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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…

  • 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.

  • Tim

    “All Christian language about the future is a set of signposts pointing into a mist.”
    ― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope

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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…

  • Tim

    A dear friend of mine recently told me he can’t believe in God anymore. I was stunned. I couldn’t respond in the moment because I didn’t know what to say, or what to do. I just mumbled a few words and that was that. I left for home the next day. And unfortunately he lives in another country so I haven’t had a chance to talk with him about it since.

    For months afterword I was in a weird state of grief, not so much at his admission of atheism as at my inability to respond in a crucial moment. So I spent hours thinking and reading and listening, trying to understand the atheist position, why he ‘lost’ his faith, and (I’ll admit) trying to find answers for him so that the next time I see him I’ll have just the right thing to say.

    It turns out I’ve learned more about my attitude toward atheists and atheism during this time than I have about what he might be thinking or feeling or the pain he might be going through. I think my Christian tradition taught me to hold at a distance those whose beliefs are different from mine, especially atheists. I now realize that my initial response was to feel a sense of superiority because I had the Truth and he didn’t (ironically, he studied at a Bible school and knows the Bible really well). I was also skeptical and suspicious of our friendship, his trustworthiness and morality, and a bunch of other things I can’t quite put my finger on yet. I’m still coming to terms with this dark part of myself. The truth is, I can’t relate to where he is right now because I have a prejudice towards atheists. This simply means I can’t love them very well. And that saddens me deeply.

    I’m beginning to heal. And I’m starting to glimpse what it’s often like to lose ones faith. When I see him next, instead of trying to convince him that he’s wrong about God, or that his atheism is misguided, I think I’ll just give him a hug and tell him that he’s loved.

    Mike McHargue says, ‘Atheists are not evil. They just don’t believe in God. It’s time for those of us who believe to stop expressing hostility towards atheists, be it overt or subtle. May we learn to treat atheists with the kindness, compassion, and consideration that Jesus offers to us.’

    Check out Mike’s podcast.
    http://www.theliturgists.com/podcast/2014/10/14/episode-6-lost-and-found-part-1#disqus_thread

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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…

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    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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