The Evangelical Free Church recently removed premillennialism from their statement of faith (see here). I wonder if that signals a decline in the study of prophecy in that denomination.
Not every pastor preaches prophecy. Not every person studies it. I can think of several reasons why that might be. Frankly, unfulfilled prophecy takes effort to understand and even more to explain clearly. Pastors and congregations often don’t have the patience for it. We’re moralistic—we want the practical application! We don’t want to think too hard or abstractly about the future.
Others don’t study prophecy because date-setters have all been spectacularly wrong, Jesus did not come back in 1844, 1914, 1988, September 23, 2017, or any other dozens of times. Those false predictions put all prophetic studies in disrepute. So pastors and congregations become disillusioned with prophecy and leave it out of their teaching and confessions.
Those are not good excuses for neglecting prophecy. Bible study in any area takes effort. And just because some teachers get things wrong, doesn’t give you an excuse not to stop teaching the truth.
Instead, here are four reasons to study prophecy.
First, over 25% of God’s Word is prophetic. As J. Barton Payne notes in his Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, “Amount of predictive matter in the Bible: 8,352 verses, out of its total of 31, 124. Proportion that is predictive: 27%” (p. 681). That indicates how important prophecy is to God. If you preach the Bible verse-by-verse or study it verse-by-verse, there’s no avoiding prophecy.
Second, all Scripture is profitable. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). It doesn’t matter if the prophecy is “old news” or not; it is profitable to study and to preach.
Third, we are commanded to understand prophecy. For example, in Daniel’s famous prophecy of the 70 weeks, he said, “Know therefore and understand that…” (Dan 9:25). Or before Paul told the Thessalonians about the rapture, he wrote, “But I would not have you ignorant, brothers…” (1 Thess 4:13). You should know and understand prophecy. Ignorance is not a God-honoring option.
Fourth, prophecy can be comforting. When the Thessalonians were confused about the fate of Christians who died before Jesus’ return, Paul comforted them with prophecy. He told them the whole Church would be raptured, including the dead, who would be raised to life, so that everyone will meet Christ in the air. “Therefore comfort one another with these words,” Paul wrote (1 Thess 4:18).
I wonder if removing premillennialism from a statement of faith is due to first removing it from the hearts and minds of the local church by not preaching it. That is not a God-honoring trend. If you want to see it reversed, preach prophecy!