Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Eschatology is not a fringe field of study but it attracts a wacky fringe element

I get excited as anyone about the thought of the rapture happening any minute. It has always been imminent, meaning, it could happen at any time without any particular circumstance HAVING to have happened first. Not like during the Tribulation where there is a specific series of chronological events, one preceding the other. Interest in the future has always been high.

Unfortunately, the theological field of study of "Last Things", also known as Eschatology, has fallen into disrepute over this last generation. I do my best to present credible essays which strive to demonstrate that eschatology should still be a major area of concern for Christians.

One reason the field of study has fallen in status is because so many people think nothing of twisting the scriptures and promoting wacky theories. Others set dates. When the date passes by without the projected event having occurred, the followers become defeated not just with eschatology but with Christianity in general. Pagans also love to make a mockery of us when this happens. The verse below prophesies the mocking of prophecy.

They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." (2 Peter 3:4).

Another reason eschatology has fallen to less than credible status are that the fringe elements simply adding craziness to it. Aliens, conspiracy theories, and a heavy focus on interpreting signs and omens in current events all add to the pot which in turn adversely affects perceptions of the field.

A reader in all sincerity sent me a link to an article that seemed to explain certain aspects of the rapture with which she was unfamiliar. She was questioning it and wanted to know my take. I appreciate these kinds of questions because it's encouraging to know that people think and question about these sources.

The author of the piece is a woman who writes at a website called Cross and Cutlass. She made many statements that were assertive in their dogmatism. When this happens it often confuses people, because dogmatic statements in print seem credible just for being dogmatic. It's the old, "If it's in print, it must be true" notion.

Here are some of her statements.
Originally, God set up the constellations to reflect the Gospel. Many people don't know this, and I have only recently discovered this.
Warning #1. Whenever you see someone saying that an interpretation has been 'hidden' for thousands of years, and only recently discovered, run. The Bible isn't a code, it's not a secret, and it's not unknowable until some lone person in a corner of the internet makes a "new discovery." The Holy Spirit has been illuminating the Bible for millennia. The standard interpretations are the correct ones. It's called church history, preaching the Gospel, and hermeneutics.

Warning #2. There are no scripture verses to support her statement that God set up the constellations to reflect the Gospel. Instead, she uses a hundred-year-old book as her source called The Witness of the Stars by E.W. Bullinger. I'll provide a link below from the Creation Research Institute debunking Bullinger's "Gospel in the Constellations" theory.

Listen. Scholars over the last two thousand years didn't ALL fail to look up and notice the Gospel in the constellations. If it's a new theory, it is almost a sure bet that it's wacky, wrong, or based on twisted scripture and a poor hermeneutic. I'm talking to you Jonathan "Isaiah 9 Harbinger" Cahn and John "Blood Moons" Hagee.

The author of the wacky eschatological piece also claimed the following;
Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.  Revelation 12:1-2
The woman here is the constellation Virgo, the Virgin, who every Biblical scholar says represents Israel. In fact, Israel in Biblical days was well aware of these constellations and their meanings. Even as far back as Enoch.
Warning #3. Again we have a dogmatic statement with no proof: "the woman here is the constellation Virgo..." Then the author adds her connection to truth by incorrectly referencing scripture. She changed Virgo to virgin, which the scripture nowhere indicates. The Greek word for woman in the verse she cited means "woman, wife, lady." As a wife, she would most assuredly NOT be a virgin, which the scripture actually indicates, The woman is, in fact, giving birth to a child. So, #hermeneuticfail.

The author goes on offering what seem like credible evidences but are actually tangential or made-up or just plain ridiculous. Like this statement:
Now, let's move to Virgo being in labor. Jupiter was known by the Jews as the planet Messiah or the King planet. Jupiter enters the womb of Virgo every 12 years. Only every 83 years does it stay in the womb of Jupiter for the full period of a human pregnancy. 

Be very cautious when people use constellations as their guide to prophecy. It is a satanic corruption. Astrology is an abomination to God. The Institute for Creation Research makes some excellent points regarding the constellations as a guide to the Gospel. Here are just a few of their good points, and the full explanation under each point is at the link:
The "Gospel in the Stars" Theory1) There is no uniform zodiac constellation. [in cultures across the world]
2) There is no uniform message behind the stars. As in the case of astrology, the star-formed zodiac signs can be assigned whatever meaning the interpreter decides upon; the purported messages behind the signs are completely arbitrary.
3) The message of the stars is out sequence.
4) There is no biblical evidence to support GIS. Bullinger cites a number of Bible verses that have nothing to do with stars revealing the gospel. For instance, he interprets the word “constellation” (Mazzaroth in Hebrew and Lucifer in the Latin Vulgate) in Job 38:32 as the twelve signs of the zodiac when, in fact, the precise meaning of the term remains uncertain.
I also wrote about horoscopes, i.e.interpreting the stars via their positions in the sky, and other omens/oracles, which forbidden to do.

GotQuestions has a good article about astrology.

Please be careful when following a website or teacher or preacher who is presenting explanations about Last Things. The fringe element is growing every day, with wacky theories, conspiracies, astrology, omens and signs.

