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Eschatology: A Fresh Look At Some Old Ideas

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-stack-antique-books-image27917410By Jesse Jost

For over a hundred and thirty years, the Evangelical church has been looking at prophecy through the interpretive lenses of Pre-Trib, Pre-Millennialism. The charts and memorable images of people vanishing, a one world government, rebuilt temple, The Anti-Christ, and the great tribulation are deeply imprinted in the evangelical mind. Many came to Christ because out of fear of being “left behind”. Every year prophecy books that see biblical fulfillment in recent world events top the best seller charts. Seemingly, there is no other way to look at prophecy. To many, the suggestion that some of these events may have been fulfilled in the past is tantamount to denying the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and the inerrancy of Scripture. However, what happens when you remove your preconceptions about the eschatological time table and let Scripture speak for itself?

In this article I will briefly examine some alternate interpretations of what the Bible has to say about the Kingdom, the Last Days, the Great Tribulation, the Beast of Revelation, and the Rapture. Pretend you are looking at the Bible for the first time and you have no ideas about the end times. Take another look.

The Kingdom

Nebuchadnezzar, the great world ruler, had a terrible nightmare. When he awoke, he simply had to know what his dream meant. Only to Daniel did God reveal the great significance of this vision of the future. Nebuchadnezzar had seen a great statue with a head of gold, a chest and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of bronze, legs of bronze, and feet of iron and clay. A stone that was not cut with human hands struck the feet of the statute and destroyed it. The stone became a great mountain that grew until it filled the earth. Daniel explained that each part of the statue represented a world kingdom: Babylon, then Media-Persia, then the Greeks, and finally the feet of iron – the terrible Roman Empire. In the days of this Roman Empire, God would set up a kingdom which would never be destroyed and would eventually break in pieces all other kingdoms. (Dan.2)

Let’s fast forward to the days of the Romans. John the Baptist appears on the scene warning “The time is fulfilled. Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” Jesus taught many parables about this imminent Kingdom. He likened it to leaven which is put in dough and multiplies until the whole loaf is permeated and to a mustard seed which is so tiny yet grows big enough for a bird to rest on it. (Matt. 13) Many Jews were aware of Daniel’s prophecy and knew they were in the days of the “kingdom of the feet.” Mothers wondered if their boys would be the Messiah who would deliver Israel and set up the foretold kingdom. Young zealots, with self induced visions of grandeur, tried to fulfill the prophecy. Jesus, recognized as the Messiah, was expected to set up this Kingdom. But, hopes were dashed with His death. Where was the Kingdom? Continue reading…

