Issues Etc & the Whitewashing of Protestant History

By Cris D. Putnam
I just listened to a “back and forth” on Issues Etc. a Lutheran radio show that I generally like for its discussion of apologetics and theology. They had Dr. Thomas Ice on talking about “Rapture Theology” and then a follow up response by Dr Kim Riddlebarger Responding to Dr Thomas Ice’s Rapture Theology. While I identify as a progressive dispensationalist, I do not really want to debate the timing of the rapture rather the strawman representation of premillennialism and complete white washing of classic Lutheran eschatology displayed by the host of Issues Etc. and Riddlebarger. One of the major objections to dispensationalism was that it was relatively new development of the nineteenth century whereas the Amillennial view was the classic protestant view. This is a drastic oversimplification of the Lutheran and Reformed positions.

In truth, Historicism was a foundational interpretation of Protestantism and it is perplexing that it is so flippantly forgotten. They completely ignore the subversion of Biblical doctrine by the Roman Catholic Church and the fact that many early Fathers were Premillennial. Even worse, the host and Riddlebarger made sport of premillennialists for speculating on current events in Israel as prophetically significant while ignoring the Historicist view (see p1 p2 p3 ) of the reformed tradition’s tendency to do the same. In fact, far from demuring to speak to current events, classic Protestantism has affirmed that the Great Tribulation as an ongoing reality along with the judgements of the book of Revelation. In the recent past Protestants did not speculate about the identity of Antichrist, they claimed sure knowledge. It is in all of the creeds!

Despite political correctness and its nearly forgotten status in modern evangelicalism, almost all of the original protestant confessions affirm that the papacy is antichrist. For example, The Second Scotch Confession of AD 1580 states:

And theirfoir we abhorre and detest all contrare Religion and Doctrine; but chiefly all kynde of Papistrie in generall and particular headis, even as they ar now damned and confuted by the word of God and kirk of Scotland. But in special, we detest and refuse the usurped authoritie of that Romane Antichrist upon the scriptures of God, upon the Kirk, the civill Magistrate, and consciences of men.[1]

Similarly, The Westminster Confession of Faith does not mince words concerning the papacy:

There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ.Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof: but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.[2]

This statement was repeated virtually verbatim in the Baptist Confession of 1688, otherwise known as the Philadelphia Confession. It was the most generally accepted confession of the Regular or Calvinistic Baptists in England and in the American south. The Westminster confession is still widely used today.

While many modern Lutherans seek to distance themselves from it, The Book of Concord still contains the Smalcald Articles and the Treatise on the Primacy of the Pope. Accordingly, many orthodox Lutherans still affirm the veracity of those documents. However, in the 1860s the Iowa Synod refused to grant doctrinal status to the teaching that the Papacy is the Antichrist. They listed this teaching under the category of “open questions.” The Iowa Synod later became part of the American Lutheran Church, and its teaching on the Antichrist persisted in the new union. Since 1930, the ALC taught that it is only a “historical judgment” that the Papacy is the Antichrist. In 1938, this view was officially sanctioned in the ALC “Sandusky Declaration.” It stated:

We accept the historical judgment of Luther in the Smalcald Articles…that the Pope is the Antichrist…because among all the antichristian manifestations in the history of the world and the Church that lie behind us in the past there is none that fits the description given in 2 Thess. 2 better than the Papacy…

The answer to the question whether in the future that is still before us, prior to the return of Christ, a special unfolding and a personal concentration of the antichristian power already present now, and thus a still more comprehensive fulfillment of 2 Thess. 2 may occur, we leave to the Lord and Ruler of Church and world history.[3]

In a sharp rebuttal, the Missouri Synod’s “Brief Statement” of 1932 renounced the teaching that the identification of the papacy as the Antichrist is only a historical judgment. It professed, “The prophecies of the Holy Scriptures concerning the Antichrist…have been fulfilled in the Pope of Rome and his dominion.” It subscribed, “to the statement of our Confessions that the Pope is ‘the very Antichrist.’” It argued that the doctrine of Antichrist is “not to be included in the number of open questions.”[4] However, their position has softened since.

