Back in the days of his mega-selling “Purpose-Driven Life,” Rick Warren wrote some pretty negative indictments of Bible prophecy.
“When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy,” he wrote, “Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission to the world. He said in essence, ‘The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I have given you. Focus on that!'”
He also wrote: “Speculating on the exact timing of Christ’s return is futile, because Jesus said, ‘No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Since Jesus said he didn’t know the day or hour, why should you try to figure it out? … If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy.”
And lastly, he suggested that studying prophecy could sidetrack believers from their central mission, spreading the gospel, by quoting Jesus as saying: “Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work I plan for him is not fit for the kingdom of God.”
While Warren was not alone among some of the “emergent church” figures in discouraging the study of prophecy, I was happy to discover that he seems to have changed his mind.
Just last year, he wrote online about the importance of prophecy, making the following important points:
- The Bible – from cover to cover – is “God’s Word – God’s very breath. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
- “One of the reasons I can know that the Bible is true and trustworthy is that it has thousands and thousands of prophecies that have come true and will come true in history. Every one of the Bible’s prophecies has either come true exactly as God predicted or will come true sometime in the future.”
- “The Bible contains more than 300 prophecies about Jesus alone – all written a thousand years before he was born. The Bible prophesied about when he’d be born, where he’d be born, and how he’d be born. He couldn’t have manipulated his birth to fulfill those prophecies.”
- “It also predicted how he would die. A thousand years before Jesus died, David described Jesus’ death on the cross in one of the psalms. He didn’t use the word ‘crucifixion’ because no one knew that word then. Long before the Romans were even thinking about crucifying people, David described it. Only God could have known that.”
Since I’ve been critical of Rick Warren in the past and have had much correspondence with him over the years, I emailed Warren to commend him on this apparent about-face, but, unfortunately, the email address I had for him apparently is no longer working. I wanted to tell him how delighted I was that he had changed his mind and seen the light.
In fact, there’s more I’d like to add.
There is no contradiction between the gospel and what Jesus promises to do when He returns. When we think about the gospel today, most people focus on one thing – personal salvation, redemption from sin thanks to Jesus’ sacrificial atoning death and His resurrection, as well as eternal life. But, if you can imagine anything bigger than that, the good news actually preached by Jesus in fulfillment of all those predictions made about Him by the Hebrew prophets also offer a complete restoration of the world when He returns – a return to paradise on Earth like the one that existed in the Garden of Eden before the fall of mankind to sin.
I write about this in my latest book, “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age” and point out this is a largely and tragically forgotten component of the gospel Jesus preached. He didn’t suggest to His followers that they shouldn’t study the prophets. He preached right out of their writings, quoting Isaiah more than any other book in the Hebrew scriptures. In fact, He urged His followers to note the signs of the times so they could prudently “watch” for His return.
And when He gave them instructions to carry out the Great Commission, the gospel they were to preach was called “the gospel of the Kingdom,” which meant they were to herald the good news of His Second Coming that would usher in this time in which He would rule and reign over the Earth in a period of peace, justice, abundance, knowledge, joy and life everlasting.
In fact, Jesus didn’t tell the disciples the ushering in of the Kingdom wasn’t their business. He was telling them, in Acts 1, just before He ascended after spending 40 days in resurrected form with His followers, to go tell the whole world about this great promise for the future.
Most Christians don’t give this future of a fully restored Earth much thought or attention. Few churches preach it, few Bible studies examine it, and few books are written about it. Yet, that is mankind’s destiny. Isn’t that exciting and hopeful? Wouldn’t everyone like to have a fresh start in a world resembling the beauty, tranquility and peace of the Garden of Eden?
You can only learn about this by studying the prophecies – those yet unfulfilled. Prophecy is about more than when Jesus come back. It’s also about what the world will be like when He does. It’s not the end. It’s the new beginning.
If you’d like to learn more, I recommend my book “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age.” It can help you find those scriptures of promise and give you more hope about the future when the only tears shed will be tears of joy.
Watch this interview of Joseph Farah discussing ‘The Restitution of All Things”: