Small Group Leader Guide

Step 1. Introduce the Session

5 minutes

This lesson of the Prophecy Course introduces the student to biblical prophecy, what it is and what it is not. This talk makes the case for why we should study prophecy, including biblical support. Finally, we'll consider some of the benefits to studying prophecy and confront some common reasons why Bible students have often avoided it.


  • Establish why it is important to wrestle with Bible prophecy.

Step 2. Watch the Video

24 minutes

CONTENT SUMMARY (with timestamps)

  • Introduction (00:31)
  • Pre-Ramble: How to Make the Most of This Study (02:32)
  • Popular Questions (05:13)
  • What is Prophecy, Exactly? (06:17)
  • What Prophecy is Not (07:21)
  • Why Study Biblical Prophecy? (10:58)
  • What Does the Bible Say About Studying Prophecy? (14:43)
  • How Much of The Bible Is Prophetic? (16:07)
  • Benefits to Studying Prophecy (18:42)
  • Why We Avoid Prophecy (21:18)
  • Conclusion (22:47)

Step 3. Discuss

20 minutes

Leaders: You might like to split into smaller groups at this stage so everyone has a chance to respond honestly. Don't feel like you have to hurry through all these questions; they are simply conversation starters.

Q. What did you find most helpful or most challenging in this lesson? What do you hope to get out of this class?
Q. What do you think you know about biblical prophecy? Have you studied it a little or a lot? Why do you think understanding Bible prophecy (especially prophecies that have already been fulfilled) might be important?
Q. If you have accepted Jesus of Nazareth as your Lord and Savior, you have been grafted into Him. As a Christian, how much do you know about your Jewish history and heritage?

Step 4. Report Out [OPTIONAL]

15 minutes

Leaders: If you're a team of leaders taking a class through the course and you broke into small groups in Step 3, regroup at the end and ask each small group to report out on their small group discussion. What were their ah-ha's? What did they struggle with?

Close with prayer.



Why Study Prophecy
(And Why We Avoid It)

(2 Peter 1:19-21, Matthew 24:23-25, Daniel 12:10)

This lesson of the Prophecy Course introduces the student to biblical prophecy, what it is and what it is not. This talk makes the case for why we should study prophecy, including biblical support. Finally, we'll consider some of the benefits to studying prophecy and confront some common reasons why Bible students have often avoided it.


  • What does the Bible say about studying prophecy?
  • What is prophecy? What is it not.
  • Benefits to studying prophecy
  • Why do we avoid studying prophecy?



Welcome to the Prophecy Course! My name is Matthew Schoenherr and I’ll be your guide on our journey through Bible prophecy. Our mission—should you choose to accept it—will be to lock arms and emerge from this course with a clearer understanding of those tough-to-grasp passages of prophetic Scripture.

One thing as we get started:

When I say “sacred cow,” do you know what I mean? A sacred cow is a way of believing or behaving we hold to be above criticism, beyond reasoning. A sacred cow might be a pet project, our favorite fundraiser, our preferred pastor or our iron-clad view of the end times. A sacred cow may even achieve (dare I say it) “idol” status in us.

Well, this course isn’t designed to leave your sacred cows intact. It doesn’t really matter what seminary you went to, what armchair theology you subscribe to, or what your pastor taught last weekend.

You don’t even need to agree with me.

As you approach this course, what you’ll need is an open, honest willingness to study the Scriptures and to hold it all before God. I need you to cry out to our Father for understanding and truth until He gives it—to both of us. I don’t necessarily have all the answers here; but I do know who does.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)

Approach this course with open hands—or, if I’ve offended you or triggered you already—turn back now; it only gets more irreverent from here.

Still with me? Let’s proceed.

Pre-Ramble: How to Make the Most of This Study

Our journey through the Prophecy Course begins with groundwork; lots of it. We’ll discuss what prophecy is, what it’s not, call into the light why we hide from it and answer why we must confront it. Then we’ll establish guidelines for studying prophecy and all of Scripture. We’ll take a stroll down humility lane to witness some of the great misses in end-times predictions. We’ll get grounded on the different views of the last days. We’ll look at prophetic imagery and apocalyptic expressions to reinforce our understanding of the ancient Jewish record and then, finally—once all this foundation has been laid—we’ll begin to cut into some nice, juicy prophecy.

So, why all this? Why don’t we just dive right into, say, Daniel, or the Olivet Discourse or, maybe the book of Revelation?

You see, I’ve been part of the conversations. I’ve seen the arguments. I’ve seen the tears. I’ve seen how tightly people cling to their beliefs. Even if they’re dead wrong—when those beliefs are built on a misunderstanding of Scripture and fueled by the confident surety of a well-liked preacher—folks will dig in and defend a broken position to their grave—or to disillusionment—and I don’t want either for you.

