Watch therefore for you know not when the master of the house comes.
With increasing frequency I have been running into a viewpoint on the end times that I think I will finally address. Therefore I have written the following article. Within the article are 8 points of a renown minister in todays church culture. These he calls his End Times Core Values. I would like to address each of these points both to help bring clarity to those reading or encountering these, and also to illustrate perhaps another view, that I trust, will be more balanced.
As church leaders, when we state our Core Values, they should be a testament to what you stand for and not a listing of what one does NOT believe. If a reader were trying to find insight on what IS believed, they would not discover it in the 8 points that this minister lists. They are the only points on the site dealing with eschatology despite the statement that 'Our view of the end times can be a deciding factor in how we live our lives' - which I do agree with.
I am very familiar with the views presented here - the 8 I will not's. I not only have attended but also am a graduate from this school and it is soundly disappointing to have such an ambiguous statement of core values on the subject of eschatology. Let me say at the outset that attending this school has been a highlight in my spiritual journey, and a most profound life experience. Nowhere have I seen demonstrated such a beautiful atmosphere of unconditional love from the 'direct' leadership that I was involved with.
Back to the 8 points on eschatology.
Rather than sharing what this minister does value, this kind of approach leads toward de-valuing anyone who does believe in something other than one of these statements. This technique I have witnessed both in reading these viewpoints, but also from sitting in the audience under his teachings. When we approach teaching the Word of God, it is my view, that we need not devolve into ridiculing other viewpoints to try and gain acquiescence from the crowd. So, statements like 'They do not care for the planet because Christ is coming to make it all new anyhow.' or 'They hide in caves and wait for the Second Coming.'
While these statements garner the desired effect, as the audience chuckles in laughter. Anyone sitting there who does believe in the physical second coming of the Lord and holds to a Pre-Millennialist viewpoint is quickly aware that this not a accurate assessment of their beliefs nor is this a safe environment for mature discourse.
So without further adieu here are his eight points on eschatology, followed by my critique.
1. I will not embrace an end-time worldview that re-empowers a disempowered devil.
Ok, so are we then to assume by this statement that Satan is disempowered? That is excellent news indeed. If only we could see this demonstrated in the day-to-day events in our world. Sadly, this statement is not a general truth. It is a cloaked half-truth. In the believer's life, indeed the Devil has no authority. We know that in our world today many leaders have given him power. Imagine a world without the god of greed at the helm. That would be marvellous, but that is not the reality of this 'end-time world' we find ourselves in. No one questions the effectiveness of the Cross and what was accomplished there.
As Pre-Millennialist we do not see that the devil is empowered any more than he was during the two previous world wars, any more than he was during the chaos and blood of ancient crusades or the more recent wars on 'terror'. Not to mention the economic warfare that we see going on presently. We cannot disconnect the role of man in what and who he allows to be the Lord of his life. Choose you this day whom you will serve is still as relevant as ever. I wonder then, if we do not see the hand of the devil, doing what he is known to do, (Kill, Steal and Destroy), to who do we 'credit' these things? I have to take the whole of scripture into account, and therefore I have been taught by these scriptures how to recognize the works of the enemy.
When we settle on an end-times theology, we need to be able to reconcile this viewpoint into whatever generation we find ourselves. Therefore, as a pre-millennialist could you take your views and move back to Germany in 1939? Yes, all the major opinions shared could fit into this time and culture seamlessly - be taught and understood and accepted as truths for their day. You can do this transposition with any generation since the cross. The same cannot be said of these eight points. There would be stark push back if you laid this first point on the ears of those who suffered under the boot of evil. For the citizens of the WWII generation, it was their end-time worldview that the devil was empowered. They witnessed an Anti-Christ figure first hand and suffered and died under him. This foreshadowed events yet to come and reflected countless events that occurred beforehand. Other nations realized this great evil and taught from their pulpits that it was up to them to fight.
