|Satan Evicted: Theological Points of View|
Theological Points of View
As a child within the Methodist Church, I listened to the Bible stories and generally accepted that if we led a good Christian life we would go to heaven and that if we didn’t we would go to hell. As a teenager, I participated in the Roman Catholic catechism and a few lessons from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Neither fulfilled my desire for greater spirituality. In my very early twenties, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior within a storefront, Pentecostal holiness environment.
Luckily, the churches I attended during those early years encouraged their congregations to seek the truth through personal Bible study. However, it wasn’t until I began this study did I realize the great variety in viewpoints concerning the events that will transition the Church Age into the next. A few of the mainstream viewpoints are listed here and serve as a general point of reference:
AMILLENNIALISM holds that the thousand-year reign of Christ is figurative, not to be taken as referring to a literal thousand-year period. The reign of the church as the body of Christ is seen as the symbolical or spiritual millennium, which has already exceeded two literal millennia; this opinion also includes that the church is the earthly, spiritual expression of the Kingdom of God. Though some people believe in the relative inactivity of satanic forces in areas of the world where the church is influential, as opposed to those areas where paganism still prevails, amillennialists believe the church and the forces of evil will coexist throughout the reign of Christ as head of the church. With some variations, amillennialism is the traditional eschatology of the Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Calvinist (Presbyterian, Reformed), Anglican, and Methodist Churches.1
PREMILLENNIALISM teaches that the Second Coming of Christ will occur before the millennium, which will be a literal thousand-year reign on earth of the conquering Prince of Peace. In the United States and in the parts of the world where missionaries are primarily American evangelicals, premillennialism is by far the most widely held view among Baptists, Pentecostals, and most other evangelicals. Though advocates see a belief in premillennialism reaching back to early church history, it has had its greatest growth since the dispensational system introduced by John Nelson Darby.2
POSTMILLENNIALISM teaches that the Second Coming will occur after the millennium, and therefore, like the amillennialists, they believe that the thousand-year reign of Christ is figurative, in and through the church, not literal, as from an earthly throne. The postmillennial emphasis is on purifying the church and, through the church, defeating and binding Satan in the world, and bringing about the peace of the Prince of Peace. In this way the postmillennialists hope to purify the world in order to make it ready to meet Christ as his bride. Postmillenialism is often characterized as triumphalism, pushing for the victory of the church in the present age. No major denominations are identified as postmillennial, but individuals like the late R. J. Rushdoony, Gary North, and Greg Bahnsen, and their movements (theonomy, reconstructionism) advocate it.3
REALIZED ESCHATOLOGY is a Christian eschatological theory popularized by C. H. Dodd (1884–1973) that holds that the eschatological passages in the New Testament do not refer to the future, but instead refer to the ministry of Jesus and his lasting legacy. Eschatology is therefore, not the end of the world but its rebirth instituted by Jesus and continued by his disciples, a historical (rather than transhistorical) phenomenon. Those holding this view generally dismiss "end times" theories, believing them to be irrelevant. They hold that what Jesus said and did, and told his disciples to do likewise, are of greater significance than any messianic expectations.4
PRETERISM is a Christian eschatological view that interprets prophecies of the Bible, especially Daniel and Revelation, as events which have already happened in the first century A.D. Preterism holds that Ancient Israel finds its continuation or fulfillment in the Christian church at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The term preterism comes from the Latin praeter, which is listed in Webster's 1913 dictionary as a prefix denoting that something is "past" or "beyond," signifying that either all or a majority of Bible prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70. Adherents of preterism are commonly known as preterists.5
FUTURISTIC ESCHATOLOGY is a Christian eschatological view that interprets the Book of Revelation, the Book of Daniel, the Olivet discourse and the parable of the Sheep and the Goats as future events in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context. Futurism interprets these passages as prophecies that will be fulfilled in the future (in some cases, the imminent future) as literal, physical events.6
INAUGURATED ESCHATOLOGY is the belief in Christian theology that the end times were inaugurated in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and thus there are both "already" and "not yet" aspects to the Kingdom of God.
George Eldon Ladd suggests that the Kingdom of God is "not only an eschatological gift belonging to the Age to Come; it is also a gift to be received in the old aeon."
D. A. Carson sees John 5:24 ("whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life", NIV) as giving the "strongest affirmation of inaugurated eschatology in the Fourth Gospel": it is not necessary for the believer to "wait until the last day to experience something of resurrection life."7
IMMINENT ESCHATOLOGY refers to the perspective–pioneered by Johannes Weiss and Albert Schweitzer in the 20th century and long considered orthodoxy in Jesus studies–that Jesus’ central message was one of apocalyptic expectation. That is, he believed that God was about to act decisively to usher in the Kingdom in its fullness by means of a supernatural intervention (with Jesus himself as, in some sense, God’s instrument). The unavoidable implication of this view is that Jesus was wrong, since the Kingdom manifestly didn’t appear in 33 A.D. 8
Each theory has its supporters and detractors with some proponents argue vehemently that theirs is the only reasonable viewpoint and others are plagued with serious flaws. And, each theory has many different versions and variations. So how do we determine which provides the most accurate approach?
Unfortunate, many scholars tend to stretch, twist, and bend the scriptures just to make their position a little more attractive… It’s like putting on a little makeup just to cover our minor flaws. We must be cautious in our examinations and do our best to validate the opinion of others. The responsibility for rightly dividing the Word of God rests on our shoulders not those of our pastors, teachers, or other theologians.
1 Jon Kennedy, “Christian Disagreements about ‘Ultimate Things’,” netplaces, NDA. <http://www.netplaces.com/jesus/the-jesus-of-the-future/christian-disagreements-about-ultimate-things.htm> September 30, 2011.
2 Jon Kennedy, “Christian Disagreements about ‘Ultimate Things’,” netplaces, NDA. <http://www.netplaces.com/jesus/the-jesus-of-the-future/christian-disagreements-about-ultimate-things.htm> September 30, 2011.
3 Jon Kennedy, “Christian Disagreements about ‘Ultimate Things’,” netplaces, NDA. <http://www.netplaces.com/jesus/the-jesus-of-the-future/christian-disagreements-about-ultimate-things.htm> September 30, 2011.
4 “Realized eschatology,” Wikipedia, Sep. 20, 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Realized_eschatology> Oct. 20, 2011.
5 “Preterism,” Wikipedia, Oct.2 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preterism> Oct. 31, 2011.
6 “Futurism (Christianity),” Wikipedia, Sep. 20, 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurism_(Christianity)> Oct. 20, 2011.
7 “Inaugurated eschatology,” Wikipedia, Sep. 20, 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inaugurated_eschatology> Oct. 20, 2011.
8 "Whose Jesus? Which Eschatology?" Posted by Lee M. in Bible, Books, History, Marcus Borg, Theology & Faith. A Thinking Reed, Oct. 29, 2010. <http://thinkingreed.wordpress.com /2010/10/29/whose-jesus-which-eschatology/> Oct. 30, 2011
With all glory, honor, and praise to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit...
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