Saturday, January 09, 2010

When Will These Things Come To Pass?

It may be presumptuous of me, but I expect most of you are interested, to varying degrees, in prophecy; particularly, prophecy dealing with the end of the age.
It is an easy assumption for me to make, considering you would have to be blind and deaf to Christian, especially evangelical, culture, not to have come across the subject almost as often as you have come upon the prayer that was Jabez', or the life that is driven by purpose.
Why the dramatic escalation of interest in the topic?
Is it the preoccupation of America with a terrorist element that threatens to bring war upon us, and more significantly, prophetically speaking, the nation of Israel?
Is it the unprecedented possibility of mass destruction, in the form of the proliferation of lost, orphaned nukes floating into the hands of madmen and giving new force to the concept of the heavens melting with fervent heat?
Is it a fad? Christian culture is not the only sub-culture fascinated with apocalyptic scenarios.
Some ancient Mayans laid the groundwork for quite a firestorm when they ended their calendar in the year 2012. Hollywood picks it up, and the rest is cinematic history.
You could even make the case that global warming alarmists are simply obsessed with global destruction.
Or, is it the dispassionate observation of events juxtaposed with Scripture?
The formation of that last question may give you the idea that I've already made up my mind.
Not entirely. I think all of the above-mentioned are factors.
The idea of the end of the world is certainly provocative and arresting, so fascination with the topic, given all the current global unrest, is to be expected.
I have tried to back off from my "feelings" regarding the subject many times precisely because I don't wish to be caught up in any faddish frenzy.
I have asked myself if the similarities between end-times prophecies and current events are not as easy to conjure up as the similarities between the words of Nostradamus and 9-11.
Are direct connections between Russian-Iranian alliances and Gog-Magog alliances as easy to construe as the death of Princess Diana written in between the lines of Scripture as postulated in the Bible Code?
There is undeniably a great deal of sensationalism connected with the topic, but it only obscures the issue.
I can't coherently discuss all aspects of prophecy because I'm not an authority on the subject, but in the interest of remaining objective, I have tried to research the camp that bills itself as the voice of reason.
The sheer seismic proportions of the topic have created an almost proportionate tsunami of skepticism. I mean to say, one fad has created another.
There are plenty of dissenting viewpoints on the imminence of the end of the world.
But, (and this is what I mean to point out in this blog) it is more than a little frustrating to set out looking for cool, rational opponents of "dispensationalism", and find nothing, (so far) except sneering, mocking, sarcastic evangelical haters.
Google dispensational millennialism and you quickly gain the idea that the very term "dispensational millennialist" is as much an epithet as a description.
The accusations of sensationalism, exploitation and abandonment of the lost fly thick and fast in conjunction with some highly suspect interpretations of Scripture.
For example, "The dispensational theory of premillennialism has gained great popularity mainly among modern evangelicals. The dispensational view of premillennialism, with its elaborate conspiracy theories, time tables, charts and graphic scenarios, is essentially a chiliast error. It has been most often accompanied by the false notion that the Second Coming is a predictable event with an identifiable time-table. This is despite Christ’s warning that “it is not for you to know the times or the seasons” (Acts 1:7)."
This comes from a fellow named Jay Rogers.
First you have the initial connection drawn between premillennialism and evangelicals, a connection every bit as damning as the one between aerosol cans and the big hole in the ozone layer. It is sufficient to say that if one is connected in any way to any idea that is held largely by an evangelical-minded segment of Christianity, he is not only immediately disregarded, he is immediately an accessory.
Hence the syllogism: All premillennial dispensationalists are evangelicals.
All evangelicals are ignorant, intolerant rubes.
Thus, all premillennial dispensationalists are ignorant, intolerant rubes.
Conspiracies? Time tables? Premillennialists often believe the Second Coming is a predictable event with an identifiable timetable? Who on earth has Mr. Rogers been reading after? I don't know of a single prominent premillennialist, excluding Whisenant, who has offered any such idea.
Mr. Rogers and his colleagues apparently expect all literalists to smile pretty for the camera while they photo shop in the straw man and smack the stuffing out of his 88 reasons for '88.
Further down into Mr. Rogers explanation of all that is wrong with dispensationalism, I found what appears to be a complete fabrication. He accuses Tim LaHaye of setting an exact date for the Second Coming in the Left Behind series. Aside from the fact that if Tim LaHaye is writing a novel, by definition, a work of fiction, he should be able to set all the dates he wishes without fear of conspiracy theorists like Mr. Rogers accusing him of setting literal timetables, there is the inconvenient truth that, after checking my copy of Tribulation Force, surprise, I find no dates.
(I hold Mr. Rogers personally culpable for the toe I stubbed running to locate my copy of Left Behind to find the date of the Rapture in the interest of maxing out all my credit cards.)
But further down still, I find a telling remark. In Matthew 24, Jesus gives the disciples an evanescent glimpse of the future: "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory."
I had a glimpse into what makes Mr. Rogers tick when I read this phrase regarding the above passage. "The highly figurative language used here-"
It is extremely difficult to have a productive debate on anything Biblical when any given passage is subject to the "figurative" dodge.
What it is about Jesus' statement here or anything in the previous verses that gives Mr. Rogers the impression Jesus is employing poetic license?
The previous verse mentions the sun being darkened, the moon giving no light, and the stars falling from the sky. Rogers doesn't interpret that for us, but I'm certain there is some highly figurative explanation for that as well.
Rogers apparently subscribes to full preterism and reconstructionist postmillennialism, the respective views that end times prophecy was fulfilled in the first century A.D. and that the church itself will usher in the millennial reign, setting up a 1000 yr. (possibly figurative again) theocracy.
Again, he states, "Matthew 24:35 through the end of chapter 25 do not refer to 'all the evil things we see happening today,' but to judgment progressively falling on the wicked to remove them from the world as the kingdom of God advances."
I never felt that eschatology should necessarily be a contentious issue, but perhaps I'm being a little naive.
It isn't simply a matter of a time difference.
The fact is, you believe what you believe about the end-times because your view of Scripture in general informs it.