Jesus himself made it clear that the last enemy is death. Death still reigns on earth, for it is accounted to every man that he shall die. Did God create death? Is death not a manifestation of the fall, of man bowing his knee to the Devil? If we adopt a dismissive interpretation of literal prophecies holding any water, then we reject the significance of 1948 and the formation of Israel as a nation. The words 'this generation shall not pass away - Matt. 24:34 - until all these things shall come to pass.' If you're a Preterist or Partial-Preterist you cannot accept this as prophetic for this generation as you attribute this to the fall of the temple in 70AD. But that's a whole other conversation.
2. I will not accept an eschatology that takes away my children’s future, and creates mindsets that undermine the mentality of leaving a legacy.
This one is fascinating. As a student of eschatology, I cannot understand what end-times viewpoint he is referring to.This statement presupposes that there is a viewpoint that would discount the obvious lessons in scripture regarding stewardship, and be dismissive about legacy building. But let's take it a bit at a time.
Our children's future. As believer's how and what do we teach our children? Do we teach them to love this world or do we teach them that they are not of this world? Do we lean more heavily on an earthly inheritance to do we make it clear that there is much, much more for them to inherit in heaven? The one does not need to discount the other. If anything, good eschatological teaching is all about your children's future.
With 622 references to heaven in the Bible, one could not be blamed to recognize the significance of healthy teaching on the subject. I am grateful that my entire family has an inheritance that is far greater and far further reaching than anything this earth can offer. Have a great time while you're here, but keep in mind you're just passing through.
Again you need to be able to transpose this teaching to other generations to discover if it has truth. Would the early church have accepted this as a sermon from the pulpit in the face of persecution under the evil of Domitian or any of the cruel leaders who were seeking to suppress the rise of Christianity? Do we suppose that the underground church in China holds more dearly to the things of this world then they do their belief in a better one to come? A better place prepared for them, that where He is they may also be? How many children suffered and died with their families during the dark ages for the simple crime of having scripture memorized in their native language? Could their parents stand boldly in the face of their persecutors and make this statement?
Stewardship is throughout scripture as well. The basic principle here is to handle what God has blessed you with and manage those resources as they are gifts from Him. So that applies to finances as well as caring for the planet and all aspects of our Christian walk. As good stewards do we litter, do we care about the earth, do we save money and endorse our kids to excel? Of course. Who does not?
So again, rather than stating what you do believe - when you phrase your core values in the negative you create a statement that all would naturally agree with, and therefore create an accent that is Non est factum - without the full knowledge of all the facts. This is a legal defence in contract law. So this statement misses the mark, and I am sure there would be a much more precise way to communicate what the author honestly believes. When you make a sure statement of belief, you must then, defend such a statement scripturally and for some that can be challenging.
I have an extensive article written in regards to prophecy on the edge of time. Jesus said that these days would be like the days of Noah. I know much has been written about the condition of the world, but my focus is on the state of the church in Noah's day. That is to say, Noah. For he was the church. Do you suppose that Noah dismissed the prophecy that the world would flood as robbing his children of their future? No. He saw through the tribulation of his day, the flood, and saw that the world was going to change forever. That he and his family all had a destiny that was greater than the world they knew, that their purpose and destiny was eternal and would extend through the crisis to the other side of the event.
Likewise, the disciples standing before the cross. It represented the tribulation of their day, their crisis. Their destiny, their future was not robbed. It was revealed. It was bigger than anything they could have imagined and it came into stark focus after the event. After their tribulation. After their crisis. Likewise to all reading this, the young and the old. Those just beginning it imagine marriage and those who have been married for sixty years - the message is the same - your destiny is more significant than anything you can experience in the here and now. When you stand before Him, He will not say to you, "Welcome, glad you're here. Now, what shall we do?" No. The plans and promises of God are eternal. His plans for you are everlasting. They are not limited to anything this world has to offer. Think bigger. Think beyond. Prepare for it.
