Book Entry: Chapter 5
January 24th 2018
The fact of the matter is that, despite the dreadful headlines that we witness on a daily basis now days, we are living in amazing times. Incredible things are happening in the world and yet there are still wonderful promises found in Scripture concerning what lies ahead. As Christians, our response to the headlines and our reaction to the trials and difficulties of this life must stay in line with Scripture.
With our worrisome headlines, one would think that society would be forced to turn to eschatological considerations as the only source of hope for a sin-cursed world. That, unfortunately, just is not the case. For various reasons, Western society has rejected the Bible and the truths contained within, including eschatological truths that tell us where we are all headed. Despite that, the Bible, and the revelation it contains, proves to be the one source of hope and confidence for the future for all those who are called to understand it.
Within his first epistle to the church at Thessalonica, the apostle Paul reminded believers that the Church must live for Jesus Christ, that it needed to focus upon sanctification, that it should win the respect of outsiders, and that it should be ready for Christ’s return while also living in a holy and righteous manner.
Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Christians are to encourage one another. They are to speak to one another and to teach one another. They are to challenge one another. As iron sharpens iron (Prov 27:17), so too must we interact with one another spiritually, morally, and intellectually. We are to challenge each other to be living faithfully, while looking for the coming of Christ.
While our daily headlines may stand in stark contrast to our attempts to be obedient to this calling, it is imperative that the Christian understand how eschatology factors into living an obedient life for Christ that stands, unbendingly, in opposition to the world system. A correct understanding of eschatology sets up priorities for the Christian’s obedience in the Church Age. Since ideas have consequences, and thus bad ideas have bad consequences, your view of the Kingdom, for instance, will determine what the mission and the priorities are for the Church. Your view of the rapture of the Church, as yet another example, will determine whether or not you live in expectation of Christ’s promises and thus will influence your understanding of the “blessed hope” promised to the Christian within Scripture. You are motivated today by what you think your future is going to be - that’s what eschatology is and that is how eschatology impacts your life. If you have an errant eschatology then you will negatively influence your hope and your vision for who you are and where you are going.
Within the Church Age in which we are living, there has been a progress to the development of doctrine throughout Scripture. This concept has been best documented within the 1897 book by James Orr titled, “The Progress of Dogma”. History has demonstrated clearly that Biblical doctrine was developed by the Church in a logical, one could say pedagogical, manner. That logical approach to Scripture has resulted in numerous volumes of Systematic Theology books that share a certain order to their presentation. If one were to walk into the office of any reputable pastor and looked on his bookshelves, they would most certainly find a multi-volume set titled “Systematic Theology”. The order in which these volumes is presented are most often found as follows:
Divisions of Theology:
- Theology proper – the study of the character of God (His attributes)
- Bibliology – the study of the Bible
- Christology – the study of the Lord Jesus Christ
- Anthropology – the study of the nature of Humanity (Man)
- Hamartiology – the study of Sin
- Pneumatology – the study of the Holy Spirit
- Angelology & Demonology – the study of Angels, holy and fallen
- Soteriology – the study of Salvation
- Ecclesiology – the study of the Church
- Eschatology – the study of End Times (last things)
What is missing from that common list and order is the study of Israel, or Israelology. The lack of this detailed study has led to much confusion within the Church regarding the identities of both Israel and the Church, but that subject is reserved for a future chapter. What is of importance to us at this point is the order in which doctrine has been developed throughout the nearly 2,000-year-old Church Age. Since we can agree that the Bible is a work of the Holy Spirit, we need to also agree that Church history is a witness to the pattern of the Holy Spirit’s teachings to the Church. Some of the doctrinal questions that were asked and answered over the centuries included the following:
- What is the basis of authority? (2nd Century)
- Who is Jesus Christ and what is His relationship within the Trinity? (4th Century)
- What did Jesus Christ do? (4th to 5th Century)
- What is the nature of man and sin? (Council of Orange, 529AD)
- How do I appropriate the work of the Lord Jesus Christ for me? (1100’s)
- The doctrine of Justification by Faith. (Luther and the Reformers - 1500’s)
- What is the Church? (Post-Reformation)
- What is Jesus Christ yet to do? (Developed in a consistent way in just the last 200 years)
Over the centuries, the Church grew, through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, with a sense of organizing the doctrinal truths of Scripture in the above order. The questions asked, deliberated, and resolved over the centuries, matches exactly with the divisions of theology found within that reputable pastor’s Systematic Theology collection. The point is that the Holy Spirit has taught the Church to think of doctrine in this order over the centuries.
What we need to appreciate is that one cannot develop the theological division of eschatology until the very end and that is due to the fact that all other areas of theology must have been developed before any attempt to develop eschatology was to be accurate. There has been a progress to the Church’s understanding, not revelation, but in understanding doctrine as the Church Age has proceeded throughout history. Over the centuries, the Church has been growing in the sense of organizing the doctrinal truths of Scripture. Along the way, the Holy Spirit has used heretics and persecution to teach the Church and to spurn her into action. The response to heresy and to persecution has not only led to the growth of the Church, which is always the case, but to the clarification of doctrine and the production of a Systematic Theology for the Christian faith.
This author will admit that along with eschatology, the divisions of soteriology, pneumatology, and ecclesiology are all under attack today, but within this day and age in which you and I live, eschatology is at last coming into focus and it stands as the most contentious battle ground within Christendom as we draw closer to the return of Christ. The Church has never before had to deal with heretical “systems” of eschatology such as Nazism, Communism, Mormonism, Secular Humanism, and Islam as it has during the end of the Church Age. God is sovereignly working to make the Church aware of its destiny along with the promised destiny of Israel. Tragically, there are good brothers and sisters in Christ who deny that Israel is yet to realize her promised future and thus subscribe to errant eschatological beliefs.
While neglecting the truth of Israel’s certain future, many prophecy teachers and eschatology buffs of today have contented themselves with studying and presenting only a few of the major events of eschatology, such as the resurrection from the dead, the Second Coming of Christ, and final judgment. This approach neglects vast portions of Scripture that deal with other prophetic matters and present only a small portion of what will be discussed within this particular work. Biblical eschatology is the capstone of Systematic Theology. In studying eschatology, the consistency of the entire revelation of God contained in the Old and New Testaments must be maintained and a proper approach to interpreting Scripture must be adhered to within the process. Only then can we realize and adhere to a proper eschatology that will bring comfort and joy to our lives.