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Wars, earthquakes, famines and other happy subjects

While preparing to speak on the subject of prophecy, I was reminded what’s wrong with so much preaching on this subject.  Backfitting the newspaper headlines into the book of Ezekiel doesn’t work out so well.  The goal of biblical preaching is to bring out the meaning of a text.  By contrast, the goal of sensational preaching is to exploit the text for dramatic effect.

Nowhere is this more true than in sermons where you count up the famines, earthquakes and wars, persuade the audience that Earth has careened past hope of redemption, citing Matthew 24:6 about wars and rumors of wars and other upheavals.  The goal is not to educate so much as it is to get people to freak out and walk the aisle.

A closer examination of Matthew 24 tells us to take the opposite approach to analyzing wars, earthquakes and famines, because v6 says, “see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”  So contrary to sensational preaching, these things are listed, if you like, as not-signs of the end of the world.  So the NORKs may attack South Korea, Iran may get The Bomb, and the Rooskies may rebuild their empire, and all that could very well mean nothing in regard to biblical prophecy.  It may mean that those countries are ruled by sinners in need of the Gospel, and it sure would have been better if they’d been evangelized before they went nuclear.

Beware of end-time sensationalizing.  Jesus will get here when he gets here, and extra-biblical hype doesn’t really make us any more watchful.  “Occupy till I come” means we’re to keep busy with his affairs while we await his coming.  (Lk 19:13, 1 Thess 1:9-10)  Note how this keeps us from getting sucked in by every whackjob with a theory on the mark of the beast while also avoiding the preterists’ error of denying his return and ignoring the whole subject.

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