Posts Tagged ‘Eschatology’

THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF THE GOSPEL

       “The gospel not only furnishes transforming power to remold the human heart; it provides also a model after which the new life is to be fashioned, and that model is Christ Himself…. The beginnings of that transformation, which is to change the believing man’s nature from the image of sin to the image of God, are found in conversion when the man is made a partaker of the divine nature. By regeneration and sanctification, by faith and prayer, by suffering and discipline, by the Word and the Spirit, the work goes on till the dream of God has been realized in the Christian heart. Everything that God does in His ransomed children has as its long-range purpose the final restoration of the divine image in human nature. Everything looks forward to the consummation of creation.

 From The Root of the Righteous, by A. W. Tozer

Rapture Theology: The Arrogance of the West

from Against Dispensationalism

‘Since its inception the Christian Church has suffered numerous tribulations, beginning with Jesus Himself who suffered the trials of the cross. Jesus declared “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you”. (John 15:18) After the death of Christ, the persecution of the Christian Church became even more intense. Saul, one of the first “ordained” persecutors sought out these Christian renegades and had them imprisoned or murdered. (Acts 8:1) Stephen, who was the first to suffer for the faith, was stoned to death by an angry mob. (Acts 11:19) Paul tells Timothy in his second letter, “…[A]ll who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”. (II Timothy 3:12)

The first century Christians new well that a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ meant certain death. Up until 70 A.D. most of the persecution was done at the hands of the Jews. Just prior to the destruction of the temple, Nero Caesar instituted a reign of terror against the benevolent followers of Christ. Many were slain. Children of the believers were thrown into the Roman Arena to be torn apart by wild beasts as onlookers cheered, while their parents were made to watch!

In fact, it was not until the reign of Constantine (almost three centuries after the death of Christ) that the Christians were finally allowed to openly worship their Savior without the fear of reprisal. But this was soon short lived. Arianism soon became the belief of most governments and the persecution was re-instituted against the orthodox party. After Arianism was defeated Rome again took control of the Empire, but this time under the auspices of orthodox Christianity. For the next 1000 years terror fell upon all those who would disagree with the Roman Catholic Religion. One only needs to casually glance at any work on Church history to see the tyranny and murderous ways the Rome Pontiff dealt with nonconformists. A short list speaks of the Hussites, the Waldesians, the Hugenots, or men like William Tyndle and Martin Luther, (though not killed, Martin Luther did have a price on his head).

In modern times the persecution has not ended. Various dictators and governments have made the Christian Church the focal point of their hatred. Thousands have died in the concentration camps of Eastern Europe. In the Former Soviet Empire, professing Christians were sent to Siberia never to be heard from again. In Communist China, females who profess Christ are treated like animals, fulfilling the sexual desires of the ruling regime. The Middle East has also had its share of horror stories that would give Stephen King himself many a sleepless night.

In the midst of all of these tribulations the Church has endured. Western Christians, specifically those in the Untied States of America, have escaped any real threat to their existence. There could be numerous reasons for this. Two possibilities that come to mind 1) God has protected the Church in the West so we can give aid and comfort to those who suffer these persecutions OR 2) we (those in the West) really do not have any strong convictions about our faith and therefore our enemies are not threatened by our presence.

Whatever the reason may be, after two hundred years of being somewhat free to worship without fear from our government, many Christians believe, to one degree or another, that the United States of America will one day face a persecution under the hands of the “anti-Christ.” They teach that Christians currently living now will be raptured out of this world so as not to have to endure the “wrath to come”. Numerous advocates of this doctrine even refer to it as “the great escape”.

In recent years, books on “the great escape” have filled the Christian bookstore shelves. Who can forget “88 Reason Why The Rapture Will Happen in 1988”? Or Hal Lindsey, the leading spokesmen for the movement throughout the 70’s and 80’s, and his “textbook” on the rapture entitled “The Late Great Planet Earth” and the latest craze “Left Behind.” Rapture theology has so become entwined with American Christianity that anytime an international crisis occurs, especially one in which the United States is involved, videos, books and pamphlets by the thousands hit Christian bookstores declaring that the end is near, again!