In 1951, the Report of the Advisory Committee on Doctrine and Practice of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod stated:

Scripture does not teach that the Pope is the Antichrist. It teaches that there will be an Antichrist (prophecy). We identify the Antichrist as the Papacy. This is an historical judgment based on Scripture. The early Christians could not have identified the Antichrist as we do. If there were a clearly expressed teaching of Scripture, they must have been able to do so. Therefore the quotation from Lehre und Wehre [in 1904 by Dr. Stoeckhardt which identifies the Papacy as Antichrist] goes too far.[5]

This view was endorsed at the Missouri Synod Convention in Houston in 1953. Even so, many still struggle with their traditions. A Lutheran scholar, Charles Arand, wrote an article to help contemporary Lutheran’s deal with the cognitive dissonance they feel when they want to applaud the pope’s position against abortion and other moral issues. While he never denies the classic Lutheran position, he claims, “The identification of the papacy as the Antichrist in the Confessions takes place in an apocalyptic climate in which the Reformers also considered other candidates for the title of Antichrist, the most prominent of which were the Turks (Ap XV, 18).”[6] The text he refers to is this one: “For the kingdom of the Antichrist is a new kind of worship of God, devised by human authority in opposition to Christ, just as the kingdom of Mohammed has religious rites and works, through which it seeks to be justified before God.”[7]

Indeed, one could infer a Muslim antichrist from this one statement. But, in truth, his use of this reference is obfuscation because the very next sentences in Apology of the Augsburg Confession XV, 18 say:

It does not hold that people are freely justified by faith on account of Christ. So also the papacy will be a part of the kingdom of the Antichrist if it defends human rites as justifying. For they deprive Christ of his honor when they teach that we are not freely justified on account of Christ through faith but through such rites, and especially when they teach that such rites are not only useful for justification but even necessary.[8]

This issue of elevating their rites above the salvific power of the Gospel has never been recanted by the Church of Rome. He goes on to argue that as part of the “already but not yet” paradigm, the papacy was a manifestation of Antichrist during the time of the reformation but not necessarily the ultimate one. Nevertheless, this confession clearly says they will be a part of Antichrist’s kingdom. He maintains to be dogmatic that the papacy is the only antichrist precludes awareness and vigilance toward new manifestations, yet to relativize the confessions as only historical is equally an error.[9] So contrary to views expressed on the recent Issues Etc, dispensationlism did not amend their anemic modernized view rather hard-line Historicism.


It is a demonstrable historical fact that every notable protestant theologian of the 16 -19th century, regardless of denomination, believed and taught that the papacy was antichrist.

For a cogent Defense of premillennialism I recommend John MacArthur’s series here.

[1] The Second Scotch Confession in Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, Volume III (Joseph Kreifels), 349.

[2] Morton H. Smith, Westminster Confession of Faith (Greenville SC: Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary Press, 1996), 2.

[3] “Statement on the Antichrist,” Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, last accessed January 18, 2011,,1.

[4] Ibid.


[6] Charles P. Arand, “Antichrist: The Lutheran Confessions on the Papacy,” Concordia Journal (October 2003), 402.

[7] Philip Melanchthon, Apology of the Augsburg Confession XV,18 in Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord : The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 225.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Charles P. Arand “Antichrist: The Lutheran Confessions on the Papacy,” 403.

Why Eschatology Matters Part IV: Premillennialism

continued from Why Eschatology Matters Part IV

I. Pre-millennial View: This is the view that the parousia (second coming) occurs at the conclusion of the Church age and Christ rules from Jerusalem for a literal millennium.[1] Adherents, myself included, argue that a consistent literal interpretation of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, predictions by the prophets and the announcement of the kingdom of heaven by John the Baptist and Jesus unavoidably lead to premillennialism.[2] It was the accepted view of the early church fathers up to early Augustine, who later erroneously discarded the view due to a personal prejudice against a particular belief (cited under amillennial).[3] Later post reformation teachers of the Lutheran, Reformed, and Puritan traditions like Jonathan Edwards, John Gill and Charles Spurgeon rediscovered premillennialism.[4] Today it is widely held by protestant evangelicals.