Who was the basket weaver for Noah after the flood? Who was the blacksmith? Who was the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker? Noah and his family had one hundred years to learn all they could to be as prepared as ever to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. A new government system, a new educational system, a new economic system etc. This is a type of things to come. We know that Noah and his boys failed - the earth did not remain on the track of righteousness. We also know that the disciples had the same task to bring newness to these spheres of influence and over time this too failed. Man has the mandate - but we need Him to come. You say, He has come and dwells within us! Ok. I agree. So what you are saying is that the church has brought the kingdom? How has this been proven historically? In what shining example? No. We are in need of Him. In need of a King. Without Christ, man, who is designed to serve, will serve another. We follow charismatic leaders and their doctrines into camps and villages and drink the kool-aid offered. People, we need to search out the scriptures ourselves to find out if a doctrine is sound.
3. I will not tolerate any theology that sabotages the clear command of Jesus to make disciples of all nations and the Lord’s Prayer that earth would be like heaven.
Well, this is a strong statement. What does non-tolerance look like? I would love anyone to demonstrate to me an end-times viewpoint that discourages witnessing and winning the lost and making disciples. So once again, as the author shares this will thousands of students each year, the young can be taken in by this viewpoint and assume that it is correct in whole.
In fact no one contends with the two points made, but the implication is that if you disagree with his end-times view you somehow acquiesce to being a saboteur. Throughout history the drive of believers has been to love, for it is true believers who know that it is by this, love, that the world knows we are His disciples. There have been other motivations behind evangelism through the ages and we cannot go into those specifically now. The fundamental truth is universal - there remains an invitation to the lost to repent and accept the free gift of salvation.
On the subject of the fulfillment of the Lord's prayer, that the earth would be like heaven. Here is an interesting dichotomy. On the on hand, Preterism interprets some (partial preterism) or all (full preterism) prophecies of the Bible as events which have already happened, while at the same time this prayer is viewed as a prophetic request that is to be expected literally. Here I agree. The earth will become like heaven, but this will not and cannot occur without the Lordship of Christ, literally on the earth. Now here is where we part, for following the author of these 8 points into Preterism it is the belief that the church will and can accomplish this. One only has to reflect on the past nineteen hundred plus years since the cross to realize that man, yes even redeemed man, falls way short of administrating this Kingdom on a citywide level, let alone nationally.
Case in point would be the celebrated John Calvin, who contributed a great deal to church literature. Of that there is no question. Calvin's belief in a 'City of God' led to all kinds of oppression and beheadings while he moved in and dominated the city of Geneva. Shall we push away other believers, burning bridges as we go, or shall we attempt to build bridges and connect with other believers? It would have been a fearful thing to fall asleep in on of Calvin's sermons or have an opposing viewpoint on eschatology in his midst. In 5 years as magistrate of the Geneva “church-city-state,” Calvin oversaw 58 death sentences and the exile of 76 people.
John Calvin followed Augustine’s biblical justification for burning heretics. Augustine excused extreme measures through his interpretation of Jesus’ Great Banquet parable in Luke 14:16-24. When the master could not fill up his banquet in the parable, he commanded his servants in Luke 14:23 “to compel people to come so that my house will be filled.” Augustine and Calvin believed burning heretics would “compel” more people to enter their house of God. Interpreting “compulsion” as a license to kill without consideration for Jesus’ other teaching to “love your enemies” is a major hermeneutical error. Any part of Jesus’ teaching should be interpreted in light of the whole.
It was Augustine's book, 'City of God' which was embraced by the Catholic Church as it propagated the dominance of the church as the kingdom of heaven in the present, and not a looking forward to a future realization of the Kingdom of heaven. Through this teaching, ministers justified strong words and actions as defenders of this kingdom of God. Sadly, this A-millennialist viewpoint has crept back into the church with its divisive attitude towards other points of view, as seen in the intolerance of the statement in question.
4. I will not allow any interpretation of the scriptures that destroys hope for the nations and undermines our command to restore ruined cities.
Another harsh ultimatum. I will not allow. This leaves no room for discussion on biblical grounds and to the thousands of students searching for truth, attending a school to seek wisdom and spiritual guidance, this stands as an admonitory warning to those who will try to have an opinion opposite that of the teacher. A very similar attitude as demonstrated by Calvin in Geneva. That is the danger of having to defend the indefensible; you swing into extreme statements that do not sound like they have been written in love.
