Monday, October 27, 2014

Victorious Eschatology

In the book Victorious Eschatology, Second Edition, Harold Eberle and Martin Trench say that some of the things in Matthew 24 and Revelation have already happened.  Eberle is not saying that Jesus has already returned; of course, that would be heresy.  He does not say all has happened yet, but some.  He makes a controversial argument for this stance throughout the book. He calls himself a partial preterist.

Eberle says that generation referenced in Matthew 24:34 (Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.) means about forty years, which was about the length of how long a generation would be alive in those times.  Of course, this is not true for today because a person lives much longer than 40 usually now a day.  However, if forty years was a generation then, and Jesus was telling the disciples that a generation would not pass, I think it makes sense.  Exactly forty years later, 70 A.D. in an event recorded by secular historian Flavius Josephus, of which I read the entire original document in 2010, the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed.

Eberle and Martin go into much depth describing the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  They say how the seven years is not when the anti-Christ will come but that Jesus is the one mentioned who sits in the Temple and destroys the sacrifices.  They purport that since he is making there to be no more need for a Jewish animal sacrifice.  Literally, take a look at history.  Jesus’ sacrifice happened exactly three and a half years into Jesus’ ministry.  This sounds a merely contrived, concocted argument.  Could this be?  Harold shows how the beginning of the seven years was Jesus’ start of ministry and the finish being when the gospel was meant to go out to the Gentiles now (when Jesus gave the animal vision to Peter.)

What does that mean for us today?  Well, it could destroy the whole system of belief that a temple needs to be rebuilt in Jerusalem for Jesus to come.  It might stop certain people from investing money in building a Jerusalem temple (not that it would be up to the common people to donate to that).  It would stop the ideology that animal sacrifice has to be continued again, because we have found that Jesus has been the sacrifice and we do not need another.

These two men give room to believe that some of the words similar to  “end times” in the Bible are actually referring to this generation referenced in Matthew 24.  He gives proof from the only four places in the NT that mention.   Authored in this is also the 10 provinces of the Roman Empire: Italy, Asia, Egypt, Spain, Britain, Achaia, Syria, Africa, Gaul, and Germany.  Next come the seven heads, or Caesars of the Roman Empire, as follows: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius I, Nero, and Galba.  You can guess what this is attempting to prove.  We would have no more need for a Revived Holy Roman Empire and certainly no need to figure out what those four creatures composing it would be.  These are defined by Irvine Baxter of End Time Ministries as the nations of Germany (the four Reichs) revived from a great wound, Great Britain as the lion, Russia as the bear, and the U.S. as the eagle wings coming out of the lion, Britain.  There would be no need for Irvine’s eschatology because the events would have already happened!

Eberle and Martin Trench give two different partial preterist views on the thousand years.  The purpose of the book is quite outwardly honest: he is trying to literally convince readers to change to partial preterists, and at the least, a victorious view of end times, rather than a pessimistic defeated view.  I would give the contrary point through that I do not necessarily think a “futurist” view, as Eberle calls it, is defeatist.  We believe in the end Jesus wins.  We know that even if trials and tribulations come, we do not need to ever be afraid of them, and supernatural protection of the church on earth could occur during that time.  Even further, I also know some Christians believe they will just be raptured out of the tribulations.  The author tries to show there will not be a rapture.  The “rapture” will be a gathering together of the Christians, not just letting them get out of the seven years, and besides, Eberle think the seven years have already happened!

At best, the information presented in this book can sound confusing and like horrible theology if not wholly examined.  Even after thorough examination I am not sure if they can hold water.  Of the sun turning black and the moon to blood, the authors say that this is “a Jewish idiom in reference to coming destruction and the transfer of authority.”  Huh?  What?  As proof, in Ezekiel, these kinds of prophecies are given of Egypt, which he says have already happened, but the sun, moon, and starts did not literally go dark.  This is proof in his eyes that the end times stuff will not be literal but a destruction of governmental authorities that keep ordinary people from the real Christ.  This seems very out there, very “taking things perhaps too far” in my eyes.