  • Bryan Norford

    Hi Jesse:
    Very interested in your notes on eschatology.
    The idea of a pre-trib rapture is recent as you point out, and as you are probably aware, was popularized by The Englishman (perish the thought) J N Darby. It is amazing that it became so entrenched in evangelistic circles when there is no direct scripture to support it.
    A well known local pastor in Lethbridge was preparing to teach on eschatology and said to me with some surprise he couldn’t find any Scripture to support the pre-trib idea. Later at a meeting with a number of evangelical pastors I hinted at an instantaneous return and rapture. I was quite vehemently shot down by one pastor—almost as an apostate!
    The only way a pre-tribulation rapture can be supported is by inference. For instance, Tim LaHaye states that there is no reference to the church after chapter three of Revelation. The reason—the church is no longer on earth!
    Both Tim LaHaye and George Eldon Ladd have an extensive “discussion” on the subject, but few thinking people could be convinced by LaHaye’s tenuous circumstantial evidence against Ladd’s steady scriptural exposition. I’m currently in New Zealand and can’t access my library, but I believe Ladd’s book is the The Blessed Hope: A Biblical Study of the Second Advent and the Rapture, and LaHaye’s book is The Rapture: In the Twinkling of an Eye. You may well be aware of these!
    Why did this thinking of a pre-trib rapture become so popular? Personally, I think it was for a couple of reasons.
    First, there is confusion over the idea of tribulation. A text contributing to this is 1 Thess. 5:9, where “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to receive salvation . . .” As long as the tribulation is considered God’s judgment on the earth, and Revelation gives clear indication much is God’s judgment, then the church cannot be part of it and must be removed from the earth for that period.
    But as Matthew 24:15–22 indicates, tribulation also includes persecution, which is not just possible, but highly probable for Christians according to Christ. Our generation in the West is more unique than typical in this regard. In fact, recent developments are making it more obvious that those who hate Jesus Christ will hate us also—in the Mid-East certainly, but even in our “liberal” west!
    Second, this confusion between judgment and persecution plays well into our fallen nature—we want to escape suffering if at all possible and certainly to avoid the extensive and violent portrayal in Scripture of the last tribulation. In this, pre-trib thinking strongly parallels the “health and wealth” gospel which has also been so compelling, for a similar reason, if opposite reason—in this case, not to avoid suffering, but to increase prosperity.
    Although, as you say, there is no three and half or seven year period ever connected with rapture texts, there are sufficient of them in both Daniel and Revelation to be co-opted into the argument. String enough distantly related texts together and it’s possible to concoct a plausible argument for the less knowledgeable.
    I cover some of this in my book, Guess Who’s Coming to Reign, Jesus Talks about His Return. Based on Matthew 24, its philosophy is, “The purpose of prophecy is preparation, not prediction.” The scanty, often confusing knowledge of the future we are given is for us to recognize it when it occurs, not to predict a half baked scenario of endtimes.
    I don’t think you are as isolated as you may think. Fewer theological thinkers support the pre-trib idea, I think it is mainly forced on leaders by unenlightened congregations that grew up with the idea. But, whatever the response, we have to stand by our deepest understanding of Scripture. Thanks for your courageous stand.

  • RJ Dotten

    Thank you for exposing this position to many who haven’t considered this. I was surrounding by dispensationalist thought until I began listening to Hank Hanegraff and Gary Demar teach on the subject. It is very clear and very simple. Your family just played at our Church and I found your website through the Josties site.

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Judging God: My Personal Struggle with Doubt

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-clouds-thompson-pass-alaska-image26038279By Jesse Jost

He was a man passionate for God. In his late teens, Charles was rescued from a life of rubbish and filled with the Holy Spirit. His conversion dramatically changed the course of his life. Eager to put his new found faith into practice, Charles poured his life into evangelism. In his early twenties, he became close friends with Billy Graham. They hit the spotlight almost simultaneously. Their sincerity and fervent, yet thoughtful invitations to Christ were an effective combination. Charles’ success continued into his thirties. After attending Princeton Seminary, he carried on his evangelistic mission. A sought-after speaker and an able debater with a very compelling personality, he persuaded many to go to the mission field or to attend seminary. He also hosted a weekly show on CBS and was a rising star in the Presbyterian denomination. If you were looking for a hero of the faith, Charles Templeton was your man.

Despite his outward fervor and success, Charles was haunted by intellectual doubts about his faith. He simply could not reconcile what the Bible had to say with his own intuition and the “facts” of history and science. Charles judged the God of the Old Testament as a “petty, jealous, inept, vindictive, unjust, tribal god.” This god repented from making men and then killed them with a flood, hardened the heart of Pharaoh so he could murder all of Egypt’s firstborns, and ruthlessly commanded the slaughter of entire people groups. To Charles, this god simply was not compatible with the God of love he had been told about. Regarding the story of Job, Charles asked “How would you feel if God killed all your children just to make a point in an argument?” He denounced the story and the god as “immoral.” Finally, Charles shocked his congregation by saying he could no longer believe Christianity to be true, and walked away.

I once was blind but now I see?

