This is part four of an expanding three part series, start with part one here.
Part One: It’s none of your business.
Part Two: No one is right.
Part Three: Know the Bible.
Part Four: Spot Red Flags.
This next part assumes you’ve read the entire Bible at least once. If you haven’t, it is unlikely you will be able to put any of these to use. I encourage you once again to go back to part three and read the Bible first.
So now that you have a working Eschatology based solely on your examination of Scripture combined with prayer and meditation, you are ready to examine the various mainstream claims out there, such as post-millennial, pre-millennial, and amillennial to name just a few.
Trouble is that navigating these claims can be difficult given that proponents of them are sometimes ignorant, deceptive, or otherwise deluded regarding their view. Below, I’ve listed some of the “red flags” that should make you skeptical of the claims the person is making. That doesn’t mean the claim is totally false, but it does mean you might want to disengage that particular person when it comes to Eschatology and seriously scrutinize that particular claim for falsehoods.
One of the most common red flags you’ll encounter is overzealousness, or someone who places too heavy an emphasis on Eschatology. As we’ve discussed in earlier installments, this doctrine is not among those essential to the faith, and not even among those critical to daily Christian living. It is definitely a peripheral issue at best. A healthy discussion of Eschatology should be welcome, where two believers compare and contrast their views, sharing scripture and trying to work together to discern the truth of the matter. If, however, a person turns this discussion into an attempt to “convert” you to their view, it may be time to disengage. That person has taken the matter too far, and division is likely to be the end result. We are to be united together for the sake of the Gospel, not divided over just how Christ will return. Even the angels rebuked the disciples as they stared into the sky after Jesus’ ascension in Acts 1:11, telling them not to worry about His return but to get to work for the Gospel. We should take the words of those angels to heart my beloved. We should also check ourselves as we work out our beliefs on Eschatology that we too not become too married to our view. There have been times where I have been the overzealous one. Each time I was convicted and had to repent of placing too much importance on my eschatology.
2. Proof Texting
This red flag occurs when a person uses hand-picked passages from Scripture in order to prove their doctrine. I’m not saying that there aren’t great “go-to” Scriptures to remind us of important Biblical principles, but basing an entire doctrine around a handful of passages is not wise at all. Any sound doctrine will have the support of the entire Bible. Let me say that again: any doctrine that is sound and true will have the support of the whole council of God found in Scripture. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a passage or two that sounds confusing, but it does mean the greater story and plan of Scripture will support and confirm the doctrine. If a doctrine is not evident in Scripture without taking a handful of passages out of context, then it is not a sound doctrine. Beware of this red flag in particular. It can really tie a person into theological knots. You will be helpless against it unless you already know the whole Bible, which is one of the reasons I told you to read it all in Part Three.
Rationalizing is when someone tries to prove or disprove a doctrine based on how they do or don’t understand it. It usually begins with statements like; “Don’t you think God would..” or “Don’t you feel like God would never…”. It is an argument based entirely on human logic and usually is accompanied by an appeal to one’s emotions with things like, “A loving God would never…” and so forth. We know that we are not to base doctrines on clever human arguments, as Peter warned, but on the sound teaching of Scripture, as Paul instructed. Making an argument purely from human logic or human emotions is foolish, because God tells us in Isaiah “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”
Collectivism is an argument that says because many respected and educated leaders believe in something, then it must be true. First, there have been many great and educated believers who have bought into great errors that we know to be false. Second, you can find many well respected and educated Christian leaders who believe in any of the popular eschatological views. Third, we are not to base our doctrines on the opinions of men, no matter how well respected or educated. Paul tells us in 1 Cor 3 to beware such thinking. We also see in Acts 17:11 that the Bereans were considered more noble because they did not take Paul at his word but examined the Scriptures carefully to see if what he said was true. Think about that, they did not take Paul the Apostle at his word, but insisted on checking the Scriptures to verify his claims. If we want to be noble in God’s eyes, we should not base our doctrines on the opinions of men, no matter how great in this world. My eschatological views are based solely on Scripture. There are many great Christian leaders who agree with me, but that is not why I believe what I do.
Again, it should be noted that just because a proponent of one view or another throws up one of these red flags in his argument, it does not mean his claim is totally false. You should not reject a doctrine out-of-hand because one of these red flags is used to defend it. However, if a person bases his doctrine on such red flags, you should be wary of it and examine it closely. You may also wish to disengage that person regarding that topic, since he is not operating on sound judgement.
It is also important to note that these red flags can appear when discussing any doctrine. It can be useful to spot such flags when dealing with any debated religious topic, not just eschatology.
I hope revealing these fallacies will help enable you to spot weak or even false teachings and to find the truth, not only about eschatology, but about all the mysteries of Scripture.