I will be honest; I do not know whether I agree with everything Eberle has to say.  At times it seems he is doing everything he can to prove so many things in Revelation wrong.  The reality, however, may be that he is doing his all to prove and expose wrong misconceptions about Revelation.  To me, it is frustrating but also strangely exhilarating.

Take things back to the first century.  Emperors were murdered; the kingdom was divided against itself.  Wars, civil wars, and brutal, inhuman murders of Christians occurred.

Scoffield brought in futurism apparently.  This whole End Times view experimented widely with the whole Left Behind Series.  I look back.  I have read many of the Left Behind Series and watched either one or some movies.  I remember it was entertaining. Maybe the whole purpose of these books and series was to point people to Jesus, to get a culture that is so anti-Christ to take a look at Jesus, or maybe to give Jesus a second chance.  Maybe the purposes of the Left Behind Series was to encourage Christians, help people be ready or get ready for Jesus’ second coming.  Maybe people just needed to take a look into Revelation, and this was what peaked their interest.

Regardless, maybe the Left Behind Series was wrong.  Or perhaps it was right.  From earlier times, I have always known the series may not be exactly biblically correct but it was a cool series and fun read and it was so captivating to watch their chosen actor for the antichrist to portray this.

The Muslims believe in a second coming too, you know.  They just do not hold his divinity.  They do not have a savior coming then, just a prophet.  Jesus cannot merely be prophet.  He is God.  It is a deceptive religion, gripping at their necks.  We know Jesus will come back for us.  The bottom line, I believe, is to be faithful to Jesus, remain faithful not simply called and chosen.  Knowing he will return does not guarantee salvation.  It is if you know Him, not as a prophet only but as a worthy sacrifice for your many sins, and ultimately He knows you.  Gain a relationship with the prophet and you will know he is a God too.

I think Harold has a lot of good at least interesting points, including that there may not be an antichrist coming, as in that one antichrist that sets up the abomination and calls himself God in the temple and stops animal sacrifices in the middle of the seven years.  I did not necessarily think that Satan would take over the religious systems of the world, except for the one world religion set up to eventually worship the antichrist.

To me, this book is frustrating.  I had to deal with a lot of stuff I did not want to deal with.  It was a quick read for me because I was so intrigued.  I finished it about a week ago in about two days with only a few pages left for a third day.  I was that into it.  It was just so capturing.  Perhaps it was because I bought the eBook and the way the pages slid made it easier for me to read (since I heard from a fellow student that he kept falling asleep on it).

I do not think Harold Eberle hits the point in a few areas.  He says the church does not focus on the harvest but it does.  He says that we are not victorious but we are.  We live in victory and make sure Satan does not have his. Yes, we fall short of God’s glory in all these areas, but I’ve seen much good fruit from sincere Christians.

I like the idea of there not coming a great falling away, I really do.  I want to believe it.  BUT IS IT TRUE?  Harold says it is.  I thought there would be (that’s what IHOP teaches).  I know IHOP could be not right in everything, but niether is Eberle perfect and what if Eberle is wrong??  The only trouble was, pretty much everything he said tore at everything I just learned.  I had just been learning so much about the end times in the last two years and now he is basically saying all that is pretty much wrong.  See, you have to see that the way I was newly taught these years is not common thinking.  I have different views than a lot of people, even members of my own family. 

Now he is challenging what I have learned at IHOP and these last couple years.  This is why it is so frustrating:  I thought I was finally understanding and now he’s messing it all up and I honestly don’t know what to believe now!  This was even my speaking topic, now I do not even know if I can do my 20-minute topic knowing all I have now read in this book.  The classmates will have the upper hand knowing all this from the book to disprove things I might say!  Dude.  I was not taught much in depth at all in Revelation growing up, and I was learning so much that I thought was accurate and amazing and revelation into all this.  Now he tears it into pieces.  He is calling the views I that I had before reading this book “common thinking” which I view as uncommon thinking.  I do not think it is common to think believers MIGHT have to go through the tribulation.  Usually I view them think they will be not there.  As I read the Bible, though, that does not seem to make sense or to be what the Bible is saying.

