I have reconfigured the old blog in sequential order so that it is easier to navigate and reads more naturally. I will, as time permits, begin expanding and editing each post with more detail and some introductions that differ than the current ones. I will post on my Facebook page when a post has been edited.
Hopefully this makes it easier for people to find, read and study.
Filed under: Dispensationalism, End Times, Eschatology, Preterism, Reformed, Revelation | Leave a Comment
Eschatology Sunday School Class Audio mp3’s. This is for those that would like to listen to the initial class the whole blog/book was initially based upon.
Week 1 – Eschatology 1 – Millennial Positions (Amillennialism & Postmillennialism)
Week 2 – Eschatology 2 – Millennial Positions (Historical Premillennialism & Dispensationalism Intro)
Week 3 – Eschatology 3 – Dispensational Distinctions
Week 4 – Eschatology 4 – Dispensational Distinctions & Olivet Discourse Intro
Week 5 – Eschatology 5 – Olivet Discourse Intro – Difficult Terms
Week 6 – Eschatology 6 – Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:1-8)
Week 7 – Eschatology 7 – Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:9-14)
Week 8 – Eschatology 8 – Olivet Discourse (Abomination of Desolation – Daniel 9)
Week 9 – Eschatology 9 – Olivet Discourse (Abomination Part 2)
Week 10 – Eschatology 10 – Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:21 – 29)
Week 11 – Eschatology 11 – Olivet Discourse Conclusion & Anti-Christ)
Week 12 – Eschatology 12 – The Beast and His Mark
Week 13 – Eschatology 13 – The Mark (Cont) & Man of Lawlessness
Week 14 – Eschatology 14 – Unity of Eschatological Complex & Millennium
Week 15 – Eschatology 15 – Millennium, Rapture & Armageddon
Week 16 – Eschatology 16 – Revelation Intro (Author, Date, Purpose)
Week 17 – Eschatology 17 – Revelation (Timing Issues)
Week 18 – Eschatology 18 – Revelation Overview
Week 19 – Eschatology 19 – Revelation: A Preterist & Postmillennial Perspective
Filed under: Dispensationalism, End Times, Eschatology, Preterism, Reformed, Revelation, Uncategorized | 4 Comments
This is the planned introduction to the book version of the material found in this blog.
It has been quite a long time since I was first encouraged to take my twenty-four week Sunday School class discussing the various Eschatological views and put them into written form. The series of classes has been available to the public at www.sermonaudio.com for a while and had received quite a bit of positive feedback. At first I simply made the teaching notes available to those who were interested, but then several requests came in asking for the information in a systemized book form.
The delay has been a combination of laziness, busy work and family schedule; and the fact that I’m not really a writer. I love to teach and I take gathering and presenting the information quite seriously, but figuring out the best way to present the information in a written format seemed way “beyond my pay scale.”
Several people recommended I simply put the information into a blog and then work on editing from there. That is where it started and the book you now hold in your hand is the result of the long, though enjoyable, process of writing a blog on the subject of eschatology and seeing where it led.
I hope and pray that what you now have in your possession will be a challenge and a blessing. The information may not be easy to absorb and there may be new and puzzling information presented within these pages; but it is my hope that as we walk through these often difficult and disturbing ideas and images, that the reader will walk away blessed and refreshed with the knowledge that they serve One who not only knows their past and present but knows their future as well.
A REMEDIAL EDUCATION
This book is a remedial study on eschatology. By that I mean there is a sense that to truly grasp on to all the God has for us in this difficult subject it may require us to “unlearn” many false ideas and concepts and in turn replace them with Biblical ones. This means starting from the beginning and working our way through these foundational building blocks.
It is also remedial in that it is simplified. This material is taken from an average, Middle American Sunday School class. This information was not presented to theologians, Doctoral students, bastions of academia or even a room full of Pastors. This presentation was for lay people from all walks of life and levels of Biblical understanding. We take it slow and we explain everything. In the teaching of the class I assumed the audience new nothing on the subject, and I make the same assumption here.
For those looking for an advanced treatment on the subject I now refer the reader to the Bibliography located in the back of the book and I heartily recommend that you place this book on the shelf and look for something different. This is for the everyman. If you have heard about the Beast, the Antichrist and the mysterious numerical figure of 666 and it more than likely makes you feel uncomfortable than it does make you want to “dig in” and figure it out, than this book is for you.
My hope is the initial reader will be one who claims to be a “pan”millenialist; one who just believes that God will make sure that everything pans out in the end. But I also hope the reader is one who wants to know the word of God and the One whom that word reveals. Please note that we are told over and over that this difficult and disturbing subject is one in which the reader and the one who understands will be blessed.
But back to the question that initiated this Introduction. Why another book on eschatology? The bookstores are filled with them. Why is this one unique?
In one way this book is not unique in any way. The book is more of a “compilation” of sorts with very limited “original” information. Like those popular CD’s in which the best and most popular songs are brought together into one package this book is more of a compiling of the best and brightest on the subject.
But that is also what makes it unique. I have attempted to take the works of the best and the brightest and make them understandable for the average student. You do not need to possess any more of an education than the original recipients of John’s Apocalypse, the letters of Paul and the words of Jesus.
The word “Apocalypse” means to “unveil” or “reveal” and it seems that so many books on the subject have been filled with mystery and “secret codes” that only the esteemed authors of those books were privileged enough to have those secrets revealed to them. The hope of this book is to actually reveal; to make clear.
Most importantly this book has a two-fold purpose. The first is to remind the Church that this Jesus whom they serve is King of Kings and Lord of Lords today, right now, and forevermore. His kingdom is not wishful thinking, not one that has been postponed to some future fulfillment, but that His words ring true two millennia later when He said, “the Kingdom of God has come upon you!”
