Quotable Quotes :: Spurgeon and prophecy

I am not a fan of believers and churches who are passionately devoted to the interpretation of biblical prophecy to the exclusion of much of the rest of their faith. While I would not want to ever exclude the study of portions of scripture, I do think we can become overly fascinated with portions that simply cannot be conclusively understood until they occur. That being said, I was reading through a book I have while laying in bed tonight and I came across a series of quotes from Charles Spurgeon on prophecy. They were so good, I had to jump out of bed and share them.

1. I think some ministers would do far more for the profit of God’s people if they would preach more about the first advent and less about the second.

2. Our business is to save souls. You will hear me expounding Revelation one day, that is, when there is not another of the elect to save. When all the chosen are saved, we will preach on the deep mysteries of Daniel and Ezekiel, but so long as souls are unsaved, we mean to keep to the plain gospel – Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

3. In many cases sheer fanaticism has been the result of exclusively dwelling on prophecy, and probably more men have gone mad on that subject than on any other religious questions.

4. I deeply regret when I see persons so taken up with prophecy that they forget evangelism. Trumpets and vials must not displace the gospel and its invitations.

…and the money quotes…

5. A man says to me, “Can you explain the seven trumpets of Revelation?” No, but I can blow one in your ear, and warn you to escape the wrath to come.  Another says, “Can you tell me when the end of the world will come?” No, but I can tell you how to be so prepared for it that you need not be afraid if it were to come tonight. I can urge you to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, so that you can await it with holy joy.

6. Nothing shall induce me to attempt to interpret the prophecies. By God’s grace I will be content to expound the gospel. I believe it to be one of the most fatal devices of Satan to turn aside useful gospel ministers from their proper work into idle speculations on the number of the beast and the meaning of the little horn. The prophecies will interpret themselves by their fulfillment, but no expositor has yet arisen who has been able to do it.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

9 thoughts on “Quotable Quotes :: Spurgeon and prophecy

  1. To me, there is no one like Spurgeon. James Montgomery Boice, whom I admired greatly and who was greatly used by God, once said that Spurgeon got more out of a text than anyone he had encountered.
    Thank you for the quotes. And thank you for following in the footsteps of Charles Spurgeon and others who’ve faithfully and passionately preached the Gospel. We’re so blessed by your Biblical expositions and your pastoral leadership.

  2. No doubt, there are those who get carried away with prophecy. However, it is very interesting to study. I think “speculation” is what makes it dangerous. It (prophecy) wouldn’t be in the word if it weren’t important or wasn’t intended for our use. The Jews of Jesus’ time “speculated” that Jesus would come as an earthly ruler and were so wrong that it has kept generations from knowing the Truth. In that sense, satan has used it as a weapon. At times, I don’t think we study it enough because some are just intimidated to teach it…I would be. Because it isn’t taught often, when it is, I find myself captivated by it. You got to admit, it really draws you in to the study. Mystery works that way. I get the point(s) Spurgeon is making but God intended it to be there, so it can’t be ignored. Study it, check it against the rest of scripture, if it’s not clear, accept the fact that God intends for you to be an idiot for just a little while longer and go on about life. If I couldn’t accept that, I’d never sleep at night. You’ll know the meaning when He decides to show you. That is comforting to me.