But think about it! Does it really seem plausible that Christians in the United States will some how avoid these “great tribulations”? Without saying it directly, many paperback theologians conclude that the United States is the focal point of Biblical eschatology, and that the Beast of Revelation cannot be revealed until we are “out of here.” Is it not possible that rapture theology is based upon an arrogant Western presumption, that God MUST first rapture the American Church before persecution comes, even though he never did it for Christians in the Middle East or Communist Block countries? Are American Christians more important to God than Chinese Christians? Many pews sitters seem to think so. Though they do not say it in proper words, it is a fair inference to make.

Those who hold to the view of modern rapture theology see things worked out this way: The Church will be raptured (caught up) and taken into heaven. This event will precede the second coming of Christ by either seven years or three and a half years, depending on your view of pre-trib or mid-trib. Then the anti-Christ will take over and rule. During this time the “great tribulation” will be waging on planet earth. This event, the “great tribulation”, is what American Christians must escape.

What most do not know is that “rapture theology” of the pre-tribulation variety is a recent doctrinal concoction. The historic church never taught this view. That’s right! No one taught the pre-millennial pre-tribulation view until the early the nineteenth century. This teaching made its appearance with dispensationalism in circa 1830. One is hard pressed to think that all of the great minds from St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that though they had read I Thessalonians 4 failed to understand the important teaching of a pre-millennial, pre-tribulation rapture.

Pre-tribulation rapture theology is at its foundation conceited! It trivializes the sufferings of the early church, as well as the church in third world countries that are currently being told they cannot “buy, sell or trade” or have any freedoms and are imprisoned because of their faith in the Lord Jesus.

Besides its sheer arrogance rapture theology fails to see Christians as salt and light in the world and may ultimately lead to the total surrender of western civilization. What if Christ does not return for another 200 hundred years? How will future generations remember those who did not carry out the command to bring “every thought captive to the word of God”? How will they remember those of us who allowed the blood bought treasures of western freedom to die out one by one in the name of this aberrant theology?

To Inundate the World

Another great post from Douglas Wilson:

To Inundate the World
Topic:
From the River to the Ends of the Earth
As Scripture instructs, we must be adult in our understanding. But we must also cultivate what Luke records in the books of Acts when he says that the early Christians ate their bread with gladness and simplicity of heart. We may be refreshed with both when we come to understand how much of the water of life there actually is.

“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:10-13).

What God gives to His people, He gives according to promise. We should know enough about scriptural language that we do not think the dissolution of the old heavens and the old earth in this passage consists of a meltdown of the periodic table. What we mean by elements is not what they meant by elements. Peter’s word is stoicheia, which I would submit should be referred to the elementary gods, water, earth, wind and fire. Before redemption, mankind was in bondage to these elementals as Paul puts it in Gal 4:3-8. There is perhaps a reference to two of them in Eph 2:2 and Rev 14:18. We have now been set free from them – their power and authority has melted away.

But what does this passage mean positively? The interpretive key is found in Peter’s phrase “according to His promise.” Where were we promised a new heavens and a new earth? Where does the Old Testament talk about this? The answer to this question is Isaiah’s glory. At the great conclusion of the book of Isaiah, the prophet tells how reprobate Israelites would be rejected, and the Gentiles brought in. “I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ To a nation that was not called by My name. I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people (Is 65:1-2a). God promises to call His elect by another name – Christian, as it turns out – and the basis of this change is His promise. “For behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Is 65:15-17). This is where the promise was made, the one which Peter claimed (Is 66:22). But do not look for a simplistic fulfillment. “Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?'” (Is 66:1. We are the temple (1 Cor 3:16, 6:19), we are the living stones (1 Pet 2:4-5); we are the new Jerusalem (Rev 21:2,9).

When Jesus teaches us about living water, we should all have learned enough scriptural truth not to look in the bucket. This “water” is everlasting life (John 4:13-15); this “water” is the Holy Spirit of God (John 7:37-39). “But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Most notably, Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But where does Scripture talk about rivers of living water?

“Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east . . . and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed . . . When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed . . . And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live . . . Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine” (Ezek 47:1-12).

This river of Ezekiel is the Spirit; it is everlasting life, and it flows out from underneath the threshold of the Christian Church. We see a great bridal city. The parallels between Ezekiel’s temple and the New Jerusalem make it clear they are a vision of the same thing – the holy Christian church. But how does John introduce his discussion of it? “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Rev 21:1). The last two chapters of the Revelation are a glorious description of a justified and perfect Church, with healing for the nations. “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). This water of life was not given to individuals so they could keep a thimbleful in their hearts. This is water that is meant to inundate the world.

