The Significance of the Eschaton for our Ministry Objectives

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ESCHATON FOR OUR MINISTRY OBJECTIVES: HOW ESCHATOLOGY IMPACTS WORSHIP, INSTRUCTION, FELLOWSHIP AND EVANGELISM

Introduction – For the majority of my time in pastoral ministry, I have gone out of my way to avoid eschatology. A part of that is well represented by Merrill C. Tenney. In explaining the common pastoral misgivings of preaching or applying eschatology, Tenney reflects on the fears of many in ministry:

If I stand in my pulpit, and preach eschatological message, how do I know that my interpretation is correct? Am I simply giving a little harmless amusement to those who are curiosity seekers? Am I simply tickling the ears of the eschatologically curious? Am I preaching on the periphery of Christian truth, when I should be preaching on its very center? What good does it do to preach on the anti-Christ to people who need, first of all, to be saved? Why should I emphasize the second coming when so many of them have no particular convictions about the first?

A second reason I have avoided the topic is the way many who hold my basic understanding of dispensationalism and premillennialism present the various eschatological themes. Many times we are left to think that God worked in the good ol’ days, but He’s essentially gone now. It is so nasty that there is really no hope of revival and no hope of any significant works of the Holy Spirit? All there is really left to do is to wring our hands and wait for the rapture. The last time I sat in one of these presentations, the gloom in the air was so thick, I’m almost positive I could actually hear the muffled blowing of the ship’s horn as the Titanic sank beneath the icy waves of the Atlantic. Fortunately not all who take a pre-mill or even some-what classical view of dispensationalism, are as pessimistic concerning modern-day ministry. This of course paints just one extreme view of eschatology and modern-day ministry.

On the other hand, contrasted with these “doom and gloomers,” are those who seem to have a “Bomb-Shelter/Conspiracy Theory” version of eschatology. These well-meaning brothers typically can’t wait to share with you the newest “sign.” You can often determine when you have run into one of these brothers, because they are the ones who still have 50 pounds of dried beans left over from Y2K, a hidden armory of semi-automatic weapons (just in case Rosenthal is right!), and a case of “left-behind” videos to pass out to their unsaved friends with a “do-not-open-until-apocalypse-starts” written on each. My eschatological response to all of this has been to examine more deeply my view of Soteriology! Frankly, I have often privately mused in my mind that it would be much easier to find modern-day implications to eschatology if I were an amillennialist or even a postmillennialist.

Within the last few years my outlook and appreciation for eschatology has begun to change. That is to say, application to contemporary objectives is clearer than earlier in ministry. It’s not that I would have denied its aid prior; I just didn’t really know how eschatological truth directly impacted the day to day ministry objectives of a local church. I find myself looking more and more at those passages where we learn of the eschaton.  I am finding more and more modern-day significance and application based on that which is slated to occur in the eschaton.

Please note: The goal this morning is not to nail down with you the right view of dispensationalism, the tribulation, or the kingdom. Typically when a teacher or lecturer mentions these topic connected with eschatology, many of the students grab their microscopes to examine how close to the truth the teacher is! Connected with that is a curiosity as to how close (or how far out) the brother’s view is to our own. This morning, we ask the following question, “What practical implications does the eschaton have on contemporary, local church ministry?” Or perhaps an even more pointed question: How does your view of the eschaton, affect your approach to your ministry objectives?

I would like for us to think in terms of eschatological themes. While the lecturer identifies with a dispensational and premillennial view of eschatology, his goal is not necessarily to focus on an apologetic of this system. This is done for several reasons. First, because of the nature of this workshop, we want to ultimately focus on ministry application. This is not to suggest that we should shirk the individual responsibility to wrestle with our understanding of eschatology. It is to ask that we work to focus on application of eschatological themes that most of us hold to for real-life ministry. Second, it is done because of the realization that there is a great deal of diversity as to how each of us views eschatology. Some of us tend to be more closely aligned with a classical view of dispensationalism. The result of that will often be a view of the Kingdom that essentially rules out social concerns for modern-church activity. Others, typically leaning more toward the progressive dispensational camp, see a larger connection between the church and the Kingdom of God. Consequently these ministries are often characterized by a more aggressive participation with social concerns. While these distinctions are unavoidable, I would like to challenge us to try to look beyond these hard distinctions in an attempt to agree on the more general and major eschatological themes. How do these themes (that most of us would agree on), impact ministry?

You will notice in your notes Appendix A. This quickly outlines the Philosophy and Ministry structure of Southeast Valley Baptist Church (SVBC). This will quickly explain the connection between the purpose, objectives, priorities, vision, mission, values and application of ministry at SVBC in Gilbert, AZ. I would like to demonstrate this morning how these theological themes of eschatology, have a practical and day-to-day ministry impact on ministry objectives.

I have 3 Goals:

  1. To give you a quick snap-shot into the philosophy of ministry and the ministry objectives that we have a Southeast Valley Baptist Church in Gilbert, AZ (This hopefully will be brief and to the point).
  2. To give you a quick run-down into what I believe to be the more significant theological themes of eschatology.
  3. To demonstrate how those eschatological themes inform and connect with our ministry objectives and practice.

