Here is the next Eschatology post.
The first thing you need to understand about my positions on the prophecies of the Bible is the "tense". I will briefly describe three categories that most prophecy students fall into and then give you mine. But first, a little story will clue you in on how I view things.
I was teaching 1-5 grade during the summer at our church. Attendance for the summer drops off, most of the children are "church" kids whose parents attend our church, but a couple of neighborhood kids wander in during the summer just the same. I think I had about ten kids, but one of the kids was a fourth grade girl who was a neighborhood kid. Her parents don’t attend our church, and she most likely did not go to church on Sundays either.
I was teaching the story of Noah’s ark. You all know the story. Well, this little girl did NOT know the story. She was hearing it for the first time. She seemed to be soaking in everything I was saying. When I got to the part about the rainbow being God’s promise that He would never flood the earth again, she wanted me to clarify. She asked me, "So God will never destroy the earth again?"
I responded, "No, God will never destroy the earth with water again. He will destroy the earth one more time, but the next time it will be by fire." I said the words sort of off-handedly not thinking about how a fourth grader would be affected by this information.
This girl slightly freaked out. "What! When is this going to happen?!" she half shrieked.
I was surprised by her response and didn’t quite know what to say at first, but then I remembered my theology, Luke 17:26-27. I replied with a little more gentleness this time, "Well, it will be just like the story we just learned. There will come a time just like in Noah’s day, where no one will care about God. No one will want to listen to him or obey him. Only a very few will follow God and love God. That is when Jesus will come back and save those who belong to Him, but He will destroy the rest of the world with fire. Then those people that He saved will inherit the new earth that He will create."
I can still hear her response in my head today. She cried out, "Why didn’t somebody tell me about this!?"
We can chuckle about this little girl’s response, but I wonder if she really has it right. When we understand that God still has future plans for this earth, we should be very interested in knowing WHEN this is going to happen. And when we understand the full ramifications of the end times, our first response should be, "Why didn’t somebody tell me sooner?" I believe there have been so many disagreements about eschatology, that some people just stay away from the subject altogether. It’s like my friend Jonathan told me, "Many godly men have studied, men who are a whole lot godlier than I am. They have given their lives to the study of these things and have come to completely different conclusions. How can I hope to study and come to the right conclusions?"
The three categories for your "tense" of prophecy interpretation are as follows.
Past ~ Or Preterism. This system of interpretation teaches that most of the prophecies of the Bible are in the past and we are not looking forward to many of the things that Futurists are looking forward to. They believe that all of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:4-31) was fulfilled in the first century. They rely heavily the invasion of Titus of Rome and the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 as being the primary focus of the Olivet Discourse. They also believe that Daniel’s seventieth week was fulfilled in the first century. Some scholars, seeing the weakness of this, hold to "Partial Preterism", believing that only the first half of Daniel’s seventieth week was fulfilled in the first century, and that there is a future three and one half year period yet to be fulfilled on the prophetic time table. One of the major problems with Preterism is the failure to recognize the Olivet Discourse as primarily referring to the physical, bodily return of the LORD Jesus Christ and subsequent gathering of all the saints, as the parables which follow the main discourse plainly teach us.
Present ~ Or Historicism. This system of interpretation teaches that the prophecies of the Bible are being fufilled slowly over the centuries throughout history. When a governmental or religious system arises that is blatantly anti-scriptural, they have no problem believing that this is the antichrist. The book of Revelation is highly symbolic to them. They tend to spiritualize most everything within it. When world catastrophes happen, Historicists will look to the scriptures and point out that prophecies are being fulfilled. One of the major problems with Historicism is that there has never been a time when a ten nation confederacy has arisen, one man has arisen over that ten nation confederacy, and all ten kings have given their authority to that one person. Another major problem is – it is antithetical to the very nature of prophecy. Prophecy is the forth telling of messages from our God. In many cases, God tells us what happens in advance so that we can trust in His foreknowledge, see Isaiah 41. Historicists take current happenings, then look to the Bible and see if something fits. That’s called predicting the past and anybody can do it. True prophecy should be able to take the messages of God and tell what will happen BEFORE it will happen.
Future ~ Or Futurism. If you haven’t guessed by now, I am a die-hard Futurist. I believe in the FUTURE return of the LORD Jesus Christ. I believe in the FUTURE gathering of the saints. I believe in a FUTURE plan for the nation of Israel. I believe in a FUTURE antichrist who will rise to power over a FUTURE ten nation confederacy. I believe in a FUTURE physical reign of Christ over the nations of the earth. I believe in a FUTURE resurrection of the righteous and a FUTURE judgement which will sentence the ungodly to the lake of fire. The problem with Futurists is that sometimes they ignore that some prophecies have been fulfilled. Many were fulfilled at least in part when Christ came at the first advent. Some are completely in the past now, others may find a greater fulfillment at His second coming. Futurists sometimes tend to ignore history to know if certain prophecies have been fufilled. Many Old Testament prophecies may have been fulfilled in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, but unless we know what Nebuchadnezzar did, we won’t know if they were fulfilled. As long as Futurists stay within the boundaries of good exegetics, they always have the advantage over Preterists and Historicists.
To close, let’s ask with the little girl, "When is all of this stuff going to happen?"
My response: In the FUTURE. Are you a futurist? If not, just stay tuned to this blog and you soon will be.
Now as to the specifics of how it will all go down, well, that’s another post.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman