Inside View Sep/Oct 2023
Recently, I have had trouble seeing clearly. My doctor attributes my struggles with vision to advancing cataracts, which must be removed. It makes me think of what is happening in the church today.
I commonly hear people say prophecy is no longer taught in their churches. Indeed, eschatology—the study of prophecy—has been steadily declining in evangelical circles. Many no longer feel comfortable teaching it or consider it irrelevant, creating spiritual cataracts within the body of Christ.
These cataracts especially hurt younger believers, who support Israel less than older believers. They don’t oppose Israel as much as they ignore it because they can’t see what God’s Word says about it.
Support for Israel and love for the Jewish people are proportional to our understanding of prophecy. We better appreciate Israel when we understand the unique role it plays in God’s redemptive plan for the ages.
Prophecy tells us God is not finished with Israel. Modern Israel’s existence confirms prophecy’s relevance today because God’s Word is being fulfilled as He foretold. He is carrying out His promise to gather the Jewish people from the four corners of the earth where He scattered them and plant them in the Promised Land, never to be uprooted again (Isa. 11:11–16; Amos 9:14–15).
The apostle Paul used prophecy to introduce Gentiles to Jesus. Prophecy validated Jesus’ First Coming and helped explain the gospel. It gave believers hope that He would rapture the church out of the world prior to His Second Coming.
Is it any wonder that, in his closing remarks in 1 Thessalonians, Paul told the church, “Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good” (5:20–21)? The command “Do not quench the Spirit” (v. 19) precedes these statements. Taken together, they teach that despising prophecies quenches the Holy Spirit’s fire.
Some say Paul was speaking of Thessalonian believers who had the gift of prophecy prevalent in the early church. Others believe he spoke in a broader context that included both prophetic words spoken by contemporary Thessalonians and the prophetic Old Testament Scriptures Paul often used in his teaching.
Either way, Paul taught the Thessalonians that prophecy is vital for believers and must not be despised. Disregarding prophecy, divine truth revealed by the Holy Spirit, produces spiritual cataracts.
Paul addressed biblical prophecy because some believers had undervalued it and began teaching their own views on important matters, such as the First and Second Advents, Christ’s return for His bride, and God’s coming judgment. Believers were accepting these persuasive orators, rather than prophetic teaching from the Lord. They couldn’t see the consequences of their decision.
So, Paul told the Thessalonians to test all things, comparing what someone teaches to the Word of God and holding fast to biblical truth. Doing so would remove their spiritual cataracts and allow them to see clearly.
As in Paul’s day, replacing God’s revelation with human preferences and excluding prophetic teaching quench the Holy Spirit. A prophecy-conference movement in the early 20th century led to the formation of Bible colleges and ministries like The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. It fueled a belief in Restorationism, the understanding that God would physically restore the Jewish people to the land He had promised them. It is time for the church to return to a high regard for all of God’s Word.
The solution to my eyesight issue is simple: Remove the cataracts. Similarly, the church must remove its spiritual cataracts—its disregard for prophecy—and embrace God’s prophetic truth. Those who value prophecy can see the truth clearly: Modern Israel is no mistake in history. It is a fulfillment of prophecy right before our eyes.