I.    The Ministry Objectives of Southeast Valley Baptist Church
(Notice Appendix A) Let’s examine closely our four objectives:

Worship – A commitment to prayer, praise to and proclamation of God.

Instruction – A commitment to progressive discipleship through expositional teaching, preaching and mentoring through God’s Word.

Fellowship – A commitment to edifying one another through mutual accountability and encouragement.

Evangelism – A commitment to see the gospel spread through the development of redemptive relationships home, cross-culturally, and internationally.

II.    The Theological Themes found within eschatology

The defining of our terms – By “eschatology,” we simply mean the study of last things. The term eschaton speaks to this period that is typically referred to within the field of eschatology. Practically, theologians usually speak of the eschaton as a way of referring to the time of the seven year tribulation, the millennial kingdom and the eternal state; however, theologically, the eschaton has been ongoing since the first advent (Hebrews 1:2; 9:26). Exegetically and theologically, the eschaton actually ends with the Second Advent (Math 24:3).

The identifying of the themes: The doctrine of eschatology is both challenging and expansive. Because of our desire to move from theology to practical ministry application we will limit this study to a thematic approach. The following would be Joel’s opinion as to the main theological themes of the eschaton:

1.    The Death of the Body

As Erickson points out, this issue of physical death really speaks to “individual eschatology” vis-à-vis a “cosmic eschatology.” McCune makes the point that “…individual eschatology occurs at death; the cosmic eschatology is at the second coming.” Chafer makes the important point that “Being, as it is, a penalty for sin, death in its varied forms is foreign to the original creation as it came from the hand of God. Being a penalty, such portions of it, being eternal cannot be removed.” What happens when the body dies?

a.    The Three Spheres of Death

(1)    Physical Death – This takes place at the moment the immaterial part of man (the soul/spirit) separates from the body (see Genesis 35:18; James 2:26). This remains permanent until the resurrection. While the whole person dies, the body decays while the soul/spirit of man continues to live in the intermediate state in either heaven or hell (Luke 16:22).

(2)    Spiritual Death – This is separation from God. A spiritually dead person cannot know or understand God. In the words of the late, Dr. James Montgomery Boice, “According to Romans 3, no one unaided by God 1) has any righteousness by which to lay a claim upon God, 2) has any true understanding of God, or 3) seeks God.”

(3)    Second Death – This is the permanent separation of the non-believer from God. It is the continual and eternal abode of the damned. (See Math. 10:28, Rev. 20:14; 21:8).

b.    The Theological Corollaries of Death

(1)    Death, which came as a result of Adam’s sin (Gen 2:17; 3:19; 5:12; 1 Cor 15:22), was not part of the perfect creation of the cosmos (Gen 1:31).

(2)  The theological base for death is sin (Gen 2:17; Rom 5:12, Ps 90:7-11). The ultimate cause is God himself (1 Samuel 2:6; Job 14:5). This of course is not out of character because it is God who keeps man living (Ps 66:9). God has complete control over the details of man’s life and his death. It was this theme Edwards focused on in his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” This clearly connects with real-life ministry. It also should add sufficient motivation for both believer and non-believer.

2.    The Resurrection

When we refer to the resurrection, we are focusing on the resurrection of the body (1 Cor 15:53; 2 Tim 2:18). The resurrection is not a single event but rather a series of events. In 1 Cor 15:23 – 24, the reader will notice in describing the resurrection that there is an order or ταγμα. Paul explains that the three “groups” are 1) Christ the first fruits, 2) Those who are Christ’s at His coming, 3) The final judgment of the wicked – The end!

a.    The Precursor to the Resurrection: The Intermediate State.

b.    The Pattern of the Resurrection: The resurrection of Christ (Notice 1 Cor 15:12-19; 2 Cor 4:14; Rom 8:11). As stated by W.W. Clark, “The resurrection of Christ is held forth as a pledge and promise of His people’s resurrection, and as the sure foundation of their hope.”

c.    The Plan of the Resurrection

(1)    Stage one – The resurrection of Christ (Math 28:1-7, John 20:1-10).

(2)    Stage two – The token resurrection of some saints at the time of the resurrection of Christ (Math 27:50-53).

(3)    Stage three – The resurrection of the dead in Christ, followed by the translation of the living saints and then the rapture of both groups (1 Cor 15:20-24, 35-50, 1 Thess 4:13-18).

(4)  Stage four – The resurrection of the two witnesses (Rev 11:3-13). This
Takes place near the middle of the tribulation.

(5)  Stage five – The resurrection of the Old Testament saints (Isa 26:19-21; Dan
12:2). This takes place at the end of the tribulation.

(6)    Stage six – The resurrection of the tribulation saints (Rev 20:4-6).
This takes place also at the end of the tribulation.

(7)    Stage seven – The resurrection of the wicked dead (Rev 20:11-15). Apparently at the end of the millennium, the “rest of the dead that did not come to life until the thousand years were completed” are resurrected and judged.

