PMT 2014-042 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.Confused

In my preceding blog (PMT 2014-041) I began a three-part series which will be defining key concepts in eschatological discussion. Due to the large-scale confusion among so many Christians, I suspect this is very much needed. This article continues from the preceding one.

Eschatology. The term eschatology derives from compounding two Greek terms: eschatos (“last”) and logia (“word, discourse”). Etymologically, eschatology is “the study of the last things.” The term is drawn from certain Scriptural passages that speak of “the last days” (2 Tim. 3:1; Heb. 1:2), “the last time” (1 Pet. 1:20; Jude 18), “the last hour” (1 John 2:18), and other comparable statements.

Eschatology is generally divided into two categories: “Cosmic eschatology” deals with the consummational history of the world system and the human race, the “cosmos.” It involves the study of the biblical data regarding the providentially governed flow of history as it unfolds toward its foreordained consummation. Cosmic eschatology especially focuses on the developmental progress of the kingdom of God in history, the Second Advent of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, and the eternal state. “Personal eschatology” deals with the destiny of the individual at death, including the study of physical death, the immortality of the soul, and the intermediate state. Because it ushers the individual out of the temporal and into the eternal world, it also involves a consideration of Heaven and Hell.

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First resurrection. In John’s symbolic vision of the Millennium in Revelation, the first resurrection signifies the salvation of sinners, who upon conversion come under the salvific rule of Christ and enter the kingdom of God. Salvation involves an arising from a state of spiritual death to spiritual life (Eph. 2:1-6) and is pictured in Scripture not only as a resurrection (John 5:24; Eph. 2:4-6; 1 John 3:14), but also by an equally remarkable image: a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; cp. Eph. 2:10). In Dispensationalism the first resurrection in Revelation 20 is interpreted literalistically and speaks of the bodily resurrection of believers, as over against the delayed bodily resurrection of unbelievers at the end of the millennium. Two distinct bodily resurrections, though, contradicts the biblical revelation which speaks of a simultaneous resurrection of all men (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15) at the very end of time (John 6:39_40, 44, 54; 11:24).

Futurism. Futurism is a system of prophetic biblical interpretation that was developed by the Jesuit Francisco Riberia (1537-91). It holds that virtually all New Testament prophecies must be understood as involving distantly future events (and, as such, is the opposite approach to preterism). Not only so, but in the dispensational employment of the futurist system these prophecies are not only future to our time, but cannot occur until the present dispensation (the Church Age) is over. The dispensational futurist holds that the Olivet Discourse, Paul’s Man of Lawlessness prophecy, Revelation, and other such prophecies deal with events that will occur either at the Rapture, during the Great Tribulation, in the Millennium, or at the Second Advent.

Great Tribulation. The phrase “Great Tribulation” appears in Matthew 24:15 and Revelation 2:22; 7:14. In both of these contexts this tribulation period is tied to the first century, because it is in “this generation” (Matt. 24:34) or “must shortly come to pass” (Rev. 1:1; 22:6) because “the time is near” (Rev. 1:3; 22:10). The great tribulation speaks of the devastation overwhelming first century Israel and resulting in the destruction of her Temple during the Jewish War with Rome. It is a divine judgment upon the first century Jews for rejecting the Messiah (Matt. 23:37-24:3). In dispensationalism the Great Tribulation is extracted from its contextual time constraints and placed in the distant future after the Rapture of the Church and just before the Second Coming of Christ. It becomes a seven year period of trial for the Jews that will witness the rebuilding of the Temple, the arising of Antichrist, the destruction of two-thirds of the world Jewish population, but finally witness the conversion of the Jewish remnant who will welcome the Second Coming of Christ to deliver them.

Hermeneutics. The science of biblical interpretation that proceeds in terms of carefully established grammatical and historical rules. Hermeneutic theory limits the imagination of any would-be interpreter constraining interpretation within reasonable, pre-established, agreed-upon guidelines.

Historicism. This prophetic school of interpretation is also called the “continuous historical” approach. Historicism sees the prophetic drama in Revelation as providing a panorama of Church history from the apostolic era to the Second Coming. Historical continuity is the main focus of this approach which forecasts future history. Historicists deem Revelation an “almanac of church history.” They apply the numerous judgment scenes to various wars, revolutions, and socio-political and religious movements (e.g., the rising of Roman Catholicism, the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, World Wars I and II), as well as important historical persons (e.g., various Popes, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler, and Stalin). Generally historicists argue that the Letters to the Seven Churches provide an outline to the development of Church history (although dispensationalism often attempts to merge this Historicist approach with their otherwise system of futurism).

Hyperpreterism. The term “preterism” is based on the Latin praeteritus, which means “passed by.” Preterism is that hermeneutic approach to Scripture that teaches that certain prophecies have already been fulfilled in history. Hyperpreterism is a recent prophetic movement that takes the insights of historic, orthodox preterism and presses them to extravagant conclusions well beyond the realm of theological orthodoxy. Hyperpreterism (whose adherents prefer to be called “consistent” or “full” preterists) promotes the opposite approach to prophecy as that of futurism. The Hyperpreterist teaches that all biblical prophecy finds fulfillment by the time of the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. Consequently, the resurrection of the dead, the Second Advent, the Final Judgment are all fulfilled in the first century. This prophetic outlook became a full scale movement in the 1980s, though sparked by the republication of a long forgotten book published in the late 1800s: J. Stuart Russell’s The Parousia.

Idealism. The idealist school is also called the “timeless symbolic” and the “poetic-symbolic.” This school of prophetic interpretation sees the point of Revelation as not so much painting an objective, historical portrait at all. Rather, John was providing a non-historical, allegorical summation of various significant redemptive truths or historical principles. Historicism attempts to provide the scene behind the scene; that is, it offers a look at the philosophical/spiritual issues involved in history, rather than at objective historical events themselves.

Imminence. A widely popular prophetic outlook holding that since Christ’s ascension in the first century, he could return “at any moment.” Imminence doctrine encourages the believer to always be on the lookout for either Christ’s Second Coming (in amillennialism) or the Rapture (in Dispensationalism) in that in either system no prophetic events must come to pass before that event. This doctrine runs up against both theological and biblical problems. Theologically we know that various prophecies must occur before the Second Coming, such as the widespread conversion of the Jews (Rom. 11:15-25) and the discipling of the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). Biblical problems arise in Scripture’s positing a “long” wait for believers (Matt. 25:5, 14, 19) that will consume “seasons” of time (Acts 1:7; 2 Tim. 3:1). Second Peter 3 directs us to expect a long delay because “a day with the Lord is as a thousand years” (2 Peter 3:4-9).

Kingdom of God / of Heaven. When Jesus began his ministry he began preaching that “the kingdom of God” was at hand (Mark 1:14-15). Though Matthew is the only Gospel to record the phrase “kingdom of Heaven,” the term is interchangeable with the “kingdom of God” (cp. Matt. 13:31; Mark 4:30). The kingdom he preached was not a political entity, but involved the coming of the final phase of redemption and is closely tied to the gospel message (Mark 1:14-15). In fact, his message of salvation is often called “the gospel of the kingdom” (e.g., Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14). His kingdom was not an external political kingdom coming with visible glory (Luke 17:20-21); nor would it involve armies to defend and promote it (John 18:36). It was a kingdom of truth (John 18:37) and righteousness (Rom. 14:17) that would grow gradually over time (Matt. 13:30-33).

(To be continued.)

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  1. Guy Cooksey April 8, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Thanks for the glossary, Ken; it is helpful.

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