There are few areas that demonstrate differences in views of biblical inspiration and interpretation than eschatology, whether we mean end-time events or our own end-of-life considerations. ”
Where does everyone go at the end? and What happens to me when I die? tend to lead us to similar issues even though the chronology involved is different. In addition, the difference between a scattered proof-text approach and one that is carefully grounded in historical and literary context will come out substantially different. I don’t mean that if we could just choose one method of interpretation, we would all agree. We’re all human; we will disagree. But it would be nice to debate about the actual issues.
I recall debating online with a Seventh-day Adventist. Since I am a former SDA, he expected me to “understand” certain things about prophecy, by which he meant that I would “see them as true.” Of course, “understand” and “see as true” are not synonymous. I recall that the debate came down to whether there was a connection between Daniel 8 & 9. Is there some relationship between the opening of the “2300 evenings-mornings” of Daniel 8:14 and the prophecies of Daniel 9? He simply refused to discuss the possibility of a connection. There was no connection and could not be. Why? Because his interpretation of the two prophecies required that they be separated. Now this observation doesn’t determine whether, much less how those two passages are connected. What I’m noting here is simply that for him, there was no possibility of a connection.
In terms of inspiration, we have the additional issue of just what we expect to be able to know as a result of studying eschatology from scripture. Is there a single view of the end times that one can piece together from pieces coming from 3rd Isaiah (Isaiah 56-66), Ezekiel, Daniel, the gospels (Mark 13/Matthew24/Luke 21), Paul, and Revelation, along with quite a number of other scriptures? Should we expect such a thing? If not, in what way can we view these scriptures as inspired? If so, why is the process of piecing this material together made so difficult?
My intent this evening will be to draw a very general map of the material and how it contributes to this topic. In order to understand eschatology, one must have somewhat of a handle on the whole of scripture. This is a daunting task. There are far too many people claiming to have simple solutions to everything when they show know awareness of the extent of “everything” with regard to this topic.
You can read a bit more about tonight’s discussion on the Google+ Event Page.
I’m embedded the YouTube here as well. Below this, I will post a schedule of upcoming topics, where applicable noting the chapters for Eschatology: A Participatory Study Guide by Edward W. H. Vick.
Here are the topics to follow:
Eschatology: They Remembered Him (Chapter 2 of Eschatology: A Participatory Study Guide)
Eschatology: New Testament Eschatology (Chapter 3 of Eschatology: A Participatory Study Guide)
(All links are to the Google+ events.)
As you can see, I interspersing material from the study guide with time spent discussing some of the source texts. In some cases, we will come back to those texts after we’ve studied further from the guide and also from other scriptures. For example, does your understanding of Mark 13 change when you think about realized eschatology in connection with it? Does your understanding of the materials in the gospels as a whole change after you study Daniel?
As you can see, I can have fun with this topic for an indefinite period of time. I may follow up a more general study with chapter by chapter studies of Daniel and Revelation, though I’d be more tempted to do this with Ezekiel. So we shall see!