3.    The Rapture of the Church

The argument has been typically not on a definition but rather a time. Theologically, the rapture of the church is an aspect of the Lord’s second coming. The participants of the rapture (John 14:3, 2 Thess 2:1; Rom 8:23; Rom 13:11), are all NT believers (only NT believer’s are theologically “in Christ;” Dan 12:2 explains when OT believers are resurrected). First in the rapture is the resurrection of all church saints who have died (1 Thess 4:16), followed by the transformation of living church saints (1 Cor 15:51-52), culminating in the ascension of all NT believers (1 Thess 4:16 – 17).

4.    The Second Coming of Christ

a.    The Importance of the Second Coming.

The one and only point of eschatology that all true historic fundamentalist believe is the fact of a second coming of Christ. Princeton Theological Seminary employed some of the most vocal defenders of Biblical Fundamentalism in the movements opening fights. One of those champions was a professor Charles R. Erdman. Concerning the importance of this doctrine, Erdman states,

“The return of Christ is a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. It is embodied in hymns of hope; it forms the climax of the creeds; it s the sublime motive for evangelistic and missionary activity; and daily it is voiced in the inspired prayer: ‘Even so: Come, Lord Jesus’.”

That differences abound as to the various details, Erdman also comments,

“Like the other great truths of revelation it is a controverted doctrine. The essential fact is held universally by all who admit the authority of Scripture; but as to certain incidental, although important, elements of the teaching, there is difference of opinion among even the most careful and reverent students. Any consideration of the theme demands, therefore, modesty, humility and abundant charity. . .”

b.    The Results of the Second Coming.

(1)    He comes to squash rebellion through war (Rev 19:11 – 12).

(2)    He comes to lead his church after the marriage supper of the Lamb, into battle. The church is present to reign with Christ after the defeat of his enemies. (Rev 19:13-14).

(3)    He comes to set up judgment as the “Lion of Judah” (Rev 19:15).

(4)    He comes to declare the arrival of the King and the Kingdom (Rev 19:16).

(5)  He comes to deliver the execution of Armageddon (Rev. 19:17-21).

5.    The Kingdom of God

a.    The Debate

Perhaps the most energetic exchanges between historic fundamentalist today within the study of eschatology is found in this issue of the Kingdom of God. There seems to be at least three groups. First are those who see a strict view of the Kingdom as essentially limited to the eschaton. The church is totally separate from the Kingdom. The second are those who like the first group, see the Kingdom as physical, concrete and promised to Israel, with members of the church presently having some “membership” with the future Kingdom. The third group sees the Kingdom as being both here and yet at the same time future. It seems that this last position is becoming the most prominent today among classical premilliennialists (typically quoting their champion, George Ladd), current amillennialists (such as Anthony Hoekema) as well as progressive disepensationalists (Bock, Blaising and Saucy). While these views do differ on elements of the future Kingdom, they are similar in the way they see the “here but not yet” aspect of the Kingdom. This lecturer has had dear friends and mentors in all three camps. In my opinion, this is not an issue to draw tight lines of separation on. It is however an issue that should be met with a gentle, humble, teachable, and prayerful spirit. In the words of this lecturer’s theological mentor, Dr. Rolland McCune,

“…neither the tenets of dispensationalism nor covenant theology are part of the defining doctrine of the fundamentalist movement. It would appear to be unwise to cast fundmantentalism into an exclusive mold of dispensational premillennialsims. Distinctions and convictions can and must be maintained individually and institutionally, but they have not been definitive rubrics for fundamentalism as a movement.”

The Details

The primary meaning of both malkuth (OT) and basileia (NT) is the authority, reign or rule of a king. As pointed out by Saucy, this rule has both an “abstract/dynamic” concept, as well as a “concrete.”  There is one kingdom. There are two aspects of this single kingdom. The first aspect is what Roy Beacham calls, “Universal Kingdom.”  This is God’s macrocosmic rule over creation. In the opinion of this writer, this is a corollary to God’s sovereignty (see Ps 22:28; 45:6; 66:7; 103:19; 145:11-13,). The second aspect of this single kingdom is what Beacham calls, “the Mediatorial Kingdom.”  This is God’s microcosmic rule over Israel. It is this mediatorial aspect of the Kingdom that will be realized only in the eschaton. Present believers are members of that future kingdom. And as such do have present kingdom “responsibilities.” While the church does not have corporate responsibilities in the mediatorial realm, it seems consistent with this writer that the church does share in the responsibility of submitting to the universal kingdom principles found both in the Old Testament and in the Gospels. There are of course clear NT ethics given to the corporate church; however, there also seems to be room for the application of kingdom principles found throughout Scripture. It is here that one can make a case that the corporate church has some social responsibility to demonstrate Christ’s love to its neighbor. To deny this, seems to result in the jettison of a universal teaching, which applies to all of God’s people, in each dispensation. This should impact real ministry. This is not because we are trying to bring the Kingdom of God into existence. It is because the church represents the present King of the universe. And that king has clearly left a transdispensational mandate to love God, and love our neighbor. It seems hard to see how that would apply to the OT saint, the OT covenant community, the NT believer, but not the NT church? This concept has so gripped the leadership at Southeast Valley Baptist Church that we have determined to demonstrate this commitment through our motto, “Worshiping our God, loving our neighbor.” We believe that this aspect of loving our neighbor is not only for the individual believer, but should characterize Christ’ church, both universal and local.

