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.