WHY ESCHATOLOGY IS IMPORTANT TO US ALL

The following article is by Michael J. Vlach, Professor of Theology, at The Master’s Seminary. The Master’s Seminary opened its doors in 1986 to provide post-graduate theological training on the campus of Grace Community Church. He specializes in the areas of Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, Apologetics, and World Religions.

It is concerning that some churches today don’t take eschatology seriously. The very fact that God has revealed so many details about events to come in both testaments tells us that it is important. At the center of biblical eschatology is the blessed hope of the appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). Not only should we be interested in prophetic events to come but, we are also looking for our Savior, with whom we will spend eternity.

Why do some churches neglect serious study of eschatology? One issue is complexity. There are many eschatological details in the Bible to work through and harmonize. So there is hard work to do in this area. Also, when we see godly men disagreeing on prophetic issues, it can be disheartening. Another reason might be that some don’t want to be linked with those who have abused eschatology. There are those who have become obsessed with the end times by offering a date for Jesus’ return, or treating many current events as fulfillments of biblical prophecy. Thus, some have swung from the abuse of eschatology to no interest whatsoever.

But these are not good reasons to avoid the study of eschatology. Here are 7 reasons churches should take eschatology seriously:

1. Eschatology is a major part of the Christian storyline

Eschatology is a major part of the Bible’s story. By “story,” I’m not talking about fiction. I’m talking about the narrative of the Christian worldview. Since Christianity is rooted in history and real historical events, God’s story includes past, present, and future events. All should be taught. We simply should not ignore prophetic events that are future from our standpoint—events such as the Rapture, the Day of the Lord, the Second Coming, the Millennium, and the Eternal State. We must also talk about heaven and hell, and the coming New Earth. To avoid discussion of eschatology is to avoid an important part of the Christian worldview.

2. We are called to preach and heed the whole counsel of God

There are large sections of Scripture devoted to prophesy, many of which still need to be fulfilled from our current standpoint. For example, the events of Ezekiel 36–48 still need to occur. In the New Testament, passages like Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, much of Luke 21, 1 Thess. 4-5, 2 Thess 1-2, 2 Peter 3, and Revelation 6-22 describe events that still need to happen. We cannot ignore these passages. Paul says in Acts 20:27, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.”

If your church does not teach what the Bible says about the future, the whole counsel of God is not being taught.

3. People are interested in the future

Christians are interested in what the future holds. But if we do not teach eschatology, we are denying important biblical information for those who want to know what the Bible has to say about the future. We are also withholding a major source of the hope that the Scripture wants us to have.

4. Eschatology is a motivation for believers

Eschatology changes our lives because what we do now impacts our future. Paul viewed everything he did in light of his standing before Jesus someday. In 2 Timothy 4:7-8 Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

5. Eschatology has a purifying effect on the believer

Eschatology is meant to transform our lives in the present. Why should we live sensibly, righteously and godly? Because Jesus is coming again. 1 John 3:2-3 states, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

James 5:8-9 also says, “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord, is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.”

The study of biblical eschatology is a motivation for godly living

6. Eschatology gives perspective to the troubles and trials of this age

We live in a fallen and tragedy-soaked world. We are all physically decaying and dying. Evil seems to triumph. Without Jesus, there is no hope, only despair. But for the Christian, there is the hope of resurrection and the restoration of all things (1 Cor. 15:20-28; Acts 3:21). Romans 8:18 states, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

The sufferings of this present time are real, but they are not comparable to the glory that is to come.

2 Peter 3:13 says, “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”

The coming of Jesus and the restoration of all things are future realities that give Christians hope and the joyful realization that the turmoils and trials of this age will not last forever. Righteousness and goodness win in the end. Christians need that message.

7. Eschatology warns the unbeliever of coming judgment

Biblical eschatology does not teach that the story ends well for everyone. It exists as a frightening warning to those who have not believed in Jesus. Eschatology warns all people that there is eternal punishment and banishment from God’s kingdom and the presence of God for those who do not repent. We should do what John the Baptist did—warn people to flee the wrath that is to come (Luke 3:7-8). Just as there is both judgment and resurrection for the righteous, there is also resurrection and judgment for the unbeliever.