Please Note: The lecturer believes that technically the Kingdom is not inaugurated. However he does believe that passages such as Romans 14, (which state that the “Kingdom is peace, righteousness, joy” – sounds like fruit of the spirit), 2 Corinthians 4, Mathew 13, Colossians 1:13, do speak to some present “mystery form” of the Kingdom of God. However, unlike some progressive dispensationalist, he also believes that the offer of the Kingdom of Matthew 13 was a legitimate offer. Furthermore, this mystery form of the Kingdom is not the Davidic form.

6.    The Day of the LORD

a.    A definition – A time when God shows his sovereign power as previously announced in prophetic revelation.

b.    Applications – The Day of the LORD has multiple contexts of God’s judgment and blessing activity. This writer believes that the context of the day in Ezekiel and Lamentation speaks to the prophetic fall of the Southern Kingdom. The day in Amos 5, speaks to the fall of the Northern Kingdom. That is the Assyrian conquest of 722 B.C. The day in Joel, chapter one refers to a contemporary locust plague that is dated around 735 B.C. However, the day of the LORD elsewhere refers to the judgment and blessing of individuals within the eschaton (such as referred to in the rest of Joel, Malachi 4:1, and the focus of prophecy in the book of Zephaniah). Concerning the elements of this day, J. Barton Payne observes,

“The ‘day,’ moreover, may entail either a blessing or a curse. It may concern God’s elect people Israel, or it may apply to the nations of the pagan world. It may produce effects that are cataclysmic and cosmic, or it may come to pass in a way that is quietly providential and localized. The one feature common to all of these passages is this: that the day of Yahweh does concern the action of God in human history for the progressive accomplishment of His redemptive testament.”

c.    The time-frame for the eschatological Day of Yahweh.

The eschatological phase of the “Day of Yahweh” would begin at the rapture. It would continue through the rapture, including the destruction of the wicked. It would continue through the millennium and involve the blessings of Israel. It would consummate itself at the end of the Millennium as the final judgment is accomplished at the Great White Throne judgment. The day is complete prior to the entering into the Eternal State.

The Judgments

As stated in the previous section, the majority of the “judgments” seem to happen within the scope of the Day of the Lord. John F. Walvoord gives the following list of judgments.

a.    Judgment on Christ at the cross (John 1:29; Acts 20:28; Rom 3:23-26; 5:9;
2 Cor 5:15; 21; Gal 1:4; Titus 2:14).

b.    Contemporary judgment of believers’ sins (1 Cor 11:29-32; Heb 12:5-6; 1 Peter 4:14-15; 1 John 1:9).

The judgment Seat of Christ (Rom 14:10-12; 1 Cor 3:11-15; 9:24 – 27; 2 Cor 5:10; Eph 6:8).

The judgment of Israel (Ezek 20:33-38; Math 24:42-51; 25:1-30).

The judgment of the nations (Math 25:31-46; Rev 18:1-24; 19:17-19; 20:7-9).

f..    The judgment of Satan and fallen angels (Math 25:41; John 16:11; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Rev 12:7-9; 20:1-3, 7-10).

The judgment of the Great White Throne (Rev 20:11-15).

8.    The New Covenant

Another eschatological issue that has created a recent focus is that of the New Covenant. The question typically deals with a precise definition of this covenant, and the focus of application. To what degree is this covenant for Israel and to what degree does it apply to the NT church?

a.    The Views:

In his recent DBTS Journal article, Dr. Bruce Compton, outlines the major views of the new covenant question. Compton examines the following approaches to the new covenant:

1.    View #1 – The Church Replaces National Israel and Fulfills the New Covenant in the Present.

2.    View #2 – There Are Two New Covenants: One for Israel and One for the Church.

3.    View #3 – The New Covenant is Exclusively for Israel and will be
Fulfilled by Israel in the Future.

4.   View #4 – The Church Partially Fulfills the New Covenant Now;
Israel Completely Fulfills the New Covenant in the Future.

5.    View #5 – The Church Presently Participates in the New Covenant; Israel Fulfills the New Covenant in the Future.

The Best Approach:

The best approach to the New Covenant seems to be an understanding that places eschatological application and fulfillment to Israel, yet at the same time a contemporary soteriological benefit to the NT Church. This is not a defense of “sensus plenior” or “complementary hermeneutics.” It is to say the while the application of the New Covenant promises are connected to the prophetic blessings of a re-gathered and re-blessed Israel, it has an immediate beneficiary blessing to NT saints. A strong argument that a connection must be made between the New Covenant and the church is the reference of Jeremiah 31:31-34 found in Hebrews 7.