Secondly, and this is the primary thrust of the entire project, my goal is to remind the Church that she has a wonderful future. She is a bride being adorned for her husband. She has been called to do a job and it must be assumed that she we will complete it fully…on earth as it is in Heaven.
She has a future in which it is promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail against her! With these two primary goals set, let us begin our careful consideration of the future…and the past!
But one last point of interest; the reader may wonder where the name of the book came from. There is a dual purpose for this book as was just explained, but there is also a dual purpose for the title as well.
First, there is a bit of autobiography present throughout the pages of this book. I Was a Teenage Dispensationalist. I was consumed with all things prophetic and studied the subject with a fervor like no other. I had charts, books, videos and sermons collected in a library.
As I grew my studies took me in a direction I never expected and the answers I thought I had sewn up soon burst at the seams. The dots no longer connected. The pat answers got a little bumpy. I was eventually introduced to long standing, historic views that I never even knew existed.
I often tell those in the class I teach that I was never upset that the Church I was raised in taught one primary view of acceptable eschatology. That’s not the problem. The problem arose when I was confronted with competing views and had no answer to their attacks. The problem was simply I was unaware of the opposing views because I was raised in a situation where not only was I taught one particular view, but that particular view was exclusively taught.
It was not that I was told there are several other views and here are the reasons why we believe they are not Biblically correct. I simply was never made aware of them. So, by default, I was a teenage Dispensationalist.
Secondly, the subtitle relating to an “Evangelically Incorrect” guide stems from popular phrase of being “Politically Incorrect.” It is an idea that goes against the norm, the presupposed, the popular or acceptable view within a worldview.
The fact that modern evangelicalism is so engrained and consumed with the Left Behind view of eschatology that to promote a differing view would be like the Politically Incorrect proponent, an act of Evangelically Incorrectness. But that is exactly what the book attempts to be; a guide to the views that many within evangelical circles are simply unaware of or have never given the effort to study and understand.
Yes, without a doubt many readers will find these views new, odd, rare or even troubling. But the reader must note from the outset that the different views portrayed within the pages have a rich a storied history with the annals of Church History and have been held by some of the greatest minds the Church has ever birthed. In fact, it is the current, most popular, view that has the shortest shelf life despite its immense popularity.
But with that being said it is simply a guide, a flicker of light into the darkened corners of theological studies that few in modern evangelicalism have dared to traverse. But I believe the effort is worth the uncomfortable feeling that accompanies the potential paradigm shift in thinking this guide may require.
Filed under: Dispensationalism, End Times, Eschatology, Preterism, Reformed, Revelation, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
The Fellowship Hall of the Baptist Church I was raised in grew dark as the lights dimmed. I was seated cross-legged near the front of the hall as a bright light flickered from behind and the clicking noise of a movie projector started with a cough and began a steady chirping.
I was seated next to my best friend, Steve. We were both just about to start 7th grade, which meant at our Church we were now official members of the Youth Group. This meant the rites of passage afforded to those in the Youth Group were now being passed down to us. Summer camp, over-nighters, broom hockey, Wednesday and Sunday Night Youth Bible Study and, as in the case of the night in question, the occasional Friday Night Youth Movie.
Ninety minutes later the knot that had grown in my stomach nearly burst.
What was that?
Dear Jesus, what was that?
The movie for the evening was “A Thief In the Night.” For those familiar with the movie my initial reaction to the film quite possibly rings familiar to the reader. To those who never saw the film, it tells the story of a young girl who was “left behind” after the rapture of the Church as the prophesied “Great Tribulation” was just about to begin.
The most lasting memory for me and many that have seen the film have shared with me is the image of an electric razor still running, buzzing around the bottom of a bathroom sink. The razor was left behind by the heroine’s recently “born again” husband who was taken in the rapture as she was left behind. Other images of melting butter on the sidewalk left by a young Sunday School child and abandoned televisions left on, once being watched by the devout who were whisked away to meet Jesus in the air.
Several years ago a Pastor of the church I was attending made the comment (heard all so often) that any discussion, debate and interaction on the topic of eschatology is relatively “fruitless” and should be relegated to a back burner discussion in favor of more important issues like that of salvation, grace and works of mercy. I have experienced several such conversations from those in leadership at many different kinds of churches and para-church organizations.
Interestingly enough, though, nearly everyone I have ever spoken with on the subject of eschatology actually has held fast to a particular view, but did not want to discuss the subject at any length. Possibly in fear of not wanting to be proven wrong or at least reticent to be challenged to make such a radical paradigm shift in thinking that the effort to do so outweighs any perceived benefit.
Most often when a closely held view is challenged and no retort is within grasp, human nature will cause the challenged to embrace the popular panmillennial position of believing it will all pan out in the end and that any further discussion would prove fruitless. This is, without trying to sound condescending or rude, simply untenable. We are called by the Lord Himself to work out or salvation (theology) with fear and trembling [Phil 2:12] and required to study to show ourselves approved [2 Tim 2:15]
The response then goes to the difficulty and great confusion caused by the subject. “Look at all the great thinkers in history that couldn’t come to a agreement on the subject, how am I supposed to?” one may ask.
That is a valid question and needs to be addressed. But before doing so, I would challenge the reader to consider all of the other differing opinions on a plethora of doctrinal and theological questions; are they to be avoided as well? Does a lack of consensus warrant our hostility toward the subject? Does God offer a “pass” on the tough ones?
