Category Archives: Eschatology

Can Man Save Himself?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

If there is no benevolent and omnipotent God, then man seems to be the only viable solution to solving man’s problems.  We have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps because there is nobody to help us.

Nowadays it seems laughable to think, after all we’ve been through in the last hundred years as a race, that we will create a paradise on earth by ourselves.  In the early 20th century, however, there were those who thought that mankind was on the brink of something wonderful, that we could solve all our problems.

Take the famous author, H. G. Wells.  Here is an excerpt from his book, A Short History of the World, written in 1937.

Can we doubt that presently our race will more than realize our boldest imaginations, that it will achieve unity and peace, and that our children will live in a world made more splendid and lovely than any palace or garden that we know, going on from strength to strength in an ever-widening circle of achievement? What man has done, the little triumphs of his present state…form but the prelude to the things that man has yet to do.

As Christians, this viewpoint is ruled out by Scripture.  Man cannot pull himself out of the quicksand he is in – we need a divine hand to reach down and pull us out.  The sin nature that resides in each person renders Wells’ assessment of the abilities of man hopelessly naive.  Man has boundless capacity for evil when given the power to do so, and there is nothing we as a race can do to completely eradicate this propensity.

After Wells witnessed the atrocities of WWII, he came to understand how far he had misjudged mankind:

The cold-blooded massacres of the defenseless, the return of deliberate and organized torture, mental torment, and fear to a world from which such things had seemed well nigh banished—has come near to breaking my spirit altogether…“Homo Sapiens,” as he has been pleased to call himself, is played out. — A Mind at the End of Its Tether (1946)

If you are a Christian, you not only know that we need a divine hand, you know that we are getting it.  Victory over sin is certain.  Rather than placing our hope in the violent heart of man, we place our hope in the Prince of Peace.


Is Fundamentalism Bad?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

There are fewer words that are more loaded with a negative connotation than fundamentalism.  Generally when we hear that word, we have been trained by the media to react with either fear or disdain, or both.  After all, fundamentalists are supposed to be ignorant and violent.

To be a fundamentalist used to mean that a person believed in the fundamentals of their religious system or worldview.  They were people who stuck to the core beliefs, that did not stray away from them.  At some point, this meaning morphed into something else more sinister.

Can we save this word and return it to mean what it used to mean?  Maybe not, but I would like to challenge the idea that fundamentalists of all worldviews or religious systems are all ignorant and/or prone to violence.  There are fundamentalists who are ignorant and violent, but there are many fundamentalists who are not ignorant and not violent (me being one of them).

Whenever we approach a person who claims to believe in the fundamentals of their religious system, we should first ask, “What are the fundamentals you believe in?”  Their specific beliefs are far more relevant than the fact that they hold core beliefs at all.  We shouldn’t fear people who have fundamental beliefs, but we possibly should fear the fundamental beliefs that some people have.

Tim Keller addresses the issue of fundamentalism with the following:

It is common to say that “fundamentalism” leads to violence, yet as we have seen, all of us have fundamental, unprovable faith-commitments that we think are superior to those of others. The real question, then, is which fundamentals will lead their believers to be the most loving and receptive to those with whom they differ? Which set of unavoidably exclusive beliefs will lead us to humble, peace-loving behavior?

Of course, the prime example in the history of the world of humility and love was Jesus Christ.  Here is a man whose last act as he died on a Roman cross was to ask God to forgive his enemies.  Here is a man who sacrificed his own body for the rest of mankind.

When you see what the fundamentals of Christianity are, you realize that the true Christian fundamentalist is not someone to be feared at all.  In fact, imagine what the world would be like if everyone totally embraced Jesus as their model to live by.  If you’ve dedicated your life to Christ, one day in the future you won’t have to imagine, because it will become a reality.

Can We Mess Up God’s Plans?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Hardly, yet many Christians seem to forget this fact.  God gives us the privilege of participating in the cosmic drama that is unfolding under his direction, but his script leaves nothing to chance.  We don’t need to fret over whether His plans will succeed; we already know the end of the story.

