Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Importance of Prophecy

"So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time" (Mark 13:23)

In theology, the study of future things prophesied in the Bible is called eschatology. Both Thessalonian epistles show us that the early church was interested in prophecy, and Paul was as well. Today we have a problem with the subject of prophecy—two problems, really. Among conservative Christians, some brethren have focussed so heavily on prophecy that they have become an embarrassment to the rest of the church. The Rapture has been dated over and over again, and has never yet happened. Thus, many Christians are sick and tired of hearing about prophecy.

The second problem Christians have with prophecy or eschatology stems from the liberalism of the nineteenth century. Liberal theologians were committed to the ideals of the enlightenment—eighteenth-century rationalism. In the interest of “reason,” they sought to eliminate everything miraculous from the Christian religion. Seeking for the “core” meaning of Christianity, they thought to find it in the idea of Jesus as “the supreme moral teacher.” They focussed on the Sermon on the Mount, isolating it from its biblical context and turning it into a set of moralistic ideals.

A scholar named Albert Schweitzer attacked liberalism. Schweitzer demonstrated that Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, was inseparable from His teachings and life. He also showed that it is impossible to isolate Jesus’ moral teachings from His predictions about His forthcoming Kingship over the whole earth. However, Schweitzer also said that Jesus was wrong, and died in despair on the cross crying out to God. Schweitzer himself adopted a kind of Eastern pantheism and left Europe to became a humanistic medical missionary in Africa.

Two groups answered Schweitzer. Neo-orthodoxy decided that history is not important. Jesus’ claims and His resurrection are only symbols of God’s “encounter” with man. Conservative, orthodox Christian theologians insisted that the historic Christian faith is correct. History, they said, is very important. Jesus’ predictions did indeed come true in the first century. He did become King, as was shown positively on Pentecost and negatively at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Prophecy is important. It shows God’s control over history, in that what He predicts does come to pass. Take care not to “throw the baby out with the bath water” when rightly rejecting the fantasies of some prophecy teachers today.