  3. I sympathize with Spurgeon and Micah concerning the misuse of Bible prophecy over the years of Christian history (most notably modern Bible prophecy gurus). However, the misuse and bad interpretations of prophetic portions of scripture by some does not warrant the stinging remarks and conclusions by Spurgeon. Let me try to explain. First of all, the second coming of Christ is a major part of all the NT writers. The Evangelists, Paul, Peter, and especially John the Revelator all write about the second coming of Jesus Christ. Do you think Spurgeon would offer his critic of modern prophecy “experts” to our Biblical writers too? Maybe the solution is not to set aside the second advent, but to preach what the Biblical authors wrote about it (He’s coming back and you better be ready!)
    Second, reread Spurgeon’s point number 2. He says, “our business is to save souls.” His method to save souls apparently can completely disregard The Revelation of John. He says, “You will hear me expounding Revelation one day, that is, when there is not another of the elect to save.” Apparently, according to Spurgeon, Revelation contains no salvivic implications whatsoever. He will save his explanation of Revelation, Daniel, and Ezekiel for after everyone is saved. Moreover, how do you think John would have responded to Spurgeon, had Spurgenon said to him, “I’m not going to preach your Revelation because it is not ‘plain Gospel’” Do you think John would sympathize with Spurgeon? I don’t. Just because Revelation does not sound like ‘plain gospel’ in our ears does not mean that John and his original audience could not hear the plain Gospel in the Revelation. Again, maybe the solution is not to set aside the Revelation but to read it better (i.e. as apocalyptic literature not prophetic, as written to a first century Jewish audience not a 21st century American audience). Maybe it is unfair to force our 21st century ideas of what we think prophecy is back onto a 1st century piece of apocalyptic literature. Really, my main problem with Spurgeon’s claim in point number two is his presupposition that the Revelation of John is insufficient to bring someone to a point of belief and total surrender to Jesus Christ. His presupposition as stated in point two, in my opinion, is wrong.
    Third (and finally), I want to focus on what Micah calls the money quote (quote #5). What is interesting about this quote is that I believe Spurgeon has stumbled on the correct way to interpret Revelation when he is making his argument for why is is not going to try to interpret it. One comes to Spurgeon (who does not want to waste time trying to pinpoint what the trumpets are or when the end is going to happen) and asks for an explanation of the 7 trumpets and the end. Spurgeon response, as stated in the quote, comes across cynical and distrusting of any interpretation of the 7 trumpets or predictions of the end (and rightly so according to the year of scholars and interpreters who have been wrong in their predictions). To the one asking about the end Spurgeon would respond in this manner: “No, but I can tell you how to be so prepared for it that you need not be afraid if it were to come tonight.” This quote from Spurgeon is why I made the claim above that he stumbled across the correct interpretation of Revelation. I believe a correct reading of Revelation does not require one to make accurate prediction about the 7 trumpets and the exact day the end will come but rather that the end is unpredictable and inevitable. If you read Revelation closely you see the “end” more than once (cf. Rev. 11:15-19). The reader, instead of being able to pinpoint a specific date, has to conclude that this inevitable end is coming and it is unpredictable. And this is what I think the Revelation sounded like in the ears of its original readers. The point to the original readers was not to explain what the trumpets are but to understand they are being blown and they (as we) need to be ready because Jesus could return any moment. And, when you get to the end of Revelation you learn that what is so important about being ready for the 2nd advent is that when Christ returns there is no longer any time for repentance (cf. Rev. 20:11-15). The message of Revelation, clear to the original readers, yet stumbled upon by Spurgeon, is that Jesus Christ could return any moment and you better be ready. Revelation is sufficient to bring someone to saving faith. So again, my response to Spurgeon is not to set aside attempts to understand Revelation, but to read it better.
    In conclusion, Spurgeon’s comments on Biblical prophecy are wrong and misplaced. The solution is not to throw out Biblical prophecy but to be better reader/interpreters of prophetic/apocalyptic literature (Spurgeon has, as they say, thrown out the baby with the bathwater). I’ll leave you with a final thought that I think is central to NT Eschatology: any eschatology that pushes the “last day” (or 2nd Advent) out into the distant future is insufficient in light of the NT witness, especially the Revelation of John. The NT teaches that Jesus could return any moment (hopefully sooner than later according to Paul and John). If Christians are not living each day in the reality and hope of the unpredictable and inevitable 2nd coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, then we need to work on our eschatology.


  4. According to the index, Charles Spurgeon;s New Park Street and Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit compilations of his sermons contain 74 sermons from texts in the book of Revelation. I believe that Spurgeon treasured the book of Revelation as a source for teaching and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ that could be used of God to save souls and to exhort, edify, and comfort the saved; I believe he wished to others the teaching of symbols beyond what he used in his preaching for evangelizing the lost and building up the Body of Christ in the faith.
    I understand your concerns and appreciate your passionate arguments! At the same time, 74 sermons from Revelation are indicative of the value he placed in the book more than the quotes in the blog–quotes that rightly show Spurgeon’s passion for souls, but should not be taken as a rejection of the book.

  5. After looking through the lovely comments. I don’t know if everyone understood my point. As I stated in the original post, my problem is with those who study prophecy, almost to the exclusion of all other scriptural study. I think there is value (obviously) in the eschatological passages, but I think the value lies more prominently in the encouragement to endurance than it does in the interpretation of finite details. My point, and one which I continue to hold, is that Spurgeon was right in his estimation of too many within the realm of Christendom who seem to get so bogged down in prophetic minutia that they lose their Gospel effectiveness.

  6. Ah yes, that’s a good, balanced statement, Micah. The apocalyptic prophecies are of great value if they: 1) Steel us to endure, just as you said, and 2) Stir up a sense of urgency to get the Gospel to every nook and cranny of the planet as quick as God enables. These prophecies say, “The time is short! Get moving, Church!” The problem comes when people use these prophecies as a means of escape: “Jesus is coming soon! Maybe we don’t have to preach, witness and suffer after all! We can’t possibly take our eyes off the skies long enough to take up our crosses!”
    …Of course there IS the quote from Acts 1:9-11 to deal with–”After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven.’”

    Oops…so much for cloud watching instead of doing the Great Commission! Note to self: don’t be so heavenly-minded that you’re of no earthly good

  7. Steve,
    (Sorry I do not know what your last name is.) Thanks for the helpful research. I would agree that 74 sermons from John’s Revelation speaks louder about Spurgeon’s view on Revelation than his singular quote that: “You will hear me expounding Revelation one day, that is, when there is not another of the elect to save.”


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