A. Basic Premises:

i. Millennium: A straight forward one thousand years as the text in Revelation chapter 20:1-6 says. The idea of a thousand year reign may also be supported by passages such as Acts 3:19–21 and 1 Corinthians 15:23–26, which speak of a future restoration and reign of Christ.[5]

ii. Resurrection: There are two resurrections the first are believers at the beginning of the millennium and the second at its conclusion for the great white throne judgment.[6]

iii. The Binding of Satan: Jesus Christ binds Satan upon his return. Dr. John Walvoord comments, “The passage makes clear that Satan is not simply restricted, as some would teach, but he is totally inactive in the Millennium.”[7] This point is simply not explained by any other view.

iv. The reign of Christ: While Christ is spiritually active in the lives of believers today his literally earthly reign will commence upon his arrival. He will rule from Jerusalem on the throne of David as promised in the New (Lk. 1:32) and Old Testaments (Zech. 14:9).

v. The Kingdom of God: The kingdom is here and also not yet. In Matthew 13:11, Jesus instituted a spiritual kingdom until His second coming, when He will initiate the anticipated messianic kingdom.[8]

vi. Israel: God will restore national Israel and fulfill all of His unconditional promises. At the end of the Tribulation, before the beginning of the Millennium, when Jesus is finally accepted by Israel, “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26).[9]

vii. Hermeneutic: A ‘literal’ interpretation means the understanding which any normal person would conclude. Premillennialism is rooted in a historical-grammatical interpretation of prophecy. The historical-grammatical method involves giving each word the same meaning it would have in normal usage.[10] (i.e. Israel means national Israel and thousand means 1,000).

B. Points of Strength:

i. The early church was indisputably premillennial, including: Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Lactantius and Irenaeus. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who had direct contact with John, the author of the Apocalypse.[11] Their familiarity with the Apostle makes it hard to imagine why anyone would diverge from their understanding. Irenaeus wrote extensively on the literal future Messianic kingdom, a brief excerpt being, “The predicted blessing, therefore, belongs unquestionably to the times of the kingdom, when the righteous shall bear rule upon their rising from the dead.”[12]

ii. Stated as a weakness in the opposing views, the fact that the New Testament explicitly teaches that Satan is alive and well on planet earth (1 Jn. 5:19, 2 Cor. 4:4, 2 Cor.4:3-4, Eph. 2:2, 2 Cor. 11:14, 1 Pet. 5:8). The argument seems overwhelming that Satan’s current imprisonment is absurd. Anyone who tries to advance the Gospel knows that Satanic opposition is very real.

iii. In the New Testament, the Angel Gabriel promised Mary that Jesus would sit upon the throne of David (Lk. 1:32-33). At that time there was no Israelite throne to sit on, even Herod was a vassal and this promised event has not yet occurred. Because God always keeps his promises it follows that this will be actualized.

iv. In Romans 9, 10, and 11 Paul’s purpose was to explain Israel’s future. If you simply read that sequence of chapters, replacement theology is absurd. The gentile church is clearly described as “grafted into” not replacing Israel.  Paul makes it abundantly clear in Rom. 11:29 that their election is irrevocable.

C. Points of Weakness:

i. The final releasing of Satan at the end of the millennium and subsequent apostasy after the millennium kingdom is difficult to explain. Yet Revelation 20 clearly predicts it.

ii. The millennium population of humans in a non-translated state must be rationalized by believers that come to faith during the tribulation.

iii. Satan was defeated at the cross. Why does he still have dominion on earth?

iv. The ambiguity about the timing of the rapture is problematic.


