Timeout: Storm Clouds over Historicism


(Spectrumbot) #1

Three events in the twentieth century demonstrate the vulnerabilities of historicism as the key to Bible prophecy and the lens through which to determine what is important in history. The three events I have in mind are the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda, and the atrocities committed when the former Yugoslavia was breaking up. I had an opportunity to witness one after-effect of the latter in faraway Australia eight years ago. While in Melbourne, I learned that Adventist congregations with membership from the former Yugoslavia had split during the war. Seventh-day Adventists regarding themselves as Serbs could no longer worship alongside fellow believers who regarded themselves as Croats despite sharing the same language. The impact of the ruthless nationalism of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia and Franjo Tudjman in Croatia spilled over into the church nationally and internationally. Church members also took sides; church structures buckled under the pressure.

This was the decade when the highest echelons of the Orthodox Church in Bosnia praised Radovan Karadzic and Radtko Mladic, leaders of the Serb faction during the break-up of Bosnia, as luminous examples of what it means “to follow the hard road of Christ.” Milosevic, Karadzic, and Mladic later faced charges of war crimes and genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal at the Hague. The genocide in Rwanda claimed more lives than the war in the former Yugoslavia, but Rwanda is important because it was regarded as the most “Christianized” country on the African continent and Seventh-day Adventists, also a sizeable group in the country, participated in the genocide.

And yet it is the Holocaust that will be our lesson book. It towers above all other atrocities in the twentieth century. It is also best described and analyzed, and it is from post-Holocaust reflections I will attempt to draw some lessons under the heading, “Storm Clouds over Historicism.”

Useful background reading for my reflection will be Jacques Doukhan (ed.), Thinking in the Shadow of Hell: the Impact of the Holocaust on Theology and Jewish-Christian Relations (2002); Daniel Heinz (ed.), Freikirchen und Juden im ‘Dritten Reich’ (2012); and Johannes Hartlapp, Siebenten-Tags-Adventisten im Nationalsozialismus (2008).

Before we begin, let us read again one of the texts for this week’s Lesson Study, the text showing that the “one hundred and forty-four thousand” are constituted as Israel.

And I heard the number

of those who were sealed,

one hundred forty-four thousand,

sealed from every tribe

of the people of Israel (Revelation 7:4)

In this reflection, I rely mostly on Professor Hartlapp’s magisterial book. It is a masterpiece of investigative footwork, describing in painstaking detail the situation and response of Seventh-day Adventists to Hitler’s Nazi regime. Dr. Hartlapp is Professor of Church History at Friedensau Adventist University just an hour’s drive from Berlin. I will focus on some excerpts from Hartlapp’s conclusions. For translations, I am indebted to Dennis Meier, the President of the Hansa Conference in the North German Union. The opinions expressed in the following are my own; they are not the views of my friends Dennis or Johannes.

Why make these horrendous events a moment of truth for historicism? Why not say — merely — that they are examples of human failings without the need to incriminate the historicist approach to Bible prophecy? My answer will be that these events are those things, too — examples of human failings — but are also a corrective to historicism as the means by which to know what is important in times of crisis.

The first set of Hartlapp’s conclusions are largely descriptive. They have in common the conviction that the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany on important points fell in line with the national mood. As he puts it, “The Christian conscience capitulated to the Zeitgeist” (p 597).

The fall of the Seventh-day Adventist Church was bigger because its aspirations were so high: we were “the Remnant Church,” a bulwark of faith in times of apostasy. Failure hit at the home base — and the evil that occasioned the failure was not the garden variety kind. Against such evidence, says Hartlapp, “The claim to exclusivity had been refuted by life” (p 597).

A second question that needs to be asked is why Adventists in Germany were willing to sacrifice an essential like Sabbath observance, the “seal of the overcomers,” on the altar of “total war” (p 602).

Was the failure limited to individuals only, or was it systemic? Did the Church fail as church? Hartlapp gives a pointed answer.

It would be wrong to attribute the failure of German Adventists during the Nazi era to deficient decision-making of individuals. The church faced fundamental questions to which it had hitherto been oblivious or negligent. The caving in to the Zeitgeist, on closer inspection, turns out to be a consequence of the fact that some of the so-called fundamentals had lost their fundamental weight. Therefore, an analysis of that behavior may bring insights that are of interest for the church as a whole (p. 600).

