A Guide to Christian Theology - Lesson 37
In this lesson, you will delve into the realm of eschatology, the study of the end times, and learn about various views held by Christians. You will explore biblical perspectives on the end times, examining Old and New Testament prophecies and teachings. Key eschatological events, such as the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Millennium, and the Final Judgment will be discussed, giving you a comprehensive understanding of these future occurrences. Ultimately, this lesson will help you develop an eternal perspective, revealing the significance of eschatology for believers in today's world.
I. The Setting Up of Israel
II. Views on the Millennium
A. Dispensational View
B. Progressive Dispensational View
C. Pre-millennial View
D. Amillennial View
III. Views on the Tribulation
- In this lesson, explore the significance of systematic theology, blending academic insight with personal devotion. Learn to interpret biblical texts, understand how theology shapes beliefs, and fortify your faith against deception. This study fosters personal, biblical, and responsible theological growth, vital for spiritual development and discipleship.
- Learn diverse ways to tackle theological questions, focusing on Holy Spirit baptism. Understand deductive, inductive, and retro-abductive methods. Acts 17:11 and Acts 15 show how community perspectives contribute to nuanced theological discussions, promoting unity amidst differing viewpoints.
- This lesson provides insights into theological certainty levels, categorizing beliefs into "die for," "divide for," "debate for," and "decide for," highlighting essential doctrines, divisive issues, passionate debates, and less crucial matters, while underscoring the significance of understanding diverse perspectives and theological terms across different Christian tribes.
- Explore general revelation through creation and conscience (Psalm 19, Romans 1). Responding leads to God, though not salvation alone. Special revelation possible. Diverse salvation views, favoring knowing Jesus. Seared consciences don't always void salvation.
- Gain deep understanding of special revelation: history, divine acts, and communication revealing God's character and redemptive plan via Messiah. Lesson highlights Bible's key role, conveying God's nature, guidance, and transformative power, emphasizing ongoing divine-human communication.
- This lesson delves into the concept of divine inspiration in Scripture, citing 2 Timothy 3:15-16 and 2 Peter 1:16-21. It explains "God-breathed" as a term highlighting God's creative influence on words, rejecting mere concepts or dictation. Inspiration involves human authors, their personalities, and styles, conveying God's message to the entire church.
- In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of God, including their definitions, biblical support, and implications and applications.
- In this lesson you will gain insight into the Bible's clarity, sufficiency, and authority, and the Canon.
- In this lesson, you'll grasp a deep understanding of God's character. His foremost quality is compassion, like a mother's love. He's gracious, patient, loving, faithful, and forgiving, extending favor even to the undeserving. Yet, He's just, not sparing the persistently rebellious. This lesson dispels misconceptions, urging contemplation of God's profound blend of love and justice.
- This lesson delves into holiness via Isaiah 6, emphasizing dedication over separation from sin. It challenges misconceptions and calls for church reform.
- This lesson delves into the fundamental characteristics of God, particularly the Trinity, emphasizing God's essential relational nature within Himself and its biblical implications, while also addressing theological controversies and highlighting the complexity of the Trinity.
- This lesson explores different approaches to knowing God, inspired by Thomas Aquinas, discusses the doctrine of immutability, and highlights how God can change in his attitude and actions based on biblical evidence, emphasizing the value of in-depth Bible study and open dialogue in understanding God's nature.
- This lesson covers key theological concepts: sovereignty, election, and free will. It explores differences between Calvinist and Wesleyan-Arminian views on God's sovereignty, impacting God's plan and human responsibility. Emphasis on defining terms to prevent disputes. Speaker is a "Calminian," blending Calvinism and Arminianism for a balanced perspective. Valuable insights into theological complexities and scripture interpretation.
- Exploring various theological views and problematic issues surrounding the concept of providence, we will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of prayer in providence, as well as the compatibility of God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
- This lesson explores Jesus' dual nature, divine and human, delving into emotions, knowledge, sin, and his role as the Second Adam, offering theological insights.
- Learn about Jesus' life and mission, challenging traditional beliefs like the virgin birth. Explore his spiritual journey, resurrection, and more, fostering critical thinking and alternative perspectives.
- This lesson provides a comprehensive examination of atonement, its various dimensions, and the theological concepts surrounding it.
