Read an Excerpt
LEFT BEHIND BIBLE STUDY GUIDE #2 The Antichrist
By Neil Wilson and Len Woods
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2003 Moody Publishers
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHow to Get the Most from Your Study
Depending on your background and experiences, the Left Behind studies will
Help you begin to answer some important questions that may have occurred to you as
you were reading the Left Behind novels,
Introduce you to the serious study of biblical prophecy,
Provide you with a starting point for a personal review of biblical prophecy that you
remember hearing about as you were growing up, or Offer you a format to use in meeting with others to discuss not only the Left Behind
novels but the Bible texts that inspired the stories.
If you are using these studies on your own, you will establish your own pace. A thoughtful consideration of the Bible passages, questions, and quotes from the Left Behind series and other books will require a minimum of an hour for each lesson.
If you will be discussing these lessons as part of a group, make sure you review each lesson
on your own. Your efforts in preparation will result in a number of personal benefits:
You will have thought through some of the most important questions and be less prone
to "shallow answers."
You will have a good sense of the direction of the discussion.
You will have an opportunity to do some added research if you discover an area or
question that you know will be beyond the scope of the group discussion.
Since a group will probably not be able to cover every question in each lesson because
of time constraints, your preparation will allow you to fill in the gaps.
Tools to Use
Make sure you have a Bible you can read easily.
Most of the quotes in these studies come from the New Living Translation. If your
Bible is a different version, get in the habit of comparing the verses.
Consider reading some of the excellent books available today for the study of prophecy.
You will find helpful suggestions in the endnotes.
Put some mileage on your pen or pencil. Take time to write out answers to the questions
as you prepare each lesson.
Continually place your life before God. Ultimately, your study of prophecy ought to
deepen your awareness of both his sovereignty and compassion. You will appreciate the
overwhelming aspects of God's love, mercy, and grace toward you even more as you get
a wider view of his grandeur and glory.
Leading a Group Through the Left Behind Studies
Leading a Bible study on prophecy can be daunting to any teacher. When it comes to prophecy, all of us are students; we've all got a lot to learn. Approaching this study as a fresh opportunity to ask questions, to seek the Lord and his Word for answers, and to help others in the process will take the burden of being "the teacher" off your shoulders.
Remember that it's helpful to be confident in what you know as long as you're not confident you know everything. The study of prophecy does bring up many questions for which the most honest answer is. "We don't know." God has, however, given us more information in his Word than he is often given credit for To use the apostle Paul's language, we may see some things sharply and other things dimly, but that's so much better than being in the dark. Take a careful look at Tim LaHaye's article "How to Study Prophecy," and encourage your group to read it. It provides valuable guidelines as you prepare for these discussions.
No matter the level of knowledge you or your group may have, set your sights on increasing your group's interest in the study of prophecy as well aa deepening their commitment to living for Christ. Keep your group focused on the need to know Jesus better. Ultimately, it's hard to get excited about expecting a stranger. The more intimately we get to know Jesus, the more we long to see him. Consider using as a motto for your group the words of Paul, "Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day" (9. Timothy 1:12 NIV).
Prophecy and evangelism travel together. A study like this can provide unexpected opportunities to share the gospel. We tend to think that evangelistic conversations are primarily a backward look with a present application-God has accomplished certain gracious things through Christ and his death and resurrection; therefore, what shall we do today? Prophecy reverses the discussion, creating a forward look with a present application-God promises he will do these things tomorrow; therefore, how shall we live today? Be prayerfully alert to opportunities during and after studies to interact seriously with group members about the state of their souls, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have letters from hundreds of readers of the Left Behind series who came to faith in Christ in part as a result of their exposure to prophecy, Pray that God will use your study to accomplish his purposes in others' lives, including yours.
Several Helpful Tools
Bibles: Encourage group members to bring and use their Bibles. We've quoted in the workbook the verses being discussed in each lesson, but having the full context of the verses available to examine is often helpful. We recommend that you have on hand for consultation at least one copy of a trustworthy study Bible that highlights prophetic issues, such as the Ryrie Study Bible (Moody Press) or the Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible (AMG Publishers).
Bible Concordance and Bible Dictionary: Each of these tools can assist a group in the process of finding specific passages in Scripture or gaining a perspective on a particular biblical theme or word.
Resource Books: The endnotes for each lesson include a number of books from which insightful quotes have been drawn. If members in your group have access to these books, encourage them to make the volumes available for others to read.
Left Behind Novels: Because there are several editions of the books, you may discover some discrepancies in the page listings of the quotes from the novels and the particular books you have. A little search of the pages nearby will usually get you to the right place.
Hints for Group Sessions
1. Encourage participants to review and prepare as much of each lesson as they are able
in advance. Remind them it will help the learning process if they have been thinking
about the issues and subjects before the session.
2. As you prepare the lessons, decide what questions you will make your focus for discussion.
Unless your time is open-ended and your group highly motivated, you will not be
able to cover every question adequately in an hour. 3. Only experience with your particular group will give you a sense of how much ground
you can cover each session.
4. Consider appointing different group members to ask the questions. That will take the
spotlight off you and allow them to participate in a comfortable way.
5. Take time in each session for feedback and questions from the group. These spontaneous
reflections will give you a good sense of how much the group is learning, integrating,
and being affected by the lessons.
