STAND & COMFORT Newsletter
PART 3: IS OUR HOPE IMPORTANT TO ESCHATOLOGY?
What is happening in the Church today is that, instead of people doing serious study of God's word to come to one mind about the end times, many are content to live with division, contention, distortions, and confusion. To make matters worse, the "NEW" doctrines that have arisen add even more confusion to this and the other things of God.
This newsletter contains some lists of basic truths. I don't want you to think I included them because I believe you're ignorant of the hope we have in Christ, or so immature that you need these simple outlines. BUT in the light of the disruptions in the Church, I do find it necessary to state things in a clear, simple way for those who are seeking God for the simplicity of His word.
THE GOSPEL CONTAINS THE HOPE OF A TOTAL SALVATION
Jesus Christ will come again and fulfill the hope of the gospel that God has given believers: at His return, we will experience resurrection from the dead, or if alive, be changed to be like Him. Because He alone can do this, He is our hope:
1 Pet 1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
I have heard discussions in which people say that the hope of Christ's second coming, and all that it includes, is not as important as the basics of the gospel described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:2-4. But Paul continues on in this same chapter to stress the importance of the resurrection as it relates to the hope of the believer. Scripture overwhelmingly calls the time of His coming and how it affects the believer "the hope of the Church." In previous parts of this series, I wrote about these things:
1. The death of Christ was necessary for there to be a resurrection.
2. The resurrection was necessary to His being able to ascend to the Father.
3. The ascension was necessary to His being glorified.
4. His being glorified was necessary to the sending of the Holy Spirit and to His returning in the power and glory of the Father.
5. The sending of the Holy Spirit was necessary to the sanctification of the believer, the proliferation of the gospel, and the maintaining of the hope of Christ's return to bring the Church into its full inheritance.
6. These events pointed ahead to the climactic event of history: the second coming of Christ and its affect on believers (resurrection/changed) and unbelievers (wrath/judgment).
This is God's process of saving men:
1. They are saved by believing in Christ's finished work.
2. They are being saved (because they are saved) by the indwelling Holy Spirit's work in them.
3. They will be saved (because they are saved) at Christ's return when their bodies are redeemed, whether they be dead or alive.
If we read through the six points above six times, eliminating one each time and only considering the remaining five, we find it does great damage to the plan of salvation which culminates in the second coming of Christ. For instance, you can't leave out Jesus' death, or His glorification, and still have a true picture of God's simple plan of salvation. Neither can you add another hope of a resurrection/changing of the saints before the tribulation, or say that all these six points were fulfilled in 70 AD. Doing any of these things would pervert that which God's word has said.
What is important to the Christian regarding Jesus' coming is the HOW of His coming and the TIME of His coming. If a person's belief about the "how" and "time" of Christ's return does not agree with Scripture, the following become true:
1. He is placed in danger of deadly deception, since he is already deceived about the truths (how and when) of Christ's coming
2. His proposal of unbiblical scenarios concerning the coming of Christ opens the door for confusion, division and contention
3. He may pressure those with other views to "agree to disagree" about what God has said concerning Christ and His return, therefore making the word of God ambiguous and relative
4. He has brought into the Church the false idea that the "how" and "time" of Christ's return is unimportant, or that we cannot really know what God promised the Holy Spirit would reveal to us (John 16:13-14)
Since the fulfilling of our hope is vitally connected to the coming of Christ, the above four points also apply to the person's hope being fulfilled:
1. Since he is already deceived about the "how and when" of Jesus' return, he will now be deceived about the fulfillment of his own hope for resurrection/change
2. His unbiblical scenarios concerning the coming of Christ open the door for confusion, division and contention about when our hope is fulfilled
3. He may pressure those with other views to "agree to disagree" about what God has said concerning the fulfillment of our hope, even though it's the capstone of our salvation
4. He has brought into the Church the false idea that the "how" and "time" of our resurrection/change is unimportant, or that we cannot really know what God promised the Holy Spirit would reveal to us (John 16:13-14)
In Part 2, I quoted Peter telling the Church to "hope to the end," the "end" being the "revelation of Jesus Christ":
1 Peter 1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you AT the REVELATION of Jesus Christ;
The word "revelation" is "used of events by which things or states or persons hitherto withdrawn from view are made visible to all" (Vines). The word "revelation" describes exactly the second coming of Christ, in which He fulfills the hope of the Church and brings wrath upon all who have rejected the gospel. This revelation is described in 2 Thessalonians 1:7:
2 Th 1:6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
THE GOSPEL AND ITS HOPE IN 1 CORINTHIANS 15
The above verses describe the revelation of Christ when He comes to raise the dead saints and change the living saints ("to be glorified in his saints"). It is a fiery, visible revelation of Him to both believers and unbelievers. Note that WHEN He is glorified in all His saints, those who have not accepted the gospel are dealt with as well. This single, one time revelation, when the saints are glorified, is the hope of the Church. Paul describes the hope of the church again in 1 Corinthians 15, a parallel passage to Christ's fiery coming "to be glorified in his saints" in 2 Thessalonians 1:
1 Cor 15:51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
Paul began this chapter by stating "first things first" concerning the gospel:
1 Cor 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
The definition for "first of all" in verse 3 (Vine's, en Protos) indicates that there are other things that could be said, but what is said first is of primary importance or foundational. What Paul describes first is the foundation of their salvation in the gospel, which they have accepted and rest in as absolutely true:
In Romans 16, Paul tells us that this same gospel establishes one in Christ and is made known to the nations of the world for the purpose of their obeying it:
Rom 16:25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
This gospel, though, does not end with the fact that Christ is risen (1 Cor 15:4). In verse 23, Paul adds the resurrection of the believer to the resurrection of Christ. Then in verse 51, he adds the changing of the living to the time of the resurrection of the saints. Is this part of the gospel? Is this to be added to the "first" things of the gospel Paul declared? Yes, it is part of the gospel, the very hope of its proclamation. Christ risen is foundational to the fact that believers can expect to be raised or changed at His coming. The proclamation of the "first" things of the gospel was to be made to the nations, but so was that which was contained within it: the very hope it offered:
Col 1:5 FOR THE HOPE WHICH IS LAID UP FOR YOU IN HEAVEN, WHEREOF YE HEARD BEFORE IN THE WORD OF THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL;
Just as we cannot compromise the "first" things of the gospel, neither can we compromise the truth of its hope. But there are at least nine end time doctrines out there which change the facts (the "how" and the "time") of the event by which Christ fulfills our hope - His return immediately after the tribulation. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul gives the order of things concerning the resurrection/changing of the saints:
1 Cor 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
1. Christ has been raised
2. The saints will be raised or changed
3. This is immediately followed by THE END, not by seven years of tribulation. To insert seven years between verses 23 and 24, as Pretribulationists do, is a major assumption that perverts the truth of Scripture. Preterism perverts things even further by teaching that the end came in 70 AD. It is towards this END that the Church is to persevere for it is when the hope of the gospel is fulfilled in them:
Heb 6:11 And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto THE END:
IMPORTANCE OF THE GOSPEL AND ITS HOPE IN ESCHATOLOGY
Some say that eschatology is not as important as the foundational gospel, but it definitely is crucial to understand at least the basics. I searched the internet to find a definition of eschatology and found that it is hard to define because of its innumerable facets. But a simple definition of eschatology would be this:
Eschatology: "The doctrine of last or final things, as death, resurrection, immortality, judgment" (Webster).
A believer should study eschatology in order to understand what GOD has said about the final things. The final things have been determined by Him and and related to us in His word, and understanding them is of the same importance as understanding the finished work of Christ which established salvation and its hope.
1. Christ saved us to a hope of being totally saved: spirit, soul and body.
2. Christ saved us positionally before God; we are now being justified in His sight.
3. The Holy Spirit is "saving us" by calling us to holiness and working with us by our co-operation to walk in holiness.
4. Christ will return to redeem our bodies and thus "save" us to the full.
Our hope for the redemption of the body is a hope that completes the experience of our total salvation. This final act of redemption could not take place without the resurrection OR the second coming. Together, all of the aspects of Christ's work give us the complete picture of salvation of the total man as defined by God. One is not more important than the other. ALL are absolutely necessary and ALL are part of the gospel, including the HOPE OF the gospel. So what must be included in a study of eschatology is the understanding of the full gospel and the full salvation it offers to man. Crucial to this understanding is the "how" and "when" of Christ's return and the fulfillment of our hope. If we don't include these, we are open to the deceptions of the adversary.
It is inappropriate to dismiss eschatology as an unimportant part of our faith. Eschatology, which includes Jesus' second coming and the resurrection and glorification of believers, enhances the hope of the gospel because it contains the facts of the "how" and "time" of Christ's return - events which are yet to happen. The gospel covers past, present, and future events:
1. The crucifixion is over. That's part of the gospel.
2. Christ's resurrection is a past event and part of the gospel.
3. The ascension and glorification of Jesus Christ is past and part of the gospel.
4. The sending of the Holy Spirit is a past event and part of the gospel. It is the very promise of the Father, because His present indwelling of believers is our guarantee that we will receive the fullness of the gospel (its hope) when He raises us from the dead or changes us at Christ's coming.
All that Christ has done and will do must be made real in the life of the Christian in order for him to experience a full salvation.
There is no way Christians can say that eschatology is not that important. Having the facts wrong gives a person a false understanding of the one hope we have in Christ. To agree to disagree over these "eschatological facts" is to say that the word of God and its related hope are not that important. To say that it doesn't matter what we believe because God will straighten us out when the time comes is not only ridiculous, but presumptive. Apostasies are based on attitudes such as these. WE are INDIVIDUALLY RESPONSIBLE for what we know, and what we know is to line up with what God has said, or we stand in danger of opening ourselves to deceptive doctrines.
Next Issue: Part 4 (Final)