I want to juxtapose two statements, one that seems to condone that pastors can avoid preaching and teaching on biblical prophecy in fear of causing division, and the other . . . well, Biblical, urgent imperatives to teach and preach prophecy to the people of God.
I’ll let you come to your own conclusion.
I often hear the complaint that churches don’t teach enough prophecy. “Eschatology is neglected,” they say. After all, isn’t the Bible 25% prophecy (estimates differ)?
Some people want to find a church which not only teaches eschatology, but their particular brand as well. For example, we premillennialists want to find a premil church which teaches the rapture view we subscribe to.
The church I attend is Parkside in Cleveland Ohio. Its head pastor is Alistair Begg. Eschatology isn’t a focus. In fact I think it’s deliberately avoided. I get the feeling Begg understands how divisive and a distraction prophecy can be. Parkside has a Christological, Trinitarian gospel-commission focus in the tradition of the Puritans. And this is what I need. I can do the prophecy thing in my own time.
I love prophecy – it’s a passion. It is important! But here’s the thing; while prophecy may account for 25% (or whatever) of Scripture, let’s not give it the larger part of our focus. I’m afraid this may be too often the case with those of us who love to study it.
“Remember, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matt 24:25)
“Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope.” (1 Thess 4:13)
“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the rebellion comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” (2 Thess 2:3)
“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it, because the time is near!” (Rev 1:3)
“A third angel followed the first two, declaring in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and takes the mark on his forehead or his hand, that person will also drink of the wine of God’s anger that has been mixed undiluted in the cup of his wrath, and he will be tortured with fire and sulfur in front of the holy angels and in front of the Lamb. And the smoke from their torture will go up forever and ever, and those who worship the beast and his image will have no rest day or night, along with anyone who receives the mark of his name.” This requires the steadfast endurance of the saints—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to their faith in Jesus.” (Rev 14:9–12)
The downgrading of biblical prophecy will continue as we approach the arrival of the Antichrist. This includes the false dichotomy between the gospel and eschatology, as if they can be compartmentalized.
Those who are wise and love God will bow their knee to his imperatives concerning biblical prophecy.
I’ll conclude with the words of George Eldon Ladd:
Certainly we dare not propagate a teaching of safety about which the Word of God is not indisputably clear, nor should we accept the responsibility of filling the hearts of God’s people with what may be a false hope and thus leave them utterly unprepared of terrible days of persecution when and if they fall. If there is the possibility that the Church is to suffer tribulation at the hands of Antichrist, do not those who believe it have a God-given responsibility to do what they can to prepare the Church for what may be ahead, even though it is a very unwelcomed message? Our responsibility is to God, not to man. (The Blessed Hope, 159–60).