Doctrinal Statement (What we teach) – see pages 43 & 44
Last Things (Eschatology)
My goals are:
To equip you with a high-level understanding of Biblical Eschatology.
To generate questions and possibly conflicts in your mind.
To reinforce the joy, the comfort, and the blessings that are guaranteed to those who study this subject area.
To leave you with a desire to investigate this area of theology further.
Do not blindly accept anything that any teacher has to say -
Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
[Act 17:11 NASB]
The Thessalonicans were persuaded by argument.
The Bereans believed—spiritually apprehended; yet searched the Scriptures daily.
Our reliance is on the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) in an attempt to avoid heresy.
Avoid “one-verse theology.”
Eschatology is challenging, it is a difficult subject area, and it taxes the student’s need for understanding the totality of Scripture (the whole counsel of God).
One person cannot develop an Eschatological ‘system’ by themselves (standing on the shoulders of giants).
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;
[1Th 5:21 NASB] All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
[2Ti 3:16 NASB] See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
[Col 2:8 NASB]
Presuppositions – the only barrier to truth is the presumption that you already have it…
Eschatology is a theological mine-field in the 21st century.
Calvinism vs. Armenianism
Election vs. Free Will
Continuation vs. Cessationism
There is very little consensus among Christians in this area of study.
This area of study should not cause division within the Body.
There will be something for everyone within this presentation for me to offend them somehow.
“…they received the word with all readiness (openness) of mind…”
…is God’s revelation to man.
400+ times its states “thus saith the Lord” (KJV).
…is an integrated, yet distributed, messaging system of Kingdom principles.
Integrated – 66 books, written by over 40 different authors, during the span of over 2,000 years.
Distributed – the teachings of the Bible are ‘distributed’ throughout those 66 books by different authors.
Isaiah 28:10,13 – here a little, there a little.
Show me the chapter on Baptism, Imputed Righteousness, or the Atonement.
Messaging System – God chose a book…
Its structure and design must be understood.
Every word, letter, and number has been placed in the Bible by design.
Every page of the Bible establishes the identity of Jesus Christ (the Messiah).
It is axiomatic – self-provable. Prophecy authenticates His message to His Creation.
Within the OT, there are over 330 prophecies that speak to Christ’s First Coming.
Within the entirety of the Bible, there are over 2,100 prophecies that speak to Christ’s Second Coming.
You could argue that, after faith, the Kingdom is the key theme in all of Scripture.
All of Scripture moves toward the fact that God rules, that God is sovereign, and that the goal of redemptive history is an eternal Kingdom in which God reigns.
Anyone who is going to truly understand the Bible must understand the Kingdom.
The concept of the Kingdom of God, however, takes on various shades of meaning within different passages of Scripture.
The Kingdom of God is the rule of an eternal, sovereign God over all the universe. (Psa 103:19)
His Kingdom is an eternal Kingdom. (Dan 4:3)
The Kingdom of God is a spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of those who willingly submit to God’s authority through repentance. (John 3:3)
The Kingdom of God involves repentance and the new birth, as God rules in the hearts of His children in this world in preparation for the next.
Within Scripture, the Kingdom of God also refers to the literal rule of Christ on Earth during the Millennium. (Rev 20:1-7)
The chronology of the Book of Revelation is explicit and the promises of the Old Testament concerning the Kingdom, the throne of David, and the city of Jerusalem are unconditional and unfulfilled. They talk about a real Kingdom. They talk about a time of refreshing, of restitution, a time when Israel is in the land and prospering and the desert blossoms like a rose, a time when the warfare and the animosity and hostility in the animal kingdom is ended, a time when people live prolonged lives and someone who dies at a hundred dies as a baby, a time with a completely renewed and regenerated world that is more like the Garden of Eden than our current world.
Scripture indicates that the Kingdom is eternal and 1 Cor 15:21-28 states that the resurrection is a key component to that Kingdom – we, therefore, want to understand its relationship to God’s prophetic timeline and the coming of the Kingdom.
5 "Behold, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. 6 "In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, 'The LORD our righteousness.'
[Jer 23:5-6 NASB] 27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations will worship before You. 28 For the kingdom is the LORD'S And He rules over the nations.
[Psa 22:27-28 NASB] Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.
[Rev 12:10 NASB] Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?
[1Cor 6:9a NASB]
I believe the Bible to be the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of the living God; that it speaks to every area of life; that it shapes one’s worldview accurately; and that it reveals to us where history is headed.
What’s in a Worldview:
A Worldview is a personal philosophy; a hypothesis about ultimate reality; a set of answers to fundamental questions; a set of lenses that you look through to determine what is true and what is not.
A Worldview attempts to answer the four great questions to life:
Who am I?
How did I get here?
Why am I here?
Where am I going when I die?
Everyone has a Worldview!
Basic Worldviews (where did everything come from?):
Materialism/Naturalism - matter and energy are the thing from which everything else came. Matter is the prime reality.
Theism - God is a person, He has intentions, He created everything, He acts as an agent within His creation. A personal God is the prime reality.
