Eschatology

Ethos Statement on Hermeneutics & Eschatology

Republished with permission (and unedited) from Central Baptist Theological Seminary. (The document posted at Central’s website in August of 2010.)

Hermeneutics and Eschatology

All faculty at Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis affirm a hermeneutical system that interprets all Scripture with a consistently literal or normal method. We also affirm the paradigm of grammatical, contextual, theological, historical exegesis with a view to discerning authorial intent.

Dual Hermeneutics

We all hold that the same hermeneutical principles must govern the interpretation of both testaments. We reject any approach that asserts, for example, that Old Testament prophecies concerning the first advent, life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ should be interpreted differently from Old Testament prophecies concerning the second advent and the earthly rule and reign of Christ. There is no New Testament hermeneutic that supersedes an Old Testament hermeneutic.

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Those Sinful Premillennialists?

NickOfTime

A recent, widely-circulated sermon took aim at pastors who lead their congregations to adopt premillennialism as an article of faith. The sermon posited that, by instituting premillennialism as a doctrinal test, those churches were unnecessarily dividing the body of Christ. Addressing pastors who encourage their churches to adopt premillennial confessions, the preacher said, “You are sinning.”

This sermon raises an important question. Is it a sin to implement a particular millennial view as a test for church membership? Or is every church obligated to grant eschatological latitude? The question may not be as easily answered as the sermon assumed.

Perhaps the place to begin is by recognizing that some doctrinal and practical tests are essential, not merely to church membership, but to any Christian fellowship. The basis of all Christian fellowship is the gospel. Those who deny the gospel should never be accorded Christian fellowship or recognition at any level. Therefore, any proposition that is essential to the gospel is also essential to Christian fellowship. No level of Christian fellowship, including church membership, is ever proper with those who deny the essentials of the gospel.

Historically, most gospel-affirming churches have required more than simple affirmation of the gospel for membership. Their requirements have usually included some level of Christian obedience. Baptism provides a convenient illustration. Most Christians have thought that baptism, while not essential to salvation, is essential to obedience for those who have been saved. Since one function of a church is to foster obedience in its members, most churches have typically required baptism as a precondition for membership. Other Christians, however, believe that baptism, while advisable, is not essential to obedience. Their churches do not require baptism for membership. A very few Christians even believe that water baptism should not be practiced at all.

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Those Pesky Premillennialists

NickOfTime

Disagreeing with someone’s perspective is one thing, but dismissing it is something else. People can disagree respectfully. Respectful disagreement involves listening carefully to other individuals in conversations, understanding their positions, and considering carefully the arguments that favor them (or that weigh against one”s own position) before replying. When a perspective is dismissed, however, it is rejected as so implausible—and perhaps so damaging—that it does not warrant a hearing. Dismissiveness is often accompanied with derision.

In certain theological circles, premillennialism, especially in its dispensationalist varieties, is almost habitually dismissed and derided. A recent example involves a sermon preached by a well-known evangelical pastor. The sermon, which was partly addressed to premillennial pastors, was mainly an exposition of Revelation 20. To be clear, the sermon contained much useful teaching. This influential pastor, however, began his treatment of the text by repeating a quip that Revelation is not “for the armchair prophets with their charts of historical events and their intricate diagrams of the end of the age.” He then continued, “This is not rightly dividing the Word of Truth,” a clear allusion to dispensational theology. He insisted that the purpose of the book of Revelation is to provide “warning and reassurance” to “harassed, subsistence-level Christians,” to “encourage them in their struggle,” and to “liberate them from fear of the enemy within and without.” In other words, the purpose of Revelation is to hearten persecuted believers, not to disclose details of an eschatological timetable.

Those two activities, however, are not mutually exclusive. Granted, the purpose of the Apocalypse really is to encourage perseverance among believers who are facing oppression. Even so, that does not imply that eschatological chronology or detail is necessarily absent from the book. Indeed, it is at least possible that the details of eschatological chronology might be revealed in order to provide motivation for perseverance.

At this point, a concession is in order. Even if eschatological detail and chronology are important, not every use of these details is necessarily helpful. In fact, two uses of prophetic schematizing are damaging. These uses ought to be an embarrassment to every responsible premillennialist.