I read about Charles Templeton’s spiritual derailment in his book, Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith. People like Templeton pique my curiosity. Like a moth drawn to a candle flame, I am attracted to atheist websites. I want to understand how “the other side” thinks so that I know how to reach them. I also want to better equip young people to respond to the objections of agnostics like Templeton. But as I read the writings of former Christians and “ex-apologists,” my faith is shaken and my heart is saddened. The website, www.ex-christians.net, has the testimonials of hundreds who have abandoned the faith.

In my earlier years, I was naïvely optimistic about the facts of Christianity. The evidence was so clear, I reasoned, and the arguments so compelling, that anyone who walked away from the faith must have been simply uninformed. If only these people would read The Case for Christ or, I Don’t have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, then they would be able to see! But I was deeply disturbed to hear about former apologists walking away. “What ominous information have these people discovered that caused them to lose faith?” I feared that I too would discover some dark secret revelation and my own de-conversion process would some day be chronicled online. I had to dig deeper. As I read the arguments and reasons given by those “un-born-again,” I realized I wasn’t as equipped to answer their objections as I had thought. Here I encountered the “bitter root of unbelief that defiles many.” (Heb 12:15 NLT) Continue reading…

  • Andrew

    Well written, helps answer some questions I have about doubters of christianity

  • Rachel

    Very timely for me to read. Thank you for your thorough and helpful article. I am going to print it out and keep in my journal for future reference.

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Highly recommended Apologetics Resources

Recommended Books on Apologetics

Basic

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Frank Turek and Norm Geisler

Between Heaven and Hell by Peter Kreeft

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Michael Licona and Gary Habermas

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel

The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel

Intermediate

Jesus Under Fire General Editors J.P. Moreland and Michael Wilkins

Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ron Tacelli

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

True for You But Not For Me by Paul Copan

That’s Just Your Interpretation by Paul Copan

The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

Advanced

Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig

Scaling the Secular City by J.P. Moreland

Great Apologetics Websites

www.str.org (Greg Koukl)

www.equip.org (Hank Hanegraaff)

www.apologetics315.blogspot.com (A terrific collection of audio debates and messages)

www.tektonics.org (A good place to resolve bible difficulties)

www.rzim.org  (Ravi Zacharias)

  • Brad

    Good list. I think I own more than half of these titles. John Piper’s God is the Gospel is also a great title to consider.

    Brad

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What is Christian Apologetics?

Apologetics comes from the Greek word, apologia, meaning defense. Apologetics is the spiritual discipline that provides reasons for belief. Apologetics seeks to prove that Christianity is not only rooted in history and evidence, but is also consistent with and corresponds with reality. It also seeks to answer objections such as: “how could a good God send someone to hell? Is Jesus really the only way? Why has the church been so hypocritical and brutal?”

Biblical Support for Apologetics:

1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

2 Cor 10:4-5, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

Phil. 1:17, “But the latter [preach Christ] out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.”

Jude 3,  “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Titus 1:9, “ holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.”          

2 Timothy 2:24-25, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.”

Isaiah 1:18, “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’”

Matt 22:37, “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”

1 Thess 5: 21, “Test all things; hold fast what is good.”

2 Cor.5:20, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

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Why am I not an atheist

Why I am Not an Atheist

By Jesse Jost

For the most part, atheists are content to keep their views to themselves. Understandably atheism and religious fervor don’t usually go together…Until now. Today there is group of militant, dogmatic, fundamentalist atheists with the evangelistic drive of Billy Graham. If you haven’t heard the names of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, or Daniel Dennett, you soon will. In fact you just did. These men have the passion of a late 1800’s women’s temperance union. However it is not the evils of alcohol they are trying to ban, it is the evils of religion. Hitchens claims that “religion poisons everything” while Dawkins wants the teaching of religion to minors to be classified as child abuse. These men welcome us “deluded God-believing nut cases” to abandon our bigoted superstitions and join them in their clear thinking oasis. I have read much of the so called “New Atheism’s” evangelistic material. They want to convert the world to join them in the church of the godless. Continue reading…

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Who is Jesus – God or Fraud?

