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Editorial Introduction to “Eschatology” *

It was two years ago that we promised our readers an issue on eschatology*. Since then we have received many letters inquiring about this promised issue.

We have not forgotten our promise. For two years Present Truth Magazine has been contending for the supremacy of the gospel (the Christ event) over preoccupation with subjective experience. For two years we have been hammering on the theme that justification by faith rather than the new life of the believer must become the central affirmation of the church.

Someone may then ask, "What does that have to do with eschatology?" To which we reply, "It has everything to do with eschatology." The prophetic portions of Scripture are inseparably bound to the evangelical portions. Too often eschatology is studied as if it were a field of separate interest. What is needed more than anything else is that we allow the gospel to determine our view of eschatology. If we do not allow the gospel or New Testament to determine our view of Old Testament prophecies, then we might as well admit that we have other things to preach about besides the gospel of Christ.

On last fall's itinerary through the United States, The Australian Forum was confronted by a theology student who frankly highlighted the great fallacy of separating the gospel and eschatology. "But surely," he said, "there must be other things to preach about besides the gospel." To which Professor Paxton replied, "Tell me of one subject from Genesis to the Revelation which you can preach about that does not deal, directly or indirectly, with the central theme of God's redemptive activity for His people." The young man was unable to give one instance.

When the disciples were anxious to know many things about Israel and the kingdom (Acts 1:6), Jesus told them that their sole preoccupation was to be the gospel (see Acts 1:7, 8). The apostle Paul also said, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." 1 Cor. 2:2. Jesus and Paul were not telling us that when we know the gospel of Christ's cross, we will not need to know anything else. They were telling us that to know the gospel of Christ's cross is to know everything else.

Today's religious scene is preoccupied with things other than the gospel. The number one preoccupation is religious experience, the "gospel" of the Spirit-filled life of the believer. (This takes many forms but has one basic motif.) The number two preoccupation seems to be future earthly blessings "along the lines of a Moslem paradise on the improved Damascus model." — J. E. Fison, The Christian Hope (London and New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1954), p.42. The burning passion to preach about our exciting religious experience now is very closely related to the burning passion to preach about an even more exciting experience in the coming earthly utopia.

The masthead of this magazine declares that the great truth of justification by faith alone must call all that we do and all that we teach into question. We must allow this great central article of the Reformation to call our views of eschatology into question. This is what we intend to do in this issue of Present Truth Magazine.

It would take an encyclopedia to discuss all the theories of the last things. We do not intend to attack this theory and that theory. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. We simply want to uphold the gospel of Christ's righteousness in such a way that each reader can see if his own theories of eschatology square with it. Some have already written to us and reported that they have relinquished lifelong views on eschatology because those views were seen to be inconsistent before the clarifying principles of justification by faith. And this editor is not one who can write as if many people except him need to change their views. He also knows what it is to have deeply entrenched traditions uprooted and theological edifices come tumbling down before the onslaught of God's justification and its far-reaching principles. If the reader is faced with the challenge of abandoning the education of a lifetime for the claims of truth, then accept it joyfully, knowing that the only thing to suffer will be human pride. Be like the lover of truth who cried, "l would gladly exchange a thousand errors for one truth!"

At the outset we want to make it clear that the contention is not amillennialism versus premillennialism. Neither is it literal interpretation of prophecy versus spiritual interpretation of prophecy. The issue is: What is the gospel? What does it mean to be justified by faith? And will we allow this gospel to determine our view of eschatology?

In order to keep a unified, cogent theme in this special edition of Present Truth Magazine, the entire issue has been presented by the editor. We have included a bibliography at the end.

*The doctrine of the last things, i.e., the end of the world. Christ's coming, resurrection, judgment, etc.