Again, where and who shares the opinion that restoration is not the call of the church? Who laughs at the waste of cities and the loss of life? Christ and Christ alone is the hope for the nations. Not the church or a philosophy, but the person of Christ. This again has been demonstrated throughout history for where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. What does this freedom look like? Well, that is going to depend on where you are living. In cozy California, it is demonstrated by the free gathering of believers together for a joyous celebration. For believers in the Middle East or China, it means something different. They do not have the same outward freedom to celebrate their restoration as the cities that they find themselves in are not cities that give the liberty to their Christian citizens that we enjoy here. But you will find these believers praying for their leaders and their towns. Not that their leaders would be wiped out or killed, but that they would be saved! I have just spent a month in China and presently six in Thailand. I have travelled full time for the past eight years and have lived in over 17 nations. Nowhere have I found a group of believers that undermine our command to bring restoration to all things. So if this statement, number four, is directed to some minor group of believers that this minister has personally encountered, why would it merit a stand-alone point as his core value. No, it would stand to reason that this core value is in opposition to a significant opinion that is counter to his. An albeit misunderstood one. So it merits this fourth position within his core values.
5. I will not embrace an eschatology that changes the nature of a good God.
6. I refuse to embrace any mindset that celebrates bad news as a sign of the times and a necessary requirement for the return of Jesus.
I am going to take these two together as they are strongly connected. It seems as though these core value statements are made toward some alternative point of view that goes unsaid. After studying scripture for years, like many of you reading this, I am confused as to which beliefs accept a 'change in the nature of God'? Who is questioning the goodness of God? Does pre-millennialism bring the nature of God into question? Certainly not. He is a loving God.
This is going to come down to your worldview concerning the actions or in-action of God with the affairs of man. So when 'acts of God' take place in an atheist world, we ask ourselves, why would a good God allow this? When a loved one gets sick, we ask ourselves, how could a good God let this happen? I have sat beside the bedside of precious believers who have passed on; their bodies ravaged with cancer. Do I ascribe this to a good God? No. I don't even have to dump that at the doorstep of the devil. If you are informed about health, nutrition and the environmental condition of the earth which we have tended like drunken gardeners than you would know that we, the human race, are the ones who have reaped what has been sown over the past 100 years of industrialization. Here is a plug for FMTV.com - which is a powerful tool of education for those who are curious enough to dive deep into the waters of excellent health.
Does any of this question God's nature? Certainly not. Are there believers out there that watch the news keenly and wring their hands at calamity? Seriously? This has to be such a minor element, such a small fragment of Christendom that I feel it is hardly worth mentioning. A pre-millennialist, who are eagerly waiting for the promise of His coming, sees the signs and events that take place around the world we do not celebrate tragedy, but consider these things as our heart breaks for those caught in the middle. Yet at the same time we are compelled all the more to amplify our efforts in evangelism.
Recently before Congress this statement was made:
“What I’m urging here today,” said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, “is that you use the authority and power of your office to call this genocide, to help restore the rich tapestry of the ancient faith traditions in the Middle East, to stop this assault on human dignity and civilization itself.” Speaking to the systematic elimination of Christians in the Middle East - many by beheadings.
No one questions those responsible for these actions. Not a good God. No, His nature is unchanged. Pre-millennialism does not call for an evil God. What is opposed here in his point 5 is a pending judgment which ties in with his point 8. This lack of belief in a God that passes judgment on the wickedness of a generation has no bearing in scripture or history for that matter - anywhere.
On the contrary, scripture is filled with a loving God bringing a stubborn people to repentance time and again through various means. This being done to maintain a family, a tribe, a bloodline through which He can bring the fulfillment of His promise to Adam and Eve. A redeemer would come, born of a woman, who would, therefore, be the saviour of the world. So could the Jews in Babylon adopt this theological point of view - that God is somehow not a good God - or that the bad news of captivity was somehow necessary?
