Prof. David Engelsma’s Eschatology Notes (V)

Suppose I were to ask you who or what is the most awesome and fearsome figure in the entire book of Revelation, what would be your instantaneous reply to that question? How many of us might not answer that question with the answer – the great red dragon of Rev. 12, which represents Satan himself persecuting the church and being one with her, after he has been cast out of heaven? Or how many will answer that it is the beast out of the sea accompanied by the beast out of the earth in Rev. 13, representing the antichrist which has power over all nations, blasphemes God for forty-two months, and fights against and overcomes the church? The antichrist will also be able to perform wonders, and kill those who refuse to worship him.

How often is it not the case that when we think about the end and what will happen at the very end, we tremble in fear at the prospect of the antichrist as though he was the most awesome and fearsome figure. We tend to shudder at the prospect of the antichrist as though he were most terrible. That is a mistake. That thinking or answer on our part is a serious mistake.

The most awesome and awful figure in Revelation is Jesus Christ. He is the terrible one in the right sense of the word “terrible” – awe-inspiring. When we think of Revelation, we must think mainly of Him. We must not think of Him with terror, but with awe. In comparison with Jesus Christ, antichrist and Satan are but players and nothing to be terrified by. Jesus Christ is the Lion; antichrist and the devil are pussy cats in comparison to him. So does Jesus Christ dominate the end that if we have him as our Saviour and Lord by a true faith, we have absolutely nothing to fear about the end, and all the things that will transpire in history as we come to the end of history.

On the contrary, having Him as our Lord and Saviour, we look forward to the end. All of the struggles through which the church must go, and all the suffering through which we may have to experience are things to look forward to because they are a privilege and an honour on behalf of the awesome Jesus Christ.

The end that we are studying is all about Jesus Christ, His coming, His power, His kingdom, kingship, and glory. Everything that is part of the last things is determined by Jesus Christ and accomplishes the purpose of Jesus Christ. I propose to you that this is not always how the truth of eschatology is preached and taught. This is not always how we Reformed believers think of the end. The first and main thing, the all-controlling thing that must be in our mind and soul is Jesus Christ.

Tonight, the very first truth about Jesus and the end that I want to bring out is that the end is about Him – Jesus Christ. The end is all about Him. Such is the truth of this that the question to ask about every aspect of eschatology, or the truth of the end, is: what does this reveal about Jesus Christ? How is this related to Jesus Christ? How does this serve Jesus Christ? Only when every aspect of the end is understood in its relationship to Jesus Christ do we understand the truth about eschatology.

I want to prove this now: Rev. 1:1 teaches that the whole book of Revelation is about Jesus Christ. The revelation does not only mean what Jesus Christ reveals about the end, but the revelation means that which is made known about Jesus Christ. It is about Jesus Christ; it is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Verse 2 tells the same thing. The book is a testimony about Jesus Christ. He is the content of the book.

The content of the book is spelled out in summary form in Rev. 1:5-7. When He comes and the nations wail because of Him, He is the awesome and fearsome figure. Notice especially that Jesus is the Prince of the kings of the earth. These kings are otherwise fearful persons, as is true of kings. They have power and a certain glory. The kings of the earth are the mighty rulers of the nations of the world who will ally with antichrist to persecute the church of Jesus Christ. Of those kings, Jesus is the Prince (vs. 5-7). “Prince” in the Greek original is ruler, or commander. He governs them all, controls them all, and determines their actions with his sovereign power. He is the Prince of Pilate, of Caesar, of Barack Obama, of Vladimir Putin.

Still indicating that the book of Revelation is about Jesus Christ, I call your attention to the message of the seven churches in Rev. 2-3. The message is Christ’s namesake. The name of Christ is the message of the church. In Rev. 2:13, the church at Pergamos is praised because they held fast the faith. The book is about Jesus’ name and the faith of Jesus. In Rev. 3:8, with regard to the church of Philadelphia which was not criticized, she kept the name of Jesus and did not deny His name. That is the importance of the church in these last days. Our testimony is the testimony that Jesus is the Christ of God.

Again and again, the book of Revelation affirms that all aspects about the truth concerning the end reveal Jesus Christ. In Rev. 5:9ff, a certain book is opened. That book represents the counsel or plan of God which represents everything that will happen in the last time, especially those things immediately preceding Jesus’ return. The content of that book has to do with the Lamb that was slain (v9). God rewarded the Lamb on behalf of God’s people by raising Him and exalting Him to the kingship that belongs to Him now.

In connection with the book that represents the counsel of God about the end, there are seven seals that open the book, so that what God decreed will happen takes place in time and history. Those seven seals represent all the events that will happen. They begin and end with Jesus Christ (Rev. 6:1-2). The very first seal is the running of the white horse, which is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Notice how history concludes according to the opening of the last seal. There we read (v12ff) of the destruction of the present creation, the departing of the heavens, the wicked are terrified and cry for the hills and mountains to fall on them to escape from the wrath of the Lamb.

