Tag: end times

End times: Why it matters & Why I’m a ‘dispensationalist

Our view of death determines our view of life. Biblical teachings on end times, known as eschatology, is essentially a Christian view of death. The recent trends to avoid or downplay this teaching is unhealthy. Over emphasizing the doctrine is also unhealthy. In the push away from end times I’m often asked why I am a Dispensationalist. My reply is I’m a little ‘d’ not a big ‘D’ because I don’t emphasize the doctrine or focus on the current possible details. The short answer: in studying scripture, it’s what I see it teaching. I submit we should not shy away from end times.

It’s taught in scripture
Avoiding the end times parts of the Bible is to miss significant teachings of Scripture. In Matthew 16, Jesus chides the religious leaders for being able to determine the weather but were clueless on “the signs of the times.” Paul taught on the rapture, whatever view you take on it, to a baby church plant. He then wrote twice to that baby church to clarify end times teaching. The book of a Revelation is all about end times. The Bible does give us a framework and does teach on the end times. It does not give us a specific time table and tells us to not worry about timing (Acts 1:7).

It’s a matter of encouragement and perspective
The rapture and Revelation give us both encouragement and perspective. These essentials are lost if we avoid the end times. The rapture is meant to encourage us when a saint dies. (A strong argument for pre-tribulational rapture.) We don’t mourn as others do because death is a temporary state. The end times give us the needed perspective so we can practice blessing people instead of returning evil for evil. A HUGE part of end times is God balancing the scales of justice of a world filled with injustice. How can I bless those who persecute me when a I’m faced with injustice? The end times gives us the perspective of why.

It’s a matter of God’s character
I’m a Dispensationalist because I think Israel means Israel in the Bible. As Hosea illustrates, God will go after and redeem national Israel as Hosea redeemed his wife from prostitution. I’d submit that spiritualizing Israel in the New Testament makes the Bible ludicrous. Why? What assurance of salvation do we have if God wrote off Israel? This is the issue Romans 9-11 addresses. Further, Paul makes a clear distinction between national Israel and Gentiles in Romans 11. God’s treatment of Israel gives confidence in His treatment of us and the church. God is the God of second chances, of grace, and He keeps His Word.

It’s a matter of our character
Paul’s states in Romans 11 that we should be careful as God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare us. Much rejection of Dispensationalsim is arrogance of the grafted in branches. End times keeps us humble before God. For sure humans tend toward arrogance. Churches often become arrogant as well. In Acts 1:7 Jesus didn’t say there is no kingdoms of Israel, he said the timeline was none of our business. In Revelation Israel is specifically mentioned as well as mentions of various nations. End times is a check on our character.

It’s a matter of faith
Hebrews 11 has an end times perspective. It is true that the big issue in theology is a matter of interpretation, but not all views are valid. I believe in the plain interpretation of the Bible, meaning what the author intends to communicate is the meaning. All other viewpoints have no true bearing in how to interpret Scripture. There is a pattern of literal fulfillment of prophecy throughout Scripture. Spiritualizing prophecy yet unfulfilled is to play hermeneutical voodoo. While God is mysterious and did not give us all the answers, He is predictable in that he keeps His word with an uncanny literalness.

The bottom line:
Avoiding the end times is to lose much needed perspective and clarity for godly living. While I do not major on a time line of future events, there is a framework given to us for the purpose of encouragement and perspective. Key to all this is that God is not done with national Israel, just like he’s not done with you or me. His grace, mercy and justice are evident in end times teachings of Scripture. Be carefully balanced, but do not avoid this essential doctrine of Scripture.

Side note:
Much of the antagonism towards dispensational thought started with Augustine who was anti-chiliasm (premailinalsim). While Calvin moderated (somewhat) on the matter, the antagonism towards pre-millennial viewpoints endured. As people act based in what they believe, much anti-semitism came from a non-dispensational viewpoint.

A brief defense on teaching about end times

To understand life one must understand death. The teaching on end times in the Bible is the Christian understanding of ‘death.’ I put death in quotes as the Bible teaches death to be an unnatural state resulting from sin. There is an over reaction to teachings about end times, but running from it is unwise. Here are some often heard objections to teaching the end times:

None of your business
When the disciples asked Jesus if now was the time for the kingdom, Jesus said it wasn’t their job to worry about a timeline. At the end of this narrative angels asked what on Earth the disciples were doing, just as Jesus went up into the clouds he’d come back in a like manner. While me must hold a timeline loosely, there is still the expectancy of Christ’s return. Hold fast to Christ’s return, hold loosely a timeline.

It’s divisive
There is little in the Bible that isn’t divisive. 25% of Scripture deals with prophetic events in the future. It’s a major thing. The teaching on end times focuses on three critical themes: 1) The person and nature of Jesus. 2) The restoration of peace and harmony as Jesus makes all things new. 3) The punishment of evil and the vindication of justice. These are no small themes and the Bible speaks to them. Christianity isn’t about an eternal fight of good vs evil. Evil has an end date.

Left behind series is annoying
Lot’s of things are annoying in life. I don’t fault someone with trying to communicate what they believe artistically. There are weird or annoying things in all aspects of life. Just look at Facebook and you’ll see what I mean. Anytime we place a major emphasis on one doctrine over the others there will be issues. Further, anytime we move the Gospel from being first and central things get messed up. However, that doesn’t mean other doctrines are unimportant or shouldn’t be discussed. Our culture tries to run and hide from death and that’s unhealthy.

End times focuses on fear
No doubt the study of end times should be sobering. In it we see the outpouring of God’s wrath but we also see the outpouring of God’s love. For those in Christ the teaching on end times should be motivational and push us to place our trust in Christ. Not merely for our salvation, but also that he will work all things together for good. Fear is not all bad. Losing our fear of God is dangerous, as is over emphasizing the fear of God. A significant portion of passages on the end times is for encouragement and hope, not fear.

About that timeline
Jesus chastises leaders for being able to predict the weather but not understand the times. While we should hold our timelines loosely, it is not sin to think through one. Jesus expects us to be aware of what’s going on. We should be careful to not have it cause undue division within the church or play guessing games that force current events into our timeline. Having an idea of a timeline is part of having an answer for the hope that is within us.

Allegorical vs Literal
This seems to be the real crux of the problem and worthy of a post. Briefly stated, I don’t think end times passages are allegories about good vs evil and that the Gospel is social justice. Such is a massive misunderstanding of the Gospel and the nature of God. (I also believe that Christians have wrongly viewed the Gospel as divorced from social justice.) I do believe that end times passages often describe the indescribable and should be approached with an air of humility, not certitude, when taking a literal approach to Scripture.

The bottom line:
How we view ‘death’ determines how we view life. In things I’ve seen or heard recently it seems there is an overreaction to those who emphasize teachings on the end times. However, it is a significant aspect to the Bible, Jesus and the apostles taught on it, and ignoring it is not an option. Like so much in life, we need discernment.