Futureville – A Bridge Too Far

Futureville – A Bridge Too Far

A review by Stuart Brogden

The premise behind Skye Jethani’s book, Futureville, is a good one – “What we think Futurevilleabout tomorrow matters because our vision of the future is what determines how we understand the present.” (page 3) Chapters 3 and 4 serve to provide common, but flawed, views of the created order and how it will be in the next age. In each of these, roughly showing the unrealistic golden age embraced by post-millennials and the pessimistic end of the world embraced by dispensationalists, the author provides historical and biblical support for his view of the flaws in each. In chapter 5, Jethani tells us what, in his opinion, the proper view of tomorrow is, with the remainder of the book examining various aspects of our lives that are impacted by our world view.

 

Chapter 2 begins a scene describing the 1939 New York World’s Fair, describing the image of the future presented by the mythical community of Pleasantville. The author uses this as a springboard to call the Christian focus of “last things” Futureville. This term is the title of the book, of course, and it becomes – for me – a tiresome term that is over-used. He contrasts the end of the age with the beginning – the Garden. In doing so, Jethani does well to explore the nature and meaning of the Garden of Eden, making very credible and solid connections with the New Earth. He tends to stretch points too far and does so with this statement (page 25): “Scripture affirms that humans require beauty to thrive. Beauty nourishes our spirit the way food nourishes our bodies.” He provides no footnote, no Scripture reference. The Bible tells me music has value but that only Christ can satisfy and nourish our souls. There is no substitute.

 

In keeping with his pattern of coming up with unusual terms for well known biblical concepts, Jethani calls the post-millennial view evolution and dispensationalism is evacuation. His descriptions of the effects of each of these views are well presented. Of the evolutionary view, he says (page 46) “The belief that we are responsible for the creating Futureville fueled many ministries and Christian initiatives.” Indeed, if we think we are to bring in “the golden age of Christianity”, we will behave far differently than if we believe it will all burn and nothing is worth saving. Jethani’s thesis is that a solidly biblical view of end times – where the heavens and earth (all that God created) will die in God’s judgment as Peter describes it. But as the body of Christ lie in the grave for three days and was resurrected in far better shape, so will the created order. That which was cursed by God as a result of Adam’s sin groans in anticipation of this resurrection.

 

The balance of the book covers his view of the resurrection of the earth and what that means, as well as our vocations, the order of God’s creation, the beauty and abundance thereof, finishing up with our hope – which is rightly rooted in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Jethani’s case for the resurrection of the earth, rather than the total annihilation of it, is credible and convincing. The conclusions he draws in these last chapters are less so. He refers to the God-declared beauty of the Garden of Eden and the God-ordained beauty of the tabernacle and then extrapolates that to thinking what man does is likewise valuable. He agrees with Richard Mouw that of “the artifacts and creations of pagan cultures, God will instead purify and redeem them for use in Futureville for his glory.” (page 95), going so far as to say, “In Futureville, King David may someday admire Michelangelo’s status of himself” (page 96). He comes too close to a post-millennial view in telling us “We have a role to play in God’s plan to unite heaven and earth, to advance the story of of the world to culmination, and to see the earth cultivated into the garden city.” (page 97) Jethani’s case for thinking the work of the unredeemed will be purified and used by God in “Futureville” is contrary to what the Bible tells us about those people and their “righteous acts”. Not all the works of Christians will pass through God’s judgment – why would anyone think some of the works of reprobates will? The trees in the garden and the tabernacle in the wilderness were God’s handiwork – He caused the Egyptians to give their wealth to the Hebrews, He gave the plans for the tabernacle to Moses, He gave wisdom and skill to various workers to build it. No work of man has these critical attributes – it is a bridge too far to say pagan art can be pleasing to God; that art generated by those who hate Him and are the objects of His wrath.