A Friendly Response to MacArthur’s Millennium Manifesto

Those who endorse dispensational premillennialism seem to adhere to it with a fanatical fervor that has long amazed me. That a man of Dr. MacArthur’s stature as a theologian and teacher should do the same is not just amazing, but intensely disturbing. There are glaring hermeneutical problems with the approach that far surpass those of any of the other interpretive approaches to the Revelation. That alone would seem to be a strong deterrent from taking this approach. -JB

from FIDE-O:

My Review:
Dr. Sam Waldron has written a very clear response to Dr. John MacArthur’s first message of the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference. Not only does Dr. Waldron give a comprehensive case against MacArthur’s Dispensationalism but also for a biblical Amillennialism. Furthermore, Dr. Waldron outlines and corrects the extreme misrepresentations of Amillennialism proposed by Dr. MacArthur. In fact, it was these misrepresentations that upset so many of us during that conference. We would not have minded so much if Dr. MacArthur had attempted to biblically defend his eschatalogical beliefs — it’s his conference, he could have done whatever he wanted! But to misrepresent the eschatological view that was held by most of the other preachers on the conference roster that year and the view that is held by the vast majority of Christians within Reformed churches, was what surprised so many of us.

Dr. MacArthur did not even champion Historic Premillenialism which has been held by many throughout church history, but instead he attempted to persuade us of the merits of Dispensational Premillenialism! His whole thesis was based on a false premise that Historic Premillenialism, Amillenialism and Postmillenialism subscribe to “replacement theology and supersessionism.”

Dr. Waldron deciphers Dr. MacArthur’s Dispensationalism, explains why Amillennialism is not Replacement Theology or Supersessionism, and explains why one cannot be both Dispensational and Reformed theologically at the same time.

With sufficient brevity, Dr. Waldron gives a helpful historical and hermeneutical arguments against Dr. MacArthur’s position. Furthermore, Dr. Waldron discusses biblical texts important to this discussion such as: Galatians 6:16, Romans 9:6, 1 Corinthians 10:18, 1 Corinthians 12:2, and Ephesians 2:12-19. His biblical arguments include many texts proving that the Church is the Israel of God, the seed of Abraham, and the heirs of God’s promises in both the Old and New Testaments.

In fact, one of the most refreshing sections is the one on hermeneutics. Reading this section reminded me of the first time I read Before Jerusalem Fell by Kenneth Gentry, Jr. This section really digs deep enough into this debate to reach the fault-line in the Dispensational position. The Dispensational hermeneutic is severely fallible and everything built upon it eventually collapses in theological confusion and biblical inconsistencies.

My Hope:
Who knows, MacArthur’s message and Waldron’s response may turn out one day to be viewed as the first signs of the end of the Dispensational Theology era. One can only hope — 150 years is too long for any divergence from biblical theology. The damage it has on the church will take many generations to fix. Among respectable theological institutions Scofield’s Classical Dispensationalism already seems to be dead, so does Blaising’s and Bock’s Progressive Dispensationalism. But Dispensational Premillennialism, which is what Dr. MacArthur adheres to, seems to be fighting for its life. It’s hermeneutic is faulty and its theological conclusions are very damaging to the church.

My Friend:
Much like Dr. Waldron’s sentiments, I consider Dr. MacArthur my friend and most importantly my Christian brother. In fact, in many ways he has served as a mentor and teacher. His biblical defense of “Lordship Salvation,” his relentless critique of liberalism and the church-growth movement, and his fearless defense of Calvinism has profoundly shaped my life and ministry. His commentaries and books and sermons are as valuable to me than an anything in my library. The compassion and generosity that he personally showed me when I was in a time of adversity affirmed to me and all my friends that Dr. MacArthur is more than just a biblical theologian, more than just an excellent expositor, he is a true man of God.

