Eschatology gets a bad rap. People don’t like it. And I am not talking about lost people, but Christians. Most Christians would be happy if no other Christian ever mentioned the rapture, judgments, second coming, or any of the other last things.
I personally have been told that I focus too much on the “negative.” Well, call me crazy but I happen to think that being left behind during the most horrific judgments the world has ever known or will ever know is kind of negative. I happen to think that being chased and bitten by an actual demon from the abyss and writhing in agony for five months is sort of a downer. That sulfur raining from the sky would put a crimp in my day. That standing before Holy God in His wrath would be sort of a bummer. So I mention these “negative” things in hopes that someone, somewhere would heed the words and repent and live in the positive hope of His appearing.
By the way, Jesus spent more time talking about hell than heaven. Was He too “negative”? Hardly.
Not that we don’t want to preach the whole counsel of God. That is important, and with only a few immatureexceptions, we end timers do. What I see in my friends who proclaim last things is that they DO speak and live the whole counsel of God. These are some of the most buoyant, faithful, mature Christians I know, yet they and me are deemed ‘negative’. That is because as I said a moment ago, the brethren at large wish us not to speak of these things AT ALL, not that we exclusively speak only of them.
In David Lyon Bartlett ‘s “Feasting on the Word”, we read in an essay by Martha L. Moore-Keish that eschatology has gotten
“a bad reputation among some, who hear it as pointless speculation about future events, having nothing to do with the present. Lamentations shows us that eschatology can have imminently practical implications for how we live. In the midst of the ruined city, the writer proclaims that the LORD has been and will be faithful, then he sits down to wait for that salvation to show up. This shows fierce faith that all appearances to the contrary, God will not abandon God’s people. Not affliction, but mercy is the enduring character of God. Hope for salvation even in the darkest days, is this “pie in the sky, by and by”? Not if it leads to resistance amid the ruins. Not if it leads to genuine ability to survive and even thrive, in the midst of the rubble. Lively eschatological hope is not escape from the troubles of the world but stubborn insistence that God’s mercy will have the last word- and lived defiantly in light of that hope.”
Terrance Brownlow-Dindy of Kinder, Louisiana writes in his essay “Jeremiah, The Message“
“Not a few gospel preachers determined to “declare the whole counsel of God” exclusively, even when it means negative proclamation, have been characterized by those of the liberal and ecumenical elements as harsh, unloving, cold, and sectarian. If this is an accurate assessment of those who stand for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing less than the truth, then some ‘well-knowns’ of the cold, unloving and sectarian genre of gospel preachers would include men like — Jesus Christ (first and foremost), John the Immerser, Noah, Elijah, and the man whose message will be the focus this study – Jeremiah. Often, Jeremiah is deemed “The Weeping Prophet,” which is clearly a designation denoting his loving, compassionate character. How do we reconcile that description of Jeremiah with the predominantly negative message that he was commissioned to preach? The fact of the matter is, being a preacher who is truly caring of the souls of others always entails preaching a message that has some negative aspects in addition to the positive. Jeremiah’s message to the children of Israel residing in the southern kingdom of Judah during the 7th and 8th centuries B.C., in fact, was two-thirds negative. Jeremiah was appointed by God to verbally “build and plant,” (positives) but only after obeying the commands to “root out…pull down…destroy…and to throw down” (Jeremiah 1:10).”
Those of us who live with a very palpable sense that the Lord is about to return do so knowing that this changes the way we live. Embedded in the future prophecy, last days verses, are exhortations for us to DO certain things. Verses tell us that in light of His appearing, we should live Godly lives, diligently. (2 Peter 3:11,14). We should encourage each other ‘with these words‘ (1 Thessalonians 4:18). With what words? Rapture words. We should not forsake assembling – even more so as we see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25). We should pray eschatalogically. Did you know that the parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:2-5) is an appeal by Jesus for us to persistently pray for His return? Listen to this sermon or read the transcript to find out why. In Matthew 6:10 in the Lord’s prayer He teaches us to pray “His kingdom come”. It is clear that there are exhortations throughout the bible for a certain standard of holy living that is pleasing to God, and many of those standards include living in light of the last days doctrines. Ignoring the last days doctrines ignores the warnings about how to live in light of them.
