From Here to Eternity
By: Pete Garcia
The Christian world is currently divided into two groups. There are those who suffer under the boot of physical persecution, and those who do not. Those currently experiencing persecution include Christians from the Middle and Far East, Africa, various Latin American countries, and those who live in western nations, but predominantly non-Christian communities.
Then there are those countries who tolerate Christianity in varying forms, and in these communities, the persecution has not so much been physical, but ideological. It is a battle in the marketplace of ideas. Whereas Christians in persecution-prone areas are persecuted for nothing more than identifying themselves as Christians, and perhaps attending churches. Those of us, who are not currently being persecuted, are trying to make the Gospel message relevant in societies who are increasingly embracing more vitriolic forms of decadence.[By West I mean; Europe, Israel, N. America, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and Australia.]
In these countries, many ministries are going about attempting to bridge the gap between the cultures they are in, with the message they want to convey. Some ministries focus on the economic necessities to make inroads into certain communities. Some focus purely on evangelism, while others focus on the differing denominational approaches to sharing the Good News. Primarily, the study of Prophecy as it pertains to the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, has gained great traction through the medium of the internet, which it uses to relay articles and message, podcasts, and YouTube videos to show differing points of views as to where we are in relation to the return of Christ.
The Omega Letter is one such medium. Started by Jack Kinsella over ten years ago, it surveyed the Scriptures from a distinctly Pre-Millennial, Dispensational stand point. Jack has passed on to glory last March, and still our OL community stands because as Jack would frequently say, it’s not about me, it’s about the Message. Well, it is not about me either, or Wendy, JL, Alf, or Jim. It is all about what Christ did and who He is. And because Christ came, died, and rose again on the third day, we are compelled to continue to share this Good News with a world who by and large, is dying both physically and spiritually.
More specifically, it is about a hermeneutical understanding of that Message, and making sure that what we teach is in line with and in context with what the rest of Scriptures state. Many people are out there today promoting their interpretation of the Scriptures, or how things will go down in the future. But does what they teach line up with the rest of Scriptures? If it does, great! Support those ministries. If it does not, then steer clear of them. Let me put this in a practical context.
As a pilot, we very often have to do course corrections when we get away from the heading we are trying to keep. If I’m flying and I need to hold a heading of 35 degrees (northeast), and the wind keeps pushing me over to 33 degrees, it’s not a big deal… at first…because we are only talking inches and feet. But if I continued to hold 33 degrees for an extended period of time, then those feet turn into miles, and pretty soon, I’m way off course.
Does prophecy matter? I’ve been told numerous times, that it doesn’t but is a secondary issue, having no bearing on salvation. In the end they say, all things will just ‘pan out’ so why bother? I think there are numerous fallacies in the above statement. Let’s put this back into the context of flying.
If I were flying a plane using Visual Flight Rules (VFR), that means that I’m just flying and using my eyes to ‘see and avoid’ other aircraft, towers, mountains, etc. Holding a heading in VFR is important, but not as critical as long as you know where your intended point of destination is and how to get there. If I’m flying Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), then I’m not trying to ‘see and avoid’, but using my instruments to follow a specific heading, altitude, and airspeed to hit specific points, because the pathway has already been proven safe. It doesn’t matter if I can see outside the aircraft or not, because I know I won’t run in to anything. That’s why when you fly commercial, planes have no issue ascending or descending into a huge mess of clouds when taking off or landing. Being IFR means you trust your instruments to safely navigate you from one place to another.
I would equate Christians who don’t study or care about prophecy much like flying VFR. They know which general direction they need to go, and as long as the sun is shining and the weather is good, they aren’t worried too much about what lies ahead. But as the news and historical records show, many a plane have crashed thinking they would have good enough weather to get to where they were going. If you know how to fly IFR, flying VFR is easy. If you only know how to fly VFR, then you will be in a world of hurt if you get in a situation when you can no longer trust your eyes to get you where you need to go.
“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:19-21
A Pre-millennial, Pre-Tribulation, Dispensational view of Eschatology (the study of last things), places one on a precise, intended destination in the course of Scriptures and is akin to flying IFR. It is precise because if you begin to deviate from the structure that is laid out in Scriptures, you will be way off course by the time you get to the end. Some key points here will help you navigate through the Scriptures:
1. God never changes, but He has revealed His plan to man progressively from Adam until John which is what our scriptures largely comprise. One need only look at the major changes to mankind that were wrought through specific events: the fall, the flood, call of Abram, call of Moses, Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, Acts 2, and the Pauline epistles. We are in the process of watching it unfold today.
2. The Church is the Body and Bride of Christ. We are the body of Christ (1 COR 12) in the sense of our unity and purpose. We are the Bride in our relationship to Christ. (2 Cor. 11:2)
3. The Church is NOT Israel. Israel gave birth to the Messiah (Jesus Christ), and out of Christ came the Church. (Matt. 16:17-21).
5. God made eternal and binding covenants with the Jews and the nation of Israel long before any even knew who the Messiah would be. (Gen. 15, 2 Sam. 7:1-17) This is key because many Christians today are promoting that we are Israel, and this wrings about all sorts of confusion.
6. Our salvation as individuals was planned before the beginning of the world. We are not saved by what we do, but rather, by our being drawn to Christ through the Holy Spirit, and then having the righteousness of Christ applied to our lives…whether we think we deserve it or not. (2 Cor. 5:21)
7. When we are saved, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14, 2 Cor. 1:21-22) until the day of Redemption. That day, being the Rapture (or catching up) of the Church of God into heaven. (Titus 2:13, Heb. 9:28)
8. The Rapture has to happen before the Tribulation can begin, because we are not subject to God’s wrath, nor do serve any purpose during the Tribulation. (Jer. 30:11, Dan. 9:24, 2 Pet 2:9). The 144,000 and the Two Witnesses will be commissioned to spread the Gospel and call down Judgment on the earth.
So does having the wrong Eschatology make a difference in today’s world? I say it plays a major role in how you interpret why our world is falling apart. Having the wrong Eschatology determines whether you stand with, or against Israel. It matters in how you spend your time. It matters in understanding that the Scriptures never state that things will get better in the last days, but they will grow increasingly dark and wicked. It matters if you want to give specific reasons for the hope inside you. These specific reasons are tangible ones you can point to and prove that the Bible is true, that our salvation is real, and that time is running out.
Countless hundreds of thousands have come to Christ because they were initially interested in understanding prophecy. It is a part of human nature to inquire about what the future holds. Apart from salvation by grace through faith, and the Triune nature of our God, Biblical prophecy is unique because our God is not bound by time. He is the only One that knew the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10), and shares that with those who are His so we too could know, and believe.
Bible prophecy is a faithful guide when the times grow dark, and when our path becomes obscured by the obstacles in our life. It helps us to realize that this life is but a vapor, but eternity will be our real home. It is an encouragement to those who under persecution, and for those who are not, keeps the knowledge of our redemption from becoming stale and bitter.
“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” Revelation 3:10
One last point I would like to make on this and that it has cemented in my soul the truth and inerrancy of the Scriptures. Studying prophecy purifies us because it keeps our focus on Christ and His soon return instead of the trials and tribulations of this life. It purifies us, because we don’t know when that shout and trump of God could be calling us to our home in eternity.
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18