Eschatology

9/11 and the Rapture

Most likely you remember where you were when you first learned of the terror that came to America’s shores on the morning of September 11, 2001.

It is not at all difficult for me to remember, as I first heard of the attacks after teaching a class on the book of Daniel at Maranatha Baptist Bible College, where I was serving as an adjunct professor.1

As I got in my car after class, I remember turning on the radio. First, I tried to listen to the news, but I could not truly comprehend what I was hearing. I remember switching to Dr. David Jeremiah on Turning Point. Ironically, his scheduled message for that day, from his series on the book of Revelation, was entitled—so appropriately—“When All Hell Breaks Loose.”

My wife Lynnette was on her way to Indianapolis, where her mother would have open heart surgery the next day. She had thought of flying, but drove instead. As she saw people lined up around the block to purchase gasoline that evening, her mind immediately raced to the events of the future tribulation.

Nearly 3,000 Americans died that day, with thousands more suffering injuries.

And all of our lives were changed.

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Some Thoughts About the End-Times

Several months ago, the teens at church asked three questions during Sunday School as the teacher covered 2 Thessalonians 2, and I wrote up a brief response to augment the teacher’s answers. These were their questions:

  1. Was Old Testament salvation by faith, or by works?
  2. Did the Holy Spirit indwell believers in the Old Testament?
  3. Will the Holy Spirit indwell believers during the Tribulation?

I love both letters to the Thessalonians. I especially love 2 Thessalonians 2, because it gives such a clear skeleton outline of eschatology. Here’s what I wrote to them …

In order to answer these, and to understand why these questions even came up in 2 Thessalonians 2:6, you need to read the passage. It’s probably the clearest chronological account of what will happen in the end-times. Read it and see for yourself!

Paul was reassuring the Christians in Thessalonica that they shouldn’t pay attention to silly and ridiculous teachings about the end-times. Even back then, people were running around concocting all kinds of weird speculations about the end of days! So, Paul wanted to set them straight (2 Thess 2:1-2). Here is the order of events the passage gives us:

1: Jesus won’t come back and judge the world until the great rebellion against God comes first (2 Thess 2:4).

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Practical Eschatology

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next… . It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity [New York: Harper Collins, 2001], 134.)

“Eschatology” is the study of last things, or end times. For many, that term sounds like little more than an academic label, fit only for theology textbooks and doctrinal debates.

But whether we use the term “eschatology” or not, the study of the future is of vital imporance for believers. Biblical eschatology is far more than an academic topic to be debated. In His Word, God has revealed truth about the end of the age, and that truth is intended to do more than merely generate colorful charts or provide fodder for bestselling novels.

Why has God revealed so much about the future to His people?

At least three answers to that question might be considered, demonstrating that the future is meant to edify and encourage believers in the present. Our understanding of future events ought to impact our present reality in substantive ways.

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Alvah Hovey on the Intermediate State

Alvah Hovey was, at various times, both a Professor and President at the Newton Theological Institution for fifty-four years in the latter half of the 19th century. His systematic theology, entitled Manual of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, was published in 1877. In this excerpt, Hovey explains his understanding of the intermediate state.1

By this is meant the state of men between their bodily death and resurrection. That there is such a state must be assumed for the present; but we shall soon have occasion to exhibit the proof of it, by showing that there will be a simultaneous resurrection of the dead. Almost all Christians feel a particular solicitude about the condition of human souls immediately after death. The proximity of that state to this invests it with double interest. Friends accompany their friends to the very borders of it, and know that, when the latter close their eyes here, they open them at once there — know that in a moment their loved ones are in the state that lies between time and eternity —between existence in a natural body and existence in a spiritual body.

Besides, that is a profoundly mysterious life which connects the one before death with the one beyond the judgment, —a life of waiting for the Lord, with how much of blessed service on the part of the righteous, no one knows; for the teaching of Scripture concerning the middle state is neither full nor explicit, but it assures us of these facts :—

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The Cosmic Temple & Spiritualized Eschatology, Part 4

Read the series.

Block’s Challenge

Recently the Old Testament scholar Daniel Block has vigorously challenged the whole Cosmic Temple thesis.1 Even if his counter-arguments are somewhat provisional,2 and he retains certain questionable positions on some matters (e.g. the presence of a covenant in Eden,3 violence beyond Eden,4 Jesus replacing the Jerusalem temple5), I think he has banged more than a couple of nails into the coffin. Allow me to set out several of his major criticisms:6

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Three Theological Words that Sound Alike

A lot of people talk about getting a “stint” in an artery, but they really mean a “stent.”  I created a saying to keep things clear: “I went for a stint in the hospital to get a stent. It was quite a stunt.”

Like everyone else, I get my words confused. This can easily happen when discussing theology.  An internet friend pointed out that, in some of my comments on a discussion forum, I had used the word “immanent” instead of the correct word in that context, “imminent.”

I thanked him, and, upon pondering his comments, remembered yet another similar word, “eminent.” 

“Time to write an article,” I thought to myself.

So this article is about three words that sound alike, have different meanings, but all communicate important ideas in our theology.

Immanent

First in our study of sound-alike theological words is the word, “immanent.”  This word is not well defined in a dictionary, so I turn to Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, p. 267.

Grudem writes:

The technical term used to speak of God’s involvement in creation is the word immanent, meaning “remaining in” creation. The God of the Bible is no abstract deity removed from, and uninterested in his creation.

This stands in contrast to beliefs embraced by some of America’s founding fathers who were Deists. Deists believe God created everything and then left, leaving us to fend for ourselves without His intervention or supervision.

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The Cosmic Temple & Spiritualized Eschatology, Part 3

Read the series.

Objections to the Cosmic Temple Motif in Scripture

In Beale’s book The Temple and the Church’s Mission, both the garden of Eden and the Jerusalem temple are types of the Church, which is confusingly called the literal non-physical temple.1 Beale’s thesis, which is fed by many ingeniously interpreted though vague allusions – mainly reliant upon reinterpreting OT texts by privileged interpretations of the NT – is that the OT stories of Adam, Abraham, and Israel recapitulate the same story of failure to extend God’s spiritual kingdom throughout the world. Jesus, the final Adam, the final Israel, and the final temple (though apparently not the final Abraham), will set everything to rights when He comes, and then it’s a wrap as far as this present creation is concerned.2

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