Posted in christian life, last things, prophecy, trevin wax

More on Eschatological Discipleship

Destruction of Jerusalem, Wilhelm von Kaulbach, 1860

Trevin Wax is author, speaker, blogger and one of the Editors of Lifeway. He is also a student and is busy finishing up his dissertation. He said on his blog recently that he plans to pause his blog in order to make time to finish his dissertation, which was on the topic of Eschatological Discipleship.

I was intrigued by this new term, because it seems that the emphasis and giftings the Lord has placed in me is aligned with this kind of discipleship. I mentioned Mr Wax’s term “eschatological discipleship” in a recent post. After that, I thought about it more and researched more.

I’m not talking solely about prophecy, though it is the foundation for this kind of discipleship. My goal has always been to quicken the hearts and minds of fellow believers to live increasingly holy lives in fervency and diligence in light of the fact that Jesus is coming again. Discipling people to be reminded of the King to whom we will face at a moment’s notice, the rewards that are laid up for us and which we store up ourselves as well, and the fact that the more we look up the better citizens of heaven we will be on earth for His kingdom and our fellow man. It’s to tell people, prophecy matters, because we are living it.

As Mr Wax had said in his summary of what eschatological discipling is,

Taking a Break and Asking for Prayer

The topic of my dissertation is “eschatological discipleship.” Following Jesus means understanding our times in light of the biblical vision of history and having the wisdom to make the right choices when the path ahead seems unclear.

Many gospel-centered folks are right to point out that the New Testament’s moral imperatives are often grounded in Christ’s finished work for us in the past. What we sometimes overlook, however, is how many of those moral imperatives also look forward to Christ’s return in the future. We are called to be “children of the day” in a world that knows only darkness.

The question that propels me forward is this:

What kind of discipleship is necessary to fortify the faith of believers so that we understand what time it is, we rightly interpret our cultural moment, and see through the false and damaging views of history and the future that are in our world?

That is the question I posed in my workshop at TGC this year: Discipleship in the Age of Richard Dawkins, Lady Gaga, and Amazon.com: Grounding Believers in the Scriptural Storyline that Counters Rival Eschatologies. (The audio from the talk is available here.) To be alert to our times is a gospel requirement, says Oliver O’Donovan:

To see the marks of our time as the products of our past; to notice the danger civilisation poses to itself, not only the danger of barbarian reaction; to attend especially not to those features which strike our contemporaries as controversial, but to those which would have astonished an onlooker from the past but which seem to us too obvious to question. There is another reason, strictly theological. To be alert to the signs of the times is a Gospel requirement, laid upon us as upon Jesus’ first hearers.

Mr Wax also mentioned this topic in an essay at The Gospel Coalition titled 4 Marks of Biblical Discipleship, of which eschatological discipling is one of the marks.

4. Discipleship is Eschatological
Discipleship is eschatological in nature, because the church that makes and receives disciples is eschatological in nature. By eschatology, I’m not referring merely to the “last things” doctrines often relegated to the back of systematic theology textbooks. I’m speaking of eschatology in a broader sense, as encompassing the Christian vision of time and the destiny of our world. Eschatology in this sense informs both our evangelism and our ecclesiology.
I love the picture Lesslie Newbigin paints:

“The church . . . calls men and women to repent of their false loyalty to other powers, to become believers in the one true sovereignty, and so to become corporately a sign, instrument, and foretaste of that sovereignty of the one true and living God over all nature, all nations, and all human lives.”

Seeing discipleship from an eschatological standpoint impacts the way we preach and teach. The alternative is to minimize the eschatological understanding of discipleship, which will leave us with an incomplete worldview, imbalanced discipleship, and eventually, a tragic inability to model the Christian way of life, since modeling implies obedience in a particular time and place.

Discipleship is eschatological, because questions like “What time is it?” and “Where is history going?” greatly impact a disciple’s worldview and inform what modeling a life of following Jesus looks like.

There are two aspects to our walk in the faith. One is that we as humans are living in a point in time. We have a birth date and a death date. Our walk with Jesus while in the flesh is finite. Esther was placed in the King’s life “for just such a time as this.” It was pivotal, her life began and ended and reached a climactic moment we all know occurred in Esther 4:14b.