I take the statement above as an invitation to reflect broadly — this way: Our church in Germany faced a crisis to which it responded by silence, acquiescence, and denial. The problem was church-wide. Fundamental faith commitments were put to the test and found wanting. There was an unrecognized weak spot in the church’s armor. The theology of a self-described prophetic, end-time movement was inadequate. It is at this point that historicist priorities come up for review.

First, says Hartlapp, there was an overriding concern for the preservation of the church and the church organization. This is a noble thing, but is it wise in a state of emergency? Is it good enough when all bets are off, when fellow human beings wear the yellow star, when synagogues are burned and razed to the ground, and when trains loaded with Jews begin heading east?

Not personal interests, but ‘The Work’ was at the top of the list. Therefore, wherever possible, they fought for the preservation of any institution that was in danger of being confiscated. The continuation of an orderly organization, including all entities and institutions, seemed to be the top priority. That times were dangerous was recognized. With reference to the Old Testament text, preachers time and again inculcated their congregations: “While we go with them into the Valley of Dura, we will not bow down to their statue.” With that attitude many leaders turned a blind eye on those who didn’t want to go into the Valley of Dura in the first place. The way into the Valley of Dura, however, changed the church so drastically that most of them failed to realize that they were brought in line and abused by the regime, much like the rest of the population (p. 598).

Hartlapp’s imagery is spine-tingling. Going into the Valley of Dura, yes, but not going to bow down! And then, after going down to the Valley of Dura, there was no turning back, only a steep climb toward regaining one’s integrity.

Second, Seventh-day Adventists had a broad-brush picture of the world and of history, but it lacked the means to decipher the present.

Since the church as a result of the 19th century second awakening movement was orientated towards the future, the state was constituted only as a necessary evil to maintain and secure the normal course of life. Generally, the term ‘state’ meant ‘the sinful world,’ and the world as such was not taken seriously. It somehow decorated the apocalyptic scenario, but nothing more. Adventist reflections on political ethics are nowhere to be found (603-4).

In this other-worldly orientation, the world was mere decoration: the world was not taken seriously. Precisely this is the blind spot of historicism: it knows what the historicist understanding has selected as important, but it does not know history. It does not take the world seriously, and it does not take history seriously either. In important respects, historicism can be a cop-out, a way that passes for knowing without doing the hard work of really knowing something. The test in this case was the racist, nationalist, demagogic, Jew-hating program of Hitler, but the prophetic radar had been set at an angle that did not pick it up. It spotted beasts on the screen in Rome and a few other places, but it had no alarm bells for the Beast in Nuremberg or Berlin.

Karl Popper’s (1902-94) criticism of historicist approaches is pertinent.* His historicism does not refer to Bible prophecy but to ideologies that imagine themselves capable of naming the forces that guide history and therefore can predict direction and outcome. “Historicists” of this kind include Plato (427-347 BCE), G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831), and Karl Marx (1818-83). Popper writes that these philosophical approaches to history fail the test of morality: they are guilty of dissociating moral action in the present from the outcome that is predicted and sought. “So we can be sure,” Popper writes,

that whatever we do will lead to the same result; that even fascism must, in the end, lead to that commonwealth; so that the final outcome does not depend upon our moral decision, and that there is no need to worry over our responsibilities. If we are told that we can be certain, on scientific grounds, that “the last will be the first and the first last,” what else is this but the substitution of historical prophecy for conscience?

A person who knows the outcome and is certain what the outcome will be risks the pitfall of dogmatism at one end, and fatalism at the other. For the dogmatic stance, knowledge of the goal of history endows the person committed to that goal with the mandate of implementing it: dogmatism and triumphalism tend to go hand in hand. At the fatalist end, complacency prevails. Values matter less than the end that is sought. The end justifies the means even if the means is to do nothing.

This leads to the third point, the event-centered selectivity of historicism. Hartlapp’s conclusion agonizes over this, and we should join him. We should not dismiss the debacle of the German Adventist experience. We should stand with them in solidarity and — in solidarity — admitting that their blind spot is ours, too. Selective event-centeredness plays tricks on people when the event that needs to be addressed and confronted is not on historicism’s list of evils.

Behind this lurks a notion of history that is exemplified by selection, as demonstrated in the interpretation of prophecies. If possible, all biblical statements had to submit to a hermeneutic characterized by a rationalistic epistemology. Texts like Dan 12,4 undoubtedly point to a rationale of inner connections between various prophetic statements. At the same time, however, the visual language of the prophets signals different levels of interpretation. Anyone sticking to a rigid rational scheme loses the experiential dimension prophetic imagery in all its variety has in store. The traditional Adventist prophetic interpretation, in which only the Papacy and America occupied an active political place in world history, is one reason why the danger of National Socialism was not recognized, or, if ever, too late, by most German Adventists (p. 606).

