There are a few things that I want to get to in this post, and because they might be lengthy, I’ll get right to them.
I made a mistake while preaching yesterday. Right when I took the pulpit, I recounted the story of my college professor, Dr. Bell, asking us, “How did Jesus die?” As I retold my answer, I made this statement about Jesus’ death, “Jesus died of suffocation. After they broke his legs, blood filled his lungs, and he suffocated.” The problem with this statement is that it is not what happened to Jesus. I was recounting what usually happened to crucifixion victims. The soldiers would break their legs to speed up the process of suffocation and death. But that is not what happened to Jesus. Instead, soldiers noticed that Jesus was already dead, and they pierced his side with a spear (John 19:31-36), which fulfilled prophecies concerning His death.
I got wrapped up in the story, thinking about the medical descriptions of crucifixion, and made a mistake.
Lack of Peace and the World’s Solutions
I mentioned the root issue for our lack of peace on Sunday: our conflict with God. And I said that worry and fear take over when we forget that God is near to us because of Jesus.
But one reason I didn’t mention is that sometimes we lack peace because we knowingly sin against God. You can see this example in Genesis 4 when Cain offered a sacrifice that God did not receive. He instantly lacked peace. As Christians, this happens to us, as well. Conviction of sin can cause anxiety when we don’t repent. This is a kindness of God. It’s a way that He shows us that there’s a better way to live.
My main premise on Sunday was that our conflict with God due to our sin against God is why we need peace. When we submit to God’s plan for peace in Christ with God, we have peace. That’s the baseline for peace and the launching pad for helping bring peace to the world.
Here’s why this is important: In a recent podcast with two celebrities, they discussed various topics: war in Israel, the upcoming election, and the craziness in the world. They answered that the world needs peace. But their solution was interesting. They said the solution would be when we have a world leader and a political party that would end these things. In other words, they think peace will be found in a human leader and a political answer. Think about that. Peace will last as long as that leader is alive and his politics are agreed upon.
The world knows that peace comes through a person. They just pick the wrong person. Lasting peace can only come through the eternal Son of God.
The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Israel
One of the concerns I have right now is that Christians are becoming distracted from the work of the Kingdom of God by what’s happening in Israel. So let me add a few things about this:
First, this does not mean that I think we shouldn’t support Israel. What happened on October 7th was tragic and terrible. It was Israel’s 9/11 moment. The nation of Israel has every right to defend itself and attempt to eradicate Hamas. Christians should support them in this endeavor. Further, Christians should support Israel because the beginnings of our faith come from and through Israel.
Second, the reason for my concern is that every time a war happens in Israel, Christians immediately begin to think we’re ‘living in the last days’ and that Jesus’ coming is just around the corner. So they try to piece newspaper clippings together and compare them to what they think the Bible teaches. They get more focused on what’s happening in the Middle East than on what’s happening in their homes. Most Christians don’t know enough history to know that wars in Israel have happened since they entered the Promised Land.
Third, this leads to my final concern. Many American Christians ‘cut their teeth’ on one thought about end-times theology (eschatology). And they have been taught that that one thought is gospel truth. So, if someone offers a different perspective, they think that person is a heretic, in error, or violating something ultimate. In America, the predominant eschatology is pre-tribulation premillennial dispensationalism.
So, here’s an attempt to bring some sanity to this: we need to understand that in the history of the Christian faith, there have been three major views of the end: 1) premillennialism, 2) amillennialism, and 3) postmillennialism. All three have some things in common: Jesus returns, Christians are resurrected to new life, and the final judgment occurs. But each three have different perspectives on when all that happens. You can tell when each view thinks these things take place by looking at the prefix: pre, a, or post. And each view differs on how they view the physical nation of Israel. Premillennialists believe that God still has a plan for the nation of Israel. Some in the pre-mil (namely those in the pre-tribulation camp) believe that Jews are God’s people regardless of their belief in Jesus as Savior. Others in the pre-mil camp believe that God will bring a significant number of Jews to faith in Jesus before the end comes. That should be concerning to us. Most in the a-mil and post-mil camps believe that the kingdom of God was taken from the Jews (Mt. 21:43), and they see Israel in the New Testament as a spiritual people (Rom. 9:6-7). But here’s what I want you to understand: millions of Christians have disagreed on these issues throughout the centuries.
Let me add one other historical item: the three views I mentioned above can be traced to the earliest parts of Christianity. But the pre-tribulation view? We don’t find that in Church History until the early to mid-1800’s. To me, this is telling and important. Historical Theology (tracing theology throughout the history of the Church) is fundamental.
I encourage you to study all the different views with an open hand. End-times theology and prophecy are vague in the Bible on purpose. Therefore, eschatology is not a gospel issue nor closed-handed. I believe it’s to make us not know when the end comes so that we might do the work of God, in dependence on God, until the end.
Finally, my favorite ‘beginner’ book on eschatology is R.C. Sproul’s book, The Last Days According to Jesus. Also, if you’re looking for a very good take on the book of Revelation, this will be a good 14-minutes of your time: https://open.spotify.com/episode/3z0Ztq1Y3obJwAeZ0g2xmA?si=9uQcRloQQlyzTeEj2ncfNw.
This Sunday, we will continue our Advent study with Joy. We will look at Luke 2:8-14 and 1 Peter 1:3-9.
From the Cheap Seats
- While I agree that Alabama and Texas are better than Florida State right now, I don’t know how you keep an undefeated Power 5 conference champion out of the College Football Playoff.
- Trent Bray at Oregon State and Mike Elko at Texas A&M are the best hires those schools could’ve made.
- This week: who signs Shohei??
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.
Have a great week!