In sum, biblical eschatology is an important part of Christianity. For these reasons, all true churches should embrace the importance of biblical eschatology and share its truths with Christians and unbelievers alike.

8. I would add to Michael’s reasons, an eighth, Apocalyptic Evangelism.

There are more prophecies about Jesus second coming than there were of His first coming and yet there were many of those. Christians who understand the prophetic events that are to unfold prior to Jesus return, first to rapture the church, and then after God’s wrath has been poured out on the earth with the Scroll, Trumpet and Bowl judgements, He will return to this earth and rescue Israel. He has unfinished business with His nation. All the O.T. prophets prophesied their Messiah would rule the nations from Jerusalem. Jesus will rule and reign with the resurrected saints on this earth for 1000 years. Obviously, we are in a unique position to use this knowledge in evangelism. To explain to unbelievers what is unfolding in our day and to warn the church of the coming tribulation, even great tribulation. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.Matthew 24:8-13. Jesus spoke these words and Mark recorded them as follows ” For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. Mark 13:19-20

WHAT GOD IS DOING IN THE USA

God is at work using individuals who are humble and committed to doing His work, His way. In the world’s eyes they are usually “nobodies” but in His eyes they are “somebodies”.

Take a look at this short video and be inspired to step out as God intends for you to complete His mission where He has placed you.

UNDERSTANDING THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD IN EVANGELISM

The church is simply to be found faithful to the task of heralding God’s message. We are to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth, which for most people, means we are to bring the gospel into our workplaces, friendships, families, and so forth. All that is required of us is to look to where God has placed us currently and simply to be found faithful to the task of proclaiming the good news to those who are dead in their sins.

It requires that we not be ashamed of the good news of the gospel, which includes not being ashamed of the bad news of God’s judgment against sin (perish in the Lake of Fire). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16). There is a second death. The Bible is explicit about it.

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.Revelation 2:11

Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” Revelation 20:6

Punishment and Second Death

Whatever the result of our proclamation of the gospel may be, whether a hardening or a softening of the heart, God effectually uses our message for His purposes. We may not necessarily like the implications of God using our proclamation of judgment and salvation to effectively harden an individual’s heart. We may not believe the implications of this are even fair—but we ought to remember in the midst of everything that we don’t want fair, because our idea of what’s fair doesn’t square with God’s.

What’s fair is God condemning every man, woman, and child to an eventual second death in the Lake of Fire. What’s fair is that the only blameless One to have ever existed would not be put to the cross to pay for the sins of others. What you and I desire is mercy and grace, because mercy is not giving people what they deserve, which is condemnation, and grace is giving people what they don’t deserve, which is no condemnation. The gospel is a scandal to the world because it sees the murderer, rapist, racist, and the like, on equal footing with the sweet old lady who doesn’t confess Christ—and offers them all the same grace of God in Christ. What that very simply means is that the gospel is not barred from anyone on the basis of their own doing or choosing, but rather, on the sovereign choice of God Himself.

If those who struggle with evangelizing were to focus on the sovereignty of God in evangelism, it would free many a burdened soul up to take joy in the work that God has given them, realizing that whether the person they share the gospel with rejects or receives it, God is glorified in accomplishing His work through the preached word.

In some cases, God actually uses the proclamation of truth as a means to close one’s mind from repentance, we can guard our hearts by recognizing that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. What that means with respect to evangelism is that sometimes, the preaching of the gospel actually serves as the means through which an individual’s heart is hardened against God. In other words, not every instance of proclaiming a message of repentance is designed by God to bring the people who hear it to repentance and faith. In fact, Scripture often demonstrates the opposite is true—that the proclamation serves to condemn the recipients rather than restore. A great example of this is found in the commissioning of the prophet Isaiah:

“Go, and tell this people: keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand. Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.” Then I said, “Lord, how long?” and He answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people and the land is utterly desolate, the Lord has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, and it will again be subject to burning, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump” (Isaiah 6:8-13).

