“We also have a more sure word of prophecy, to which you do well to take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Daystar arises in your hearts” 2 Peter 1:19
Eschatology means ”teaching concerning the last things”. There is eschatology concerning life after death, also called ”personal eschatology”. We are here dealing exclusively with eschatology concerning the end times and in particular the future of the Church respectively Israel.
Eschatology depends very much on hermeneutics because tenants in eschatology which CRC considers erroneous are based on an either exclusively symbolical/allegorical or an exclusively letteristic approach to the writings in the Bible which are most important for end-time eschatology, namely certain Old Testament prophets (such as Hesekiel and Daniel), Christ’s end-time prophecies (e.g. Mt. 24) and the book of Revelation. The letteristic approach fails to see the relationship between e.g. Hesekiel and the book of Revelation and the existance of certain symbols in the Bible and gets bogged down in speculations about details which are wrongly explained when the appropriate symbolic content is not seen; while the extremely allegorical approach of liberal theology undermines the foundation of the rest of Christian doctrine in general, by dismissing large portions of Scripture as if not important at all for the expectation and thereby resulting conduct of Christians and thus invite Christians to doubt not only e.g. the millenium and the rapture, but also the necessity for personal sanctification let alone for repentance and salvation.
Traditionally eschatology concerning the end-times has been tossed to and fro between two extremes: Preterism and dispensationalism. With dispensationalism we do NOT mean premillenialism, because it is possible to be a premillenialist on a non-dispensationalist basis. [The ”apostasy-now” website (link see on ”connections” page) has done a good job in giving valuable biblical proof for a pretribulationalist premillenialist view. The chapter on eschatology in the book “The Great Dream”, presented among other books on that site, is also one of the sources of this article.] Rather we refer here to the splitting between the Church and Israel which is characteristic for dispensationalism. For it is this aspect in end-time teaching which CRC is concerned about, namely the effect of the conduct of the church in the light of biblical end-time prophecy.
Preterism is the teaching which teaches that the end-time prophecies in the Bible have happened already and have found their fulfilling with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The writing of the book of Revelation is therefore placed in the year 67 or 68 A.D. and is seen as a prophecy pointing towards the end of traditional judaism. While commentaries written from a preterist viewpoint (like the commentary on the book of Revelation by Chilton) are valuable in their showing the relationship between Old Testament and New Testament end-time prophecies (which insights are then, however, used in a wrong way), the preterist eschatology as such, resulting from this view of the book of Revelation, is very problematic, because it leaves the church in a position of ”safe distance”, where it cannot be reached by the prophetic word. Everything has been fulfilled, with the “bad Israel” having been done away with and now the Church is ”the good Israel” which is always basically good and which therefore unanimously and automatically becomes the creating agent of a better world. Hence the postmillenialist notion of a church that will have dominion over the world sooner or later (”dominion theology”). This idea, also referred to as ”reconstructionism” is traditionally known among some Reformed churches but a new version of it has emerged as a peculiar ”Kingdom now” teaching which is in the process of becoming the most preponderant eschatology among charismatics today. A sober look at the defendants of this view must lead every honest human being to exclaim: “Woe to the world, which will be governed by these bigots!” Apart from that first subjective impression, the very idea of a church having dominion over the world is against the teaching of Jesus Himself. Jesus did not want to be seen as the political leader of Israel. Had he allowed Himself to become uplifted as a political king, He would in fact have pursued satan’s agenda and not God’s plan. This is also why he was earnestly exhorting those healed or resurrected by Him to not spread news about that around. He wanted to become a king of souls, of the kingdom of God which is not of this world and not of a religious empire corrupted by mankind. Only after his death, resurrection and ascension should the Gospel (namely of the CRUCIFIED Lord, not the politically governing Lord) be spread into all the world and the disciples did numerous miracles THEN by which God confirmed the veracity of their Gospel (which was a Gospel of the CROSS) over against all false gospels. The zealots, the Pharisees and even the disciples prior to Christ’s crucifixion wanted to have a Jewish empire in which they would employ important worldly functions. This same antichristian spirit is inherent to reconstructionism. It promotes an antichristian pharisaic oligarchy which will kill any genuine moving of the Spirit and which will lead the world back into the middle ages and towards total religious brainwashing control if ever it is allowed to gain worldly power.
