Something is seriously wrong with the church today. Reformed churches are suffering from dwindling attendance and a significant lack of commitment in their congregations. It seems the only churches that are drawing crowds are the anti-creedal, self help churches that tell people what they want to hear. Many have cited varying reasons for the decline in creedal churches, including psychological and sociological conditions. The truth though is that the problem is, to a significant degree, eschatological.
When churches that should be proclaiming “the full counsel of God” continue in serious error, the end result is what we see today. As the implications of futurism have worked themselves out through history, the ability of creedal churches to influence society has diminished. Being stuck in the futurist time warp, creedal churches have failed to exegetically recognize, and work out the implications of, Christ’s Second Coming in AD 70, and have thus failed to advance the kingdom of God in accordance with fulfilled biblical principles.
Futurism is in essence a mythology. This mythology allows control through fear and ignorance. Many churches speak of Christ as though He’s a cosmic boogey man who could appear at any second of any day. Many believers have lived in fear of thinking a sinful thought at the moment when Christ returns. Others have lived in mortal fear of being left behind in a “rapture” that never happens. Others have lived their lives hoping and longing vainly for an “imminent” return that never happens. When the believer is kept in ignorance through the myth of futurism, he becomes a religious consumer, buying up every “end times” book, every “code” book, and eating them up as gospel. Or he becomes a religious paraplegic, becoming paralyzed by what he sees as the uselessness of any effort. This is the “why polish brass on a sinking ship” syndrome.
He further becomes unable to apply the Bible’s fulfilled principles of life because futurism has left him in the shadowy “yes and no” twilight zone of “already but not yet.” Is the believer fully justified in Christ? Well, yes and no, according to consistent futurism (Rom. 4:24). Futurism implicitly robs us of the presence of Christ and the fulfillment of His promises, forcing us to wait for the millennium or for the end of world history before we can truly be the sons of God (Rom. 8:23) and successfully build His Kingdom. Showing Christians that their soteriological hope is fulfilled in Christ in the here and now, and that they are not standing in need of mythical, future, redemptive events, and showing them what fulfilled eschatology means for them—their family, their community, and society—will go a long way toward recovering and expanding the influence of the Christian faith on the culture.
The dilemma is difficult for many to see. In order to save creedal Christianity and maintain it as the bulwark against error, one of the things we must do is revise the creeds so that they more accurately adhere
to the teaching of Scripture. Unfortunately, most of the reactionaries who attack preterism from the position of the creeds do so to uphold an authority structure and tradition which they merely assume to be biblical, and therefore refuse to allow for even the possibility that the creeds may be unfaithful to the word of God in regard to eschatology.
The biblical record from cover to cover teaches us that taking a stand against traditions and authorities which nullify Scripture is not easy. When leaders take their stand against the teachings of Scripture for the sake of tradition, that is when God raises up “the things which are not” (1 Cor. 1:28)—fishermen, shepherds, janitors, waiters, drivers, etc.,— to stand in the gap. The rise of Reformed preterists within the history of the church can be likened to the conflict between David the shepherd and Saul the king, and between Luther and the One, Holy, Roman Catholic Church—small and humble beginnings, with powerful and profound results to be looked for in the future. Preterists have been forced into the wilderness and caves by those who have felt threatened by our stand for the Word of God; and God continues to add to the number of men and women who are shunned by creedal futurists. These believers have been driven out by Saul-ish spear throwers, but they find their purpose in defending the truth at all costs. And as a result, they become God’s valiant warriors.
It took only a handful of committed Christians with a passion for God’s word to turn the Jewish and Roman world completely upside down with the gospel. God is not calling closet Calvinists or closet preterists, but faithful men to boldly proclaim His truth to His flock. Be assured that persecution and tears will come, but if you faithfully proclaim and trust in God’s Word, He will keep your tears in His bottle and turn back your enemies, and in one way or another, He will vindicate you and the truth together in Him (Jer. 1; Josh. 1; Ps. 56).
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