Eberle tries to convince readers from a rapture mentality to a harvest theology, purporting that Christians who focus on the harvest do not have much time to worry about a rapture.  Man, his views are really messing with some theology.  I am not even sure if his teachings are not heretical.  They are surely messing with some edges.  For partial preterists, Cal Pierce states, “Their goal is to get as many people into the kingdom as possible in preparation for the wedding.”

True, yes, pastors may have preached on God pouring out his wrath, but I had come to believe that as various troubles (trumpets) coming over the whole of the earth and then seven bowls of wrath coming only on the unbelievers.  Baxter believes that some of the trumpets have already happened, and gives specific events that are what he thinks they each are.  One of them is the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Irvine says God told him this was when “time changed” and things started speeding up.  But theoretically how can time speed up?  A runner still runs at the same speed whether time is “slower” or “faster” because distance=speed x time.  So if distance stays the same and because the runner would not run faster, both being stable in the equation, the time stays the same.  I do not even understand then how time could even speed up to make things easier for believers. It could be possible if the Bible says it, but who can explain it?

And in recent times as I have studied in Revelation I have even thought in my spirit maybe it (that the bowls would be poured out) is referring to literally the very end, possibly just in the DAY of God’s coming and not over a span of years.  What really concerns me is that Christians do not “miss it.”  I know they will probably be prepared, but for some reason it just does not settle well with my spirit for us to have all the wrong preconceptions about Jesus’ second coming just like the Pharisees did for the first.  I know we may be saved and ready, but I also want to figure this out.  I want to know what is truth.  I want to know if this book is true, if what I learned is true, if what I am living is true.

Where I find the inconsistency with Harold’s book is in verse 26, Matthew 24.  It says “SO if anyone tells you” there is Christ; etc.  This verse seems to be saying that because of the so, all the previous verses were not in fact talking about the destruction of the Temple and Old Covenant, but of the time just preceding Jesus’s return, and by that I mean literally the immediate time preceding that.  Yet at the same time as I read the first verses of Matthew chapter 24 after reading Harold’s whole book, it actually seemed to make sense and match up with what Eberle was talking about.

You know to be honest when I had read that passage before I had wondered about the word “generation.”  I wondered why Jesus could have said that all those things would happen in a generation. Could Jesus be mistaken or have said something wrong?  The answer is obviously ruled as a “no.”  We know Jesus is always true, right, real, honest, and what does it mean?

Another criticism of the book is the book mentions a quote by Wesley.  My question is, ‘What does Wesley mean when he says “re-established universal holiness and happiness”?’ This is where I see there is a different view because I don’t understand this viewpoint.

I REALLY liked how he interspersed evidences by ancient men of faith to back his points and views.  It was akin to having pictures in a book, refreshing, anti-dull.

Harold basically compares the battle of Armageddon to “when every human being must face God.”  What?  Is he just sneaking in heretical thinking into the church?  He is saying the battle will not physically happen.  To me, it seems that there is a battle before the thousand years and then a second one after Satan is taken back out of the pit (this being when Gog and Magog are mentioned, also referenced in the stunning battles prophesied of Ezekiel 38-39).

So, to sum up, Harold Eberle says that 40 years, is a generation, this being the type of generation length when our Jesus was alive.  Could this be?  Sure.  I think it could be.  Could Jesus have been describing the Temple’s destruction?  Wesley said that generation (forty years after his death and resurrection) is when they expected the Messiah to return.  This I do not like because it assumes that disciples falsely expected a time when he would return.  I do not think this is right because it would disprove credibility of other things that are written by them in the Bible.  It is all inspired, so it cannot be that the disciples were mistaken when they mentioned his soon coming.  It is God’s Word, not theirs.  Harolde gives a convincing point when he says the disciples meant that forty years preceding the end times of the Old Covenant and the need for the Temple.

This book presented ideas I had never even thought of before.  It gave so much proof from old men of the faith who I already trust and have read up on before.  The book brought up conversation between me and my mom and me and my dad.  I think it is good to have a conversation starter, to a point, and that point is if this material is even useful.