- Learn about the Holy Spirit, baptism, and its role in Christian faith. Understand diverse perspectives on its workings in believers' lives, emphasizing its incorporation at conversion and empowering influence, supported by biblical insights.
- Gain insight into the relationship between spirit baptism and conversion, the various terms used in Scripture, and the importance of ongoing fillings with the Holy Spirit for special ministry tasks, character, and as a command for all believers.
- This lesson explores the role of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. It challenges traditional definitions, proposing that any ability empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in ministry is a spiritual gift. The primary gift is the Holy Spirit himself.
- Learn about the theological debate on spiritual gifts like prophecy and miracles. Explore four perspectives: cessationism, continuationism, functional cessationism, and word of faith. The instructor, a continuationist, emphasizes discernment and scripture while promoting respectful dialogue among believers with differing views.
- This lesson explores the Bible's view of humanity, emphasizing humans as God's unique creation, made from dust and breath, in His image. It delves into human origins, our role as covenant partners, and the interaction between spirit and body, supported by biblical passages, offering a holistic perspective on being human in God's eyes.
- This lesson redefines humans as image-bearers of God, emphasizing the role of reflecting divine attributes in all work, gender equality, and growth in Christ-likeness. It promotes dignity for all, with potential for deeper reflection as faith matures.
- In this lesson you will explore the origin of sin, rejecting dualism in favor of a Christian perspective where sin arises from the choices of morally responsible creatures. The lesson introduces the idea of a pre-creation rebellion by Satan, emphasizing that humans are called to engage in spiritual warfare by doing good and promoting Shalom in the world.
- You will gain knowledge and insight into the nature, marks, purpose, structure, and sacraments of the Church and learn about the different views and definitions used to define it.
- This lecture discusses the leadership offices of a church, including eldership, deacons, and church members, and how they function according to biblical principles of polity, which prioritize following what the Bible prescribes, closely following what it describes, and using wisdom and being Spirit-led in matters it is silent about, all with the aim of effectively sharing the Gospel and achieving unity and focus.
- In this lesson, you will explore baptism's significance, modes, and theological perspectives, and learn its role in church membership, unity, discipleship, and spiritual growth.
- This lesson provides an overview of the historical, biblical, and theological aspects of Communion, including practical considerations for its practice.
- You will gain a good understanding of death and its theological implications, including the biblical view of death, consequences of death, and resurrection and the afterlife. The lesson covers the definition of death, cultural views, and the portrayal of death in the Old and New Testaments. You will also learn about the physical and spiritual consequences of death, as well as the Bible's teachings on resurrection and the afterlife.
- From this lesson, you gain insight into the biblical concept of God's Kingdom, its significance in Christian theology, and its impact on eschatology, social justice, and the Church's role.
- In this lesson, you gain insight into eschatology, examine biblical perspectives, explore key events like the Rapture, Tribulation, Millennium, and Final Judgment, and learn the significance of eschatology for today's believers.
- By studying the eternal state, you gain insights into the new heaven and earth, resurrection, judgment, and eternal life, deepening your understanding of Christian hope and assurance.
- Through this lesson, you gain insight into the crucial role of church leaders, their essential qualities, and the challenges they face, while discovering the importance of support and encouragement for their growth and effectiveness in ministry.
- In this lesson, you gain an understanding of the nature of Scripture and learn to interpret the Bible within its historical, literary, and canonical contexts while addressing challenges in biblical interpretation.
- This lesson delves into the structure and authority of a church, examining different leadership models and emphasizing the overarching role of scripture as the final authority, while also highlighting the need for congregational involvement in decision-making processes and the unique nature of the apostles in early church leadership.
- Learn Dr. Breshears' local church leadership principles: focus on equipping, inspiring, empowering, unifying, exemplifying, caring for, overseeing, and shepherding members. Rooted in biblical teachings, emphasizes servant leadership. The lesson discusses congregational decision-making, women in church leadership roles with respect for differing views.
- Learn about church leadership principles, roles of elders and deacons, active membership, mutual commitment, gift utilization, and clear processes in this comprehensive lesson.
- This lesson explores sacraments, focusing on baptism and diverse theological views. Baptism signifies a profound commitment to Christ within a believer community, emphasizing understanding and promptness post-conversion.
