“Eschatology deals with the future, the near future and the distant future, the future of the church and the future of this world, the future of the devil and his hosts and the future of King Jesus and His relationship to all created things.
Getting eschatology wrong has been disastrous for most nominal Christians these days because their hope is earthly. Their expectations are for improvements here and now, soon. They believe God’s goal with the Church’s labour is a Christianised world. So they press their efforts to fulfil the ‘cultural mandate.’ They labour hard to create an earthly kingdom. Rather than carry out the Great Commission to bring to the nations the gospel of forgiveness in Jesus Christ, they want to redeem society from its chaos. Their desire is to bring the nations the ‘good news’ of social equality, food for the poor, clean water, justice for women and other oppressed people, and probably a vaccine for COVID-19. They are convinced that these are what God wants for the world and that the Church is the instrument to bring them about.
In addition to being bad ecclesiology, it’s also false teaching regarding eschatology. Instead of quickening hope in the coming of Christ, the false teaching leads to despondency, because the depressing happenings in the world do not bode well for a Christianised world. And as for the nominal Christian Church, her drift towards Roman Catholicism and her ecumenical adulteries have rendered her impotent for gospel good.
Someone once said that when a man expects to be “hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Wrong eschatology does not concentrate one’s mind, but clouds and then confuses it. It dulls one’s thinking, lulls the Church to sleep, as it imagines a future of ease and prosperity. If the future is to be so bright, how can such evils increase in the world? And what can be done to turn the world into a peaceful place, to make the crooked straight, and rough places plain, when men and nations are so vile? Their hopes are shaken. Worse, they expose themselves to the allurements of the Antichrist who, Scripture teaches, will someday solve the world’s problems.
This is the error of neo-Calvinism today, in which the false teaching of ‘common grace’ predominates special, redeeming grace. Common grace prided itself in being a ‘two-track’ theology, special saving grace on one track, common grace on the other. God’s ‘common grace’ will remedy the world’s violence, poverty, injustice. Special grace saves souls an prepares them for heaven. But the ‘two-track’ theology has become a monorail of common grace. Neo-Calvinists focus on the common grace that will save bodies and give a good life on earth. Neo-Calvinism is completely exposed to N.T. Wright’s “heaven on earth” mantra.
The bracing realism of Reformed orthodoxy ‘concentrates our minds wonderfully.’ Reformed theology focuses our minds on, and directs our efforts to, preaching the gospel of God’s gracious salvation and establishing Churches. Reformed ecclesiology teaches that the true church is the “Israel of God,” the new ‘nation’ for which He cares, and that the Church institute is the messenger of that gospel. And Reformed eschatology is millennial (that is, does not teach an earthly millennial kingdom.
Biblical doctrine of the end times does promise victory to the Church by faith in Jesus Christ. But it teaches that the victor comes through tribulation, suffering, persecution (John 16.33; Acts 14.22). It teaches that Christ’s coming is preceded by wars and rumours of war, pestilence and other troubles in this life, and apostasy in the Church (2Thessalonians 2). It teaches that the days right before the coming of Christ will be like the days of Noah (Matthew 24.37-39), terrible days of apostasy and unbelief when the true Church will be small and preachers of God’s righteousness ridiculed.”
From “The Standard Bearer, July 2020, Prof Barry Gritters.
(James R Hamilton, written July 2020)