History in the new testament begins and   ends   with   Jesus   Christ.   The book of Revelation tells us that the appearance of the antichrist is strictly governed by Jesus Christ (Rev. 11:7). Antichrist is always striving to come, but he cannot come and does not come until the two witnesses have finished their testimonies. When the gospel has been preached in all the world so that all of God’s elect are regenerated and brought to faith and saved, the whole church is gathered, then and only then does antichrist appear. His appearance is governed not by what the devil is intent on doing, but by Jesus Christ. He must be glorified in the saving of the church throughout all nations. Then the antichrist comes to put a stop to the gospel for a little while. The coming of the antichrist depends on the mission of Jesus Christ in the gathering of His church through the two witnesses (Rev. 20:1-3).

The old serpent is bound for a thousand years, the time of the new testament when the gospel goes out to save God’s people from all nations. Only when that period is up, finished, because all the church has been gathered and brought to salvation, is the dragon loosed from his chains so that he can deceive the nations for a season. Everything in the book is controlled by Jesus Christ and centres on Jesus Christ.

Rev. 12 pictures the whole of the end time history. That is the time from Jesus’ ascension until He comes again. Rev. 12 pictures the whole of end time history as focused on the man-child who rules all nations, and on the war against that man-child by the dragon. The dragon who represents Satan is ready to devour the child of the woman as soon as the child is born. The woman is the church. The dragon was standing there trying to destroy the child. Think of Herod’s march on Bethlehem. Then the man-child was caught up to heaven by God Himself, and the dragon turns his wrath on the woman, the church in the world. The important thing is that all of the warfare is concentrated on Jesus Christ.

We are the objects of the attacks of the devil only because we belong to Jesus Christ, represent Him, and confess Him. Satan has no interest in us personally. But inasmuch as we have the mark of Jesus Christ on our foreheads through baptism, and we confess Him and belong to His church, that makes us important to Satan – in the sense that we are worthy of his assaults so that he will destroy us if he could. The beast out of the sea in Rev. 13 continues that theme.

Rev. 14, following the account of the persecution of the church, reminds us that amidst the persecution, Jesus Christ does gather and preserve his church. As we are in the midst of the persecution, Rev. 14:1 assures us that the warfare of the dragon against the church is futile. The dragon is defeated. He does not destroy one single member of the elect body of the church of Jesus Christ. The defeat of Satan and his kingdom is taught in Rev. 14:8. The point is that all the attacks on the church and believers are in reality attacks on the Lamb himself, Jesus Christ. He is the main figure in the book of Revelation.

Rev. 17:14. All the attacks of the church are at their heart attacks on the Lamb. It is going to be important for us to remember when this persecution actually breaks out. That persecution is going on already today. It does not always have the same aspect; it does always involve putting someone in jail or burning him on the stake. Persecution also takes the form of reviling, slandering, ostracizing. Persecution goes on all the time. When you personally feel an object of this persecution, what is really happening is that the servants of Satan are making war with the Lamb. Satan and his hosts cannot get at Jesus Christ anymore. The Lamb is also present in the church in the world by His Word and Spirit. Satan is capable of identifying his presence. When he attacks the church and the true believer, he is really after the Lamb. We are not important, but we are members of His body. So he can touch the Lamb by touching us. He makes war with the Lamb.

The ultimate purpose of the last things is the marriage of the Lamb to His bride, the church (Rev. 19:7ff). That is the very goal of eschatology – the great marriage feast of the Lamb and His bride, the church. The conclusion of the book of Revelation is the realisation of the goal of God – the glorification of Jesus Christ in the new world as the head of the human race (Rev. 21-22). There the whole conclusion is: Jesus is glorified; He sits down on the throne with God to share in the power and glory of God. The man Jesus Christ does that and exercises all the dominion, manifests all the glory of God in the new creation. That is what God is after in the history of the last things. When that happens, you and I will be sharing in that dominion and glory. So intimately are elect believers united to Jesus Christ that we not only share His salvation, but also in His awesome glory. Again and again, we are assured that we will reign with Him. That is our future. We will reign with Jesus Christ over all things.

Content: Prof. David Engelsma | Issue 45
(Class Notes taken by: Aaron Lim)


Prof. David Engelsma’s Eschatology Notes (IV)

Notice what is in the churches that God commends in Rev. 2:10. He praises Smyrna for faithfulness – willingness to suffer for his sake. Look at the other church at Philadelphia in Rev. 3:8. She kept the name of Jesus Christ and did not deny his name. Sound doctrine, preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a witness to the truth set forth in Holy Scripture.

