Joel Rosenberg on why pastors need to be preaching about end times prophecy in these last days!
Ezekiel 2:1 through 3:4.
Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!’ As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me. Then He send to me, ‘Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me….’ You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God’….they will know that a prophet has been among them….You shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not….Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you. Then I looked and behold, a hand was extended to me, and lo, a scroll was in it. When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mournings and woe. Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.’ So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. He said to me, ‘Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.’ Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth. Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them.’”
Ezekiel was a classic Biblical prophet:
- A hearer of God’s Word
- A communicator of God’s Word
- A fore-teller – someone through whom God communicated the future
- A forth-teller – someone through whom God communicated His eternal truths, regardless of whether it was specifically about the future or not.
- A watchman on the wall – responsible for accurately hearing and communicating the Word of God to the people, both to warn them of coming judgment and call them to repentance and holiness; will be held by God to account for his faithfulness in this area (see Ezekiel 3:17-21; see also Ezekiel 33)
It was through Ezekiel, God communicated powerful truths:
- The truth that Jerusalem and Israel are the epicenter of God’s plan and purpose in the End Times.
- The truth of the rebirth of the State of Israel in the End Times.
- The truth of the return of the Jewish people to the Holy Land in the End Times.
- The truth of a coming season of security and prosperity for Israel in the End Times.
- The truth of an apocalyptic showdown between Israel, Russia, Iran and a group of other nations in the epicenter in the End Times.
- The truth of the cataclysmic judgment of Israel’s enemies in the End Times.
- The truth of the supernatural rescue of Israel in the End Times.
- The truth of the salvation of the Jewish people in the End Times.
- And the truth of the building not just of a 3rd Temple in the End Times but a 4th Temple, too, from which the Messiah will reign.
These are vitally important truths for Christians, for Jews, indeed for all people in our time. Yet they are rarely taught.
Dr. Mark Hitchcock, author of an excellent resource book – The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (over 500 pages) – notes that:
- 28.5% of the Old Testament are prophetic verses
- 21.5% of the New Testament are prophetic verses
- All told, some 27% of the Bible are prophetic verses
Without question, prophecy is central to the Holy Scriptures. Yet very few pastors, priests or ministry leaders are teaching Bible prophecy today.
In Luke 12:54-56, the Lord Jesus said these words: And He was also saying to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out. And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that way. You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?
Why didn’t the people of Jesus’ day study the prophecies of Scripture and compare them to what was happening right in front of them?
I would argue that now more than ever it is absolutely vital for the Church, for Israel, and for the world to rediscover the power and purpose of Bible prophecy. But the only way this is going to happen is if the men of God begin to rediscover the Word of God and start studying it seriously, and teaching it carefully. We absolutely will not hear from Jesus’ lips, “Well done, My good and faithful servant,” if we ignore, skip, dismiss or outright deny more than one-quarter of the Holy Scriptures.
So today I’d like to address two topics:
- What are the main reasons why pastors are not teaching Bible prophecy today?
- How can we help pastors rediscover the purpose and power of Bible prophecy?
WHY AREN’T PASTORS TEACHING BIBLE PROPHECY TODAY?
I would point to four main reasons.
First, many pastors don’t teach prophecy because they have a lack of belief in the power of God’s Word.
Sadly, many pastors today don’t really believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible, authoritative Word of God. The Lord Jesus once remonstrated the Pharisees because they were misinterpreting Scripture. He said, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29)
Too many pastors and priests today are the same way. They are not carefully studying the whole Bible. They’re not trying to understand the “whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27, KJV).
Second, many pastors don’t teach prophecy because they have a lack of knowledge of — and/or sound training in — Bible prophecy.
There are many, of course, who do believe that the Bible is the Word of God. However, for a variety of reasons they have never taken the time to study prophecy carefully on their own, and/or weren’t taught it in any detail or depth in seminary or Bible college or seminary. Thus, they understandably feel unprepared and inadequate to help people unpack the truths of these Scriptures.
Some prophecies are, of course, complicated and confusing. Some of the names mentioned in prophecies (like “Gog” and “Magog” and “Gomer” and “Put” in Ezekiel 38-39) are strange and obscure. It takes some historical detective work to determine what these things mean, and some pastors decide they neither have the interest nor the time to do the research and teach their congregations clearly and accurately, so they avoid teaching prophecy all together.
