Revelation Fixation

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Soulsnaxx
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Revelation Fixation

Post by Soulsnaxx » Mon Jun 22, 2015 12:16 pm

Image
A caller to The Narrow Path radio program asks host Steve Gregg why so many Christians seem to be fixated on the Book of Revelation. To hear his answer, please click the link below. It may rattle your world.

https://youtu.be/8S3DozTRzuo

dwilkins
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Re: Revelation Fixation

Post by dwilkins » Mon Jun 22, 2015 1:33 pm

I found your answer to him interesting. I agree with you that the characture that American Christianity has turned eschaotology into is misplaced and causes a defective outlook on life. But, I think you're missing something of the New Testament narrative if you think that the impending Second Coming wasn't front and center in not only their teaching and lifestyle, but the Apostle's writings. There are more than 350 instances of direct or indirect time statements in the New Testament where the Apostles are using that impending event as a way to motivate their audience. So, there is a sense in which those in modern times who are obsessed with an impending Second Coming are simply trying to live out exactly how the generation who received the New Testament was commanded to live.

The funny thing is that that I agree with your practical advice, however. Though I don't think you can get to your current position except through very strong versions of preterism, I think you are essentially correct about your advice on how to live. The only thing I think you are missing is that the kingdom mandate that would only be meaningful after the Second Coming should also be part of our mindset.

So my question to you is, how do you justify changing the tone the Apostles set to one that would only apply after the Second Coming if you don't believe the Second Coming has happened?

Doug

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steve
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Re: Revelation Fixation

Post by steve » Mon Jun 22, 2015 2:33 pm

Hi Doug,

You know that I don't see the New Testament as being written with the firm conviction of the immediate second coming, as you do. I believe they hoped, as many Christians have throughout history, that their lives might be interrupted by the coming of Christ, but I don't believe they were dogmatic about it. There is much language suggesting that they hoped it might be soon, but no actual predictions about timing. They were as capable as we are of being mistaken in their time-frame expectations, since Jesus was not specific about the second coming—only the destruction of Jerusalem, which I do not equate, as you do, with the second coming.

Paul often wrote with a sense that the coming of the Lord might be not far off...but without a word from the Lord, how would he be expected to know the time "which the father has set in His own authority" which Jesus said was "not for you to know" (Acts 1:7)? Paul, when writing Romans (ch.15), indicated that he was intending to make a short stopover in Jerusalem, after which (he expected) he would shortly see the Romans as he traveled to Spain. His timing was quite off. He was arrested in Jerusalem and unexpectedly detained two years in Caesarea. When he finally came to Rome, it was not en route to Spain, but en route to trial before Caesar. Paul (like Peter and the other apostles) was a man like ourselves, who knew nothing about future time tables unless it came by direct revelation. To our knowledge, he did not receive any such revelation about the timing of the second coming.

I have no problem with Christians living, as the apostles seemed to have, with the expectation that the second coming might come in their lifetimes. However, we do not find any instance of them obsessing over the relevance of current events in their time as indicators that they would see His coming in the immediate future. At least I don't read that in any of their writings. They did speak, sometimes, of the nearness of the judgment on the temple (e.g., James 5:9), and rightly so, since Jesus said it would come in their generation. However the timing of the end of the world was not revealed to them, nor to anyone since (Matt.24:35-36).

I am surprised that you agree about the need to live for Christ every day. Many full-preterists believe that the New Testament was written only to the generation of Christians who lived before (and were raptured in) AD 70. They often become more and more uncertain about the relevance of any part of the New Testament to the post-AD70 Christians. After all, it was only the pre-AD70 Christians who were addressed in the New Testament. How do we know that the "resurrection," "the rapture" and "the new heavens and earth" that allegedly came at that time did not change all of the ethical duties in some unknown way for those living afterward? We have no scriptures addressing people after that event. From where do you get your opinions about Christian duties?

dwilkins
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Re: Revelation Fixation

