Archive for the ‘Eschatology’ Category

Pastor Jim is preaching a series on “Salt & Light” at Cornerstone Worship Center (Nampa, ID) and  a week and a half ago took us into Acts 2/Joel 2 wherein we find the famous prophetic statement:

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit,
and they shall prophesy.’”

In teaching this passage, Pastor Jim referenced a phrase that he later shared was from the ministry of Jerry Cook. The phrase is “the prophetic community.” The words resonated with me; this concept that we have an identity together that is not as much about the specific things we do, but is about who we are in the eyes of God, seemed to shift around in my soul. The idea is that, whilst visions, dreams, prophecy etc. are all realities to be expected, the instances of manifestation are not the thrust of the passage.

Part of our mission as the church (which is God’s people together, and in a specific way a locally identifiable body of believers) is to proclaim and speak forth the good news of Jesus Christ, the hope of redemption in Him, and man’s need for a Savior. In a conversation with my good friend Jon Brown he stated that evangelism is the one purpose of the church that will not continue in eternity. Worshiping God, loving one another, glorifying Jesus and finding our truest satisfaction in our Maker, these things will remain. But it is appointed once to a man the opportunity to believe on Jesus. With death comes the end of decision. (more…)

The Millennium

Posted: July 11, 2010 by Greg Burkheimer in Eschatology, Kingdom of God

“Perhaps no doctrine has more divided modern evangelical Protestantism than that of the millennium”Donald Bloesch, The Last Things, 87

            What is it about eschatology (the study of the last things) that either gets people wound up or turns them off? I would place myself more in the latter category. It’s not that I don’t have a desire to learn about last things, I really do, it’s just that there are so many different views out there and it can become very confusing trying to sort it all out. Also, quite frankly, some of those who consider themselves “experts” in the topic are just plain weird, trying to fit every single event that happens into the “grand scheme” somewhere and this is all they talk about. On the other hand, I don’t like that the end times are often ignored and reduced to a level that is not important.   

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In my last post, I referred to Wilson’s postmillennial view of the Church/Kingdom relationship.  His post explains how he believes the Kingdom of God will come on earth: through the gradual working of the Spirit (leaven is an analogy that he often uses, referring to Jesus’ parable).  Here are a couple quotes:

When kings come to Christ, their glory will grow. When kings die to their own glory, they will be raised in the glory of Another. And incidentally, though I am a minarchist (not an anarchist), and I believe that the kings of the latter glory will largely be ceremonial figureheads, I do not intend this as demeaning or as some kind of a nothing-honor. Why would any of us think that ceremony is a trivial thing? I suspect it will be shown to be the chief thing, far better than the current techniques for lording it over people — to wit, kicking butt and taking names — peace through superior firepower. That is a model that has a certain rough justice about it, but we have to admit that improvements could be made. When the lion lies down with the lamb, it will not be because men with block letters on their jackets are standing over them with automatic weapons.

Secondly:

So the Church is not gathered into the State, with ecclesiastical functions delegated to some part of the bureaucracy. Rather, I see the nations gathered to the Church, with the remaining civil functions distinct from the Church proper, but subordinate to it. The honor and glory of the kings really is honor and glory, and that honor and glory is really brought as tribute to be laid on the altar. In other words, I don’t see the nations gathering the Church, but rather the Church gathering the nations. (more…)

Kevin DeYoung has noted before that people talk a lot about the Kingdom of God, but don’t always have a fully biblical view of this issue.  Last week, he posted some thoughts on this issue, cautioning people who want to bring the kingdom to earth.  DeYoung argues instead that the kingdom is closely identified with the Church:

If the kingdom of God is heaven breaking into earth, Eden being replanted, the New Jerusalem nailing in stakes, then we should expect to see the kingdom almost exclusively in the church. Of course, the church, living in the world, ought to embody the principles of the kingdom. Likewise, we will be pleased when the world around us reflects many of the values of the kingdom–forgiveness, compassion, mercy, and justice. But we will not expect the world, in this life, to become the kingdom.

Here’s the problem: when people talk broadly about bringing heaven down to earth on the culture writ large, they can’t help but be selective about the nature of the kingdom. So some Christians will argue for dismantling of nuclear weapons because in the kingdom swords are beaten into plowshares. True, but in the kingdom everyone also sits under their own vine and fig tree. The vision of the kingdom/garden/city is one of extravagant opulence and prosperity. So should we try to be as rich as possible as a sign of the kingdom’s in-breaking? Well, no because the kingdom is not the full reality yet. As a result we must temper the notion of kingdom-living prosperity with the reality that some people don’t have enough to live. In the same way, we must temper the notion of kingdom-living pacifism with the reality that there are lots of bad guys in the world who don’t want us to live.

