Eschatology and Unity
There is a great deal of difference in the understanding of eschatology, (the study of the last days).
Three main views stand out when reading about the teachings of the church throughout the ages.
The three veiws are:
Added to these are the views on the occurrence of the Second Advent of Christ, (The Rapture) in relation to the seven year covenant with many, spoken of in the book of Daniel, commonly known as the Tribulation.
These views on the Tribulation are:
Pre Tribulation Rapture.
Mid Tribulation Rapture.
Pre Wrath Rapture.
Post Tribulation Rapture.
The object of this blog is not to set forth support for any of these interpretations but to draw attention to the fact that although there are many variations of ideas, the views held should in no way separate one believer from another and should not affect the unity that we have in the faith.
The only thing that could cause division between professing Christians is fundamental doctrine.
If you were to question any one holding to one of the views above, no doubt you would find that they all hold to the same understanding.
There will be a time of Great Tribulation at the end of the age.
There will be a day in the future when Jesus Christ will return.
There will be a Rapture of believers.
There will be a resurrection of the dead in Christ and those that are alive at His coming.
There will be at the end of all things, a New Heaven and New Earth.
In this there is unity.
The understanding of How, When and Where is a debatable issue, that should drive each Christian to the scriptures and into discussion and debate with their brethren, without breaking the unity in the faith.
One may ask, how can this be. How can great Bible scholars, reading the same book, come up with so many varying interpretations of this very important subject?
As I see it, it all comes down to the hermeneutics, (the method used to study the scriptures).
There are those who read the Bible literally.
There are those who read the Bible allegorically.
There are those who accept that the Bible is both literal and allegorical.
Depending on the hermeneutic, the reader will come to their understanding of the issue.
For the serious study of the scriptures, one must try to do something that is a very difficult thing to do and that is to approach the scriptures with an open mind and without any pre conceived ideas.
The differences on eschatology are not a new phenomenon; indeed they have been evident throughout the ages.
From the early days of the church, scholars have debated and disagreed over these things.
From the disciples of the early church through the anti Nicene fathers like Papias, Polycarp, Ireneaus and Justin Martyr, all of who where millennialists, to the post Nicene fathers like Augustine, who was post Millennial, the Reformers such as Luther, Calvin and Zwingley, who were post millennial and “A” millennial and on to the 19th and 20th century with great men like Spurgeon, Martin Lloyd Jones and Tozer and even today with RC Sproul, John Macarthur, Jacob Prasch, Marvin Rosenthral etc, who are a mixture of pre, post, “A” and Pre Wrath.
The debate goes on, yet this should never cause rifts and splits in the Body of Christ.
We see this in the Epistle of the Apostle Peter when he wrote:
2 Peter 3:15 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
Our understanding of scripture is limited and each of us should be tolerant and patient in love with each other, recognising that no one man has the complete understanding.
Just as the Apostle Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Each one of us needs to seek the whole council of God and be honest and open to the leading of the Holy Spirit who is our ultimate teacher.
There is no doubt that we are living in the last days
According to the New Testament “the last days” began with Christ’s first coming.
Heb. 1:1,2 “In many and diverse ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in the last days he has spoken to us by a Son”.
1 Pet. 1:20 “He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake”.
1 Jn. 2:18 “Children it is the last hour,” wrote John in his day.
The Old Testament prophets had looked forward to the “last days” when God would do a new work, and when the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost Peter saw the hopes of Joel fulfilled: Acts 2:17 “In the last days . . . I will pour out my Spirit”. Pentecost inaugurated the last days.
Paul predicts that in “later times” some will depart from the faith 1 Tim. 4:1 and he then warns Timothy (and the church) against them. So, there were apostates already in Paul’s day—and there have been throughout history.
Whatever our interpretation of the Great Tribulation and the timing of the Rapture, the millennium and the new heaven and earth.
There is one thing we have in common.
One day, it will happen and that is why we should strive to maintain the unity in the faith and look up, for our redemption draweth nigh.
If then we do not all agree on the exact sequence of the events of the last day, is that important enough to create rifts and divisions?
I pray not!