I agree to a point that eschatology (from the position of dates, times and seasons) can prove fruitless and frustrating, but eschatology and the views one holds has a greater overall impact on the rest of ones theology and doctrines than most adherents even know. As a result it would be a danger to sweep the topic aside as mere conjecture of overwrought tautology.
I understand that Pastor’s concerns, and the concerns of the multitude who agree with him. It doesn’t take more than a cursory glance through a Christian Bookstore and more than an hour of Christian radio and television to note there is a potentially unhealthy obsession with certain issues that possibly pertain to the subject.
Wild fancies of imagination run rampant with prognostications regarding the identity of the Beast, Antichrist and Man of Sin while others play mathematical gymnastics with numbers (ie. 666, 12, 7) and going beyond the text of Scripture to postulate on dates and the timeline of festivals. This ”Obsession of the Modern Church” to coin a phrase of Gary DeMar has done much to make more level headed, theologically driven Christians avoid the subject like a scourge and embrace more pleasant subjects like infra- and supra-lapsarianism.
So it is with this very first chapter that my attention will be drawn to the discussion of “Why is Eschatology Important, Anyway?”
If it is, as I hope to show, that ones eschatological views can have a significant impact on ones theology, doctrine, worldview and lifestyle, then it would behoove the reader to seriously consider the subject with grace, patience, humility and effort.
IT’S IN THERE
First, without trying to appear flippant, let’s deal with the fact that eschatology is a part of Scripture and as a part of Scripture it deserves our attention and effort to grasp. We are reminded by Paul that “all Scripture is God breathed” (2 Tim 3:16) not just the topics of more seaming relevance (salvation, grace, law et al). Paul’s admonition of the totality of Scripture’s importance does not elevate one subject over another, but rather Paul is making the case that “all Scripture” and the subjects contained therein have value to the man of God and is “good for training” and ensuring competency and for equipping the Saints (apologetics).
So, with a basic belief in the totality of the necessity of Scripture in mind, one must then seek to discover just how much of the Bible actually deals with things prophetically. Of the 32,120 verses of Scripture found in the Bible, 8,352 of them are prophetic in nature. That’s about 27% of the Bible devoted to a subject many just wish to ignore. It is true that many of those passages included in the number above have been fulfilled; they were at one time prophetic and were not ignored by God’s people in the days preceding their fulfillment.
At the same time many (more or less depending on your specific view) remain unfulfilled and are worthy of our time and devotion to understand them. Prophecy is not only important to God as His word is filled with prophetic pronouncements, but the prophetic pronouncements themselves reveal something about the nature of God.
God not only knows the future, but by making these pronouncements also controls the future. He is putting His word, His name, on the line. If not, He would be unable to proclaim with certainty the events that have unfolded and are yet to be witnessed. This important reflection on the nature of God and His sovereignty and simply should not be overlooked.
Here is just one quick lesson from history to show how knowing and studying the prophetic text is quite fruitful. The wise men of the Nativity story were only able to divine the importance of the Star of Bethlehem because they were serious students of the Old Testament prophetic pronouncements. If they were not diligent or were remiss in careful study of the Biblical texts they would have missed the sign and would have never traveled to find the King.
This holds true for us today, not so much as the need to postulate or prognosticate regarding prophetic possibilities, but, like those wise men of ancient days, we are rewarded for our studies by also coming in contact with the King!
Before discussion of the actual impact one’s eschatology may have on the other aspects of their doctrinal beliefs, it would be important to also note that the word of God declares that the study of prophecy and eschatology also comes with a blessing.
Rev. 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it
Scripture itself declares that there is something to be gained in terms of a blessing for those who take the time to hear, read and attempt to understand what many have called fruitless and too troubling to dive into. In fact, the Thessalonians were instructed by Paul to encourage one another by “discussing” eschatology [1 Thess 4:18]. The discussed events, whether they be fully understood or popularly misunderstood, are said to bring comfort and encouragement and we are to share them with one another as a blessing.
We must not allow the modern Church’s obsession with all things “apocalyptic” to force others to avoid a more intelligent and doctrinal discussion on the matter. Remember, we have already noted that Scripture is replete with passages dedicated to the subject and a solid, full-orbed Biblical student must try to at least scratch the surface of this seemingly perplexing subject.
Filed under: Dispensationalism, Eschatology, Preterism, Reformed, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Previously we discussed the initial purposes for even discussing eschatology as a subject and why many avoid it all together. The modern Church’s obsession with all things “apocalyptic” has made a more intelligent and doctrinal discussion on the matter more difficult. But, as we saw, Scripture is replete with passages dedicated to the subject and a solid, full-orbed Biblical student must try to scratch the surface of this seemingly perplexing subject.
Perhaps the difficulty lies in finding out just how eschatology fits into ones over arching theological and doctrinal standard and how, or if, eschatology impacts ones views. It is toward this direction we will now turn.
It is my belief that eschatology, at least the basic assumptions necessary to come to a particular eschatological view will have a great impact on ones doctrinal, theological, apologetical, political, sociological and economic views. It can also impact how one concludes when certain books of the Bible were actually written and the underlying purposes of those books in question.
Salvation, evangelism and church government can also be impacted by ones eschatological view and even seemingly unrelated doctrinal positions like credo- or paedo-baptism and communion can involve ones view on eschatology. As we will see later, the interpretive method used to come to a particular eschatological position is directly related to how one views the rest of the doctrinal and theological issues found within the Scriptures.
So, maybe it’s worth a cursory discussion after all?
It is important to note here that I will be making an argument based on ones worldview being consistently lived out. This is not always the case (seldom the case?), but if one consistently lives out their beliefs, what direction or actions might one take depending on their eschatology? In other words, what kind of slippery slope will one encounter once a particular view is followed to its logical conclusions?