Premillennial eschatology not only offers a real hope for the world’s future through its anticipation of the personal earthly reign of Jesus Christ  for one thousand years, it also provides for the literal fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to Israel and Mary in the New Testament. Concerning the kingdom Missler argues,

There are at least 318 references in 216 chapters of the New Testament. And 23 of its 27 books give prominence to the event. The early church looked longingly for His promised return as their “Blessed Hope” to rid a desperate world of its evil rulers.[13]

In contrast, those promises are given only a vague fulfillment in amillennial and postmillennial eschatology, a psuedo-fulfillment that only weakens our faith in the promises of the Bible. God promised a real space time kingdom headquartered in Jerusalem. God does not lie. It is dangerous when one’s theological constructs impute the character of God.  It’s fascinating how contrary supersessionism is to God’s sovereign election. If it is true, it means that God’s elect nation lost their election. That sounds suspiciously like Arminiainism. Isn’t it ironic that most reformed denominations embrace it? They need not. Jesus in Luke 19:42 and Paul in Romans 11:25 explain that Israel is blinded nationally for the church age. Temporarily blinded not replaced. We are grafted in. National Israel has a future as the spiritual leadership of the world (Zech 8:23).

I find the amillennial and postmillennial views both to be incoherent. They are inconsistent with reality and the biblical text. I can evidence both points in that Satan’s deceptions have not been restrained. The numerous biblical proof texts have been cited throughout this series and the nations are demonstrably being deceived. The U.S. Center for World Missions estimates that Christianity’s is growing at about 2.3% annually, approximately equal to the growth rate of the world’s population. Islam is growing faster: about 2.9% and is thus Islam will surpass Christianity as the world’s main religion by 2023.[14] Whether this is completely accurate is immaterial to the point that the world is full of false religion and unbelief. Jesus warned of widespread deception and we certainly do see it today.

I sincerely cannot believe a person can read the bible without outside influence and come to a conclusion other than premillennialism. Just read Revelation 20, that is clear and literal 1000 year kingdom. The alternate views are imposed on the text for external reasons. Of course sincere Christians maintain these views but I just do not find their rationale compelling. To embrace allegory over literal meaning requires a more persuasive theological and exegetical basis than the arguments offered. I have demonstrated that Augustine’s basis was quite shallow and had nothing to do with exegesis. I think those views stand on mere stubborn tradition. While the reformers did a great service in the areas of soteriology and ecclesiology they were duly occupied and failed to correct eschatology back to the apostolic intention. The early church, which had intimate contact with John the author of the Apocalypse were verifiably premillennial. I find that decisive. Finally, no matter what one’s millennial position, true Christians all look forward to the soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

θά, μαράνα θά

[1] Ed Hindson, Revelation, 89.

[2]Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Four: Church, Last Things (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2005), 553.

[3] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 567.

[4]Geisler, Systematic Theology, 572.

[5]Elwell and Comfort, 896.

[6] Edward Hindson. Revelation: Unlocking the Future, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 203.

[7] John F. Walvoord, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, Includes Indexes. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1990), 625.

[8] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 556.

[9] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 556.

[10] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 416.

[11] David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1996, c1992), 3:457.

[12] Quoted in Geisler, Systematic Theology, 569.

[13] Chuck and Nancy Missler. The Kingdom, Power and Glory: The Overcomer’s Handbook. Coeur d’Alene, ID: The King’s Highway Ministries. 2009. 100.

[14] Unattributed. “Growth Rate of Christianity & Islam” Religious Tolerance ORG, (accessed 06/10/2010).