In other words, when we think of the kingdom as what we are trying to build in this world we will be severely disappointed, potentially dangerous. But when we see the church as the presence of the kingdom in this world then the theological pieces start falling into place. The oversight in some recent conceptions of building the kingdom is that the kingdom is only thought of in terms of social services. But where Christ reigns, wickedness is expelled too. If you want to build the kingdom in your town, if you want heaven to come down to earth in your city, then you must not allow unrepentant sinners to live there. For Scripture is clear that they share no part in the kingdom. (more…)

NT scholar Craig Keener makes what I have always found to be a simple and logical conclusion on the implications of Pentecost and Peter’s preaching to the continuing nature of the New Covenant with relation to Spiritual gifts.  This excerpt is from his volume, “The Spirit in the Gospels and Acts”. Keener (1997:197-198) contends against the notion that the accompanying signs of the Spirit’s reception in Acts was confined to some brief era:

The phrases “and your children” and “As many as God shall call” likewise make clear that Luke does not envision the outpouring of the Spirit as a past, temporary gift; if Luke does not regard it as still available, then by his argument God’s calling, the new era, and the availability of salvation must have also been retracted. In this case Luke expects his Christian audience to reject the whole point of Peter’s sermon, as he reports that Peter’s unrepentant Jewish hearers did. The implications of such an interpretation run totally counter to Luke’s theology; clearly he assumes that Pentecost’s endowment of the Spirit and dynamic manifestations of the Spirit such as glossolalia are to continue until Jesus’ return. If “the last days” did in fact begin on Pentecost (2:17), and if, in the words of many scholars today, Luke’s view of the kingdom is “already” as well as “not yet,” Luke believes that Spirit baptism remains normative for God’s community, both to Israel and to “far off” Gentiles.

From Ladd’s “New Testament Theology”

Ladd (1974:344) speaks of the “last days” paradigm that Peter employs from Joel:

The promise given to Israel to be fulfilled at the Day of the Lord, said Peter, has now been fulfilled, not to the nation, but to a group of men who believed in the messiahship of Jesus. Furthermore, Peter adds an expression that gives the event pointed eschatological significance. He substitutes for Joel’s “after this” the words, “and in the last days” (Acts 2:17). In the prophets, “the last days” was an expression designating the time of the Kingdom of God, the messianic era.

Ladd (1974:344) adds:

Peter reinterprets Joel by asserting that the outpouring of the Spirit also belongs to the last days. By so doing he also reinterprets the meaning the meaning of the last days themselves; he separates the last days from the Day of the Lord and places them in history. The last days have come. The last days are the days of the Spirit who has now been given. In some real sense of the word, the messianic era has come, the eschatological salvation is present.

As for the placement of the millennium, Ladd (premillennial) cautions against an unhealthy preoccupation on the matter, “American evangelicalism has placed an unwarranted emphasis on this doctrine of a millennium” (1974:204).

Though Ladd holds to a premillennial position, he is not of the dispensational mold and has rightly recognized that Jesus inaugurated the messianic age in His ministry and in the outpouring of the Spirit upon the Church. Ladd does believe that Jesus will occupy an earthly reign as part of the consummating process, but he does not confine Joel’s fulfillment solely to that earthly reign. I am appreciative that Ladd emphasizes some fulfillment, though he fails to fully qualify what exactly it is. I don’t think I could qualify perfectly what the inauguration is in detail either, so we stand on common ground. We’re clearly agreed that it would be wrong to say that nothing has been inaugurated.

Is it possible that the Joel 2 speaks of Armageddon, and the promised restoration occurs contingently on Pentecost, where blessing now comes to Israel, which awaits yet another day of battle (Gog), whereas the enemies are permanently cut off from the land? We would therefore be in the time of restoration for Israel right now, awaiting the final climatic event. In my preaching series through Joel, I saw this a plausible eschatological scheme. Pentecost inaugurates the restorative age for the “new Israel” (Joel 2:18-27), which will culminate in Christ’s second advent and permanent judgment over the nations (Joel 3), which then ushers in a fully restored age.

All excerpts are from Dr. Craig Keener’s volume, “The Spirit in the Gospels and Acts”.

Keener (1997:193) sees eschatological significance in the three Pentecostal signs of wind, fire, and tongues:

The external signs more clearly function as divinely bestowed symbols of the impending kingdom of God. Wind (Acts 2:2) would have convinced the gathered believers that the coming age had arrived, for it symbolizes the breath of resurrection life in Ezek 37…

Keener (1997:193) adds:

Fire, of course, could symbolize the imminent time of eschatological judgment (Acts 2:3)….The fire, therefore, serves as a small reminder of the fire to be unleashed in God’s vengeance at the end of the age.

Keener (1997:193-194) remarks lastly about the significance of tongues:

The clearest sign in Acts 2:1-12 that the power of the eschatological kingdom is erupting into history is the phenomenon of glossolalia in 2:4….the Spirit of prophecy was an eschatological phenomenon, and…Luke recognizes speaking in unknown tongues as a form of  prophetic (i.e., inspired) speech, and uses this phenomenon to mark the fact that in the new era all God’s people would be prophets in some sense (Joel 2:28-29).

Keener (1997:195), though not elaborating on the nature of God’s eschatological reign, does affirm that Peter clearly taught that it had commenced in Pentecost, “Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:14-40 clearly connects baptism in the Holy Spirit with prophetic witness and the present experience of God’s future reign.” He later adds, “…this anointing is evidence that the time of Israel’s salvation has come…”