While Adventists kept talking about the Papacy or America — while we keep talking about the Papacy and America — other menaces sneak upon us, and they are not detected because we do not find them in the historicist scheme. I mean no offense to historicism when I say that historicism has yet to mention the Holocaust or Nazi ideology as evils that ought to be included in its exposé.

We are not talking about things merely for the record. I have left out the pain experienced in the German church as it tried to pick up again and move on after the war. In this, there has been little help from the World Church. I wonder what Adventist tour leaders say on their Reformation Tours in Germany. In Wittenberg, do they point out the sculpture of the pig high up on one corner of the Mother Church of the Reformation? Do they mention that the human beings suckling underneath the sow are Jews? Do they draw attention to the man lifting the tail of the pig to inspect its rear end, that he is a Jewish rabbi? And then, in these days of theological accountability, do they explain that Martin Luther used this image on his own church to show that the Jews were worshiping the Devil’s excrement? It is not only the historicism of Adventists that is weighed and found wanting. A critical piece of Reformation theology has also been left out.

When the Biblical Research Institute and the General Conference brought more than three hundred Adventist Bible scholars and religion teachers to Jerusalem in 2012, the topic was anthropology. I have been told that our world leader made no mention of the Holocaust in his opening address. The attendees were treated to a grand tour of the Holy Land, but there was no scheduled visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem (“Yad Vashem” is a biblical term drawn from the Sabbath text in Isaiah 56). The past was there (archaeology). The future was there (eschatology). Only the present was missing.

In the Valley of Dura (Daniel 3:1-30)

Hartlapp uses “the Valley of Dura” as a metaphor for the experience of German Adventists during the Hitler years. Before we close, let us go to the Valley of Dura in the days of King Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.).

He was the king who wanted to Make Babylon Great Again, the builder of the Ishtar Gate and the Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. He built the Wall, too, to ensure the safety of Babylon. Estimates for the size of the wall varies, from 75 feet tall to 300 feet, with a width up to eighty-five feet. He was a great military leader — certainly not one to request deferments.

Nebuchadnezzar understood the need to harness religion and capture the religious vote. To this end, he staged a spectacular rally in the Valley of Dura (or Plain of Dura). He made Babylon an object of idolatry, projecting a connection between god and country so close that the two became indistinguishable (Daniel 3:1-6). “Great” and “Good” are not the same, and Nebuchadnezzar was more interested in “great” than in “good,” and his project was decidedly this-worldly.

Shadrak, Meshak, and Abed-Nego did not prostrate themselves before the image. If they had been in the United States today, would they have taken the Pledge of Allegiance with the religious tone it has acquired? (For the religious meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance in a church context, please see Stanley Hauerwas “Why Did Jesus Have to Die? An Attempt to Cross the Barrier of Age,” Princeton Seminary Bulletin 28 (2007). Would they have applauded flags in our churches? On a “Valley-of-Dura scale,” where should we place a 3ABN program that was broadcast four years ago? (The telling part begins six minutes into the program and ends at twelve minutes). Would Shadrak, Meshak, and Abed-Nego sing along with the people in the program and take the Pledge of Allegiance amid symbols of power and patriotism? I see a “Valley-of-Dura” scene. What do you see?

I have noted earlier that the Quarterly seems to put all its eggs into the historicist basket:

A careful reading of Revelation’s prophecies (like those of Daniel) shows that the historicist method of prophetic interpretation is the correct way to understand the prophecies’ intended fulfillment, because they follow the flow of history, from the prophet’s time to the end of the world.

This is at best incomplete. First, the prophets (and John is a prophet, too) were forth-tellers more than fore-tellers. Their expertise and sense of vocation were not limited to foretelling the future but to bringing spiritual clarity into the present. They knew what to do in the Valley of Dura then; the prophet knows what to do in the Valley of Dura now. And there is a now. The “time of anguish” (Daniel 12:1) may come later than we imagined, but it has also come sooner than we thought, and we did not see it.

Second, affirmations of historicism as “the correct way” should not leave out the storm that swept the historicist landscape in the twentieth century in the fascist dream of Hitler (“the Great Deed”) and its Marxist version. And it can certainly not leave out the storm that laid bare the vulnerability of Seventh-day Adventists and our historicist understanding in the same century.