Why Eschatology Matters Part IV: Amillennialism

continued from Why Eschatology Matters Part IV

I. Amillennial View: The Amillennial view can be traced back as far as the Alexandrian school when early church father Origen (AD 185-254) was the first to allegorize “reigning with Christ” to mean the spiritual growth of the soul. Origen’s penchant for allegory led him to views that today are considered heretical.[1] This influenced Augustine who once held the premillennial view but was disgusted by speculations about celebratory feasting during the millennium that he viewed as carnal. Augustine wrote,

“for I myself, too, once held this opinion [premillennialism].  But, as they assert that those who then rise again shall enjoy the leisure of immoderate carnal banquets, furnished with an amount of meat and drink such as not only to shock the feeling of the temperate, but even to surpass the measure of credulity itself, such assertions can be believed only by the carnal.” [2]

Also a North African Donatist, Tyconius, who favored Origen’s allegorical hermeneutic, influenced Augustine to change his view to a spiritualized one. Soon Augustine’s view was widely adopted by the Roman Catholic Church and was subsequently retained by reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin.[3] Today it is still the majority view of the mainline denominations.[4]

A. Basic Premises:

i. Millennium: The prefix a- indicates a straightforward negation. However, they actually do believe a millennium exists, just that it is now. The millennium is symbolic of the church age and is said to be fulfilled spiritually not literally.[5] Augustine popularized the idea that the millennium began with the incarnation and is fully realized by the church. Proponents disagree amongst themselves as to where this Millennium is located. Some believe it is now on earth in the church while others believe it is now in heaven.[6]

ii. Resurrection: The majority contend that there is only one physical resurrection of the righteous and the wicked. The “first resurrection” of Revelation 20 is understood as a spiritual in the sense that believer’s souls will go to heaven to reign with Christ spiritually.[7] The second is understood as physical and all are then judged.

iii. The Binding of Satan: They understand this as being in effect during the period between the first and second comings of Christ.[8]Accordingly, Satan is currently chained and cannot deceive the nations. Most believe that there will be a rebellion as Satan is released just prior to Christ’s return[9] Thus, the world will get worse not better. In this way they agree more with premillennialists than postmillennialists.

iv. The Reign of Christ: Christ is reigning now in the hearts of believers, they influence the culture by living out their faith.[10] He will return and judge the world and then start over with a new heavens and earth.

v. The Kingdom of God: The kingdom of God is present now in the world as Christ is ruling believers through the Spirit and his word. They also look forward to a future, the new heaven and new earth.[11]

vi. Israel: The Abrahamic and Davidic covenants were conditional and demand no future fulfillment. The church has replaced Israel as spiritual Israel. Thus there is no prophetic future for national Israel.[12]

vii. Hermeneutic: The necessary theory of interpretation is reminiscent of the Alexandrian tradition that prophecy is symbolic and need not be taken literally. A passage’s basic sense can be taken spiritually or even mystically. However, the lines are not so clearly defined as Dr. Norman Geisler explains,

Again, it complicates matters that even those who allegorize certain prophetic passages claim adherence to the historical-grammatical method of interpretation. (Some do admit to enhancing and expanding it to include an allegorical, symbolical, or typological understanding of certain texts.) The issue, then, boils down to the understanding and/or application (rather than the name) of the method of interpreting (hermeneutics).[13]

B. Points of Strength:

i. The millennium is only found in Revelation 20, which being a book of apocalyptic imagery, can justifiably be interpreted symbolically.[14]

ii. It is a long standing tradition in many denominations.

iii. The view tacitly acknowledges that the world is not getting better and better.[15] This agrees with historical reality.

iv. In the Bible, the word “thousand” is occasionally used symbolically (cf. 1 Chron. 16:15; Ps. 50:10).[16] This provides a rationale for their interpretation of “thousand” as an indefinite period.

v. Because the sheep and goat judgment in Matt 25:3 is interpreted as the same event as the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). They avoid the perceived conflict when Jesus teaches that judgment takes place at his return.

vi. They avoid explaining how people enter the kingdom in natural bodies.

vii. According to Riddlebarger, “Its understanding that imminent return of Christ is the consummation of all things and marks the fullness of both the kingdom of God and the age to come.”[17]

C. Points of Weakness:

i. It is hard to imagine how one could come to this conclusion by reading the book of Revelation alone. This view appears imposed upon the plain meaning of the text.