Deism - God creates and does nothing beyond that. A personal but remote God is the prime reality.
Pantheism – There is a god, but it is not personal, it is impersonal. A mystical oneness. An impersonal god is the prime reality.
More common labels for the various Worldviews include the following:
Which worldview is correct? Your answer has eternal results…
Each attempt to answer the Worldview questions can be called a philosophy of life and the answers to those questions force a philosophy of history.
The Bible presents a philosophy of history from eternity past to eternity future:
To understand eternity past, we study the Creation account.
The Bible records selected historic events only to the end of the first century A.D.
The Bible provides a framework by which events after the first century can be interpreted.
To understand eternity future, we study the prophecies found within the Bible (Eschatology).
Eschatology, from two Greek words meaning "last" (ἔσχατος – eschatos - e'-skhä-tos) and "study" (-λογία - logía), is the study of 'end things', the knowledge of last things, whether the end of an individual life, the end of the age, or the end of the world.
A sub-division of Systematic Theology that is particularly concerned with the “last things.”
Like a Worldview, everyone has an Eschatology! We are here to study the philosophy of history presented in the Bible. More specifically, we are here to study how God has documented how He is going to bring that history to a close.
Why Eschatology Matters:
God wants us to enjoy the anticipation of the end-time events along with Him.
He tells us about Heaven – why – so we can enjoy the anticipation of it now.
He tells us about the future glorious return of Christ – why – so we can live in anticipation of that glorious hope now.
No less than ¼ of all Scripture is prophetic – this subject is important to God.
Getting future truth right is beneficial to the Christian in multiple ways:
Rev 1:3 – Blessed is he who reads and hears the Book of Revelation.
1 John 3:2 – getting your eschatology right will not only bless you, but will purify you through a purifying hope.
1 Cor 15:51-58 – you’ll be steadfast, immovable, wanting to work for the Lord.
1 Thes 4:16 – We’re to be comforted with this understanding.
Acts 3:18-19 - Having your eschatology in place may lead a person to repentance.
A correct understanding of eschatology sets up priorities for the Christian’s obedience in the Church Age.
Your view of the Kingdom determines what the mission and the priorities are for the Church.
Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have bad consequences.
You are motivated today by what you think your future is going to be like. And that’s what eschatology is; so if you have an errant eschatology then you’ve negatively influenced your hope, your vision for who you are and where you are going.
Within the Church Age, there has been a progress to the development of Doctrine throughout Scripture - “The Progress of Dogma” James Orr (1897)
Theology proper – the study of the character of God (His attributes)
Bibliology – the study of the Bible
Christology – the study of the Lord Jesus Christ
Anthropology – the study of the nature of Humanity (Man)
Hamartiology – the study of Sin
Pneumatology – the study of the Holy Spirit
Angelology – the study of Angels, fallen and unfallen
Soteriology – the study of Salvation
Ecclesiology – the study of the Church
Eschatology – the study of End Times (last things)
Down through history doctrine was developed by the Church in a logical, pedagogical way.
We agree that the Bible is a work of the Holy Spirit and we need to agree that Church history is a witness to the pattern to the Holy Spirit’s teachings:
What is the basis of authority? (2nd Century)
Who is Jesus Christ and what is His relationship within the Trinity? (4th Century)
What did Jesus Christ do? (4th to 5th Century)
What is the nature of man and sin? (Council of Orange, 529AD)
How do I appropriate the work of the Lord Jesus Christ for me? (1100’s)
Doctrine of Justification by Faith. (Luther and the Reformers - 1500’s)
What is the Church (Ecclesiology)? (Post-Reformation)
What is Jesus Christ yet to do (Eschatology)? (Developed in a consistent way in just the last 200 years)
The Holy Spirit has taught the Church to think of doctrine in this order.
Over the centuries, the Church has been growing in the sense of organizing the doctrinal truths of Scripture.
You cannot develop eschatology until the end because all your other areas of theology have to be developed before you can develop Eschatology.
There has been a progress to the Church’s understanding, not revelation, but in understanding doctrine as the Church Age has proceeded through history.
Over the centuries, the Church has been growing in the sense of organizing the doctrinal truths of Scripture.
The Holy Spirit has used heretics and persecution to teach the Church and to spurn her into action.
Soteriology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, and eschatology are all under attack today. Within this era, eschatology is at last coming into focus.
The Church never before had to deal with heretical ‘systems’ of eschatology such as Nazism, Communism, Mormonism, secular Humanism, and Islam like it has during the end of the Church Age.
God is sovereignly trying to make the Church aware of its destiny and the promised destiny of Israel.
Covenant Theology vs. Dispensational Theology:
Using Reformed Theology and Covenant Theology interchangeably.
Currently, these two theological persuasions dominate efforts to systematically interpret Scripture.
Covenant Theology = a system of theology which attempts to develop the Bible’s philosophy of history on the basis of two or three covenants.
This system came out of the Reformed Churches of Switzerland and Germany, but was not developed by the prominent Reformers Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, or Melanchthon.