Christ Himself taught in parables for the express purpose of concealing the truth of the Kingdom of God, lest those whom it was not granted to would hear and repent (Matt. 13:10-16; Mk. 4:10-12; Luk. 8:9-10). The apostle Paul even picks this idea up when he speaks of God giving mankind up to the lusts of their hearts, dishonorable passions, and a debased mind (Rom. 1:1832). When you look through the entirety of the Old and New Testaments, what is plainly seen is that God is at work to harden the hearts of whom He desires, which is most clearly expressed in Rom. 9:6-29. In every instance where the edict is rendered a “lost-cause” against the recipients of the message, the truth of God has been made self-evident so that man is without excuse.

“”What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.Romans 9:14-18

None of this is a matter of controversy in Scripture. Instead, election and condemnation are simply part of the cosmic reality of judgment and salvation unfolding before us as the plan of God is revealed. In the midst of this, Scripture unabashedly upholds the tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility without much qualification. The important thing to note in all of this is that it is not as if those under this severe indictment from the Lord are under it without cause. In every instance, the people have either forsaken the covenant or rejected their Creator willingly. The commission of Isaiah serves to show us this reality quite clearly, in that chapters 2-5 give clear evidence that the people plainly rejected the terms of their covenant with God, and as a result, He would send the prophet to seal their fate.

This post is based on an article by Grayson Gilbert “A Lesson from Isaiah on the Sovereignty of God” http://www.patheos ,com

ENSURE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THE GOSPEL MESSAGE

Here are five ways to ensure your Gospel message is understood so the enemy can’t snatch “the message of eternal life” from the minds and hearts of your hearers. This message applies equally to when you are speaking to a group or just one person.

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.” Matthew 13:19

1. Don’t focus on what you’re teaching, focus on what they’re learning.  Instead of being consumed with getting your message across, get feedback to ensure they are engaged. You’re not successful when you get through your outline, you’re successful when they understand the message, and sometimes those are two different things.

2. Don’t give the answer before they’ve asked the question.  Utilise the first few minutes of your message to engage with your audience, throw out strategic questions, to get people thinking. To get them asking the right questions, only then will your answers be meaningful. The goal is to get people wanting to know the answer to the right questions.

3. Tell better stories and use testimonies. There’s a reason Jesus told so many stories. We’re wired for stories. If your message has all the facts but no compelling stories, you’re in danger of teaching for knowledge, not understanding. Stories help complex and deep truths penetrate the outer shell of our minds. Share your testimony, testimonies are powerful. It will be the linchpin of your message.

4. Create environments that foster an atmosphere for deeper learning.  People need to feel welcomed, loved, accepted, comfortable in the physical environment you’re teaching in. Foster an atmosphere where people are open to deeper learning. Your reputation must be one of integrity.

5. Check the fruit. The easiest way to check whether you’re teaching for knowledge or understanding is to check the fruit. Are they following through with what you’re asking them to do? Are they living it out? If there’s no long-term fruit in your audience, you’re teaching for knowledge. Jesus himself said that when you teach for understanding, “this is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown”  (Matthew 13:23).

NICK WITNESSING IN PRISON

What amazing ministry God has given Nick Vujicic, the man with no arms and legs. He has brought more people into God’s Kingdom than many denominations.

Watch and be encouraged and hopefully challenged about what God’s call is on your life, particularly in these last days when persecution will intensify for those that stand up for God and His values.

CHALLENGED BY ISIS BRUTALITY: SYRIAN MUSLIMS FIND JESUS

Syrian Christians have shared how they converted from Islam to Christianity after witnessing the brutality of Islamic extremist groups like ISIS, who carried out barbaric acts in the name of Allah.