- In this lesson, you'll grasp the essence of baptism, its questions, and debates. Discover belief's role, its confession, and the link to repentance and faith. Explore diverse views on baptism performers, methods, and locations. Gain insights and wisdom for informed baptism decisions in your faith community.
- From this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of Communion, also known as the Lord's Supper or Eucharist. It will provide you with insights into the controversy surrounding its terminology and the theological background of Communion, primarily focusing on 1 Corinthians Chapters 10 and 11. You will learn about various theological perspectives on the real presence of Christ in the Communion elements and explore different viewpoints on the frequency, leadership, eligibility, and practical aspects of Communion. Overall, this lesson will equip you with the knowledge to better understand and participate in the Communion meal.
- This lesson delves into two ends: individual death and the end of the age. It explores human death, material and immaterial aspects (Ecclesiastes 12:7, Genesis 3), fear, loss of autonomy, cremation, death determination, rewards, and urges preparation to meet Jesus, facing the undeniable reality of death.
- Learn about the Kingdom of God, its aspects, Christ's return interpretations, and key concepts like inaugurated, Messianic, and millennium kingdoms. Emphasizing humility and mission in theological debates, it prepares you for insightful discussions on Christ's return and tribulation.
- Learn about Christian views on heaven and hell. Hell is punishment for those who reject Jesus; heaven is eternal bliss with Him on a renewed Earth. Explore differing views respectfully.
Understand the core topics of systematic theology, from what we know about God to the future state of humankind. Special emphasis is given to such topics as Christ, salvation, the church, and the future.
A Guide to Christian Theology
Dr. Gerry Breshears
So we talked about the whole conversion package. The two elements are repentance, which is a change of allegiance and a change of values that result in a change of behavior, and faith, which is loyalty to Yahweh, to Jesus, and also trust for Jesus. There are others who would say, "Faith is exclusively a receptive kind of thing that I do nothing except receive." I think it's a little more active thing than that. There's a trusting piece in there, and the allegiance, the loyalty that we have to Jesus among the other spiritual realities that claim our allegiance, claim our worship, trying to steal worship from God actually, which has been happening since the beginning of the Bible times.
There are a couple of things that come out of that. I want to talk about the first one in this one, that is the idea of regeneration. That's a theological term. It's the same kind of thing that Jesus was talking to Nicodemus about in the first part of the Gospel of John when he talked about being born again, and that was hard for Nicodemus to understand. Not surprising, it's hard for us to understand the details. But let's unpack that a little bit, because what happened is we live in one family, the family of Adam, the kingdom of the dominion of darkness, and we now have a new life in a new family, the family of Jesus and the kingdom of light. So that's what we're talking about is what happens at that spot.
Regeneration is a new thing in me. And so, what I'd like to suggest to you, and if you haven't downloaded the notes yet, please do that. Regeneration is an act of God where he's implanting the new heart. And if you remember back to our previous lesson, the heart can be called kind of the control panel. It's the deepest values and directions. And what I think happens in that new birth is we get a new heart, a new set of desires. The deepest desires of the person is what's called the heart. Proverbs 4:23, "Guard your heart for from it flow the wellsprings of life." So we get that new heart and that is the new spiritual life which is empowered by, and this is the second aspect, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
So in this new birth, regeneration, these are the two things that happen as I understand it, a new heart, deepest desires, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. So I have new desires and I have a new power, the power of the Holy Spirit, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, transforming Holy Spirit. That's the heart of the Christian life. And frankly, this is overlooked by too many theologians who want to go directly to justification, which is critically important, of course.
But what I'm thinking about when I talk about regeneration, new birth, is something that happens in me. And so what I'm going to suggest here is that this new birth, this regeneration, is something that happens by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, apart from all works on my side. And that same thing for justification, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, it's a work that God does to us. It's a thing that God gives us. It's truly a gift, but this is a transforming gift, a new heart, new power. And that transformation is, if I use a bit of controversial language, it's an imparted righteousness, or justification is an imputed.
You say, "What are those? I never heard of those terms before." Well, they're theological terms. Imparted means a character change. Imparted means a change in reality. Imputed is a change of status. Here a few years ago, my uncle died, and he didn't have any children, so he distributed his estate among his nieces and nephews, and I'm one of his nephews. So, I got a letter from an attorney that said it would turn out to be about $60,000, "You have $60,000 and it's yours." Now that's an imputation. That money is mine.
