Theology Thursday: Thy Kingdom Come!

Welcome to another Theology Thursday! This is the first of a series on the promises the Lord has made to His people, to set everything to right in this world, and to re-create it unspoiled by sin. Theologians call this broad category of prophecy “eschatology.” And though I have written on this topic before, my remarks were limited to criticism of the single school of eschatology that has become the majority report among evangelical Christians in our time. This time I want to expand to the other schools of thought, to explain them, and to expose the “mongrel” forms of eschatology that have gained ground in recent years. While I lean towards one, I am by no means certain of it, nor would I make any one of the three historic schools of thought a test of orthodoxy.

Is Eschatology Important?

Inasmuch as one’s eschatology results from one’s hermeneutics (their way of interpreting Scripture) and on one’s view of the nature of God’s Kingdom, it matters a great deal! It is not, however, a primary test of orthodoxy (right doctrine) unless it omits or denies any or all of these three essential points:

The future, physical, bodily return of Jesus Christ to Earth;

The resurrection of all the dead, both righteous and unrighteous, along with the living, to face the judgment of God;

The future and physical destruction of this planet, and it’s re-creation by God into a perfect world, unstained by sin and forever free of it’s effects.

It matters how one interprets Scripture:

If one’s hermeneutic demands literal interpretation of all Scripture, then one’s eschatology will demand a very literal 1,000-year period of time, a “golden age” on Earth prior to it’s destruction and re-creation, during which Christ will reign literally from a literal throne in Jerusalem, and the Earth will be subdued. Literal interpretation of 1,000 years of peace is called “millennialism,” and takes two distinct forms – one historical and orthodox, the other recent and heterodox (unorthodox at least, if not heretical).

If one’s hermeneutic follows the historical-grammatical method, it does not necessarily follow that a “golden age” lasting a literal period of 365,000 24-hour days is required by Scripture. This is “non-millennialism” and also takes two forms, with historical-orthodox and modern-heterodox versions.

If one interprets the Scriptures according to one’s own imagination and “whatever it means to me at the time,” who knows what you believe anyway.

It matters how one sees the kingdom of God:

Is His kingdom political? Physical or spiritual? Of this world or the next? What is our role in His kingdom?

Some schools of eschatology (the study of future things) require that the kingdom of God is – or is to be – a physical and geopolitical one set up here on Earth. Others teach that the kingdom of God is spiritual and alien to this world, but that it’s influence will overcome the world and usher in that “golden age” where it becomes a physical and geopolitical reality in this world. And still another teaches that the kingdom is not destined to overcome this world, but to be in it and to rescue a remnant of it’s citizens (by means of the gospel) until the Lord returns, judges, and destroys the present creation.

It matters how we interpret Scripture! It matters how we view the King, His kingdom, it’s nature, and our role in it!

But it is not a test of whether or not a person is truly a Christian, unless, as I said above, it omits or denies any or all of those three essential points above.

In the next few thrill-packed episodes of Theology Thursday, we’ll look at the three basic schools of eschatology, what they teach, and warn against heretical forms of them that defy the clear teaching of Scripture. We’ll look one at a time at Postmillennnialism, Amillennnialism, and Premillennialism.


Theology Thursday: Inductive Bible Study

In parts one and two we looked at inductive bible study’s first two major parts, Observation and Interpretation. Now let’s look at the last and most difficult (although simple) step, Application.

Application: How should I respond?

Application is action-learning that involves two steps:

1. How the truths discovered should affect our behavior and beliefs, and
2. Putting those truths into daily practice.

Summarize truths that seem to apply to you and look for ways that it applies to your daily life. Meditate on it, and pick out a verse or two in the passage that best summarizes the truth(s) you have learned and memorize it (or them).

Then actually practice living that lesson, keeping a journal as a reminder of God’s faithfulness “both to will and to do” what His word tells you to do.

The bible is God’s word, and it was given to be obeyed, not just understood. The only thing missing is me!

Of course, it isn’t me, in “Christ in me!” So I’m not going off to apply God’s impossible standards of behavior in my own strength. Without Him I am nothing and can do nothing. Applying God’s word to real life is a patently supernatural thing – and completely normal for the follower of Christ!

Have a look at James 1:22

But prove yourselves to be doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves.

James 1:22 tells us that hearing the word without doing what it says is self-deception. How so? I think that one way hearing-only is self-deception is this: When we think of bible study as our religious duty, then merely reading it satisfies the requirement. When it is our duty and obligation to read our bible every day, then we can “do our duty” merely by reading it. There, see? “I’ve done my duty to God today. I spent 30 whole minutes reading the bible. Now that I have satisfied my religious obligation, I can get on with the rest of my day.”

I know that line of reasoning seems silly to some of you, but believe it or not that is exactly the way I looked at bible study (and “devotional” reading) for years! It was a chore to me. It was dead, tedious, and meaningless most of the time. If I skipped it, I got this foreboding feeling that God was not going to be with me that day because I had failed Him.

Think it over. Application is the goal of all the other work we have done in inductive bible study! It’s the simplest, yet hardest of the three steps.

Think of this in another way. Studying the beatitudes, I come across Matt 5:3. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What does poor in spirit mean? Why is poverty of spirit a desirable thing?

As I read on, I see the Lord’s impossibly high standards for mercy, gratitude, humility, gentleness, and even grace under persecution, and because I know that this is what He actually expects of me, I think, “Wow, I can never get there! That’s impossible!”

All of a sudden I know what poverty of spirit is, simply because I read God’s word knowing that it is meant to be obeyed! I’m not just poor, I’m bankrupt! Completely helpless. Being poor in spirit means that I mourn for my sin, I depend so completely on my Lord to literally carry me through temptation and lend me His strength to do every little thing He asks of me. This is meekness. This is humility. This gentleness. This is how I will handle persecution when it comes my way.

The biggest secret to knowing what a passage of scripture means, is simply to read with the intention of doing what it says.

In next week’s exciting episode of Theology Thursday, I’ll offer a few ways of outlining various scripture forms. Stay tuned!