Why Eschatology Matters

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Eschatology, the study of end times, may be one of the most debated issues in theology. I have heard some people say, “It really doesn’t matter”; “It’s too complicated, why study?”; and “Too many people fight over it, I don’t want to fight”.

Those objections may have a glimmer of truth to them. First, people can have differing views of eschatology (on some level) and still have the gospel right. People disagree over whether or not Israel will be restored and a seven year tribulation, but both groups still place their faith in Jesus Christ and have been atoned for and will stand next to each other in heaven.

Second, it can be complicated. But complicated does not equate to invaluable. Third, it is true people fight over this doctrine. But to be honest, there are debates on every point of doctrine: predestination, gifts of the Spirit, church membership, women teachers, and etc. Do we avoid a discussion because it can be debated? Does a debatable doctrine mean we should not study it? There is a fair warning here thought too. Doctrine is not in Scripture to be debated, it is there to transform us to worship Him in holiness.

Doctrine is not in Scripture to be debated, it is there to transform us to worship Him in holiness.

God gives at least three reasons why eschatology is important.

First, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). How does this relate to eschatology? First “All Scripture” means all Scripture, not just parts of the Scripture. The debate over eschatology centers around God’s Word. This means passages about the end times are inspired by God and profitable. Also note, it is God who wants the content of the Scripture, in the Scripture. Eschatology is profitable. So when someone says, “It doesn’t really matter” God says eschatology is profitable. Profitable for what? Eschatology profits the believer by teaching us, reproving us, correcting, and training in righteousness. Yes, eschatology, understood affects our holiness. In fact, God says the purpose of Scripture is “that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Eschatology, being a part of Scripture is taught by God to make us adequate and equipped for EVERY good work (= ministry).

Second, Paul inspired by God says, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). What are “these words”? In context, it is the end times. In this context Paul speaks about the resurrection awaiting all believers. Our grief over a believer is a hope filled grief because we know believers are resurrected to a new life (1 Thess 4:13). In this context, Paul also addresses the return of the Lord (1 Thess 4:16-17). This text also teaches the rapture (1 Thess 4:17).[1] All of these issues are eschatology issues dealing with end times. You, believer, should find comfort in the future return of the Lord, the rapture, and your future bodily resurrection. Death has no dominion over us, we have eternal life. Understanding the details about the end should help provide comfort and hope to me and be a part of my encouragement to “one another”.

Finally, Matthew records the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25. Matthew writes his Gospel to make disciples (28:19ff). He records five major discourses teaching us what it means to be a follower after Jesus Christ. The discourses in here are didactic and seem to equip the disciple on proper thought and action. The Sermon on the Mount teaches who disciples are and what they do. Matthew 18 prepares disciples for life in the body of Christ — church. Matthew 13 teaches us about the kingdom. The Olivet Discourse is about the end times. Apparently eschatology is important enough for a disciple to know and understand it in order to be a disciple.

Is eschatology important? Yes, it is not written for the purpose of fighting with other Christians. Yes, eschatology is discussed from God’s mouth for our edification and understanding. Yes, we should find hope in the future. Yes, God sees it as important. If the Lord says it is important, then should it be important?

[1] For more information on the rapture see our series.

Listen to the pastor “among you”

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God calls elders and pastors to “shepherd the flock of God among you” (1 Peter 5:2). This small statement has huge implications. First, the key word here is “among”. This word supports three truths regarding the pastor and his flock.

First, it supports the local church because the flock is defined. It is popular, especially in my city, to think the church is universal and as long as you gather with other believers, it is okay because there is a universal church. But 1 Peter 5:1-5 supports a local church led by leaders. In fact, the church here is defined as a specific set of people. “Shepherd the flock of God among you” and elders are not to rule “as lording it over those allotted to your charge but proving to be examples to the flock.” The bold language here supports a local context. Shepherds are called to watch over the church, those specifically allotted to your charge. The church at large mentality does not fit here. Who is called to shepherd the church at large? Who are the elders? Believers are called to be in one local church.[1]

Second, it means the pastor and elders are called to be among a local flock. A local flock needs elders (a pastor is an elder). Some have even argued, a valid point, a church does not exist if there is no elder. As much as I respect George Whitefield, he was not a pastor because he did not have a congregation. Men are not called to shepherd “the church at large.” Men are called to shepherd the specific people in their charge. This is one reason why an elder wants to know the membership of the church. Because those people, by commitment, have been placed under our care.

