To: UOG readers
From: the blogger Johanna
Sawyer (formerly HK Flynn; from back in the day when some of us kept our
personal information off the internet.)
Here’s my premise:
judgments are far more central to the Gospel & evangelism in the NT, than to the Gospel in today's churches.
Eschatology is now thought
of as a very separate topic from the Gospel message. But this means there is a sharp difference
between NT evangelism and our own evangelism. The tribulation/day of the Lord judgments have gone missing from our Gospel.
Is this a big, So What??
No, it really isn't, in my not so humble opinion.
Because of it, we distort
#1 might be, Isn't the day of the Lord a vague expression with several
I agree that it and
similar expressions, that day, the day of wrath, the day of Christ, have a
range of meanings. Bob Wilkin has shown
that the day of Christ is a term pointing to the Bema seat judgment where
believer’s deeds will be judged by their Savior. And the day of the Lord can mean the
tribulation judgments (Daniel’s [final] week), but also the final war that apparently
takes place at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.
#2 might be, Isn't all of eschatology an absolute distraction from the discipleship
issues we desperately need to focus on?
I agree that
discipleship issues are urgent and central, but see NT eschatology as key to
filtering discipleship through a thoroughly biblical perspective that has the potential to add turbo-ness to all of our pathetically lame efforts. (I'm an expert I'm afraid in that latter department.) And I would have to agree that eschatology is often weirdly severed from a devotional perspective.
But even if a pastor decides he does not want the
coming judgments as part of evangelism in his church, there
is still a reason for close study of this Gospel shift out, where we shift out the topic of the day of the lord
judgments, and shift in the topic of Hell.
The Apostles clearly taught Hell.
But they usually preached Joel’s day
of wrath in their Gospel preaching. This
can be seen in the Acts sermons of Peter (in Acts Ch 2) and Paul (Ch 16), in
Romans, and in John the Baptist’s preaching.
For the Apostles, the day
of wrath prophesies of Joel were solidly linked with the coming of the Holy
Spirit and the Gospel in general.
But again, many will
ask, So what?
This is what. We risk falsifying the Gospel whenever we fully conflate ideas the NT writers did not.
What two ideas do we conflate?
When we conflate Hell with the judgments of the Earth, we pull in repentance to a place the NT writers never brooked.
Don't get me wrong. The urgent message of repentance is necessary
to prepare for the Kingdom. Repentance
gets regenerate individuals ready for being presented with all the church as
the bride. Repentance gets nations to give thanks to the One true Creator and worship Him, and
this worship gives God an opportunity to continue to delay His judgments.
But... when we say that turning from sin is part of the free offer of eternal
life, we have gotten creative with the stern and authoritative promise Jesus
makes to the readers of John’s Gospel. And that is not okay. Repentance (as turning from sin) and belief are two things not one.
Jesus sternly offers
By first conflating Hell with the day of wrath we end up conflating repentance with belief.
Offer of life Illustration: A (Catholic) Christian missionary lives in
the Philippines. She works and lives in poverty in order to bring the love of
Christ to the poor. But if that missionary
is stopped on the sidewalk and encouraged to receive eternal life by faith alone, or
to be justified by faith alone, she may be less than Christian in her verbal
response. She might be totally outraged
by the idea of not relying partly on the sacraments and partly on good works—both
as gritty expressions of her deep faith in Christ and His atoning grace for her. She'd likely be insulted.
Regarding Hell, Free Grace believers put
all their eggs in one basket. We cling
to Jesus and His offer of life because of the finality of His work on the Cross.
Regarding the day of wrath, we teach repentance. Repentance is most desperately needed in many situations, personal, relational, local, regional, cultural, and
(yes, even) political. We need to realize that
if we keep clarifying and re-clarifying grace and leave repentance as a minor point to be slipped into our evangelism near the end, we are not teaching the whole Gospel that Jesus left us with.
In my next post I hope to give
an example of how the day of wrath might connect powerfully in modern evangelism.
Labels: Bob WIlkin, day of Christ, day of lord judgments, day of wrath, Eschatology, eternal life, evangelism, Free Grace, gospel, Hell, HK Flynn, John's Gospel, Offer of life, repentance, Tribulation, Whole Gospel