wnc said...

zoom.VERRY GOOD BLOG,but I would like to read it in laymens terms.

Joe Delivery said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathan Carpenter said...

Don't be so modest. You are not, after all, a layman.

Jay Rogers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay Rogers said...

"Rogers apparently subscribes to full preterism"

No, in fact, I don't.

Full preterism is a first order heresy that denies the Second Coming is still to occur.

Your statement shows you don't know what preterism is. You ought to study and understand what preterists say and THEN draw conclusions.

Meanwhile ALL Christians are partial preterists. That is, we are all preterists.

Even Hal Lindsey admits that Mt. 24was fulfilled in the first century. He is just looking for it to be fulfilled TWICE. Hal Lindsey might be termed then a "partial futurist."

The difference is that I try to find a consistent interpretation between Daniel 2,7-12; Mt. 24; and Revelation. If they are each predicting the same thing, then it is crazy to jump backward and forward thousands of years inconsistently whenever something seems to fit. The key to Mt 24 and Rev. is in fact a correct interpretation of Daniel, which is preterist.

I don't write anywhere that Lindsey, LaHaye, etc., set specific dates. I write that they are "date-setters" in that they think the end of the world is coming on THIS generation -- the generation that saw the restoration of geo-political Israel.

What they get right is that there is a Second Coming and that there are things we can look forward to such as the Great Commission. What they get wrong is audience relevance. They interpret Daniel's prophecy to the Jews, Jesus' words to His disciples, and John's letter to "the seven churches" as speaking directly to us in the 20th (now already the 21st) century.

They've made the error that every generation has made in trying to force the symbolism of Revelation to apply to our own day.

In 50 years, they will look like fools, but they will be replaced by other fools who will once again misinterpret these first century audience scriptures wrongly.

Nathan Carpenter said...

Hereafter I will refer to you as a partial preterist. But maybe we need your definition of partial preterism, because as I understand it, it holds that most of the prophecies we're most familiar with, i.e., the AntiChrist, the Great Trib, occurred in A.D. 70. If that is the case, I don't see how you can say all Christians are pp's.
Most people agree that Jesus was referring to the A.D. 70 date in the first part of Matt. 24, and then goes on to discuss the final days of the world as we know it in the latter part of the chapter.
My pastor/father mentioned something to me. A few verses prior to the ones we have been discussing, Jesus states that such tribulation (of which He is speaking) has never been seen before and will never be seen again. Is this the A.D. 70 event?
In regards to LaHaye, you wrote, "In contrast to Christ’s biblical admonition against predicting the time of the Second Coming (Mat. 25:13), many evangelical books authored in recent years have predicted the exact time of the Second Advent, for example: Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth, Edgar Whisenant’s, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be In 1988, and Harold Camping’s 1994, which was a best seller in 1993, and the novel series, Left Behind, by Tim LaHaye." How is that not saying that LaHaye set an exact date?
My greater point was that people such as yourself refuse to take Scripture literally when there is no indication that we should take it any other way, and that what I once regarded as a minor doctrinal dispute becomes a major one when the issue of literalism is at stake.
It appears we agree on two things; the certainty of a Second Coming and the importance of the Great Commission.
Finally, the point that is really niggling me, how on earth did you find my blog?
Thank you for your time, and I hope you respond again.

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