ii. The New Testament overwhelmingly teaches that Satan is actively opposing the church (1 Cor. 7:5, 2 Cor. 4:4, 2 Cor. 2:11, 2 Cor. 11:14, Eph. 2:2, Jms. 4:7, 1 Tim 1:20, 1 Pt. 5:8) and in fact “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 Jn. 5:19b, ESV)

iii. It interprets the two resurrections of Revelation 20 differently, one spiritual (Rev.20:4) and one physical (Rev.20:5). However the same Greek word, zao, for “came to life” is used for both. Additionally, the passage itself does not indicate that the writer intended a difference of meaning.[18] Verses five and six directly contradict the notion that the first resurrection is anything but bodily physical resurrection of believers.

iv. There were no chapter divisions in the original manuscript and chapter 20 begins with the Greek preposition kai having causal and copulative relation to Christ’s parousia in chapter 19.[19] For instance, the binding of Satan is inextricably chronologically connected to Christ’s return.

v. Even though the word “thousand” is used occasionally as a long period (e.g. 1 Chron 16:15), it appears over one hundred times and only a few are non-literal, and those are hyperbole not allegory.[20]

vi. The church does not have 12 tribes and in Luke 22:30 Jesus makes clear that National Israel will not only be present in the future kingdom but that they will also retain tribal identity. If the church is now “spiritual Israel” and God was finished with National Israel this simply would not follow. Also note that the 144,000 in Revelation are chosen from the 12 tribes, again ruling out the church.

Next up Postmillennialism

[1]David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1996, c1992), 4:834.

[2]Augustine. City of God, Book 20, chapter 7.

[3]Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Four: Church, Last Things (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2005), 548.

[4]John F. Walvoord, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, Includes Indexes. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1990), 624.

[5] Edward Hindson. Revelation: Unlocking the Future, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 86.

[6]Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology : The Missing Link in Systematic Theology, Previous Ed.: 1993., Rev. ed. (Tustin, Calif.: Ariel Ministries, 1994), 123.

[7]Geisler, Systematic Theology, 549.

[8]R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000, c1998) ch. 9.

[9]Fruchtenbaum, Israelology, 128.

[10]Sproul, The Last Days, 9.

[11]Sproul, The Last Days, 9.

[12]Hindson, Revelation, 86.

[13] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 413.

[14]Fruchtenbaum, Israelology, 135.

[15]Fruchtenbaum, Israelology, 126.

[16]Geisler, Systematic Theology, 550.

[17] Kim Riddlebarger, ( accessed 07/04/2010.

[18]Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale reference library (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 896.

[19]James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order., electronic ed. (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996), G2532.

[20]Geisler, Systematic Theology, 558.

Why Eschatology Matters Part Four


continued from Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Christians of all denominations routinely implore “thy kingdom come” without giving it a second thought. It follows that if one is still asking for something to come, then it cannot be fully present. Even so, the expectation for a literal millennial reign of Christ on earth is perhaps the most controversial subject in eschatology. It is inescapable that the bible plainly proclaims it. Revelation 20:1-6 speaks of a one thousand year period when believers reign with the Lord Jesus after his return.

Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

This plain sense view is also called “chiliasm” from the Greek word chilioi for thousand. Although the word “thousand” is used six times in Revelation chapter 20, the duration is a major point of contention. There is an acknowledged history of allegorical interpretation deeply entrenched in ecclesiastic tradition. Because of this, the majority of the denominational church denies a literal millennium.[1] There are three principle views concerning the millennium promised by God in Revelation chapter twenty: Premillennial (divided into pre & post tribulational positions on the chart below), Postmillennial, and Amillennial.

My next post will outline the Amillennial view and its theological implications.

[1]John F. Walvoord, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, Includes Indexes. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1990), 624.