Contemporary events in the churches make plain what Rev. 2-3 are teaching about the end. We see the corruption of worship in the modern worship practices that are being introduced into those churches. The Heidelberg Catechism requires that we worship God only in the way that He has prescribed in His Word. That is the traditional form of worship, the heart of which is the pure preaching of the gospel. What we see in many churches that had been sound churches in the past is departure from that sound worship of God.

The same tolerance of immoral conduct is seen today. This is what I intend that we will see in this course in eschatology. We will see what Revelation prophesies about the last times in a vivid way. We will see what is happening in the churches today so that we will understand the book of Revelation better.

One more aspect of the course of study that I want to bring to your attention is that all the way through this study, I want to expose and condemn two prominent errors concerning the last things. Those are the errors of postmillennialism and premillennialism. Rev. 20 speaks of the 1000 years (“millennium” in Latin). I want to make that a part of the main subject of my teaching because those two doctrines are serious contemporary errors. They are not only serious errors about the millennium, but of the entire truth of the last things. Those two doctrines affect everything that has to do with the truth concerning the last things. Those errors are a real threat to the PRC and all Reformed and   Presbyterian   church   members. The reason is that influential religious teachers are promoting these errors, and many people are being deceived (especially postmillennialism).

Almost no warnings are given on these false doctrines today. I regard it as one of the main callings of sound Reformed churches and theologians today to witness both positively and negatively to the truth of amillennialism (not a literal 1000 years). As the church at the time of the Reformation was called to witness to the truth of justification by faith alone, Reformed churches today are called to witness against those false doctrines. The teachings of premillennialism and postmillennialism dominate in Reformed churches today with hardly any opposition. I am going to defend the truth of amillennialism vigorously.

Dispensational premillennialism is the teaching that prior to the millennium, Jesus is coming back to establish a kingdom for 1000 years in Jerusalem. Jesus will restore the Jews, and the OT Israel as His kingdom. The Jews will rule this kingdom for 1000 years. 7 years before Jesus’ visible coming, He will come secretly to take the church of believers off into heaven in what is called the rapture. According to this doctrine, the kingdom of God and the church of Jesus Christ are two different peoples of God. The church is not the spiritual reality of Israel. The church is not the true Israel of God. The hope of the church, incredibly, is the earthly power and glory of Israel as a nation of Jews in the earth. There will never be any persecution of the church by antichrist because the church will have been raptured before the antichrist appears. The church will be in the clouds with Jesus before He comes to establish the kingdom of Israel. When He does that, antichrist will persecute the Jews, not the church. That will be the means by which God will turn the Jews back to Him.

I want to oppose that doctrine because millions   of   evangelical   Christians believe this doctrine, and influential teachers are promoting it at every opportunity. The Moody Bible Institute teaches this. They are dispensational premillennialists. John MacArthur is one of them. Darby started this, and the Scofield Bible spread this.

With regard to postmillennialism, it is an error that concerns the 1000 years of Rev. 20. That is the doctrine that Jesus Christ is right now busy making the majority of human beings Christian in all the world, so that for 1000 years this present creation and history will be Christianized. There will be a kind of heaven on earth. When the majority of the world is Christianized, Jesus will then come and Christianity prevails. Christ comes after the millennium. During this millennium, the church will rule the world. Christians will be senators, congressmen, and other political leaders. The whole world will be under the domination of Christianity. So it is also called dominion theology. The origin of this teaching was the Puritans in the 1700s. This doctrine is taught today by a larger number of theologians who are influenced by the Puritans, such as Martyn Lloyd Jones. It is also promoted by Christian reconstructionists such as Gary North.

Premillennialism and postmillennialism do not look ardently for the coming of Jesus Christ, but an earthly kingdom. One of the Jews, and one that Christians will dominate. I submit to you that this is a fundamental error. We must have an ardent expectation of the coming of Jesus Christ, not an earthly kingdom. That is a practical theme of the whole book of Revelation.

Besides, both of these teachings deny that there will be an earthly persecution of the church. Instead, they teach a victory of the Jews and of Christians before Christ returns. They give Christians the impression that there will be no persecution.

Creedal Reformed Christianity is amillennial. We teach that there is no doctrine of an earthly millennium, of an earthly victory of Jesus Christ before the end.

Jesus forewarned us in John 16:33 that in the world we will have tribulation. The comfort is that He has overcome the world. This is the reason for our being of good cheer.

Content: Prof. David Engelsma | Issue 44
(Class Notes taken by: Aaron Lim)

Prof. David Engelsma’s Eschatology Notes (III)

The Book of Revelation

Biblically, the end of all things speaks of the last things in terms of the goal that God has with creation, human history, and especially the history of the church. That goal is the very same as the last thing – the second bodily coming of Jesus Christ.

