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