Category Archive: Theology – Eschatology
All narrow confessionalism and all complacency in any local ecclesiastical tradition must hear the apostolic judgment: “What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?” (1 Cor. 14:36) — Richard Paquier, Dynamics of Worship, 52n9.
The other day, in a discussion with a friend, I called to mind a sermon I once read by C. H. Spurgeon. Spurgeon’s eschatology was, shall we say, unusual. From various statements he made, it seems clear that he was a premillennialist of sorts, but certainly not a dispensationalist. In fact, he disagreed vigorously with Darby and you’ll spot what is surely a reference to Darby’s innovative views in the last quotation below (“new schemes and fancies and interpretations of prophecy”).
But where most premillennialists today talk as if the world is going to get worse and worse and worse until finally, at last, Jesus comes back to rescue us, Spurgeon … well, Spurgeon talks differently. The sermon is on Isaiah 52:13ff.:
The text, then, claims for Jesus Christ that the influence of His grace and the power of His work shall be extended over many nations, and shall have power not over the common people only, but over their leaders and rulers. “The kings shall shut their mouths at Him”; they shall have no word to say against Him; they shall be so subdued by the majesty of His power that they shall silently pay Him reverence, and prostrate themselves before His throne. Kings, mark you….
Kings have not shut their mouths at Him yet; they have mostly opened their mouths wide against Him, and reviled and blasphemed Him and persecuted His saints. There must be brighter days to come for this poor world yet, when even princes shall humbly obey our Lord…. Assuredly the day will come when the mightiest prince shall count it his highest honour to have his name enrolled as a member of the Church of Christ. “Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him” (“The Sure Triumph of the Crucified One,”Spurgeon’s Sovereign Grace Sermons 46-47).
Notice that Spurgeon is not talking about this happening after Jesus returns (e.g., in a millennium in which Jesus will rule on earth). He’s talking about something that will happen before Jesus returns, something that he expects in the future between the time he preached this sermon and the time of Jesus’ return. Here’s more:
The success of the gospel is in no jeopardy whatever. Jesus must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. If the devil can persuade you that Christ is goin gto give up the war, or is going to fight it out on another line, and dispense with your efforts, you will soon grow idle. You will find an excuse for laziness in some supposed conversion of the world by miracle, or some other wonderfu laffair. You will say the Lord is coming, and the war will all be over at once, and there is no need for your fighting it out now.
Do not believe it. Our Commander is able to fight it through on this line; in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, by the power of the Eternal Spirit, we are bound to keep right on till this world yields before God…. Brethren, Popery must fall, Mohommedanism must come down, and all the idol gods must be broken, and cast to the moles and to the bats. It looks a task too gigantic, but the bare arm of God — only think of that — His sleeve rolled up, Omnipotence itself made bare, — what cannot it accomplish?
Stand back, devils! when God’s bare arm comes into the fight you will all run like dogs, for you know your Master. Stand back, heresies and schisms, evils and delusions; you will all disappear, for the Christ of God is mightier than you. Oh, believe it. Do not be downhearted and dispirited, do not run to new schemes and fancies and interpretations of prophecy. Go and preach Jesus Christ unto all the nations. Go and spread abroad the Savior’s blessed name, for He is the world’s only hope. The cross is the banner of our victory. God help us to look to it ourselves, and then to hold it up before the eyes of others, till our Lord shall come upon His throne (50-51).
The last phrase (“till our Lord shall come upon His throne”), with its suggestion that Jesus is not yet enthroned (on earth, presumably), is the hint that suggests that Spurgeon was a premillennialist. I’m not. But if what Spurgeon preached was premillennialism, then we need more of it. Which is to say, would that all who fall into the premillennialist camp today shared Spurgeon’s solid hope in the “sure triumph of the Crucified One.”
Last weekend, I lectured on Philippians, taught Sunday School (on the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6), and preached twice (Psalms 6 and 7) at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church in Monroe, Louisiana. The lectures, given for the Bucer Institute, should soon be online here or here. I had a great time in Louisiana. My last visit was six years ago, and I hope my next visit isn’t that far in the future.
In the Portland airport, on my way back home, I read a new book on eschatology by Auburn Avenue’s associate pastor, Duane Garner. Here are a few paragraphs to whet your appetite. In the context, Garner has been talking about Hal Lindsey’s recommendation that Christians retreat from society because things are going to get worse and worse until Jesus returns:
What is most disturbing about Lindsey’s writing here is that he talks about retreating from a culture that he helped create. When he wrote his first book, the abortion issue had not yet gone to the Supreme Court, homosexuality was still taboo, drugs and pornography were nowhere near as prevalent or as accessible as they are today, marriage was still viewed as a sacred union, and outside of a few areas of this country, it was still expected that nearly everyone worshipped in a Christian church on the Lord’s Day. Then Lindsey came onto the scene proclaiming that we are living on what will soon be the late great planet Earth. Christians accepted the hype and retreated into their homes and their splintered churches while the world went to hell.
After thirty years of this end-times hysteria, the church has fallen from her former influential position in society. Without any plan for the future, and hardly a plan for the present, the church has lost every single significant cultural battle that has faced our generation. The church keeps thinking that if she can just hold out a little longer, Jesus will come back and everything will be all better. After all, any effort to make this a better world will only delay the second coming.
What they miss in the midst of all this madness is that Jesus placed his church in a position to succeed at her mission. He fully expected her to complete her work and we should not expect him to return until she is finished. The failure of dispensationalists to see that the world is already under the Kingship of Jesus Christ has led them to accept defeat at the hands of a powerless enemy. Like the Israelite spies who viewed the land of Canaan and shook in fear at the giants they saw there, dispensationalists do not believe their God is mightier than the giants and they do not believe him when he promises to crush the head of the serpent through the means of his triumphant church. — Duane Garner, Why The End Is Not Near: A Refutation of End-Times Hysteria (Monroe: Athanasius Press, 2008), pp. 37-38.