Our study in this class will consist of examining what the Bible teaches concerning the last things, in closest connection with what all of us are experiencing presently in creation and in history. We want to see this especially in light of the book of Revelation. Fittingly, Revelation is the last book of the Bible. Unfortunately, it is also the least well-understood book of the Bible. Our study will shed light on what we are experiencing in the present time. In addition, the events that are taking place today will not only bear out the prophecies of Revelation, but also serve to make more clear to us what the book of Revelation is prophesying about the last days in its vivid, figurative language.

The book of Revelation is in the main figurative. It consists not of plain, straightforward     construction, but in pictures and figures. The book of Revelation itself tells us in 1:2. John saw, not heard the truth about the last things. The book teaches us by way of pictures and visions. To interpret those visions correctly is a challenge. Although the church has in general understood the basic teachings of Revelation, it is only when these visions are transpiring in history that the church will be able to clearly and fully grasp its teachings. As these prophecies are happening in their full, final reality will the church clearly grasp the teachings about the end times.

The book shows us “the things which must shortly come to pass”. That is the summary of the content of the entire book. The actual taking place of these things will help the church to grasp the prophecy of them. The description of the events in the book of Revelation will make plain to the church what she is going through, what she is experiencing with a clarity that she never had before. Although the book forewarns us of what is going to happen, we will only understand clearly what the book is teaching when these things take place.

The Letters to the Seven Churches (chapters 2-3)

The first important thing that one must realize, is that these letters are part of the teaching in the book of Revelation about the last things. They are not

just a short section on the doctrine of the church preceding the teaching about the last things that will follow in chapters 4 and following. That is often the idea that is left by the preaching on these letters to the seven churches by ministers. It happens sometimes that a minister decides to preach the doctrine of the church in the light of the letters to the seven churches. The minister himself supposes and gives the congregation to suppose that these letters are an independent section on ecclesiology.

The letters to the seven churches are an aspect of the book of Revelation, an aspect of the truth of the things that must shortly come to pass. We must expect them to take place shortly in connection with and preceding the second coming of Jesus Christ. Rev. 2-3 teaches that in the last days, churches that had been true churches of Jesus Christ will fall away, and will apostatise. We remember similar warnings in 2 Thess. 2:3. There, the apostle says that one of the signs of the very end will be a great falling away. The apostasy of churches that had been true churches of Jesus Christ – that truth is the subject of Rev. 2-3. Jesus taught the same in Matt. 24:11-12. The love of many shall wax cold. That is, love for God and love for His law and gospel. That is going to be cold in the last days. That is a description of apostasy in the churches.

Notice that this warning comes first in the book of Revelation. So crucially important is this matter of the falling away of churches that this comes first in Jesus’ instruction concerning the apostle John. Let us never forget that. This must take place and will take place. And then reflect on the fact that we are seeing this take place in our day as never before in the history of the NT church. The falling away of churches that once were true churches of Jesus Christ. What we have in the seven letters is not merely a sign that we observe in the Roman Catholic church, the liberal Protestant, Reformed and Presbyterian churches that are becoming cold in their love. It is a sign that calls the members in such churches to exert themselves to bring such churches to repentance and reformation. Then also, the warning about the falling of the churches in Rev. 2-3 calls true churches to remain faithful.

Apply this in a practical way. I suppose that the majority of you are members of the PRC. We must apply the warning of Rev. 2-3 to ourselves, to the PRC congregation that we are members of. These great evils that amount to a falling away can happen to us, can be found in us. Take note of the fact that these seven churches in Rev. 2-3 were once true churches of Jesus Christ. They were organized by apostles of Jesus Christ, by Paul himself. He laid the foundation. In the course of 30-40 years after the apostles formed one of these churches, there was a female preacher on the pulpit and catechism room, who was teaching the people to commit fornication, to live infamously and wickedly.

I do not believe that members of true churches should live suspiciously, that we should come to church looking for heresy, or living in the fellowship of the church with a critical eye. But there is another danger that is equally serious, and that is that we take for granted that everything is going on fine because we had been established on a strong foundation. This departure can happen to us. The minister and elders must especially be on their guard. But we Reformed believe in the office of all believers. Every member of a true congregation is called by Jesus Christ to observe flagrant departure in the preaching and conduct of the church. The churches are responsible before God to observe such departure.

Most of the churches in Rev. 2-3 had fallen away, or contained such errors that threatened apostasy. Rev. 2:4. That is a serious error, a fundamental error – losing her first love. They had a strong love in the beginning when they were first converted, when they knew the gospel of Jesus Christ that delivered her from the filth and corruption of the world. That is as serious as a man or wife losing their love for their spouse.

Look at Pergamos in Rev. 2:14-16. This church had once been a sound, true church of Jesus Christ. He commands them to repent, and threatens to fight them as an enemy with the sword of His mouth. That is what comes first in the book of Revelation with regard to eschatology – the falling away of churches. Look at Thyatira in Rev. 2:18-26. Look at Sardis in Rev. 3:1-4. The Lord threatens to come upon them as a thief, as an enemy. Always when a church falls away, sexual immorality abounds. The last example is Laodicea in Rev. 3:14-17. Of the seven, only two were faithful. Only two were approved by Jesus Christ in his examination of them – Symrna and Philadelphia. Calculate that percentage.