 

In describing the importance of social work and relieving the suffering of people, Jethani tells us there should be no tension between social justice and gospel evangelism – they are both vital (pages 122 – 124). In his discussion of this concept, he falls into the same pit many others have – putting more emphasis on that which can be measured, while claiming to extol evangelism equally; apparently forgetting the biblical injunction that godliness is a higher priority for the Christian than physical wellness or fitness (1 Tim 4:6-16). His post-millennial view shows up again (page 131) when he says “The Communion table looked forward to the coming day when all injustice would be made right in the garden city of God.” While the Corinth church was a hot-bed of selfishness and other problems, the message in 1 Cor 11 about the Lord’s Supper is a reminder that they who are in Christ are equal, without social standing or rank differences; a reminder that Christ earned His standing as the Lamb of God and bought us with His blood; a reminder that He has gone to His Father and will return to take us home. Being with Jesus where there is no sin or temptation thereto – that is what the table declares to us. It puts the sacrifice of Christ and our eternity with Him in terms of human value to claim Communion is about injustice coming to an end.

 

All in all, this book has much to recommend. But there is just as much to be wary of. It is a good thing if one wants to be properly oriented to the future so he will live rightly today. A better, more biblical approach would be to study the Idealist or Optimistic Amillennial perspective, using a good guide to Revelation such as Dennis Johnson’s Triumph of the Lamb. God’s people need to better understand His Word – for in it alone He has given us what we need for godly life and true worship of Him. And to bring Him glory is our highest aim in life – as it is for all creation.

Is the Pretribulation Rapture Biblical?

Is the Pretribulation Rapture Biblical?

Brian M. Schwertley

One of the most popular teachings today in Evangelical and Charismatic pretribchurches is the doctrine of the pretribulation rapture. The pretribulation rapture teaching is that there are two separate comings of Christ. The first coming is secret and occurs before the future seven year tribulation. At this coming Jesus comes for the saints (i.e., all genuine believers) both living and dead. These saints meet the Lord in the air and then are taken to heaven to escape the horrible judgments that take place during the seven year tribulation. At the end of the great tribulation Jesus returns to the earth with the saints. This coming is not secret but is observed by all. At this coming Christ crushes His opposition, judges mankind and sets up a one thousand year reign of saints upon the earth (the millennium). Some pretribulation advocates speak of two separate comings while others prefer to speak of one coming in two separate stages or phases (phase one is the secret rapture and phase two is the visible coming in judgment). Hal Lindsey likes to refer to the rapture as “the great snatch.” He writes: “The word for ‘caught up’ actually means to ‘snatch up,’ and that’s why I like to call this marvelous coming event ‘The Great Snatch’! It’s usually referred to as the ‘Rapture,’ from the Latin word rapere, which means to ‘take away’ or ‘snatch out.’”1
     Although the pretribulation rapture doctrine is very popular and is even considered so crucial to Christianity that it is made a test of a person’s orthodoxy in some denominations, Bible colleges and seminaries, the exegetical and theological arguments used by its advocates are all classic cases of forcing one’s theological presuppositions onto particular texts (eisegesis). The purpose of this brief study is to show that the pretribulation rapture theory is not plainly taught or directly stated in any place in Scripture, cannot be deduced from biblical teaching, contradicts the general teaching of the Bible regarding Christ’s second coming and was never taught in any branch of the church prior to 1830.


The Origin of the Pretribulation Rapture Teaching

Whenever a Christian encounters a doctrine that has not been taught by anyone in any branch of Christ’s church for over eighteen centuries, one should be very suspect of that teaching. This fact in and of itself does not prove that the new teaching is false. But, it should definitely raise one’s suspicions, for if something is taught in Scripture, it is not unreasonable to expect at least a few theologians and exegetes to have discovered it before. The teaching of a secret pretribulation rapture is a doctrine that never existed before 1830. Did the pretribulation rapture come into existence by a careful exegesis of Scripture? No. The first person to teach the doctrine was a young woman named Margaret Macdonald. Margaret was not a theologian or Bible expositor but was a prophetess in the Irvingite sect (the Catholic Apostolic Church). Christian journalist Dave MacPherson has written a book on the subject of the origin of the pre-tribulation rapture. He writes: “We have seen that a young Scottish lassie named Margaret Macdonald had a private revelation in Port Glasgow, Scotland, in the early part of 1830 that a select group of Christians would be caught up to meet Christ in the air before the days of Antichrist. An eye-and-ear witness, Robert Norton M.D., preserved her handwritten account of her pre-trib rapture revelation in two of his books, and said it was the first time anyone ever split the second coming into two distinct parts or stages. His writings, along with much other Catholic Apostolic Church literature, have been hidden many decades from the mainstream of Evangelical thought and only recently surfaced. Margaret’s views were well-known to those who visited her home, among them John Darby of the Brethren. Within a few months her distinctive prophetic outlook was mirrored in the September, 1830 issue of The Morning Watch and the early Brethren assembly at Plymouth, England. Early disciples of the pre-trib interpretation often called it a new doctrine.”2
 Read the rest of this article here.

