I meant to blog about something several years ago and never did, but now it seems relevant again. What’s that? Remember the hoopla (among some Christians) about the four blood red moons? (Ya know, John Hagee’s book, among others.) Some have end time hysteria. They see certain news headlines and astronomical occurrences as prophetic signs, or as the prelude for end time events.
Here we go again…the pending total solar eclipse. I live in the path of totality, so the eclipse dominates our local headlines. I am observing Christians who perceive it as…a prophetic sign, a warning of pending judgment, etc. I was extremely disappointed to see a respected Bible teacher (that I won’t name) with a headline and article about the total solar eclipse being a sign of God’s coming judgment. According to this teacher, we should not be celebrating the eclipse, but be in a state of contrition and prayer.
Well, of course, humility and prayer is always a good thing. But we can’t enjoy the eclipse? It must rather be a sign of pending judgement? Sigh.
Did you realize that solar eclipses are not rare? They happen about every 18 months – somewhere in the world! However, a total solar eclipse is only visible from a small and limited area on earth – making it rare that you will see one. Celebrate the opportunity to observe one!
If the total solar eclipse is a special prophetic sign, well, it is happening every 18 months. Hmmm. One would think that an astronomical sign of prophetic significance would not be so…routine.
It is true that the Bible speaks of astronomical events around the return of Christ and associated judgment, but these descriptions don’t sound routine (the course of nature) but are drastic, unusual, and interconnected with other happenings.
Back around the time of the four blood red moons, the magazine “Israel My Glory” had an article refuting that the blood moons were prophetic signs. You can read it here. It emphasizes that blood moons are simply an example of God’s majestic handiwork. (Psalms 19:1) I mention this specific refutation because “Israel My Glory” is from a pro-Israel and dispensational perspective, and even they ran an article critiquing the blood red moon excitement!
Added after posting: Apparently there is date-setting going on at present, and somehow September 23, 2017 is perceived to be the day of the rapture or some other eschatological event. From DTS prof, Michael J. Svigel: Once Again, I REJECT and REPUDIATE All Date-Setting and “Astrallegory”
Which will lead me into rambling that will not interest some. Feel free to stop reading here.
Some blame dispensationalism for end time hysteria, which is in one sense fair, and in another sense not fair. One problem, that can happen with any theological system, is that what plays out among the everyday people can end up different than what the theology actually teaches. Unfortunately, teachings can get distorted and turn into something they were not intended to be. Even Lewis Sperry Chafer (founder of Dallas Theological Seminary) was concerned that teaching about the end times could overshadow more important things – like the gospel. Unfortunately, it eventually happened. Blame deserved. (I had several posts on dispensational end-time issues. First one here.)
However, dispensationalism can be unfairly maligned – only associated with the extremist fringe or with what is prevalent in segments of “popular” Christianity. These things make serious and thoughtful dispensationalists cringe too! I am a recent DTS grad. John Hagee (and the like) was not viewed in a positive light in my DTS classes. He would be an example of dispensationalism gone off the deep end.
Recent dispensationalism has tried to acknowledge and correct some of the weaknesses of the past, as well as clear up misconceptions. Here are several articles or posts to consider:
- Shaped By the Future: Reclaiming the Hope of Eschatology. Read this great article! Fear should not predominate eschatology. It should be about HOPE – and that hope is Jesus. “Eschatology is not just the answer to the question, ‘what does the future hold?’ It answers the question, ‘how does the future shape the present?’”
- Interview with Glenn Kreider on Dispensationalism and the History of Redemption. This is a brief interview about a book. Kreider states in part of the interview: “A related misconception is that dispensationalism is largely concerned with eschatology. We try to show in the book that although dispensationalism does hold to a pretribulational premillennial eschatology, the tradition is much more than that.” – Yes, dispensationalism is about more than end times.
- Bob on Books is a thoughtful book review blog, and Bob reviews Christian non-fiction books. He reviewed an academic book on eschatology from a dispensational perspective, and states this in his review: “Discerning what theological persuasion the writers were coming from, I thought, ‘O.K. here we go, prophecy charts and predictions that our conflict with ISIS is the prelude to Armageddon.’ There is none of that in this book. Instead, what I found was good scholarship seeking to be faithful to scripture…”
Good scholarship seeking to be faithful to Scripture. Yes, dispensationalism can indeed be that! Even if you are opposed to dispensationalism, please be fair. Don’t judge a whole system by the fringe or by what it became in “popular” Christian culture. Like other theological systems, dispensationalism has also developed over time. Consider the views of progressive dispensationalists, and not only the classic dispensationalism from years ago. (Thanks.)