Third, unless forth-telling is robustly joined to fore-telling in the Adventist view of prophecy and our communal witness, we shall have a weak voice in the world, and we shall lose the next generation. I don’t deny that some young people master the art of fore-telling. But many more do not and never will. The young people I have met in my teaching experience might come along if we teach them more of the art of forth-telling, point out the prophetic foundation, and march into the Valley of Dura to take a stand.

*Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies. Volume 1: The Spell of Plato. Volume 2: The High Tide of Prophecy: Hegel, Marx, and the Aftermath (London: Routledge, 1989-90. Orig. 1945).

Further Reading:

Revelation: For Re-Readers Only, January 5, 2019

Apokalypsis, January 8, 2019

Revelation and the Neighborhood, January 14, 2019

Timeout: Revelation and the Crisis of Historicism, January 18, 2019

Crisis in the Heavenly Council, January 21, 2019

Timeout: Cosmic Conflict vs. Historicism, January 25, 2019

Silence in Heaven — for about Half an Hour, January 28, 2019

Timeout: From Daniel to Revelation, February 1, 2019

Revelation 7: The 144,000 and the 233,000, February 4, 2019

Sigve K. Tonstad is Research Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Loma Linda University.

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9391

#2

Very glad that you are addressing this, Sigve.

More later…

https://conversation.spectrummagazine.org/t/lounge-open-thread/11538/6500?u=cassie


#3

Interesting assertion.

Are our choices:

  1. Satan did it
  2. Historicism did it
  3. Satan did it using historicism; therefore historicism is satanic
  4. Or…

:question:


(Thomas J Zwemer) #4

Shortly before WII two German Adventist workers had the chapel talk at EMC. In that talk they praised and defended Hitler. They also repeated their defense in the Church School. Iwas stunning even to seventh and eighth graders. Four years later I was drafted. no bone spurs.


(Shane Smith) #5

Sigve, thank you for focusing our attention on contemporary issues. I feel the fact that Adventism generally only looks forward to the Kingdom of God at the return of Christ, and misses entirely that Christ made it very plain that the kingdom HAD come in his person, is the reason we don’t see anything between as important.

When and where can we expect to read your commentary on Revelation? Can’t wait!


(Chris Blake24) #6

This is still the case. As Lewis points out in The Screwtape Letters, the present is the only time when God can actually speak to us, can affect our direction and our choices. “Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead." In truth the past is also full of glories and regrets. God is primarily the I Am Present.

Thank you, Sigve, for pointing out that atrocities are presently diving, talons bared, or slithering toward “the least of those” on the margins. In focusing on a future Time of Trouble Adventists have historically neglected a myriad of unconscionable times of trouble, particularly when the trouble didn’t/doesn’t touch us. This cowardly, survivalist approach is a noxious blight on the fruit of the Spirit.

Instead of heading for the hills or descending to the plain of Dura, may Adventists who are followers of Jesus focus on engaging and liberating the present with fearless love, the way our Master did–and does.


(Stan Lastings) #7

Where’s the King? How can you have a Kingdom without a King present?


(Shane Smith) #8

The king (Jesus) is ruling from his throne at the right hand of the father in heaven. I won’t even bother giving you texts for that.


(Guy Lacourse) #9

Like Jesus said: There will be wars and rumours of wars but this is just the beginning… The fact that Prophecy - in its historicist interpretation - focuses on the big picture and points mostly to the very end time events is not a problem as such. One needs to remember that prophecy talks about what happens to the people of God (the Church) and not to the nations. It portrays events in very broad strokes. And also we need to understand that, while God suffers from all the evil that happens in this world, His mission is about saving people for the coming age and not saving this age from its present evil. After all, did not Jesus say" My kingdom is not of this world”?

That being said, it does not mean that the Church (organization as well as the believers) should be blind to what is presently happening or should turn the head to look elsewhere when present world events are shaping the very near future. There is a definite risk of seeing the Church (again!) elect to go down the path of the valley of Dura for the sake of not risking to lose its place in this world! But one day - and it is coming fast - the Church (the organization) will ultimately be faced with the perspective of total dislocation and annihilation. On that day, we will see who the Church really is! In the mean time, let us remember that all evil, all genocide, every war comes from one source and is used for one final goal: Satan and the establishment of his dominion on this planet. Historicism knows it, and we can see it happening in the very present time too!
I am pastor Guy Lacourse, from Canada.


