Back to Back Issues Page
The Divided Church Part 1
September 18, 2008

Everyone who confesses with their mouth and believes in their heart that Jesus is Lord is a Christian. This body of believers make up the "church". They are part of the same body and are united as one. Why is it that this body of believers have so many different beliefs concerning scripture? Why is the church so divided?

The answer is Eschatology - the study of Bible Prophecy. The body of believers who have no problem with Christ being born of a virgin, living a sinless life, then dying to pay the penalty for our sins, and coming back to life on the third day. What the body of believers cannot agree on is when Bible Prophecy is to be fulfilled.

There are 4 views on the fulfillment of prophetic events: Preterism, Historicism, Idealism,and Futurism.

Preterism - This title comes from the Latin word "praeter" which means past. This view holds that most, if not all, prophetic fulfillment has occurred. Preterists believe that all prophecies were fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

This point of view has its problems. For example, the book of Revelation is believed to have been written around 90 A.D. which was twenty years after the fall of Jerusalem by Roman hands. The preterist view means that the tribulation, Christ's second coming. and the rapture of the church (I'm not sure they even believe in this doctrine) has already occurred..

The restoration of Israel as a nation in 1948 is meaningless to a preterist. In fact, their belief is that all prophecies that apply to Israel now apply to the church. This is called "replacement theology". Scripture has to be "spiritualized" instead of taken literally. Preterists play the dangerous game of changing the literal meaning of biblical text.

Preterists believe the first beast of the book of Revelation was the Roman Emperor Nero and the second beast was the Domitian.

Historicism - They view bible prophecy as a panorama of historical events for both the church and the secular world. The majority of the Protestant reformers were historicists. They believe that the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation revealed the rise of the Roman Catholic Church and God's destruction of that entity. From their point of view, the current church age is the tribulation period. They believe that much of the book of Revelation has already taken place The breaking of the first seal was a prophecy about the death of Domitian in 96 A.D. The other 6 seals prophesied the rise and fall of the Western Roman Empire.

They believe some prophecies have yet to be fulfilled such as the return of Christ.

The Seventh Day Adventist church is the most widely known group of the historicists. I have attended a couple of their prophecy seminars. Their interpretation of bible prophecy struck me as being very strange.

Idealism - This group doesn't see bible prophecy as events to be fulfilled. They believe that prophecy is just the bible using symbolic language to show the conflict between good and evil. This conflict ends when the new heavens and new earth is established.

Futurism - This is the camp I fall into because I believe this is the most consistent view with the literal interpretation of bible prophecy. The Holy Bible says what it means and means what it says. Scripture also interprets scripture. Sometimes symbolic language is used but the word of God always explains it.

The Tribulation, the Second Coming, and the Millennium are all future events pertaining to the nation of Israel. That is the view of a pure futurist.

All three of these major events are clearly connected to the nation of Israel.

"3 For behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord, 'that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,' says the Lord. 'And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.' " 4 Now these are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah. 5 "For thus says the Lord: 'We have heard a voice of trembling, Of fear, and not of peace. 6 Ask now, and see, Whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins Like a woman in labor, And all faces turned pale? 7 Alas! For that day is great, So that none is like it; And it is the time of Jacob's trouble, But he shall be saved out of it." Jeremiah Chapter 30

This Old Testament prophecy states that the nation of Israel would repossess the land of their fathers which occurred in 1948 and they are still there. It also refers to the coming tribulation as the time of Jacob's trouble. Jacob was the name of Israel before God renamed him.

"And He said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed." Gen. 32:8

Zechariah 14 states, "1 Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the Lord will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. 4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south."

In this passage, the nations of the world have come up against Jerusalem and Jesus Himself is standing on the Mount of Olives defending His people. This event occurs at the end of the Tribulation and is a part of the Second Coming of Christ. Notice that He returns to Jerusalem which is in Israel.

During the Millennium, the capital of planet Earth is Jerusalem, Zechariah 14 states, "16 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles."

All the major prophecies concerning the Christ's second coming center around the nation of Israel. There are no signs that point to the rapture (this event could occur at any moment)but many signs are given for the Lord's return.

Futurists keep their eyes on the developments in Israel. Futurists believe that the rapture of the church is near because of what is taking place in Israel today.

Confusion occurs when the 4 views of bible prophecy are mixed together, which happens often.

The interpretation of Bible Prophecy is the reason we have so much division within the church. This "unity through diversity" won't last forever. Christ is coming back for his church.

Copyright 2008 by Gary Goodworth

Your Relationship With God

Back to Back Issues Page