So, for the sake of this discussion I am making an argument presupposing a consistent worldview lifestyle. The purpose for the discussion that follows here is not to necessarily make a case for one view over the other (though the personal convictions of the writer will undoubtedly shine through), but rather show that “Eschatology Does Matter.”
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
If one has a more eschatologically optimistic view of the future (one where there is possibly no future Great Tribulation), that person may have a greater chance to possess an optimistic view of sociological, economical and political futures. If your eschatological view is one in which the world is not “going to hell in a hand basket” and the end is not “just around the corner” you may find yourself (if you are consistent) doing things with long term positive implications.
Can society be changed through an effective representation and impact of the Gospel (word and deed) or is the world on an unstoppable downward spiral to Armageddon with no relief in sight? Is it possible that ones eschatological view would allow a sense of social injustice to prevail more so than an opposing eschatological views would?
But would that same view, improperly understood, lead to false Pollyanic notion of liberal theology and man-made Utopia that appears to be foreign to the word of God? Or is it fair to create a straw man argument regarding a Utopian Theology if this is actually a misrepresentation of a more optimistic view?
Or, if one holds to the popularized Pre-Tribulation Rapture of Left Behind fame with a Rapture that is truly on the very near horizon, one might ponder why would one “waste their time” trying to improve the conditions of South Central LA, plant new trees in a run down park or picket an abortion clinic? What lasting value would those endeavors create if it’s all going to end so very soon?
Many do hold to such an eschatological view (in fact it is the leading eschatological view in the United States), but are they being consistent if they partake in positive social reform and action? If it is God’s ordained plan that the world grow progressively worse why would one want to thwart that downward spiral by doing things to actually improve the sociological condition in a particular society?
Don’t get me wrong, I am glad many are inconsistent in their worldview, but it remains true that their eschatology does impact how they view society. If another story leads the evening news of the increase of the Muslim radical impact worldwide and that fits into ones eschatological scheme (wrong or right), would it not make sense for the viewer to “give up” the fight against the onslaught at is appears to be fruitless since it’s the way “it’s supposed to happen?”
If one truly believes the world’s future is one of decline and apostasy, would it not make sense to avoid the fight that has no chance of prevailing? Here one might find the words of J Vernon McGee ringing true and comforting as he was want to say “you don’t polish brass on a sinking ship…”
Can ones eschatology actually lead one to a sort of sociological lethargy? Can the opposing view’s eschatological standard actually respond differently, not based on Scriptural data, but based solely on the worldview that accompanies the individual’s eschatological view?
So, here we find one view that actually finds positive expression in a soon coming societal disaster or inevitable decline of social standards. One popular teacher put it this way…”As the day grows darker my heart grows brighter.” There is to be seen a positive spin on the current sociological situation. If things are supposed to be getting progressively worse leading up to the Second Coming then the current world crises’ of the moment will be viewed through the lens of that view.
An opposing view, though, may see a bright future based on their theological leanings. History, they argue, has had several ebbs and flows of victory and defeat for what appears to be good. There have been thousands of nations that have risen and fallen and no one should mistake the current political climate as prophetic fulfillment.
The optimistic leaning worldview may point to the time just preceding the Protestant Reformation as a dark and disturbing time for the Church. She was weak, weary and populated by those who denied the basic tenets of the Christian faith. These were dark times. But rather than not polishing brass on a sinking ship, the great men of the Reformation stood up for the truth under great persecution and the very real possibility of death.
But truth prevailed. If one held to a non-optimistic view of the future and the Church during the years before Martin Luther and John Calvin, what impact would their eschatology have on their view of the events surrounding them?
For our current discussion it is not a matter of who may be right or wrong, but rather to note that ones eschatology impacts their sociological outlook.
Do you have a worldview of “Cultural Victory” or “Cultural Surrender?” Your eschatology may impact your answer.
As we continue a discussion on the sociological impact of eschatology and the worldview that permeates from the differing positions one may want to consider how it also impacts your view of the environment.
If the Rapture is around the corner, would it not be consistent to have no concern about the environment? The Earth was only meant to last 6,000 years it is said and the end is near. No need to conserve. No need to be concerned.
That is most likely an unfair coloring of a particular position, but it is one complaint leveled against that particular view. Conservative Evangelicalism has not been noted for its strong environmental views and many have been working painstakingly to reverse this trend and perception.
But what if one held to an eschatological view that the world is not going to end for a very, very long time; would and should that eschatological view dictate a notion that the church should have a responsible environmental position?
Again, the debate here is not over the validity of either position, but rather to make the obvious note that ones eschatological view will impact the worldview one has as it relates to the environment.
Though closely tied to the sociological impact noted in the above example ones economic outlook can also be impacted by ones eschatology. This would also involve how one may spend their money, save their money, invest their money and the resultant long and short term implications.
Someone may look at a snapshot of a few days, weeks or even years (a vapor against the backdrop of history) of their or the world’s economic outlook and view it through the lens of how that current situation may possibly be related to Bible Prophecy. Bad economic times may portend to be a lynch pin that sets off a soon coming time of tribulation, one world government and a cashless society. This scenario, complete with a world ruler Antichrist, has played itself out in countless novels, paperbacks, sermons and conferences created by Bible prophecy gurus.
The soon coming “Mark of the Beast” has been related to a cashless society and the Social Security system for over half a century. One Prophecy Expert argued that the word VISA actually finds fulfillment of the number 666. Another proclaimed that a microchip will be placed inconspicuously under the skin of ones hand or forehead – seemingly fulfilling a chilling section of Revelation 13.