This book challenged the way I think.  You have to understand the way I think is new.  Like I said I did not really get much teaching on Revelation for my life in church or home until these recent years.  And the little I did hear at church about the dimensions of Jerusalem not being literal, my mom taught me was wrong.  She said it probably really is literal.  In the recent years I thought what the little I had known and been taught was not completely correct.  So I adopted a new (TRUE) view.  Now this book is even challenging that.  It’s not only challenging the first views I had growing up, but now the new ones I had gained.  I admit, this guy has to be smart to know this much on all these sides I had just learned.  He attacked my new view that the believers would possibly have to go through a tribulation (while growing up I had been taught all believers would be taken away before the seven years).

I suppose I could say the change in attitude would be that I have been opened up to a view and that my attitude has changed to maybe think I can possibly accept it, but I will not say more than that as to agreement.  I will not claim to agree with it (even just) yet, and maybe I could even claim all this to be false and heretical.  I believe we are on slightly dangerous ground here and yet, contradictorily, possibly safe ground at the same time.

I am sure this book helped grow my walk with Jesus, as long as all this is true.  Even if it is not it must grow and stretch my relationship with Him because I must wrestle to see and ask Him if it is.  In another sense I am not sure if it helped grow my walk with Jesus.  What is a walk with Jesus?  Is it to be reading every sort of false opinion out there?  I do not think so.  I think it is a walk of intimacy and I am not sure how to sort out all this “out-there” stuff.  This only counts as a strength to the walk because it was a required read.

My favorite part of the book was when he included all the references from the people in different generations.  It gave evidence and perspective that maybe I could trust.  Also, I enjoyed the way it was interspersed so refreshingly throughout this book.

Josephus said the destruction (of that time during the generation) was a time of great turmoil and civil war broke out in Rome.  I had not known there was civil war during that time.  There were also famines and people saying they were the anointed of God (Messiah).  Very interesting.  There was the famine of Claudius’s time, prophesied in Acts.  But my question is why are these specific famines so important when so many have occurred in such various places on the earth?

Earthquakes happened before the horrible destruction of 70 A.D.: many were in that area that Harold says Jesus was referring to, including Smyrna and Pompeii.

I had already thought of the rooftop (flee, don’t go into house) was referring to just that Judea area or the whole world during the end times, he says that other people have said it means the whole world.  I didn’t think that.

He says in the Luke and Mark accounts all that Jesus described was also in Matthew 24.  He says this refers to that time because it was clearly used to describe the answer to that first question of when will these things (the destruction of Jerusalem) happen.  In Matthew there is an addition question, but in all three books are described these things.  Matthew 24:4-22 is answering the first question only.  This book says Jesus answers their question in Mark and Luke and goes into detail about a whole bunch of earthquakes, destruction, famine; etc., which is also included in Matthew, so it is concluded that since material in Matthew 24:4-22 are used to describe the first question in Mark and Luke it is also being used in Matthew to describe the next forty years.

Ultimately, I can try to explain the concepts in this book to others, but if they really want to understand, I think I would just tell them to read the book.  It’s way too in-depth and descriptory for its own good.

He addresses something that could be a stumbling block, which I agree because I had already been thinking it, “well, the futurist view is victorious as well!  We know in the end Jesus will conquer here and now and increasingly in the future as well.  The church is victorious.”  But Eberle and Trench say a futurist perspective (thinking there will be bad things happening, a great falling away, an anti-Christ, Christians alive during the seven years, and a literal battle at Armageddon) is not as victorious as his great, fancy, partial preterist view.

My questions as reading were as follows: “what about the 1000 year reign?  What about the antichrist?  Can he address these things?”  Well, he did eventually go on to give a section for each, and he started to let us know that he would address these things later in the book.  Not sure if his evidence was convincing enough for me.  It seems he tries to “spiritualize” so many “literal” things in Revelation.

Someone figure this out for me.  I am so glad I read this book.  I would say to anyone who has never read it, if you have time, or you feel that God wants you to read the book, read it.  If you feel God does not want you to, do not.  Partially, without getting my oats in too much water, I would say this book is weird. And in fact, the book is so weird.  I would go as far to say the book was entertaining and I got a few good laughs…AT it.  However, who knows, perhaps this book will get the last laugh.