Post by dwilkins » Mon Jun 22, 2015 4:59 pm

I've seen hints of what you are talking about in a confusion about what to make of advice and audience relevance in Full Preterism, but I would attribute most of it to adjusting to a different way of looking at scripture. But, there is all sorts of scripture that describes the conditions of the world after "the end" that make it clear that not only is the worship of God ongoing, but it is increasing in effectiveness. The whole point of Ezekiel 47, Isaiah 66, and Zechariah 14 is that after the future expected cataclysm the kingdom of God will progressively take over all spiritual matters on earth. Revelation 21-22 are written with this in mind. There is still evangelism in the New Heaven and New Earth (requiring the presence of sin and unbelievers), but the image of a kingdom that never stops growing indicates an unavoidable optimism to the process. As far as personal lifestyle goes, the morality that existed in the Old Covenant under the Mosaic Law would have applied to people before hand (it would have been wrong for Abraham to lie, cheat, and steal) and has only been made more subtle in the New Covenant. So, the morality reflected throughout the New Testament should very easily be seen as a baseline for us, and likewise the process for spiritual maturity (see 2nd Peter 1).

On the other hand, there are all sorts of pieces of advice given in the New Testament that only make sense for the people who are about to live through the present world which was passing away. I'd point to 1st Cor. 7 and Jude as examples. In the first case, Paul is clear that the crisis that all commentators I'm aware of stipulate is the Second Coming should be motivating them to do things like not marry or start new businesses. In Jude, the point of the short epistle is that the evil people who've been prophecied to come just before the end were at that time active in the churches Jude was writing to. His point is that the bad guys who'd been predicted were on the scene at that moment seducing the churches. I'm not sure how those people are supposed to still be around, or how the church is supposed to engage in normal history if people aren't supposed to get married or start businesses. But, if you think the end is near you should be following this advice quite literally.

Doug

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steve
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Re: Revelation Fixation

Post by steve » Mon Jun 22, 2015 8:55 pm

The whole point of Ezekiel 47, Isaiah 66, and Zechariah 14 is that after the future expected cataclysm the kingdom of God will progressively take over all spiritual matters on earth.
I do not dispute this. I think that is the subject matter of those passages as well. Of course, neither of them mention anything about the final coming of Christ, in my opinion. They are about the transition from Old to New Cvenant economies.
Revelation 21-22 are written with this in mind. There is still evangelism in the New Heaven and New Earth (requiring the presence of sin and unbelievers), but the image of a kingdom that never stops growing indicates an unavoidable optimism to the process.


You may be correct, though I have not seen the specific scripture upon which you base your second sentence. I am a futurist with regards to Revelation 21-22. If there is still evangelism in that era, it is not clear to me. That the "gates" remain open may speak of new conversions. If so, I could not rule-out the possibility that this might refer to people who died lost, but who repent post-mortem. Nothing in scripture specifically forbids this. There are mysteries opaque to me in some of Revelation's statements.
On the other hand, there are all sorts of pieces of advice given in the New Testament that only make sense for the people who are about to live through the present world which was passing away. I'd point to 1st Cor. 7 and Jude as examples.


I agree with you about Jude, though I do not think that he necessarily has the second coming in view. I think he is writing about the end of the Jewish era. Whatever Paul may mean by "the present distress", in 1 Corinthians 7:26, is unclear. I do not know why the destruction of Jerusalem, more than a decade away from the time of writing, would present any "present" crisis in Greek churches. I think something else must be in view.
I'm not sure...how the church is supposed to engage in normal history if people aren't supposed to get married or start businesses. But, if you think the end is near you should be following this advice quite literally.
I don't understand Paul's instructions in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 to be forbidding marriage or activity in business. It was probably a decade later (and that much nearer to AD 70) that Paul declared it a "doctrine of demons" to forbid marriage (1 Tim.4:1-3). If Paul was himself teaching such a necessary abstinence to the Corinthians, this would seem to make him a purveyor of such demonic doctrines. Also, in 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul rebuked those who did not engage in profitable labor. If the crisis of AD 70 justified abstaining from business in Corinth as much as 15 years prior to the events, then why would Paul tell the Thessalonians, in a letter written only about two years earlier, to continue working in their business? Why would it be premature to give up a business 17 years before AD 70, but suddenly it all changes two years later?

