Books such as Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth and Tim LaHaye’s bestseller Left Behind series have played a major role in how the majority of people now interpret Biblical eschatology. It has moved from being Biblical to Newspaper eschatology.
Many thought that Nero was the antichrist, or Hitler, or Saddam Hussein, or Osama Bin Laden, or George W. Bush, and now Obama. Revelation is, to the knowledge of many, a book of fantastic beasts and mythology that is a pain in the neck to study (which is why many don’t bother to read it). Iraq, Russia, Iran, Syria, Egypt, and the United States’ place in a supposed future 7-year tribulation period during the reign of Antichrist or Obama’s approval of a microchip for 2013 seem to be the most important theological discussions in many evangelical circles. World War III is coming soon because of what’s happening in the Middle East, etc. No wonder most Christians seem to have no interest in studying eschatology, while many others do for the wrong reasons. There is so much unnecessary confusion and ridiculous teachings going on these days concerning the last days. There is so much garbage that we’ve been fed by certain Dispensational branches that leave Christians even more ignorant and gullible to any new interpretation they come up with. I’m not talking about serious, committed Premillennial students and teachers of the Word like Dr. John MacArthur. I still disagree with him, yet I highly respect him and I learn much from him, but I’m talking about guys like Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye, people driven by a fanatical and sensationalist urge to fit in every single event in the newspaper into Scripture – which is called eisegesis, by the way, interpreting into Scripture instead of from Scripture (exegesis) – people who have elevated the newspaper higher than Scripture.
I am afraid this smells much like Roman Catholicism in which the Scriptures are subservient to tradition and magisteriums rather than to itself. The latter concept is, I firmly believe, the Biblical way to do theology and eschatology. Scripture must interpret Scripture (analogia fide). Anything contrary to that principle is doing what the Israelites did back in Exodus 32 where they erected a statue of a golden calf, a god made into their liking and their lust. Why is that so? Because the word of God is precisely that, the word of God, breathed out from His own mouth (2 Tim. 3:16) through men moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21), not a wax nose that you can mold to whatever you want it to be – a god of your own imagination.
Of course, I am aware that many Christians who engage into this practice do so ignorantly and unaware. Many of them are well-meaning, lay Christians who have been raised with this idolatrous hermeneutic and who intend to please God. Others do not do so with this intent. The focus of this entry is, however, on the hermeneutic itself: its dangers, its aim, and its idolatrous nature that provides a relativistic interpretation to the Bible, where each generation decides what events fit where and when.
It is a very arrogant and even blasphemous system of interpretation. When you do Newspaper Theology you are basically claiming you have more divine revelation than that which God has already revealed. There is a foundational reason why this system aims to fit in every single event into verses ripped out of context, and that is, I believe, its view of Scripture as low and insufficient and its speculative craving. By speculative craving I mean that ungodly desire to have a perfect eschatology, one which thinks it knows for a certainty that everything that is happening in the 21st century must be fitted into the Scriptures in order to know the mind of God absolutely. That is arrogant indeed.
Would I like to have a perfect eschatology and know things such as when I am going to die and how? Would I like to know perfectly the role of Israel in the future, if any? Would I like to know when the Lord is coming back? Certainly. Does the Bible tell me this? Absolutely not. Why? Because the Bible is not about me, it is about the glorification of God by His creatures and the enjoyment of God by His creatures. I think that is an extremely important point to make. Why is it that Newspaper Theology is ultimately idolatrous? Because one of its main tenets is “The Bible is about you and how you can know the eschatological plan of God perfectly.”
We would do well to remember the words of our Lord in Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32 and Acts 1:7. If the Son of God Himself, while on this Earth, did not know the day nor the hour of His coming, the event to which all history points forward to from the viewpoint of the cross, how much more will we, finite and imperfect creatures know these things? I am not saying that the Bible has nothing to say on eschatology, it is, after all, a branch of theology that the Church has studied since its Old Testament existence because God has revealed to us some of it – actually, He has revealed to us all we need to know. Which is partly why, I believe, there will never be full agreement between Premillennialists, Amillennialists, and Postmillennialists on everything.
Let’s take a brief look at Acts 1:6-8,
“So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
Before looking at verse 7, some context on verse 6. Jewish eschatology had formulated this system which taught that when the Messiah came He would restore a theocratic, geopolitical kingdom to national Israel and lift the yoke of Roman slavery by driving them out from the land. Even after Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 13, 24, 25, among others that the kingdom of God was both present and future but was, nevertheless, not of this world and not what the Jews thought, the disciples still did not understand the fact that the kingdom of God had been inaugurated but still awaited a future consummation that far transcends a piece of land in Palestine. This is one of my main objections to the Premillennial and, comparatively, to the Postmillennial systems of interpretation; one revolves its entire hermeneutic around Israel and the other on a “Christianized” society. The Lord rebukes the eschatological expectation of the disciples in the following verse.
“It is not (ou, a primary word, the absolute negative, adverb) for you to know the times (chronos, time either long or short) or epochs (kairos, a fixed and definite time, the time when things are brought to crisis, the decisive epoch waited for, or timeline) which the Father has fixed by his own authority….” 1
Jesus rebukes them for doing the very thing Newspaper Theology strives to do: trying to figure out the events, seasons, and timelines the Father has fixed by his own authority. In other words, don’t mess around with what is not your business. After all the teaching of Jesus concerning the nature of the Kingdom, of His Coming, and of their evangelistic task, the disciples still did not understand how Christ fulfilled all these things and how their eschatological system had been wrong all along.
Notice the very next verse. Notice what Jesus points them to instead of to a theocratic kingdom,
“…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”
Conclusion: Don’t speculate and mess around with what’s not your business. But with those things that you don’t need to speculate about, the “things revealed,” they belong to us and future generations forever. How will we know them? Paul tells us in 2 Tim. 2:15,
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
And I will let Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 also remind us that the Bible is not a crystal ball and it is not about us,
“…And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.“
The Scriptures are there to equip us “for every good work” for the glory of God and the edification of the Body. Paul doesn’t say the Bible is the “User’s Guide,” or a crystal ball. Anything that puts the emphasis on you has lost the purpose for which God gave it to us. Sure, it is for your enjoyment, but your enjoyment is on God, not on yourself, the glory is on God, not on you. This is why clear, systematic, expository preaching and teaching are absolutely essential in the growth of the body of Christ. There is no other way. Else we will fall in idolatry by placing something else over the Scriptures and in relativism by making a mess of the Bible and plunging future generations into confusion when the Bible is crystal clear on what we have been allowed to see and learn from God’s own mind and what is strictly off limits.
If you’ve read the entire post, here’s a video by Dr. Robert Morey warning us of the dangers of doing theology for our glory instead of God’s: