Ignorance is bliss. Ahh...I remember bliss. In particular, the bliss of knowing very little about "end times" prophecy. Some of you may still enjoy this bliss. God bless you. It's lost forever to me and my intentions are to bring you down with me to the land of knowledge and a decided lack of bliss. So sorry, but as a teacher I claim, "I'm just doing my job".
A few short years ago, though I had read a few books on Eschatology (the study of "end times"), I still had very little understanding of the subject. Then, I preached through the Book of Second Thessalonians. Why, oh why did I do that? The bliss of ignorance was soon lost as I spent 5 months preparing for a 3 month sermon series though a Book with only 3 chapters. I found that reading Second Thessalonians alone wasn't going to cut it. I needed to read Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 to try to understand what Jesus had to say about the "end times". Obviously, that also took me through Revelation a number of times. Studying Revelation meant I also needed to study Daniel (particularly Chapters 9-12), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Malachi, and so on. Then, I read books about those books. Books about literal blood moons as well as books about metaphorical blood moons. Books that said all prophecy was yet in the future. Books that said it was all in the past. Other books that criticized those that said it was all in the past, but believed strongly that it was mostly in the past. Books that criticized those that said it was all in the future, but believed strongly that it was partly in the future. Commentators that couldn't agree with each other and many that couldn't agree with themselves. Trust me, ignorance is bliss.
Still, prophecy makes up about 1/3 of our Scriptures, so ignorance of them means ignorance to about 1/3 of what God has spoken to us through His Word. I don't believe ignorance is an option you can maintain with integrity. So, say goodbye to bliss (if you haven't already) and hello to the world I now live in. The world where I must confess that I don't have all the answers. But neither do you. That's the difficulty. I have areas that I think I've sorted out, but there are areas of prophecy of which I can't yet make sense. I think if you're honest, you'll admit to being in the same boat. That doesn't mean we simply throw up our hands and quit trying to understand the Word. We just approach with a bit more humility.
This is the first in a series of blogs I'd like to do to address the issues that come up in studying the "end times". As I'm preaching through the Book of Luke, this stuff just keeps coming up, so I can't dismiss it if I want to be true to what Jesus taught. Though I do have my own views and interest in the topic, I'm not presenting this simply as a "hobby horse". It will come up quite often as I continue preaching through Luke, so I thought I might throw out a few insights here that may help you better understand where I'm coming from as I preach.
One of my discoveries, after subscribing to a number of eschatological systems, is that no system is perfect. They each have their weaknesses. They each have those spots they hope you won't bring up. Systems such as Dispensationalism, Preterism, Postmillennialism, Amillennialsm, etc. do their best to uncover the mysteries laid out in prophecy. All the mysteries. That's where the system usually fails. They try to make every prophecy fit into their system, even to the point of sounding ridiculous. In my opinion, the Dispensationalist that tries to tell me that "soon" means "not soon" and "this generation" really means "that generation" loses my respect. Similarly, the Preterist that tries to tell me that "a thousand years" really meant just "forty years or so" also sounds ridiculous. But they have to hold to such things in order to maintain their membership in the club they joined. Acknowledging anything outside their particular system to be correct threatens the legitimacy of their own system. I understand. Completely.
So, where do I now fit? Which club did I join? Which flawed system have I embraced? I suppose you could throw me into the "Partial-Preterist" club, which, by definition, also makes me a "Partial-Futurist". Lol. Though I no longer subscribe to the Dispensational system (which is what the Left Behind Series is based on. A rapture of believers, followed by a world-wide tribulation,the rise of the Antichrist, then the return of Jesus to rule over the world from a new Temple in Jerusalem for 1000 years.), I did keep my membership card, which gets me into Kirk Cameron movies for half price.
My journey began as I started to dig deeper into the prophetic statements in Scripture (while preparing to preach through 2 Thessalonians) and I couldn't reconcile my current system (Dispensationalism) with all the time statements made (this generation, soon, at hand, near, latter days, last days, last hour) and that the Apostles sincerely believed and taught that they were living in the time when these things would be fulfilled. They all taught people to wait for His coming (1 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 10:37; James 5:8; 1 Peter 1:7; 1 John 2:28; Jude 18-19; Rev. 22:20). That they would be avenged for their tribulation at His coming (Rev. 6:9-11). That they would receive rest (2 Thess. 1:7). That they could be found blameless at His coming (1 Thess. 5:23). And that He was coming soon (James 5:8; Rev. 1:1). It was near. At hand. Right at the door! They were not only in the last days, but according to John, in the last hour (1 John 2:18). Jesus was coming soon!
Well, did it happen? Did Jesus ever show up? Was he near? Were they avenged? Were they found blameless? Did they ever get that promised rest? Well, I do have an answer for that. I don't have all the answers though. There still remains mystery and weaknesses in my own view. I'll share more about them in the next few blogs. You'll have to wait, but worry not. My second blog is "at hand".
I'll let you know that my goal isn't simply to win converts to my particular views of Eschatology. I'm not going to tell you what you have to believe. I don't intend to give you my view and ask you to simply take my word for it. I want to give you the tools to study these things for yourselves (like the Bereans in Acts). this series of blogs will give me opportunity to share those tools with you. Yes, I'll share what my studies have led me to believe. Yes, you may disagree. But please disagree because you've used the tools and come to a different conclusion, not simply because that's not what your last pastor taught. And if you do disagree, do agree to maintain love and fellowship. This isn't the Gospel. When it comes to Eschatology, I embrace the immortal words of the southern rock band .38 Special. "Just Hold On Loosely".
Here are a few other resources, which I've suggested before. I believe they'll really help round out your understanding of both history and how to study prophecy.
Josephus: The War of the Jews (describes the historical events I believe to be described in Revelation and The Olivet Discourse-Matt. 24, Mark 13, Luke 21)
The Parousia. Though I don't agree with every conclusion in Russel's book, his exegetical approach to the prophetic statements in the NT has been noted by R.C. Sproul in his book "The Last Days Of Jesus". $4 for Kindle or free PDF.
Dave became the Senior Pastor in April 2015 at TCC after serving as the Director of Children's and Praise Ministries for 9 years. He graduated in 2011 from A.W. Tozer Seminary with a Masters in Christian Leadership. He and his wife, Katie, live in Sequim with their 6 children, 2 dogs, 15 chickens, and 50,000 honeybees.
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