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Realized Eschatology Part 1

It has been stated by well-meaning brethren who oppose realized (fulfilled) eschatology that it is something new, and if it is new, then it is false. However, to those us who have providentially been made to see and believe the reality of realized eschatology, it is much like King Josiah’s discovery of the book of law in the temple at Jerusalem (2 Kings 22). Realized eschatology is also the inspired word of God (Lk.21:20-22; Acts2:16-17; 3:21-25), long neglected and covered by debris.  Should our reaction be any different from Josiah’s?

“Then Hilkiah, the high priest, said to Shaphan the scribe, ‘I have found the Book of Law in the house of the Lord.’(vs.8)—Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of Law, that he tore his clothes.’(vs.11). – – -‘Because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do all that is written concerning us.’ (vs.13). And God spoke to Josiah, ‘ – – – because your heart was tender, and you have humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,’ says the Lord.”(vs.19).

Oh, that we all had a heart like Josiah, that we could humble ourselves and honor Jesus and His inspired apostles rather than the traditions of uninspired men.

The apostle Paul teaches us that ‘whatever things were written before, were written for our learning.’(Ro.15:4).

With that in mind, the study of eschatology is not just the study of end things, but it is the study of the Genesis creation of man and the world in a pure and holy condition and the story of man’s transgression and subsequent fall from that pure state resulting in spiritual death (Gen.2:4-3:24).

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. – – – Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.”(Ro.5:12-15). – – – “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”(Eph.2:4-7).

Hebrew eschatology, which is the only inspired eschatology, prophesied what was to happen at the time of the end, not the end of time. It prophesied the “end of the age” in which the divine Savior intervened with judgment and spiritual redemption. (Matt.13:40; 16:28; 24:3; 1Cor.10:11; 1Pet.1:18-23).

Listen to the angel Gabriel as he speaks to the prophet Daniel, “Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people (Israel) in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.” (Dan10:14; 12:1-4; see Dan.9:20-27).

Hebrew eschatology prophesied for the remnant of Israel a new beginning in Christ wherein righteousness dwells (Matt.13:40-43; Acts3:22-26; Ro.11:5). The idea of a messiah and a new messianic age ushered in by means of a great and awesome day of judgment is eschatological in nature, and is grounded in historical events of the Bible such as the exodus of the chosen people of God from Egypt in the thirteenth century B.C. These historical events were divinely designed and chosen to tell Israel’s awesome future transition from natural man to spiritual man (1Cor.15:42-49; Ezk.37:11-14). They were prophetic in nature similar to prophetic  shadow and substance to be fulfilled in and through Christ (Col.2:17). The eschatological meaning of Hebrew history is found in its goal and fulfillment. Only God can tell the eschatological end from the beginning thus providing infallible proof of divine creation, and regeneration of His chosen people (Isa.45:21). God’s faithfulness is known and comprehended through His fulfilled promises. The restoration of a pure and holy state is accomplished by means of a new beginning in fellowship with the Father through His Son Jesus Christ, the divine Savior and Creator.          “Eschatological themes played a central role in the development of Judaism; the kingship of God, the last days of old covenant Israel, the suffering Messiah and His final vengeance of the covenant in judgment on the sons of disobedience. The old covenant served its purpose and was removed. The new and better covenant was established, and the restoration of all things at the parousia of Christ was made complete.

“And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written; the Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (Ro.11:26).

“The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘see here!’ or ‘see there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is *within you.” (Luke 17, 20, 21)

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;  but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit; not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” (Ro. 2:28-29)

“The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Ro. 14:17)

Think of it, this kingdom is of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, a kingdom of fellowship with the Father, fellowship that was lost in the Garden of Eden yet the restoration of which has been spoken of by all the holy prophets since the age began (Acts 3:21-24) and guess what, Jesus said all prophecy would be fulfilled in the lifetime of His first century generation (Lk. 21:22; Matt. 16:28).

The following testimony is about “end times” and my forty year providentially enabled journey toward comprehension of the “time of the end” (Dan. 9:24; 10:14; 12:1-13).  This is my answer for what I believe and why I believe those things relevant to fulfilled prophecy of the time of the end.  This is about “realized eschatology”!  Eschatology being the study of “end things”, the word “realized” indicates fulfillment (Matt. 13:40-43; Lk. 21:32).  I am more than happy to give an answer.  My cup runs over with joy and anticipation!  Please step back in time with me to my parent’s generation of the late nineteen fifties, where my personal journey in the word began.