Rumors and urban legends have arisen and spread throughout the evangelical community over the years regarding potential “marks” and the supposed cashless society. I recall as a young person in a Youth Group being told by the Youth Pastor that several Social Security checks were sent out with the notation that the checks were not to be cashed unless the recipient had a mark on their hand or forehead.
Another story involved a monster, super computer in Brussels, Belgium (or any other mysterious Eastern European country) that had information on the entire human race and that its operating system had a connection with the numbers 6, 6, 6. We were also told that this super-computer was called, The Beast. The story even appeared in Christian Life magazine in the early 1970’s. The creator of this urban legend later confessed the story was created as a scenario for a novel the author was writing.
The issue for our discussion is why would the scenario described warrant such prolific discussion and forwarding of the story? Only if ones eschatological view was predisposed to such a possibility would one continue to propagate the myth.
The above examples and many others continue simply because they are plausible within a particular view. But there are more serious economic ramifications than just egg on the face of a few who forward unproven emails.
Along with the Tribulational scenarios, how one views economics and how one spends their money can be directly tied to ones eschatology. An example would include sending money to an organization that helps Jews relocate to the Holy land to help speed up the eschatological timeline that presupposes a return to the holy Land of the Jewish Israelites. Though nothing may be wrong with using your money in that way, it is most definitely derived from a particular eschatological view.
One interesting note to consider, though, regarding this practice is that the same group who is working tirelessly to return the Jews to their homeland also believe that a great holocaust of sorts is soon to hit the land of Israel as all the nations of the world are supposed to join in attacking the small country in the Middle East. So, the same individuals and organizations that claim to be returning the Jews to their homeland out of a deep love and concern for the Jewish people also believe that 1/3 to ½ of those living in the Land of Canaan will be killed during this soon coming attack.
On the other hand, if the current economic situation is one of natural ebbs and flows that the market dictates and is not tied to a soon coming Tribulational scenario, then even a complete economic meltdown disaster does not need to play into any eschatological framework. One can also take heart that it is not the inevitable outcome for all of mankind’s soon coming obliteration. If one particular eschatological view was in vogue (as it is now) during the depression, one must wonder what kind of response the Church would have had to that economic crisis?
The issue here, again, is that ones eschatological view will have a stunning impact on how one views the current economic and sociological climate. This has been true throughout history as the different views themselves have seen their popularity surge and wane with the current political, sociological and economic climates change.
In the early 1900’s the most popular eschatological views was that of the more optimistic Postmillennial view. But two world wars and a depression later, the view fell into disrepute. The issue wasn’t the Biblical validity of the position in question, but rather how the current climate impacted how one viewed the data.
More than any other sociological (non-theological) topic discussed, ones politics may be influenced by ones eschatology in a more severe and obvious way than any other. This shows itself in many different ways, both directly related to an eschatological view and also by the presuppositions and doctrinal standards of those particular views.
The most blatant example of this is currently finding a foothold in American Evangelicalism. That is the idea that current President of the United States is, in fact, the Antichrist of Revelation (ironically the term Antichrist is conspicuous by its absence in the aforementioned book). An internet search using the terms Antichrist and Obama will reveal over one million results. But the lack of evidence for these bold proclamations has not thwarted Prophecy Experts and students from continuing undaunted. This popular accusation can only make sense, though, within one particular eschatological view.
The adherents are determining their political views of an individual as it directly pertains to their understanding of certain Biblical ideas related to eschatology. How you vote and who you vote for is also often directly tied to ones eschatology in this situation. President Obama is not the first to be tagged with the Antichrist or Beast label. He has merely joined the likes of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Adolph Hitler, Prince Charles and a host of others too numerous to mention.
Again, the issue isn’t whether they are right or wrong, but is stated here to make the obvious case that eschatology does have an impact on one politics and political figures.
This also shows itself in even more important political decision making as it relates to how the nations of the world should act toward the nation of Israel. One particular view highly values national Israel as that nation relates to possible Biblical prophecies being fulfilled in the Middle East. We are told that the one who blesses Israel will be blessed and he who curses Israel will be cursed.
It is, we are told, fundamental to believe that Israel is a uniquely different nation and we must, without any equivocation, support and defend Israel in everything she does. This includes even the mass genocide of Christians that Israel has taken part in.
One popular teacher went so far as to proclaim that one’s one eternal destination is determined by how you come down on the question of Israel. He proclaimed that how one views Israel is a Life or death (eternal death) question. This popular view has impacted even the United States own foreign relations and national policy.
What about voting and how one votes?
Like how one views their society and their economic future, ones eschatology can have a great impact on ones voting record. Imagine the quandary. There you are at the voting booth firmly believing that one particular candidate is quite possibly the Antichrist. Do you vote for him and, in doing so, hasten the Day of the Lord? Or do you vote against him and, by doing so, attempt to thwart the sovereign purpose of the Lord of Host and slow His coming?
It goes even further as one may believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. If so, you won’t be around when the fan gets hit, so why not hurry the process along by voting for the man you are truly convinced is this mysterious Antichrist.
What a sticky wicket!
Seriously, though, is it too far fetched to believe someone may cast their vote based on a candidate’s view of this nation’s relationship with Israel? What about voting against a candidate because he may support a “smart card” identification system and that ties in directly to a possible “end times” scenario. I recall many who opposed Hillary Clinton’s Health reform tours of the mid-1990’s not because the idea of nationalized health care is foolish and dangerous, but because they feared the “National Health Card” would be used as an end times tracking device like a “mark” of sorts for the soon coming one world government.