Many gospel-centered folks are right to point out that the New Testament’s moral imperatives are often grounded in Christ’s finished work for us in the past. What we sometimes overlook, however, is how many of those moral imperatives also look forward to Christ’s return in the future. Trevin Wax.Yet, the other aspect of our existence is not a point in time but a person living in a stream of time in the past, present and future all at once. This mirrors the Lord “who was, who is, and is to come.” We were saved, we are being saved, and at a future time the salvation will be completed in glorification. It’s like we’re standing in a stream, with the current of all of time swirling by our feet. We look left, upstream and we see through our biblical lens the plan of God since Adam and Eve, and our feet are in the same stream of time that they are/were/will be again. Even Esther’s climactic moment was only part of a time-stream where if she did not act, “relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place.” (Esther 4:14a). The stream flows no matter what we do or what part of it we are standing in.

We look at our feet and see the fish we need to catch and so we are busy performing service to the Lord. Then we look downstream and we see the future. The stream flows but it curves and we cannot quite see what is ahead but we know there are currents and rapids and a waterfall, because we can hear them. We read the Bible and we can see ahead as far as the Lord allows by having given us glimpses from the Bible of where this great rushing stream of water is flowing to.

Wax: “eschatology…as encompassing the Christian vision
of time and the destiny of our world.”

What I gather Mr Wax is saying is that when discipling we always focus on the upstream, in looking at the past work of Christ. We also focus on our feet and fish for men and tend the creek where we are standing. However, we rarely tell our discipled members to look downstream at what is ahead. We say to the fisherman acolyte, “You don’t need to look ahead, where this great stream of time and plan of God is flowing isn’t important for catching fish today, here, now.” But it is.

Let me give a practical example of how John MacArthur eschatologically discipled his flock in this way. The Cripplegate summarized Dr MacArthur’s message We Will Not Bow, given last week.

Yet the thrust of the message was not condemnation. MacArthur clearly wanted to encourage believers, and so he ended with  2 Thessalonians 1:3-10.  In this rich passage, the Thessalonian believers are warmly commended for their “perseverance and faith” in the midst of persecution and afflictions.  Apparently this faithful congregation endured many hardships for the cause of Jesus Christ. Paul wants these believers to find relief in the doctrine of the second coming of Christ.  Paul tried to comfort the Thessalonians by assuring them that judgment will be merciless to those who reject the mercies of God in Christ.

The eschatological portions of scripture are given as a warning to the ungodly (Jude 1:7) and as comfort to the sheep not just in the coming rescue (1 Thessalonians 4:18) but we’re exhorted to find comfort in the fact that God will punish the wicked. (2 Peter 2:9).

Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.  This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven…  (2 Thessalonians 1:4-7a)

The relief spoken of is the coming of Christ in which one of His intentions is to repay and rectify all things. MacArthur finishes by saying:

The key here is at the beginning of verse 7, the middle of verse 7, “when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven.” That’s our focus. It’s ever and always the Christian’s hope. No matter how bad it gets, Jesus is coming.

Disciple your folks eschatologically, encouraging the brethren in the full sweep and scope of Christ’s plan on the earth and under the earth and in heaven. He was, and He is, and He is to come. He is our hope, He is our relief, He is our rescue, He is our Rock. Drink from that refreshing living stream.

and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:4).

Posted in bible, clarity, eschatology, last things, macarthur, mohler, perspicuity, prophecy

Why prophecy is important (The world is unraveling)

I love prophecy. To me, it is the clearest identifier of God as sovereign over the universe, the earth, humans, and time. He writes history in advance, because He is king of all, and what He says will come to pass.

I also love studying the bible. I believe it is the highest and best use of time, to get to know the attributes of the LORD, to seek His face through what He has told us. If you want ‘direct revelation’, the bible cannot be beat for informing us of our Lord and King, Jesus.

The bible is knowable and understandable to the Christian. We have the Holy Spirit in us to illuminate His word to us. (Ephesians 1:17-18). The Holy Spirit teaches us spiritual things. (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). Of course there are some things in the bible we cannot understand, such as the Trinity, One God in three Persons. We cannot understand the Spirit’s overcoming Mary and producing a child. We do not understand all the ways in which God thinks. However, for the most part, the doctrines upon which He has given to us, are understandable.

One such doctrine is the doctrine of eschatology. This is the doctrine of ‘last things’, or end times. Just because there are many people who won’t or can’t understand the various threads of prophecy does not mean there exists confusion about what He plans to do. The pre-tribulation rapture is one of these understandable doctrines, clearly outlined in the bible to those who care to learn. Some people say Revelation is difficult, I find it easy to understand. I do find Daniel difficult, but that does not stop me from studying it, nor from turning to other scripture to help me interpret Daniel’s book. It can be done, and it has been done. Oliver B. Greene’s commentary on Daniel is wonderful. John MacArthur’s book “Because the Time is Near” is a clear explanation of Revelation.

