The other day this tweet caught my eye:
The date on that tweet was 12:03 PM, October 3, 2023. At 6:23 AM on October 7, less than four days later, the first Hamas rockets crashed into Israel.
If this were the only thing happening, it might not be so interesting from an eschatological standpoint. Even given the horrific nature of the terrorist assault on Jewish civilians, the region has been characterized by war for decades.
But that’s not all there is, is it?
Russia (Gog and Magog?) is on the move.
China is rattling her sabers.
We recently had a two-year demonstration of how easily democracies can be made to surrender their freedoms (Whether or not you agree that said freedoms should have been surrendered in that particular case is not my point. That it happened, and could happen again, is there for all to see).
In recent years dispensationalism has fallen on hard times. An increase in Reformed Theology (many of whose writers I greatly appreciate) has led to a rejection of pre-millennial, pre-tribulational eschatology in favor of a Covenant system of interpretation. This followed on the heels of the fall of the Communist bloc (dogmatically identified by many earlier dispensationalists with Gog and Magog of biblical prophecy), and an unfortunate series of books that were outdated almost as soon as they rolled off the presses.
I have often cautioned against interpreting eschatology based on current events. Said practice has led to some pretty bizarre theology going back the Middle Ages. Dispensationalists have been guilty of it. A lot. But allow me to point out that the tweet at the top of this post was also doing just that. In effect, it was saying “There’s nothing going on that supports a dispensationalist point of view, therefore dispensationalism will die out.”
Then Hamas happened. Added, of course, to all the other stuff that is happening. Perhaps the reports of the death of dispensationalism have been greatly exaggerated.
So, is the current conflict an immediate precursor to the End Times? I don’t know. The possibility is certainly intriguing.
What I DO know (from Scripture, not current events) is that God is not done with the nation of Israel. Dispensationalist eschatology is downstream from the very clear distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church. It means that the prophecies having to do with Israel actually have to do with Israel, and include her eventual return to belief in Christ and enjoying the national boundaries promised by God.
Whether it be two, twenty, or two-hundred years in the future, the events happening today can be seen as the birth pains for the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people Israel.
So how should Christians respond to this week’s news reports? In a threefold manner, I believe.
1. Get on your knees for Israel. I will not post or even link to the nauseating images of the attacks that have taken place. Suffice it to say that the government that does not respond to such despicable acts against its people is guilty of dereliction of duty. However one disagrees with the politics of the Israeli state (and certainly there are areas where one can disagree) there can be no doubt that these murderous assaults have more to do with the Jewishness of the victims than with their Israeli-ness.
2) Get right with God. Of course this should be an ongoing process. But seeing events taking place that indicate that Christ’s return might be near should be an extra motivation to holiness, watchfulness, and communion with the brethren.
3) Get to work. We have not been given a date for the return of Christ. We are surrounded by unbelievers. There is work to do. Nowhere does Scripture advocate a “bunker mentality”. Rather, when Christ returns, he wants to find his servants busy obeying his commands. Chief among those commands, of course, is to make disciples of all nations.
Need a way to start a conversation that will lead to the gospel? Try talking about the news.
*Banner image: Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Russian Painter Viktor Vasnetsov
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