I have found that one of the best expositors of the book of Revelation is John MacArthur. There are several other men I'd point you to, who do a good job with prophecy and explaining the scriptures regarding prophecy, like S. Lewis Johnson and James Montgomery Boice (who is excellent on the Book of Daniel!). The MacArthur sermons contain either audio or video AND transcripts. S. Lewis Johnson's sermons are transcribed too. Boice is good, too. Also solid on eschatology are Phil Johnson and Martyn Lloyd Jones and Dan Duncan at Believers Chapel, all of whom are on the web.

Sad to say I do not recommend RC Sproul on eschatology. Though I do listen to him on the topics of holiness, justification, and beauty, I do not trust his hermeneutic on eschatology. He is a preterist, a stance that believes that all or most prophecies were fulfilled in 70AD at the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. If one is a partial preterist they believe most of the prophecies were fulfilled. Further, preterists believe that Revelation's language is only figurative. Though it is heavily symbolic, scripture interprets scripture and the correct interpretation CAN become known. Just not to preterists, I guess! I feel strongly about this. I use a reference from Randall Otto's review of Sproul's book as a punctuation to my feelings on preterism and eschatological hermeneutic overall.

Randall Otto reviewed Sproul's eschatological stance as a preterist when Otto reviewed Sproul's book The Last Days According to Jesus, thus,
One can only marvel at the hermeneutical duplicity at work here and the way it ravages genre analysis. By means of such a hermeneutic any text could be made to say anything. The recognition of genre types provides bases for how to understand a text. Seeing similarities in form and content to other texts enables the interpreter to view a text differently than if those similarities went unnoticed. By applying to the text the potential extrinsic genre-types, "the interpreter eventually determines the intrinsic, originally intended genre and thereby is able to utilize the correct 'rules' for understanding that text." [12] The elasticity with which these "rules" are applied to such texts elicits a problematic inconsistency vis-a-vis the parousia.
So sadly, even within conservative and evangelical corners of the faith, misinterpretations in eschatology occur. Yet, last things are not unknowable. MacArthur said,
I'm seeing this world unravel. There doesn’t seem to be any way back. I mean this is totally out of control. This is a free fall down a black hole. So, you can’t just say, "Well, eschatology doesn’t matter." That is not helpful. People want answers. Where is this thing going? It’s not fair to God, it’s a dishonor to God to say, "Well, the Bible is not clear." It is clear. It is absolutely clear.  
Here is an example of that clarity, even on eschatological matters. After the Soviet Union fell and the split-off nations came into existence, each with freedoms and openness to religion, 1,600 pastors in Kazakhstan asked Dr MacArthur to come and teach them. He spent 7 days a week, 8 hours a day teaching, for two weeks. The pastors wanted one entire day on Revelation so MacArthur went through the book systematically from start to finish. At the conclusion of chapter 22, the pastors said,
"You believe what we believe." I said, "I believe what you believe?" Same Bible. Guess what? It’s so clear that people with no training, no seminary, and no commentaries could understand what the book of Revelation said.
Some things are difficult to understand. I'm not saying I have everything figured out. I can't understand the Daniel verses referring to the Beast, or how the Last Days verses across the OT like Amos and Obadiah fit together in the grand picture, etc. But if  I studied for a long time and referred to credible commentaries and prayed and was patient, I could by the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Peter mentioned that some verses were hard to understand when referring to some of Paul's writing on eschatological topics.

He writes this way in all his letters, speaking in them about such matters. Some parts of his letters are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, beloved, since you already know these things, be on your guard not to be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure standing. (2 Peter 3:16-17).

The context of Peter's comment is the end of days, when the earth is to be dissolved and a new earth established. That's the 'such matters' Peter is referring to. Peter says he understands when Paul writes of these matters that some parts are hard to understand, but not impossible because it is the unstable who twist them. If you are not unstable, by default, you already know the truth, and Peter urges us to stand on it, and not be carried away.

I think the best way to handle prophecy, especially the next one to be fulfilled (rapture!) is to study the Bible, which keeps us joyous in troubling times, listen to credible expositors preach the verses, and stay out of fringe end time groups online.  We should also keep an expectation of imminence about us, and to stop looking for signs. It only promotes defeatism when the signs inevitably pass without fulfillment, and it destroys the credibility of the study of eschatology itself.




2 comments:

  1. I skip Sproul's end time messages also. I'm praying he will take those scriptures more seriously.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You want wacky? Tune in to the Jim Bakker show. He tops my list for wacky...and for being outrageously irritating! And he parades his wacky buddies on his show, like Jonathan Cahn. Bakker knows nothing of proper interpretation of scripture. He and all his guests (supposed prophets) tell Christians that they will go through the Tribulation, so his gig is to sell buckets of food for thousands of dollars that people can store up to last them seven years through the Tribulation. He spreads fear for personal gain. And he still has an audience! Unbelievable! He has an hour show, but gives his guests minimum time to talk so he can use most of the time as an infomercial promoting his product. His audience consists mostly of senior citizens (followers from his earlier days perhaps) and I truly feel sorry for their naivety and ignorance.

    Please forgive the rant, but this guy takes the prize for wacky and ignorance of the truth. He needs to be exposed.

    ReplyDelete

4000 posts!

Dear Reader, As of yesterday I have published 4000 essays at the End Time. My goal has been to share thoughts on the three general topics ...