I’ve been there. Even though I grew up in the Church, I was completely blind to the Word. Then, after I came to Christ and actually began to study the Bible, I soon made the unfortunate mistake of teaching error around the end-times. I can tell you, the moment you recognize you misrepresented your King? It’s an awful feeling.

So, I want to start us out slowly. I want you to have a basic understanding of the Jewish idioms, Jewish history and heavenly imagery that underpin biblical prophecy. Students who enter into this course with little or no understanding of the prophetic passages may actually be at an advantage over more seasoned students; there will be less for you to unlearn.

The goal of this study is to dispel the myths and fear around end times prophecy, specifically, but to also gain right understanding around all prophecy whenever we find it in the Bible.

Maybe you’ve heard it said what you believe about God is the most important thing about you. I believe if we can understand the Word better, we’ll understand our Father, our King and our Spirit better.

Popular Questions

Here is a short list of popular questions when it comes to biblical prophecy:

Are we in the end times? What is the mark of the beast? What does 666 mean? Who are the 144,000? Who is the Antichrist? Who are the two witnesses? Will there be a third Jewish temple? What is the abomination of desolation? When will the Rapture happen? What is the Battle of Armageddon? Who are Gog and Magog? What is the Day of the Lord? Who is Mystery Babylon? How do I understand the book of Revelation? Who is the Man of Lawlessness? Will we see the Great Tribulation? When will the Resurrection occur? What does time, times and half a time even mean? What is Jesus' millennial reign? What are Daniel's 70 weeks? Are blood moons and eclipses signs of the last days? When will Satan be bound? Wars and rumors of wars? Who are the Beast and False Prophet? When is the Second Coming?

All this can equal a lot of confusion! While we won’t be answering all of these questions in this course, we will answer many of these and more. My goal for this course is to teach you to fish. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to search it out.” (Proverbs 25:2) So, search it out we will!

Alright. Enough already. Let’s begin.

What is Prophecy, Exactly?

Simply put, biblical prophecy is a heavenly download about the future—but not necessarily our future. Prophecy may happen through dreams or waking visions and be delivered via angelic or human vessels—even by God Himself. True prophecy is a revelation of future events that will most certainly come to pass, however it may not always be easily understood. Prophecy is often delivered via poetic, spiritual or symbolic language.

What are some examples of prophecy in the Bible? Though there are hundreds of prophetic passages in Scripture, here are just a few:

  • Micah predicted the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Judea (5:2), 730 years earlier,
  • Isaiah proclaimed the Lord would give the sign of a virgin birth (7:14), a prophecy that found fulfillment 700 years later, and
  • Zechariah (11:12-13) predicted the Lord would be valued at 30 pieces of silver in a payment that would end up with the potters, about 587 years before it happened.

What Prophecy is Not

Now that we’ve briefly covered what prophecy is, I should probably point out a few things it is not.

Prophecy is not always future to us; This should be obvious, however there are prophecies being regularly taught today as still awaiting a future fulfillment that are simply not. Oddly enough, prophecy may not always be something we read to know the future, but to better understand the past. For instance, if you believe the prophecies about the first arrival of the Jewish Messiah have been fulfilled, you recognize those prophecies are no longer future; they’re history. Our charge is to discern where we are in time as it relates to the prophecy we’re studying.

Prophecy is not always fulfilled; Somebody clever once said prophecy is “history given in advance.” While this sounds good, it’s not completely true. It may surprise you to hear that prophecy in the Bible doesn’t always come to pass. Several prophecies in the Bible are conditional. A few examples:

  1. Consider Jonah’s prophecy over Nineveh. He proclaimed their end in 40 days—they repented—and God withheld the promised judgment.
  2. Call these promises or prophecy, Deuteronomy 28 is a collection of conditional blessings and curses that foretell Israel’s future. Throughout Israel’s history, we see the blessings that encourage them when they walk in communion with the Lord and the judgment that befalls them when they wander and turn after their own ways. (Note: Jewish historian Josephus records many of the Deuteronomy 28 curses being fulfilled during the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.)
  3. A third example of conditional prophecy comes from 1 Samuel 23 (v1-13). After saving Keilah from Philistine raids, David sees his forces could easily fall under siege if they stay within the comforts of the walled Judean city. He turns to the Lord for guidance. Will Keilah stand with David? God confirms Keilah’s citizens will indeed hand David and his 600 men over rather than resist Saul’s siege. Heavenly insight in-hand, David moves on and Saul calls off the chase. Was David’s capture at Keilah prophesied? Yes. Was it predestined? No.

Prophecy is not always from God; Much of what is being peddled as “prophecy” these days would actually result in capital punishment during Israel’s days of the Mosaic law. From declarations of healing and prosperity to national revival and election results for world leaders, modern-day prophets say all sorts of things that don’t come to pass which means God wasn’t the one speaking. Per Deuteronomy 18:20-22:

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. (See also Jeremiah 14:14, 23:26.)