The problem is, and I was trying to buy a house with that money at the time, and I needed the down payment to close the deal. And I had the money, but it was imputed to me, but not imparted to me, which is to say it was not in my bank account. And the closing date on the house was coming along and I had the letter saying it'd be there, and it wasn't there. It was imputed to me, but somehow the lending company did not count my imputation as very important. They wanted the impartation. They wanted money in my bank account. As the closing date came on the loan, I don't want to have to redo it because oh, my, it's such a difficult thing, and how can I get some imparted money? Well, literally, in the nick of time, like one day, the actual money transfer was done and it showed up in my bank account and I was able to now impart that to the lending company.
See, impartation is when I really have some new heart, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, those are realities that are part of my character. Justification is a status thing, and we'll talk about that next, and that's something that's ... It's like when my daughter was adopted, she was adult, when she signed that adoption certificate, the name change certificate, her previous life stopped. There's no more legal entity, Cindy Brown. Now there is only a legal entity now, Cindy Breshears. But there's a reality with that. So, that's the imputed versus imparted. Technical language, but kind of important to understand. Regeneration is imparted, new heart, new desires, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, new power, transforming.
Now you say, "Gerry, where's that in the Bible?" Always ask that question. Always ask that question, especially when you're talking theology. Okay, well that's a good idea. Let's take a look at a couple of passages. Let's look at Ezekiel 36, so Ezekiel 36, and I usually start at verse 22. It's a new covenant passage, Ezekiel 36, "So therefore say to the Israelites, 'This is what the sovereign Lord says. It's not for your sake, people of Israel, I'm going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations.'" So you have embarrassed me, you have shamed me, "and I will show the greatness of my name." And then into verse 23, "The nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes."
So here's what He says to the nation of Israel, "I'll take you out of other nations, gather you from all the countries, bring you back in your own land." And here's the thing I think that applies to both Jews and gentiles, "I will sprinkle clean water on you. You will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart. I'll put a new spirit in you. I'll remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." That's a hard heart versus a soft heart. "I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws." And then back to Israel as a nation, "Then you will live in the land which I gave your ancestors. You'll be My people, I'll be your God."
That's the promise. It's repeated many times in the Old Testament, these new covenant promises, about a new heart, new spirit, and there's this idea of water and the idea of spirit. Now, kick forward to John chapter 3. John chapter 3, a Pharisee named Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, "Rabbi, we know you're a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform the signs you're doing if God were not with him." And so Jesus will say, "Oh, thank you to recognize what an awesome person I am." Not quite. "Verily, verily, I tell you, very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they're born again."
Do you ever feel sorry for Nicodemus? I sure do. Golly, how can someone be born when they're old? I mean, really? I'm getting in my mother's womb again? Like, "Jesus, what are you talking about?" He said again, "No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they're born of water and spirit, flesh to flesh, spirit to spirit." And I think he's referring back, that water and spirit is referring back, to passages like Ezekiel 36. And that's what happens when you're born again. And then it goes on to to explain that, but that's not what we're talking about here. That's the new birth.
Now, Paul talks about the same kind of thing in Titus chapter 3. Titus chapter 3, beginning at verse 3, he talks about the previous status, foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by all kinds of passion and desires. But verse 4, "When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we've done, but because of His mercy." Now, here's the next thing. "He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." That's regeneration. That's regeneration, rebirth, reset in Jesus. But that washing and renewal is saying that new covenant promise is applied to us, "And this Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us as generously through Christ our Savior, so that," and there is the next term, "having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs of a hope of eternal life."
And so these two together, regeneration we're talking about now, and justification we'll be talking about, lead to verse 8. "This is a trustworthy saying. I want you to stress these things so those who have trusted God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good." That's the sanctification piece we'll look at in a bit. "These are excellent." Then they tell you something not to do, and maybe we should pay attention to that too. "Avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, arguments, quarrels about the law." We don't argue about those specific things. We argue about everything else. Washing and rebirth, renewal by the Holy Spirit, that's regeneration. We could look at a lot more passages, but I'm thinking that's not the most important thing to do here.