Visualize, if you will, a hot summer night in the East Texas country-side.  Some of my folks, an uncle, an aunt, my dad and a few others are sitting on the front porch and visiting.  Back then, people visited, they talked, they told stories, and they were good at it.  Nights like that the conversation would sometimes turn to the end of time and the second coming of Jesus.  Reference would be made to the book of Revelation.  Dreadful events would be spoken of as if they were about to happen.  Standing nearby, a fearful, yet somewhat fleeting question crossed my young mind.  Would I be ready when Jesus appeared?  Especially since I mostly hoped He would delay for…say, another century?  Nothing against Jesus mind you, I was taught to believe in Him, to even develop a personal relationship with Him and to love Him, but my heart’s desire was to experience long life on earth and then certainly after this life, Heaven would be my preferred destination.

My twentieth century attitude was quite different from the Apostle Paul’s first century attitude when he wrote the church of the Thessalonians, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Thess. 5:23)  Their inspired hope and expectation was that they might endure the Judean persecution until the revealing of Jesus and His vengeance on those “filling up the measure of their sins,” (II Thess. 1:6-8; I Thess. 2:14-16; Matt. 23:32-37).  Solomon wrote in Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”  The Christian’s hope, desire, and circumstances in the first century were tremendously different from us today.  We have that tree of life in Christ.

Welcome to my initiation into the world of eschatology.

By the time I reached the age of seventeen, I was already a serious minded Baptist and would soon commence butting heads with my neighbors over which church more closely followed the scriptures, a battle I was destined to lose, with one or two major exceptions.  The Baptist, as well as some other denominations, teach and often speak of a personal relationship with the Father through His son Jesus.  The question is often asked concerning one’s salvation, “Do you know Jesus?”

Realized eschatology proves the restoration of that personal Father and Son relationship in and through Jesus, the Christ revealed in the first century A.D. My neighbor, having been raised in the Baptist church himself, had already been over the same path I was traveling.  His familiarity and understanding of scripture became more and more apparent as the years went by.  Some time later, he mentioned a book he was reading that asserted the fulfillment of the prophecy of Revelation in the first century.  He remarked that “it made a lot of sense.”  I promptly relegated these thoughts to the back pages of my memory.

Eventually I studied a book, “More Than Conquerors” by James Hendrikson, a late date advocate highly recommended by the gospel preacher that baptized me. [The placement of A.D.96 as the time when Revelation was written is inconsistent with all scriptural time ststements.]  His futurist perspective, contrary to the preterist perspective, made the book of Revelation impossible to comprehend.  He did however briefly mention the preterist folks, but didn’t put much stock in their idea of fulfilled prophecy, after all, the world is still here!

With such reasoning, erroneous, preconceived conclusions abound.  Proper context and time statements in particular are ignored or watered down until they have no meaning, even in the church that preaches context all day long!  Most all commentaries, scholars, and such, know that Jesus and all New Testament writers in perfect harmony said, “the time is at hand” (Js. 5:8; I Pet. 4:7, 17; I Jn. 2:18; Heb. 10:37; Rev. 1:1-3; 22:10), “And do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.”  My brethren would do well to consider the inspired concept of “at hand” contrasted with the inspired concept of “many days yet to come” (Lev. 25:1-8; Dan. 9:24; 10:14; 12:4, 9, 13).  If seven years equal a Sabbath year and seven Sabbath years equals forty-nine years then seventy Sabbath years equal four hundred ninety years.  Now if four hundred ninety years is “many days yet to come” or “far off”, how on earth do you contend that “at hand” refers to two thousand years and still counting?  And don’t say God’s prophetic clock stopped as the premillennialist claim.  God’s prophetic clock has always proven accurate.  He hasn’t dropped it, broken it, or failed to wind it up.  How can any Christian dishonor the promises and prophecies of Christ that by their very nature prove His deity and Sonship (Deut. 18:18-22)?  Many put their faith in modern day prophets who leave in their wake nothing but failed prophecies and promises.  Do you not know that “Columbus, in undertaking to cross the ocean in a westerly direction in the 15th century, believed that Satan had settled in India, thus successfully disrupting the extension of the gospel and delaying the return of Christ?  According to his eschatological calculations, the time for the return of Christ was nearly at hand; thus India had to be reached by the shortest way possible so that the last bulwark of Satan might be removed through Christian missions?” [Britannica-Macropaedia 4—p. 504]

“The same eschatological expectation drove the Jesuit Francis Xavier to India and Japan in the 16th century.  Protestant world missions, commencing a century later, also were influenced by their misguided  eschatological expectations of the end of time.”

