Saturday, February 23, 2013

In Defense of Eschatology

Eschatology gets a bad rap. People don't like it. And I am not talking about lost people, but Christians. Most Christians would be happy if no other Christian ever mentioned the rapture, judgments, second coming, or any of the other last things.

I personally have been told that I focus too much on the "negative." Well, call me crazy but I happen to think that being left behind during the most horrific judgments the world has ever known or will ever know is kind of negative. I happen to think that being chased and bitten by an actual demon from the abyss and writhing in agony for five months is sort of a downer. That sulfur raining from the sky would put a crimp in my day. That standing before Holy God in His wrath would be sort of a bummer. So I mention these "negative" things in hopes that someone, somewhere would heed the words and repent and live in the positive hope of His appearing.

By the way, Jesus spent more time talking about hell than heaven. Was He too "negative"? Hardly.

Not that we don't want to preach the whole counsel of God. That is important, and with only a few immature Lively eschatological hope is not escape from the troubles of the world but stubborn insistence that God's mercy will have the last word- and lived defiantly in light of that hope.exceptions, we end timers do. What I see in my friends who proclaim last things is that they DO speak and live the whole counsel of God. These are some of the most buoyant, faithful, mature Christians I know, yet they and me are deemed 'negative'. That is because as I said a moment ago, the brethren at large wish us not to speak of these things AT ALL, not that we exclusively speak only of them.

In David Lyon Bartlett 's "Feasting on the Word", we read in an essay by Martha L. Moore-Keish that eschatology has gotten
"a bad reputation among some, who hear it as pointless speculation about future events, having nothing to do with the present. Lamentations shows us that eschatology can have imminently practical implications for how we live. In the midst of the ruined city, the writer proclaims that the LORD has been and will be faithful, then he sits down to wait for that salvation to show up. This shows fierce faith that all appearances to the contrary, God will not abandon God's people. Not affliction, but mercy is the enduring character of God. Hope for salvation even in the darkest days, is this "pie in the sky, by and by"? Not if it leads to resistance amid the ruins. Not if it leads to genuine ability to survive and even thrive, in the midst of the rubble. Lively eschatological hope is not escape from the troubles of the world but stubborn insistence that God's mercy will have the last word- and lived defiantly in light of that hope."
Terrance Brownlow-Dindy of Kinder, Louisiana writes in his essay "Jeremiah, The Message"
"Not a few gospel preachers determined to “declare the whole counsel of God” exclusively, even when it means negative proclamation, have been characterized by those of the liberal and ecumenical elements as harsh, unloving, cold, and sectarian. If this is an accurate assessment of those who stand for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing less than the truth, then some ‘well-knowns’ of the cold, unloving and sectarian genre of gospel preachers would include men like -- Jesus Christ (first and foremost), John the Immerser, Noah, Elijah, and the man whose message will be the focus this study - Jeremiah. Often, Jeremiah is deemed “The Weeping Prophet,” which is clearly a designation denoting his loving, compassionate character. How do we reconcile that description of Jeremiah with the predominantly negative message that he was commissioned to preach? The fact of the matter is, being a preacher who is truly caring of the souls of others always entails preaching a message that has some negative aspects in addition to the positive. Jeremiah’s message to the children of Israel residing in the southern kingdom of Judah during the 7th and 8th centuries B.C., in fact, was two-thirds negative. Jeremiah was appointed by God to verbally “build and plant,” (positives) but only after obeying the commands to “root out...pull down...destroy...and to throw down” (Jeremiah 1:10)."
Those of us who live with a very palpable sense that the Lord is about to return do so knowing that this changes the way we live. Embedded in the future prophecy, last days verses, are exhortations for us to DO certain things. Verses tell us that in light of His appearing, we should live Godly lives, diligently. (2 Peter 3:11,14). We should encourage each other 'with these words' (1 Thessalonians 4:18). With what words? Rapture words. We should not forsake assembling - even more so as we see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25). We should pray eschatalogically. Did you know that the parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:2-5) is an appeal by Jesus for us to persistently pray for His return? Listen to this sermon or read the transcript to find out why. In Matthew 6:10 in the Lord's prayer He teaches us to pray "His kingdom come". It is clear that there are exhortations throughout the bible for a certain standard of holy living that is pleasing to God, and many of those standards include living in light of the last days doctrines. Ignoring the last days doctrines ignores the warnings about how to live in light of them.

And now, one caveat. For eschatology, and us, to be taken seriously, we can't make rookie mistakes. That means, not assigning a day to His return. (Harold Camping and his ilk do a lot to injure us). We cannot make vain speculations. We should not add to the general confusion. We should not connect dots that shouldn't be connected. We should not be cavalier about the lost or their left-behind status. In reference to the Peter verse, when He asked 'how then, shall we live?" he said it should be with attentiveness, diligence, holy conversation and without spot and blameless.

"Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless." (2 Peter 3:14).

Do you see the promise and the warning there? We look for such things- good! But be diligent also. Don't go beyond scripture, we must be without spot.

John MacArthur was asked about eschatology. He gave this story:
"The Bible’s eschatology is clear and I remember, perhaps the most interesting experience, eschatological experience I ever had was I got on an airplane one time down at LAX and I flew to Kazakhstan and it was 35 hours of flying to get to the back side of central Asia for a pastors conference with 1600 central Asian pastors who had just been liberated from the Russian Federation, the USSR because it had broken up under Perestroika Glasmus and they had the first central Asian pastors conference, there were 1600 Christian pastors there and they asked me to come and teach.

"I remember, I flew 35 hours, got off the flight at seven o’clock and I was speaking by eight and I didn’t stop till six days later. They were so hungry for the truth and they wanted me to teach about the church."

Well they came to me and they said, “Will you teach the future? Would you teach us eschatology? Teach us what the Bible says about eschatology?”

I said, “Okay, Friday we’ll do that.” And from Friday morning about seven-thirty or eight, until late Friday night, I taught these 1600 people biblical eschatology. Here’s the amazing part. I never knew any of these people, never met any of these people, they didn’t know anybody I knew, they hadn’t been exposed to any books that I knew about or any schools. When the day was over, they all came in, they sat down with me and they said, “You believe exactly what we believe.”

I said, “Really?” Down to a pre-tribulational Rapture, you believe exactly what we believe. And I said, “Well, that’s amazing on the one hand, but on the other hand, if all you have is the Bible, that’s where you’re going to end up.” I think the reason people are confused about eschatology, Christian people, is because Christians with bad eschatology have made bad eschatology acceptable. But your problem is, even worse, non-believers mock Christianity because of the ridiculous and bizarre things that these false teachers do. This is satanic, I believe, this is lie and deception to discredit the simple, clear, truth of Scripture. It confuses people, there’s no question about it."
There are two things to take away from that story. First is that people who have been isolated from all except the bible and read the bible diligently come away with a clear understanding of the pre-tribulation rapture and the importance of end time things. And second, that mucking it all up with stupidness puts a stumbling block in front of the lost and the weak.

Caleb Schumacher is one of the most deep and knowledgeable pastors I have ever read. He holds a Ph.D. in New Testament and an M.A. in Christian Apologetics. He says in his essay 'Why I believe in the Second Coming', "God brought me to Christ through the study of eschatology, or the study of "last" or "end" things."

Here is why, he says, prophecy is important:

--fulfilled prophecy demonstrates the omniscience of God,
--fulfilled prophecy demonstrates that the bible is a supernatural book,
--fulfilled prophecy demonstrates that Jesus is the Messiah and God,
--fulfilled prophecy instills confidence in the Christian as to future predictions that the bible makes.

FYI, 109 predictions concern the Messiah's 1st coming. Over 200 deal with His Second Coming!

Go on and read the rest of the piece by Schumacher below. I hope it will be encouraging. Stick with it end time proclaimers!! What I have found is rather than make me negative, the knowledge of His return and the wonder of His prophetic works in the world makes me love Him all the more. The more I love Him the more "positive" I become!


13 comments:

  1. I began to play the slide show and had to pause. On page 2 it says that Jesus was "crucified, dead and buried; he descended into hell." I am a child in the word but I never remembered hearing about Jesus going to Hell.
    Gotquestions.org answers the question did Jesus go to hell and they say "No".

    http://www.gotquestions.org/did-Jesus-go-to-hell.html

    Also, on the same page it says "I believe in the holy Catholic Church" and the "communion of Saints"

    Elizabeth am I missing something here?

    Marrell

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    1. Hi Marrell,

      You ask some great questions! Thanks for reading the slideshow! I am so encouraged.

      The reference to Jesus descending into hell is from 1 Peter 3:19. If you remember, the worst of the pre-flood spirits (demons) are imprisoned in the deepest abyss, in one translation it says Tartarus. That is a part of hell located under hell. Do you remember the Legion of demons possessing the man from Gadara who begged Jesus not to send them to the abyss? That was what they were talking about. Jesus put the spirits from the Days of Noah (Gen 3 & 6) in prison (hell). Jude 1:6 mentions them chained up in hell too.