Third, look at it from the reverse angle and the flock is to have a local pastor who shepherds me. All of us have access to the internet and therefore we have access to sermons online. One blessing we have today is the ability to listen to our favorite preachers day in and out, all the time. But those men are not your pastor. John MacArthur is not your pastor unless you live in SoCal and attend Grace Community Church. Your pastor, and the one God designed to speak into your life, is the man who preaches week in and out at your local church. If you live in Phoenix, attend church, THAT man was designed by God to shepherd your soul and you need to listen to him. God wants that man to teach you. In His sovereign will, that man has been placed in your life (weaknesses and all), to prepare you for Christ’s return or your call home.

The local church is important. God designed it with His glory and your best interest in mind. We are called to fall in line and follow His design. Let us have convictions that respecting His design is good for our soul.

[1] The church universal concept is popular and used to defend the notion there is not only one true church or denomination. I am not arguing there is only one true church in every town or city or only one true denomination. God intends you to be in a local church habitually.

Why following God’s design for marriage is wise

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Most people who have read the Bible know Ephesians 5:22-33 lists responsibilities to the husband and wife. These responsibilities are commonly called roles. Both the husband and wife are called to operate in the marriage with different functions. Having different roles does not make one person more valuable than the other. It is like a team. Each person on the team has responsibilities and when they are faithful to the role, working with the other members of the team, the team can produce success or its intended goal. Just like a functioning team, marriage is designed for both people to come together and be one body, with one goal, for a purpose but with different roles. We are commanded to follow the roles. In fact, to not follow the roles makes us unwise. Continue reading

Covenantal understanding of believer’s righteousness

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This post continues a series on Covenant Theology. The criticism offered below falls within the context of the previous posts (beginning here). Please feel free to offer criticism, comments, and observations but failure to read the other posts could enfeeble one’s own remarks.

Flowing from CT’s faulty understanding of mankind’s relationship to Adam’s sin is its faulty understanding of the righteousness of Christ imputed to believers. CT’s understanding of salvation is based on the covenant of grace. In the same way that Adam stood as the covenant head of the covenant of works, so Christ stands as the covenant head of the covenant of grace. As was discussed above, CT views the demands of the covenant of works as binding upon all men of all times. As such, it was not enough for Christ to simply die in the place of sinners as a substitute and bear the wrath of God on their behalf. If that were all that happened then man would be no better than being placed back in a probationary state like Adam. Men would still need to merit their own righteousness by works in order to be rewarded with eternal life. In this scheme salvation by grace alone has a weird twist to it. Sproul’s sentiments are typical of proponents of CT, Continue reading

Faulty Understanding of Man’s relationship to Adam’s Sin

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This post continues a series on Covenant Theology. The criticism offered below falls within the context of the previous posts (beginning here). Please feel free to offer criticism, comments, and observations but failure to read the other posts could enfeeble one’s own remarks.

As mentioned earlier, CT teaches that the first sin of Adam was imputed (according to the stipulations of the covenant of works) to all of his progeny. When it comes to the discussion of the imputation of Adam’s sin there are two views, “immediate” and “mediate” imputation. Immediate imputation may also be called the “federal theory.” “This view holds that Adam is both the natural and the federal head of the human race. The federal or representative headship is the specific ground of the imputation of Adam’s sin. When Adam sinned….God imputed the guilt of the first sin to….the entire human race.”[1] Mediate imputation holds that a corrupt nature is inherited through natural generation from Adam and that this is what then becomes the ground for God imputing the guilt of Adam to his posterity. The imputation is mediated through inherited corruption which is the consequence, not punishment, of Adam’s sin.[2]
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why give grace?

