Friday, September 23, 2011

Beginning your study of Bible Prophecy

1 John 3:2 "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.  And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."

Defining the term "Eschatology"

    As much as the scripture addresses issues of what Christ did and what He is doing in believers at this present time, it is equally important to realize that God's purpose for the future is also covered.   This study of Bible doctrine is what Bible teachers call "Eschatology" or "study of last things" ("eschatos" = last and "ology" = study of).

Important distinctions: Definites, Positions and Opinions

   In any area of doctrine in the scriptures there are some issues which are more "weighty" or more central to Christian identity than others.  The first category are what I term "definites".  A "definite" is a core doctrine that determines salvation.  The second type of doctrine is what I term a "position".  This is a doctrine that, though important, is not a determining matter on the nature of one's salvation.  The third type of doctrine is what I term "opinions".  These are doctrines which are "in-house" debates among Christians, which have valid scriptural support, and are by no-means determinate of one's salvation.  With these categories understood, we can  now list the eight major "definites" the comprise any discussion of Bible prophecy or "Eschatology":

8 major definite areas in Eschatology (or Bible Prophecy)

a. Christ's literal, bodily, visible return - By far the most important
b. Final Judgment
c. Resurrection
d. Satan will be finally defeated
e. The Saints will never suffer God's wrath
f. Everything the Bible says will come true
g. Christ is the focus of Bible prophecy
h. Hope in Christ is the goal and result of Bible Prophecy

Why Eschatology matters

As you look at those eight major "definites", each of them are innerconnected to each other.  In surveying all of the major patterns of thought that have been promoted in the history of the church on Bible prophecy, these themes are the ones that are common to all.  Chief among the list of definites is the first one: Christ's literal, bodily return.  

These definites also impact other areas of doctrine. For instance the belief in the Final judgment impacts what I believe on the Sovereignty and goodness of God.   When I realize that "everything that the Bible says will come true", it is based upon a high view of scripture - which states that the Bible is without error in every word. 

Finally, knowing what are "definites" will enable me as a student of scripture to keep the "main thing the main thing".  If for instance I develop a theory of Bible prophecy that leads more to despair and less focus on Jesus Christ, then I need to go back to the drawing board of scripture.   In our next blog we will look at the various "positions" found in eschatology that flow from the "definites" just listed (see above definitions of these terms).