Even this is a doctrine! It is called the Perspicuity of Scripture. According to the Theopedia, the perspicuity of scripture means,

The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture (often called the “perspicuity of Scripture”) teaches that “the meanings of the text can be clear to the ordinary reader, that God uses the text of the Bible to communicate His person and will.”  

“The witness of the Church throughout the ages is that ordinary people, who approach it in faith and humility, will be able to understand what the Bible is getting at, even if they meet with particular points of difficulty here and there.”

Yet there are some people who refuse to believe the doctrines of last things, because so many other people are mixed up over them. ‘They can’t be understood, so why try?’ I was told by one man in church. “I’m a pan-tribber, it’ll all work out in the end,” he said.

Illustrator, Chris Koelle, The Book of Revelation

That is a highly offensive statement, and I said so to his face. It is a blight on Jesus, the Spirit, and God who inspired it, and all the Apostles who wrote the inspired word, and all the martyrs who protected it, to be so blatantly dismissive of 30% of God’s holy doctrines. Jesus did not reveal last things to John, nor the angel to Daniel, so God’s people could mock them.

Did you know that every NT book except Philemon mentions last things?

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16)

So I was so pleased when John MacArthur was asked about eschatology in his latest Q & A session at Grace Community Church. In Q&A session #62 it was stated by the interviewer that they had received more than a dozen questions regarding eschatology.

First, MacArthur noted that a church without a solid understanding of eschatology has got a huge loose end. Here are MacArthur’s words on the importance of the church understanding and teaching last things:

a church without a solid biblical eschatology, meaning understanding of the end of history has got a huge loose end. It’s huge. I said something about that this morning when I was kind of wrapping up. I said, the Jews wanted to force all the prophesies regarding the Messiah into His first coming. We have Christians who want to take all the prophesies concerning Christ and push them back into His first coming. They’re called pretrerists, amillenialists. So they have this theology with this totally open end. It just has no closure. They don’t seem to care particularly. It’s almost like a badge of Reformed loyalty to be unsure about how everything ends.

I am running into this attitude more frequently, the badge of loyalty to uncertainty. “I’m super-spiritually humble because I refuse to state how things will end.” Or, “I’m super tolerant of all the different interpretations, because who am I to say dogmatically? It’s all just beyond little ole me.” Uncertainty is the new loyalty. But is that right? Is that honoring to Jesus? Here’s more from MacArthur.

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t work well with me. First of all, I don’t think God gave a clear beginning and just kind of lost Himself at the end. I don’t think if Genesis 1 says that God created in six days and there’s no question about it, and He lays out exactly how He did it; and you get to the book of Revelation and you hear about periods of certain weeks and certain months and certain years and a thousand year millennium, and then an eternal state. I don’t think God lost His way at the end. I don’t think He was confused at the end. I think the end is as precise as the beginning. To be honest with you, I am far more concerned about the end than I am the beginning. The beginning is over. I’m glad it was what it was, and it explains why things are the way they are.

This is an important point. God did not state it clearly in the beginning and then back away from clarity for the end. He is just as clear in Revelation as He was in Genesis.

Source

As for the people who say, ‘There are so many interpretations, it’s just best to let go and let God. It’ll all work out in the end, anyhow,’ I say that’s just a bunch of lazy hooey. There are not many views of last things. There is only one view, God’s view, and He has shared it with us.

But I don’t think you can over estimate the value of a church with a clear ecclesiology and a clear eschatology. Clear understanding of the church, and a clear understanding of what the Bible says about how things are going to end. It does say something. It doesn’t say everything, and it doesn’t say whatever you want it to say. It doesn’t have ten views or five views or four views. There’s just one view.

MacArthur went on to describe a wonderful moment in Kazakhstan some years ago. Kazakhstan is east of Mongolia and north of Turkey. It is around the world. He was asked to teach 1600 men at a pastor’s conference. MacArthur taught 8 hours a day for 6 days a week. The men were hungry for the word, to be taught. They had been behind the Iron Curtain and now were released into more freedoms, including the freedom to practice religion, and to gather. They’d been denied a congregation, education, commentaries, access to internet or anything resembling study aids. They had each other, and the bible…and the Holy Spirit. So they wanted to know about all the doctrines, including eschatology.

MacArthur said,

I laid out; I went through the book of Revelation systematically and showed them the end. They said to me after that – I took a day to do that. The end of that day they said, “You believe what we believe.” I said, “I believe what you believe?” Same Bible. Guess what? It’s so clear that people with no training, no seminary, and no commentaries could understand what the book of Revelation said.

