Why I don’t focus on eschatology

Last_Days2 Eschatology is the study of the end times. It’s a worthy study and we should all understand what the Bible says about it. But it’s also the source of more divisiveness and fear-based theology than just about any other subject.

More Christian cults have been started because of an obsession with eschatology than just about any other subject in Scripture.  Especially in America, where freedom of thought and religious liberty are championed, even if those thoughts are errant and dangerous.

I know I’m treading on thin ice here because ‘folk’ get touchy when you disagree with their end-times view, but that’s exactly my point. Why are we so fragile about these things?

I personally went through a period of about seven years where I studied eschatology intensely, and taught on it for about two of those years. I could defend my position pretty adamantly with anyone. I’ve also read books by the best scholars of every eschatological position.

But this is what I’ve found. Whenever there’s an over-emphasis on end-times, the tendency is toward combativeness, divisiveness and manipulation through fear.

I particularly see this in the very popular “Left Behind” brand of eschatology. I’m not saying this view is false, or that it creates cults, but it does tend to breed sensationalism, conspiracy and fear-based Christianity among many of its followers. I’ve already talked about its bad fruit here so I won’t cover it again.

“You know, in the last days there will be false teachers…”

While this statement is true, it’s usually used when someone wants to scare people away from a particular view that they disagree with. They’ll say something to the effect of what Paul warned Timothy…

“Now the Spirit expressly says
that in latter times some will depart from the faith,
giving heed to deceiving spirits
and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim.4:1)

Or, perhaps Peter’s warning…

“knowing this first: that scoffers
will come in the last days,
walking according to their own lusts” (2 Pet.3:2)

But we need to ask the question, who were Paul and Peter talking to? Us? Maybe.

We do know in Paul’s case that he was writing to Timothy. This means it was relevant in Timothy’s day. Also note that he didn’t say “2,000 years from now, Tim, some will depart from the faith, so watch out!”  That would be nonsensical pastoral advice that would have no relevance to Timothy.

But this warning certainly was relevant to Paul and Timothy and Peter. They had been fighting against the false teachings of the Judaizers and Gnostics and a growing number of other cults that were already springing up in the early church. This battle over what would define orthodox Christian teaching went on for three centuries until they came up with the Nicene Creed that became the unifying demarcation line of the faith.

What are the “last days?” Fortunately, the Bible defines them for us (bold-type added):

And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17)

“God…2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son,
whom He has appointed heir of all things,
through whom also He made the worlds.” (Heb.1:1-2)

You can read them all here.

Obviously, these last days started with Jesus and Pentecost, not with the antichrist.

School_Of_The_ProphetsKris Vallotton, in his book, School of the Prophets, does a great job of explaining the difference between the “last days” and the “last day.”

“The “last days” began at the crucifixion of Christ and will end when the new dispensation begins called the “last day,” or “Judgment Day.” (loc.897)

To clarify, there is a “last day” when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead, but we are not in that day now. I will talk about the significance of that in another post.

What happens is that we tend to contemporize Scripture. In other words, we interpret it through our modern day lens. Now, Scripture does apply to us, but only in its proper context, considering who it was addressed to in the first place. If we ignore these things, plucking out our favorite proof-texts could have us ending up misinterpreting Scripture.

For instance, do we need to stir up fear by speculating over who the antichrist is, since John said he was already in the world in his day? Maybe we should think about that with fresh eyes of faith. (bold-type added).

“but every spirit that does not acknowledge
Jesus is not from God.
This is the spirit of the antichrist,
which you have heard is coming
and even now is already in the world.” (1 John 4:3)

My point is not to come against anyone who does focus on eschatology. Good for you. Again, it’s a worthy pursuit. My advice would be to take care on going too far with it. Don’t be dogmatic or divisive about it. And please don’t manipulate people through fear with it!

I primarily don’t focus on eschatology because it doesn’t promote love among the brethren, which is the only way Jesus said the world would know we are His. This was His desire for us (John 13:35; 17:23-24). And since His desire for mutual love and the “unity of the faith”(Eph.4:13) seems to be the goal, shouldn’t this be ours too? Just a thought.

Finally, I don’t focus on eschatology because the Father’s perfect love has cast out all my fear of these things. I’m living as a citizen of heaven now, from which I eagerly wait for His return (Phil.3:20).

You might be asking, what is my eschatological stance? I’ve landed on the Nicene Creed. It’s the only document agreed to by the entire body of Christ. I think Jesus likes it too.