On the other hand, an opposing view may simply see the political landscape in much the same way as the economic situation as it ebbs and flows of in the hand God’s preordained human history. Nations rise and nations fall, but they do not necessarily play into any eschatological end time’s scenario. Israel is just like any other pagan nation and should not receive any special treatment because of their supposed influence on the soon coming Great Tribulation. One may argue that voting should be done based on political, moral, ethical and yes, Biblical standards.
And if the more optimistic view is wrong, could it be said they have played right into the Devil’s hand by not fighting against the evil plans of a particular candidate?
One last political danger is the continuing problem of “giving back” the gains made by our forefathers and predecessors. Cultural Surrender has led to political surrender. The Church has given ground on political issues accepting the lie that politics is a neutral endeavor and one group cannot legislate it’s morality on to the conscience of another.
The Church has huddled back into its safety corner, circled the wagons and surrendered it’s rights. Later the case will be made this happened as a result of the influence of one particular eschatological view. The decision to react one way or another is directly related to ones view of the future, which finds it roots in ones view of eschatology.
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What About All the “ologies?”
As we continue our discussion as to how eschatology impacts other facets of our worldview and belief system, we now turn to a discussion of the doctrinal, theological and ecclesiological issues. Where previously we discussed a more sociological impact, here we look at the more basic underpinnings of the different belief systems and how eschatology fits into and impacts those systems.
FRUIT BOWL THEOLOGY
Picture a large fruit ball. In that fruit bowl would be placed different fruits (doctrines) that make up ones theological system: hermeneutics, salvation, church discipline and government, Christology, covenants, creation, evangelism, providence, law, gospel, etc. But the bowl that holds these ideologies together must be the over-arching theme and basic, fundamental theological foundation. This is the primary presupposition that holds the system together.
For some in the Christian community I would argue the bowl that holds these items is the Sovereignty of God. God’s ultimate sovereignty over all things is the thread that runs throughout the entire Bible. It is also the primary focus of the teaching from pulpit and the words from the paper…even the lyrics of its worship.
Here eschatology is a doctrine that flows out of the sovereignty of God. It is one of many doctrines and theologies.
Some in the modern church have made that bowl itself – the thing with which the system is held together – eschatology. When that is the case just what does the system look like and how does eschatology act as the over-arching theme and basic presupposition of the system. And more importantly to our discuss, does it matter?
Hermeneutics is defined by the Bible Answerman, Hank Hannagraaf, as the art and science of Biblical interpretation. This simple definition describes one of the basic and most important standards. How does one know what the Bible is actually saying and how does ones eschatology impact how one reads the Bible?
How do we know what we are reading really means to say? Despite the best intentions NO ONE opens the Scripture with a blank sheet for a mind. Everyone has preconceived notions about the meaning of words, phrases, emphasis, etc. Knowledge of the context, the author, the audience and circumstances at the time are vitally important. With that in mind one must understand that differences in opinion on interpretive methods of Scripture are directly impacted by the presuppositions of the adherents.
One particular eschatological view may demand a more rigid, wooden, literal approach to Biblical interpretation. When Biblical authors speak of Israel it can only be defined as the nation residing in the Middle East and the people that can claim to be direct descendants of the Biblical figure Abraham.
Another eschatological view may allow for more figurative and image related interpretive methods. They may argue that context, language or literature styling should play a role in determining what something may mean, even if it appears to be different than how the same word or phrase is used elsewhere if the author of canon changes the meaning through its usage.
But how does eschatology impact the interpretive method? Sometimes obviously. Sometimes more subtly. A traditional Dispensationalist will see a distinct divide between the Old and New Testaments. And as we will see later in our study, this distinction impacts nearly every other major doctrinal category. In this view Israel can only mean Israel and those promises given to the Old Testament nation can only find their fulfillment with a new, reconstituted national Israel.
So, when one reads certain “buzz” words that seem to relate to their particular view of eschatology, they will always interpret that word in the same way regardless of context. One of the most obvious is the word “coming.” When the word coming is used in relation to Jesus many, if not most, will always interpret the event in question to be the literal, physical Second Coming of Jesus, despite the fact that several instances of the word “coming” that can, by no means, be related to that event. Other common phrase or words include; end of the age, last days, clouds, world and several more concepts that will be discussed over the next several chapters. Suffice it to say for our purposes that, yes, your eschatology will impact your hermeneutic and vice versa.
Another area this shows itself in the world of Biblical Hermeneutics (and I do not have space to go into detail here, but will in greater detail when we discuss the book of Daniel) is the adding of a parenthesis of time in Daniel 9. This unwarranted intrusion into the passage has nothing to do with “blank slate” exegesis leading to this conclusion, but rather starting with the preconceived necessity and making it fit the system. This intrusion or restriction is based solely on ones eschatological framework.
Though this is not true for many modern Dispensationalists, the more popular and traditional Dispensationalist do have differing forms of salvation in their theology. Charles Ryrie (who we will discuss in future chapters) and others may shout from the rooftops that it is not true and that Dispensationalism has always believed and taught that mankind was always saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, the following popular authors and theologians beg to differ with Ryrie’s declaration.
“…grace begins with the death and resurrection of Christ…The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation” C I Scofield
“It can be said at once that His (Jesus’) dying was not God’s own plan. It was conceived somewhere else and yielded to by God…the plan is given in the Old Testament code…the tabernacle or temple, under prescribed regulations…” Lewis Sperry Chafer
This is sometimes called the Age of the Church, or the Church period. The characteristic of this age is that salvation is no longer by legal obedience, but by the personal acceptance of the finished work of Jesus Christ, who by his meritorious ministry has procured for us a righteousness of God’.” William Evans
“A distinction must be observed here between just men of the Old Testament and those justified according to the New Testament. According to the Old Testament men were just because they were true and faithful in keeping the Mosaic Law. … Men were therefore just because of their own works for God whereas New Testament justification is God’s work for man in answer to faith” Lewis Sperry Chafer
I would hope that anyone with even the most elementary understanding of salvation by grace through faith would see the great potential heresy being promoted by the above concept. But it should also be noted that the above views are consistent with a particular hermeneutic supported and promoted by a particular eschatological view.
