Eternal Preaching – Part 1

Some sermons do seem to drag on towards eternity, but perhaps too few preach in light of eternity.  It seems to me that in many quarters the church has reacted against eschatological sensationalism by removing all reference to the end-times from the pulpit.  Perhaps the subject is seen as being divisive, difficult, obscure, irrelevant or embarrassingly sensational and therefore best left alone.

Here are my responses to these five common reasons for avoiding the subject of the future, then next time I’ll offer some positive reasons to go eternal in your preaching.

1. Eschatology is divisive.  After all, there are so many views on the millennium, the coming of Christ for the church, the details on the timeline, political implications today, etc.  Actually, most issues in the Bible are potentially divisive – the nature of God, the person of Christ, the role of the believer in salvation, the work of the Holy Spirit, etc.  If a subject is potentially divisive, surely we shouldn’t avoid it, but watch our attitudes and clarity when we do speak of it?

2. It is difficult.  I suspect many a preacher avoids all references to the future because they are pretty sure they aren’t sure where they stand on it all.  Like most subjects in the Bible, it is both complicated enough for a doctoral research pursuit, yet simple enough for a child to understand.  Avoiding a subject because it is difficult will lead us to missing out on the rich wonder of the Bible, and our listeners will never hear us mention the central subjects like the Triune God, the Incarnation, etc.

3. It is obscure.  Uh, no.  Biblical reference to the future is not limited to a couple of the more apocalyptic prophets.  Every book in the New Testament except one includes reference to the return of Christ, let alone all the other aspects of future teaching.  Obscure it certainly is not, if we read the Bible, that is.  I suppose the challenge is that many don’t and so judge Christianity by their cultural worldview instead.

4. It is irrelevant.  Again, no.  We’ll look at applicational value of future thinking next time.

5. It is embarrassingly sensational.  Sadly, it can be and often is.  There is too much hype and puff coming from some.  The solution to that is to offer our listeners the good example of being well grounded biblically, rather than leaving them to become newspaper and paperback theologians.

None of these reasons are enough to kick the future out of our present preaching.  Next time, we’ll start stacking up the positive reasons to bring back future and eternal preaching.

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7 thoughts on “Eternal Preaching – Part 1

      • Someone who it seems the thrust of their faith is to do with the end times. They go to conferences about how Jesus is coming back soon, they read the newspapers of today and match it to Daniel and Revelation. There is little conversation about the grace of Christ and how they are to engage with society in the now.

        So I call them “End timers”

  1. If one is preaching the whole counsel of Scripture then the subject of eschatology will naturally come up. However, if a preacher is of the topical variety, I find that he either never addresses eschatology, or he obsesses over it. This is just my observation. I also find it interesting that many preach on last things around the Halloween season. Is this another way for preachers to be more seeker sensitive? Since society if filled with “scary” things let’s preach about what some see as “scary” things.

    • I tend to agree, Michael. However, a preacher working through whole books a chunk at a time can still choose to downplay and skirt around an issue in the text if that is their inclination. Equally, certain books tend to be avoided by some (and, as you say, perhaps overemphasised by others).

  2. For the first 15 to 20 years of my life I was taught at nearly every Sunday evening “Gospel Meeting” that Jesus could come tonight. He never did. Even yet some still want me to believe this and preach this. Others, few, pointed to 2 Thessalonians and elsewhere and suggested that there may be some pointers to the time of his return.,

    Others wanted me to consign others to hell. They still do. I am grateful that I have to leave all judgment to God, knowing that He will do right.

    Then I discovered, one day when I was about 30, that John taught me I shall be like him, for I shall see him. I cannot remember “the day and the hour” but I remember the impact. Why, oh why, did it take me so long to spot it when I had attended hundreds of hours of teaching and read through the Bible many times?

    After that I lost interest in time lines, interpretations of Daniel, Matthew 24 / 25 (except the bit where I am asked “When I was hungry, you fed me.”), Revelations images and so on. (Even now I am struggling through Alva J McClain “Greatness of the Kingdom”.)

    I shall see him, I shall be like him.

    What a hope.

    “and every man that hath this hope within him purifies himself, even as he is pure.”

    What a challenge, what a way of life.

  3. Just found this site, and am glad I did! I was also glad to read a post urging preachers to point towards Eternity. Christ told the disciples not to rejoice in the authority he gave them (to do great damage to to Satan and the power of the enemy) but rather to rejoice that their names are written in heaven!
    I tend to believe that eschatology shapes our hope and hope governs our joy. I like the way Vos puts it when he says, “the ultimate is in a very important sense the normative, that to which… [everything] … will have to conform itself…”
    Preaching eschatology should be nothing more than preaching the finished work of Christ! How could we NOT do that? It is truly sad that many react to “eschatology” as only ‘endtimer’, ‘pessimistic’, ‘world destruction’ kind of stuff (as your point #3 clarifies).

    Thanks again,

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