Like many elements of Catholic influence, their traditional view of a future second coming of Christ, became firmly entrenched in the Western mindset.  Even the King James bible, translated by Church of England bishops under the orders of King James illustrated the influence of an erroneous eschatological view by mistranslating Greek words such as “aion” which has to do with time, but they mistranslated “aion” as world, so the end of the Mosaic age became the end of the world.  A covenant context was changed to a universal context by the insertion of earth or world when land, as in land of Israel, was more correct.  The Greek word “mello” conveying “imminence” was rendered impotent every time an eschatological context was apparent but if an eschatological context was not apparent then “mello” was properly translated “about to be” with true imminence.  This distressing lack of reverence for the truth and our failure to treat the sixty-six books of the bible as one progressive, educational program of redemption contributed to our lack of comprehension; but our wonderful Lord and Savior has provided enlightenment in such a way that those who diligently, with love and desire for the truth, seek Him; not only will find Him, but will come to know Him personally.  The book of the Revelation of Christ, appropriately placed at the end of those sixty-six books, and serving as the consummation of God’s grand program of redemption, He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, “things which must shortly (soon) take place.” (Rev. 1:1)

In the meantime, my conversion to the church of Christ was not without controversy.  The concept of obeying the gospel (II Thess. 1:8) through faith in Jesus was simple and scriptural.  The Apostle Paul wrote the churches of Galatia, “you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus for as many of you as were baptized into Christ, have put on Christ (Gal 3:26-27).”  Belief, repentance, confession, and baptism in the name of Jesus recognizing Him as the son of God constitute one’s transition into Christ, whereas most denominations incorrectly teach salvation by faith only yet their faith is sometimes based on their emotional experience rather than the word of God.  The church of Christ view of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit seemed vague and divided.

Regardless of church affiliation, I still found bible study to be mostly focused on the New Testament, leaving Old Testament comprehension to wither on the vine.

During my early years in the church, “kingdom” terminology caught my attention and I was spurred on by those who call themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Also, I was presented a book authored by a major player in the world of premillennialism, “Rightly Dividing the Word” by Theodore H. Epp.  I was determined to know what these various groups were talking about, especially since all of them sought to rescue me from error.

A grasp of the “big picture” had thus far eluded me, but the providence of God was ever so slowly leading me in that direction, as evidenced by what transpired a good number of years ago when we were renting a second floor apartment in Weatherford.  This elderly lady lived on the first floor below us.  She observed my family leaving for church services.  I’m sure she couldn’t help but notice when all four of us came tromping down the stairs for every service and back up when we came home.  One evening she had been talking to Loisann and learned of my love of old religious books.  Anyway, her husband had been a preacher in the Christian church.  He, having passed away years earlier, had left her with a small collection of old religious books that she was desiring to give to someone who would appreciate them.  That someone was me.  One book especially stood out from the others, “Shadow and Substance” by Victor Hoven, Professor of Biblical Doctrine, Christian Evidences and Hermeneutics, Northwest Christian College, Eugene, Oregon-1934.  This book, after all my studies, was exactly what I needed in my journey to an overall view of the bible.  “Shadow and Substance” taught a divine, progressive & educational process by means of the word, prophecy, living history, and typology to bring man to Christ (Gal. 3:24).

Different books over the years such as “Promise and Prophecy” by R.L. Whiteside, which taught me about hyperbole in judgment language, and “Eerdman’s Handbook of the Bible” with excellent commentaries of the spiritual nature of Christ’s kingdom; these all primed me for the study of eschatology.

Ironically, it was my disagreement with Eerdman’s commentary on the parable of the wheat and tares (Matt. 13) that led to my disagreement with the church in general (which held the same position as Eerdman’s) that Jesus was speaking of the church/kingdom and the end of the world.  Fortunately, not all my brethren held this view, and we found ourselves on the same eschatological trail.  All the scriptures began fitting together like a huge picture puzzle; and my quest to see and grasp the “big picture” was being realized in ways I never dreamed of!

There is one point of contention between the Baptist church and the churches of Christ that I believe could be alleviated with recognition of the forty-year covenant transition between Pentecost and Christ’s return.  That is the sense in which first century Christians were redeemed but not yet, (Lk. 21:27-28) adopted but eagerly awaiting adoption and redemption (Ro. 8:23), and preserved by the Holy Spirit, the earnest of their inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession (Eph. 1:10-14; 4:30).  Prior to Christ’s return and destruction of Jerusalem, Christians were urged; “do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand.  Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” (Ro. 13:11-12).  They were told, “To those who eagerly wait for Him, he will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Heb. 9:28)  “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (I Tim. 1:17)

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is about to (Greek: mello) judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:  Preach the word!” (II Tim. 3:16-4:2)  “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Matt. 16:28)

Recognizing that the Apostle Paul argued everything from the Old Testament and at the same time only the hope of Israel (Acts 26:6-8, 22), that was an enlightening moment for me.  Paul  often used Old Covenant concepts, types, and principles to illustrate new Covenant substance.  His use of the temple at Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God illustrated to the church at Corinth their relationship and fellowship with God through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  “For you are the temple of the living God.  As God has said:  I will dwell in them and walk among them.  I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (II Cor. 6:16; I Cor. 3:16; 6:19).