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In Defense of Pan-Millennialism

Not long ago, a friend of mine was challenging me on eschatology. He believes that it is very important to embrace the pretribulational, premillennial position. I asked why this was so important. His answer was that we need to know which season we are in because the danger of false teachers will appear in the last days. I asked him whether believers in the second century worried about false teaching or whether only believers in the last days will need to be concerned. He said that today is different; we need to be more on the alert, he said, because false teaching will be more cunning. Later in our conversation, he read me a quote from The Shack.

True story.

In the end, I told him that I was reluctant to agree that what he was trying to argue was of much importance, even if he was right. At that point, he accused me of being a “Pan-Millennialist.” I told him that I was surprised that he had used a term I was completely unfamiliar with. When I asked him to define it, he squinted, pursed his lips, inclined his head, and said, “Look it up,” as though a description of this horribly bad doctrine would never pass his lips.

Here I point out three passages I believe should influence our eschatology and explain why I am indeed a “Pan-Millennialist.”

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Preaching on the Rapture

Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted by permission from Warren Vanhetloo’s Cogitations.

“In the last days scoffers will say, Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Pet. 3:3-4).

Years ago, we heard a great deal of preaching about the possibility of the rapture occurring in our lifetime. As I remember, 1980 was about as long as we expected to have to wait. World affairs were such that, to our eyes, the tribulation following the rapture would soon come about. And then the world situation changed. Things settled down, and new disruptions arose. And for the last three decades, there has been little preaching on the imminent any-moment return of the Lord Jesus Christ in the air for church saints. Men’s predictions and analyses failed. God’s plan was not adjusted a bit. He didn’t change as the world changed. So many had been so wrong; it was best to keep quiet.

We cannot today predict any more accurately than those of the last century. We can be more cautious of the conclusions we reach. The one thing we ought to avoid is that of neglecting to preach of the coming rapture just because some have overstated some things about it in the past. If it is in the Word of God, it is a part of what we are to proclaim as the whole counsel of God. From our human point of view, it is just as possible of occurring any moment now as three decades ago. We know no more of God’s schedule than did our fathers or their fathers. We do have the same Scripture they had.

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The Mosaic Law and National Reconstruction

Note: This article is reprinted from The Faith Pulpit (January/February 1990), a publication of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary (Ankeny, IA).

by Ralph G. Turk, D.Min.
MosesThere is a movement today identified as Reconstructionism or Dominion Theology that has its roots in postmillennialism. It advocates establishing a theocratic kingdom in America based on the judicial laws of Moses. In fact, by its reasoning, the Christian is under a divine mandate to accomplish this end.

It has been popularized in recent years by Rousas J. Rushdoony in “The Institutes of Biblical Law” and Greg Bahnsen in “Theonomy in Christian Ethics.” Out of this has come the Chalcedon school which is a foundation that identifies itself as an independent Christian educational organization. Its viewpoint represents an exact opposite to the Biblical, dispensational position of fundamental Baptists. In essence, Reconstructionists argue the continuing and universal obligation of Old Testament Law.

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Missing the Point of Prophecy

Without a doubt, prophecy is one of the most popular genres of Scripture. An announcement that the pastor will begin a Futureseries through 1 Chronicles may incite some yawns, but the attendance might swell if he decides to preach through Revelation.

While prophecy is an important part of Scripture, its study can become an end in itself. It can become all about detailed charts, a haughty denouncing of others’ perspectives on the Millennium, and dogmatic—yet unwarranted—speculation. To avoid these errors, we must keep in mind the purpose of prophecy.

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Eschatology and Cultural Engagement

In The Nick of Time
One of the most frequent complaints against premillennialists is that they lack a social conscience. The opponents of premillennialism charge that it is a pessimistic eschatology. It is supposed to bias its advocates against activities that aim to improve the world.

Often premillennialists have acted in ways that confirm this accusation. Most premillennialists believe that the world will become much worse before Jesus returns. Some have drawn the inference that social and cultural erosion is both necessary and irreversible. To work for the betterment of a social order is at best futile. At worst it is to pit one’s self against God’s plan. As one wag asked, “Why polish the brass on a sinking ship?”

Why indeed? One answer might be simply that the ship’s captain wishes his vessel to go down with its brass gleaming. On the Titanic, the band played even when the musicians knew that the ship was irretrievably damaged. Their music was not meant to reverse the situation, but to remind people of something outside the doomed vessel. So might a premillennialist minister in a sinking world.

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