“And he shall come again, with glory,
to judge both the quick and the dead:
Whose Kingdom will have no end” 

Amen.

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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23 Responses to Why I don’t focus on eschatology

  1. John Cummuta says:

    You’re right about the divisiveness of having “certain” opinions about things that are part of the mystery. However, I do eagerly await Jesus return. 2 Timothy 4:8

  2. Very good Mel! Preoccupation with eschatology seems to always diminish love and lead to division of the body of Christ… it leads to needless skirmishes. And over what… something that is non essential to Salvation. So brothers are fighting about something that isn’t a qualifier for being in the Family. And that can’t be good. It’s Jesus’ body, for Heaven’s sake!! What does He feel like when we divide His body? We all have an eschatological view, if we’re honest… but swords must never be drawn on these peripheral issues. So I really like your line: “Whenever there’s an over-emphasis on end-times, the tendency is toward combativeness, divisiveness and manipulation through fear.” I’ll probably quote you somewhere along the line.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yeah, I think this particular subject is one that tends to swallow people up with zeal, which makes it potentially contentious. It’s always best to remember the main thing is love (1 Cor.13:1-3). Thanks. 🙂

  3. bullroarin says:

    Mel, you won’t get an argument from me…I couldn’t agree more.

    I stopped reading the Left Behind series about half way through the set. Does that make me a mid-trib person? 🙂

    I really think you are right that more emphases needs to be placed on the context of scripture rather than taking verses out of context to make a point.

    Love your stuff Mel. I would like to hear your ideas about the rapture sometime….another point of contention for many. Blessings ~ Dave

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Dave. Don’t worry, I’m sure we can come up with an eschatological label to give you and put you in the proper “camp.” :).
      My view on the rapture? Ha ha…I have several conflicting opinions about it. 🙂
      Just glad I’m always with Him now. Blessings.

    • bullroarin says:

      Funny…but that’s what I thought you would say 🙂
      I’m glad too!

  4. paulfg says:

    I have never understood the fascination with whatever label is sought in this concept )or its alternative). Like I know I will die but not when. And if I did? What would it change – what would it change in me – and what would it change in others? So “stuff” will happen? Unlike the stuff that is happening now?

    And if we all know we are going to die – but not when: how come – outside of theology – we all just get on with living (or not) in the meantime?

    • Mel Wild says:

      Actually, it’s probably the same weird fascination we have with horror movies and conspiracy theories. And I suppose the “we all just get on with living (or not) in the meantime” is what’s lost when we obsess over when Jesus will return instead of living our life in Christ. People have quit jobs, sold their houses, etc., thinking Jesus was going to return at a certain date. Then, of course, when He doesn’t come on that date, what does that do to them? This obsession also creates all kinds of anxiety and paranoia about governments, world religions, etc. It’s Hollywood theology. The Left Behind movies are the worst of all because they promote an “us and them” mentality.and make fear the reason to come to Christ. Fear is the opposite of love and a terrible way to have a relationship. Would you like to be frightened into a marriage?

    • paulfg says:

      Yes please! I was!

      I changed my mind back and forth as the day approached. But as time has passed – apart from “those moments” – well quite a few moments when I think back – never ever regretted saying “I do”.

      🙂

  5. “Since His desire for mutual love and the ‘unity of the faith’ seems to be the goal, shouldn’t this be ours too?” Absolutely, Mel. Somehow, though, folks have decided this is anathema to the gospel. Never quite understood that pov. I just figure if I continue to focus on what Jesus said and did,and leave all the other stuff to people who want to argue and debate, I can’t go far wrong.

    Sure, I’ll listen to the debate, but ultimately I have to rely on my own research and the Spirit in me to help me discern what Jesus truly meant. If it’s not about love and unity, I think it’s out of his wheelhouse.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen Susan. As long as we think doctrinal agreement is more important than being in union with God in Christ, we won’t be fulfilling Jesus’ desire. We’ll act like we’re on the outside looking in, fighting over territory like homeless orphans. But we will automatically find one another in the Father’s embrace. 🙂

    • Oh, just got a beautiful image of those huge, strong arms and lots of children inside that big, loving bear hug! 😀

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yup, a Daddy Bear hug from those great big arms is the answer. 😀

  6. tjustincomer says:

    Eschatology was the capstone for my theology when my wife and I went through it together. It was the thing to bring all the strings of theology together. Of course, that’s the point. It isn’t that eschatology is placed higher than everything else now because I can say I finally see the bigger picture. Everything is interwoven, and when our eschatology has nothing to do with ecclesiology, or nothing to do with any other branch, then why bother? I think this is probably the biggest downfall for many who do pursue the eschatology aspect. They forget that it is a part of the whole, and not the whole in itself.