      Jesus went down to the spirits to preach to them there, and the word in Greek does not indicate preach for salvation, but the word is "proclaim" what He has done.

      False teachers such as Joyce Meyer teach that Jesus HAD to go to hell and worse, that when He went there He was tormented for His sins. They hang this false teaching on 1 Peter 3:16 but obviously pervert it. So you can see the fine line that the false teachers tread, taking a true verse and making a false doctrine out of it.

      As for catholic you notice it has a lower case 'c'. The word means the "universal" church. It is a word for the global body of born again believers. The Roman Catholic Church (upper case 'C') perverted this meaning to state that they are the only true church, and anyone outside of membership in it is doomed to hell. That is why excommunication was so serious for the RCC believer, especially in Medieval times. The topical bible dictionary explains:

      "This term is Greek, signifying universal or general. The church of Christ is called catholic, because it extends throughout the world, and during all time. In modern times the church of Rome has usurped this title, improperly applying it exclusively to itself."

      Thank you OS MUCH for asking! I hope this clears it up.

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    2. Hi Elizabeth,

      Yes that did clear it up; thank you so much for that. Learning more each day :)

      Marrell

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  2. It is by His grace that I saw myself as I really am apart from Christ. Sin is the cause of the problems in the world and it wasn't God's choice that made it so, it was Adams. Since that time our great God and King has been working on His plan. People have a real issue with the reality of that. You don't have to be a scholar to point out that with what has happened since 2008 that we are in the end of day's. We are in day's as it was in the day of Noah.
    Be encouraged Elizabeth, the Lord is using you.
    I to am told that I am too negative at times.
    Mostly by quiet disagreement
    I think not. Warning people of God's impending judgement is not negative, it is the most positive, loving, kind thing one can do.
    Glossing over the reality of rampant false teaching and widespread reluctance to repent of it is negative.
    If one fails to submit to the truth of the Word, they are rejecting the one whom God sent.
    John 1:1

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    1. Thanks Jeff! John MacArthur said that when he speaks of homosexuality being a sin, and he is told that it is hate speech, he says, 'no, it is love speech', for the same reason you stated.

      My heart broke after I'd read that a friend was told she is too negative and her own pastor said she must be about the father's business. Like, the entire bible and all its doctrines are not the Father's business? That warning and proclaiming His soon appearing is not the Father's business? I'm so sad for all of the people who study eschatology and are told they are negative. And of course, my friend isn't- she is brave and inspiring and loving and joyful. I love her very much (Kim!!!!)

      In Robert Frost's Poem, "The Road Not Taken", the first line is, Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,'

      My friend whom I used to be close to, the one who had told me I was too negative, is now in an emergent church doing the Harlem Shake and supporting homosexuals.

      It is so heartbreaking to be close to people and then to see them drift away- but in her eyes I am the one who drifted. In her mind, proclaiming the end times doctrines wasn't "loving" but that is such a fallacy. All scripture is useful and is from God, who IS love. But she did not want to hear it. And when you don't stand on the entire counsel of God it leaves wiggle room for satan to worm in and drive a wedge between some of the truths that you don't personally like and the truths that you do personally like. Sadly it is not about which doctrines we personally like but it's about God and His sovereign work.

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  3. This is difficult to understand, for me at least. I thought you might be interested:

    http://www.therightscoop.com/must-read-walid-shoebat-on-bible-prophecy-what-lies-ahead/

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    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Thank you so much for thinking of me and passing this along.

      Walid Shoebat claims to have been formerly a terrorist and had converted from Islam to Christianity. Some of his claims of terrorism cannot be supported and are actually rejected by his own family and the bank he allegedly threw a bomb at. This claim is made further muddy by the fact that Shoebat contradicted himself on the point.

      How does what he says about scripture line up with scripture? Not well, in my opinion.

      For example, in the piece you shared with us, Shoebat says this in the piece-"The U.S. is “the strongest of fortresses” (Daniel 11:39) which will eventually destroy the Islamic alliance:"

      He is making a definitive biblical statement here. He says it as an absolute. Daniel 11:39 almost certainly is NOT the US. And I don't know how he knows that the US "will eventually destroy the Islamic alliance." No one knows the future except Jesus.

      He goes on to say, "The naval armada of the U.S., Italy, Greece, Spain and others will crush the Islamic alliance in the sea."