My belief is that neither the Corinthians nor the Thessalonians experienced any particular crises in connection with the fall of Jerusalem, and that the things Paul wrote to them related to local issues in each of their towns, unrelated to the approach of AD 70. But then, my method is to interpret each passage by its own exegetical factors, and I am blissfully free from any compulsion to shoe-horn every passage into the same unlikely paradigm, regardless how counterintuitive.

dwilkins
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Re: Revelation Fixation

Post by dwilkins » Tue Jun 23, 2015 12:46 am

I don't think that Paul forbade marriage. I think he advised people not to do so because it would be better. And, I don't think he forbade people to go to work. I think he advised people that there would be no point in starting a new business venture given what was on the horizon.

But, what I'd rather focus on is what you said in these lines:

"My belief is that neither the Corinthians nor the Thessalonians experienced any particular crises in connection with the fall of Jerusalem, and that the things Paul wrote to them related to local issues in each of their towns, unrelated to the approach of AD 70. But then, my method is to interpret each passage by its own exegetical factors, and I am blissfully free from any compulsion to shoe-horn every passage into the same unlikely paradigm, regardless how counterintuitive."

To address the first sentence quickly, the Roman war and the events surrounding Nero's persecution and death did indeed affect the whole empire. There was a question as they burned through three emperors whether or not there would still be an empire. But, your second sentence is more interesting. I acknowledge that a good deal of my paradigm is based on the conclusion that I think all of the prophecy associated with the Second Coming was accomplished with the events of the Roman War. I'm aware of this. I come to this conclusion through comparing critical scriptures (Daniel 2, 7, 12, Isaiah 40-66 (particularly 60-66), Ezekiel 36-48, Zechariah 12-14, Joel, Matt. 16, 24 (and synoptics), Acts 2, 28, Romans 12, 1st Cor. 15, 1st Thess. 4, 2nd Thess. 1-2, etc.) with the events of history. My method is to compare these scriptures together with what I can tell of the mindset of the Apostles given their scriptural heritage and experience. I am compelled by what normal language would have meant to normal people of that time. So, I come to my conclusion.

But, I'm frankly surprised to hear you say that you are free from any compulsion to come to any particular conclusion. Most futurists are very willing to admit that they are compelled to come to an essentially futurist conclusion through church tradition. Some of them are explicitly intimidated by either their denominations or the non-negotiable creeds associated with them. Some of them obviously base their opinion implicitly on the habit of futurist translators. But, I haven't heard anyone that I can remember say that they felt completely free to embrace essentially Full Preterism, though they haven't done so through purely exegetical conclusions. Do you really feel free to be a Full Preterist, but don't do so simply because of exegetical reasons?

Doug

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steve
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Re: Revelation Fixation

Post by steve » Tue Jun 23, 2015 1:46 am

But, I'm frankly surprised to hear you say that you are free from any compulsion to come to any particular conclusion. Most futurists are very willing to admit that they are compelled to come to an essentially futurist conclusion through church tradition. Some of them are explicitly intimidated by either their denominations or the non-negotiable creeds associated with them. Some of them obviously base their opinion implicitly on the habit of futurist translators. But, I haven't heard anyone that I can remember say that they felt completely free to embrace essentially Full Preterism, though they haven't done so through purely exegetical conclusions. Do you really feel free to be a Full Preterist, but don't do so simply because of exegetical reasons?
Of course! Why would that surprise you? I have embraced many views different from those with which I was raised—most of them damaging to my relationships with former religious associations. I am conservative by nature, however, meaning that if I have seen convincing reasons to embrace a view held by the majority of Christians (or a majority of Christians I have known), and I see no chinks in the exegesis supporting it, I am not quick to change positions. If I change at all, it is very gradual. There is little that can move me from a well-established viewpoint other than compelling exegetical arguments that demolish my well-defended paradigm.

