Various views of end times events have caused division, confusion, and frustration for many Christians. It isn’t hard for a person that wants to downplay the importance of eschatology to point out extreme examples of each view in order to demonstrate that the effort is fruitless. Some have jokingly called themselves “pan-millennialists” saying that it will all pan-out in the end.
However, complexity, alternate views, and even wacky ideas among some teachers should not be enough for us to put off the study of end times. We wouldn’t follow that reasoning regarding difficulties in our understanding of the Trinity, or the doctrine of hell, or any other biblical doctrine, would we? Any pan-Trinitarians out there?
In my opening message at the IFCA Annual Convention a few weeks ago, I set out seven reason for why we need to study and teach biblical eschatology. My message will be posted soon, but until then, I thought it might be helpful to enumerate those reasons:
1. You Should Study and Teach Biblical EschatologyBecause It Puts God’s Glory on Display (Rev. 1:1-2)
2. You Should Study and Teach Biblical EschatologyBecause It Shows Us God’s Future Plans (Rev. 1:1-2)
3. You Should Study and Teach Biblical EschatologyBecause It Comes With Blessings (Rev 1:3)
4. You Should Study and Teach Biblical EschatologyBecause the Time Is Near (Rev 1:3)
5. You Should Study and Teach Biblical EschatologyBecause It Encourages the Saints (1Th 4:18; 5:11)
6. You Should Study and Teach Biblical EschatologyBecause the Judgment of God is Coming (2Pt 3:1-10)
7. You Should Study and Teach Biblical EschatologyBecause It Promotes Holiness and Godliness in the Church (2Pt 3:11-12)
These aren’t the only reasons why we need to study and teach biblical eschatology, but these among others are rooted in the authority of Scripture itself. I pray these reasons will motivate, enourage, and inspire you to go to the Scripture and study and teach the hope of Jesus coming again.
“Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles.” (Acts 14:1-4)
The preaching of the gospel will always accomplish its intended purpose. Soemtimes the fields are slow to yield anything. We need to keep at it and trust the Lord for the growth. But sometimes the results are seen immediately, as in Acts 14 where a great number of Jews and Gentiles came to faith in Christ after the apostles proclaimed the gospel to them in Iconium. How exciting when this happens!
But along with this immediate burst of growth came an immediate response from the enemy. Spiritual warfare in the shape of stirring up strife and the poisoning of minds is said to have been the tactic used here. This probably means that lies and jealous striving were used to incite the Gentiles against the new Christians. It’s interesting that the non-believing Jews who would normally have nothing to do with Gentiles were now willing to feign concern for the Gentiles so long as they could accomplish their desire of persecution.
What I want to point out is what verse 3 says, “so they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord.” The “they” of verse three refers to the apostles Paul and Barnabas (13:50). In response to the attack against the new church in Iconium, the apostles did what any mother would do when her baby is attacked—they stayed longer to defend and care for her.
This “holy stubbornness” is a response of love and courage. Paul and Barnabas weren’t willing to proclaim the gospel, see people receive Christ, and then move on. The goal wasn’t to impress their buddies with evangelistic growth statistics. Their goal was to make disciples of Christ, and that meant that they needed to stay as long as necessary in order to ensure that their brothers and sisters in Iconium were protected from the wolves there.
Accompanying the apostles’ stay was the presence of God who gave to them bold speech that was empowered by Christ. It was Christ working through the apostles who bore witness to the word of His grace. This along with signs and wonders that accompanied the powerful Word confirmed the gospel and these messengers as being from God. This would go a long way to both strengthen the Church and warn the enemy.
Sometimes we think of evangelism in rosy, romantic terms that ignores what it really is—an incursion behind enemy lines to snatch away from the devil those who once were his, but now belong to Christ. And the enemy will not stand by idly and allow this to happen. We can expect him to fight back.
And this is where holy stubbornness is needed. Since we belong to Christ, we do not need to fear the enemy. Christ is for us, so who can be against us? But that truth does not remove the reality of spiritual attack, hardship, and persecution. We might feel the heat of warfare increase as the battle rages in our community and all around us.
Be encouraged. The devil doesn’t mess with the sleepers. He doesn’t want to rouse a church that is deep in apathy. But once you begin raiding the smoldering sticks from his fires, he will rage and seek to stop you. This might come as discouragement, personal attacks, division, distraction, or many other of his numerous schemes. Don’t give up! Don’t stop making disciples. Don’t become distracted. Don’t move on.
Dig in. Be stubborn. Refuse to relent. God is with us. We have the victory!
“This is not a moment for timid souls. Boldness comes easily when you are in the presence of those who agree with you; it is difficult when you are standing alone in the midst of people who seek your demise. Boldness behind a pulpit is one thing; boldness in a city council meeting is another. Boldness is seen most clearly when you have burned the bridge that would have enabled you to retreat to safety.”
Erwin Lutzer, We Will Not Be Silenced: Responding Courageously to Our Cultures Assault on Christianity, 120.