I understand this, and I’m doing my best to create resources to help pastors study and teach prophecy, and point people to other excellent resources that have been helpful to me. Because now is the time to rediscover the power and purpose of prophecy.
The Bible is clear that God will bless those who study and teach End Times prophecy, and we should be faithful in doing just that. The Apostle John wrote, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)
Third, many pastors don’t teach prophecy because they have a fear of being lumped in with “prophecy nuts” and those who peddle sensationalism.
Admittedly, there are many false teachers and nuts who try to teach prophecy.
- Example: Harold Camping’s prediction of the Rapture on May 21, 2011.
- Example: Harold Camping’s prediction of the Rapture in September 1994.
- Example: 88 Reasons Why Jesus Is Coming In 1988
- Example: 89 Reasons Why Jesus Is Coming In 1989
Pastors are right to avoid such false teachers, and to avoid creating an appearance of cheapening the Word of God in these ways.
But just because some teach Bible prophecy wrongly, or badly, is no reason for solid teachers to avoid the topic. There are those who teach false regarding the Gospels and the epistles, too. But a good pastor wouldn’t dare skip teaching correctly these books of the Bible. On what basis, then, do we have the right to avoid teaching whole books of the Bible — Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation, among others — just because some charlatans are out their misleading people?
To the contrary, we should be teaching solidly on prophecy all the more because of the nuts out there. We shouldn’t cede the battle for hearts, minds and souls to the false teachers.
The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “Preach the word: be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:2-3)
Fourth, many pastors don’t teach prophecy because they have a lack of understanding of the times in which we live and the increasingly close return of Christ.
Sadly, many sincere pastors are asleep to the times in which we live. Somehow they are not gripped by the remarkable moment of history that we’re in, and the urgent need to prepare for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ for the Church.
Like the Pharisees of old, Jesus is saying to them, “Why do you not analyze this present time?” More than ever, we need pastors who do analyze and understand the times in light of Bible prophecy. Like the sons of Issachar, “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” (I Chronicles 12:32), we need pastors who understand the times and know what the Church should do.
Specifically, we need men ready, willing and able to rediscover the purpose and power of Bible prophecy.
HOW CAN WE HELP PASTORS REDISCOVER THE PURPOSE AND POWER OF BIBLE PROPHECY?
The best way is not to berate or belittle our brothers who aren’t teaching prophecy.
The Scriptural model is to do what Jesus did – say, “Come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)
- Let us lead the way by feeding the flock the “whole counsel of God,” including the solid, careful, humble teaching of Bible prophecy. (Acts 20:27, KJV)
- Let us teach those teachers who have interest how to teach Bible prophecy in a solid, careful, humble way.
- Let us create a wide-range of resources to help pastors teach Bible prophecy, and to help lay people study Bible prophecy in a such a way that it will motivate them to live lives of repentance, holiness, prayer & fasting, evangelism and discipleship, pastor training and church planting.
- Especially since we are moving deeper and deeper into the last days and the return of Christ is sooner than many think.
In this context, then, let us discuss the seven-fold purpose of Bible prophecy.
- To reveal that the God of Israel is all-mighty, all-seeing, all-knowing God of the universe.
- To reveal that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and true in all its respects.
- To require us to study God’s Word diligently and with humility, and to teach God’s Word with humility and great care.
- To point to the First Coming of the Messiah.
- To point to the Second Coming of the Messiah.
- To build up, challenge, encourage and comfort the Church to live holy and fruitful lives in the last days.
- To warn Israel and the nations to repent and turn to Jesus Christ before it is too late.
First, to reveal that the God of Israel is all-mighty, all-seeing, all-knowing God of the universe.
- The Lord said through the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, ”Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” (Isaiah 42:9)
- The Lord also said through the prophet Isaiah, “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me. ‘Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, from the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming And the events that are going to take place.” (Isaiah 44:6-7)
- The Lord also said through the prophet Isaiah, “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’” (Isaiah 46:9-10)
- The Apostle Peter wrote, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)
- The Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13)
Second, to reveal that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and true in all its respects.
- There are about 1,000 specific prophecies in the Bible.
