Let me also say that I do not perceive anything in this summary tending remarkably to exalt prophecy. I would not make this remark if it were not that there is a certain troublesome sect (c) abroad nowadays to whom the one thing needful is a perpetual speculation upon prophecy. All the bells in their steeple ring out 'prophecy! prophecy! prophecy!' They plume themselves upon an expected secret rapture, and I do not know what vain imaginings besides. Where prophecy is preached in connection with their shibboleth, there the gospel is preached, and all ministers besides their own, however honoured by God, are railed at by them as part of Babylon, against whom men are to be warned. They, truly, are wise men, and can afford superciliously to look down upon their fellow Christians as the slaves of sect and system, being, I venture to say, far more sectarian than the worst of us, and more bigoted to their system than Romanists themselves. My dear friends, if you have any time to spare, and cannot find any practical work for Jesus, study the dark places of prophecy, but do not read modern prophetic works, for that is a sheer waste of time and nothing better. Hold off as you would from a serpent from the idea that the study or preaching of prophecy is the gospel, for the belief that it is so, is detrimental beyond conception. The gospel which is to be vehemently declared is this:—'God was revealed in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.' As long as London is reeking with sin, and millions are going down to hell, let us leave others to prophesy, let us go with anxious hearts to seek after souls, and see if we cannot by the Spirit’s power win sinners from going down into the pit.”
Spurgeon referred to those who believe the study of prophecy is the gospel, who plume themselves upon an expected secret rapture, whose steeple bells ring out only prophecy. and who rail at all who do not believe in the Rapture as part of Babylon. We do not know any dispensationalists who are guilty of those things, but the number of Dispensational Brethren churches had exploded across Britain in the 1850s and 1860s, and it would appear that this was Spurgeon’s focus.
Spurgeon spoke of the “dark places of prophecy.” While there are things hard to be understood in prophecy, as in other parts of Scripture, Peter called prophecy light rather than darkness. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Pe. 1:19). This is a proper view of prophecy.
The reason that Spurgeon had such a dim view of prophecy is that he held mostly to an allegorical interpretation, which turns those portions of the Word of God such as Revelation into a big puzzle. It was a serious blind spot to which most preachers in his day had succumbed. As a result, he preached very little on Revelation chapters 5-19 (about 30 sermons), and when he did he failed to deal properly with the context. For example, his sermon “What and Whence Are These?” from Revelation 7:13-14 totally ignored the fact that this describes 144,000 sealed Jews whose ministry during the “great tribulation” resulted in their martyrdom. Entirely disregarding that essential information, he launched right into an application to salvation and persecution of saints in general. It was an abuse of Scripture that was the sincere but wrong-headed product of his capitulation to Augustinian allegoricalism that he got from the Puritans.
And as for Spurgeon’s view that prophecy should be left alone for the sake of preaching the gospel, he was speaking in direct contraction to the example of the New Testament apostles and prophets. They preached prophecy and they preached the gospel and saw zero contradiction between the two. Most New Testament epistles mention the return of Christ and many of them speak of it as imminent.
Consider the constant references to Christ’s second coming in the Epistles:
Romans 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.
1 Corinthians 1:7-8 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.
Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.
Philippians 2:16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
Philippians 3:20-21 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
Philippians 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
Colossians 3:4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
1 Thessalonians 3:13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.
2 Thessalonians 2:8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.
2 Thessalonians 3:5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.
1 Timothy 6:14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Timothy 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.
2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
James 5:7-9 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
Hebrews 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Hebrews 10:37 For yet, a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
2 Peter 1:19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
2 Peter 3:10-13 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Jude 14-15 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
Thus the Bible has a major practical emphasis on prophecy, and on the imminent return of Christ. Sadly, it is an emphasis that Charles Spurgeon did not have. In fact, it is an emphasis that he rejected and reproved. The man was often a Biblicist, but not in this case.
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