      Again, I don't know how he knows of this future event. He forgets about China’s seafaring prowess, too. Then he says to "read your bible and not the Left Behind series" but makes this claim--

      "Christians need to stop heeding the warnings of fatalists who warn of the utter doom of America. Instead, they must pursue their nationalist aspirations – which stem from the Bible – against the universalists of Satan. This defeatist mentality is hardly Christian; God ordained nationalism and has set up America for His purpose, to destroy tyrannies as it has always done."

      He says 'nationalist aspirations' stem from the bible but does not cite any verses. As a matter of fact, we are to love our neighbor but our home is in heaven, not America. We are supposed to have 'Kingdom aspirations.' Further, I have no idea how he knows what God has done, in ‘setting America up to be the destroyer of tyrannies’. This may be a historical fact but it is not a biblical fact.

      What the bible actually says is that all nations will come under the control of the antichrist (Rev 13:7) except for Jordan (Dan 11:41). That means the US. All nations will be at war (Rev 6:4). Sounds like the US will be struggling just like everyone else.

      In another piece from the same site, Shoebat states that "Islam is the beast" but the bible says no one will no know who the beast is 2 Thess 2:6, "And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time." Is it the time? But has it been revealed to only Shoebat?
      See, this is what I mean by eschatology 'experts' making outrageous claims that are not supported by the bible.

      I can understand that the man loves the nation in which he found life and prosperity and comfort. I can understand his gratitude to the Lord who saved him out of Islam. But is seems to me that the man has melded his love for these things into a severe nationalism and uses the bible to support his agenda and his emotions rather than proclaiming the bible itself purely.

      Shoebat does not know "what lies ahead" as his essay title claims, at least not in the way that he says. We only know what scripture says and this is an example of connecting dots that either are not there or are too far apart to safely and credibly connect.

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  4. Thanks again for another great entry Elizabeth. I, like you, feel that the time is very close. I'm still refinancing my home though ;)

    I'm reminded of the example set by Daniel. When he read in Jeremiah about the time of exile and how close he was to the end of it (Dan 9:2) he didn't just kick back and ride it out. He prayed and repented all that much harder in anticipation of that event. We could just about pray that exact prayer of Daniel 9 and apply it to ourselves today. It's an amazing read - you can feel it's intensity as it goes.

    We are close, I believe it will be this generation. And Daniel shows us to pray more fervently, repent more completely, and go about His work with more enthusiasm, steadfastness, and love than ever before.
    Dwight Morrison

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    1. So true, Dwight! "all the more as we see the day approaching" Hebrews 10:25. We should be even more vigorous as we see the end coming!

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  5. I read your stuff everyday and I enjoy it a lot. Keep up the great work.

    By the way, I happen to have family (Christian) whom I have the feeling that they seriously don't want the rapture to occur as they "have their entire lives ahead of them." They don't read the news yet question any news (prophetic in nature) I happen to mention.

    I don't understand it and though I try not to judge, I wonder how someone can be a Christian and not want to see Jesus ASAP?

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    1. I know, Jeff, It perplexes me too. I know of a lady who is sad when I mention the rapture. Now, I do not have a husband or children. She does. She gets sad because she can't fathom not having her daughter as her daughter. She knows that relationships will change in heaven, but she's sad to think she will 'lose' her daughter.

      I can't really comment because as I say, I don't have kids, but...I *think* if I had a child in this day and age the SAFEST and BEST place for them would be heaven with Jesus. It is a gain, not a loss. David thought so, anyway (2 Sam 12:13-31). So...there you go. I cna't understand it.

      But most people I mention it to say "oh, no, I have so much to do!" As is we won't be doing anything in heaven, lol! We will be busy for Jesus and it will be perfect!

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    2. Thanks for your reply.

      A lil off subject here but I think the new age of telephones, tv/satellite, computers is killing the family. I don't have wife/children either but I am amazed when I am around my nephews and nieces that they are zombies looking down constantly at their phones. Sad to say I know plenty of adults who are the same way. You'd think with *ALL* the information at their fingertips, they'd have a clue that the end of the world appears to be (at any second) 7 years away. Meteors injuring more than a thousand, Petrus Romanus, cloning, etc. People need to wake up. God is trying to wake us up and all we can do is stick our nose in our phones.

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    3. I agree, Jess, satan has done a thorough job of distracting us through technology...I highly doubt all this "stuff" will be necessary in the Millennium or the eternity. We can get back to doing the two things we were created for without distraction- loving Jesus with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul; and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

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