    • Mel Wild says:

      I totally agree with you. It’s part of the whole tapestry of God’s eternal purposes. We shouldn’t ignore it. As I said, it’s a worthy study, we just need to be careful not become dogmatic and divisive about it. As you said, it’s not the main thing, just part of the whole. And as St. Augustine said, “unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things”
      Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated. Blessings.

  7. Cindy Powell says:

    Amen. You just articulated my views on eschatology probably better than I could myself. It’s not that I don’t (at times) find the topic fascinating and important, but the fear-based, divisive and manipulative tone of many “discussions” and “teachings” on this subject pushed me completely away for a long while. I loved your summary at the end–pointing back to the Nicene Creed. That is pretty much where I landed awhile back (on a lot of things–not just eschatology!). I simply believe that being secure in the love and goodness of God is what will prepare me for whatever may come–NOT fear! So I try not to fret too much about what I don’t understand and instead choose to focus on what I do understand. And this is what I DO know – God is good and He wins! Since I’m in Him, I figure the rest will sort itself out. 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, the more I understand the Nicene Creed, the more I see the genius of having such a declaration of faith that helps keep the main thing the main thing. And I agree that His goodness prepares us for what may come. The Father’s love makes us brave! 🙂
      Blessings.

  8. Linda Gardiner says:

    Mel, I have listened/read a couple of views on interpreting the book of Revelation and have always felt that if God wanted us to know for sure that there was a “rapture” and the timing of it, He would have plainly stated it. I agree that it has been a point of division and definitely fear-based. I came to the conclusion that it does not really matter because I believe that God is always good and He will give us grace to face anything and He will be with us in the midst of it. Having said that, your comments quickened my spirit confirming that yes, we know that God is a loving God and that many of the fear-based interpretations are coming from an orphaned spirit. This is not consistent with the nature of God. Not to say that bad things will not happen, because we know from thousand’s of years of history that even Adam’s family experienced a murder. However, the new covenant rooted in love extends grace for us to overcome all things by the blood of the lamb. One series that I have really enjoyed is Perry Stone’s interpretation of Revelation. It is incredible how Perry points out the parallels of the Book of Revelation and the practices of the temple. He demonstrates how Revelation is the fulfillment of the true Temple. It is not fear based and it truly is the Revelation of Jesus Christ! Your comments had more impact on me than anything else I have read, listened to, or watched I know that when it is so simple that I wonder how I could not have seen it before now, that it is truth. Thank you for your insights and ability to kill the sacred cows in a gentle and loving way!!

    • Mel Wild says:

      I’ve never heard the Perry Stone take on Revelation before. I know there are Catholic authors who say it’s an allegory of the Eucharist. One thing I do know. It’s the Revelation of Jesus Christ, not the antichrist! As I said before, I can’t abide by a doctrine that creates fear because fear doesn’t abide in me anymore. It doesn’t resonate in the environment of the overwhelming love of the Father.

      I agree that we’ll be quite okay no matter how it shakes out. What I don’t like is when our eschatology makes us abdicate our responsibility to bring heaven to earth, to be salt and light in this world. We’re more focused on escaping rather than being catalysts for the Kingdom. We (in America, at least) seem to be more obsessed with creating fear and suspicion than revealing the Father’s love. Then we wonder why people keep their distance from us! It’s dysfunctional.

      Thanks for your comments, Linda. Much appreciated. Blessings.

    • Linda Gardiner says:

      Amen, Mel! You are so correct. It does matter if these views keep us (the body) from displaying God’s radical love for all His children, demonstrating and releasing the Kingdom, and creating a legacy that catapults the next generation into their destiny!

    • Mel Wild says:

      The Kingdom is always advancing. So it should work in such a way that our generation’s ceiling, if you will, what we have learned to walk in, becomes the next generation’s floor. They should be able to start where we left off. But spiritual orphans don’t think generationally and that has caused arrested spiritual development in the past. But, praise God, we’re starting to see this!

  9. Roger says:

    I study eschatology as a past time! 🙂

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