And now, one caveat. For eschatology, and us, to be taken seriously, we can’t make rookie mistakes. That means, not assigning a day to His return. (Harold Camping and his ilk do a lot to injure us). We cannot make vain speculations. We should not add to the general confusion. We should not connect dots that shouldn’t be connected. We should not be cavalier about the lost or their left-behind status. In reference to the Peter verse, when He asked ‘how then, shall we live?” he said it should be with attentiveness, diligence, holy conversation and without spot and blameless.
“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless.” (2 Peter 3:14).
Do you see the promise and the warning there? We look for such things- good! But be diligent also. Don’t go beyond scripture, we must be without spot.
John MacArthur was asked about eschatology. He gave this story:
“The Bible’s eschatology is clear and I remember, perhaps the most interesting experience, eschatological experience I ever had was I got on an airplane one time down at LAX and I flew to Kazakhstan and it was 35 hours of flying to get to the back side of central Asia for a pastors conference with 1600 central Asian pastors who had just been liberated from the Russian Federation, the USSR because it had broken up under Perestroika Glasmus and they had the first central Asian pastors conference, there were 1600 Christian pastors there and they asked me to come and teach.
“I remember, I flew 35 hours, got off the flight at seven o’clock and I was speaking by eight and I didn’t stop till six days later. They were so hungry for the truth and they wanted me to teach about the church.”
Well they came to me and they said, “Will you teach the future? Would you teach us eschatology? Teach us what the Bible says about eschatology?”
I said, “Okay, Friday we’ll do that.” And from Friday morning about seven-thirty or eight, until late Friday night, I taught these 1600 people biblical eschatology. Here’s the amazing part. I never knew any of these people, never met any of these people, they didn’t know anybody I knew, they hadn’t been exposed to any books that I knew about or any schools. When the day was over, they all came in, they sat down with me and they said, “You believe exactly what we believe.”
I said, “Really?” Down to a pre-tribulational Rapture, you believe exactly what we believe. And I said, “Well, that’s amazing on the one hand, but on the other hand, if all you have is the Bible, that’s where you’re going to end up.” I think the reason people are confused about eschatology, Christian people, is because Christians with bad eschatology have made bad eschatology acceptable. But your problem is, even worse, non-believers mock Christianity because of the ridiculous and bizarre things that these false teachers do. This is satanic, I believe, this is lie and deception to discredit the simple, clear, truth of Scripture. It confuses people, there’s no question about it.”
There are two things to take away from that story. First is that people who have been isolated from all except the bible and read the bible diligently come away with a clear understanding of the pre-tribulation rapture and the importance of end time things. And second, that mucking it all up with stupidness puts a stumbling block in front of the lost and the weak.
Caleb Schumacher is one of the most deep and knowledgeable pastors I have ever read. He holds a Ph.D. in New Testament and an M.A. in Christian Apologetics. He says in his essay ‘Why I believe in the Second Coming‘, “God brought me to Christ through the study of eschatology, or the study of “last” or “end” things.”
Here is why, he says, prophecy is important:
–fulfilled prophecy demonstrates the omniscience of God,
–fulfilled prophecy demonstrates that the bible is a supernatural book,
–fulfilled prophecy demonstrates that Jesus is the Messiah and God,
–fulfilled prophecy instills confidence in the Christian as to future predictions that the bible makes.
FYI, 109 predictions concern the Messiah’s 1st coming. Over 200 deal with His Second Coming!
Go on and read the rest of the piece by Schumacher below. I hope it will be encouraging. Stick with it end time proclaimers!! What I have found is rather than make me negative, the knowledge of His return and the wonder of His prophetic works in the world makes me love Him all the more. The more I love Him the more “positive” I become!