The Place of Prayer
Make it a point to pray with the group and for the group during the study. Use part of your preparation time to bring each person from the group before God in prayer. Open and close each session by asking God, who alone knows the full meaning of every prophecy he has inspired in his Word, to open your hearts and minds to understand and respond in practical, wholehearted ways to the truth of Scripture.
How to Study Bible Prophecy
Prophecy is God's road map to show us where history is going. The Bible's predictions claim literal and specific fulfillments that verify that such prophecies are indeed from God. The key to interpreting Bible prophecy is in discerning what is literal and what is symbolic. Therefore, the best way to avoid confusion in the study of prophetic Scripture is to follow these simple directions:
1. Interpret prophecy literally wherever possible. God meant what he said and said what he meant when he inspired "holy men of God [who] spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (Peter 1:21 KJV) to write the Bible. Consequently we can take the Bible literally most of the time. Where God intends for us to interpret symbolically he makes it obvious. One of the reasons the book of Revelation is difficult for some people to understand is that they try to spiritualize the symbols used in the book. However, since many Old Testament prophecies have already been literally fulfilled, such as God turning water to blood (Exodus 4:9; 7:17-21), it should not be difficult to imagine that future prophetic events can and will be literally fulfilled at the appropriate time. Only when symbols or figures of speech make absolutely no literal sense should anything but a literal interpretation be sought.
2. Prophecies concerning Israel and the church should not be transposed. The promises of God to Israel to be fulfilled "in the latter days," particularly those concerning Israel's punishment during the Tribulation, have absolutely nothing to do with the church. The Bible gives specific promises for the church that she will be raptured into heaven before the Tribulation (John 14:2-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
3. For symbolic passages, compare Scripture with Scripture. The Bible is not contradictory. Even though written by numerous divinely inspired men over a period of sixteen hundred years, it is supernaturally consistent in its use of terms. For example, the word "beast" is used thirty-four times in Revelation and many other times in Scripture. Daniel explains that the word is symbolic of either a king or kingdom (see Daniel 7-8). By examining the contexts in Revelation and Daniel, you will find that "beast" has the same meaning in both books. Many other symbols used in Revelation are also taken directly from the Old Testament. These include "the tree of life" (Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14), "the Book of Life" (Revelation 3:5), and Babylon (Revelation 14:8ff.).
Some symbols in Revelation are drawn from other New Testament passages. These include terms such as "the word of God" (1:2, 9ff.), "Son of Man" (1:13: 14:14), "marriage supper" (19:9), "the bride" (21:9; 22:17), "first resurrection" (20:5-6). and "second death" (2:11: 20:6, 14; 21:8). Other symbols in Revelation are explained and identified in their context. For example, "Alpha and Omega" represents Jesus Christ (1:8; 21:6; 22:13); the "seven candlesticks" (1:13, 20) are the seven churches; the "dragon" is Satan (12:3ff.); and the "man child" is Jesus (12:5, 13).
Though some prophetic passages should be interpreted symbolically, it is important to remember that symbols in the Bible depict real people, things, and events. For example, the "seven candlesticks" in Revelation 1 represent real churches that actually existed when the prophecy was given.
Keeping the three points above in mind will provide you with a confident approach to prophetic Scriptures and guard against a multitude of errors. Allow God's Word always to be your final guide.
(Adapted from the Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, AMG Publishers, used with permission.)
The Dragon-the Power Behind the Beast
1. What are some of the common ways Satan is portrayed in pop culture-movies, commercials, cartoons, etc.? _______________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________
"The biblical portrait of Satan is that he does indeed have great power, but it is always limited by the purposes and plans of God. It is a picture of a proud being who has already been humbled. It is the picture of a being whose greatest asset in his war with us is our own ignorance."
2. How do you tend to picture Satan? Which of the names in the chart on the next page best captures your mental image of Satan? _______________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________
Unfolding the Story (Left Behind, pp. 419-21)
In the first book of the Left Behind series, the primary focus is on a small group of people who are trying to understand the disappearance of millions from the earth. It isn't long before they realize they have witnessed the event known in the Bible as the Rapture-Christ's coming for his church.
Eventually each of these characters trusts in Christ as Savior and Lord. One of their number, Bruce Barnes, is a pastor with extensive Bible training. A former "make-believer," the post-Rapture Bruce believes passionately in Jesus, and he sees his role as educating others about what the Bible teaches about the end times.
"If what you're saying is true, there's no room for dabbling."
"You're right. But I've also been thinking about a smaller group within the core. I'm looking for people of unusual intelligence and courage. I don't mean to disparage the sincerity of others in the church, especially those on the leadership team. But some of them are timid, some old, many infirm. I've been praying about sort of an inner circle of people who want to do more than just survive."
"What are you getting at?" Rayford asked. "Going on the offensive?"
"Something like that. It's one thing to hide in here, studying, figuring out what's going on so we can keep from being deceived. It's great to pray for the witnesses springing up out of Israel, and it's nice to know there are other pockets of believers all over the world But doesn't part of you want to jump into the battle?"
Rayford was intrigued but not sure. Chloe was more eager. "A cause," she said. "Something not just to die for but to live for."
Excerpted from LEFT BEHIND BIBLE STUDY GUIDE #2 The Antichrist by Neil Wilson and Len Woods Copyright © 2003 by Moody Publishers. Excerpted by permission.
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