9.    The Eternal State

a.    For the non-believer:

Scripture teaches that the abode for the non-believer during the eternal state will be the Lake of Fire (Math 5:22; Rev 19:20).  This is referred to as eternal fire (Math 25:41), outer darkness (Math 8:12), the second death (Rev 21:8), in addition to other designations. Jesus used the term “Gehenna” (Mark 9:47-48, Luke 12:5). It is the Aramaic form of the word that literally means, “the Valley of Hinnom.” This is the valley that faces the southwest side of Jerusalem. During Josiah’s reign, this was transformed into a dump where the garbage and refuse of Jerusalem would continually burn (2 Kings 23:10). Gehenna became a term that spoke of final and unending punishment. This state is eternal (Math 18:8; 25:41). There does seem to be degrees of punishment when one considers passages such as Romans 2:5-6, and Math 11:20-24.

For the believer:

The eternal state for the believer is Heaven. Heaven physically will be located on the New Heaven and New Earth (Rev 21:1; 2 Peter 3:13). Its central city will be New Jerusalem (Rev 21:1-27). Heaven essentially will be the continuation of the millennial kingdom on a perfect basis. Believers can look forward to a glorified body (1 Cor 15:35-54), happiness (Rev 21:4), unending worship and learning (Rev 22:4), and an unending eternity of service to God (Rev 22:3).

III.    How these Themes impact our objectives

Impacting Worship

John 4:24 states, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The truth learned from the eschaton will enable us to worship with knowledge.  Can truth found within eschatology really impact worship? All one needs to do is listen closely to the words written by George Frederick Handell, in his masterpiece, “The Messiah.” This Oratorio focused the attention of the listener to the powerful message of both the first and second advent of Christ. The tradition today continues that audiences stand during the Halleluyah Chorus, in honor of the One who will reign as King of kings, and Lord of lords! The tradition dates back to King George I.  Ever since its first presentation on the 13th of April, 1742, in a Dublin music hall, this masterpiece has demonstrated that truth, eschatological truth is powerful and needful. Without a doubt countless scores of believers have worshiped the Lord, in the midst of a presentation of this Classic.

One of the clear exegetical messages of John 4:24 are that to accurately worship Christ, Christ must be known accurately! Without a recognition that Jesus was not only “baby Jesus, meek and mild,” but that he is also returning as King Jesus, Savior of His People, Lion of Judah and Judge of the World! Without an accurate picture of who Christ is, our worship will be incomplete at best, heresy at worst!

Practical Application to the Objective of Worship – This means that our corporate music and prayer as a congregation should be affected by these eschatological themes. We must strive to include in our hymnody and other aspects of corporate worship the information concerning the Lord’s return, his Coming Kingdom and the believer’s confident hope!

Impacting Instruction

How should eschatology impact this second objective of the local assembly? Eschatology should impact Instruction in at least two ways. First, it should be a source of discipleship itself. That is to say, eschatology should be part of what is taught to the believer. Second, the seriousness and the result of the eschaton should be a motivation for the believer to grow, mature and effectively minister during “these last days.”

1.    Eschatology: a focus of instruction

In speaking to the importance of the knowledge of the eschaton for the NT believer, Harold B. Kuhn makes the following important observation. Kuhn’s words were powerful in the 1960’s. They are even more so today when one considers the amount of moral chaos that has been ushered into the modern age by both secular and evangelical versions of postmodernity. Kuhn states,

“The Christian doctrine of Last Things answers to the believer’s deep desire to see a resolution of the problem spawned by the gaping dualism of human moral history. The sensitive Christian responds with delight to the promise that “in the dispensation of the fullness of time” the Father shall gather together in one all things in Christ. He is deeply aware that the natural world also yearns for the final reconstitutions, for this final recapitulation of all creation in Christ. When the centrifugal forces of the Fall shall be reversed, and its tragic consequences neutralized, then, and only then shall man’s spirit finally be at rest…the Christian doctrine of Last Things meets the believer’s yearning for that time when the kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. This hope to see evil dethroned and the petition fulfilled (“Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”) characterizes every truly regenerate heart.”

2.    Eschatology: a motivation for instruction.

Instruction does not only impact the churches commitment to teaching, hopefully this will impact the preacher’s commitment to preaching. Believer’s today are often quick to quiet! The Apostle Paul was concerned that the Thessalonian believer’s might be tempted to do the same in the face of all that was against them. Clearly Paul presents the truths of the eschaton in 2 Thessalonians. Paul ties in the believer’s commitment to Godly living with a focus on that which will happen at our Lord’s appearing. Here Paul states,

“. . . we ourselves boast of your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer.” (2 Thess 1:4-5)

Practical Application to the Objective of Instruction – This means that in our teaching and preaching, we cannot run from eschatology. A startling fact hit me several years ago. I will teach those who are under my “watch” what I believe Scripture teaches about this, or someone else will teach them something different! As a result of this we now have small groups that have focused there attention to these doctrines. Because I preach mostly expositionally, I have included passages that build on eschatological truth. This allows me teach and preach through the “big ideas” of eschatology.

Impacting Fellowship

A part of the Biblical concept of fellowship is the idea of mutual accountability. Scripture makes it clear that part of fellowship and mutual edification is to encourage one another to “love and good works.” This is especially important when we consider the fact of the rapture of the church, the judgment seat of Christ, and the ultimate coming of our Lord. We need to remember that each of us will give an account of our work as believers to the Lord. This should not be the only focus of Christian service. Scripture seems to place a heavy emphasis on serving the Lord out of a gratitude and love for who the Lord is, and what the Lord has done. The author of Hebrews brings the attention of his readers to act in response to “the Day approaching” (Heb 10:25). Here the author has in mind the Day of the Lord. With “the Day” approaching, the NT believer is to respond in two specific ways impacting our commitment to fellowship.

