Several people have asked us why it matters--why we quibble about these fine points of theology. Can't we just set aside what we don't agree on and have unity based on what we do agree on, the broad categories of Jesus rescuing us and our living for Him?
We probably could--if these were just fine points and not part of the bedrock of Scripture.
Lou said in his sermon yesterday morning that "specific prophetic time lines" are among the "non-essentials" of the faith. That goes for time lines of the first three chapters of Genesis, too--did you hear that one slipped in right before the joke about Adam's belly button? So far in his sermons he has gotten the congregation to laugh at the Ten Commandments and verse-by-verse study of the Bible and now special creation. I hear woven with his voice the voice of the Doubter, the cunning one, the subtle one, who whispered into Eve's ear, "Has God said--? Naw, surely not!"!
What will be left of the Bible when he is through trashing it?
I seriously doubt that Jesus would agree with Lou that the order of events in the last days is a "non-essential." For one thing it would mean tossing out Genesis, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Amos, Zechariah--most of the prophets--Psalms, as well as Revelation, most of Thessalonians, parts of John, Acts, Corinthians, 2 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, 2 Peter. With Jesus' high view of Scripture (He honors His word as much as or above His name) I think He must take a dim view of dismissing so much of His holy word like that.
For another, Jesus Himself devoted a good deal of time to the subject, answering His followers' questions about "things to come." He apparently thought those questions and answers important enough to be included in all the synoptic gospels: Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21. The world of their future as He described it to the disciples sounds a lot like the world of our present.
He said we would recognize the end times by certain "signs," by the increase of certain patterns of events like wars, earthquakes, famines. (The prophet Daniel adds an increase in travel and knowledge.) When these signs took place, they could look up because His return from heaven was imminent. These promises provided incentive for faithfulness and endurance, a sense of urgency for evangelism, and encouragement in persecution. How much more we need to know these things--we who are stepping over the threshold into the times about which He was speaking!
I wonder why He would waste His breath--the breath that spoke the heavens and starry host into being, the breath that spoke life into the first man, the theopneustos (God-breathing) by which the word of God is made living and powerful and sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword--on something that was neither "central to the gospel" nor "at the core of Christian belief or practice." Did His words (for once) have no meaning? Was he just entertaining his followers with stories and narratives that had no relation to reality?
I don't think Lou really has an issue with time lines of events to come. I think his issue is with the events themselves. We don't know exactly what he believes about those events but we have intimations from his own mouth. Jesus may have returned shortly after his ascension, apparently without any of us noticing (so much for "every eye shall see him"). The metaphorical Millennium (1,000 years of peace under Jesus' reign) may already be here or we somehow bring it in by going into all the world and flourishing.
Hmm, look around. Is that what we see around us? Men beating their swords into plowshares? Justice rolling down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream? Mountains dripping new wine, and hills flowing with milk? The leopard lying down with the young goat? An eternal king ruling in peace and righteousness?
I don't know about you but what most Christians are seeing conforms more to 2 Timothy 3:1-5: "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these."
This is the Millennium? This is the best Jesus can do? Sounds more like the world system is winding down and the stage is being set for the Tribulation, just exactly as the Maker of the world predicted it would.(And He would know.)
Let me ask you this: Which of the following two scenarios ("meta-narratives") would benefit Satan (Lucifer, the self-proclaimed "Architect of the Universe") if it were true? Which one would he like to persuade us is true?
Scenario One: We don't have to be looking for the return of Jesus. He already came back when no one was noticing; who knows where he is, who cares? His death and resurrection rescued us from all sin. We don't have to personally, individually repent and receive him as Savior--his death and resurrection rescued us in some (very vague) way but that was in the past. It's irrelevant. He's already ruling--or maybe we don't need him now. We can take it from here. We're good. It's up to us to bring in the Millennium. We're not in the last days. Things are getting better and better. Things are flourishing! There will be no Tribulation. Satan will not be bound at all. There's no need for that. We go straight from the tranquility and peace of the garden to the tranquility and peace of the eternal state. Relax. Don't be on the alert. Don't read the signs around you. Don't anticipate his coming. Rest. Rejoice. Enjoy. Sl--ee--p.
What does Satan stand to lose if in fact --Scenario Two--Jesus Christ (not some false Jesus) is telling the truth (He always has) and we are rapidly entering the last days? What if, in reality, things are getting worse and worse? What if we can't sort all this out by ourselves? What if the true Jesus is coming again--soon--and we need to be ready to face Him in judgment? What if Satan is going to be cast into the lake of fire forever and ever because he is a thief and a deceiver, a liar and the father of lies, a murderer, the accuser of the brethren, that old serpent, every bit as cunning, subtle, and evil as he was back in the garden of Eden?
Which one--Jesus or Satan--would benefit by denying, editing, and distorting the clear, literal truths of the Bible? What if the one who always lies is lying about what's coming and the One who always tells the truth is telling the truth?
Read your Bibles, folks. We don't need to bother with interpretations and man-made time lines. Just read it. It's clear enough all by itself. And where it needs interpreting, that's why we have the Holy Spirit.
(Genesis 3:1-5; Psalm 138:2; John 16:13; Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21; Daniel 12:4; Luke 21:28; Psalm 33:6; Genesis 2:7; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:7; Isaiah 2:4; Amos 5:24; Joel 3:18; Isaiah 11:6, 9:7, 32:1; Revelation 20:2)