(antony nyathi) #10

:clap::clap::clap::clap::clap::clap: well said sigve. The bible is a very ambitious book. Revelation is perhaps the most ambitious, surely the prophetic radar must be adjusted to pick up more than what its picking up at the moment.


Revelation 7: The 144,000 and the 233,000
#11

While I agree that ideas go places, they can’t take us against our will, Sigve.

The weight you are laying on a hermeneutic approach here strikes me as a deflection from the real issues.

More on that later.

I am shocked that you would even suggest that, Sigve.

Are you saying that you are unaware that the Seventh-day Adventist emphasis on Religious Liberty goes back to the nineteenth century?

A Brief History

The Adventist Church and Religious Liberty

For more than 150 years, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been committed to promoting freedom of belief for all people.

“Religious Liberty is in the DNA of the Adventist Church,” is how Elder Ted Wilson, president of the General Conference, describes Adventists’ deep commitment to the the idea that religious freedom is a God-given gift.

For Adventists, religious freedom has a strong biblical, historical, and theological foundation. It also has an important eschatological dimension.

The first article on this topic was written by John N. Andrews in 1851. He understood the importance of religious freedom in the context of the end time. In 1864, facing the problem of Adventists in the armies during the Civil War, and their position as noncombatants, Andrews made the link between religious freedom and what we could call today a “human right.”

A few years later, when Adventists opposed the program of the National Reform Association to pass religious legislation, including Sunday Laws, freedom of conscience was mentioned.

Ellen White, who had a great influence in the organization and working methods of the Adventist Church, stated that: “ We are not doing the will of God if we sit in quietude, doing nothing to preserve liberty of conscience … Let there be more earnest prayer; and then let us work in harmony with our prayers.”

https://www.adventistliberty.org/history

Hermeneutic Historicism cannot be the mule to freight off the bloodguiltiness of Adventists, and it is a insult to the victims of the Third Reich to suggest such flimsy excuses.

Two weeks ago, I posted a link to the paper, Fatal Flirting: The Nazi State and the Seventh-day Adventist Church on the Andrews University web site:

That link got 120 hits.

When I click on it now, this is what I get:

I saved the paper to file. Here’s a screenshot:

Support for Hitler

In the Adventist town of Friedensau, Germany 99.9% voted for the Nazi parliamentary state.

Even though the Adventists wanted a strong Fuhrer and supported Hitler, that support varied. The reason was because of Hitler’s contradictions about religious liberty.

The departmental secretary of the South German Union Conference, M. Busch, was in support of Hitler and “approvingly quoted Hitler’s statement in Mein Kampf that ‘for the political Fuhrer all religious teachings and arrangements are untouchable.’”

The Adventists believed that Hitler was for religious freedom, while the Nazi Party was against it. “Still, point 24 of the Nazi party program stated that the Party supported positive Christianity, without tying itself to any particular confession.”

This was a debatable problem among Christian groups because no one knew what “positive” Christianity was. This problem was never clarified and the contradiction remained.

When Hitler became dictator of Germany the discussion on the contradiction ended and very soon Christian groups would know what Hitler meant by “positive” Christianity.

http://www.history.ucsb.edu/projects/holocaust/Research/Proseminar/corrieschroder.htm

In their “Morning Watch Calendar,” the German Adventists shamefully wrote:

Trust in his people has given the Führer the strength to carry through the fight for freedom and honour of Germany.

The unshakable faith of Adolf Hitler allowed him to do great deeds, which decorate him today before the whole world.

Selflessly and faithfully he has struggled for his people; courageously and proudly he has defended the honour of his nation.

In Christian humility, at important times when he could celebrate with his people, he gave God in Heaven honour and recognized his dependence upon God’s blessings.

This humility has made him great, and this greatness was the source of blessing, from which he always gave for his people.

Only very few statesmen stand so brilliantly in the sun of a blessed life, and are so praised by their own people as our Führer.

He has sacrificed much in the years of his struggle and has thought little about himself in the difficult work for his people. We compare the unnumbered words, which he has issued to the people from a warm heart, with seeds which have ripened and now carry wonderful fruit.**

For those of you who don’t notice, the Calendar referenced Hitler’s sacrifices for “his struggle.” Hitler’s famous book that laid out his philosophy was called Mein Kampf , or, in English, My Struggle . Clearly, this is an open endorsement of Hitler’s philosphy by the German Adventists of the day.

Plantak continues:

**It is ironic that while Adventists had insisted upon religious liberty, they did not raise a voice against the persecution of countless Jews.

