My Statement of Faith – Part 9

Okay we’ve come to the last post in my “Statement of Faith” series. This one’s on the “end times”. Around 4 years ago, when I was candidating for the position of pastor at Hague Gospel Church, the then-current chairman’s wife brought up the subject of end-times with us in her living room. Her concern seemed to be that I would be one of those sorts of people who go around pushing my opinions about Bible prophecy. I seem to remember her saying she had known someone once who didn’t talk about much else. As I thought about her concern, I resolved inwardly to make sure that if the people whom I serve as pastor can ever point to one subject I never stop talking about, it would be the Gospel (by which I mean the Good News of Christ’s substitutionary atonement as clarified by the Reformation’s doctrines of grace). For this reason, when I visited with people within my congregation I made sure to not push my own ideas about eschatology but rather, when the subject came up, to encourage every person to study the Scripture on the subject and form their own conclusions rather than to simply take someone’s (e.g., a popular writer or preacher) word for it.

Having said that, if I’m asked what I believe, I think it’s appropriate of me to share clearly and with confidence, giving a good explanation and offering evidence from the Bible for my convictions on the end times. I’ve written quite a bit on this subject, some of which was written a long time ago and makes me cringe a little when I read it now, some of which is the product of more mature study recently. Most of my work on the end times can be found at www.historicism.com and at www.prophecyblog.net. The position I take on Bible prophecy used to be called the Protestant View or something like that. Spurgeon called it “Continualism”; others have called it “historicalism”; one of my best friends makes fun of me by calling it “hystericism”—this school of thought came to be known most commonly in the 20th century, as “historicism.” Because there are a variety of types of historicism (e.g., amillennial historicism, favoured by the Reformers; postmillennial historicism, apparently favoured by Jonathan Edwards and by quite a few so-called “Dominion Reconstructionists” today especially in the southern United States) a few years ago, I coined the term, “premillennial historicism”.

When it comes to how one exegetes Scripture, premillennial historicism is most similar to what George Eldon Ladd called, “historic premillennialism.” That view, also held by John Piper according to a recent Q&A at the Desiring God Regional Conference in Vancouver, is called “historic” because it referred to the historically accepted understanding of the order of major prophetic events derived from the study of Bible prophecy. The word, “historic” distinguished this kind of premillennialism from the more recent “dispensational” variety, developed in the mid-19th century by Emmanuel de Lacunza (a.k.a, “Rabbi Ben Ezra”) and systematized by John Nelson Darby and popularized by C.I. Scofield (of the “Scofield Reference Bible”), Dallas Theological Seminary and writers like Tim LaHaye. The major difference between “historic premillennialism” and my view, “premillennial historicism” is not in the order of events expected according to Bible prophecy (i.e., 1. appearance of Antichrist, 2. tribulation, 3. rapture & resurrection of Christians at Christ’s second coming, 4. thousand-year rule of Christ on Earth, 5. ressurection of the wicked and General Judgment, 6. creation of the new Universe), but the method of interpreting how those events in prophecy are to be understood and identified as they are fulfilled in history.

In summary, “historic premillennialism” squishes the fulfillment of most of the book of Revelation into a short few years right before the second coming of Christ. “Premillennial historicism”, on the other hand, identifies the events of Revelation 6-18 as being fulfilled in chronological order (taking into account the structure of the book of Revelation) from the time when John recorded his vision (about 95 AD) until the still future second coming of Christ. In my opinion, of the views on eschatology other than the one I hold, the next best option is “historic premillennialism” for the reason that it is most sound in terms of biblical exegesis. But regardless, I believe that as long as one’s views on prophetic things do not result in heresy (such as denying a future, bodily return of Christ or a future, bodily resurrection from the dead) there is a lot of room in the local Church for diversity in how we interpret Bible prophecy. Our goal, as students of Scripture who are also called to teach and preach God’s Word, should be to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15), practicing careful exegesis and application. And in all things, the Gospel should be the point of all our preaching because the Gospel is the point of all of Scripture… including eschatological prophecy. For this reason, this item in my statement of faith is quite brief.

The End Times

I believe in the visible, personal, and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ at the end of this present age. Although my own views on other matters of prophecy are clear and the result of much study, I believe that all additional details of interpretation regarding the End Times are of secondary importance to faith and are a matter of one’s personal conviction and so should not be used as a test of fellowship.