First, notice that the falling away of the churches resulted from a loss of love and zeal for God and His doctrine. That is made known in His word. Ephesus left its first love (2:4). Pergamos tolerated the false doctrine of Balaam (2:14). Thyatira tolerated a female preacher and false doctrine. Sardis was spiritually dead – no life of Christ in the congregation. Laodicea was lukewarm, disgusting to God. The falling away that characterises the churches in the last days is the loss of love and zeal.

Second, the nature of the falling away of the churches was the practice and tolerance of immorality – especially sexual immorality. The churches are always in bondage to that sin. That is the nature of the society in the West. It is not surprising that this is especially the nature of the immorality that infects the churches in the last days – sexual immorality. That is the nature of the television programmes, the movies, the featured magazines today. That is the practice increasingly of the people who call themselves Christians. Pornography, fornication, adultery, and homosexuality.

With regard to the nature of this apostasy, in some cases there was outright   antinomism.   Antinomism is the outstanding characteristic of the apostate churches in Rev. 2-3. Antinomism is not simply lawless behaviour, but it is the teaching that because we are saved and justified by faith alone, we may freely commit all kinds of wicked behaviour. We will be forgiven, we are saved by grace, therefore we may sin freely. Antinomism is a teaching that opposes the law. It denies that the law of God is still the guide for the saved child of God. It advocates immoral behaviour on the ground that we are not saved by our works anyway.

There are preachers that take that bold position openly today. Usually antinomism disguises itself somewhat. Our sinful nature is prone to antinomism.   Rev.   2:14,15,   20,   24 teach that. It was not just practical immorality. It was a doctrine, a theology that was taught by the Nicolaitans. The doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans is antinomism. Sin as you please because you are living by grace alone. The female preacher at Thyatira was teaching the people to plunge the depths of Satan so that they will know the grace of Christ to save them.

Is that in churches today, churches that used to be true, sound Reformed and Presbyterian churches? The doctrine of antinomism is as much a reality in 2015 as it was during the writing of Revelation. If there is no such extreme lawlessness of antinomism, then the apostasy of the churches consists of tolerance towards false worship and conduct. There is no discipline, a lack of discipline in the churches. There is no excommunication of members in the church who show themselves to be living impenitently in sin. Rev. 3:4. Most of the church had defiled their garments. It is well-known that they were living in immorality, and they were not disciplined. The bride and body of Jesus Christ could be such a filthy creature as the people in Sardis were.

The same thing holds for the worship of the churches. In their public worship they were advocating a doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. The sins of these five churches are evident in the churches today, even in churches that in certain respects are praiseworthy. The churches that are sharply rebuked in Rev. 2-3 were praised in other aspects of their church life. Ephesus, for example. There was discipline in that church, and opposition to false doctrine. There were commendable qualities in the church at Ephesus. Nevertheless, Christ had somewhat against her because she had lost her first love. There was tolerance of false doctrine, immoral behaviour, coolness with regard to God and His truth.

Content: Prof. David Engelsma | Issue 42
(Class Notes taken by: Aaron Lim)

BRF Review

The British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) Conference is a Reformed conference that is held in the United Kingdom biannually, for a week. This year, it was held from Saturday, 16 July to Saturday, 23 July, at Castlewellan Castle in Northern Ireland.

The theme of the conference was “Behold, I Come Quickly: The Reformed, Biblical Truth of the End”. There were six speeches on that topic, given by Prof. David Engelsma and Rev. Andy Lanning. In addition, there were three special speeches by Rev. McGeown (“Disorderliness and the Second Coming of Christ” [2 Thess. 3]), Mr. Pete Adams (“The Renaissance and the Reformation, Highlighting the Eschatological Implications”), and Rev. Stewart (“Dispensationalism, J.N. Darby, and Powerscourt”).

The first speech by Prof. Engelsma taught us about the signs of Jesus’ second coming and that He returns quickly. Rev. Lanning’s first speech dealt with the subject of premillennial dispensationalism, especially the views of premillennial dispensationalists about the rapture and antichrist. Against those views, he stated the Reformed belief about being “caught up together…in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1Thess. 4:17). Prof. Engelsma’s next speech was entitled “The Coming World-Conquest of the Beast from the Sea”, taken from Revelation 13. In the fourth conference speech, “Jesus’ Coming as a Thief in View of Abounding Lawlessness and Great Apostasy”,   Rev.   Lanning   explained what it means that Jesus comes as a thief and how that is connected to the signs of apostasy and lawlessness (Matt. 24:11-12). The last two conference speeches were given the day before the conference ended. Prof. Engelsma gave a speech on “The Two Witnesses of Revelation” (Rev. 11) in the morning. Later that day, Rev. Lanning gave the last conference speech, “Called to Live in the Expectation of a Final Judgment and in the Hope of Life Eternal”.