The reason I gave you the illustration about Kazakhstan is because that is as alien a place as you could ever be. Thirty-five hours to get there. You step off the plane. I’ve never been there. I don’t know what’s going on. I teach them a whole day on the end times, and they tell me that’s exactly what they believe. How did they come to that? They don’t have seminaries. They don’t have books. They don’t have anything. That’s what the Bible says. You have to go to school and listen to somebody who deceives you to undo that because that’s what’s there.

MacArthur has said before that any believer who landed on a desert island with nothing else except his bible can and would understand eschatology. The 1,600 Kazakhstan men were as close to desert island as you can get in this modern world, and eschatology was made understandable to them- because they studied it.

Source

As a note, what a glory it is that we believers have this unifying thread! What a moment of recognition between a Scottish-descended pastor from Sun Valley CA and Kazakhstani men isolated behind the iron curtain, to know each other as brothers! This unifying thread is the holy word, the Bible.

For men to say, ‘Ack, it’s all too much for me, it’ll all work out in the end, anyway,’ is a direct rejection of the wonder of being able to recognize and commune with brothers via a common and eternal understanding of God’s word, wherever you are on earth.

Rejecting eschatology is also a rejection of the work that the Spirit has done in men that He has raised up. Many resources are out there, as I mentioned, commentaries, sermons, books, timelines…it is all there for us.

To continue what MacArthur said about eschatology,

I think it matters how it all ends. I think God is glorified when we acknowledge Him as the Creator, the beginning; and I think He is glorified when we acknowledge Him as the consummator, the end. I think that’s a huge benefit for Christians looking at the world and wondering where is this going? Where is this going?

In talking to Al Mohler when I was back there a few weeks ago, he said he’s more eschatological than he’s ever been. He’s almost apocalyptic because he sees a world that just there is no way to reverse this. This thing is in a massive free fall, and there is no way to stop this. He’s pretty well-attuned to the way things are, and he says, “I’ve never felt so eschatological, so apocalyptic about the way the world is going.” Well, if you want to understand where the world is going, you can as a believer. That gives us such a powerful confidence that all that is coming is laid out for us on the pages of Scripture. I think that’s a treasure that a church can’t underestimate.

Do not reject the treasure of eschatology. It is just as much a treasure as the Psalms and the Gospels. Do not reject the work we are to do through eschatology. We have the answer to how it will all end. Lost people are confused and frightened about where this world is headed. We know it. Do not be afraid to study, and then to share.

What message does it send when a mature man of the faith in church makes a public statement dismissing eschatology? It tells the next generation that it is not worth studying, and bible illiteracy increases, just at the time when the next generation may be the very generation to see these things come to pass and could have been more fervent and diligent about sharing the truth with lost and confused people.

John MacArthur is a unique individual and is in a unique position. It was common in the old days for a pastor to stay for decades. Not so any more, where the average pastoral stay is 5 years or less. MacArthur has been at Grace Church for 46 years. He is 75 years old. He has seen history unfold, prophecy fulfilled and apostasy rise. He said,

I’m seeing this world unravel. There doesn’t seem to be any way back. I mean this is totally out of control. This is a free fall down a black hole. So, you can’t just say, “Well, eschatology doesn’t matter.” That is not helpful. People want answers. Where is this thing going? It’s not fair to God, it’s a dishonor to God to say, “Well, the Bible is not clear.” It is clear. It is absolutely clear.

Yes, it is sad and offensive that there are so many people who refuse to study last things. Those who dismiss the Spirit’s work in inspiring that portion of the bible are simply missing out on so much glory. It is also sad that so many brethren have unfortunately come to different understandings of what God clearly laid out. But does that mean we reject it all? Does that mean that is is useless for us individually to study it? No.

I just wish that the church was unified on what the Bible says. I don’t like it that there are Christians who don’t believe in Creation, but believe in some form of evolution. I think that dishonors God and confuses people. I don’t like it that there are Christians who don’t accept what the Bible says about the end either. But I think it’s wonderful that we do, and the answers are there.

God’s word has all the answers, including last things. Please do not be afraid to jump in and read, learn, pray, and receive illumination from the Spirit. Do not be afraid to seek credible, quality study aids. Always remember the perspicuity of scripture. The bible is clear.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Further Reading

Academic Paper – The Master’s Seminary: The Perspicuity of Scripture

Essay – Oliver B. Greene on the Pre-Tribulation rapture

Essay – Thirty-Six Pre-Trib Rapture texts

Sermon – Christmas Future: Last Things of Jesus Christ in Revelation

Sermon – The Clarity of Scripture, Part 1

Posted in eschatology, last things, pre-tribulation rapture, rapture

The rapture!

