Garden of Gethsemane
In this first article on Israel and the Prophecies, I'm giving a personal account of how I was first introduced to the subject of Bible prophecy. I wish to illustrate how a systematic use of theological methodology was powerful in showing him that Biblical prophecies will be fulfilled.
In the early 1970s, I recall listening to a series of cassette tapes about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in which the speaker, USA’s Hal Lindsay (author of The Late Great Planet Earth), brought a spirited awareness of a 'mystery doctrine', Christ’s imminent return.
The manner of Lindsay’s teaching gave many Christians a sense of urgency in their Christian witnessing. It created a snowballing effect. For example, I recount how I spoke to a friend about Jesus’ return, and this young man began his own search in the Scriptures, culminating in his own conversion as a follower of Christ, and later became a lawyer.
Theologically, these explanations and interpretations fittled in very neatly to a 'more generous expression of mystical issues', which I believe offeres a kind of a validity to the ‘Charismatic Movement’. One of their expressions of their Christian faith is through lively worship and another expressed itself as speaking in tongues.
Bible teachers such as Lindsay, in my view, provided an 'additional impetus' to this movement, which had started gaining greater momentum within the traditional western style of worship since the 1950s.
The term "Charismatic Movement" is sometimes confused with the term "charismatic." The word "charismatic" is an umbrella term used to describe those Christians who believe that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit seen in the first century Christian church (see e.g. the book of Acts), such as miracles, prophecy, and glossolalia (speaking in other tongues or languages), are available to contemporary Christians and may be experienced and practised today. It is derived from the Greek word χάρισμα ("gift," itself derived from χάρις, "grace" or "favor") which is the term used in the Bible, 1Corinthians 12-14.
"Charismatic Movement," however, expresses the arrival of spiritual gifts in the historic mainline denominations.
I ask, What might Lindsay’s (and others in his genre) method of interpreting the Scriptures teach us about the End Times?
The Revelation’s apocalyptic language and the messages of Daniel and 2 Thessalonians 2, have created diverse opinions, so one way forward is to list what Jesus said of the “Not Yet”.
Every generation asks about the “Now and Not Yet”.
When one reads The Revelation, it is never with the idea that the Apostle John told the pastors of the first century, that what he wrote would not apply until the twenty first century. It would therefore be reasonable to assume that the audience would have thought the End Days would come in their lifetime, or that of their children.
For us today, likewise, it is also reasonable to take Jesus words in Matthew 24 at face value when he speaks of the 'Not Yet'. This is the Linday genre strength in Bible teaching methodology. Matthew 24 says: “And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”
If Jesus' prediction that, 'not one stone' of the magnificent Jerusalem temple would stand upon another, proved to be absolutely correct, so too, we can have confidence in Jesus' 'End Times' statements. One would be on sticky ground if you suggested one statement of Jesus is true and correct, but another statement cannot be so.
There are many references to 'Not Yet' passages in the Bible – and there are also many Biblical warnings regarding ignoring the 'End Times'.
Part of the mystery, that the Lindsay genre teaching, in that these 'timeline lists' of events have 'not been included' in Scriptures as 'a set' chonological timeline. This is an important part of 'the mystery' which captures the imagination of its hearers. This is a critical psychological component of this teaching methodology – 'Here's what Jesus said about End Times, but the chronology remains a mystery.'
An opposing (boring and unexciting) view of “Eschatology” (End Times), says that the Bible speaks of “Who & Why” and not the “How & When”. This kind of takes away the fun and expectancy of it all.
The Linday genre is straight forward and has a unique way in which it challenges people to faith. And those who solemnly criticize such 'End Times timeline lists' on the basis of “selectively choosing texts” do the very same thing, when they search the Scriptures to support other doctrines, as this is indeed a legitimate and systematic theological methodology (collating verses on a specific topic).
In other words, collating texts on 'End Times' is as legitimate as is collating texts on the doctrine of 'Sanctification'.
Therefore a listing of texts is not in itself a problem, and it can be helpful.
Matthew 24 is the most systematic of Jesus’ words on End Times. It doesn’t take too much effort to list out events (not necessarily a chronology) from Matthew 24 on the assumption that Jesus' words are to be taken at face value. And the ‘evidence’ that this can be done is that some of the Prophecies have already been fulfilled in the context of the history of Israel.
The 'not yet' events from Matthew 24:
The Temple Rebuilt - verse 15;
The Man of Sin Revealed - verse 15;
People in or of Judah Flee - verse 16;
The Great Tribulation - verse 21;
Salvation of the Jewish Remnant - verses 23-28
The Sun and Moon Darkened - verse 29;
Messiah’s Coming in the Atmosphere - verse 30-31;
The Resurrection of the Righteous Dead - verse 31;
The Catching Up of the Righteous Living - verse 31;
Messiah’s Return to Earth in Wrath - verses 48-51.
Depending on how anyone of us interprets these verses, there can be accompanying texts for all of these, from the Old Testament books of Daniel, Zechariah, Joel and Isaiah, and the New Testament Books, 1 & 2 Thessalonians and The Revelation.
The issue is the assumption that by taking Jesus’ words at face value, we have an understanding of End Times (the “How & When”), while recognising that, historically, there have been many great differences in interpretations.
Perhaps the next step should be to look at the warnings there are for not taking 'End Times' seriously. 2 Peter 3 verses 3 and 4: ‘Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’
And verse 9: ‘The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up’.
The Lord's promises are genuine and moreover, taking Matthew 24 as a description of what is to come, seems verified by Peter's declaration.
David's Tomb view
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html