Rapture? Pre-Trib? Post-Trib?
You should be! In today's Evangelical
Christian world, eschatology - the
study of the "Last Things" - has been
turned into a sort of pseudo-science
with a plethora of authors claiming to
know exactly the scenario of events
that are to take place just prior to
the Lord Jesus Christ's return, as well
as what the eternal state will be
like. Often, these authors come to
rather bizarre and unbiblical
Piece by piece, Samuel E. Waldron
strips away years of false teaching and
faulty exegesis thrust upon the church
to reveal what the Bible, in its own
simple but profound way, says about
what will happen at the end of this
I grew up in churches where a "pretribulational rapture" and "premillinalism" were considered tests of orthodoxy, almost as essential to the faith as the inerrancy of Scripture, the Deity of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. Yet rarely, if ever, did anyone take the time to prove and expound these points from Holy Scripture. As I grew older I became increasingly skeptical of this point of view, as I wondered to myself "If this view of the end times is so important, why is no one showing me WHY it is so important from Holy Scripture? Why is this viewpoint always assumed but seldom if ever proven?" I concluded that I was just going to be a "pan-millenialist" (i.e. "it all pans out in the end") and that eschatology was just a matter of secondary or even tertiary importance, something I could keep on the theological back-burner for the rest of my life.
But when I became a pastor almost a decade ago my viewpoint began to change. As our church sang the psalms inclusively each Lord's Day I began to notice that the Second Coming of Christ is often spoken of in God's own hymnbook. The Holy Spirit wanted God's people of the Old Covenant to sing about the second coming of Christ before He had even come the first time! It came to my attention that all but 3 of the 27 books of the New Testament have at least one reference to Christ's second coming, and frequently many more than one. What seemed to me an issue of secondary importance is obviously of great importance to our God! But the confusing charts and implicit dogmaticism of dispensational premillenialism had left me wondering where to turn for answers to my questions, or to even know what the questions are.
When I first saw Sam Waldron's book "The End Times Made Simple" advertised I was skeptical of the title. Eschatology seemed anything but simple! But when I read it for myself it became obvious right away that Dr. Waldron's title was not false advertising. For the first time in my life I understood what the right questions were, which in my experience is about 90% of the battle in wrestling with any issue of theology. Questions such as "How many people(s) of God are there?", "How many second comings of Christ are there going to be?", "Is the great tribulation of Matthew 24 a past or a future event?", "How many resurrections and judgments will there be?", "Will Jesus return 1,000 years before the last hour of the last day, or will He return on the last hour of the last day of this present age?" began to run through my mind. And as I read my New Testament after this the answers to these questions became so very clear, I began to wonder why I had never seen it before. As I have preached through entire books of the New Testament since that time I have found that I now have a framework within which to preach texts dealing with Christ's Second Coming.
Most importantly, Waldron's book helped me to see the clear connection between the Second Coming of Christ and the gospel itself. I have learned to distinguish between "primary eschatology", that is, doctrines which are truly essential and over which we cannot agree to disagree, and "secondary eschatology", viewpoints over which we can agree to disagree without compromising on the essentials. I have read many books on eschatology since reading Waldron's book, but it continues to be the most important and influential of them all. I highly recommend this seminal work to any thinking Christian who has wrestled with the same issues that I have. Thank you, Dr. Waldron, for giving us such a clear and vivid picture of the glorious hope that Christ has saved us to enjoy!- Pastor Jerry Slate