The new charismatic “Kingdom now” teaching is apollonarianistic, because it denies a bodily return of Christ to earth, first in the heavenlies to rapture the true saints and secondly to earth to judge and govern it. They say that they have to “birth” Christ like Mary would birth Him and give a falsely spiritualized exposition of Revelation 12 as a proof. Christ is not coming back in bodily form, but in “spiritual” form only. Christ becomes the Holy Spirit according to this view, which arose first in the Latter Day teachings of the 1940ies and 50ies and is now becoming more and more preponderant among charismaticism (Source: CETF, Vol 6.1, April 2000, in an article of Orrel Steinkamp on pp. 16-19). According to this view, the rapture is spiritualized. It is not a literal rapture, with Christ coming bodily in the clouds and taking up His true saints bodily with Him, but Christ is rapturing the Church “spiritually”, by giving them a peculiar spiritual authority (overcoming death respectively dying only after a personal prophecy concerning one’s death) and so on. Thus the proponents of this view deny in the end that “Christ is coming in the flesh”, which is condemned as antichristian by the apostle John in 2. John 7 (there regarding the past, but the parallel concerning the future should be alarming, too). It is not denied, according to this view, that something supernatural will happen IN THE FUTURE. However, this supernatural happening is distorted to becoming something unchristian. It becomes an apollonarianistic distortion denying Christ’s humanity and the fact that Christ is now bodily resurrected at the right hand of the Father. It also denies the bodily resurrection of the saints.
The arianistic version of preterism is the classic Protestant (Reformed, Presbyterian and Lutheran) view according to which Christ is bodily present on earth through his Church and there is no supernatural rapture, no supernatural millenium in the future (with CHRIST and not the CHURCH reigning). The church does it all, in this view, too, like in the above, modern “Kingdom Now” view, only that according to this classical view the divine aspect, the supernatural happenings which are YET TO COME are denied. “Where is the hope of His coming?” they say between the lines (2. Peter 3, 3-4). This led to the so called “SOCIAL GOSPEL” of Rauschenbach and all the other 19th century proponents of this view. This form of Christianity is a “fleshly” one, in which the supernatural, divine aspects are neglected. Rom. 9, 8: “... not the children of the FLESH are children of God; but the children of the PROMISE are counted for a seed.” It has to be borne in mind, that not all classical preterists are liberal Rauschenbachians, many are mission-minded Christians holding to a high view of Scripture. But a formal association to evangelical fundamentalism does not prevent one from falling astray in very basic tenants of the Christian faith. These Christians are usually very active and present in the world and their voices can be heard in politics as well. The Christ of these Christians is very much “body” indeed but the divine aspect of Christ is in many instances lost sight of eventually, to various degrees. The classical preterist view of the book of Revelation is basically a historical one, they believe that it is nothing more than a pastoral letter of John written to the churches in Asia minor in his time (chapters 1 to 3) as well as a prophecy exclusively dealing with the fall and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D (chapters 4 to rest). But Rev. 2, 7a says: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit (not the historian John, not the apostle John) says to the CHURCHES.” Are these texts not as valid for us Christians today, too, as they were for the churches in Asia Minor? We suppose the preterist reader will agree. This is not written in order to pull someone’s leg but in order to show where the preterist exegesis of Revelation does not fit together with the text itself.
While the above two versions of preterism both glorify the heathen church and thereby come to a distorted view of the church and its future, dispensationalism leads Christians to bow down before the idol called “Jewish Israel”. While respect for the Jews (as for any other ethnic or religious group) is biblical and appropriate (Rom. 11, 18), the political Israel of today really does not have any eschatological importance from a truly biblical standpoint. Let’s first of all see what a Jew is according to Rom. 2, 28- 29: For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that outwardly in flesh; 29: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart; in spirit (guess which spirit???) and not in letter; whose praise is not from men, but from God. (SO... Remember this: A true Christian is at the same time A TRUE JEW! And a “Jew” who is not a true Christian is in fact NOT a Jew!!!). If one really takes these verses seriously, all the talk about the year 1948 and a gaint hand of God appearing during the 6-days war in 1967 and so on must fade away. The year 1948 is NOT the “figtree’s branches becoming tender” (Mt. 24,32). While it is true, that the figtree is a biblical symbol for Israel (namely both apostate Israel and the remnant-Israel), Paul goes on to define who is THE ISRAEL OF GOD is, in Galatians 6. Definetely not the political Israel of 1948. Check it out! In the light of Galatians 6, 16 and Romans 2,28+29 then, the figtree’s branches becoming tender and juicy refers to something happening within CHRISTIANITY (both apostate and true), not Judaism. Mt. 24, 14 is really the passage which best explains Mt. 24, 32: The Gospel will be preached everywhere, and THEN the end will come. Christianity (both apostate and true) will bear fruit (“leaves”), which is the “summer” of Mt. 24, 32. Following the summer, FALL (AUTUMN) comes, the time of REAPING! (See Mt. 13, 30). The false doctrine about an ethnic and/or political Israel being a fulfillment of prophecy serves one demonic purpose: Draw the attention away from the portent of prophecy upon APOSTATE CHRISTIANITY. Rom. 11, 22: “Behold then the kindness, and the severity of God; on those having fallen, severity; but on you, kindness, if you continue in the kindness. OTHERWISE YOU (CHRISTIANS!) ALSO WILL BE CUT OFF.”
