Compared to when I was growing up, the church is deafly silent on the matter of future things. What is going on that makes our churches so quiet on prophecy? Why do pastors gloss over prophetic references in their texts avoiding references to the future hope of believers?
The apostle Paul refers to our hope of Jesus’ imminent appearing in almost every book he wrote, yet somehow the topic never comes up in sermon series from these epistles.
Some might ask: Why does that matter? Does it really make a difference if our churches remain quiet on future things?
I believe it makes a huge difference! Here are a few of the dangers resulting from the current pervasive silence on eschatology, or study of future things, in our churches:
1. Postings on the Internet can become the main source of information on prophetic matters rather than God’s Word.
When churches remain silent on prophecy, believers who are curious look for answers where most everyone else looks for answers today, on the Internet. There they find a wide array of teachings and opinions, some biblical but many bizarre and misleading. Some believers possess the needed scriptural discernment to sort through the mess, but others lack this and as a result become easily swayed by what they read. Even well-grounded Christians can fall prey to the misinformation on the Internet if they are not careful.
A quick question for pastors reading this: Is the Internet really the only place you want those in your church studying prophecy? Would it not be better for you to provide the biblical guidance they so desperately need?
2. False teachings flourish.
Without sound biblical teaching in our churches on future things, people become misled by what they read on the Internet or in various books on eschatology. The silence of so many churches on future things has opened the door wide for false teachings to flourish. This is precisely what we see today; teachings that deny our hope in Jesus’ imminent appearing are rapidly growing in popularity.
When pastors fail to proclaim the “whole counsel of God,” they do not provide the needed protection against the enemies of the gospel (see Acts 20:26-30). Paul called these false teachers “grievous” or “fierce wolves” and rightly so. Sound biblical teaching on eschatology is so greatly needed today with the presence of so many false teachers.
3. Believers look to this life for their hope.
Churches that ignore the two-world perspective of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 focus the hope of believers on this life rather than eternity. We need teaching on such things as healthy marriages, parenting, finances, etc., but without an eternal perspective these things quickly become the goal and hence the hope of many.
When the focus of teaching and preaching becomes this life alone, those listening will of course put their hope in this life. It’s no mystery when churches ignore our thrilling future hope that those in the pews regard this life as their home. This is the case in so many churches in America.
I am not saying that pastors want those in their church to regard this world as their ultimate home; their silence on prophecy, however, accomplishes this end whether intentional or not.
4. Believers are not prepared for what is coming.
The storm clouds gathering on the horizon threaten to sweep away all of the props of this life, all the things to which so many of us look for our hope. Are we prepared for that to happen?
Today we read of threats from massive terror attacks, powerful earthquakes, deadly volcanoes, global wars, as well as total economic collapse. It’s not just the portrayers of doom saying these things, but respected and knowledgeable experts in each of these areas predicting such things.
Yes, Jesus may come for His Church before any of these things happen. That, however, still represents a different hope than that of many of Christ’s followers today. Those in Christ will not miss out on the rapture. But will those also look to the things of this world as sources of hope be among those who feel shame once in the presence of their Savior (1 John 2:28)?
In addition, can we really be sure that the violent persecution of believers we see throughout the world will not occur here in America before Jesus returns for us? Are we ready should that happen?
How much longer can our churches keep quiet about our hope? As prophecy starts to be fulfilled all around us in dramatic ways, why are our pastors not pleading with us to look up because our redemption is near? Paul certainly was not silent regarding the hope Jesus’ soon appearing and he did not see even a small fraction of all the telling signs we see today.
This is why I write; I feel an urgent need to turn our eyes toward the return of Jesus and the thrill of our eternal hope. We cannot know for sure when Jesus will return, but we see signs all around us of the coming tribulation and we sense it cannot be a whole lot longer till He returns for us.
Today a great need exists for followers of Christ to know the source of their ultimate hope and why they can be confident, based on Scripture, of that hope.
Jonathan C. Brentner
North Liberty, Iowa
Eternity Versus the Moment