Why Study Biblical Prophecy?

Unfortunately, we need to get clear on whether we should be studying prophecy at all.

Some have said, “Don’t bother…”; From the New Age to the very halls of Christendom, from psychics to megachurch pastors, followers have been taught to avoid studying prophecy. Upon receiving a download from her spirit guide, Djwhal Khul, New Ager Alice Bailey wrote of a universal Christ in her 1948 book, The Reappearance of the Christ:

“If our work is rightly done, He will come at the set and appointed time. How, where or when He will come is none of our concern. Our work is to do our utmost and on as large a scale as possible to bring about right human relations, for His coming depends upon our work.”

(No, it doesn’t, actually.) Pastors Rick Warren, Brian McLaren, and Robert Schuller (to name a few) have gone on record saying similar. Here is a quote from Rick Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life:

“When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world. He said in essence, ‘The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I’ve given you. Focus on that!’”

Can you imagine if the disciples had accepted the mindset that prophecy was unimportant? Should the early Church have disregarded Jesus’ warning of incoming judgment in the Olivet Discourse? (Don’t know how to answer that question? By the end of this course, you will.)

Some have said it will be one way or another; The world is fascinated with prophecies about the end days. Global cooling—no, wait, make that global warming—nuclear war (entirely possible), pandemics, solar flares, planet-killing asteroids, alien invasion, bee extinction, etc. In the west, the curious fascination with “death by zombie apocalypse” grew to such a pitch through fictional movies and television shows that the U.S. Center for Disease Control even came out with guidance on what to do in the event of a zombie attack. Of course, they were being playful, but I offer it as further proof we seem to be in love with dreams of our own demise.

Some have said Jesus was wrong; Here is a direct quote from pages 97 and 98 of the book, The World’s Last Night, written in 1960:

"Say what you like," we shall be told, "the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, 'this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.' And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else."

“It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.”

The author’s name? Clive Staples Lewis. You may know him as C.S. Lewis, the great Christian author who wrote such popular books as Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Not only is it important we study the Word—all of the Word, including prophecy—but it’s important we understand what we’re reading. Many confused atheists, Jews and Muslims have targeted Jesus’ words and most Christians—just as confused—are ill-prepared to defend the faith.

(Here’s a hint: Jesus wasn’t wrong; C.S. was.)

What Does the Bible Say About Studying Prophecy?

In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus warns His disciples to be diligent (Matt 24:36-51, Mark 13:32-36, Luke 21:34-36). Beside the blessings promised in Revelation, the Bible tells us we are to recognize the seasons (Matthew 24:32-35, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4). Here is some of what the Bible has to say about our call to study and understand prophecy:

"Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, 'My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.'" (God speaking through Isaiah, Isaiah 46:9-10)

"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; wherefore you do well to take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts, knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy of old came not by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (Peter to the churches of Asia Minor, 2 Peter 1:19-21)

"Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before." (Jesus to His disciples, Matthew 24:23-25)

"You hypocrites, you can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that you do not discern this time?" (Jesus to the crowd, Luke 12:56)

"But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." Then, a few lines later, Paul says, "Do not despise prophecies." (Paul to the church of Thessalonica, 1 Thessalonians 5:4, 20)

How Much of The Bible Is Prophetic?

If we’re discounting the prophetic, we may as well throw out God’s promises to Abraham, Moses, and Israel; all the books of the prophets; many psalms; most of the New Testament including all four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and all the predictive warnings from the epistles of Peter, Paul and others; and of course, the book of Revelation.

Yeah, so from Genesis to Revelation, about a third of what we call the Bible.

In fact, of all the “holy books” on Earth—including the Muslim Quran and Hindu Bhagavat Gita—the Bible holds the most emphasis on the prophetic, by far. In fact, it’s this prophetic element that is one of the primary reasons why we can be sure the Bible is the infallible Word of God.

Here are some key statistics we can use to make the case for prophecy:

[108] It is said that there are over 100 prophecies Jesus fulfilled at His first coming.

[1:8] For every one prophecy about the birth of Christ, there are eight about His Second Coming, meaning...

[318] According to one count, there are 318 New Testament references to Jesus’ Second Coming.

[23/27] 23 out of 27 New Testament books contain prophecy.

Stop! To my notetakers! Please, put your pens down. No, wait! Don’t put your pens down; I want you to use those pens to cross out the statistics you just wrote.

These stats are likely wrong! If we don’t understand what we’re reading, we have little idea as to whether a certain prophecy is past, present or future. There is a gobsmacking amount of error and confusion around end times prophecy and the Messiah’s return. But boy, do we love our stats!