When Will Christ Return?

When Will Christ Return?

A defense of Reformed A-millennialism

by Dan Harrisimages

Taken from http://www.mountainretreatorg.net in compliance with their copyright.

Introduction

When will Christ return? Will He return before or after the Great Tribulation? This is a question that has baffled many, and has been the source of much debate among Christian groups. Historically, there were as many, or more who believed in a post-tribulation return of Christ as believed in a pre-tribulation return of Christ. Today, with the tele-popularization of dispensational pre-millennialism by tele-evangelistic groups, including those of Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Ed Dobson, Jack Van Impe and John MacArthur, by the growth of the charismatic movement, by the popularity of the Scofield, and the Ryrie reference Bibles, and of late with the popularity of the Left Behind series of novels, little more is heard of the historic teaching of a-millennialism. Many would give a strange look to a Christian who would say that he does not believe in a Pre-tribulation rapture, nor in the future re-establishment of Israel as the people of God. Yet such was the doctrine of most of the great reformers, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, and William Tyndale, is presented in the Westminster Confession, and is the position held by most Reformed, Presbyterian, Reformed Baptist, and Lutheran churches.

Very few people today question the teachings of their churches or of their educators. People on the most part have a blind-faith in what they have been taught. Yet the Bible forbids that we should trust in what we are taught, especially when it comes to the Bible. Rather we’re to be as the Bereans and search the scriptures to see if the doctrines are true (Acts 17:11). “Study to show thyself approved unto God”( 2 Timothy 2:15 ).

Certainly the author would not suggest that all who adhere to the Pre-Tribulation, pre-millennial return of Christ fail to diligently search the scriptures. Certainly there are also those among the reformed groups that have accepted a-millennialism because their church teaches it. Yet pre-tribulation, pre-millennialism is gaining much ground among those who do not search the scriptures because of the tele-popularization of this teaching.

What are the differences between Pre-tribulation-Pre-millennialism and A-millennialism?

The main difference between Pre-millennialist (whether Pre-trib, Mid-trib, or Post-trib) and a-millennialist is their interpretation of Revelation chapter twenty.

In Revelation 20, there is a period of 1000 years (a millennium) in which Satan is bound, and in which the believers reign with Christ. The pre-millennialist believe that this era follows the return of Christ. Hence they believe Christ will return pre-millennially. The a-millennialist believe that the millennium is symbolic of the whole New Testament era. Hence they believe that Christ will return a-millennially, that is, there will be no future millennium era.

Which view does the Bible teach? Both of these groups will say that the Bible clearly teaches its view. How can both of these groups be totally convinced that they are correct? Certainly we cannot say that one of these groups is not composed of diligent Bible students. Certainly both of these groups have those among them that do diligently study the scriptures. The main difference between these groups is how they go about interpreting the scriptures.

The one group primarily interprets prophesy by looking at the New Testament as a parenthesis within the Old Testament prophesies, (hence the Old Testament prophesies are complete in themselves, and the New Testament is a separate plan of God that was not revealed in the Old Testament. [This is what they call the "mystery" of Ephesians 3:3-6 and Revelation 10:7] ). While the other group uses the New Testament in its interpretation of the Old Testament. This group believes that the key to interpreting Old Testament Prophesy is found in the New Testament. The first group is the Pre-tribulation Pre-millennialist, the second is the A-millennialist.

