Examples of Over-Realized Eschatology

Examples of Over-Realized Eschatology May 31, 2024

While there are many forms that over-realized eschatology can take, this post will be only about some the salient ones.  One of the examples of this notion that does not correspond with what the NT teaches is the idea that in Christ’s first coming, the story of Israel comes to its proper climax and even, in some views, conclusion, and so from now on the church of Jew and Gentile united in Christ is Israel.   This view in its most salient form has been called, quite properly, supercessionism.   The idea that the church supercedes, and takes over the role of Israel in the world.   The problem with this idea is it does not match either the teaching of Jesus or the teaching of Paul.  In the latter case, Paul makes perfectly clear in Rom. 9-11 that: 1) God has not replaced his first chosen people with another; 2) Israel, if temporarily broken off from the people of God in the case of Jews who reject Jesus, can be grafted back in when Christ returns and ‘all Israel will be saved’. (see the end of Rom. 11). Very clearly the term Israel in Rom. 9-11 does NOT refer to the church, it refers to ethnic Israel.  When Paul wants to talk about Jews and Gentile united in Christ, he uses the term ‘the assembly of God’. (ekklesia tou theou).  And if one looks carefully at the teaching of Jesus, he also sees a future for Israel, with his own 12 judging the twelve tribes of Israel when he returns.   In short, the story of Israel is not completed until the second coming of Christ, and what ensues thereafter.

A second form that over-realized eschatology can also take is the notion that the church age is in fact the ‘millenium’ described in Rev. 20.  This idea doesn’t work for a variety of reasons: 1) according to Rev. 20, Satan is in a holding tank where he can no longer deceive, bewitch, bother or bewilder the people of the nations.  Even a brief examination of other places in the NT where Satan is mentioned makes clear he is alive and well in planet earth, causing chaos, and can even be called ‘the ruler of this age’ or a roaring lion etc.  So no, the church age is decidedly not the millenium (sometimes called -a-millenialism), rather it is future stage that only happens after Christ returns and the dead in Christ are raised (see 1 Cor. 15).

A third form of over-realized eschatology is the idea that Christians can and should go on the offensive against Satan and his minions, practicing various sorts of deliverance ministries.  This is largely based on a misreading of Ephes. 6.10-20. Paul says that the full armor of God will protect us from the Devil’s onslaughts on us, but the operative terms here are ‘so you may stand and withstand‘ such onslaughts.  There is nothing here about going on the offensive.   What we are promised is that with the Holy Spirit in our lives we can resist temptation, and don’t have to be led into sin by Satan.  But that is very different from waging war against Satan.  Again, if you read Revelation we are told that an archangel has that job of fighting and beating Satan, and casting him down from the heavenly counsel.  So far, none of the church members I’ve encountered qualify as angels or archangels.

A fourth form of over-realized eschatology comes in the form of bibliolatry– the exaltation of a particular translation of the Bible into English as if it dropped from heaven, very much like the actual false claims of Joseph Smith about the Book of Mormon material.  Turning the King James translation into a golden calf, is not a good thing, especially when, even at its best, as more recent translations have shown repeatedly, it has various errors of translation in it.  Alas, a translation team is only as good as the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts they have before them to do the translating with, and unfortunately in the 17th century they did not have nearly as many manuscripts or as old a group of manuscripts closer to the original as we do today.  And in any case EVERY TRANSLATION IS ALREADY AN INTERPRETATION. And it was not done under the same inspiration as the original inspired authors of Scripture.

A fifth form of over-realized eschatology is the idea that we are already in the final tribulation referred to by Jesus and elsewhere in the NT, and so we should be on the lookout for certain cosmic signs (eclipses!!) or political events (is Putin the anti-Christ of the end times). Alas for this idea, according to the Book of Revelation we are not even through the preliminary judgments of the seven seals, trumpets, and bowls, never mind the time when Christ will appear and mayhem will ensue thereafter.   Note that every attempt in church history to predict the timing of the second coming has ended in total failure!  We don’t know the time when he is coming, even he said during his ministry he didn’t know (Mk. 13.32).  It will be like a thief in the night, at an unexpected time.  So please always be prepared, and don’t listen to arm-chair prognosticators who have always been wrong.

Lastly, there is the whole mistake of thinking that the Gospel is about getting us saved so we can go to heaven.  Talk about a heavenly afterlife is very very sparse in the NT. Paul for example says almost nothing about it, except for his brief references to being absent from the body and present with the Lord in 2 Corinthians. And Jesus likewise has his focus elsewhere, though he mentions in passing if the parable of the rich man and Lazarus about being with the saints in heaven.  No, the entire emphasis in the NT is about future resurrection, final judgment, and new heaven and new earth right here on planet earth.  Otherworldly eschatology is a minority report, and a temporary one. Heaven is just an ultra-clean bus station on the way to resurrection life on earth.  And no, there will be no ‘beam me up Scotty’ stuff when the real tribulation hits planet earth.

Enough said for now.


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