About three weeks ago, I preached on Armageddon.  One of the things I focused on was the reason why so many people hype Armageddon.  One of the things that came out of my studies was the danger that follows from making too much out of Armageddon and by extension eschatology.

 A while ago, I was flipping through the radio stations when I heard a conversation about prophecy.  The man being interviewed was saying that America is falling apart because churches are not studying and preachers are not preaching prophecy.

 He then went on to explain how Satan’s goal was to destroy humanity (which I agree with).  But, he said Satan’s means for destroying humanity was not sin but genetic.  He pointed to the reference in Genesis 6:2 where “the sons of God (Nephalim) saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.”  He then followed this up by saying that the Nephelim had corrupted the genetic seed of humanity and therefore humanity was no longer redeemable.  Only Noah’s seed was uncorrupted by them.  He pointed to Genesis 6:9 (Noah was perfect in his generations) as proof.

 From this background in Genesis, he then went on to warn people of the danger that lies ahead for humanity.  There are now scientists removing the DNA from cells and implanting their own “creations” so as to form new life.  This man argued that it would not be long before scientists began doing this to humanity. And when that happens, he said, humanity’s genetic seed, which has been passed down from Noah uncorrupted, will be corrupted and the end result is that God will not be able to redeem people because they will no longer be human.

 As absurd as this sound, I am not making this up.  I would love to be able to add a name and philosophy to this teaching so that it might be avoided.  But I bring this up as an illustration of what happens when eschatology is separated from the cross.

 I see three dangerous situations arising from this that will do great harm to this generation and the next.

 1) When eschatology is separated from the cross—meaning, it is no longer defined by what Christ did on the cross—theology is neglected.  When the emphasis in eschatology is on the immediate return of Jesus, theological issues are passed over in the name of “getting people ready.”

 From the beginning, even in the apostolic church, people were proclaiming that Jesus would return in their lifetime.  There have been numerous historical studies done to compile the list of dates when Jesus would return.  The three biggest Christian cults all came from people who predicted the return of Christ; the Mormons, the Seventh Day Adventists, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 I know this next statement is more anecdotal, but I can’t help but look at the Southern Baptists today.  They grew rapidly during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s (the generation after Israel became a nation in 1948).  Regular preaching of the dispensational, pre-millenium eschatological views of the return of Christ in the current generation and the neglect of historic orthodox doctrines have left the current generation without a foundation from which to battle the Mormon and JW cults.  Is it any surprise then that the Mormons are finding the greatest number of converts from the Baptists?

 The Mormons are moral people, they use the language of classic Christianity and they hold to traditional values.  They appear to be what the church should look like today.  Therefore, they are very appealing to people who have no understanding of what Scripture really teaches.  When Eschatology is elevated over the preaching of the cross (Salvation by grace alone, though faith alone, in Christ alone, revealed in Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone) heresy will creep in and the ignorant will be unable to defend against it.

 2) When eschatology is separated from the cross people are burned.  Consider how many thousands of people believed Harold Camping when he predicted Christ’s return in May? How many people sold their possessions and gave the money to him in order to “save people?”    How many of them now have to deal with the shame of being duped?  How many now have to deal with the shame of being so gullible?

 From a cultural perspective, who wants to be an idiot like the people in the year 1000 that sold all their possessions and gave them to the Roman Catholic Church because Jesus was returning that year?  And who wants to be an idiot like all of the JWs who believed Jesus was returning in 1914?  And who wants the shame of following the example of the people that sold everything in order to follow Harold Camping in 2011?

 You get the picture.  Christians are seen as stupid, illogical and mindless drones doing whatever they are told to do by whichever nutcase is making the latest prediction.  And many of those who turned to Christ because of a prediction of doom and gloom now have since turned their back on Christ because they feel like they were manipulated.  And instead of pursuing the truth, they want nothing to do with Christianity. People get burned and abused by such non-biblical hype.

 3) When eschatology is separated from the cross the doctrine of salvation is perverted.  Not only do people redefine salvation and redemption (i.e. locating our redemption in our genes, see above) but it also withdraws the offer of salvation to those who need it.

 Harold Camping’s explanation for what happened (or didn’t) is nearly the exact same thing as the explanation given by William Miller in 1844 and by the Jehovah’s Witness in 1914 for their prediction failures.  They all say that Jesus returned “spiritually.”

 If it is true that Jesus returned spiritually then the logical conclusion is that no one else can be saved.  Harold Camping even made such a statement!  I bring this up because of the profound damage such statements inflict on people.  Can no one be saved now that “Jesus returned in judgment,” Mr. Camping?

Salvation is distorted not only to the people who are told they can’t be saved because Christ already came, but salvation is also distorted for the Jews.  John Hagee teaches that when the new temple is built Jews will find salvation by returning to the OT sacrificial system.  But that clearly contradicts what Paul teaches in amy places that salvation is in Christ alone.  Hebrews even teaching in chapter 10 that the pure obedience to the sacrificial system never saved anyone.

So heaven forbid that I should tell people that all hope is lost–even though there is still breath in thier lungs– because they waited too long!  From what I read in Scripture, the only time it is too late is when we die or when Jesus actually returns visibly.  And Heaven forbid I tell Jews that there is salvation apart from Christ!

To conclude, I believe that the system of dispensational pre-millennialism will in the end do more harm than good because it undermines Scripture, it neglects doctrine, it leaves people manipulated and burned out and distorts salvation.

 Let us not give up hope that Jesus will return.  His death and resurrection is our assurance that He truly has concurred death!  Let us live our lives pursuing righteousness and holiness.  And let us pursue doctrinal truth so as to prepare the next generation for living in a world that is hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  “No man knows they day or the hour when Christ will return.”   It could be tomorrow, it could be 1000 years from now.  So let us not give up the pursuit of Christ and the pursuit of truth in the name of “winning souls.”  It’s not just the credibility of Christians that is at stake, but also the next generation and, above all, the glory of Christ.

1 Comment

  1. cool!