The distinction described at the beginning of this section shows itself here again by juxtaposing a different form of salvation for the Old Testament Saint and New Testament adherents. As a result there is a different resurrection for the Old and New Testament saints as well, which will be discussed in detail in later chapters.
Again, this is just to show that ones eschatology and the underpinnings and presuppositions of a particular view do have great impact even on the view of salvation.
Bertrand Russell, the famed atheist, made some very strong arguments in the 20th century regarding the validity of Christ’s claims to deity when he pointed out that clearly Jesus believed (and taught) that he would return within a generation. Russell argued that Jesus either didn’t return and was a liar/false prophet or that He didn’t really know if He would return which means He wasn’t God as well. This put those who debated Russell on the horns of a dilemma. The apologist must make cogent and clear arguments as to where Russell is wrong.
If one takes the position that Matthew 24 and the Olivet Discourse is about the literal, physical Second Coming of Jesus he has the most difficult time dealing with the plain meaning of the text and struggles making his case. Either way, his apologetic is compromised.
One of the most powerful weapons in the Christian apologist’s arsenal is that of fulfilled prophecies. If the word of God proclaims that something was to happen in advance and it did just as it proclaimed, the apologist has strong ammunition against the Word’s opponents. If, on the other hand, the writer’s of the Old and New Testaments and Jesus Himself can be shown to be in error regarding a promised prophetic pronouncement, than all of Scripture is in doubt.
If the distinction between the Old and New Testaments remains consistent then how one views the law of the Old Testament can be greatly affected. If the Law is only for Old Testament Israel (as the claim is made) than the New Testament Church member has no obligation to follow it. Only if one sees salvation wrapped up in following of the Old Testament ordinances (as shown earlier) is there any trouble reconciling these issues. The Reformed reader can see the Old Testament Law differently and realize its value for both the Old Testament and New Testament Saints.
This problem has lead many to claim that only those laws repeated in the New Testament are valid for today and the New Testament saint is required to obey only them. Here in lies another dilemma. As Gary North has pointed out in his book, 75 Bible Questions Your Instructor Prays You Won’t Ask, the prohibition on sex with animals (bestiality) IS NOT repeated in the NT.
Since our morality and ethics are to be derived from Scripture, if we are to – like above – abrogate the Old Testament law to a different economy, then we are hard pressed to find an over-arching, full-orbed ethical standard. We may be told to love one another, but without the law we may not know how or why that loves works out in actual practice.
Thomas Ice in his famous debate at BIOLA University with Gary DeMar argued that is was his eschatology that gave him his ethical standard (remember the fruit bowl mentioned above?). So, the ethical standard is derived by the notion of a soon coming eschatological event (the Rapture, etc) rather than the Law of God. This is at least consistent argumentation.
But one may ask how that actually plays out in “real life.”
What did that mean? Well, perhaps you were once told that you should not see an “R” rated movie. When you asked why, you may have been told something akin to, “You don’t want to be sitting in that movie theatre watching that R Rated movie when the rapture takes place and that was the last thing you were doing on Earth!”
I actually have heard that argument as a child and it seemed plausible given my eschatological framework, but notice that the ethic is derived from the eschatology, not from the Biblical standard. This again is as a result of the fierce dichotomy between the Old and New testaments. And when questioned further as to what standard would this person use to make the claim that the R rated movies were “wrong” to begin with and that you would or should be ashamed to have been doing it when Christ returned, they are still caught having to appeal to that which they deny has authority, the Old Testament law.
One could possibly point to Paul and his prohibitions on certain actions and activities which are clearly found in the New Testament, but Paul had to point to the Old Testament Law to make his case originally. Even given that, one could demand a thorough explanation as to which things were right and wrong and the New Testament by itself simply does not have the exhaustive list nor is there enough for “General Equity” of the New Testament Law to suffice exclusively. Appeal to the Old Testament for an ethic is inevitable.
Ultimately in this section I want to show that ones eschatology will impact their ethics and standards, even though I would also argue many are very inconsistent in this manner and still embrace the law to some extent all the while they deny that the law has any consistent authority over the New Testament believer.
Like most of the above the impact ones eschatology has on your view of the Church can be traced to the distinction many have created within the pages of Holy Writ. Some claim the Church was a mistake, a Plan B of sorts, a complete unknown and not in the original complete and perfect plan of God Almighty. This shows itself most often in the Church/Israel distinction which will be a matter of great importance later in our discussions.
So, rather than tackle that weighty issue I will simply discuss one view of the Church in two ways. First is to see the Church as important and as a covenant body and two, what is the future for the Church.
Because of the aforementioned distinction, many have argued that the Church is not vital or important, that worship is individualized and God’s relationship with mankind is individualized, not corporate, and, most notable, the Kingdom of God is postponed and the Church’s future is bleak.
On the other side of the coin are those who say that God deals covenantally with the Church (both the elect and non-elect members). This leads to a view where worship is corporate and regulated (by His word), God’s dealings with men are covenantal through families and that the Church is the Kingdom of God as expressed in the present age.
These differing views also can lead to differing views on the sacraments, church discipline, worship methods, emphasis on preaching or teaching and quite a bit more. Again, what is important here is that these differences come about as a result of the underlying system found in particular eschatology’s.