The question then is this: Do we know what we’re reading? Ah. Therein lies the rub. When we fail to understand the ancient Jewish idioms—because we’re reading them through our modern, Greek-Gentile lenses—we end up doing damage to the text. We allegorize passages that were meant literally and we literalize passages that were meant allegorically. The fruit of that is error, which damages both the flock and the Church’s reputation before this lost and dying world. Well-intentioned, over-zealous believers have been wildly wrong about their end times estimations and have ended up looking like nuts to non-believers! And in that, we don’t need any help! We believe some crazy stuff already!

Benefits to Studying Prophecy

Dialing into station WIIFM (What’s In It For Me), let’s take a look at what we get out of sacrificing our time, energy and gray matter to better understand the Word of God. Beyond those blessings in Revelation (1:3, 22:7), beyond Jesus’ own example, His admonition and our simple obedience, there are some additional benefits to studying prophecy.

Prophecy deepens our understanding of God; When we rightly understand our Father, it encourages repentance and deepens relationship. Right understanding builds intimacy with Jesus. If we recognize Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1), would we really say to Him, “Oh, we don’t need to know that part of You, Lord”? We believers are called to hear and declare the whole Word of God. Prophecy deepens our understanding of God, His plan and our place in it as sons and daughters.

Prophecy comforts us and increases our trust; "Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Through right understanding of the prophetic passages, the early Church understood and navigated the tribulation and persecution confronting them in their day. As we grow in our understanding of the Word, we deepen our trust in God’s promises—and His warnings.

Prophecy prepares us for what lies ahead; “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he reveals His secret unto His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) In Amos 7, God certainly warns Israel of incoming “Day of the Lord”-sized judgment at the hands of Assyria. Yes, God warns His people of incoming judgment, but as Daniel 12:10 affirms, the faithful may be tested. “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” Understanding prophecy helps the believer navigate the tribulation of their time, whether the trial is personal or corporate.

Prophecy strengthens our evangelism; There are folks who reject Jesus as a false prophet because they misunderstand His words. If we believers don’t understand what we’re reading, how can we properly represent our King and His teachings to this fallen world? Without right understanding, we’ll certainly be less effective in defending the faith and declaring the hope that is in us. Prophecy strengthens our apologetics and equips us to better evangelize.

Why We Avoid Prophecy

Now, let’s cover some common reasons we avoid prophecy.

We’ve been taught evangelism is more important than prophecy; “Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Is evangelism important? Absolutely! But many have reduced prophecy to such a degree so as to declare it unimportant, and yet—if it’s all God’s Word—understanding our Lord’s words is vital if we are going to evangelize properly.

Prophecy is too hard to understand; We’re forced to wrestle with prophecy and sometimes we find that wrestling uncomfortable. Books like the prophets or Revelation are rife with symbolism, forcing us to slow down, linger and tease out truth. It can take years to study out all the history and views before you land on the truth. And who’s got time for that? Can’t we just watch a video or something?

We’re just plain chicken; We’re afraid of it—especially end-time prophecy. We’ve heard about the fire and brimstone of the last days and we are quite fine looking the other way. But wait! End times error is profuse! So don’t worry! Much of what we believe about the end times probably isn’t right anyways!


So, it’s important we get this right. Prophecy matters. If our Father’s Word matters, rightly understanding and discerning His Word ought to be included in our study. And so, study and rightly divide we will, even when it becomes uncomfortable. Liberties taken with the prophetic Word have resulted in modern Bible students and teachers writing ourselves into the Word where we don’t belong and writing ourselves out of the Word where we do. These false beliefs can lead to misplaced heartache, anxiety, terror, callousness toward evangelism, and lazy stewardship of our resources if we live as if the end is imminent daily when Christ admonished us to remain faithful and wise until He returns (Luke 12:42-44).

Prophecy is absolutely important enough for us to wrestle with. Remember: It’s the Truth that sets you free.



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Graham, Ruth. February 12, 2021. “Christian Prophets Are on the Rise. What Happens When They’re Wrong?” The New York Times. Retrieved from “How much of the Bible is prophecy?” Retrieved from

Jeremiah, David. “Is Bible Prophecy Important?” Retrieved from

Lewis, C.S. The World’s Last Night. Retrieved from

Symes, Ken. January 7, 2014. “The most embarrassing verse in the Bible.” Mere C.S. Lewis. Retrieved by

Toupos, Josh. “Rick Warren Blind Guide Without Prophecy.” Amos 3:7. Retrieved from

Warren, Rick. “Evangelism: Made for a Mission.” Christian Broadcast Network. Retrieved from

Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For? [Grand Rapids, Mich.]: Zondervan, 2013. Print. “Return to Zion.” Retrieved from “Second Temple.” Retrieved from

Wilson, Ralph. “David Flees from Saul (1 Samuel 21-23).” JesusWalk. Retrieved from