To the point - a quote from the Talmud - Jewish teachings:
It is a traditional Jewish understanding that the Jewish Messiah would come 4,000 years after the creation of Adam and Eve. In the Talmud in Sanhedrin 97 it is written: The Talmud in Sanhedrin 97 teaches: “The world is to exist six thousand years. In the first two thousand there was desolation; (i.e. no Torah. It is a tradition that Abraham was fifty-two years old when he began to convert men to the worship of the true God; from Adam until then, two thousand years elapsed)* two thousand years the Torah flourished; and the next two thousand years is the Messianic era, (i.e. Messiah will come within that period) but through our many iniquities all these years have been lost. (He should have come at the beginning of the last two thousand years; the delay is due to our sins.)"
They did not put the blame on a good God but where it belonged, bravely on themselves. The elders knew and recognized that they were responsible for their plight, that God was still good and that he would again be their deliverer.
Now you will say, well that was before the cross. The cross changes everything. I agree, in so much as the cross created and solidified a new covenant. This new covenant for believers is an open invitation to know the Good God even better. To know Him as a loving Father. But there are both unbelievers and believers in the world today. Shall not the God of all the earth do right? Shall not there be both forgiveness for those who seek Him and judgment for those who reject Him? This too is showcased throughout the volume of the Book and demonstrated without fail throughout history.
Agabus was a new testament prophet who seemed to share some rather disturbing news - there was to be a famine. Within the cultural understanding of the day, famines and other catastrophes were interpreted as signs of God's judgment. (Acts 11). Now as disturbing as this was for many in those days, the prophetic word was given so that the church could prepare. They had ears to hear and were then able to act upon the word. I am sure they did not take the news with celebration, but rather, soberly were aware that trials were coming and so prepared accordingly. They never tossed it aside because it did not fit their eschatological point of view.
I wonder if point 6 would work if we went back in time to the days of Mary and Joseph. Could they say that they would not embrace bad news as a sign of the times and a necessary requirement for the coming of Jesus? Rome governed Israel with an iron rod. Taxation was oppressive. Times were hard and dangerous. They had four hundreds years of silence, prophetically. God had left their dead religious practices. But now if you could teleport yourself back there, and retain what you know today. Everything you know about the birth of Christ. And if you happened upon this couple walking to Bethlehem along the road, would you not get excited about coming with them and anticipating all the things that you knew were going to happen? There would be challenges and tragedy but also the fulfillment of prophecies. Herod massacres a city of children. No one rejoices in this. But you would know that it was going to happen. This had nothing at all to do with the nature of God but instead illustrated the nature of fallen man, the nature of the evil one, who was still empowered by men with evil intentions.
The problem with this utopian view of end-times, which rejects the factual events of a lost world slipping into chaos and in desperate need of a saviour, is that once tragic and evil things do take place, there is no place to direct the doctrinal understanding. God is good. We reject bad news as necessary for the second coming. This form of Preterism is an outgrowth of post-millennialism, the idea that God is at work through the church to gradually bring the world to full submission to His will—except that there is no climactic second coming here (the post in post-millennialism referred to Christ’s return after the world had reached it millennial state). Are we to look to the church to bring this millennial state into being? Sadly the very reason the Catholic church embraced this was that it empowered its leadership and the State-Church to be the physical Kingdom of God on earth and gave the ministers the power to expel parishioners from this kingdom.
7. I am opposed to any doctrinal position that pushes the promises of God into a time zone that can’t be obtained in my generation and therefore takes away any responsibility I have to believe God for them in my lifetime.
I want you to know that I love much of this preachers ministry and teachings on some subjects, but on eschatology, there is no room for discussion as these 8 points illustrate.
'I am opposed to any doctrinal position that pushes the promises of God into a time zone that can’t be obtained in my generation' - this one is most peculiar. How could this be scriptural?
Which promises are we referring to? The atonement obtained at the cross and the benefits of that blood covenant is obtainable by all generations since? So that can't be the promises referred to here. This statement is as ambiguous as they come.