On the Sunday of the conference we had the church services at the castle. The morning sermon was preached by Prof. Engelsma on “The Hope of Creation for Christ’s Coming”, his text being Romans 8:19-22. The evening worship service was led by Rev. Lanning, who preached about Methusaleh, with Genesis 5:25-27 as his text.

During the conference there were two day trips. One of them was on Monday, 18 July. That trip was to Hillsborough Castle, where the queen and other British royalty stay when they come to Northern Ireland. We got a guided tour of the castle and then got to spend some time outside in the queen’s garden. The other day trip was on Thursday the 21st to Boyne Valley, a 1690 battle site, and Trim Castle. In the town of Trim we also had time to walk around the town next to the castle and fellowship with each other.

At the BRF Conference there were people from many different countries: Australia, Canada, England, Hungary, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, Ireland, Singapore, the United States, and Wales. Psalm 22:27-28 talks about this: “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations”.

Every morning and every night there was devotions, led by different people attending the conference. Devotions included singing from the Scottish Psalter, which the church in Northern Ireland also uses for its worship services. We used this Psalter before and after each speech as well.

There was also free time every day, when we could talk, walk around a lake by the castle, cycle, kayak, go to one of the world’s largest hedge mazes, sing with people at the conference, and many other activities.

We are thankful for the time we could spend with God’s people at the conference.

“I love Thy saints, who fear Thy name And walk as in Thy sight; They are the excellent of earth, In them is my delight” (Psalter 27, stanza 2).

Written by: Jessica Lanning | Issue 41

Prof. David Engelsma’s Eschatology Notes (II)

The Salt Shakers is pleased to present the second installment of Prof. Engelsma’s notes on eschatology. In this installment, the esteemed professor explains his (and the class’) interest in the book of Revelation, and the increasing lawlessness that abounds in the world and in the church.

The Nature of the Specific Study

Many years ago, when I came back to Grand Rapids to teach in the Seminary, this Reformed Doctrine class began with   the   truth   of   eschatology.   At that time, I framed the study and my instruction along the lines of a systematic order of things. I taught the class the same way a professor would teach it to his seminarians, following a logical order. I am not going to repeat that method in this class. I am going to do something different. This time I want to work as much as possible with the book of Revelation, the outstanding book in the Bible of the truth of the last things. In light of the teaching of the book of Revelation, I want to take note with you the certain events that are happening in present history that are fulfilling biblical prophecy, and affirming that the end truly is near.

Although I restrain myself from making any predictions on dates (which is utter folly), I make bold to venture that the end is nearer than we sometimes suppose as we go about our day to day business. When we look at the book of Revelation and take a hard look at developments in our culture, we will be impressed with the truth that the end is very near indeed. I will do some explaining of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, but my main interest in this class will be the book of Revelation.

Helping our study at this time (AD 2015)   is   that   certain   events   that belong to the end that are foretold in Revelation are taking place today. It has long been recognized by Reformed preachers and teachers that of all the main doctrines of the Christian faith, eschatology is the truth that is the least known and developed. Of the six major doctrines, this is the least developed. This is evident in our Reformed creeds, although they are quite extensive, sharp, and detailed. They are quite brief and noticeably general about the truth of the last things. They do not have much to say about the truth of eschatology.

That eschatology is the least developed is also evident in Reformed writings about the last things. You may know that   neither   Luther   nor   Calvin wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation. They wrote on almost all the other books except Revelation. Calvin admitted that he did not do so because he did not understand the book – it was too dark and deep. That is why there are also very few Reformed commentaries on the book.

Someone has said that the church will not be able to grasp the truth of the last things as she ought to until those truths of the last things are actually taking place and happening. I am suggesting that we are living in the time when the truths of the last things are beginning to take place in their final development, so that we are able to understand the biblical teaching of the last things that the previous generations who have gone before us could not. I intend to prove that a number of prominent and extremely important events that are a part of the last things that are figuratively described in Revelation are happening today before our eyes. This implies that the very end, with the dramatic events that immediately precede the very end (the antichrist) is very near, nearer than we commonly suppose.

I am very well aware that Christian teachers like to prophesy on the exact date of Christ’s coming. Church history warns against that. I am not going to fall into that mistake because Jesus forbids us. When He was on earth, Jesus did not know that either (Matt. 24:36). Jesus also gives us signs of the end with the purpose that they will alert us concerning the time of his coming. It is a danger when we ignore those signs and put them off into the distant future. We get used to those signs, we take them for granted. Admittedly, those are sinful things, and we fail to relate them to the last days and the end.

An example of the sheer, abounding lawlessness in the last days is the sin in Western society with regard to marriage (Matt. 24:12). Iniquity in the Greek is literally lawlessness. Lawlessness shall increase. Lawlessness is different from just failing to keep the law. Failure to keep the law is bad enough. But lawlessness is deliberate trampling upon the law of God with the purpose to disobey and to flaunt that disobedience as an indignity against the Lawgiver. A child who does not go to bed on time is disobedient to the law, but a child who shakes his fist at his parents and tells them that he will do everything contrary to what his parents teach him is lawless.

We can take this lawlessness for granted. Young people can simply have sex before marriage, but they flaunt their fornication. That married people divorce freely, and divorced people remarry freely is an outstanding example of the lawlessness that Christ taught will be a sign of the last things. We easily do not react to such things because they are so prevalent.

Besides, we also live in a time when this lawlessness takes place in the churches. When this is approved by the churches, it is lawlessness. That points to the second aspect of the sign of lawlessness. Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many toward God and Jesus Christ and the truth shall wax cold. That is Jesus’ way of describing apostasy among nominal Christians and in churches that have the name of being Christian churches. If love for God cools, that must take place in the churches. That is the only place where love for God and the truth ever took place. Love there used to be warm and ardent. Now it cools. The cooling of that love is due to the abounding of lawlessness. Because lawlessness abounds, the love of many becomes cold. So prevalent is lawlessness in marriage and sexual morality that church members become used to it. They take it for granted. The result is that love for holiness and sexual chastity cools – holiness such as fidelity to one’s spouse, and hatred for divorce and remarriage.

My dear friends, this is what you are seeing today in so-called conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches. The abounding of lawlessness with regards to marriage, don’t take that for granted. That is the way it is; don’t get used to it. You must realize it as the sign that lawlessness shall abound, and the love of many will cool. So cool is love for God and Christ in the matter of marriage that good church members today never get angry about divorce and remarriage. Let a preacher preach the truth once about divorce and remarriage, and these same people will become plenty angry with the preacher. The explanation is that the love of many will cool. Don’t take for granted that among us in the PRC, lawlessness does not abound. Lawlessness with regard to the holiness of marriage does not abound in our churches, but let us not take that for granted. We must not assume that it is always going to be the way. Rather, see the sign of lawlessness in the church and world around us that the end is near. Therefore, let us resolve to maintain the law and the love of the law in holiness of life, specifically with regard to marriage.

Content: Prof. David Engelsma | Issue 41
(Class Notes taken by: Aaron Lim)

Prof. David Engelsma’s Eschatology Notes (I)

The following is the beginning article in a series of notes on eschatology by Prof. David Engelsma. These notes were taken by Aaron Lim while he was attending Prof. Engelsma’s Reformed Doctrine class at Faith Protestant Reformed Church between the fall of 2015 and the winter of 2016. The notes are presented in the first person, that is, from the viewpoint of Prof. Engelsma speaking. We hope that they will be of spiritual profit to our readers.

Introduction to Eschatology

Not antichrist, not persecution, but Jesus Christ is the most important in eschatology. He is the truth about the end. The prevalence of errors on the millennium are not the most important thing. This truth concerning the end is taught in Rev. 20. Two main errors regarding the millennium – premillennialism and post-millennialism – must be pointed out because thousands of Protestants have fallen to this error.

We will also discuss the signs of the end and its nearness. Lawlessness, apostasy, and the second coming of Jesus Christ. The awesome events that accompany his coming – the resurrection of all the dead, the inheritance of the new world by elect believers, and the recompense of all the wicked. These are importance topics   concerning   the   last   things. We believers must beware of these things. There is eternal punishment. We will end this season by looking at the practical implications of the truth of eschatology for our Christian life before the end comes.

Scripture passages in connection with the class: Matt. 24, 25, Mk. 13, Luk. 21, 1 Thess. 4:13-18, 5, 2 Thess. 2, 2 Tim. 3,4, 2 Pet. 3, 1 Jn. 2:18-29, Revelation. Creeds: HC Q52,57,58, 123, BC Art. 37.

The subject is eschatology. This is the Reformed   doctrine   of   eschatology. The word itself derives from the Greek word “last” (eschatos). Therefore the Reformed churches have called this doctrine eschatology – the study/word about the last things.

1 Jn. 2:18. There the apostle is warning the church that antichrist is coming. It is the last time. The word translated “last” is eschatos. In Jn 6:39, we are told that Christ will raise us from the dead “at the last”. So at the last when history comes finally to its conclusion, when the present creation has run its course, there will take place a resurrection of the people of God by Jesus Christ. That will happen only at the last day.

Eschatology is the doctrine of the last days, the last time, the last of the present creation, the last of human history, the last of human life, and the last of the history of the present creation.