For the vast majority of theological issues that face the church today I completely agree with Dr. MacArthur. But, yes, this one theological difference that I know that I have with Dr. MacArthur is significant. And, yes, the nature and substance of this issue necessarily effects many other important theological issues. It is almost like the issue of infant-baptism, it doesn’t mean that paedobaptist are heretics; it just means that although their contributions to theology are vast, they are absolutely in error on this very significant issue! So, I continue to consider Dr. MacArthur one of the greats in our generation. Nevertheless, I hope that one day, in some dispensation not too long from now, all forms of Dispensationalism will cease to exists in our theological institutions, disappear from our theological curriculum, and never be heard from again in our pulpits.

To borrow from Dr. Waldron’s concern, it is interesting to note that the very modern age that marked the rise of Dispensational Premillennialism also marked the fall of Calvinism. Ironically, Dr. MacArthur should be duly noted as one who has fought hard for the revival of Calvinism. If he could reform his ecclessiology/eschatology then we might be able to declare “Revival has come!”

Pray at the Pump

Although I may not concur with Michael Spencer in all of his theology, I heartily agree with him that the “Pray at the Pump” movement betrays an appalling ordering of our priorities. It is time for us to spend less time and energy on preserving our decadent life style and more on preparing for a future that may contain far more “deprivation” than high gas prices.

from jesus shaped spirituality:

Several days ago, I posted an invitation to discuss Jesus and Gas Prices on this blog. It’s a topic that, to a large extent, will reveal how much we really can engage our imagination with the concept of Jesus shaped discipleship.

For example, one evangelical has taken his particular view of rising gas prices and started a movement called “Pray at the Pump.” Somehow, the rise of gas prices is a sign of the end times and praying at the pump for God to lower prices will apparently prove that he’s in charge.

Of course, one wonders if it ever occurred to anyone that the inconvenience to the American lifestyle of mobility and affluence isn’t really something that God would respond to as an act of mercy. Most Americans are inconvenienced by gas prices because of the value they place on mobility and the decisions they’ve made about the kind of life they want to live, decisions made with the assumption of cheap gas in the background.

So somewhere a homeless man or a family struggling to put food on the table will see a group of middle class suburban Christians gathered around a gas pump, praying that God will have mercy and get things back to where we can all go about our business.

I don’t have to spend much time asking if Jesus would join such a prayer meeting.

This is the imagination and mindset of American Christians: God is committed to our lives as we imagine them. He is committed to the gas, the SUVs, the economics, the houses, the conveniences, the investments, the stability, the politics, the military and the religion that maintain the lives we lead.

And if you question this, you risk going down a hole labelled “Fanaticism.”

I grew up with parents and grandparents who had lived through the great depression. (That was an economic downturn in the early 20th century, not a psychological episode.) This event had stamped their view of life in America. They were never quite comfortable with prosperity as we are. They were embarrassed by having too much, and they were deeply aware of what poverty looked like.

My mother’s family knew what it was like to be hungry. Were it not for a wealthier relative, she was quite sure they would have starved in the 1930’s. My father’s family of eastern Kentucky mountaineers lived in what we would call third world conditions today, with just enough subsistence farming and hunting to survive in the backwoods of Lee County, Kentucky.

In the 1970’s, my father had money buried in jars in the back yard. Because he’d lived through bank runs and closings, he never entirely trusted banks.

Almost every one reading this post has their savings and retirement placed where you couldn’t get it tomorrow if you had to. And I really don’t think about it, because life seems very secure.

It is that feeling of security, and where it is, that gets in the way of knowing Jesus. It is why people are praying at gas pumps, and why millions of Christians will believe that whatever changes the American way of life is an “end times crisis,” while the daily poverty and desperation of others around the world is no crisis worth thinking of.

Here’s what I want to get to: Most people who know anything about Jesus know that he lived and taught some kind of radical economics. Christians may differ markedly on what it all means, but Jesus taught again and again that you can’t serve God and the god of financial security. Your treasure must be laid up in heaven. When you are rich in this world, you may be blind to truth and compassion. Your presumption that God is on the side of your economics may be called “foolishness” tomorrow.

Most people know this, and it appears that most American middle class evangelicals and many of their churches don’t know it. Jesus seems to be a spiritual guru, a success in life teacher, a ticket to heaven. He doesn’t mind the economic decisions I make unless I invest in porn or abortion or Democratic candidates. He’s on the side of whatever it takes for our country to have it’s “way of life,” including $2 gas in mom’s Upward soccer delivery SUV.

