy away from the preaching of the signs of the times and the end of the age. Some Bible teachers don’t like to deal with prophetic themes or predictive passages about the future. Perhaps they don’t think these passages are very relevant to current life. Perhaps they aren’t sure of how to interpret them or they find them confusing. But…
- The apostle John didn’t feel that way. He gave us the book of Revelation.
- The apostle Paul didn’t feel that way. His epistles and letters are filled with information about the end times.
- The apostle Peter didn’t feel that way. He described the day of the Lord as coming like a thief in the night, in which the heavens would disappear with a roar and the elements would be destroyed by fire.
- The Lord Jesus Christ didn’t feel that way. He’s the one who talked about the period of great distress, unequalled in human history, which would precede His Second Coming.
- And the Lord of the Bible didn’t feel that way, because He gave us a book that is packed with prophetic information.
Recently I came across some calculations done by Dr. J. Barton Payne, which appeared in a book called Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy. Dr. Payne was a Presbyterian Bible scholar and professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. He also taught at Bob Jones University, Wheaton College, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He served on the translation committees for both the New American Standard Bible and the New International Version.
According to Dr. Payne, there are over 31,000 verses in the entire Bible—31,124 to be precise. Out of those 31,000 verses, over 8,000 contain predictive material or predictive prophecy when they were written—8,352 to be exact. In round numbers, 8,000 of the 31,000 verses in the Bible are prophetic. That means 27 percent of the Bible is predictive prophecy. In other words, over one-fourth of the Bible was prophetic when it was written![i] Some of those prophecies were historical predictions that have already been fulfilled; but others still point toward the future.
Which books in the Bible contain the most predictive prophecy? Well, according to Dr. Payne:
- Matthew was 26 percent predictive when it was written.
- Revelation is 63 percent predictive.[ii]
- 2 Peter is 41 percent predictive.
- Ezekiel is 65 percent.
- 59 percent of Isaiah’s verses are predictive.
- Nahum is 74 percent predictive.
- Of all the books of the Bible, the one that is the most predictive in terms of proportions and percentages is – the little book of Zephaniah. This little book has 53 verses; and 47 of them are predictive. That is 89 percent. In terms of percentages, the little book of Zephaniah contains more prophetic material than any other book of the Bible.
(For my series of messages from Zephaniah, visit the sermon tab at www.donelson.org.)
[i] J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy (New York: Harper and Row, 1973), 13. According to Payne, there are 8,352 verses (out of a total of 31,124 for the whole Bible) that are predictive. That is 27 percent. The breakdown: In the Old Testament, there are 6,641 verses out of 23,210 (28.5 percent) and in the New Testament, there are 1,711 verses out of 7,914 (21.5 percent).
[ii] This is according to Dr. Payne’s research. I haven’t done a personal analysis of the proportion of verses in Revelation, but his percentage seems low to me.