Our study is also going to concern what the Bible speaks of as the end. This is also how the Bible refers to these last things – the end. Jesus waited until the very end of his ministry to teach us the truth concerning the last days, or the end. Everything Jesus teaches in Matt. 24 concerns the end of the world. Matt. 24:13-14. The main sign of the nearness of the coming of Christ is the preaching of the gospel in all the world. Europe, Asia, China, and everywhere. When that happens, then the end will come. What is elsewhere referred to as the last is here called by Jesus “the end”.

1 Cor. 15:24. There are a certain number of people who belong to Christ in all the world, not just in Judea. When all of them have been born and brought to a living faith in Jesus Christ, then comes the end. The end is controlled by the salvation of the church. It cannot come until the whole church of Jesus Christ has been gathered and saved.

1 Pet. 4:7. Everything is not going to continue as it has for thousands of years before. Peter said already in his time that the end is at hand; it is near. The truth of the end must affect us spiritually, not just satisfy our curiosity about these puzzling things. It makes a differences in our life from Monday morning to Saturday night and the Lord’s Day. Everything has an end. We are going to answer the question: how could Peter answer 2000 years ago that the end of all things is at hand already in his time? If it was true already then, how much more is that the case with us? Here the last things are referred to as the end. That is a different word from “last”.

This word “end” has an important meaning. History is not just going to stop. It is not just going to be the case that this world is not going to be here anymore. But this word teaches us that all things on this day will finally reach their goal – the goal that God has appointed for all things, the goal that He has decided for history and creation, and the goal that He has appointed for your life, and my life.

We must emphasize that the end of history and this present creation is also the end of each one of us personally. This is the goal that is finally attained. When you say that this world will come to an end to your children, be aware that you are not merely saying that it is going to stop, but you are saying much more than that. This world is going to reach its goal, its purpose that God had for the entire creation when He created it in the beginning.

The Importance of the Subject

The subject of the last things is important. It is recognized by Reformed churches and Reformed theology. Reformed theology observes that there are 6 major doctrines/truths taught by the Bible. The doctrine of God, man, Christ,   salvation,   the   church,   and the last things. In the PR Seminary, when the professors teach Reformed Doctrine, they teach 6 courses in 6 semesters.

The importance of this subject is simply obvious to everybody from the nature of the topic or subject itself. Is it not important how history and the world will end? And what the signs preceding the end of the world and history are? Certainly the beginning of the world is important. But the ending of the world is important as well. Is it not important that we know and live in the consciousness of the goal of God with everything – the universe, history, and the life of each of us in history? If anyone is still inclined to doubt the importance of the truth of all things, let him or her consider that to eschatology also belongs the truth of an everlasting heaven and an everlasting hell. Every human being will either enjoy an everlasting heaven, or suffer the torments of an everlasting hell. That should make this topic of great interest to everyone who calls himself a Christian, and makes this study important.

Such is the importance of this topic for every believer that it shapes and controls all his earthly life. I am talking to myself first of all before I talk to you. If the truth of eschatology does not have this importance in my life that it shapes and controls all of our earthly life, something serious is lacking. We must allow the truth of the end to dominate and control our life and the important decisions we make – whom my friends are, whom I will date, how I will conduct myself with my husband or wife, how I will raise up my children, how I conduct myself with my brethren in the church. That is the importance of eschatology. It shapes and frames and controls our entire life.

2 Pet. 3:11-14. The whole earthly creation will be dissolved. Since we know the truth that there is coming an end – the second coming of Jesus Christ for our salvation and the renewal of the creation – because you know this, what difference does it make to you when we go home tonight, when we wake up tomorrow, all our recreation and planning? There is something dreadfully wrong about my life if this truth does not affect me. This is what we have to be concerned with, and to be busy with.

Before I was appointed to teach at the PR Seminary, one of the major issues in both congregations that I served was marital problems. Warfare between husband and wife, even though both claim to be Christians. More than once, especially when I did not think I was getting any where, I would quote this text. Don’t you think that Jesus is coming? Don’t you think that the end is near? For everyone of us who is married, the end is at the most 50 or 60 years away before our life comes to an end. Leave your own misery out of view. When your end comes, do you want to be found fighting and hating your own spouse? Hating and rebelling against your own parents? The truth of eschatology is important because it controls and shapes our whole life.

Eschatology is not only a truth that we study a couple of times a month, or think about once in awhile. But it is a truth that shapes our life to be holy and godly, in dating and marriage, what we read and watch, our friendships and more. We live in the light of the truth of the end of all things. The human being is a fool if he does not live in the light of the truth of all things. That is the way most human beings live, as though there is never going to be an end, as though they are going to live on forever, as though there is never going to be a return of Jesus Christ and a final judgment, resulting in eternal life or death, as though there is not going to be a reward for the obedience of God and a recompense for disobedience. It is to live foolish, apart from the truth of the end of all things.

Content: Prof. David Engelsma | Issue 40
(Class Notes taken by: Aaron Lim)