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Eschatology by Ethos: Why the “Optimism” vs. “Pessimism” Paradigm Doesn’t Work

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Why the “Optimism” vs. “Pessimism” Paradigm Doesn’t Work

Kim Riddlebarger

Anyone familiar with the in-house feud between Reformed postmillenarians and Reformed amillenarians knows that the debate between these two positions is often framed in terms of “optimistic” postmillenarians vs. “pessimistic” amillenarians. Despite the widespread use and apparent utility of these labels, I remain unconvinced that one can formulate a proper and biblical eschatology merely by identifying a position’s distinctive ethos and then choosing the most “optimistic” of the various options.

To avoid being labeled an “eschatological pessimist”—a negative label that postmillenarians have successfully pinned on dispensationalists—a number of Reformed amillenarians self-consciously identify themselves as “optimistic” amillenarians. In making this identification, the optimistic amillenarian attempts to co-opt the attractive rhetoric of cultural progress and transformation used by postmillenarians, while at the same time avoiding the serious exegetical problem associated with postmillennialism—a rather embarrassing shortage of biblical passages in the New Testament that teach such a view.

While I am “optimistic” about the kingdom of God and the progress it will make during the interadvental age (and would likely qualify to be an “optimistic” amillenarian), I’m not so sure an unqualified affirmation of “optimism” is the best way for Reformed amillenarians to respond to those who determine the soundness of one’s eschatological position using the optimism/pessimism paradigm. Here’s why.

No Christian who truly believes that the resurrection of Jesus Christ inaugurates the new creation and guarantees the final victory over Satan and his kingdom at the end of the age wants to be identified as a “pessimist.” No doubt, the New Testament is crystal clear about who wins in the end. God will save his elect, usher in the age to come, consummate his kingdom, raise the dead, judge the world, and make all things new. These truths are certainly reason enough to be optimistic about the eventual outcome of the present course of world history, especially when one considers what Jesus Christ did to secure our redemption from sin’s power and consequence. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ removes the curse and defeats our greatest enemy, which is death. No small thing and a very good reason to be optimistic. Continue reading

The Antichrist

Man of sin anti christs

By Kim Riddlebarger

Perhaps no subject broached by contemporary Bible prophecy teachers engenders more speculation and less sound Biblical exegesis than does the subject of Antichrist. This is certainly due to the mysterious nature of the subject itself, as well as to the fact that no other aspect of Bible prophecy lends itself so nicely to speculation regarding the identification of one specific individual who will become the very personification of evil and the archenemy of Jesus Christ and his gospel.

“Pin the tail” on the Antichrist is not merely an evangelical fascination. Indeed, such speculation has gone on almost from the beginning of Christianity. Irenaeus (130-200) argued that Antichrist would be a Jewish born, satanically inspired, usurper of God’s true glory, who would appear in the Jerusalem temple in connection with an end-times great apostasy. (1) The Protestant Reformers, of course, universally identified the papacy with the Antichrist, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1540) stating that “the papacy will also be a part of the kingdom of Antichrist if it maintains that human rites justify (XV.18).” The Westminster Confession (1647) contends that the Pope is “that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God (XXV.6).” Rome, not to be outdone, has returned the favor, contending that antichristic Protestant “heresies have swept down from the North, where Calvin, Wycliffe, Luther and legions of Protestants are ravaging the flock of Christ.” (2)

But there is no doubt that much of contemporary speculation has taken the concept of identifying the Antichrist to new extremes. One of my favorite possessions is a booklet passed on to me by my grandmother, entitled The Time of Jacob’s Trouble (1939), wherein the author attempts to demonstrate that the revived Germany under Hitler in the pre-World War II years is the supposed last-days ten-nation confederacy predicted in Revelation 13. Of course, the author very deftly demonstrates how Mussolini is the false prophet and how Italian imperialism in Ethiopia is proof that Rome is the great harlot of Revelation 18 and compatriot of the German beast. I can still remember the fear instilled in me as a child, when I heard, one preacher declare that Antichrist was then living somewhere in the Middle East, probably still a child playing stickball in some crowded dusty street, awaiting the day when he would be possessed by the devil and allowed to wreck havoc on the world after the rapture. Continue reading

Jesus Christ: The True Israel

Jesus is the true Israel

Kim Riddlebarger 

If we stand within the field of prophetic vision typical of Israel’s prophets after the exile and captivity, and with them we look to the future, what do we see?  Israel’s prophets clearly anticipate a time when Israel will be restored to its former greatness.  But will that restoration of the nation of Israel to its former glory mirror the days of the monarchy?  Or does the monarchy itself point us to the monarch?

Such a prophetic vision includes not only the nation, but the land of Canaan, the city of Jerusalem, the throne of David, as well as the temple in Jerusalem.  Since the nation had been divided and the people were hauled off into captivity in Babylon some five centuries before the coming of Jesus, the magnificent temple destroyed and the priesthood gone, such prophetic expectation related to Israel’s future quite naturally spoke of a reversal of fortune and the undoing of calamity which had come upon the nation.

But with apostolic hindsight Peter speaks of how “concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.  It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:10-12). Continue reading

What stone Temple ? Jesus, is the True Temple !

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Jesus, the True Temple

By Kim Riddlebarger 

When Jesus declared of himself, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here,” (Matthew 12:6) and when he told a Samaritan woman that he can give her “living water” (John 4:10-14), we are given a major clue that the authors of the New Testament have reinterpreted the pre-messianic understanding of God’s temple in the light of the coming of Jesus, Israel’s Messiah.

When we consider the fact that the temple occupies a major role in the witness of Israel’s prophets regarding God’s future eschatological blessing for the nation, and that this imagery points forward to person of Jesus, we are greatly aided in our understanding of the nature and character of the millennial age as a present reality.

We begin with the Old Testament expectation regarding the temple of the Lord.  Both Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-5, speak of God’s future blessing upon Israel in the last days, when God’s people will go up to mountain of the Lord, and to the temple, where God’s people will once again learn the ways of the Lord. Continue reading

His Number is 666

“His Number is 666”
By Kim Riddlebarger ~ Sermons on the Book of Revelation # 20
Texts: Revelation 13:11-18; Daniel 8:15-26

There is no subject–with the possible exception of the unpardonable sin–which has caused as much consternation for the people of God as has the so-called “mark of the beast.” John pointedly warns his hearers against taking such a mark on the back of the hand or the forehead. He also tells us that anyone who takes such a mark swears allegiance to the beast. This has given Christians throughout the ages a healthy suspicion of any government which persecutes the church or hinders the preaching of the gospel. It has lead to a number of questions in our own day about advancing technology and increasing government control over many areas of our personal lives. Such a warning from an apostle creates a climate in which sensational predictions and warnings about political events and technology are the norm. So we must do our best to bring clarity to this most difficult and controversial of subjects.

In past sermons, we have been working our way through Revelation 12-14 in which John introduces his reader to seven of the main characters in the great drama of redemption. Like the seal judgments of Revelation 6-8:1 and the trumpet judgments of Revelation 8-11, the vision recorded in Revelation 12-14 describes the entire period of time between the first advent and the second coming of Christ from a distinct theological perspective (or “camera” angle as we have been calling it). In this section of Revelation, John gives us a vivid description of the struggle between the people of God and our great adversary, Satan, who has been cast down from heaven to earth where he now seeks to wage war upon the church of Jesus Christ through the agency of his henchmen, the beast and the false prophet. Continue reading

A Present or Future Millennium?

by Kim Riddlebarger

Most American Evangelicals are firmly committed to the idea that an earthly millennial age will begin immediately after our Lord Jesus Christ’s Second Advent. Since premillennialism is so dominant in American church circles, many who encounter historic Protestantism for the first time are quite surprised when they discover that all of the Protestant Reformers and the entire Reformed and Lutheran traditions are amillennial. Amillennialism is that understanding of eschatology which sees the millennium not as a future golden age as does premillennialism (the age of the church triumphant), but instead as the present course of history between the First and Second Advent’s of our Lord (the age of the church militant). And indeed, I am sure that there are many readers who will express shock and disappointment upon learning of my own amillennial convictions. But I am convinced, however, that many readers simply do not understand the basic end-times scenario found in the New Testament. Part of the problem is that dispensational premillennial writers have completely dominated Christian media and publishing. There are literally hundreds of books, churches, and parachurch ministries all devoted to taking premillennialism and the “pretribulation” rapture idea to the masses. And so, I can only lament the fact that my own tradition has done so little to produce popular books introducing and defending amillennialism. It is my guess that many who read this article will have never heard the case for the classical position held by the church regarding the return of Christ and the millennial age.

Another problem encountered when examining this subject is that discussions of it often generate a great deal of heat but not very much light. One local prophecy pundit has quipped that the people in heaven with the lowest IQs will be amillennial. Hal “Late Great” Lindsey goes so far as to label amillennialism as “anti-Semitic,” demonic and heretical.1 It is not uncommon to hear prophecy teachers label amillennial Christians as “liberal” or to accuse them of not taking the Bible literally. The result of such diatribes is that American Christians cannot help but be prejudiced by such unfortunate comments, and many simply reject outright (without due consideration of the other side) the eschatology of the Reformers and classical Protestantism-an eschatology that is amazingly simple, biblical, and Christ centered. And so, if you should be in that camp, instead of simply turning me off at this point, please bear with me, hear my case, and then decide for yourself on the basis of Scripture. Continue reading

Rumours of Monsters and numbers that go bump in your energy drink

I recently read the book Man of Sin, The: Uncovering the Truth about the Antichrist by Kim Riddlebarger. Below are highlights of the book I would like to share with you. I enthusiastically recommend this book, as it gives the eschatological perspective from the Amillennial side and it sure makes a lot of sense of an intricate subject. It has put many things into perspective for me and provides the answers to many questions.

Since I began using the internet as a born again believer, a sinner saved by grace, through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), I have read (and not understood!) so many different view points on the end time Eschatology.  There is so much deception out there and we really need to discern and pray, to be able to sort the biblical truth from the lie. The reading of Riddlebarger’s book,  has been instrumental in my better understanding the end times.

A video clip floating around in cyber space is also not True !! Do not believe this man in the video clip ! Continue reading