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Ben Witherington on “Rapture Theology”

I have written on the topic of “Rapture Theology” — more properly called Dispensationalism — before. But, in case you doubt my perspective — or want further reinforcement of it — here are some videos from the Asbury Theological Seminary’s Seedbed that discuss this topic.

Dr. Ben Witherington III, a well known conservative New Testament scholar discusses the history of Dispensationalism and it’s interpretation of Scripture. I have included three videos by Dr. Witherington.

Where Did Rapture Theology Come From?


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Reflections on the Last Judgment

Reason_for_HopeIn the following paragraph from his book Reason for Hope: The Systematic Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg (1989) Stanley J. Grenz does a good job summarizing some themes in Pannenberg’s view of the final judgement:

On the basis of [the] function of Jesus’ message [as the criterion of God’s judgment]  and the New Testament emphasis on the all-encompassing love of God (e.g., Matt. 8:11; John 10:16), Pannenberg asserts that correspondence with the will of God as reflected in Jesus’ proclamation — that is, the command to seek first God’s kingdom and the double command to love — rather than an actual encounter with the Christian message, is the basis of final judgment (Matt. 25:41ff.). The step in this direction is prepared by a thesis, developed in the Christology and ecclesiology sections, that love for others entails participation in God’s love for the world. This understanding of the criterion for judgment means that persons who live in accordance with Jesus’ message will be included in the divine salvation, whereas nominal Christians may find themselves excluded. To the resultant question, If an encounter with Jesus is not the sole condition for salvation, what is the Christian’s advantage? he replies that Christians have the advantage in that they know what the standard of judgment is. Although he emphasizes the universality of the possibility of salvation in this manner and even moves the concept of eternal condemnation to that of a border situation, Pannenberg is unwilling to embrace universalism.

This resonates very well with the sense I remember getting from my initial reading of Volume 3 of Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology.

And, there is so much here to like. (more…)

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Toward a Wesleyan Eschatology

the-end-is-nearHere’s a question that often comes up:

Where do John Wesley and his early followers fit in the familiar end-time schemas of a-millennial, post-millennial and pre-millennial (and it’s pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib flavors)?

People looking for information about this find that there is very little available.

Here’s the reason: John Wesley doesn’t fit any of these schemas exactly. He has been claimed by both pre-millennialists (Christ returns to establish an age of peace and righteousness on earth) and post-millennialists (an age of peace and righteousness on Earth is established through the advancement of Christian faith, and then Christ returns). And, individual quotations from his works can be lifted out both to support or refute both viewpoints.

First, let me note Wesley’s approach to the book of Revelation, as a way of introducing and illustrating the problem. (more…)

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“Rapture” Theology

clouds-jesusFrom time to time, Christian End Times speculation heats up again. The latest wave of interest began with John Hagee’s pronouncements about the Blood Moons. No doubt it will be fueled further by the re-making of the Left Behind movies — now starring Nicolas Cage.

I’m old enough to remember the Larry Norman song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” (used extensively in evangelism) and the evangelistic film churches used to show “A Thief in the Night.” Then after all that, I also remember the brief furor that was caused by a booklet that gave 88 reasons why Jesus was returning in 1988. More recently, Harold Camping predicted Jesus’ return on May 21, 2011. Over the years, many of the predictions of end-times prophecy teachers have failed — some quite spectacularly — but, this is quickly forgotten when a new round of predictions starts up again.

The doctrine of the Rapture has been a staple of American fear-evangelism for a long time. In this teaching, Jesus will return secretly to remove all true Christian believers from the world — then a time of horrible Tribulation will ensue. And, it is still commonly taught by certain well-known “prophetic” teachers.

Evangelical and conservative Christians pride themselves on their devotion to the Bible. Yet, there are certain common features of conservative Christian teaching about the return of Christ which have little or no backing from the Scriptures. Specifically, the teaching that Christ will come silently and secretly to take believers out of the world, seven years before he returns in glory, is a teaching the lacks Biblical support. (more…)

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Matt O’Reilly: Will God Destroy Our Bodies?

Matt_OReilly

Matt O’Reilly

Guest blog by Matt O’Reilly. Matt is the pastor of the  First United Methodist Church of Union Springs, Alabama. He is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary and is a PhD Candidate in New Testament studies at University of Gloucestershire, and an adjunct member of the faculties of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary and Wesley Biblical Seminary. Matt used to write regularly at a blog called Incarnatio: Scripture & Culture in Wesleyan Perspective — and that’s where I found this piece. He says: “My thinking has been deeply influenced by the writings of John Wesley; so you’ll see a distinctly Wesleyan perspective in my approach to the range of topics on which I undertake to write.” You can also follow Matt on Twitter: @mporeilly. (more…)

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