Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
March 10, 2011
Jerusalem and the end times
Clint Dobson was buried yesterday. The 28-year-old pastor of NorthPointe Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas was suffocated last Thursday in a robbery. When we see his picture, Janet and I see our oldest son Ryan. Clint was a graduate of Baylor University and attended Truett Seminary; Ryan graduated from Baylor and attends Truett. This senseless, horrific tragedy could happen to anyone at any time. And we have only today to be ready.
No one but God knows the future. Who would have believed two months ago that the Arab world would be engulfed in a pro-democracy movement unlike any in the region’s history? The civil war in Libya continues today as forces loyal to Col. Gadhafi are battling rebel forces east of Tripoli. Meanwhile in Jerusalem, where our study tour visited only three days ago, officials are preparing for their first snow in three years. Four trucks spread salt around the city at dawn today, as rain and overnight freezing temperatures have created ice on the roads.
The clear message of Revelation is that we must be ready to meet God now. While there are seven different ways that interpreters approach the book, each of them held by outstanding scholars at some point in church history, they agree that “tomorrow” is promised to no one. “Today” is the only day there is. Jesus could come for us all this morning, or any of us could go to him. One day I’ll write my last essay. One day you’ll read your last email. We’re one day closer to eternity than ever before.
In responding to my recent essays regarding the Middle East and the Holy Land, many of you have asked how these events and places fit into the end times. To summarize my doctoral seminar on Revelation in two paragraphs, here are the ways theologians have viewed the book. The “preterist” approach sees Revelation as a first-century document with few if any predictive elements. The “continuous historical” school, by contrast, views the book as forecasting history from the first century to the end of time. The “theological principles” approach does not identify the text with historical events, but emphasizes the victory of good over evil.
The “amillennial” school sees Revelation as forecasting history in seven cycles and treats the “millennium” (Revelation 20:1-6) as symbolic. The “postmillennial” approach believes that the church will usher in the millennial reign of Christ on earth through missions and ministry. The “historic premillennial” approach expects a literal millennium after Jesus returns. The “dispensational premillennial” approach, so popular in the South, forecasts a “rapture” of the church followed by a seven-year Great Tribulation and 1000-year millennial reign of Jesus. Which is right? We’ll continue our discussion tomorrow if the Lord wills. In the meantime, know that God did not put you on the planning committee, but he did elect you to the welcoming committee. The best way to live this Thursday is to be ready to meet Jesus today. Are you?