What we're talking about here in that new birth is that my deepest desires, my deepest desires are transformed by the very work of God. And so I think what happens when somebody really is born again, it's not just an external thing, it's an internal thing. And the outcome of this is that I really, at the deepest part of my being, want to do godly things. And this is something we have to pursue, because this is a point where people really disagree with me on this view, but I think my deepest desires are godly. But this is a work in progress, so I've got some other stuff we're going to look at called flesh, or sinful desires, that are also a part of my person, but my deepest desires.
And so the filling in the blanks here, the fundamental values and longings are transformed. The fundamental values and longings of my heart are transformed. I think that's the key thing for being born again is to realize that happens. And the thing is, and this is where it gets weird, okay? For a lot of people, they become Christian, they accept Jesus, they're baptized, they start doing church stuff, and you see no evidence whatsoever of any transformed longings. And that's when you get into the whole issue of security and sanctification. Are they really saved? And it's really hard to tell a lot of times.
But see, what should happen, what should happen if somebody really is born again, so we've got a new set of desires, we've got a new power of the Holy Spirit, is that my life, my longings should change, my deepest longings, if it really happens. And I frankly think a lot of people go through an external ... They say the words, but there isn't the regeneration. The changed heart doesn't happen. And again, going into a debate among, I don't know, evangelicals, I think we cannot leave out the new birth as a part of that conversion package. And for so many, it's conversion leads to justification, leads to sanctification, leads to glorification, and they completely leave out the new birth.
Or if they put it in, what the rebirth does is give me the certainty of saying "Yes," the effectual grace we talked about earlier. So regeneration merely guarantees I'll say "Yes" to when I get the call to the gospel. And I think regeneration's a lot more than that. I think there's a deep transformational longing of desire to the person if I read it biblically. So when Paul here talks about the washing, rebirth, renewal by the Holy Spirit, and we look at those, like Ezekiel 36 promises, that's talking about big change. That's talking about big change that leads to a life that has that value of trusting what Jesus says, wanting to bring my life into conformity with what he shows me how to live, and that should become the pattern of the life, if regeneration is true.
If you leave regeneration out of the package, which too many do, then it's easy to make Christianity merely an external thing. "I've changed my status, I'm going to heaven when I die," those kinds of things instead of "I'm coming into a new life now," in relation, transforming relation, "and a new community," the power of the church and the body of believers. This is the first dimension when you think of the conversion package, so it's faith, repentance, lead to regeneration, new birth, washing by the Spirit, indwelling, new power, a transforming power, empowering presence in my life. That's regeneration, new birth, first point of the conversion package.
Dr. Breshears, could you explain the probably more reform position that regeneration precedes faith?
I was going to skip that whole topic.
Well, it's one of those things. There is a huge debate in the evangelical community of, what has to happen in relation to faith? And I just hinted at it as we went by. One group, the more staunchly Calvinistic view, believes that we are dead, that is, spiritually nonfunctional, and that we can't do anything. We're like a corpse in a coffin, and God has to make us alive, so there's new birth, then we can and always will say "Yes" to the call to the gospel, and that's where regeneration goes. And what it does, again in some versions of reform theology, about all the regeneration does is guarantee my transformation.
Others would say regeneration is a more powerful transformation. John Piper, for example, would say regeneration is much more like what I would say, but he also says regeneration in a dead person. The more Arminian view says that just by God's grace we can still make that choice to say "Yes" or "No" to the gospel, and nothing's required prior to the gospel call to enable me to say "Yes." I still retain that, though I'm touched by depravity and all that sort of thing.
A Wesleyan-Arminian view, which is what most Arminians actually hold, is that I need an enabling grace, which we talked about, that God enables me to say "Yes," but doesn't guarantee it. So reformed, effectual grace guarantees conversion. Wesleyan-Arminian, God's grace enables conversion, and it's either one or the other. Me, being a Calminian, I think God works in different ways with different people. Sometimes, as I'm well known for saying, God bushwhacks you on the way to Damascus and you're in, against your will. Other times, Cornelius is moving toward Jesus, toward God, and he gets a little help and comes in by his own choice. I think God works in different ways with different people.
So the ordering of that new birth, I don't think people are spiritually dead. I don't think they're nonfunctional. I think death means separated from God and unable to restore their relationship, Ephesians chapter 2. I don't think you have to have regeneration before you can say "Yes" to God. You do need some grace, and I think grace sometimes can be the bushwhacking, effectual grace, or other times the helpful enabling grace. So that's where I come out on it. And of course, I'm right.