I became a partial preterist because the arguments for doing so, on a case-by-case basis, were overwhelming. It took years to make the change because it took that long for me to examine every relevant text and to evaluate the alternative understandings of each one. I did not go beyond partial preterism because, in my view, the scriptural evidenced reached a natural barrier. The case for partial preterism was irrefutable. When it came to the case for full preterism, this often required the replacing of a sound exegetical approach to certain passages with fanciful speculations. A prime example was Don Preston's treatment of Jesus' answer to the Sadducees about the resurrection—a treatment that seemed so convoluted and unnatural that I could not make any sense of it at all.

In my opinion, the whole treatment of the subject of the resurrection seems to be the weakest link in the full preterist chain of reasoning. Since the Bible identifies "the resurrection of the dead" as part of the Christian "foundations" (Heb.6:1-2), and Paul counted as blasphemers those who wrongly claimed that the resurrection was past (1 Tim.1:20; 2 Tim.2:18), I am not going to quickly abandon the doctrine believed by all Christians since apostolic times upon such flimsy arguments as I have heard from the full preterist camp.

An awful lot of the full preterist case depends upon passing comments in the epistles where the writer expresses the hopeful expectation that Christ's coming will be soon. I am not as convinced as are some that such expectations of nearness arise from direct divine revelation of the timing, since Jesus specifically denied such revelation from the apostles when they asked, and said that it was not for them to know times and seasons that the Father has placed in His own authority. If it was not for Peter, James and John to know, I seriously doubt that it was for Paul to know either. According to Paul's own admission, he sometimes speculated on matters concerning which no direct revelation had been given to him (1 Cor.7:25).

Those who treat the Bible as something of a magic book cannot allow that Paul would express a confident hope of the nearness of an event and be disappointed in his expectations (see my previous post about his travel plans in Romans 15). I consider Paul to be a reliable witness of the Gospel and of theology, even if he couldn't testify reliably as to how many Corinthians he had baptized (1 Cor.1:14-16)! No one, then or now, could reliably declare how near or far off the resurrection of the dead might be. I take Paul's writing for what he claims them to be—not what evangelical traditions, contradicting him, claim his writings to be.

dwilkins
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Re: Revelation Fixation

Post by dwilkins » Wed Jun 24, 2015 7:53 am

Have you ever put together a list of verses that you think directly refer to the second coming but not to the destruction of Jerusalem in the Roman War?

Doug

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steve
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Re: Revelation Fixation

Post by steve » Wed Jun 24, 2015 12:34 pm

No, but I can think of most of them. I also know the arguments that a full preterist would use, in most cases, to prove that they were fulfilled in AD 70. I forget, are you and Robby on the same page about the resurrection and the rapture? I believe it is his view that there was a literal resurrection and removal of Christians from the earth, whereas Don Preston believes it was a spiritual thing that happened, and the church remained on earth. Don's view, of the two, is the more reasonable, but I believe it is flawed by unjustified presuppositions.

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Paidion
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Re: Revelation Fixation

Post by Paidion » Wed Jun 24, 2015 4:16 pm

I must say how much I concur with Steve's answer to the question concerning those who focus on future events to the detriment of present-day living as a disciple of Christ. I have downloaded the video for future use.

I am a historic premillenialist who believes in the second coming of Christ as a future event that occurs immediately after a future rapture. Indeed, I think those who are raptured will "meet the Lord in the air" and then immediately return to earth to rule and reign in the final stage of the Kingdom. However, I do not focus on future events. I am probably quite wrong about many events I think are likely to occur.

I fully agree with Steve that, as Christians, our present living as disciples of Christ is of paramount importance. We need to be cautious about affirming in an absolute way, any future sequence of events according to our interpretation of the vision John saw and described in his book: "Revelation."
Paidion

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