It’s the End of the World As We Know It – Why Eschatology? Part 2

17Jan12

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.

 

ESCHATOLOGICAL IMPACT

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

SOCIOLOGICAL IMPACT

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.

 

THINKING GREEN

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.

 

ECONOMICS

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.

POLITICAL

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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One Response to “It’s the End of the World As We Know It – Why Eschatology? Part 2”

  1. 1 Phil Starr

    This was a great section to read on, especially with the coming elections. Would hate to be in a “sticky wicket” situation come voting time. It so true out one escotology does conflict with ones social, economic view.


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