Eschatology


I’ve heard a lot of atheists hypothesize that one of the reasons religion was invented was because people had to manage their fear of death.  If people believe that they will continue to live on in some fashion after death, it mitigates their fear of death.  Can the fear of death explain the origin of religion, or the origin of religious faith in people today?  Perhaps, but three points should be made.  

First, not all religions include conscious existence beyond the grave.  For example, in many Eastern religions absorption into the One (personal extinction) is the end of all things.  Clearly immortality is not the motivation for those religions and religious practitioners.  

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We’re still here, and Harold Camping is still a false teacher.  I wonder what his excuse will be this time for his failed prediction.

It appears that Harold Camping has gone the way of so many other false prophets in spiritualizing his false prediction.  The AP quoted Camping as saying, “”We’ve always said May 21 was the day, but we didn’t understand altogether the spiritual meaning.  The fact is there is only one kind of people who will ascend into heaven … if God has saved them they’re going to be caught up.”  The AP added, “The globe will be completely destroyed in five months, he said, when the apocalypse comes. But because God’s judgment and salvation were completed on Saturday, there’s no point in continuing to warn people about it, so his network will now just play Christian music and programs until the final end on Oct. 21.”  How convenient.

I wonder what his excuse will be when 10-21 comes and goes without incident?

I’m sure you’ve heard about it.  Harold Camping has predicted that judgment day is tomorrow, May 21.  He and his followers are expecting the rapture to happen, but it won’t.  Unfortunately, many Christians’ hopes will be dashed, and some will probably give up their faith in Christ.  His followers should have learned from his first false prediction that the Lord would return in 1994 that Camping is a false prophet.

I would love to hear Camping’s radio program on Monday.  What kind of calls is he going to get?  I would imagine that he’d receive calls from irate followers who spent their life savings to advertise “the end” Camping predicted and guaranteed.  There will be irate callers who racked up their credit cards in expectation that they would never have to pay them back.  There will be scoffers who just want to rub it in his face.  It’s my understanding that the day after his 1994 prediction failed, Camping acted like nothing happened on his radio show.  Perhaps he’ll do the same again.  Or perhaps he’ll decide it’s time to retire.  Hopefully the latter.

Al Mohler has written a good piece on the doctrine of hell.  He details the steps by which the doctrine has become liberalized in many churches:

  1. It ceases to be discussed
  2. It is revised and retained in a reduced form
  3. It is subject to ridicule
  4. The doctrine is reformulated (annihilationism, etc.)

I would add a possible fifth step as well: The doctrine is denied.

This same pattern can be applied to the liberalization of any Biblical doctrine.  We must be on guard so as not to follow this pattern.  The best way to guard against it is to preach and teach on the full spectrum of Biblical doctrines, rather than focusing on a handful and ignoring others.  In general, what ceases to be taught ceases to be believed.

Mohler also had some challenging words on the tendency to lament, or apologize for the doctrine of hell.  As Mohler describes it, there are Bible believing Christians who will affirm that the Bible teaches the doctrine of hell, but admit they do not like the doctrine and wish it were not true.  I think we’ve all been there, and understandably so.  But Mohler raises some good points against this disposition:

What does this say about God? What does this imply about God’s truth? Can a truth clearly revealed in the Bible be anything less than good for us? … Apologizing for a doctrine is tantamount to impugning the character of God.  Do we believe that hell is a part of the perfection of God’s justice? If not, we have far greater theological problems than those localized to hell.

Indeed.  As Dennis Prager once noted, it would be the epitome of injustice if the evil had the same fate as the righteous.  If we love God, then we will love righteousness and justice.  And if we love righteousness and justice, then the existence of hell is not something we should lament.

hellWhy does somebody need to believe in Jesus to be saved?  Our stock answer is so that they will go to heaven, not hell.  While true in itself, it obscures the real message of the Gospel because it doesn’t explain why Jesus is necessary, only what the consequences are.  It makes God sound petty, and unbelievers are quick to point this out.

A common misconception among Christians and non-Christians alike is that people go to hell because they haven’t heard of Jesus.  This is not true.  People go to hell because they are guilty of sin.  The only way to escape hell is to be innocent of sin, and the only way to be innocent of sin is to accept Christ’s atonement.  Men are not even condemned because they don’t believe. They are condemned already.  Belief is the only thing that can save them from their condemnation.  Their failure to believe simply allows them to reach the destination they were already headed for.  People do not die because they don’t visit the doctor, but because they have a disease.  Our disease is sin.  We will die of this cancer unless we acknowledge that we are incapable of doing anything about it, and seek help from a powerful Doctor.

Other Christians believe people can only go to hell if they have heard of Jesus, and then reject Him.  Those who have not heard of Christ are innocent and should be saved because of their ignorance, providing they followed the revelation of God they did have.  This view is often called the “light doctrine.”  Such a perspective invalidates the Christian message.  It turns redemption on its head, making knowledge of Christ the cause of one’s damnation rather than their only hope of escaping sure judgment.  It presumes that humanity contracts a disease by visiting the doctor, rather than having the disease by nature.  Rest assured that humanity will not escape judgment because of their ignorance.  Even those who have not heard of Jesus have sufficient evidence to know of God’s existence/nature and seek after Him, but all fall short of this revelation and are deserving of judgment (Rom 1-3).  Without Jesus all would be lost.  Jesus is not the cause of anyone’s condemnation—they are condemned already.

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Read the article.

The concept is not new. The technology is not new. But when the American Medical Association is talking about its use in humans, that’s a big deal.

Many Christians believe similar technology will be used as the Mark of the Beast. Others believe this technology is the Mark of the Beast. What do you think?

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