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

18Jan12

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!

BLESSED ASSURANCE

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.

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

  1. 1 Irv

    [Enjoy this little snippet. Discovered its presence on the net.]

    Pretrib Rapture Pride

    by Bruce Rockwell

    Pretrib rapture promoters like Thomas Ice give the impression they know more than the early Church Fathers, the Reformers, the greatest Greek New Testament scholars including those who produced the KJV Bible, the founders of their favorite Bible schools, and even their own mentors!
    Ice’s mentor, Dallas Sem. president John Walvoord, couldn’t find anyone holding to pretrib before 1830 – and Walvoord called John Darby and his Brethren followers “the early pretribulationists” (RQ, pp. 160-62). Ice belittles Walvoord and claims that several pre-1830 persons, including “Pseudo-Ephraem” and a “Rev. Morgan Edwards,” taught a pretrib rapture. Even though the first one viewed Antichrist’s arrival as the only “imminent” event, Ice (and Grant Jeffrey) audaciously claim he expected an “imminent” pretrib rapture! And Ice (and John Bray) have covered up Edwards’ historicism which made a pretrib rapture impossible! Google historian Dave MacPherson’s “Deceiving and Being Deceived” for documentation on these and similar historical distortions.
    The same pretrib defenders, when combing ancient books, deviously read “pretrib” into phrases like “before Armageddon,” “before the final conflagration,” and “escape all these things”!
    BTW, the KJV translators’ other writings found in London’s famed British Library (where MacPherson has researched) don’t have even a hint of pretrib rapturism. Is it possible that Ice etc. have found pretrib “proof” in the KJV that its translators never found?
    Pretrib merchandisers like Ice claim that nothing is better pretrib proof than Rev. 3:10. They also cover up “Famous Rapture Watchers” (on Google) which shows how the greatest Greek NT scholars of all time interpreted it.
    Pretrib didn’t flourish in America much before the 1909 Scofield Bible which has pretribby “explanatory notes” in its margins. Not seen in the margins was jailed forger Scofield’s criminal record throughout his life that David Lutzweiler has documented in his recent book “The Praise of Folly” which is available online.
    Biola University’s doctrinal statement says Christ’s return is “premillennial” and “before the Tribulation.” Although universities stand for “academic freedom,” Biola has added these narrow, restrictive phrases – non-essentials the founders purposely didn’t include in their original doctrinal statement when Biola was just a small Bible institute! And other Christian schools have also belittled their founders.
    Ice, BTW, has a “Ph.D” issued by a tiny Texas school that wasn’t authorized to issue degrees! Ice now says that he’s working on another “Ph.D” via the University of Wales in Britain. For light on the degrees of Ice’s scholarliness, Google “Bogus degree scandal prompts calls to wind up University of Wales,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” “be careful in polemics – Peripatetic Learning,” and “Walvoord Melts Ice.” Also Google “Thomas Ice (Hired Gun)” – featured by media luminary Joe Ortiz on his Jan. 30, 2013 “End Times Passover” blog.
    Other fascinating Google articles include “The Unoriginal John Darby,” “X-raying Margaret,” “Edward Irving in Unnerving,” “Pretrib Rapture Politics,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrets,” “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty,” “Pretrib Hypocrisy,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrecy,” and “Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism” – most from the author of “The Rapture Plot,” the most accurate documentation on pretrib rapture history.
    Can anyone guess who the last proud pretrib rapture holdout will be?
    (Postscript: For another jolt or two Google “The Background Obama Can’t Cover Up.”)


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