- More than half of them have already been fulfilled.
- Most of the remaining prophecies concern events that will happen between now and the Second Coming of Christ.
In the Old Testament, for example, we see hundreds of prophecies fulfilled.
For example, around 530 B.C., the Lord told the prophet Daniel that:
- the kingdom of Babylon would be taken over the kingdom of Media-Persia
- the Media-Persian kingdom would be taken over the kingdom of Greece
- the kingdom of Greece would be taken over by the kingdom of Rome
- and eventually all the kingdoms of the earth would be taken over by the Kingdom of God
This is exactly what has happened.
Here’s another example: Around 600 B.C., the Lord told the prophet Jeremiah that the Babylonians would come and take the Jewish people captive. He also told Jeremiah that after 70 years of captivity they would be released to come back to the land of Israel.
- Jeremiah 25:11-12 – “‘This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the Lord, ‘for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it an everlasting desolation.’”
- Jeremiah 29:10 – “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place [Israel].”
A hundred years earlier, the Lord even told the prophet Isaiah the exact name of the Persian king who would be instrumental in the Jewish people being set free from Babylonian captivity.
- Isaiah 44:28 – Thus says the Lord….“It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.’ And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.’”
- Isaiah 45:1, 4, 13 – “Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointed….‘For the sake of Jacob My servant, and Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor though you have not known Me….he will build My city and will let My exiles go free, without any payment or reward,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
Sure enough, just as Jeremiah prophesied, God brought the Jewish people home from exile back to Israel right on schedule. And just as Isaiah prophesied, Cyrus was precisely the name of the Persian king who helped the Jews go back home.
- 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 – “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia – in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah – the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!”’”
- Repeated in Ezra chapter 1
Third, to require us to study God’s Word diligently and with humility, and to teach God’s Word with humility and great care.
In Matthew 24:15, Jesus described as Daniel a “prophet.” He certainly was. But that did not mean Daniel understood all things. It did even mean that Daniel understand all that he saw or was told to write down.
- Daniel 12:4 – “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”
- Daniel 12:8-9 – “As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, ‘My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?’ He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed until the end of time. Many will be purged, purified, and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.”
- Daniel 9:1-6 – We find the prophet Daniel carefully studying the prophecies of Jeremiah, with prayer and fasting.
- I Peter 1:10-12 – “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things into which angels long to look.”
- 2 Peter 1:19-21 – “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s one interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
- 1 Timothy 4:1, 13, 15, 16 – “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons….Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching….Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”
- 2 Timothy 2:15 – “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
- Acts 20:20-31 – “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to houses, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ….I went about preaching the kingdom….I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose [counsel] of God” [for a period of three years].
Fourth, to point to the First Coming of the Messiah.
In the Old Testament, the Lord gave us dozens of clues about who the Messiah would be and what He would do. Here are a few of them:
- The prophet Micah told us the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephratah (Micah 5:2).
- The Hebrew prophet Isaiah told us that the Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).
- The prophet Isaiah told us that the Messiah would be born as a human male child, a son, but would also be called “mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6).
- The prophet Isaiah told us that the Messiah would be a live and minister in the Galilee region of Israel (Isaiah 9:1-2)
- The prophet Zechariah told us the Messiah would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9)
- The prophet Isaiah told us that the Messiah would heal people — “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases” (Isaiah 53:4)
- King David prophesied that the Messiah would be surrounded by an evil band of men who would beat and torture him, would divide his clothing and cast lots for them, and would pierce his hands and feet and leave him “in the dust of death,” that is, kill him (Psalm 22)
- The prophet Daniel made it clear that the Messiah would come to “finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for inquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness” but to do so he would need to be “cut off” [killed] before Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. (Daniel 9:24-26)
- The prophet Isaiah described the Messiah as a suffering Servant who would be beaten, tortured, mocked, pierced, and ultimately killed as a guilt offering for the sins of mankind (Isaiah 52:13 through Isaiah 53)
- The prophet Isaiah also made it clear that the Messiah would also rise from the dead — “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crusheed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed….His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death….But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.” (Isaiah 53:5,9,10)
- Through the prophet Jonah and the prophet Hosea, we were told God would raise the Messiah after three days in the grave (Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days before he was returned to the earth; in Hosea 6:2 we read, “He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him.”)
Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled all of these prophecies, proving Himself to be the Messiah.
In Luke 24:25-27 we read: And He [Jesus] said to them [several of His disciples whom He saw after His resurrection], ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
Fifth, to point to the Second Coming of the Messiah.
Revelation 1:1-8 – The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John,who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Revelation 19:10 – “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Notes Dr. Mark Hitchcock in his book, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophesy and the End of Days
- “There are over 300 references to the Lord’s coming in the 260 chapters of the New Testament – one out of every 30 verses.”
- 23 of 27 NT books mention the Lord’s Second Coming
- “For every time the Bible mentions the first coming, the Second coming is mentioned eight times.”
- “People are exhorted to be ready for the return of Jesus Christ over fifty times.”
Sixth, to build up, challenge, encourage and comfort the Church to live holy and fruitful lives in the last days.
The study and teaching of prophecy isn’t supposed to be an intellectual pursuit of its own. The point isn’t to memorize all the seals and bowls and trumpets in the book of Revelation….or set dates and times regarding the Rapture…. or getting into pointless and contentious arguments over the timing and sequence of End Times events.
Rather, God gave us prophecy to motivate and mobilize the Church to live lives of holiness….and preach the Gospel to all nations before He comes…and make disciples of all nations before He returns.
Revelation 1:10-11 – “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, saying, ‘Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches….’”
I Corinthians 14:3-4 – “But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.”
- Prophecy is supposed to build up our faith in God’s awesome power and total sovereignty.
- Prophecy is supposed to challenge us to repent from ungodly behavior.
- Prophecy is supposed to encourage us to be holy and walk more closely with the Lord in the time we have left.
- Prophecy is supposed to encourage us to serve Christ with humility and preach His Word with boldness and courage.
- Prophecy is supposed to encourage us to be prepared to stand before Him face to face in the not-too-distant future.
- Prophecy is supposed to encourage us to be ready to confront and refute false teachers in the last days.
- Prophecy is supposed to comforts from our fears and sorrows by reminding us that Jesus Christ is coming to rescue us, and that He will win over evil, and that He will reign forever, and that we will be with Him forever and ever.
Seventh, to warn unbelievers in Israel and in the nations to repent and turn to Jesus Christ before it is too late.
I Corinthians 14:22 – “Prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe….But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man [unversed in spiritual gifts] enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.”
Revelation 19:10 – “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Ultimately, all of prophecy is about Jesus Christ….it comes from Him….it points to Him.
Bible prophecy speaks to the general future of “all nations” in the last days leading up to the Second Coming of Christ.
- Example: Haggai 2:6-7, 21-22 – “For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations….I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the earth.’
- Example: Joel 3:2 – “I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land.”
Bible prophecy speaks to the specific future of specific nations and regions in the last days leading up to the Second Coming of Christ.
- Included: Israel, Russia, Iran, Syria (Damascus), Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Lebanon, Jordan, Greece, a European (revived Roman) empire, etc
- Also included:
- the “king of the South” (Daniel 11:5)
- the “king of the North” (Daniel 11:6)
- the “queen of the South” (Matthew 12:42)
- the “kings from the east” (Revelation 16:12
- Not included: the United States of America (not even a king or queen of the west)
Dr. Charlie Dyer, professor at Moody Bible Institute: “God gave prophecy to change our hearts, not to fill our heads with knowledge. God never predicted the future events just to satisfy our curiosity about the future. Every time God announces events that are future, He includes with His predictions practical applications to life. God’s pronouncements about the future carry with them specific advice for the ‘here and now.’” (cited in Dr. Mark Hitchcock’s book)
Dr. Randall Price, professor of archaeology and Biblical studies at Liberty University: “What good is it to be able to understand the seven heads in Revelation 13:1 if we don’t use our own head? Of what profit is it to discern the ten toes of Daniel 2:41-44 if we don’t move our own two feet? And what value is it to know about the great mouth that speaks lies (Daniel 7:8, Revelation 13:5), unless we open our mouth and speak the truth? In every generation where prophecy has been properly proclaimed, the results have been a harvest of souls to the glory of God.” (cited in Dr. Mark Hitchcock’s book)
– End –