Who is Jesus? God or Fraud?

Who is Jesus? What happened in the first century? These are the questions we must answer. We must look at the available data and the explanations that are provided to explain the data. What are the facts of history? These are the facts that we must work with these are accepted by most liberal scholars and all conservative ones. The documents recording these facts have proven very reliable. Continue reading…

  • nursing schools

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

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A Biblical discussion on Hell

Author’s note. The views expressed by the different men in this story, do not reflect the views of the author, though my current views are most similar  to Jack’s, who represents C.S. Lewis.  Each man in the bible study represents a real man who holds one of the different positions. The purpose of this article is to compare the views that have been held on hell through out history. Please compare these thoughts with God’s word and make up your own mind on this critical issue

 

by Jesse Jost

         “Welcome to our Discover the Word Bible study. Today we are going to look at this whole critical issue of Hell. This doctrine, which is of the utmost importance to the Christian life, has come under fire in recent years, as more and more Christians are letting their likes and dislikes determine their theology rather than submitting their minds to the authority of Christ and His Word.”

        Continue reading…

  • Derek Loewen

    Jesse, I’ve never met you, but I’m Heidi’s first cousin on her mom’s side. I love the articles you post here. I’ve also read some of C.S. Lewis’ writings: Christian Life, Miracles, and The Great Divorce (one of my favourites); and I think it’s a shame that apologetics isn’t taught more widely. Thanks for posting these. I’d love to meet you in person!

    Derek

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The Secret Gospels?

By Jesse Jost

Ideas are funny things: they don’t have to be true in order to be powerful. Once an idea is believed, fiction can become fact. Today, certain ideas about the formation of the New Testament are masquerading as fact. And in our current state of historical illiteracy, these ideas are planting roots in the minds of our young people. The consequences can be devastating, such as the undermining of the authority of the New Testament. With faith in the New Testament gone, Jesus Christ becomes shrouded in mystery and sloppy historical revisionism. The identity and purpose of Jesus will be open to private interpretation, and a counterfeit Jesus will replace the true living Jesus. The counterfeit Jesus will not be able to save you, and herein lies the deadly danger of these pernicious ideas. Continue reading…

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The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

 

By Jesse Jost

Many skeptics ask, “How do you know Christianity and its cornerstone, the resurrection, are true?”

Many Christians answer, “Because the Bible says so.”

But they stutter when asked how they know the Bible is true. At this point, quoting a Scripture verse defending the Bible’s inspiration won’t convince a skeptic. Even an ignoramus will quickly see the circular reasoning in that. If blind faith is required for believing a sacred text, how do we know which holy book deserves our faith? The Book of Mormon, the Koran, and the Torah all claim to be the voice of God. Blind faith alone is too risky to stake on books that give conflicting messages. How do we discern the truth? Is the New Testament worthy of our adherence – is it a book that truly speaks for God? Continue reading…

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The Faith to Defend


The Case for Christian Apologetics
 

By Jesse Jost

“Jesus was not buried, but left on the cross to be eaten by birds and wild dogs.
           These and many other audacious claims were conveyed in the ABC News special, The Search For Jesus, (aired June of 2000). This is just a sample of the attacks that are constantly being made on Christianity. From the learning institutions to the media, the Christian faith is perpetually ridiculed and belittled. There is the idea in today’s culture that Christians have a merely subjective faith, while reporters, scientists, and intellectuals are the ones who are communicating objective facts.
           Unfortunately, many Christians are unequipped to respond to such accusations. They feel they are left with only two options. If they are to retain their intellectual integrity, they must abandon the faith. Or they must accept a dichotomy between faith and reason that will allow them to put all matters of faith into the “untouchable” realm of the subjective, and leave them free to think whatever they want on “objective” matters. Thankfully, there is another option. It is found in the area of Christian apologetics. Continue reading…

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