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Eschatological Teaching: Is it edifying?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works”.

One cannot justifiably place emphasis on the scholarly and beneficial validity of studying, discerning, speculating, stipulating, validating and confirming as accurately and with as much credulity, certainty and personal commitment as possible the approximate dates, places and particular people concerned in fulfilled prophecies, and actual events, recorded in Old and New Testament history, and not equally treat and teach all the scriptures which plainly discuss, for our edification, the redemption and resurrection of Christ’s church with the same certainty, specific detail, and respect. To say “Christ will come again, but we don’t know when, so we will stay off the controversial subject and not teach it for fear of being regarded as fanatics”, is inconsistent with prescribed Christian behaviour. The world dismisses you as a fool as soon as you give your heart to Christ, ninety percent of Christendom likewise further dismisses you as soon as you dip below the waters of fully immersive baptism, and ninety-nine percent of the rest further dismiss you when you begin giving ten percent of your income to the church every week. Where do you want to draw the line of not wanting to be regarded as a crank? Is this line drawn under any particular verse in scripture? Where does the Bible say “That was for then, this is for now, that was for them, this is for you”? Where does it say “Don’t preach anything that’s hard to prove”?

menton-rapture
19th century statue on gravestone in international cemetery, Menton, France, photographed by the writer. The figure is clearly sculpted as rising through a broken tomb lid, its supports so cleverly constructed as to appear to float on nothing, as if being “caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”. Among a plethora of predominantly Roman Catholic imagery in the same cemetery, this was the only recognisably Christian tomb, and the only edifying one, portraying as it does, the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. Whoever built and paid for this expensive tomb design, or was buried beneath it, knew what and in whom they believed, and were persuaded that He is able to keep that which they had committed unto Him against that day.
Photo copyright ©2012 Adam Nixon

The force with which both Christ and the New Testament writers encourage believers to expect not just His return, but also an immediate miraculous translation to Heaven for an unspecified number of nevertheless specified undead souls precludes any redundancy in the task of both searching and proclaiming the scriptures for details of what, when, and who the event will concern. The ‘rapture’ may be held to be pre-, post-, pan-, a-, or intra-millennial, partial, dead-only, live-only, both, some, all, or not at all, but we must assume that, in keeping with all scripture, certainties can be learnt about it, not vagaries supposed. Certainty of scriptural doctrine is what separates the people of God from pagans and Roman Catholics, and supernaturally empowers us above their wiles. We must assume that, as with all scripture, and also with all that He has revealed of Himself in the Creation, God wishes us, not just to know how He has ordained events in the future, but also to learn from it in such a way that guides and influences our comportment in the present. As the bird rises and sings at dawn, so will we benefit from discerning to do likewise. If all scripture is profitable for thoroughly furnishing us unto all good works, then only one of the differing millennial positions can be correct: The others are wrong, and will bear fruit of bad works.

This is the gravity and certainty with which we must approach and appreciate the apocryphal texts. To say that there merely may, or may not be a premillennial rapture is incorrect, and a waste of scripture. To say that there definitely is or is not one, is the more correct stance, and if any doubt remains for either position, one must pursue that doubt until it dissipates and is replaced with tangible scriptural edification for the Christian life.

The spirit of the modern age, and the Devil who tirelessly works so successfully within it to confuse, discourage and embarrass Christians from any certainty or credibility, has, in recent years, silenced the mouths of upward-looking Christians and churches who were at one time equally successfully embarrassing the gates of Hell by preaching such glad tidings of the physical resurrection against it that their minds were so daily and unshakeably set on Heaven as to propel a great age of missionary zeal, now sadly past. Is it not entirely plausible that C.S. Lewis’s demon Screwtape, would, on this very subject, instruct his protege Wormwood in the 21st Century to seek to quash and ridicule all mention and hope of a miraculous and dramatic resurrection, not just of Christ, but of us, the brethren He died to save and raise in the same likeness? Screwtape would write: “Whatever you do Wormwood, do not allow the patient to imagine that God would extend such grace as to be able and willing to give him a miraculously happy ending. Rather, let the patient, even the most humble patient, indeed especially the most humble patient, opine that as his good works do not merit his salvation from Hell, his innate sins do not merit his rapture from tribulation. Let him be happy to be a Christian, but not too happy. Let him be sure of salvation, but unsure of the specifics, let him be optimistic about the future, but not about the near future. Let him think there will be clouds before the sunshine, and that Heaven is a kingdom which dispenses winter before summer. Above all, don’t let him think that the gospel (‘good news’) is exactly and all that. Let him temper the heaven-sent joy of his salvation with earth-born human common sense and pious notions of moderation. Let him suppose that personal expectation of a miraculous deliverance is too sensual a fantasy for the pure and true Christian soldier to indulge in. With this strategy, we shall scour such expectations of miraculous divine intervention not just from the Christian liberal camp, but from the scriptural conservatives as well, and bring them a step closer to ecumenical fellowship, as Herod and Pilate found unexpected friendship in the mocking of Christ.”

Whether you are pre-, post-, or whatever-millennial, you are duty-bound to put your eschatological leanings to the test, and be not silent in the present day about the last days. Teach your position hard, and note with care what fruit it bears. For eschatological scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. If a Christian or church experiences problems in the present, the cause may lie in their view of the future.

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