So….it occurs to me that, should there be a serious economic crisis in America- and would anyone like to bet on the likelihood of that?– it appears that most evangelicals are absent the individual or collective resources to process it on any level other than something like “Satan is attacking God’s people” or “The rapture will happen any minute now.”

I’d like to suggest that evangelicals need to learn how to embrace poverty. Not for show, but because at some point we will have to embrace poverty and, right now, we’d be without a clue on what to do.

We need to look at our churches, technology, luxuries, lifestyles and comfort zones with a ruthless eye. How can we untether ourselves from the God we believe has made all of this happen and told us to move into it as the American promised land?

How can we embrace downward mobility as the way of Christ without self-righteous carping, but with genuine repentance for the foolish way we’ve ignored the economic dimension of discipleship?

We need some contemporary St. Francis’s to throw away their personal affluence and show us another way.

We need Bible teaching that challenges our involvement in what is surely a doomed system.

We need leaders willing to walk away from the building and the salary, and to teach others to do the same.

We need a holy imagination of what it would mean to be “simple church” in terms of economics, and not just programs.

What will your church, your student ministry, your children’s ministry, your discipleship, your worship, your youth program and your evangelism look like in an extended economic crisis?

We need to be so formed by Jesus that the possibilities and authenticity of poverty will be beautiful to us.

We may be forced to embrace economic realities that have prayer meetings at the gas pump looking appropriate. If that’s not going to be the case, we need a new way of following Jesus now.

An Unhasseled Bride

from Blog and Mablog

Never forget that the point of worship is identical to the point that God has established for the history of our world. The meaning of worship is the same as the meaning of history. God is engaged in remaking the human race in Jesus Christ.

There are three main points to the Christian worldview, which is to say, to the Christian gospel. Those three points are creation, fall, and redemption. God is our maker and creator—He is God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. But the second point is that something has gone terribly wrong—our first parents introduced rebellion and death into the world, and we have followed them in this. And third, God determined not to leave us there in the wreckage we created. He is rebuilding the human race—in Christ—and He is doing it here.

The thing we haven’t gotten used to yet is the fact that God is remodeling the house without having us move out of it. He is restoring everything—heaven and earth—as He is preparing us for eternal life on a restored earth, an earth reunited to heaven. This is our hope as we long for the resurrection of the dead.

Why does human history continue? What is the point? The point is the maturation and glorification of the Bride of Christ. Human history since Pentecost is the morning of the wedding day, as the Bride of Christ puts on her jewelry and make-up, adorning herself with gladness. We worship to learn how not to be a hassled bride.

Building the Kingdom of God

From the Shepherd’s Scrapbook

Herman Bavinck on building the kingdom:“The history of the world which intervenes between Jesus’ ascension and return is a continuous coming of Christ, a progressive gathering of His church on earth, a continuing subjection of His enemies. Often we do not see it, we do not understand it, but Christ is in very fact the Lord of times, the king of the ages; He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last (Rev. 22:13). Because the Father has loved the Son, He created the world in Him, He elected the church, and all those who are given Him, to behold His glory with Him (John 17:24).

The completion of the kingdom of God is therefore not the result of a gradual development of nature, nor a product of human effort. For, even though the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, like a leaven, and like a grain of corn, it nevertheless grows without the knowledge and contribution of men (Mark 4:27). Paul may plant and Apollos may water, but it is God alone who gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6). Scripture knows nothing of a self-sufficient nature and an autonomous man; always it is God who keeps the world in force and who makes history. And especially as the end approaches, He will in an extraordinary way intervene in history and by the appearance of Christ cause it to stand still and to have time pass over into eternity. That will be an awful event when Christ, sent by the Father (Acts 3:20 and 1 Tim. 6:15) will appear on the clouds of heaven. Just as on His leaving the earth He was taken up into heaven, so upon His return will He come back from heaven to earth (Phil. 3:20). At His ascension a cloud removed Him from the sight of His disciples; and on the clouds of heaven, spreading themselves out as a great chariot of victory underneath Him He will return to the earth (Matt. 24:30 and Rev. 1:7). It was in the form of a servant that He appeared on the earth the first time, but the second time He will come with great power and glory (Matt. 24:30), as a King of kings and as a Lord of lords…”

Our Reasonable Faith: A Survey of Christian Doctrine (Baker, 1956), 559.

HT: allsufficientgrace