Keyword:

The Last Things we talk about

Dear Fellow-worker,

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A Pre-millennialist, an A-millennialist and a Post-millennialist are arguing about the thousand-year reign of Christ. A fourth man listens to them, bewildered by their erudite arguments. Finally the others demand to know his view on the Millennium. “I’m a Pan-millennialist”, he says.

“A Pan-millennialist!” exclaim the others, “What’s a Pan-millennialist?”

“I believe everything’s going to pan out alright in the end.”

A minister in Wales once asked me why CWI was not telling the Jewish people about the atomic bomb that was going to fall on Jerusalem which would cause the flesh to fall off the bones of the people and make their eyes melt in their sockets. I responded that we were called to share good news with them. A concerned lady told me some years ago that CWI was working against the purposes of God because if the Jewish people all got saved they wouldn’t go through the Great Tribulation. When I responded that I could cope with that she was even more perturbed. Didn’t I believe biblical prophecy?

Of course I believe the prophetic Scriptures. I am occasionally asked to speak about prophecy – particularly Romans 9-11 – and do so willingly but not usually out of choice because “prophecy”, though important, is a contentious issue and often generates more heat than light. The founding fathers of CWI had definite views on prophecy but the Society came into existence for a single purpose; to tell Jewish people about Jesus. 

I recently met a minister who told me of his first meeting with Ernest Lloyd, when Ernest spoke at a missionary meeting in his church. There was a question time but Ernest refused to answer “silly questions” about the rebuilding of the temple and the time of Christ’s return; he was there to deal with Jewish mission. “I knew I was going to get on with him”, the minister told me. and from that day he and Ernest have been staunch friends. Ernest had – and still has – definite views on prophecy and has served on the board of a society dedicated to preaching “prophetic truth” but when speaking on behalf of CWI he never allowed himself to be sidetracked from the primary issue of Jewish mission.

CWI’s Basis of Faith is the consensus of the Reformed Confessions of Faith, and in the great historical Protestant confessions there is no consensus on the End Times. CWI, therefore, has no formal position on whether Christ will return before the Millennium, after the Millennium or whether there will actually be a literal thousand year reign of Christ. All three positions have been held by more learned and godly men than ourselves, so CWI workers are free to hold to the view they believe reflects what the Bible teaches.

How important is biblical prophecy? Very. Entire books of the Bible are devoted to it; yet the study of the prophetic Scriptures is not the Christian equivalent of gazing into an infallible and inerrant crystal ball. When the lady I referred to earlier argued that the Jewish people had to go through the Great Tribulation because the Bible says it will happen, I asked her about Jonah’s prophecy concerning the destruction of Nineveh: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Was Nineveh overthrown after forty days? No. Why? Because the people of the city repented.

We are not fatalists. Certain future events are fixed: the return of Jesus, the Millennium (whatever the Millennium is) and the final judgement are assured. But God’s threatened future judgements can be avoided through repentance and faith. If Israel is faced with the prospect of a future conflagration that will make the Holocaust seem like a Sunday School outing I, for one, will not be disappointed if, through our preaching, every Jew escapes it by turning to the Messiah.

Biblical prophecy has a moral dimension. What we believe about the future ought to affect the way we live in the present: “We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2f). Also, what we believe about the future of those who die without faith in the Messiah and those who face him without faith at his final advent should galvanise our evangelism: “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor 5:11).

Though we believe Messiah will return and that the Jewish people have a glorious future ahead of them, an inordinate focus on Israel’s future glory can blind us to the awful future of Jews who do not, in the present, call on the name of the Lord Jesus. So, with the future in mind, we work in the present knowing that, whatever system of prophetic understanding we find most persuasive, we share with every Christian the rock solid conviction that, in the end, the purposes of our sovereign God will all pan out to his glory.

Yours for the salvation of Israel,

Mike Moore

This poem first appeared in the Summer 2010 issue

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