Rev. 2, 16: “Repent! But if not I will come to you quickly, and will fight with them by the sword of My mouth.”
Rev. 2, 20: “But I have a few things against you because you allow that woman Jezebel to teach, she saying herself to be a prophetess, and to cause My servants to go astray, and to commit fornication, and to eat idol-sacrifices.” From this passage (Rev. 2, 20) it becomes clear, that John and the Jesus whom he quotes advocate an application of Old Testament Scripture (originally written concerning the Old-Covenant-Israel) to the Church, the New-Covenant-Israel. The Jezebel from the time of the prophet Elisha is dead, but the Jezebel dynamics is well and alive. It becomes clear from this passage, that the book of Revelation has to be understood spiritually as well, not exclusively historically (according to the extreme preterist view). Fornication is here surely for the most part a reference to spiritual fornication and spiritual idolatry.
Dispensationalism teaches a “parenthesis”-theory based on a wrong exegesis of Romans 11, 25-26. V. 25: “For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, lest you should be wise within yourselves; that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the nations has come in.” V. 26: “And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”
Mostly v. 26 is then interpreted to say “And THEN (namely at some given time in the future) all Israel shall be saved...” But a closer look at the Greek reveals the text to really say “And SO (i.e. in this fashion, namely through saving faith in Christ) Israel (both the Jewish and the heathen Israel) will be saved.” This exegesis goes logically together with 2. Cor. 3,16: “But whenever it (the people of Israel, i. e. a Jew) turns to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” This is how the Jews get (got) saved, one by one, namely by accepting Jesus as their Lord. “And there is salvation in no other One; for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4, 12). No other way, no exception, no future salvation for political, ethnic Jews apart from the cross! God has now spoken through His Son, and that’s it, He does not come with another Gospel for Mr. Netanjahu and the B’nai Brith Jews after the rapture of the Christians! (see Hebr. 1, 1-2).
Now in the year 2004 it seems, however, especially in view of a rapid growth of the Church on the territory of the modern state of Israel, both among Palestinians as well as ethnic “Jews”, that the geographic region of Palestine IS going to have some role to play during the end-time political world-history-scenario. It seems as if Satan is going beserk at the thought that Jesus might come back and put his feet onto the mount of Olives, wherefrom he ascended to heaven and whereto he might return, if one interprets Acts 1,11 to that effect. It seems as if Satan is employing hell’s powers in order to have the modern political Israel swept off the earth, so as to let Jesus fall into the hands of fundamentalist Islamic terrorists, as it were. Satan is not interested, one might go on to speculate, that Jesus finds a Jewish Israel and a Jewish Jerusalem upon His return to earth. With all this having been said, we have to bear in mind that Christians are waiting for the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, not the Old Jerusalem becoming glorified. Still, the ongoing brainwashing “political correctness” public consensus (even among nations who due to their historical guilt and responsibility should support Jewish Israel), which dictates that one should be against Israel and in favor of the Palestinians, forces a reflective Christian to ponder the possibility that, apart from theological deviations such as the dispensationalistic approach concerning Israel, God does indeed have some specific role assigned to the geographical “Israel” as well, not just to the spiritual (and real) “Israel of God” of Galatians 6.
Dispensationalism is both apollonarianistic and arianistic at the same time.
It is arianistic because in its extreme form it really on the bottom line denies that Christ is God, because if He were God He would be a God for both the Jews and the Heathen alike and not just for the Heathen while the Jews are allowed their Old Testament Jehovah until after the rapture. “For there is no difference both of Jew and of Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call on Him.” (Romans 10,12). This “same Lord” is of course the particular God of the Bible who is revealing Himself in no other way than through JESUS CHRIST and not the god-idol of the modern world-church syncretism (according to which Allah qualifies as that “same lord” as well).
