When we consider the large number of passages in the Bible that talk about the end times and the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, it’s remarkable that there are so many pastors and Bible teachers who prefer to avoid talking about Bible prophecy altogether.
Treating First-Coming Prophecies Differently Than Second-Coming Prophecies
This reluctance is surprising because most pastors and Bible teachers are comfortable with teaching the prophecies related to the Messiah’s first coming. High on the list is the first prophecy in the Bible, in Genesis 3:15. After Adam and Eve fell into sin, God promised there would come a day when an offspring of the woman would bruise Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15). This prophecy looks ahead to the virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus, who would die on the cross to destroy the power of sin and make it possible for us to have a personal relationship with God again.
At Christmastime, pastors and Bible teachers proclaim Isaiah’s prophecy of a child whose name would be Immanuel, or “God with us” (7:14). They marvel at how the exact location of Jesus’ birth—Bethlehem Ephrathah—was pinpointed in Micah 5:2 some 700 years before the Savior was born. They affirm God’s prophetic sovereignty over all of humanity when they mention how the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus was led to command a census that would require Joseph and a very pregnant Mary to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem just in time for Jesus’ birth to fulfill Micah’s prophecy (Luke 2:1-7).
They point to Isaiah 40:3-5, which says a messenger—John the Baptist—would prepare the way for Messiah. They describe how the prophets foretold that Jesus would be rejected by His own people (Isaiah 53:3), would be sent to heal the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1-2), would enter Jerusalem on a donkey and be proclaimed King (Zechariah 9:9), would be betrayed for 30 shekels of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13), would be condemned alongside criminals (Isaiah 53:12), and would die by crucifixion (Psalm 22:16) and be “pierced for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5).
And during Easter season, we are reminded of Jesus’ own prophecy that after three days in the grave, He would rise (Matthew 17:22-23)—a truth revealed as far back as Psalm 16:10.
The Bible’s Greater Emphasis on Second-Coming Prophecies
There are more than 100 distinct prophecies about Jesus’ first coming—about His genealogy, birth, life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. These are joyfully proclaimed in churches without hesitation.
But for every one prophecy about Christ’s first coming, there are eight about His second coming. That makes it clear God wants His people to know what the future holds! The New Testament mentions Christ’s return 318 times, or 1 out of every 30 verses. Many of those prophecies include details about what will happen during the end times—the rapture, the tribulation, the second coming, and more.
When the disciples asked Jesus, “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?,” He didn’t silence them. He gave a lengthy and amazingly specific response that fills all of Matthew chapters 24 and 25. If Jesus taught so openly about the end times, shouldn’t we do likewise?
In the New Testament epistles, we’re told to live with a constant sense of expectation for our Lord’s return. Paul wrote, “Regarding the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him…No one is to deceive you in any way!” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). We are to “live sensibly, righteously, and in a godly manner” as we are “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:11-13). We are commanded to encourage one another “as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). How can we live with expectation if we don’t know what to expect?
As if all that weren’t enough, the final book of the Bible—titled “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”—provides us with a magnificent preview of the last days and Christ’s glorious return to earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords. It doesn’t make sense to teach from the Bible and leave out the ending, does it?
The Reasons for the Hesitation
Here are the three most common reasons that churches are reluctant to teach about the end times:
1. A Fear of Generating Controversy and Division
There are many different views about the end times, and sometimes they lead to strong disagreements between people. For example, there are a variety of perspectives about the timing of the rapture and second coming, the identity of the Antichrist, and whether end-time prophecies should be interpreted literally or symbolically. This leads some pastors and Bible teachers to think it is better to simply stay quiet. They don’t want to risk generating controversy and division within their congregation.
2. A Fear of Being Viewed as Sensational
Tragically, much of what is said and written about Bible prophecy is accompanied by sensationalism and wild speculations about the future. Wanting to distance themselves from those who are irresponsible, some pastors and teachers distance themselves from Bible prophecy altogether.
3. A Fear of the Complicated and Unknown
A third problem is the perception that Bible prophecy is complicated and difficult to understand. While there are some points of prophecy that are still mysterious to us, much of it is quite clear, and many great resources are available today to help with that. The fact there are some things we don’t understand doesn’t mean it’s better not to bring up Bible prophecy at all. There are other mysteries in Scripture too—such as the truths about the Trinity—and it is okay if there are some questions we cannot answer. We’re to teach all of God’s Word as best we can, and leave the results in His hands.
The Reasons We Must Teach Bible Prophecy
Christ’s second coming and the end times are major themes in the Bible. Twenty-three of the 27 New Testament books contain end-time prophecies, including some taught by Jesus Himself. And God clearly wanted His people to know about what is to come, or He wouldn’t have ended the Bible with the book of Revelation. Even the Old Testament books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah offer substantial previews of the end times.
Here are the reasons it is so vital for pastors and teachers to include Bible prophecy in their teaching ministries:
Jesus Himself taught Bible prophecy. This alone should be reason enough. Our Lord spoke at length about the end times in Matthew 24–25. There, He gave five warnings for people to be alert and ready (Matthew 24:36, 42, 44, 50; 25:13). How can anyone be alert if they aren’t informed?
We must teach all of Scripture so believers can be equipped for every good work. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is…profitable for teaching…so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” That includes prophecy, which equips us in at least these three ways: (1) Prophecy motivates us to be holy in preparation for Christ’s return, which could happen at any moment: (2) it reminds us of the urgency of sharing the gospel with the lost before time runs out; and (3) it teaches us to live with an eternal perspective.
Prophecy enables us to know more about God. God’s perfect track record of fulfilled prophecy confirms that He is sovereign over all things and the future is in His hands. Also, through prophecy, God’s wisdom, power, and even compassion are on display. Every time God prophesied about the Savior who would redeem us, He was affirming His love for people and His desire to bring them to salvation and eternal fellowship with Him.
Prophecy enables us to know more about Christ. There are many things we can learn about Jesus as we look to what He will do in the future. Matthew 24–25 and Revelation 19–22 are filled with many wonderful details about Christ’s mercy, justice, faithfulness, power, and majesty.
Prophecy encourages us to focus on the things of heaven and eternity. The more we learn about heaven and eternity, the less we are inclined to love the things of this world. Colossians 3:2 commands, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Bible prophecy has a marvelous way of helping us to develop an eternal mindset.