September 7, 2009

Are You Guilty?

Churches and ministries all over the United Stated will divide, separate, or limit fellowship with others who are not of their stripe when it comes to positions on the rapture and the Millenium. In fact, many evangelicals and many more dispensationalist make eschatology a defining doctrine, and go as far as to require that a saint affirm that they hold to a particular eschatological understanding as a condition of membership in a local church. Are you guilty of this?

Phil Johnson, over at Pyromanics, in his series on Lordship salvation, said, "In short, it seems many leading dispensationalists are more concerned about the timing of the rapture than they are about the purity of the gospel message."

Eschatology is subjective. I don't mean to say that the Word of God is subjective at all, what I do mean is that interpretations about the end times, particularly the book of Revelation, are various. Godly men have often disagreed drastically about how the Scriptures are to be interpreted. Let me illustrate using just three modern pastors that we highly respect:

Dr. John MacArthur holds to a pre-tribulation rapture position and a premillinial position on the Millenium.

Dr. R.C. Sproul holds to a partial preterist position on future events and is amillenial regarding the Millenium.

Dr. John Piper holds to a post-tribulation rapture position and a premillinial position as well.

Now if you take the conclusions that each of these men have made in regard to eschatology, you will have to concede that each one has arrived at very different conclusions. When one studies the positions of godly men throughout church history, one finds that there are countless and very diverse understandings of this branch of theology. Thus, one must conclude that we will not know, with any certainty, which is (or what is) the correct eschatologocal position to hold. It is even possible that they are all wrong. Holding strong convictions in this area should be a personal matter. Insisting that others agree with any one position in order to be considered for full fellowship in a local body is at best ignorant and, at worst, an indication of foolishness and prideful arrogance.

Although there is nothing wrong with the study of eschatology, it is not right or profitable for churches, pastors and/or ministries to make a condition of membership based on a person's eschatological opinions. If you are a pastor and you are guilty of this, I hope that you reconsider. If your local church's membership agreement or church covenant requires that individuals joining the body hold to a particular eschatological position in order to be accepted as members, I pray that you will remove that requirement, at once.

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