In this essay the author will show why he believes that the second group is preferable to the first. This will require a diligent survey of the scriptures. For this, one must put aside what he has been taught and search the scriptures for himself and see what the Bible teaches.

Certainly the author of this essay is not infallible. Hence one should not put trust in what is written herein, but should diligently check to see if this is supported by the scriptures. If it is not faithful to the scriptures, then it, along with anything that one has been taught which may not be faithful to the scriptures must be disregarded.

Here are reasons why the author believes in a Post-tribulation, a-millennial return of Christ:

Read the entire 24 page article here

Divided We Fall

7100094_f496It was a post from my friend and fellow evangelist, Bobby McCreery, that got me thinking. He wrote, “I’m no expert, but it seems one reason revival tarries is the fact that there is so much division in the body of Christ. So many brothers biting and devouring each other over secondary and tertiary issues like baptism and eschatology grieves my heart. I am not saying these issues are not important. I am saying my prayer is that our love for Christ would cause us to love one another in spite of our differences.” I could not help but echo the sentiment of my friend. So often in the Christian community we are ready to go to the mats over issues that, while important, are secondary to the essential doctrines of the faith.

These essential issues – such as: the nature of God; the deity of Christ; the Trinity; salvation by grace alone, through faith, in Christ alone; the sufficiency of scripture (and that scripture is inerrant); justification; and imputation – are what all Christians should be willing to go to the grave over. They are so essential to the very nature of our faith, that to remove any one of them would do irreparable damage to Christianity. These are doctrines that we must be absolutely unified on. Yet today, the doctrines which, while important, do not cause the cause of Christ to crumble have been elevated to first order status. Christians are going to war over doctrines which have been debate by good and godly men for centuries. What is worse, where some of the learned men of the past have been willing to call each other brethren despite their differences, today, Christians are declaring each other false believers, false teachers, or even worse, heretics. And all the while, we ignore the words of our Savior, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35 ESV).

This is not to say that every discussion or disagreement over doctrinal issues is a failure to show love to each other. In fact, it is very important that we as Christians be willing to wrangle over tough doctrinal teachings so that we may come to a full and mature understanding of our faith. But in so doing, we are not to despise one another for differing beliefs. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul teaches more mature believers in the faith that while we are free to eat meat sacrificed to idols (because it is only meat and the idol has no power at all) those who are weak, or lacking maturity in doctrine, may see this as sin. Paul calls on the more mature Christians to be willing to abstain from eating meat around them in order to keep from adversely affecting the weaker brethren’s conscience.

Inherent in this teaching we see a couple of principles. First, that of the opposing views, one is right, one is wrong. Those who are right have a greater and more mature understanding of the teachings. Second, those Christians who are more mature are taught to not lord over the weaker brethren due to their advanced wisdom. They are in fact, called to work with the less mature brethren at their own level. Incumbent in this is that the mature brethren will instruct, in love, the weaker. In other words, we are told it is less important to prove our being right in this matter than it is to love our weaker brethren and to build them up in the faith.

Now, I would agree that this matter of meat sacrificed to idols is not a debate of eschatology, soteriology or baptism. However, the principle, I believe remains. When we discuss our viewpoints of doctrine, it must always be with the mindset that we are talking with fellow believers. One of us is going to be wrong in our beliefs, but unless this is a core matter, one can still be a Christian if they are indeed wrong. Thus, the debate is not about finding a tare among the wheat, but the education and edification of our brethren. If we approach the matter purely from the standpoint that anyone who does not understand the wisdom in this view of doctrine must change their mind or else, then we have wrongly declared hosts of brethren anathema, even though they have agreement on the core essentials.

Often times, disagreements on secondary issues can turn into nasty, knock down, drag out arguments. The unfortunate result is that some Christians end up becoming unwilling to affirm other Christians as brethren when they refuse to see their “wisdom” in an area of doctrine. However, in Romans 14, Paul admonishes Christians who debate over the eating of certain foods or days on which one should worship. Remember, in this passage, Paul is talking specifically about Christians. So when he asks, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?” (v. 4a) he is pointing out that those who are in disagreement on this secondary matter should not be calling into question the salvation of the other. He goes on to say, “It is before his own master that he stands or falls,” (v. 4b). Paul is saying that only God can make that final determination when it comes to a brother’s wrong understanding of a secondary doctrine. That means it is not up to us to declare them anathema!

In this same passage, when writing of the debate over days of worship, Paul writes “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind,” (v. 5b). Did we just read that correctly? Did Paul just say that two Christians could have two separate viewpoints on a matter of secondary doctrine? Yes! Paul just taught us that we can disagree and still be brethren. Why? Because “the one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God,” (v. 6). In other words, even though we may disagree with brothers and sisters in areas of secondary doctrinal matters, we all worship the Lord and submit to our beliefs in honor of Him. It is in fact possible to rightly worship God with differing views on non-essential matters.

Paul repeatedly teaches for unity among Christians who have differing view points. In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul calls out those who evidently decided that some apostles and teachers were better than others. Believers had aligned themselves under Paul, Peter and Apollos. Some were rejecting the other three and saying, “I follow Christ,” (v. 12). Paul admonishes this manner of division saying “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (v. 13). Like matters of secondary doctrinal matters, we can even get into arguments over who preaches better, or which preacher has the right doctrine (because after all, that’s the doctrine I believe!). Paul calls the brethren into unity under Christ, even though there were differences between the teachers they sat under.

Again, I know some are going to say, “but (insert doctrine here) is not what Paul was writing about! So this does not apply to my situation.” The issue at hand though is the principle that Paul was teaching, which goes back to what Christ taught His disciples. There are going to be differing viewpoints among Christians on a variety of secondary doctrinal matters. We can discuss and debate the matters, but only if we are doing so with unity amongst the brethren and love for one another in mind. If we are seeking to prove ourselves right at the expense of others, if we are willing to declare brethren anathema because they do not believe as we do, if we just become downright mean and nasty to one another, then we have failed to obey the command of our Lord and Savior. And to make matters worse, as my friend said in the quote at the beginning of the article, revival tarries. Why? Because, while we are hacking and slashing at each other, the gospel is not preached to the world. And what little of the gospel message that does make it into the hands of unbelievers is now tainted by our lack of love for those within the Christian camp. So, the world marches on, blindly unaware of its headlong plunge into Hell, while we sit arrogantly smug that we proved ourselves right to someone we should have been linking arms with in the proclamation of the gospel.

Christians this must not be so. We must be above the petty bickering, back biting, and name calling. Let us discuss and debate, let us educate and edify. Let us be a blessing to one another, even when we disagree. But more importantly, let us be unified in the core essentials of the faith and let us proclaim, as one voice, the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation.

“Problems with Premillennialism”

“Problems with Premillennialism” by Sam Storms

My departure from Premillennialism was gradual and came  as a result of two discoveries as I studied Scripture. First, I devoted myself to a thorough examination of what the NT said would occur at the time of Christ’s second coming (or Parousia). What I found was a consistent witness concerning what would either end or begin as a result of our Lord’s return to the earth. Sin in the lives of God’s people, corruption of the natural creation, and the experience of physical death would terminate upon the appearance of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the resurrection of the body, the final judgment, and the inauguration of the New Heavens and New Earth would ensue. But why is this a problem for Premillennialism? Good question.

If you are a Premillennialist, whether Dispensational or not, there are several things with which you must reckon:

You must necessarily believe that physical death will continue to exist beyond the time of Christ’s second coming
. The reason for this is that all Premillennialists must account for the rebellious and unbelieving nations in Revelation 20:7-10 who launch an assault against Christ and his people at the end of the millennial age. Where did these people come from? They must be the unbelieving progeny born to those believers who entered the millennial age in physical, unglorified bodies. Not only they, but also the believing progeny born to those believers will be subject to physical death (notwithstanding the alleged prolonged life spans experienced by those who live during the millennial reign of Christ).

Read the rest of this thought provoking article here.