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On my best days I know the grace of God poured out on me is beyond measure. Paul says “His grace which He lavished on us.” I love the word lavish. I wish my plate was lavished with bacon. My heart and arteries are glad my plate isn’t lavished with bacon.

God, He lavishes grace.

This is good. When I’m having a bad moment, deceived by my own heart and its idols I sin. I rebel, get angry, worry about the results of a situation, or grow jealous. Continue reading

Logic vs Revelation

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This is a continuation of last week’s series on Covenant Theology. Today’s post evaluates logic verses revelation.

CT teaches that there was a covenant between God and Adam before the Fall whereby he was appointed the representative head of mankind under the stipulations of that covenant. Also, according to the dictates of this covenant he was to stand for an undefined period of time in a probationary status, rendering perfect obedience to God (presumably obeying the law written on his heart). According to the dictates of this covenant, Adam’s federal headship and probation created a situation such that, if he succeeded he would merit by his own works, for himself and all his posterity (and God would owe him, and all his posterity, according to strict justice) freedom to eat from the tree of life. This would secure for him, and his progeny, eternal life and inability to sin thereafter. Continue reading

Critique of CT Hermeneutics

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The first three blogs in this series have focused on defining Covenantal Theology, its hermeneutics, how it reached formulated. Now the series will focus on criticisms and problems with Covenant Theology.

Kline claims that there is old and new orders revealed in the Old and New Testaments and that, “According to the divine design the old is provisional and preparatory for the new, and by divine predisclosure the new is prophetically anticipated in the old.”[1] He then explains how this was done, “External event and institution in the old order were divinely fashioned to form a systematic representation of the realities of the coming new order, so producing a type-antitype correlativity between the two covenants in which their unity is instructively articulated.”[2] LaRondelle’s hermeneutical method (which is also decidedly typological), though he is a Seventh Day Adventist, has received a warm welcome in CT circles.[3] LaRondelle takes matters a step further than Kline. He makes the bold claim that, “Valid hermeneutical rules of Scripture must be ‘inspired principles’ which are legitimately and systematically derived from the Scriptures themselves.”[4] This is an astounding claim, and actually rather self-serving. How does one get at the inspired principles in the first place? What hermeneutic based on uninspired principles must be employed to draw out of the text the inspired principles in order to then build one’s (presumably) inspired hermeneutic? This is a vicious circle. One will find the inspired principles one is looking for and then be in possession of nothing more than one’s presuppositions dressed as inspired principles. Continue reading

Covenant Theology: Polemical Theology

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If typological hermeneutics served to develop a unifying framework for divine revelation along covenantal lines, the theological battles of the Reformation and post-Reformation eras tended to harden that framework. The transition from a loose covenantal framework in the early period of the Reformation, which focused almost exclusively on the idea of a covenant of grace, to a more hardened system comprised of a prelapsarian covenant of works and postlapsarian covenant of grace that is administered under various dispensations is difficult to trace.

What is known is, “Whereas John Calvin (1509–64), in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, spoke of an Old Covenant which extended after the fall to Christ and then a New Covenant which extended from Christ to the Day of Judgment, the Westminster Confession of Faith, written eighty years later, spoke of a covenant of works and a covenant of grace.”[1] Weir notes that, “Calvin makes no mention in any of his works of a prelapsarian covenant with Adam. However, there is evidence that, at least to a certain degree, Calvin considered the Edenic relationship between God and Adam to be covenantal in nature.”[2] Concerning the caveat, Weir includes it because of what Calvin says of what he calls “natural sacraments.” Calvin says that one example of a natural sacrament is “when he gave Adam and Eve the tree of life as a guarantee of immortality, that they might assure themselves of it as long as they should eat of its fruit.”[3] Continue reading