Question: In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren tells us that “when the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism….He said in essence, “The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I’ve given you. Focus on that…! What we do know for sure is this: Jesus will not return until everyone God wants to hear the Good News has heard it…(Matthew:24:14). If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy” (pp 285-6). Warren seems to avoid the subject of prophecy and biblical teaching concerning the last days. Do you get this impression?
Answer: It seems so. He misapplies Scripture in a number of ways to support his thesis. First of all, Matthew:24:14 doesn’t say (as Rick implies) that the Rapture cannot occur until “everyone God wants to hear the Good News has heard it” [a Calvinist idea]. It says, as he quotes, “Then the end will come”—and surely the Rapture is not “the end” (1 Cor:15:24-28). So it isn’t true that we can hasten the Rapture by preaching the gospel more diligently, though we should. Of course, “Speculating on the exact timing of Christ’s return is futile….” But Rick uses that true statement to seemingly do away with all prophetic teaching—which certainly involves much more than the Rapture, and never involves “the exact timing” thereof.
He supports his downgrading of prophecy with Matthew:24:36, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” It was 33 verses earlier, however, that the disciples asked Christ what would be the signs of His future coming, the destruction of the temple, and the end of the world. Neither on this occasion nor at any other time did Christ “switch the conversation” from prophecy to evangelism. In fact, Christ responds to the disciples’ questions with a lengthy teaching on prophecy that involves this entire chapter and the next! Prophecy is the major emphasis of the Bible.
It seems that the Lord has greatly blessed and used Rick Warren, and no doubt he is sincere. But instead of allowing the Bible to teach him and his followers, he often imposes upon it his own ideas. We hope that he will reconsider and turn from such tactics. To that end, we sent him a copy of this Q&A as proposed before it was published, so that he could inform us of any misconceptions we may have and could make the proper corrections if any were needed. (We never received a response.)