Author: Pastor Tom Hughes
Prophecy fills the Bible. End times prophecy touches every person alive today. Jesus taught on it. So did John, Paul, Peter, James, and Jude. Yet only a small percentage of churches teach this crucial part of God’s message to our generation.
Some pastors don’t teach it for theological reasons. They don’t believe it, don’t think it applies to us, consider it symbolic, or whatever. Others believe we’re probably living near the end of the age, but still refuse to touch the topic. They see it as an elective part of God’s curriculum. Take it or leave it.
That’s not how Jesus saw it. He reprimanded the Pharisees and Sadducees for not discerning the times. “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” (Matthew 16:2-3 NKJV)
More than a quarter of the Bible is prophecy — much of it yet to be fulfilled. How can we give congregations a well-rounded understanding of scripture if we leave out such a vital part of it?
Here are five reasons many pastors refuse to teach Bible prophecy.
1 — They don’t understand it.
Maybe you serve as a pastor and you believe we live near the time of Christ’s return, but you don’t feel qualified to teach on such a large subject. Ask yourself this. Who qualified you to teach the Bible at all? The Lord did. His calling is His equipping. If He called you to be a pastor, He will equip you to teach all of the Bible.
I remember the first time I felt the Lord leading me to teach on the Book of Revelation. The thought of such an undertaking overwhelmed me. But God reminded me that I can teach Revelation just like any other Bible topic — through prayer and study.
Find a variety of commentaries. You will not agree with them all, so you will have to judge among them. Deuteronomy 19:18 describes the work of a judge in three words. “Make careful inquiry.” (NKJV) Deuteronomy 13:14 says that in judging, “You shall inquire, search out, and ask diligently.” (NKJV)
As a Pastor, you do those things regularly. Before you teach any part of the Bible, you “inquire, search out, and ask diligently.” This is the same thing. Do your homework and pray. Remember that He is your Teacher and your Qualifier.
2 — They fear offending members of the congregation.
In today’s Church, pastors often feel more like referees than teachers. People find offense in so many things, the pastor becomes gun-shy. Maybe without realizing it, he begins to preach in ways he thinks will be least likely to offend.
Other pastors see preaching as a means of getting people to feel good. People who feel good will want to have that feeling again, so they come back. Caffeine makes people feel good, too, but church is not Starbucks.
We forget that God’s word is a sword, and sometimes it divides. Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34 NKJV)
Adrian Rogers put it like this. “I would rather be divided by truth than united by error.”
The Bible offends. Jesus offended the elite and the religious. King Ahab paraded 400 false prophets before his throne. They told him the news he enjoyed hearing. But one prophet always told the truth, and King Ahab hated him for it. His name was Micaiah. He prophesied that Ahab would die if he went into battle. The king did die that day, and the 400 feel-good prophets fled in fear. (1 Kings 22)
Every pastor should remember that he is called to a stricter standard and is twice as accountable on judgment day. We must not seek to please men, but God. Whether it’s the Golden Rule or the Rapture, the truth always offends someone. But the fact remains — Jesus is coming again! Pastors have a responsibility to speak this truth, both to warn and encourage their parishioners.
However, offense for its own sake is never good. Much of the contentiousness over prophetic interpretation can be mitigated by simply preaching with humility. These are not matters to get high and mighty over. None of us knows it all. Don’t treat those who disagree like fools. Respect them. Present your beliefs with authority, but also in meekness, bathed in prayer.
3 — People will be scared.
Bible prophecy can be unnerving. Hollywood makes money scaring people, so it loves to use apocalyptic themes. The truth can be scary. But isn’t it better to be scared and prepared, than happy and condemned?
For those who know the Lord, understanding the end times helps us to be faithful instead of fearful. Paul wrote to Timothy, “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8 NKJV)
Teach your congregation to “love His appearing,” and they will stop being afraid.
We humans fear the unknown, and yet, without divine revelation, we never know anything beyond the moment in which we’re living. We don’t exist in a state of perpetual fear because we are able to look at the past, and extrapolate some notion of the future. But we don’t know. We make educated guesses. You could be sitting in your home reading this, and a piece of “space junk” fall out of the sky, through your roof, and hit you on the head. None of us knows what the next second, or the next nanosecond, will bring.