Members of the recently-established Church of the Brethren in Kobani  — the first local Christian place of worship for decades — shared with NBC News how Christianity appealed to them after living under Sharia law.

‘Christianity was the religion I was searching for’ said Farhad Jasim. Farhad, 23, who works as a mechanic, converted to Christianity late last year. He told NBC he was jailed by ISIS for six months in early 2016 after the militants discovered he didn’t know the basics of Islam. During his time in captivity, he was tortured and forced to read the Quran.

“After I witnessed their brutality with my own eyes, I started to be sceptical about my belief,” Jasim said.

After hearing about the Church of the Brethren, which opened in September and is part of a denomination that dates back to 18th-century Germany, Jasim decided to visit: “It didn’t take me long to discover that Christianity was the religion I was searching for,” he said.

Jasim told the outlet his family has rejected him because of his newfound faith and expressed hope that one day, his loved ones will not only forgive him but embrace Christianity, too.

“If ISIS represents Islam, I don’t want to be a Muslim anymore,” he said. “Their God is not my God.”

Firas, a 47-year-old farmer, told NBC he converted to Christianity after living under ISIS for two years. He recalled how militants would terrorise anyone who didn’t adhere to their particular brand of Islam.

“I saw men and young teenagers being whipped on the streets because they were caught smoking. I saw dead bodies of young men being thrown from high buildings for being gay,” Firas said. “This was their Islam.”

“If heaven is made for ISIS and their belief, I would choose hell for myself instead of being again with them in the same place, even if it’s paradise,” he added.

While ISIS was driven out of the city, located along the Syrian-Turkish border, over four years ago, converting to Christianity remains taboo  — and even dangerous — in the Muslim-majority region. Persecution watchdog Open Doors notes that even in more secure parts of Syria, Christians who have converted from Islam face pressure and discrimination from their communities. Kobani is home to about 300 Christians, according to estimates.

Omar, 38, who serves as church administrator, said that even before ISIS overtook the region, it was strictly forbidden to change religion from Islam to Christianity. But under ISIS, converting to Christianity “wasn’t even imaginable,” he said, adding: “ISIS would kill you immediately.”

“Most of the brothers here converted or come to church as a result of what ISIS did to them and to their families,” he said. “No one is forced to convert. Our weapon is prayer, the spreading of the spirit of love, brotherhood and tolerance.”

The story of Farhad reminds me of the Muslim taxi driver I met recently when I took a taxi from my home to Sydney, (Australia) airport.

When I got into the taxi, I noticed that the mandatory photo, driver’s name and taxi registration number was not on the front windscreen. A proverbial “red flag” went up and I felt led by the Lord to ask the driver his name. The way I said it was “my name is Ron, what is yours?” It was obvious from his response, he did not want to tell me. I persisted and he eventually blurted out. “it’s Mohammed and I am ashamed to be a Muslim.”

Woops! “Why is that Mohammed?” I said. He asked me if I had seen this picture. He could not get the image out of his mind and the thought that Allah would want these 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians beheaded because they would not renounce Jesus. I felt led to respond with, “You know what Mohammed, God calls us to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbour as our self.” I then put my hand on his shoulder and said, “God calls me to love you Mohammed”. Well, I almost didn’t get to the airport. Mohamed cried out “That’s it! That’s it! and we almost mounted the footpath. It was like the light went on for Mohammed, this is the God I want to serve. When we got to the airport, Mohammed did not want me to go so I gave him my business card and told him to contact me when he was next in the area where I live.

How many other Muslims must be wrestling with the same issues about a god of death, definitely not a god of love.

JESUS IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH

Another video from Torben that will encourage you as to what God is doing to build His church. Listen to the testimonies of three young people who were sent out as Jesus sent His disciples with no money, no two pairs of shoes. They were to be dependent upon God as provider, and their instruction was to find a person of peace in the town who would invite them into their home. Who is the person of peace – one whom the Holy Spirit is already at work in their life. Jesus told them to stay in that at home and bless them and train them. The stories are powerful and an inspiration for us all to do likewise.