So, if this is true for us would it then also be true for any generation? There are loads of examples in the Bible where generations lived and died without seeing a promise fulfilled, say deliverance - from Egypt - from Babylon - from Roman persecution - could these generations make the same declaration? What about the Christians who have been wiped out in the Middle East over the past fifteen years?
For four hundred years that white page between your old testament and new testament stood. Boldly declaring that nothing was being said in the heavens. No Word was recorded from Malachi to Matthew. There was silence. The church had replaced the prophetic voice with laws and rules. Imagine if you were there with Mary and Joe when they realized what was going to happen to them? Imagine being with the shepherds in the field by night? This was a generation that was chosen to witness the most amazing thing since creation itself. The generation before - saw nothing. Experienced nothing prophetically. They lived, and they died, and they never saw the Messiah. We have to be careful when making broad brush strokes in the application of prophecies.
All the old testament prophecies concerning the birth of Christ are literal prophecies and accepted as such by all. Could His second coming prophecies likewise be literal? There are 400 prophecies concerning the first coming. Each of these literally occurred, and that is not questioned by any, no matter what your end-times viewpoint is. There are nearly three times as many prophecies in the Bible that deal with the coming Kingdom of God and His second coming. Somehow today we are reverting to the metaphorical interpretation of the prophetic. Returning once again to the roots of the Gnostic teaching that dismissed the literal. We have forgotten that if the plain sense makes sense, then any other sense is nonsense.
The knee-jerk reaction would be to say that a pre-millennialist believes in literal flying creatures with humans heads and stingers. Naturally a silly swing. Is Revelation filled with picturesque language from a first-century author trying to describe things he had never seen before? Yes. Can we jump to conclusions regarding these things? Yes, but we should not. The thing about the prophetic is that in hindsight it seems straightforward. Yet before, and in the circumstances, things appear very different.
Our responsibility is to be believers in God. To believe in His promises. To have faith in them. Yet to assume that all the promises are for you, in your lifetime, in your generation - now, is I feel an incorrect approach to biblical hermeneutics. Again, if it is true then it always has been the truth. Which makes more sense therefore; that as a believer every promise concerning the kingdom is for our generation now, or that our generation has a vital role to play within the fabric of the tapestry of time and we can both enjoy some of these promises while at the same time look forward to the fulfillment of others?
Abraham was promised children as many as the stars. Yet he only fathered seven. Old Testament. Sorry. Paul, Peter, John - they all lived and died gloriously having lived faithful lives but did not see the fulfillment of all the promises God made to the church. Foxe's book of martyrs is filled with story after story of the faithful, whose lives were cut short by evil in this world. Would any of them have a bone to pick about unfulfilled promises in their generation?
8. I don’t believe that the last days are a time of judgment, nor do I believe God gave the church the right to call for wrath for sinful cities. There is a day of judgment in which GOD will judge man, not us.
And therein lies the rub. A failure to believe that a Good God can also be a God that requires justice. Justice by definition is meted out those who have transgressed in some way. To demand justice is to require a judge. No, believers are not called to be the bringers of wrath on cities. That is just crazy. Should there be those who genuinely believe so--- can we not all agree that they are the fringe minority? Seriously, poll 20 of your friends and ask them if a believer should A) stand on a hilltop and proclaim hellfire on a city, or B) Intercede for that city, as modelled by Abraham, and pray for revival?
Now to understand this core belief, his number eight, it is critical to have an understanding of end-times viewpoints in the church today and their origins. I will leave that to you as a believer to research. The Full Bible Timeline showcases for you the differences between Pre-Millennialism and A-millennialism, of which Preterist embraces the latter. Also showcased on the Full Bible Timeline is the traditional teachings of Jewish rabbis over the centuries and in fact over the past millenniums.
Enjoy your journey towards the truth and whenever you come across someone using negative statements without reinforcing the positive, ask them for details. Often you will find a lack of structure, as the negative statement is there to act as a shield against having to defend a point of view with sound doctrine.
Mark Hutzler, Eschatologist