I have been searching for the answer to the following question:
Why is it of utmost importance that believers understand the times we live in and know with as much certainty as possible the timing and sequence of prophetic events the will (are) unfolding?
Time and time again, I speak with believers who either have no knowledge of eschatology or very little knowledge of this topic. I also encounter believers who say that spiritual preparation only evolves prayer, bible study and fellowship with other believers. There is no need to study the Book of Revelation, Daniel, Matt. 24, etc. They believe that a true relationship with the Lord is all they need in these endtimes.
For some reason there is a burning desire in my heart that there is something wrong with this thinking. I have not been able to articulate the reason why it is so important to understand that we will encounter the Antichrist and his assault on the people of God; a time like no other in all of biblical history.
Pastors are not preaching this message from the pulpits. America Christians are going about their daily lives attending church, going to conferences and whatever else they do with no perception of what will befall us in the coming future.
Thanks for the question. I have been asked this more than a few times.
Some of the most severe warnings in the Bible relate to eschatological warnings from Jesus, Paul, Peter, the book of Revelation, and not least the prophets. These warnings are of two kinds: (1) during the great tribulation there will be the temptation for the church to believe false teachings, and (2) the temptation to avoid persecution by worshiping Antichrist. Someone may be saying, “Oh, I could never bow the knee to Antichrist.” Really? The apostle Peter thought he would never betray his Lord three times. But he did. Indeed, he received forgiveness for his betrayal. However, with Antichrist there will be no second chance (Rev 14:9–12). Jesus says that these temptations will be so great that if it were possible the elect would be deceived (Matt 24:24).
So Jesus employs warnings as a means to persevere the elect. Those who do not persevere will prove that they were never truly God’s own.
There is a phenomenon I have seen in the church. Many want to affirm the “exhortation” teachings of Jesus concerning his coming, for example, the parable of the ten virgins. But they do not want to affirm the didactic teaching of the events before the Lord’s return—which the exhortations are based on! That mindset may sound pious, but it is not biblical reality. The thinking is, “We need to heed Jesus’ warnings to be spiritually prepared for his return; but we should not be concerned about the events leading up to his return.”
For example, they will ignore or give lip service to Jesus’ didactic teaching in Matthew 24:1–35; but will then apply verses 36 through chapter 25 to the church. That is selective using of Jesus’ teaching. It needs to be taken as a whole, not isolating its parts from each other.
To illustrate this, pretribulationist Craig Blaising argues as such in, Three Views on The Rapture: Pretribulation, Prewrath, or Posttribulation. He bifurcates Jesus’ didactic teaching before Matthew 24:36 as not applying to the church, and disconnects it from the spiritual application after verse 36. Consequently, Jesus intent in Matthew 24 is distorted. The spiritual application should be seen as grounded in his teaching of the Antichrist’s great tribulation. Otherwise, his exhortations are unintelligible.
In short, difficult times are coming upon the church. Indeed, it is essential to pray and fellowship (“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” Heb 10:25). But we must also immerse ourselves in the Scriptural teaching on what will befall the church in this generation or another one to come, as our Lord himself felt compelled to teach.