It is apollonarianistic because it places the church into a soap bubble called “the parenthesis” where it is catered to by a spiritual christ-idol which is NOT the incarnate Christ of the Bible. That christ-idol is only there for that parenthesis-soap-bubble while the real down-to-earth political kingdom-of-God-affairs are carried out by the Jews. A gnostic dualism emerges, in which above the line of dichotomy the “church” and her not-incarnate Christ-idol and “grace” sit together “on a higher plane”, wrestling with demons and “the spiritual Babylon” and below the line the political Israel with a bodily Jehovah God of the Ten Commandments (not applicable for the Church, according to dispensationalists) are roaming about, fighting with the tangible Babylon (Syria, Lebanon, Irak, Egypt and so on). Needless to say, that according to that view, “Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” (Rev. 11,8) and where the bodies of the slain two witnesses are lying, will NEVER be identified as the CHURCH, yes, the fundamentalist-evangelical church, while this prophecy really fits amazingly well with what is going on in the church. They actually have a problem in identifying that “city” with Jerusalem, they usually prefer to identify it with Rome (or maybe Bagdad, or Cairo, to allow a variation). But “spiritually” (Rev. 11,8) this city is the APOSTATE people of God (in Jesus’ time: The Jews; in the two witnesses time: APOSTATE CHRISTIANITY) which is not outside of the camp (Hebr.13, 13) but inside the camp, feasting the passah-feast while Jesus Christ, the only true Passah Lamb, is hanging on a tree outside of the camp!
While preterists come to view the church as God’s agent of reconstruction of God’s law on earth through educational, social and political action (and thereby from time to time happen to found useful institutions by which many indeed become blessed), dispensationalists really see Israel (the political Israel) as the earthen power through which God will eventually erect His kingdom on Earth. The church gets raptured and then Israel does the dirty work, as it were, with the heathen believers looking serenely down from their celestial balcony, enjoying heavenly bliss. It is because of such extreme dispensational notions which lead to passivism, escapism and a ghetto-mentality, that preterists have challenged the teachings concerning the rapture to the point of over-spiritualizing them in such a way, that according to them a “literal” rapture will not happen at all (and this is a wrong conclusion, but it tastes sweet to those, who escaped from a dispensationalist ghetto, and found some seeming refuge in a preterist camp).
The devil does not mind Christians cruising the hills of Judea (where our Lord walked on his feet sweating in the torching sun) in luxury air-conditioned busses. The devil loves spiritual hobbies that lead away from the things God is really concerned about, namely repentance and true restoration. Dispensationalism is that teaching which takes everything from the Old Testament which does not sound very spiritual according to the opinion of whoever so approaches the Bible, saying: “Now, well, this is for Israel, you know, but we are now the Church...” But 1 Corinthians 10: 9 says: “Nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted Him and were destroyed by serpents....11 And all these things happened to THEM (the Israel of the Old Covenant) as examples; and it is written for OUR (the CHRISTIANS) warning on whom the ends of the world have come.” It becomes clear from that passage, that verses concerning Israel are to be applied to the Church, according to the apostle Paul.
One thing Satan wants to avoid at any cost is a TRULY REPENTANT CHURCH because that is when TRUE REVIVAL would happen, with many unbelievers getting ripped out of satans claws! So he tries to render passages that in fact call THE CHURCH to repentance, ineffective. He does this in two ways:
ONE, by saying “All these passages are for an Israel that is NOT THE CHURCH, but has been in the PAST and is in the PRESENT POLITICAL ISRAEL and will be for the restored Israel of the FUTURE. We, the CHURCH, are just a “parenthesis” (“...until the fullness of the heathen has come in...”) and therefore these verses really do not apply for us, or only in a very, very indirect way” (dispensationalism). The book of Revelation is then cut into two pieces: One from chapters 1 to 3 (applying to the early church) and then (after John in his vision has gone up to heaven) everything from chapter 4 onwards is for the future (the time after the rapture). This way dispensationalists are bereaved of some very important passages that apply to the present-day CHURCH as well and that, while they possibly will find a literal fulfillment after the rapture (an exclusively spiritualizing interpretation faces many difficulties), have a parallel spiritual sense for the present-day situation of Christianity, too. Concerning the Old Testament end-time prophecies dispensationalists will officially say, well, of course we take the warnings against Israel serious and apply them to the church, too, not just to a past or future Israel distinct from the Church; but in practice the very naming of the word “prophet” is felt as an insult in most churches raised with dispensationalist teachings. They are the “parenthesis”, “living on a higher plane” and therefore beyond reproach. During this “parenthesis”, this “time of the heathen”, or “time of grace”, God is dealing in “grace” with the nice little Christians (according to a wrong concept of grace, see Titus 2,11+12) and they do not have to endure the “harsh” prophecies of the Old (and New!) Testament. All “negative prophecies” that cannot be forced into the FUTURE are used evangelistically or in order to judge the evil, evil world out there and the church (which should be judged first) gets away with it time after time.
TWO, by saying “All these passages had been written concerning an Israel which is no longer and which will not come again either or concerning the EARLY CHURCH in the 1st century A.D.” (Classical Preterism). The two witnesses of Revelation 11 are seen as Peter and Paul or Peter and James and other hermeneutical gymnastics are performed in order to transport books such as Daniel, Hesekiel and Revelation into the PAST. Prophecies concerning a glorious future such as Amos 9, 11-15 are seen to have found their fulfillment in the establishment of the church which is now working hard to make these things happen (while the dispensationalists apply them to a future restoration of a glorified Israel after the rapture of the Church).
In both cases an unbiblical teaching of Israel leading (in the extremes) to either Israel-fetishism (dispensationalism) or antisemitism (classical reformation preterism) becomes a smokescreen preventing the CHURCH to wake up to REALITY (seeing its state of apostasy) and come to REPENTANCE. The preterists see the church as the most glorious thing on earth which is above reproach, in a way. The dispensationalists see the church as a temporary phenomenon besides of Israel, coming in the way, in form of a parenthesis (Ironside) but not being the object of God’s main dealings with humanity. No, Israel, the Jewish Israel, is the eyeball of God, they inherit all the blessings (and negative prophecies), according to dispensationalism.
In fact the Church is presented in the Bible exactly as the Israel of old is presented in the Bible, namely as the people of God, which is subject to a steady gravitational pull towards falling away from God and therefore has to be continually exhorted by prophets both in the old AND the new covenant. Only a REMNANT will be saved, both in the old and the new covenant: “Even so THEN, also IN THIS PRESENT TIME a remnant according to the election of grace has come into being.” (Rom. 11, 5). Rom. 11, 7: ”What then? Israel has not obtained that which it seeks, but the election obtained it, and the rest were hardened.” In both covenants salvation is by faith, God is not changing his method and his law for a parenthesis-period and then switches back to good-old Moses as it were. Both the old and the new Israel have their prophets that cry over its state (e.g. Paul being “...jealous over the Church with godly jealousy, having espoused it to one Man, to present her as a pure virgin to Christ.” (2. Cor. 11,2) and Jeremiah lamenting the virgin Israel’s fallen state in Lamentations 2,13). There is no word about either the Church (preterism) or a political Israel (dispensationalism) becoming the big bosses on planet Earth. Rather, CHRIST Himself comes back and reigns with the remnant. “...For He is Lord of lords and King of kings. And those with Him are the called and elect and faithful ones.” (Rev. 17, 14 b).
The following exegesis of Revelation 11,3-13 offers an alternative that is very needful in the present situation of much of Christianity. The difference between preterism and dispensationalism can be seen in the exegesis done on this passage: To preterists the “two witnesses” are exclusively in the past (Peter and James and martyrs in the past) and for dispensationalists they are exclusively in the future. CRC believes that the two witnesses are both in the past, present and future. It is not impossible that there will be a future literal fulfillment after the rapture. However, the main portent of the passage really lies in its prophetic encouragement concerning the present situation of the true witnesses of Christ. They are bereaved of the great encouragement God wants to give through this passage, by both preterism and dispensationalism. CRC offers therefore a third way of exegesis, a spiritualizing parallel, which is not based upon arbitrary typology or allegorization springing from the mere phantasy of the writer(s), but upon many biblical references that point towards the viability of this interpretation. Much of these references can be found in preterist commentaries of the book of Revelation (such as Chilton’s commentary) but CRC is applying the data from these commentaries (which can, by the way, also be found with the help of a good cross-references collection or even just a concordance) in a way that is alien to most preterists.
What is more – if you are interested in biblical arguments against post-trib, mid-trib resp. “pre-wrath” theories, you should read an article written by “Just another Christian”, defending pretribulationalism.