Finally, and for those who stick around long enough (and most importantly to me) is how eschatology impacts how one views the future of the Church. Is that future paved with misery, deceit, failure and pessimism? Is the world going to hell in a hand basket with Church falling right in line? Will the Bride that Jesus returns for be bloodied, bruised, dirty and ashamed?
Will the gates of Hell prevail?
So, why eschatology? Hopefully the reader has discovered in these few pages that ones eschatology does have an overall impact of much of our Christian and secular lives, by that I mean eschatology impacts our lives, both in and out of the Church.
Eschatology is important and it is worth the pain and strain in studying and understanding this seemingly difficult subject. But it is not a subject to be treaded upon lightly. There must be grace and patience and a willingness to learn and, if needed, make paradigm shifts in our understanding and embrace what is true.
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I was 16 years old, sitting in the first couple pews of the Baptist church I was raised in the day I learned two new words. I was a mini-expert in the field of eschatology, or so I assumed. I had read every tract on the rapture my church had it’s in foyer, I had read Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great, Planet Earth and had even started designing my own detailed timeline of prophetic events like the ones found in many popular prophecy books and video tapes. I even convinced my parents to buy me a copy of the movie, “A Thief In the Night” on video tape.
I was proudly continuing my life as a teenage dispensationalist despite having no idea what that meant. As mentioned earlier, my view was simply the view I had been raised in, consumed by and exclusively taught. It wasn’t as though I had researched the differing positions and come to my conclusions through comparative analysis and Biblical “blood, sweat and tears” study.
In fact, those two new words mentioned above came as quite a shock.
I had just started working at a local Christian Bookstore and decided to use my first check to buy myself a new leather bound, grown up Bible. It was made with real, black leather and smelled and felt great. It was a Theological Bible and had study notes like many other Bibles but also included a glossary of theological terms in back between the concordance and the detailed maps.
I did not get far in the letter “A” words before the word Amillennialism appeared.
Amillennialism? What’s that?
The definition did me no good as it only mentioned that is was view in contrast to Premillennialism (whew, I knew that one) and Postmillennialism (uh oh, what was that?).
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
At this point I am hoping that the reader has agreed that there is at least some value in the study of the topic of eschatology. You have made it past the first chapter and now we begin a discussion of the actual topics within the world of eschatology.
As stated in the Introduction it is my assumption that many reading this book have either a limited view or understanding on the topic at hand or is only familiar with one particular view and is most likely predisposed to that view and knows little or nothing about the other views in question.
Over all the years of teaching Sunday School on this subject I have reached two very important conclusions that have impacted my teaching more than anything else. The first is that I never assume that everyone or even anyone in the class knows anything about the subject I am teaching. Secondly, I never assume that everyone or even anyone agrees with my particular view on the subject.
It is with these two basic presuppositions in mind that we will begin an initial discussion on what is known as the two primary views of eschatology. Those two views are related to the timing of the return of Christ in relation to the Millennium. Those two views are labeled Postmillennialism and Premillennialism.
Ah, but if it was only that easy. There are actually four views of the Millennium with the two timing views having two subsets of those views that expand the Millennial positions to the total of four.
To simplify the matter the reader must first get an elementary understanding on these different approaches and how those differing approaches impact the students overall understanding of the subject of eschatology.
Not simplified enough yet? Didn’t think so. So first, let’s quickly examine how the different timing views impact the Millennial positions and then we can discuss what makes the views different outside of simply the timing issue.
But first a we must present a very brief introduction to the timing interpretive methods and their impact on the Millennial positions. These four views will be discussed in much greater detail in later chapters. The four timing methods of reading prophetic passages are as follows:
- FUTURISM – Most, if not all, prophetic events are yet in the future
- PRETERISM – Most, if not all, prophetic events are related to our distant past
- HISTORICISM – Prophetic events run from the time of Christ to our future. This is most notable in the book of Revelation
- IDEALISM – Prophetic events may be actual or symbolic and are to be used to explain the eternal struggle between good and evil and God’s eventual victory in history
All of the above timing methods will be discussed in greater detail in future chapters as our main area of interest here is the four basic views as it related to the popular eschatological subject known as the Millennium.
The Millennium is simply defined as a time of one thousand years. This, as we will see, may refer to an actual, literal one thousand years, or to simply an indeterminable long period of time. Ones Millennial view will impact how one views the length of the millennium as either a literal thousand years or an unknown period of time.
The Millennium itself, despite being one of the most divisive topics in Church history is quite limited in its Scriptural discussion as it is exclusive to six verses in the 20th Chapter of the book of Revelation.
Rev 20: 1Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
4Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
The above is the totality in Biblical discussion of this immensely troubling and controversial topic. Very few other topics have caused such great furor and misunderstanding throughout Church history with such limited Biblical data. The discussion and debate has raged for some two thousand years and I hold to no false fantasy or hope that my writing here will dissuade many a reader from maintaining their current view.
My true hope is to accurately describe all the views without falling into the straw man attack trap that far too often plagues authors in this realm of study and that the reader will find themselves more educated on the subject than before they began reading this book.
One last note before beginning our discussion of the millennial views. Though each view does directly address the issue of the Millennium, the implications on all other eschatological subjects is directly tied to a particular view. In other words, how one views the topics of the Great Tribulation, the Rapture, the Antichrist and a host of other subjects will tie directly to where one lands in the Millennial landscape discussion. With that in mind we will begin our discussion on the differing views of the millennium.
Filed under: Dispensationalism, End Times, Eschatology, Preterism, Reformed, Revelation, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment