Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel Fine

I spoke about the "end times" and the rapture and all that at Element last Sunday night. It was part of our Coffee Shop Theology series, in which topics/questions were submitted and voted on by our community. It's been a long time since I spent any energy exploring end times stuff, but in my younger days it greatly animated me. The Thinklings themselves sort of started as a discussion group for a book called The Sign by Robert Van Kampen, about the so-called "pre-wrath rapture" of the church.

But I've long been burnt out on that whole scene. You know how new Calvinists enter the cage phase? I went through a rapture cage phase, the time after I abandoned pretribulationism and became absolutely geeked out on what I was learning.

As the old Calvinist joke's punchline goes, "Whew. Glad that's over."

I'll tell you what I'm thankful for: I'm thankful that the end times began when Jesus cried out "It is finished" from the cross, that his bodily resurrection was a down payment on my future, and that someday I will be changed. That's a gospel-driven end times. That's an end times that excites me like no number of charts and diagrams and newspaper-wielding speculations ever could.


Buddhajeb said...

Okay. Help me out. I'm pre-trib, pre-millennial, and dispensational. Where are the verses pointing me out as being wrong?

Jared said...

Oh boy. :-)

Buddhajeb, if you're interested in alternative views, there's no shortage of books and articles out there. Clouse's "Meaning of the Millennium" in the 4 views series is a good one.

This stuff just doesn't interest me as much any more.

I will say that as a former pretribber, the convincing for me hinged quite a bit on what verses weren't there, rather than on ones that were.
No pretrib rapture verse in Revelation, for instance. Matthew 24 listing the gathering of the elect after the trouble and the abomination of desolation. Paul in Thessalonians saying "our gathering together to him" will take place after the man of lawlessness is revealed.
Stuff like that. It's really really hard to find a verse referring to a divided Second Coming, where a Left Behind-style rapture precedes tribulation.

That was instrumental in my moving from dispy premil pretrib to historic premil posttrib.
But now I'm amil (still a posttribber, though), so it's been journey.

A long, exhausting journey. :-)

Alan Kurschner said...


Thanks for your post. I want to encourage you not to get burnt out and not interested with studying God's truth on the matter of the Second Coming even though many believers abuse it with fad teachings and sensationalism.

Some fall into the trap of thinking "it's not important" or "it will all pan out in the end." Jesus and Paul teaches that this is a sinful attitude. I am not saying that you have it but many surprisingly do.

How we understand the Second Coming is a major doctrine, otherwise we would not have heard some of the most severe warnings in the NT from Christ and Paul to understand the signs.

Persevere brother,

Alan Kurschner

Jared said...

Alan, thanks for your comment.

I'm not burnt out on the second coming at all. I look forward to it greatly and teach it as a core doctrine.

Part of my message last Sunday night, though, was in stating that our community won't have an end times litmus test for membership or participation, as we consider one's particular view on the how's and when's of eschatology to be a non-essential. As long as a brother or sister believes Jesus is returning just as he promised, that's cool with us.

I'm not burned out on the blessed hope. I just got burned out on funneling so much energy into the minutiae of things Christians have been arguing over for years and years when I could have been confident in the gospel. I do have a particular view on eschatology, in the same way I have views on baptism and predestination and everything else.

The second coming is essential to my confidence in the gospel, to be sure.
I'm just not invested in non-essential aspects of the faith as much as I used to be.

Hope that clarifies.

Alan Kurschner said...


Thanks for the clarification. I would like to suggest that we do not look at doctrines as either "essential or non-essential." There are gradations of importance (e.g. the teaching that the Universal Church will be persecuted by an Antichrist figure just before Christ Return is neither minutiae nor a requirement of salvation -- but it is a very important teaching given by Jesus and Paul.)

The fact that Christ is Coming back for his people is an essential doctrine, but that does not mean that the hows, wheres, whats, etc, are "non-essential," especially since Jesus and Paul did not disconnect their importance from each other (Matthew 24 and 1&2 Thess.)

I have observed that it is faddish for so many in American Evangelicalism to have the attitude that we should not focus on the teaching of the Second Coming because it can be divisive. I think many Christian leaders (as well as Reformed) are culpable for fostering this disposition.

At any rate, even though it is not a litmus test for you I hope you do teach your position with passion and conviction in your church even though we may disagree on our positions.


Jared said...

Alan, been there, done that. It's minutiae, and thinking of the timing of the tribulation and all that as more important than it is distracted me too long from the glorious gospel of grace for sin.

When I say "non-essential," I mean non-essential to salvation.

I agree that if the Bible teaches something, it is important. I also agree that there are gradations of importance. I've poured myself into the prewrath stuff. I'm thankful for it; it was a blessed bridge for me in leaving pretribulational rapturism.

But it just doesn't animate me. Talking about who the antichrist is or what country the beast will come from doesn't interest me. The finished work of Christ does.

As for fearing a congregation's reaction to controversial messages, no fears there either. I have had no problems stepping on toes. :-)

nhe said...

You know it's funny that Alan mentions that it is faddish that many don't focus on the teaching of the 2nd Coming because it can be divisive......I love arguing over divisive stuff - that certainly it not a reason why I agree with Jared that it is "non-essential" for salvation.

I don't focus on it for the same reasons Jared doesn't - it's just not interesting. Being "loved by Jesus more completely than I ever dared to hope even though I'm far more depraved than I ever could have imagined" is FAR more interesting.

Lets pick something "interesting" to debate.........I love a good scrum!!!

Bird said...

Those were the days ... I remember being a Cage Phast pre-wrather msyelf. I would have kissed Rober Van Kampen's feet back then. :-) Heck, I was even convinced that Hitler was the anti-Christ.

I haven't thought about pop-eschatology in a loooong time.