Thankfully, God has not left us in the dark about the really important things. He has given us revelation. We associate the terrible things prophesied for the end times with the word “apocalypse.” That word means to “uncover, or reveal.” Literally, it means “revelation.”
Uncovering something allows us to see and understand. It gives us direction and a point of reference. We stop stumbling in the dark, and begin to walk in the light. Dorothy and her friends went through many trials in Oz, but they always had “the yellow brick road.” Because of that, they always knew where they were and where they were going. It gave them orientation.
To be lost in a dangerous land is infinitely more frightening than to be in the same place with a road map. You look at the map (Bible prophecy), and say, “Okay. That’s scary, but it’s happening as it was supposed to happen. Everything’s good. God is still in control!”
4 — People might not tithe if they think we’re close to the end.
The study of end times Bible prophecy does not cause people to place selfish concerns ahead of Christ. It does the opposite. If your congregation believes the Lord is coming soon, they will be less self-centered and more God-centered. They will be better church-members, better husbands and wives, better parents, better people, and, yes, better givers. They will be less likely to build up treasure selfishly, and more likely to live generously. They will become more eternity-minded, and less temporally-minded.
Seeing prophecy fulfilled in our time, reminds us that the end will come, and may be coming soon. A reminder of His soon coming is a reminder to invest in eternity, and stop trying to build on that which will pass away. (Matthew 6:19-21)
While talking about His coming Kingdom, Jesus said, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray.” (Luke 21:34-36 NKJV)
Christ’s answer to being “weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and the cares of this life” is to “pray” and to “watch” for His coming. But you can only watch if you know what to look for.
Finally, if you’re a pastor preaching for tithe dollars, you need to rethink and repent. The Bible calls you some really bad things, the mildest of which is “hireling.” You need to study prophecy so that you and your parishioners will have an eternal perspective, and begin to store treasure of all kinds in heaven.
Remember that Jesus is the head of the Church. Be faithful to proclaim the whole truth and He will be faithful to take care of His Church.
5 — Fear of looking like the loony-tune fringe.
False and unbiblical teachers of prophecy abound. They’re on the radio, on television, and boy, are they on the internet! But these are not reasons to avoid teaching prophecy. Errors, exaggerations, and charlatans are among the best reasons for teaching the real thing. Your congregation is going to hear a lot of goofy stuff. You need to teach them the truth so they won’t be vulnerable to lies.
Now let’s look at it from the other side.
1 — Prophecy is an amazing apologetic.
The prophecies of the first coming of Christ were fulfilled. They stand as evidence that the Bible can be trusted. Prophecies of His second coming work the same way, except we get to witness these events in our time, often with our own eyes.
The nations of the world seem moved as though by a hidden hand into exactly the right positions on a global chess board. What an amazing thing to see it happening before our eyes! It builds faith and draws our attention God-ward.
2 — Prophecy is the best evangelistic tool today.
The future fascinates us all, because we’re all headed that direction. The Bible says a great deal about the future, so people are likely to listen when you talk about prophecy. Evidence that Jesus is coming soon forces listeners to recognize the veracity of the Bible and gives them a glimpse of the enormity of Christ’s claims.
If Bible prophecy is being fulfilled in our day, it means that the rest of the Bible is also true. Jesus really is God the Son and really did die in our place so that our sins can be forgiven. The truth of Bible prophecy leaves no room for the wannabe messiahs of this world. It quickly becomes obvious that there is salvation in no other name.
3 — Rightly taught, it is a motivator to do good and have a ready heart.
Understanding prophecy gives us an eternal perspective on life. It shows us the proper context in which to view the things that happen in our lives. Prophecy makes us less attached to the temporal and more willing to invest in the eternal.
Peter wrote, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” (2 Peter 3:10-12 NKJV)
Teaching prophecy emphasizes what manner of persons we ought to be — holy in conduct and godliness.
4 — Other reasons to teach end times prophecy.
Again and again, Jesus told his disciples to use Him as their example. In John 13:15, He washed His disciples feet. Then He said to them, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (NKJV)
Let Jesus also be the example in what we teach and preach. He taught a great deal about His Second Coming and the signs surrounding it. We should, too.
Jesus often said to “Watch!”
Paul wrote, “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.… But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4-6 NKJV)
My prayer is that more and more Christian congregations the world over begin to “watch and be sober” so that the Day does not overtake them as a thief.