Why Don't We Hear More Preaching on Prophecy?

Manfred E. Kober, Th.D.

This is a good and frequently-asked question. Hardly a week goes by when someone does not ask us why prophecy is ignored in many pulpits. There appear to be a variety of reasons why pastors shy away from prophecy.

  1. Some pastors may never have been instructed in prophecy. Perhaps the seminary where they received their training deemphasized prophecy. A case in point is my personal experience. When I attended the University of Erlangen in Germany, where many Lutheran pastor are trained, I had a course in dogmatics (systematic theology) for two semester, four hours a week. The professor, Dr. Walter Künneth, devoted just the last 20 minutes of the last lecture to the end times.
  1. There is actually a vocal minority who insist that all the prophecies of Revelation 4-19 were fulfilled by A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. These individuals (known as preterists) fight against the blessed truth of a future rapture and millennial kingdom with such books as End-Times Fiction and Last Days Madness by Gary DeMar.
  1. Some pastors are more interested in the here and now rather than the hereafter. This is especially true of theological liberals. From time to time I visit with a tour group the home of the Pilgrim Fathers in Scrooby, England. The vicar of the old parish church sends someone else to talk to us about the rich history of St. Wilfred’s Church. This knowledgeable substitute lamented the fact that his vicar is not interested in history or in heaven, but simply in the present.
  1. Some pastors forego preaching on prophecy because folks in their congregations hold an opposing point of view. Rather than declaring the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), they try to keep peace at any price. One of my personal friends pastored a church in Connecticut where the head deacon was amillennial. Thus my friend avoided the subject of the millennial reign of Christ lest controversy split the church.
  1. Some pastors are turned off by the sensationalism and speculation of their spiritual mentors. Theirs is a reaction against extremism in prophecy and they thus avoid all prophecy.
  1. A number of pastors simply don’t understand prophecy. They neither take the time to study the subject nor do they wish to mislead the people. The Reformer John Calvin wrote a commentary on every book of the Bible except the book of Revelation. Because of his Catholic background, Calvin did not understand prophecy and thus left Revelation well enough alone.
  1. Some pastors hold an agnostic position. They feel that one can’t really know what will happen for sure. One friend of mine calls himself a panmillennialist — it will all pan out one way or the other. Only time will tell. In a large church in Iowa, a pastor recently preached a series on Revelation. When he came to chapter 9, he wondered out loud if someone could really tell what these visions were all about. Similarly, the well-known pastor and author Stuart Briscoe observed at the end of his commentary on Ezekiel’s prophecy that “he cannot know what all the details mean to us in our day.” Briscoe assures us that in heaven we will sit down with Charles Lee Feinberg and Dwight Pentecost and find out that we were all wrong (All Things Weird and Wonderful, 1977, 163-164). This is prophetic agnosticism. One wonders what kind of understanding and thus convictions his parishioners have about the great prophecies of the Bible and the glorious promises for believers.

In contrast to those pastors who are reluctant to preach on prophecy, God promises a double blessing to pastors and lay people who make an effort to understand prophecy, especially that of the book of the Revelation (Rev. 1:3; 22:7).

© Manfred E Kober

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