Instead, they even disfellowshipped those of Jewish background. At a time when German Adventists were publishing the religious liberty magazine Kirche und Staat [English: Church and State ] (an outside observer noticed its primary purpose as being the opposition to the Sunday laws), they kept quiet about the 1933 purges when hundred were murdered, and they said nothing against the persecution of Jews or about the occupied territories.**

https://regenerationandrepentance.wordpress.com/tag/adventist-involvement-with-nazi-germany/

Blaming this travesty on historicism lacks all proportion and moral nuance, in my opinion.

The Roman Catholics may yet canonize Pope Pius XII.

image


#12

Getting rid of historicism removes Adventism’s “embarrassing” eschatological/political correctness problem with surgical precision.

Please tell me that an ex-Adventist is not the only one to notice that.


#13

FWIW, the link seems to work now.
Thanks.


(Stan Lastings) #14

Thanks for your reply. I should have discussed my point a bit more trenchantly. I assume that your original point was that with the first coming of Christ the Kingdom of God had arrived. Your point being since that was/is the case those who look forward to the promise of a coming Kingdom are negligent in their care/concern for the present kingdom.That opens the door for many questions. if the kingdom came with Christ at His first coming and now resides on earth, my question is simple; where is the King? You said it yourself. In Heaven at the right hand of God. Therefore my second question; how can you have a kingdom without a literal King being present? Would not the Lord’s prayer be nonsensical when one of the petitions asks for the kingdom to come? Furthermore what of OT times, was there no kingdom present that whole time? I stand by my original point and that is without a literal King you have no kingdom on earth at this present time. Again thank you for your response. Just talking.


(Carsten Thomsen) #15

Jesus mailed it succinctly: The religious leaders of the day ignored the beaten and robbed man lying on the road to Jericho. Maybe they were in a hurry get to Autumn Council in Jerusalem to give women the same treatment.


(Stan Lastings) #16

I am not sure that a lack of compassion IE roadside assistance establishes/produces a blindness to the present lack of kingdom decorum today. It instead establishes blindness in the individual. I suppose for many who are fixated (blind) to present concerns you have a valid point. IOW they are fixated on the future at the expense of all else. But my point is simple if you have no King you have no kingdom. I do not mean to say by that forget about the injustice on display everywhere. I mean to say their will be no kingdom until He who promised he would come again actually gets here. I am not into propositional date setting or irrational appeals to super become Christians. I instead would propose that the citizens who are lacking in social skills/compassion are not citizens on any past/ or coming kingdom. Further a desire for the second kingdom too appear should not truncate the desire to live like a citizen of said coming kingdom.


(Frankmer7) #17

The presence of the Spirit brings the kingdom of God into the present, because the Spirit brings the presence of the king. It is not as if Jesus is confined to a distant place. This is because of the power of the Spirit. The NT is clear about this. “The kingdom of God is in your midst,” as Jesus said to the religious leaders of his day. It is no less true today, by the power of the same Spirit.

Additionally, the NT describes the Spirit as the down-payment of the fullness of what is to come. This implies that God’s reign on earth has a present and future dimension.

Finally, the gospel proclamation is Jesus is Lord…not will be Lord. If he is Lord, then all earthly powers are not. That is true now, despite the way things appear in this present age. We live in the now and the not yet of God’s reign. We pray “thy kingdom come” as members of his kingdom, acknowledging that the best, in its fulness, is yet to come.

Thanks…

Frank


(Frankmer7) #18

Adventist eschatology, and even its theology as a whole, seeks 19th c. answers to middle age dilemmas. It missed the holocaust, Rwanda, etc. I would add the killing fields in Cambodia, the pogroms of Mao and Stalin, and the martyrdom of Christians all over the globe throughout the last century and up to the present, having nothing to do with Sabbath observance or the papacy. Irony of ironies is that the RCC is now one of the biggest advocates for religious freedom in places where it is endangered.

The Adventist marriage to the historicist method and scenario, its preoccupation with past boogeymen, and a “prophetic” view of the future predetermined by that preoccupation, blinds its adherents to the real life issues and forces confronting Christians today. It also breeds an overconfidence in the knowledge and mapping out of how the end will come…something that Jesus and the NT never give.

Thanks…

Frank


(Stan Lastings) #19

You speak of the kingdom of grace. But there is also a kingdom of glory as Jesus and Paul speak about in numerous passages in the NT. They both exist. In the kingdom of glory the King will be literally present. That is the blessed hope.


(Stan Lastings) #20

While i also reject eager apocalypticism Matthew 26 is in the NT.