"We have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:19)
Bible prophecy is not much in vogue among many preachers today. Prophecy, both fulfilled and unfulfilled, is the raw material of eschatology, the doctrine of last things. One kind of eschatology is apocalyptic, which has a heavy overlay of the imminence of the Lord's return and of impending judgment. Whatever may be our theological system, this is the end of the doctrinal encyclopedia that generally gets scant utterance in the typical evangelical pulpit. There are exceptions, of course, where prophecy has become the "hobby" of some preachers with a resulting pulpit that is altogether out of balance.
It is being said of most graduates of my own Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, an institution which confesses its belief in "the imminent and premillennial" return of Jesus Christ: "our preacher seldom touches eschatology." The first six chapters of Daniel about does it. The first three and the last three chapters of Revelation are it. The late Paul Feinberg and I often taught "Preaching Bible Prophecy," and the fifteen or so students were assigned sermon texts out of the heart of Biblical apocalyptic. The sermon proposition in almost every case was the wholly true but vacuously general sentence: "God is sovereign." Thank God for this glorious truth but are there no more definite or detailed ideas about the wrap-up of space-time history set forth in this passage as over against other passages? What are we afraid of? Why not preach Bible prophecy?
Hazards To Be Overcome
Some among us have developed a severe allergy to preaching Bible prophecy because they were over-exposed to a suffocating overage at some earlier stage in their development. Some preachers have been more interested in the number of hairs on the beard of the he-goat in Daniel 8 than in the seven sins of believers. But the pendulum effect is in fact an immature reaction. Imbalance is no excuse for imbalance.
There have been the "crazies" and the "looneys" among us (and this is true down through history; see my The Company of Hope: A History of Bible Prophecy in the Church, 2004) who have majored in date-setting and identification of the anti-Christ. Much attention is paid to the Jupiter Effect, the tunnels in the great pyramids, the "gospel in the stars," the Bible Codes and all manner of extra-Biblical data which come very close to becoming "adding" to the Word of God (Deut. 4:2, Rev. 22:18). Anything we know about the shape of things to come must be what careful Biblical exegesis yields and what legitimate inquiry and reflection at the next level may assert by way of implication.
Putting it bluntly, really preaching Bible prophecy necessitates more work and study than many are willing to give it. Mastery of Daniel and Zechariah, the Olivet Discourse, 2 Thessalonians and the Revelation and their intertextual relationships is formidible. But is it worth it? We are helped here by awareness of our system — which is also true of every other major theological entry we bring into discourse.