Theologian Robert L. Hubbard Jr. captures this well in his Joshua commentary.  Speaking of Joshua’s farewell speech in Josh. 23, Hubbard says the following:

The genre of farewell speech reminds readers that God’s plan outlives all of us.  It was in full swing long before we were born and will remain so long after we are gone.  It outlived Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Deborah, David, Elijah, Ezra, Esther, Mary, Peter, Paul, John, Irenaeus, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Jonathan Edwards, D. L. Moody, Mary Slessor, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King Jr.

This blunt reality is both humbling and liberating.  It humbles by reminding us that, however large a swath we cut through history, the kingdom advances without us – and, at times, in spite of us.  It liberates us by reminding us that ultimately its success does not depend on our efforts – that we do not have to get everything done in our lifetime.

Rather, we sow seeds whose harvest others will gather, lay foundations on which others will build, and open doors that others will enter.  We are among the cast of players in the drama of history, but the entire company is huge.  And, of course, the starring roles ultimately belong to God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Well said, Dr. Hubbard.


Did the Early Church Believe in a Literal Thousand-Year Reign of Christ on Earth? – #10 Post of 2010

Post Author: Bill Pratt

The Book of Revelation, according to some Christians, teaches a literal thousand-year reign of Christ on earth after his second coming (see Rev. 20).  This will then be followed by the creation of a new heaven and new earth. This view is known today as premillenialism.

But there are other Christians, in fact, the majority, who interpret the thousand years in Rev. 20 as a spiritual reign of the church which started at Christ’s first coming and ends at his second coming.  This view is known today as amillenialism.

The proponents of both of these views have an array of arguments to support their positions, but what was the view of the early church?

It seems that up until the third century, the early church was primarily premillenialist.  Writers like Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian all thought the second advent of Christ was imminent and that he would inaugurate his thousand-year reign on earth.

The tide, however, started to turn with the writings of Origen in the early third century, who adopted an allegorical method of interpreting Revelation.  Origen believed that the thousand years represented a spiritual reign of the church.  His disciple, Dionysius of Alexandria, continued the attack against premillenialism and turned the eastern church away from it.

In the western church, Augustine, in the late fourth century, began to teach amillenialism, siding with the Alexandrians in the east.  His views of eschatology (the end times) were detailed in his most famous work, The City of God.

From the time of Augustine until the Reformation in the sixteenth century (~1,100 years), amillenialism was the dominant view in the church.

The story obviously doesn’t end there, but you now have a brief introduction of what happened in the first fifteen hundred years of Christianity with respect to the millennium scribed in Rev. 20.

What about you?  Which view do you think is more likely correct?  Do you think there will be a literal thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (i.e., premillenialism) or do you think the thousand years mentioned in Rev. 20 is a spiritual reign of the church which ends at Christ’s second coming (i.e., amillenialism)?

Who Is the Real Superman?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

If you’ve ever listened to Ravi Zacharias, you’ve noticed he likes to quote from English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge.  One of my favorite quotes from Muggeridge has to do with his description of the frailty of nations and empires, with particular attention to those of the 20th century.  In a gripping message, he contrasts the temporality of the world’s powers with the eternality of one person.  Please enjoy the quote below!

We look back upon history and what do we see?  Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter-revolutions, wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed, one nation dominant and then another.  Shakespeare speaks of ‘the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon.’

I look back on my own fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, the great majority of them convinced, in the words of what is still a favorite song, that, ‘God who’s made the mighty would make them mightier yet.’  I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian announce to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last a thousand years; an Italian clown announce that he would restart the calendar to begin his own ascension to power.  I’ve heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as a wiser than Solomon, more humane than Marcus Aurelius, more enlightened than Ashoka.  I’ve seen America wealthier and in terms of weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together, so that had the American people desired, they could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range and scale of their conquests.

All in one lifetime.  All in one lifetime.  All gone with the wind.

England part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy.  Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy.  Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades.  America haunted by fears of running out of those precious fluids that keep her motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixotes of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate.

All in one lifetime, all gone.  Gone with the wind.

Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope.  The person of Jesus Christ.