1.    We are to practice fellowship that results in encouraging one another unto love and good works. This speaks to edification and mutual accountability (v. 24). We need to make sure that as we practice fellowship as local churches, that we are accomplishing all the aspects of mutual ministry.

2.    We are to practice fellowship primarily through faithfulness in the local assembly (v. 25).

Practical Application to the Objective of Fellowship – Often times, local assemblies practice a form of “fellowship” that is without the elements of Hebrews 10:24. One of the biggest contributing factors is because assemblies are not practicing (or even attempting) an “every-member ministry.” Often times our folks in our churches really do not know each other. The following are three practical attempts at accomplishing Hebrews 10:24-25, as “The Day” approaches:

1.    An answer to this is the utilizations of some type of small group ministries that practice real transparency, encouragement, burden-bearing, and mutual accountability. Because this is such an import aspect to the NT church, we at SVBC have made it a major ministry focus.

2.    A second important ministry that we are attempting is something that we call “Operation Barnabas.” The focus is as the name implies, “encouragement!” This ministry is simply comprised of faithful families agreeing to build quality relationships with our new families for a period of 3 to 4 months. The focus really isn’t even “discipleship.” It is simply “building relationships.” Then after that period of time the family that has been just ministered to, is encouraged to do the same to another family. This started out initially with 4 families reaching out to 4. Then 8 families reached out to 8. After several years of this we will Lord willing this year we will be aiming for about 60 of our families reaching out to another 60. This will result in evangelism because we don’t presently have 120 families in the church. We will have to reach out to another 30 outside our congregation – good problem!

3.    A third implication is the importance of local church membership and participation. Again we try as a church to give large emphasis on church membership. We typically take time in our yearly calendar to allow for at least one “new members’ class.”

Impacting Evangelism

The final objective of the church is “Evangelism.” We actually call this “Evangelism and Outreach.” This objective has at least three different major focal points:

1.  We are attempting to build relationships with three groups of people in the
southeastern portion of the Metro Phoenix area. These groups are:

a.    Category #1 “Non-Churched Evangelicals” – Poor Saddleback Sam – he lost his job when all the dot-com companies crashed in Southern California. He was really “bummed out!” But then he found out he could sell his over-priced property, move to Phoenix and make a nice living for himself.  Bunches of them moved to our corner of the Phoenix area! Many of them have become disillusioned with church. They have been starved-to-death in a new evangelical church. Or, they’ve been beaten to death in a “hyper-fundy” church. We will need to minister to them.

b.    Category #2 “Religious Non-Believers” – We have lots of Mormon neighbors! One of the largest Mormon Temples is in Mesa (One of our suburbs in Phoenix) About a third of our population is of Latin descent. Most of them identify themselves as “Catholic.”

c.    Category #3 “Secular Non-Believers” – We call them, “Joe and Jill six-pack.” They sin, they know it. They’ll tell you about it!

2.    Clearly the implication of the eschaton is seen here. When one considers the realities of death, the rapture, the tribulation, the second coming, the Kingdom of God, the Day of the Lord, the Judgments, and the eternal state, one should not need to “find” a motivation for reaching out to those who are lost. You add to that the fact that the church is connected with some “mystery “form of the Kingdom, we need to be motivated to build both individually and corporately “redemptive relationships” while we organize ourselves to “love our neighbor.”

Practical Application to the Objective of Evangelism – Here are a few practical ways we are attempting to practice church and kingdom ethics in our outreach to those around us.

1.    “Family Wellness of Arizona” – A group of our leaders within our church have started an organization that focuses on taking Biblical concepts of family and law, and have organized a 501 3c organization that teaches troubled families. The Arizona court system loves this group because of its track record. Technically it is not a ministry of SVBC. Practically it is. There are presently 5 teams that meet in 5 different locations. We get referrals through the court system. We also have companies that have partnered with our group that help with counseling. Our pastor of evangelism serves as the president of this organization. We have had several families turn their lives over to the Lord through this contact. The focus is relationship-building, so that we can impact their lives with Biblical truth, and so that we can demonstrate the gospel in action and in word. We believe this is a practical way we “love our neighbor.”

2.    Evangelistic Meetings and Activities – This year (2004) we are focusing our entire calendar year as “The Year of Evangelism.” We will have a special “evangelistic event” each quarter.

3.    Faith Promise Missions – We have both a budgeted approach to missions as well as a Faith Promise. In the last two years, we have added 11 missionaries to our ministry focus (five to India and xix to Romania). This again is an outgrowth of the realization of the need for the completion of the great commission.
Merrill C. Tenney, “Eschatology and the Pulpit,” BSac 116 (Jan 1959): 30-42.

Ibid., p. 32.

Some of the most helpful works on postmillennialism are Lorraine Boettner, The Millennium (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1957); as well as David Brown, Christ’s Second Coming: Will It Be Premillennial? (Edmonton: Still Waters Revival Books, 1990). Just as is the case with dispensational pre-millennialism, postmillennialism, has had a few adjustments along its road. J. Marcellus Kik’s “theonomic” form of postmillennialism has grown into the movement that today is knows as “reconstructionism” (R.J. Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen, Gary North, et.al.). To see this view, note Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., “Postmillennialism,” Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond, ed. Darrell L. Bock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), pp. 24-37. One of the newest Pentecostal and Charismatic views of postmillennialism has grown into a movement known as “dominion theology.” This form holds that the “Latter Rain,” is God’s method of binding Satan, allowing the believer to have material wealth, which was originally lost to unbelief and the kingdom of Satan. Popularizes of this theology would be Bishop Earl Paulk, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin and Pat Robertson. This “Dominion Theology” should not be confused with the Old Line Pentecostal movement known as the Latter Rain Movement. The later was a premillennial view instead of the postmillennial view of dominion Theology.  See “Later Rain Movement,” in Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988) ed. Stanley Burgess and Gary B. McGee, pp. 532-534. It is important to remember that in all fairness “Theonomy” and “Dominion Theology” are not the same type of eschatology that are found in the writings of the “Old-Princetonians” (Charles Hodge, A.A. Hodge, and B.B. Warfield).  For works examining amillennialism see Anthony a. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1982). Also see Arthur Lewis, The Dark Side of the Millennium (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980). A more recent treatment of amillennialism is found by Robert B. Strimple, “Amillennialism,” in Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond, ed. Darrell L. Bock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), pp. 84-90. See Also Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialsim: Understanding End Times (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003).

For a look at some of the standard defenses for dispensational premillennialism see Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978); John Walvoord, Major Bible Prophecies (Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1991). Also see Charles C. Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Neptune, NJ: Lizeaux Brothers, 1953). To see the comparison between dispensationalism and covenant theology see Renald E. Showers, There Really Is a Difference! A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theoloogy (Bellmawr: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1990). To examine non-dispensational premillennialsm (often referred to as “Historic Premillennialism”) see George E Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1987). Also see Rober Duncan Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days (Chicago: The Moody Press, 1977). One of the more popular and recent defenses of this view is found in Donald K. Campbell and Jeffrey L. Townsend, eds., A Case For Premillennialism: A New Consensus (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992). To examine a presentation of progressive dispensationalism see Robert L. Saucy, The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993). Also see the article written by Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, “Why I am a Dispensationalist with a Small ‘d’” JETS 41 (September 1998): 386-91.

Notice the details of Appendix A.

Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983), unabridged, one-volume edition, p. 1167.

Rolland McCune, unpublished class syllabus for Systematic Theology III, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, Allen Park, MI, p. 157.

Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), Vol 7, p. 112.
Because of the blinding effect depravity has on the spiritual senses of the unregenerate, this lecturer understands that regeneration must precede repentance and faith. This certainly should not be a test of fellowship, but is included here for sake of reference. One’s view of the extent and nature of total depravity and spiritual death does impact how the gospel is to be presented. This intersects with real ministry. This impacts especially ministry that connects with our approach to apologetics and the methodology of our presentations of the gospel. To see more on depravity from a historical theological view, as well as a practical one, see the chapter entitled, “Radical Depravity,” in James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken, The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel (Wheaton: Crossway Books – A Division of Good News Publishers, 2002), pp. 69-90.  More will be said about this point later in this presentation.

ταγμα refers to, “rank, order often used in the military sense denoting a body of troops which can be disposed according to the decision of the commanding officer or it could be applied to any sort of group and could also mean place of position.” Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek NT (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishers, 1976) reprint ed., p. 441.

John F. Walvoord, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1990), pp. 462-463.
“The intermediate state is that period of conscious existence between physical death and the resurrection.” McCune, Systematic III, p. 165

Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms (Greenville: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002) expanded third edition, pp. 380-383.

This list comes from Walvoord, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, p. 464.

To see a variety of explanations as to what this was see D.A. Carson, in Vol 8, “Mathew,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishers, 1984), pp. 580-582.
See David F. Winfrey, “The Great Tribulation: Kept ‘Out of’ or ‘Through’?” GJ, Spring, 1982. To see an older, yet great little book that deals well with the concept of the rapture and the correctness of the pre-tribulational viewpoint see Leon Wood, Is The Rapture Next? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1956). This book grew out of discussions that were held within the faculty of the Grand Rapids Baptist Theological Seminary back in the 1950’s. Dr. Wood does a good job of dealing with the exegetical issues in the key passages cited on all sides of the rapture debate.

Charles R. Erdman, “The Coming of Christ,” The Fundamentals, vol. 1, (Bible Institute of Los Angeles, 1917, reprinted by Baker, 2000), pp. 301-313.

Ibid., p 301.

