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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Explaining the End Times (Eschatology)

First things first, as always, when it comes to understanding the Bible we know we get it right when we are pointing to Jesus and Jesus alone. Indeed, all of Holy Scripture, even all of time (B.C. and A.D.) point to Jesus. Thus, when we have varying understandings (misinterpretations) of Scripture, we look to see if the understanding (explanation) points us to Jesus or not, which would usually mean it points to self. This explanation is another way of saying, does one explanation of Scripture speak of the fact that we are made just and right in God’s eyes by Jesus, or by some activity on our part?
 
The whole idea of dispensational theology (that the Bible is divided into different periods in which God offers salvation to mankind differently during each period), as it is called, is a rather new idea just over a hundred years old dating to the printing of the Darby and Scofield translations of the Bible. Prior to this publication and new teaching, the Christian Church has always believed that Christ’s return would be with trumpets and all would be judged, and that would be the end. There was no belief in any pre- or post-tribulation “secret” rapture, no time of tribulation, no two-stages of Christ’s coming, and quite frankly, there is no Biblical evidence of such occurrences.
 
Simple logic and following the words of Scripture taking them as God’s Word and letting God speak for Himself, we begin “in the beginning.” In Genesis we have the historic account of the creation of the world and the first humans, Adam and Eve. In chapter three we have the account of the fall into sin, the curse and God’s first promise to send a Savior. You may have noticed that God’s promise to send a Savior was made to Adam and Eve which means the promise of a Savior was made to all nations because in their DNA laid the genetic foundation of all nations. God’s promise, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
 
Moving on in Genesis we get to God’s call and promise to Abraham, “1Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). Notice that God’s covenant with Abraham was not a covenant that excluded anyone, rather He stated that “all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
 
Interestingly enough as one reads and rereads the covenant made with Abraham and his sons and their sons and on down the line, the covenant was a two part covenant. One part of the covenant was for earthly blessings and these blessings were usually conditional, that is if the people continued to follow God’s laws, then His promises would ensue. The second part was the main part and was a covenant of salvation of an eternal kingdom in heaven with Him. This second part was conditioned on Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection and faith in Jesus given by God.
 
As the history of Israel well demonstrates, Israel constantly disobeyed God, left the faith, were chastened by God, forgiven and then disobeyed again. Those who ultimately rejected Jesus rejected the covenant and forfeited the earthly promises, and yet by God’s grace there continues to be the possibility of their being given faith and being included in God’s eternal kingdom.
 
Even the prophet Isaiah continually made note of the fact that God’s promise of an eternal kingdom was not a promise or covenant of DNA, not a promise made to only a select group of people (Israel) but a covenant and promise of faith. By the time we get to Jesus we have Him explaining to the Pharisees that God can raise children of Abraham from stones. In other words, just because they were of the genetic line of Abraham did not mean they were saved, just as those not from the genetic line of Abraham (stones) would not be saved.
 
As for the false hope in some type of rapture with the idea that one is taken from earth in order to not suffer years of tribulation, we respond that first there is no rapture mentioned in the Bible. There is a reference to one being taken and one remaining, but the reference in context is that the one taken was not taken to heaven, see Noah and the flood. The quote is often: “36But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left” (Matthew 24:36-41). Again, notice the one left was saved in the Ark while the one taken drowned in the flood.
 
Also note commenting on 2 Thessalonians4:17, the Lutheran Study Bible says: “Cf 2Th 1:5–10. who are left. Believers who remain alive on the earth. caught up together with them. Greek harpazo carries with it the sense of a sudden and violent action. The point is that we will be gathered together at the resurrection, the dead as well as the living, when Christ returns. (The Vulgate used the term raptus, from which the modern false doctrine of a “rapture” gets its name. Paul’s teaching is about the resurrection and not a secret return of Christ.) Chrys: “When they see the earth agitated, the dust mingling, the bodies rising perchance on every side, no one [causing] this, but the ‘shout’ being sufficient … when they see so great a tumult upon the earth,—then they shall know.… What fear will possess those that remain upon the earth” (NPNF 1 13:356). meet the Lord in the air. In the ancient world, dignitaries were welcomed officially by people who escorted them. The focus is the coming together of the Lord and His people. The air is considered to be the abode of evil spirits (Eph 2:2), who will yield the place to Him who has all authority in the heavens and on earth. always be with the Lord. In heaven after the resurrection” (The Lutheran Study Bible).
 
Concerning the misunderstanding of the time of tribulation, in his revelation, John is questioned by one of the elders. The elder asks, “These in the white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” ( Rev. 7:12-17) John rightly answers, “Sir, you know.” John does not know and so he turns the question back to the man who asked so that he might get an answer. The answer is that they are those who have suffered for their faith. The word that is used for tribulation is the same word that Jesus used when He said that we would have trouble in this world, but we are to take heart, because He has overcome the world. This trouble, this tribulation that we suffer is not some new thousand year reign of trouble as some would suppose. No, this tribulation is what we have suffered since the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden. To be a Christian means that you inevitably suffer trials and tribulations.
 
When it comes to discussing these end times issues with those who have a misunderstanding, it might be helpful to remind them that God’s plan and promise from even before He began creation was the salvation of all people. Also, God has never promised anyone more than one chance for salvation which in essence is what is promised to those who are “left behind,” a false hope in a second chance. The Christian Church since the time of Christ has always believed in one final day of judgement preceded by a great trumpet sound, the dead being raised, the ascension of all to be judged, then the eternity of heaven or hell.

Resources:
    A Lutheran Response to the Left Behind Series, A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, April 2004.
    REVELATION The Distant Triumph Song, Siegbert W. Becker, Northwestern Publishing House, ©1985.
    The End Times A Study on Eschatology and Millennialism, A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, September 1989.

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