This is one of the biblical passages that teach us the great doctrine of the rapture:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Let’s encourage one another with these words! How do we do that? I’m sure you have your ideas, but one way is simply to speak of this beautiful doctrine frequently. We must not be uninformed.

S. Lewis Johnson, who taught a pretribulation rapture, said of the text,

Then last time in our study we took a look at the calendar of future events. I hope we found it. I know it is exciting and thrilling, moving from the coming apostasy in the church — a measure that is already with us — through the advent of the Lord Jesus to the eternal state. We who are believers surely have a great hope – I’m not at all sure that we speak of it too much – in fact probably under the influence of criticism we do not speak of our heavenly hope enough.”

The rapture is getting such a terrible knock these days, and in some, it actually sparks anger! Johnson made that statement in 1976 that due to criticism sometimes we are too gun-shy to speak of it, and look at the growing apostasy now in 2014 and the anger and fervent hatred the doctrine brings up, even among “brethren”. An example of it happened to me just yesterday.

This man named Justin W. White, who in his bio says he “loves theology”, tweeted a response to my tweet regarding the Southern Baptist Convention’s resolution to affirm that God-ordained gender is God’s will and it’s sin to change it (RE: transgenderism). I’d not mentioned rapture AT ALL, but in his response, he brought it up and used profanity too.

  • #SBC14 opposes “Heaven Is For Real” because it is non-scriptural, but they buy into a literal rapture? Yeah. about that.
  • I replied, “Because heaven tourism isn’t biblical, but rapture is. (no the English word ‘rapture’ isn’t in the bible, but the concept is)
  • He answered: “the rapture is not a historical/orthodox doctrine of the church. It is modern bs made to scare people into moralism.”

I seriously wonder how someone could be a Christian and NOT be comforted by the promises that Jesus is coming soon to gather His church to Himself!

How beautiful are the doctrines of His second return. Though the rapture isn’t the Second Coming per se, it is a doctrine of last things which precedes His second and final return to earth to judge the living and the dead. He will call us up to Himself and we will always be with the Lord. How encouraging to look forward to!

John 14:1-3 says,

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; a believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?b 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Just reading those words are so very comforting. Knowing that the Lord is preparing a place for us, that He is returning for us, that He will resurrect our loved ones alive and dead, and bring up the ancient saints who died even during the apostolic age, that we will be given our glorified (sinless!!) bodies, that we will be with Him…there are so many encouraging things to look forward to!

S. Lewis Johnson, who taught a pretribulation rapture, said,

Lake Como: Garden, Villa Arconati, 1905

“The doctrine of the rapture of the church is an important doctrine for us. I say doctrine that suggests for us faithfulness in service. It should be a motive and incentive to give ourselves to devotion to the Lord Jesus. It should also have tremendous motivation in evangelistic activity. I refer to our own personal testimony. It also should be a comforting doctrine.”

There is an old story about a man who visited the Villa Ara Connate in Italy. He saw the gardener. The grounds were kept in beautiful shape, speaking to the gardener he said, “When does the owner of this villa come here?”

He said, “Well, I’ve been working here for 20 years, and he’s only been here four times.”

“When was the last time that he was here?”

“12 years ago.”

“Who takes charge? To whom do you report?”

He said, “I report to a steward in Milan.”

“Why, you keep these gardens as if you were expecting the owner tomorrow.”

And the gardener replied, “Today, sir. Today.”

“That really is the kind of attitude provoked by the doctrine of the rapture of the church as the next significant prophetic event. I think that on balance the Scriptures teach that the Lord Jesus to come again for the church imminently, and that we have reason from Scripture to look for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.”

So this great prophetic message has tremendous moral value. We should never think of the doctrines of the word of God with reference to the future as simply doctrines that tickle our curiosity. They are doctrines that are designed to affect our spiritual life. They are designed to make us more moral, more spiritual, more Christian in all of our activity. ~S. Lewis Johnson
“…to be with the Lord.” Now, THAT is heaven. Do not let satan steal your hope. Do not let criticism suppress your encouragement of the brethren. Do not let liberal seminaries forget to teach this important doctrine. Do not be shushed in church.

knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.” (2 Peter 3:3)As one of the commenters said, “Their very scoffing shall confirm the truth of the prediction.”

_____________________

Further Reading:

J. Vernon McGee: The Rapture is Next

John MacArthur: The Rapture (14-min video explaining the rapture & why it is pre-trib)