Why Eschatology is Important Part Three

continued from Part 1 & Part 2 (make sure to hover the pointer over scripture references)

In this installment I get to the purpose of this series, “Why Eschatology is Important.” My motivation for writing this is that I have noticed that one’s eschatological persuasion influences almost every other element of theology. An errant eschatology is the root of numerous heresies from pluralism to “kingdom now” theology.  I am also writing this because I have had friends say to me, “We really can’t know anything about all of that, so it’s a waste of time.”  There are a number of problems with that view.

First, Jesus spoke on it at length in the kingdom parables, the two Olivet discourses, and in the book of Revelation. Some make the error of making it plural “Revelations”, yet verse one is explicit, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,” (Re 1:1). The revelation from Father to Son to angel to disciple to you and me, this is a great privilege! Not to mention, the book of Revelation is the only book of the bible that promises a special blessing to those who study it (Re 1:3). Furthermore,  Titus 2:12-13 infers that waiting for our blessed hope is an incentive to Godliness. Peter even speaks of “speeding its coming” (2 Pet. 3:12). Since the Lord and the disciples thought it was that important for us, shouldn’t we study it diligently?

Next, eschatology is a major theme of the Old Testament. God inspired the prophets and apostles to write a plethora of apocalyptic material. For instance, Isaiah 34:1–8 and Obadiah 15 describe a Day of the Lord when God will judge all nations of the world.  Joel 3:1–16 and Zechariah 14:1–3, Zec. 14:12–15 refer to a Day of the Lord that will involve God’s judgment of the armies of all the nations of the world, when those armies gather to wage war against Israel and the city of Jerusalem. The ramifications for world politics are enormous. Have you ever considered how your vote plays a part? God went to great lengths to deliver and preserve his word; we ought to take it seriously.

Another reason is that, as Isaac Newton observed, God held the first century Jews accountable for knowing prophecy. It is likely he will us as well. In fact, Jesus taught that we have a responsibility to know prophecy and keep watch. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Mt 25:13)  “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” (Lk 21:34) Paul confirms this in his letter to the Thessalonians, “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” (1 Th 5:2-5)

My reason for walking through the visions in Daniel was to demonstrate that God has written the future in advance and that the Jewish Messianic expectation of a political kingdom was (is) justified. The Scriptures certainly teach that God created the universe for His own purposes (Rev. 4:11). As a result, the heavenly and earthly realms are owned and ultimately ruled by God (1 Chr. 29:11–12; 2 Chr. 20:6 Ps. 47:2; Ps. 103:19; Ps. 135:6; Isa. 40:12–26; Jer. 10:7, 10; Dan. 4:17, Dan. 4:34; Acts 17:24; 1 Tim. 1:17; Rev. 5:13). Yet they are now under the rule of a usurper. Mankind was given dominion over the earth in Genesis 1:26, yet Satan took it away when he enticed Adam to disobey God.  Satan is god of this present world system. Jesus said it twice, (Jn 14:30; Jn 12:31) Paul taught it, (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph 2:2) and John,

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)

The protoevangelium (first gospel) of Genesis 3:15 prophesied that the seed of the woman would one day crush his head. Like bookends, I believe this event is also prophesied in Revelation 20. Now we patiently await His return. He is coming!

Just before the ascension (Acts 1:6) the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Did Jesus say, “Sorry guys not going to happen, Israel forfeited?”


He says “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”

It wasn’t for His disciples to know. Yet this infers a future time that God has fixed when He will restore the Kingdom to Israel. This time was prophesied by the prophets and Jesus reveals it explicitly in Revelation 20. In His word He told us to watch (Luke 21:34, Matt 25:14), he gave us signs to watch for (Matt 24:6-8, 2 Tim 3:13, 1 Tim 4:1-2, 2 Pet. 3:3-14, Jude 16-18, 2 Tim. 3:4-5). It is our blessed hope (Tit 2:13). We are told to pray “Thy Kingdom Come” and to “speed its coming” (2 Pet. 3:12). The future Kingdom that bible believing Christians are eagerly anticipating also delineates a major division in biblical theology, millennial views.