It is significant that God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before their transgression and loss of fellowship.  To the church at Ephesus Paul writes, “in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Eph. 2:22)

Clearly a change in relationship through the indwelling Holy Spirit was taking place under the new covenant. “I will put My Spirit in you and you shall live.” (Ezk. 37: 14; Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:10, 13; 9:8-10, 28)

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.  I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezk. 36:26-27; Heb. 8:8-10)

Early on in my studies I wondered why the Holy Spirit could not dwell in such intimate fellowship with His people under the old covenant.  Even in the Hadean realm of Lazarus and the rich man, the righteous were separated from God (Lk.16:19-31). But throughout the bible we are taught and readily understand that sin separates men from a pure and holy God.  Isaiah states, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God.  And your sins have hidden His face from you.” (Isa. 59:2)

In the very beginning God had a Father and son relationship (Lk. 3:38) with Adam.  He warned Adam and Eve concerning the tree of knowledge of good and evil, “in the day you eat of it, you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17)  When they disobeyed, they immediately lost their garment of righteousness which was replaced with animal skins.  They were driven out of the garden thus their fellowship ended.  One must conclude that just as man’s body apart from the spirit is dead (Js. 2:26), so also man apart from God is spiritually dead.

Paul teaches, “so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, For he who died (with Christ) has been freed from sin, likewise you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro. 5:21; 6:7, 11)

Under the new covenant when a person is baptized into Christ he is baptized into His death.  “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even we also should walk in newness of life.” (Ro. 6:3-4).  The old fleshly nature is put to rest.  The blood of Jesus is said to wash away our sins.  A new spiritual nature is given dominion over the old fleshly nature, thus one is said to be “born again” of the Spirit and of water. (Jn. 3:5)

Now that Jesus has removed our sins that separate us from the Father, we are sanctified and a coupling together of man’s spirit with God’s spirit takes place.  Union and fellowship through the inspired word of God is restored. “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His son into your hearts crying out, Abba, Father!”

A beautiful personal, Father and son relationship is victorious over the spiritual death that had reigned ever since Adam’s spiritual death in the Garden of Eden. “O death where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (I Cor. 15:55-58; Hosea 13:14; Ro. 5:12-21)

Under the New Covenant the righteous enter into everlasting life while still alive physically and pass from this earth to heaven at the time of  physical death. (Heb. 9:27)  The contextual event and time frame of the second appearance of Christ is brought to view by means of shadow and substance in which the High Priest is pictured entering the Most Holy of Holies with His sacrifice for the sins of His people at His ascension (Acts 1:9; Heb.6:20; 9:23-26), forty years of proclaiming the gospel like Noah before the flood and then the return of the High Priest from the Most Holy of Holies, apart from sin, to bless the people (the sacrifice having been accepted). (Hebrews chapters 8 & 9, especially  9:28; Col 2:17).

The New Covenant is confirmed (Dan. 9:27), the old tabernacle removed (Heb. 9:8), sacrifices ended (Heb. 9:10), reformation and restoration through the presence of Christ accomplished (Heb. 9:10; Acts 3:19-21), the heavenly sanctuary brought down to man (Heb. 9:11; Rev. 21:2-3), the kingdom fully established (Heb. 12:18-28), and Hades is cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).  Heaven and earth under the fulfilled Old Covenant has passed away. (Matt. 5:17-18; Matt. 13:40) and we now enjoy the everlasting New Covenant heaven and earth wherein righteousness dwells. (II Pet. 3:13; Matt. 13:40-43).

All things in heaven and all in Christ on earth are gathered together in Christ (Gal.3:26,27; Eph. 1:10 I Thess. 4:16-18; 5:1-10).

Indeed, the truth has set us free.  The chains of religious dogma, of man-made traditions are falling fast.  Old, long forgotten questions are being answered and yes, that old question about God’s relationship with His people has an eschatological answer.  It is the grandest love story ever told.  It is the story of our Heavenly Father reaching out to His prodigal children and restoring them to His heavenly family.  “It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.” (Lk. 15:32)

 

Now, may “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Amen.” (II Cor. 13:14)

[Scripture Ref. NKJV], [Article Revised 2015], Jay Massingill