CHRISTIANS TO RECLAIM MARDI GRAS ORIGINS

Sydney Easter Parade and Family Day director Ben Irawan said from this year, the parade would brand itself as a “mardi gras for Christians”. Report in the Weekend Australian March 2nd, 2018.

Any move to get Christians out into the community to share the GOOD NEWS of Easter – JESUS IS RISEN and HE IS COMING BACK TO RULE & REIGN should be applauded and supported.

Ben said, “they expect 10,000 people to march and dance through the city on Easter Monday and they were out to reclaim the Christian origins of the celebration. We don’t want to oppose or contend with the gay mardi gras, but I want Christians to be able to celebrate and take some ownership of what was originally a Christian feast day before lent,” he said.

The Sydney Easter Parade will push to reclaim the Christian origins of mardi gras.

This Sunday March 4th, about 15,000 people are expected to take part in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary and is expected to draw more than 300,000 spectators.

Mardi gras, or “Fat Tuesday” traces is origins to medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries to the French House of the Bourbons. From there, it followed France to its colonies, and became most famous in New Orleans, first as an elegant society ball and then as the colourful, voodoo-infused parade of today.

Mr Irawan said the Easter mardi gras was open to Christians of all denominations, as well as non-Christians who wanted a fun and colourful family day out.

“We have giant inflatables, things like Noah’s ark and letters spelling ‘HOPE’ 4m high,” he said. We have marching bands, dancers, colourful costumes. So it really is a mardi gras already, but we want to make the connection more strongly.”

Mr Irawan, a marketing and events expert, is also the pastor of Life Centre International church in Sydney and Wollongong, as well as senior strategy adviser in NSW for Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives.

 

THE MAN BEHIND MR. ETERNITY!

The Australian evangelist John G. Ridley was a purpose-driven communicator and a painter of word-pictures whose pen was mighty, because of the sword of the spirit. He was not one to shy away from confronting his hearers with the truth of their eternal life and challenging their hearts to trust his everlasting Lord. He sowed faithfulness to the message of salvation here on earth and reaped fruitfulness in the ministry and service for time and eternity.

And speaking of eternity, God used his preaching to influence Arthur Stace (Mr. Eternity) to go out and write the word Eternity on the streets of Sydney and beyond.

Image result for picture of Eternity on Sydney Harbour bridge
Here is a little of what happened. It was a Sunday night November 14th at the Burton Street Baptist Tabernacle, Darlinghurst, Sydney, where John was preaching his now famous message  “The Echoes of Eternity”. 

The veteran evangelist stood with the power of scripture in his hand and the love of Christ in his heart and stressed the word Eternity. He pointed out how the Echoes of Eternity are heard not only in Creation and the Christian but also in The Cross .
Then suddenly, laying his prepared notes aside and seemingly in an impromptu fashion, the highly disciplined soldier-like preacher, raised his loud voice and cried: “Eternity, Eternity, I wish that I could sound or shout that word to everyone in the streets of Sydney. You’ve got to meet it, where will you spend Eternity.” 

Arthur Stace converted  to Christ at the  St Barnabas Church, Broadway in Sydney a few years before, was one of many in the large congregation that God-ordained night. “Eternity went ringing through my brain” was Stace’s statement” and suddenly I began crying and felt a powerful call from the Lord to write Eternity. I had a piece of chalk in my pocket and outside the church, I bent down right there and wrote it…. The funny thing is that before I wrote it, I could hardly write my own name. I had no schooling, and I couldn’t have spelt  for a hundred quid. But it came out smoothly, in a beautiful copperplate script. I couldn’t understand it, and I still can’t.”

Arthur knew this was God’s task for him and rain or shine he faithfully went out six nights a week to write Eternity on the streets of Sydney until  the very night God took Arthur home. God powerfully used Arthur’s faithfulness to impact the lives of many for Jesus Christ.