For an important description of Revelation 19:11-21, see Walvoord, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, pp. 619-622. A simple yet effective outline of this passage is presented in Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Revelation, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), pp. 110 – 113. Ryrie outlines this important section.
There are a number of reasons why this topic has generated as much “heat” as it has. One of the reasons why it has generated such interest is the fact that in the minds of many, the very core of the self-identity of fundamentalism is at stake. In the opening shots between new-evangelicalism and fundamentalism one sees newevangelicalism aim their antagonism at the fundamenatalists because of their accused “social inaction” of the separatists. To this day newevangelicals, or evangelicals will often accuse fundamentalism of being anti-social because of the almost widely held conviction that to be a fundamentalist, you have to be a classic dispensationalist. To see how “postmodern evangelicals” view this accusation see Robert E. Webber, The Younger Evangelicals: Facing the Challenges of the New World (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2002), pp. 29-31. The standard discussion is found with George Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987). To see Harold John Ockenga’s press release on “The New Evangelicalism,” see Appendix B, in Fred Moritz, Be ye holy: The Call to Christian Separation (Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994), pp. 117-119. To see a discussion as to the effects of the newevangelical approach to social issues see Ernest D. Pickering, The Tragedy of Compromise: The Origin and Impact of the New Evangelicalsism (Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994). Many good men, who have spent their lifetime serving the Lord within the separatist movement become nervous when they see younger men espousing an eschatological position that results in a more active and social involvement of local church ministry. Because of the seeming similarity between these men today with the first generation of new evangelicals, the natural concern is often that these younger men are actually headed for new evangelicalism. Many of the younger men within the separatist movement take exception to this charge responding that their social action is not the result of compromise, rather it is the natural Biblical application of fulfilling their obligation to the mission of Christ, for his church and His Kingdom. It would be wrong to assume that only younger men wrestle with this issue. One of this speaker’s closest mentors was that of the late, Dr. James Singleton. Dr. Singleton was an avid supporter of what this writer believes was essentially the George Ladd position, yet continued to take a tenacious stand on historic fundamentalism, and had no time for new evangelical compromise. Typically the more a leader sees the Kingdom of God as being connected to the church, the more socially active he becomes in ministry.

This is not an attempt to build straw-men with each position. This is only done to give a broad definition of the various views. There exist sub-positions within each of these three basic groups.
See Rolland D. McCune, “Doctrinal Non-Issues In Historic Fundamentalism,” in Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, Volume 1, No. 2 (Fall 1996): 171-185.

Mark Saucy, The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1997), pp. 311-312.

See R. E. Beacham, “Kingdoms, Universal and Mediatorial,” in The Dictionary of Premillennial Theology (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996), pp. 235-237.

Ibid.

Caution is needed here. It is important to be able to identify a process by which application is made to the NT believer, when truth is sourced in Biblical literature whose direct application was not that of the church. The best approach here for the dispensationalist who desires to honor the distinction between law and grace, the church and Israel is found in an approach that some call principlism. See Roy B. Zuck. Basic Biblical Interpretation (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1991), pp. 286-289. The best specific approach that the writer has seen is found in J. Daniel Hays. Hays notes five steps to taking issues sourced in the OT Mosaic Law and finding appropriate NT church application. Those steps are (1) Identify what the particular law meant to the initial audience, (2) Determine the differences between the initial audience and believers today, (3) Develop universal principles from the text, (4) Correlate the principle with New Testament teaching, (5) Apply the modified universal principle to life today. J. Daniel Hays, “Applying the Old Testament Law Today,” in BSac 158 (January – March 2001): 21-35.
Robert McCabe, unpublished class syllabus for Hebrew Exegesis of Amos, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, Allen Park, MI. Concerning this definition, Shalom M. Paul states, “the ‘Day of the Lord’ . . . does not refer literally to a ‘day’ per se but rather to a ‘time’ or a ‘period,’ when, according to popular belief, the Lord will appear (or has appeared) in order to render judgment and destroy his enemies. . . .” Shalom M. Paul, Amos, Hermeneia, ed. Frank Morre Cross (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), pp. 182 – 184.

To see common views of the “Day of the Lord” see Richard L. Mayhue, “The Prophet’s Watchword: Day of the Lord” (Th.D. dissertations, Grace Theological Seminary, 1981).

Francis I. Anderson and David N. Freedman, Amos, AB, ed. William F. Albright and David N. Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1989), p. 519.

J. Barton Payne, The Theology of the Older Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1962), p. 465.

John F. Walvoord, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, p. 468.
See R. Bruce Compton, “Dispensationalism, The Church, And The New Covenant, “ in Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, Volume 9 (Winter 2004). Especially helpful is Compton’s tracing of this theme in both testaments.

See Homer A. Kent, Jr., “The New Covenant and the Church,” GTJ 6 (Fall 1985): 296-298; Rodney J. Decker, “the Church’s Relationship to the New Covenant (part 2), BSac 152 (October – December 1995): 447-456.

McCune, Systematic III, pp. 248-253.

Ibid., pp. 254-257.
To see helpful information on the Messiah and it’s author, see on the web, www.antipas.org/handel/messiahex.html

Quote of Harold B. Kuhn in his chapter entitled, “The Nature of Last Things,” in Christian Faith and Modern Theology, (New York: Channel Press, 1964), ed. Carl F. H. Henry, p. 418.

Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), pp. 414-415.

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