We are at a critical point in the history of the world and the Church. Should the Lord tarry, our children will look back on these dark and trying days and judge whether we were courageous in the face of great opposition or see evidence of compromise and capitulation. What will make the difference? Can I suggest a few things from Acts 4:8-12, where the disciples ran into their first major confrontation with aggression?
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12)
1. The disciples were filled with the Spirit.
This is the only way a group of Christ-followers who were cowering behind locked doors only a few days before could be so radically different. Courage and boldness is not for those of this type of personality. Boldness and courage filled the hearts of those filled with the Spirit.
2. The disciples testified to Jesus Christ.
The evangelical church is scattered and divided about a lot of things today—spiritual gifts, baptism modes, music, methodology, women in ministry, and more. Don’t get me wrong, hese are all incredibly important things. But the primary need for standing firm against the onslaught of the enemy is the gospel message. The heart and focus must highlight the cross of Jesus Christ and the atoning work accomplished. Everything else must be seen in its subordinate place.
3. The disciples upheld the importance of the resurrection of Christ.
The resurrection points to the acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. It is not tangential, but central. The resurrection of Christ points to our own future resurrection and glorification. If you grasp this, then courage is sure to come because nothing—NOTHING—can stop you. Not even death.
4. The disciples never forgot that Jesus was rejected too.
If you forget that they hated Jesus, you might be tempted into the sin of seeking to please man. But if you remember that they hated our Lord and crucified the Lord of glory, then we will not be surprised when they hate us as well—no matter how winsome or loving or kind we might be.
5. The disciples knew that there is no other hope for the world than Jesus.
If a person could be saved through Islam, or Mormonism, or liberation theology, then it would be much easier to just quietly practice our faith privately without any care about others because they’ll eventually get to heaven too. But the message of Jesus was clear—He is the only way to the Father. And that should embolden us because although some people might want to silence us or shout us down, we can’t be silent if we truly love them.
Brothers and sisters, don;t lose heart. Jesus is coming soon, but we have work to do and we can’t allow the shouts of the world to drown us out.
“So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”John 11:20–27
The glory of God and the love of God are not in conflict with one another. Some theologians try to pit one against the other saying that the sovereignty of God (intimately tied to His glory) cannot override His love for humanity., and therefore the love of God willingly overrides His sovereignty so that God actually submits to the will of His creatures.
John 11 is an interesting test of this idea. In verses 4-6 it says, “But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”]
In these verses we have the glory of God shown in His sovereign decision to allow the life of Lazarus to be overcome by death, with the divine purpose of God being glorified through His resurrection of Lazarus. To some Christians and many unbelievers, this is unthinkable—even monstrous. But this is because the unregenerate mind and the immature Christian mind attribute all discomfort, pain, trial, and even death, as only evil and that the only good that comes is from the avoidance of these things.
But the pain and suffering that occurs in this world is only a small part of the much bigger picture. And not only this, but the pain and suffering as well as the joy unspeakable that are available to humanity either through grace or denial of the offer of salvation are infinite. The present world and its pains and joys are only a small sampling of a greater reality that all of humanity shall experience personally one day.
Jesus, looking beyond the suffering and eventual death of His friend Lazarus knows that a greater lesson needs to be grasped and through the truth He will bring glory to His Father.
So, instead of rushing to the scene to be at His friend’s side, Jesus stayed two days longer to assure His disciples that Lazarus was dead and buried by the time they reached Bethany.
This means that when we are tempted to cry out “Why?” In our trials, we must not push aside the glory of God and begin to question the love of God. The Lord’s mind is vast and His plans are more infinitely complex that we can know or imagine; therefore we must never doubt His love.
Mary and Martha were correct in placing all of their hope in Jesus’ power to heal their brother. The issue was simply timing. Jesus could have healed Lazarus while he was sick (Jn 11:21-27, 32); or immediately after he had died; or long after he died in the future Day of resurrection (v. 24).
The sisters had hoped that the healing would be before his death, but after he had died, they found some comfort in the future resurrection when he would be raised from the dead.
But Jesus gave them immediate resurrection while also pointing them to the reality of the greater day of resurrection that they would still need to look forward to and hope in. We too must cling to this very same hope even without our own personal experience with an immediate healing or resurrection. Jesus proved to Mary and Martha, and by extension to us as well, that He is able to raise the dead—because He raised Lazarus from the dead, and He rose from the grave by His own power.
So the next time you find yourself doubting God’s love or not understanding how such pain could bring God glory, remember Lazarus. You might never understand God’s reasoning, but you must know this—God desires to be glorified and His love for us is infinite. Both are true and both are never super versed by His perfect plans.
“I think it is a great lesson to learn in spiritual things, to believe in Christ and His finished salvation, quite as much as when you are down as when you are up, for Christ is not more Christ on the top of the mountain than He is in the bottom of the valley. And He is no less Christ in the storm at midnight than He is in the sunshine of the day. Do not begin to measure your safety by your comfort—but measure it by the eternal Word of God which you have believed and which you know to be true—and on which you rest, for still here, within the little world of our bosom, ‘He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap’ ” (Ecc 11:4).”