Eschatology – Have You Considered That You May be Wrong?
Part 1 – Extremes and Assumptions
We’ve recently completed a series that suggests that on the ‘prophetic clock’, the Laodicean profile fits the western church. The next step is to take a look at eschatology, which is a fancy word that simply means the study of last things or the ‘end times’. This is unfortunately one of the most divisive topics in theology. I find it incredibly sad and unfortunate that many Believers are unable to maintain a civil discussion regarding eschatology without resorting to name calling, straw man arguments and assumptions. While some people make an argument for ‘preterism’ which is the idea that all ‘end times’ events were fulfilled in 70 AD, I would reject this for some very good reasons.
I’ll therefore be writing this from a ‘futurist’ perspective. As one looks at the various theological lens that Scripture is viewed through, one has to be very mindful of not taking a theological viewpoint to its extremes and assuming that one who holds a theological viewpoint holds the extreme conclusion of that viewpoint. I’ll give a couple examples to clarify:
In regards to theology, a vast majority of Evangelical denominations branch off from the Reformation. While claiming to be ‘New Testament Churches’, the traditions are carry overs from the Reformation who in turn carry over and ‘tweak’ traditions from the Catholic Church.
We’ll trace the ‘history of eschatology’ a bit more in a future post, but I want to highlight the dangers of holding an extreme view instead of a balanced view in regards to the two major schools of thought in regards to theology today.
“The Third Law of Theology:
For every theologian, there’s an equal but opposite theologian…”
Many coming from Reformed or ‘Calvinist’ backgrounds hold to the traditional Reformed view that there is no ultimate separation between Israel and the Church.
“The seed promised to Abraham in the covenant of grace is Jesus Christ, the true Israel, and all who through faith are united to Him and, thus, heirs of the covenant promises (Gal. 3:16, 29). In the Reformed view, the gospel of Jesus Christ directly fulfills the promises of the covenant of grace for all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles. Israel and the church are not two distinct peoples; rather, the church is the true Israel of God, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9).” 1
Believers coming from a ‘Dispensational’ background such as myself often refer to this as ‘replacement theology’ then often jump to the conclusion that it is anti-Semetic. We are immediately ‘triggered’ to apply an ad-hominim and straw man to this, thus we shut down any rational discussion. Let’s not be ‘snowflakes’, but instead let ‘iron sharpen iron’.
‘Come let us reason together’
Paul states in Romans 2:
“Romans 2:28-29 For the real Jew is not merely Jewish outwardly: true circumcision is not only external and physical. (29) On the contrary, the real Jew is one inwardly; and true circumcision is of the heart, spiritual not literal; so that his praise comes not from other people but from God.”
Also in Galatians 3:
“Galatians 3:28-29 there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor freeman, neither male nor female; for in union with the Messiah Yeshua, you are all one. (29) Also, if you belong to the Messiah, you are seed of Avraham and heirs according to the promise.”
The fact that Jews and Gentiles are one as Believers in Jesus is solid theological ground. I’ve talked with friends holding a Reformed view of scripture whose desire it is to see Jews come to faith in Jesus. The problem is when those holding a Reformed background take ‘Replacement Theology’ to the extreme conclusion:
“Extreme replacement theology is the teaching that, because many of the Jews did not acknowledge Jesus Christ to be the Messiah of promise, God replaced Israel with the Gentile church.” 1
When the extreme conclusion is reached, some Reformed individuals have suggested that God no longer cares for the Jews or that God has abandoned the Jews’. In some cases, this mindset has led to actions and statements that are hateful towards Jews. Balance is needed, clearly any sort of hatred towards Jews runs contrary to what Jesus said and did as well as what Paul specifically said in Romans 11. (entire chapter)
As a response to a Reformed view of Salvation, ‘Premillennial Dispensationalism’ developed in the 19th century with some Christians observing that God still had a plan for the Jews. ‘Dispensationalism’ is again a fancy word that suggests God interacts with humans differently throughout history. Some theologians have suggested 7 dispensations:2
The main difference today in the Dispensation of Grace is the theological separation of the Church and Israel. While in a balanced perspective, this has mended some relationships between Jewish people and Christians, if taken to the extreme, this theological perspective is just as problematic and arguably ‘anti-Semitic’ as ‘Replacement Theology’. When Dispensationalism is taken to its extreme conclusion, it leads to ‘Dual Covenant Theology’ which was at one time promoted by John Hagee, but a position he has since backed away from. Some Christians are even advocating for building the Jewish Third Temple. Do they not know that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Levitical Sacrificial System and this would be replacing Jesus’ Atonement with the ‘blood of bulls and goats’ (Hebrews 10:4)? Do they not realize that the Antichrist will declare himself to be God halfway through the Tribulation? This is incredibly short-sighted and naïve, even if motivations are in ‘building bridges’. Jesus is the only true bridge between Jews and gentiles in a form of unity. It’s incredibly important that gentiles treat Jews with kindness as gentiles are ‘grafted in’ to the New Covenant. However that kindness must not branch off into ‘dual covenant theology’ otherwise it’s presenting ‘another Gospel’.
Dual Covenant holds that the Jews are saved by a special relationship with God through the Mosaic Covenant and are not in need of Jesus as Messiah. While this may have been an empathetic response to Christian persecution of Jews throughout the centuries and observing the atrocities of the Holocaust, it’s equally anti-semetic. If Believers truly believe there is a coming tribulation, why would the Believer help the tribulation begin by rejoicing in plans to build a Third Temple? While Believers would treat the Jews with kindness and advocate for Israel’s protection and safety, telling a Jewish person that they are able to come to salvation without Jesus’ Atonement as the Passover Lamb and fulfillment of the Torah goes against the entire message proclaimed by Jesus, Paul and the Apostles. Reformed individuals point this out in discussions. Again the problem is jumping to conclusions on the extreme view of a theological perspective instead of a balanced view. All Dispensationalists that I’ve met agree that the only way to salvation is through Jesus. It seems that Reformed and Dispensationalists are on the same team when a balanced view is held.
As we go forward with this series, let’s keep a balanced view. While I have my personal conjectures on the scenario that sets ‘Daniels 70th Week’ in motion and who the Antichrist is as well as how the rapture fits, I don’t want this series to simply be a forum to ‘prove’ my point of view. I instead want this series to prompt the reader to think outside the box and use Scripture more than the books, DVD’s and lectures of the many popular Bible Prophecy teachers on the Prophecy Conference circuit. I’ve read the books, watched the DVD’s and gone to the conferences. While informative, it also divides Believers into argumentative camps and can distract away from our primary responsibility which is to ‘Make Disciples of all Nations’. We can neither neglect Eschatology nor put it on a level greater than Jesus’ marching orders to His ‘Talmidim’.
Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim, immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son and the Ruach HaKodesh, (20) and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember! I will be with you always, yes, even until the end of the age.”
Jesus didn’t say: ‘Therefore go out and argue about the rapture…’
Having heated arguments over a speculative scenario that hasn’t happened yet and breaking friendships as well as relationships seems quite insane, so balance, grace and civil discussion are required.
If there is a particular subject that the reader would like addressed in this series, please send an email to HGE.