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Understanding How We Perceive the Bible Reveals How We Determine Our Eschatological Perspective


As we approach the Biblical texts we must ask ourselves a few questions. Our own personal answers to these questions will fundamentally determine how we interpret, learn from, and apply the scriptures of the Bible. The answers to these questions help form our presuppositions. Among the questions we must ask ourselves are:


Is the Bible a complete book? Is there more canon (inspired writings) to come or buried somewhere that will be uncovered and added to the Bible?


Is the Bible a comprehensively complete book or does it require other writings and information (historical, secular) outside of the Bible to convey the entire intended messages of the Bible?


Is the Bible "inspired" of God and therefore fully legitimate, believable, true, trustworthy and without error?


Is the Bible meant to be comprehended and understood? Can it be understood?


Is the Bible a "Spiritual" book? Does it require a "spiritual" exactment (revelation) in its reading?


The answers to these questions are critical to any ‘reading of the Bible’ experience. The answers to these determine your Biblical "experience". I reply a resounding "Yes" to all five questions. The Bible is a complete book in that it will never be canonically added to or subtracted from. It requires no outside historical, archeological, sacred, secular or other kind of information to interpret. It is fully inspired of God, and is thereby fully and perfectly true, without error, and trustworthy. The Bible is meant to be experienced through understanding and comprehension by means of the Spirit of the living God. It is a "spiritual" book and requires a spiritual exactment (quickening) to be properly understood. In other words, if one were to be stranded on a deserted island with no resources other than the Bible to read, it could be understood provided the quickening of the Spirit.


One’s general presuppositions (paradigm) act as an interpretive filter to incoming information. For example, if one does not believe the Bible is a complete book they can easily begin adding newly discovered and other kinds of information (e.g. Dead Sea Scrolls, Gospel according to Thomas) whether it agrees or disagrees with the Bible. One can look at archeological discoveries and secular history. Some of this information may prove to support our perceptions of Biblical history, but what happens when it doesn’t? Could this produce confusion and doubt? Outside information can prove to color scriptural information causing one to question whether the Bible is "inspired" or whether it can be understood. The Bible, being a complete book, interprets itself. Scripture interprets scripture. Look at the following two questions:


Are there any prophets today? Not according to the Bible. Jesus said, "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16). (cf. Mat. 11:13)


In Matthew 24:14 Jesus says, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come". Has the gospel been preached in all the world? Yes, according to the Bible.


"For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world" (Col. 1:5, 6).


"If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven" (Col. 1:23).


"First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world" (Rom. 1:8). "But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world" (Rom. 10:18).


"Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith" (Rom. 16:25, 26).


Therefore, one’s presuppositional view of the Bible greatly effects interpretation and subsequently our view of ourselves and the world. Our personal beliefs about the five presuppositions listed above create the backdrop upon which our eschatological picture is painted. What follows in this writing will have more meaning for individuals who hold, or think they hold a strong conviction of "yes" to these five questions and corresponding presuppositions.


What do we mean by "Eschatology"?


The word, "eschatology" is from the Greek, "eschatos" (last) and "logos" (study). Therefore, it is the study of "last things". It would be difficult to separate eschatology from doctrine. Eschatology springs from the doctrinal orientation of what is perceived through the holy scriptures. Doctrinal perspective, in turn, has already been greatly influenced by the five presuppositions listed above. Thus we gain our "doctrinal eschatology". In its most common concept, it deals with Christ’s "second coming" and the events preceding and following this great event.


Is Our Eschatological Perspective Important?


Our eschatological view strongly effects our inward experience which determines our outward interaction with the world. For example, if it is believed that salvation has not yet come or been fully consummated, one’s self and the world are perceived much differently than if salvation has already come. To repeat, what is perceived to be the truth strongly effects one’s identity, their perception of the world, and how they relate and thereby interact with society. For instance, if it is believed the Jews are a particular people, in the eyes of God, our interaction with them may very well be different than if we perceive they hold no special favor with God. There are thousands of Christ-believing people today flocking to Israel for many purposes, but, for the most part, it predominantly is due to their eschatological view point. Many gentiles today are attending Messianic Jewish church services, learning the Hebrew language, studying Torah and participating in their feasts and traditions, all motivated by their eschatological understanding. There are other Christ-believers who have little interest in these activities because of their differing eschatology.


Three General Doctrines of Eschatology


Most all Messianic ‘Bible people’ will agree to the fact that the entire Bible is centered around the story of redemption that comes by Jesus Christ. However, eschatological schools of thought divide here as relates to time and events. The focus is the "second coming" of Jesus Christ. A very broad, limited, and simplistic overview follows:


The first general school says the "second coming" of Christ has already occurred. This group is generally known as preterism. This group generally divides into those that perceive Christ’s "coming" as taking place on the day of Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and those who instead believe Christ’s "coming" was associated with the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple at 70A.D. For this group most or all Biblical prophecy has been fulfilled.


The second group says the "second coming" of Christ is in the future. This group is generally known as dispensationalism. This group believes in a future "rapture" of the saints and divides into various opinions over when the rapture, Christ’s "second coming", and other events will occur. This general belief is the most popular today. For them some prophecy has been fulfilled while much yet lies in the future.


A third group does not believe in a "millenium" per se, or other associated events. This group is generally known as amillenialism. This group believes we are already experiencing things associated with the "millenium" which the second group places in the future however, they share the second’s group belief that Christ will have a "second coming" after earthly Christians have prepared the way. This group sees much prophecy as having been already fulfilled with more coming in the future.


All of these general groups divide within themselves as relates to time and events.