This system did not begin until the 16th and 17th centuries and did not exist in the early Church.
Covenant Theology was introduced to America primarily through the Puritans.
Covenant of Works
Covenant of Grace
Covenant of Redemption
Reformed Theology tends to be Amillennial or Post-Millennial with its view of the Kingdom. There are sometimes Pre-Millennialists found within, but the Pre-Millennialism found within Reformed Theology isn’t the literal kind of Pre-Millennialism - it’s the idea that Israel has no national future, but somehow the Jews will come into the Church finally and that they will be part of the end Kingdom scenario.
The point is that there are hybrids to all of these positions.
Commendable features of Covenant Theology:
Emphasis upon the grace of God.
Emphasis upon the redemptive work of Christ.
Emphasis upon salvation by grace through faith.
Recognition of Jesus Christ as the central figure of world history.
Amazing work done in the area of the Doctrine of Election.
Issues with Covenant Theology:
Denies the existence of distinctive gospels within the Bible.
Denies the distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church.
Believes the Church existed in Old Testament times and that it consists of all the peoples throughout history who have had a covenant relationship with God.
Uses a double hermeneutic:
Historical-grammatical method for interpreting the Bible.
Allegorical (spiritualizing) method for interpreting prophetic passages.
Is overwhelmingly Amillennial in its view of the “Kingdom.”
Breeding ground for Replacement Theology.
Breeding ground for Preterism.
Breeding ground for Anti-Semitism.
The Dispensational view, which states we are currently living in the “Church Age” is fiercely opposed by Amillennialists and Post-Millennialists who fear that it relegates the Church to a secondary role and detracts from the central purpose of the First Advent of Christ.
Ironically, it was Reformed Theology that spawned Dispensationalism.
Dispensationalism = a system of theology which attempts to develop the Bible’s philosophy of history on the basis of the sovereign rule of God.
It represents the whole of Scripture and history as being covered by several dispensations of God’s rule.
A religious order or system, conceived as divinely instituted, or as a stage in a progressive revelation, expressly adapted to the needs of a particular nation or period of time.
The term “dispensation” can be defined as a particular way of God’s administering His rule over the world as He progressively works out His purpose for world history.
KJV = 4x “dispensation”
NASB = “administration” and “stewardship”
Throughout history God has employed several dispensations but only one way of salvation.
Dispensational Theologians normally name each new dispensation after the new ruling factor or factors:
Dispensation of Innocence
From the creation of man to the fall of man.
Dispensation of Conscience
From the fall of man through the Noahic Flood.
Dispensation of Human Government
From the Noahic Flood to the call of Abraham.
Dispensation of Promise
From God’s call of Abraham to the giving of the Mosaic Law at Mount Sinai.
Dispensation of The Mosaic Law
From the giving of the Mosaic Law at Mount Sinai to the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross at Mount Calvary.
Dispensation of Grace
From Christ on the Cross to His Second Coming.
Dispensation of The Millennium
After the Second Coming of Christ to the release of Satan from the abyss and his final revolt.
Why is one ‘system’ better than the other:
Covenant and Dispensational Theology disagree concerning such matters as:
How God fulfills His ultimate purpose for history.
How prophetic passages of the Scriptures are to be interpreted.
The nature and significance of some of the Biblical covenants.
God’s program for the nation Israel.
The nature of the Kingdom of God.
The beginning, nature, and distinctiveness of the Church.
The means through which the Christian is to live a godly life in this present world.
Reformed Theologians have “fossilized” theology at a roughly 1600’s level of understanding, as if the Holy Spirit was done teaching the Church everything He had to teach the Church during the Church Age.
One of the positions that Dispensationalism is known for is the fact that covenant language in the Scriptures (the Old Testament covenants) must be interpreted literally. That is important because covenants in Scripture are akin to contracts today. No man in his right mind signs a mortgage agreement, signs a loan or a lease agreement, or enters into any other kind of a written contract, and has the other party interpret it metaphorically.
The Bible indicates that God’s truth has been revealed in stages at different points in history.
One of the primary distinctions within Dispensationalism is a subject known as Progressive Revelation.
The teaching that God has revealed Himself and His will through the Scriptures with an increasing clarity as more and more of the Scriptures were written. In other words, the later the writing the more information is given. Therefore, God reveals knowledge in a progressive and increasing manner throughout the Bible from the earliest time to later time.
God did not give all of His revealed truth to man in one lump sum at the beginning of history.
God did not reveal that there would be a Redeemer until after the fall of man (Gen 3).
God did not reveal the practice of capital punishment until after the flood (Gen 9).
Jesus, in John 16:12-14, indicated that the Holy Spirit would reveal additional truths to the Apostles after Christ’s ascension.
Throughout the NT, the term “mystery” is used to identify something that was previously hidden, but is now being revealed.
There is a “progress’ to the revelation provided by God and one needs to have a firm handle on that progression in order to understand eschatology correctly.
What is ironic inside this debate is that Covenant Theologians recognize that there have indeed been dispensations and Dispensationalists recognize how critical the covenants documented within Scripture are.