Editor’s Introduction -- By: John H. Armstrong

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 06:2 (Spring 1997)
Article: Editor’s Introduction
Author: John H. Armstrong


Editor’s Introduction

John H. Armstrong

The subject of “the future” has always interested humans. Indeed, one might say this interest is clearly one, among many, which distinguishes humans from other life forms on our planet. We, unlike any other species, have a profound desire to know about “the end.”

Plainly, men and women have wondered about the end of the world since time immemorial. They have discussed how and when the end will come. They have speculated, argued and predicted. As much as modern science has been taken up with explanations of the earth’s beginning, so modern doomsayers and spiritual guides are seemingly compelled to consider the fate of this amazing planet and its inhabitants.

From Greek mythology through the time of Noah and Abraham, to the Montanists in the second century who fully expected the New Jerusalem to descend literally from heaven onto Phrygian soil, people have been intensely interested in the end. Even the great theologian Tertullian wrote of a walled city seen in the sky above Jerusalem early every morning for forty days. Like people throughout the world, and down through history, the great Tertullian was swept along in eschatological excitement. Augustine, the greatest theologian of the church fathers in the West, observed the fall of the Roman Empire and thus gave himself to the development of important prophetic writings. People have always discussed the end of history. Moderns are no exception.

For Christians the subject of last things has always, to varying degrees, been one rooted in the interpretation of certain texts of Holy Scripture. Yet the myriad of ways in which Christians have understood the related texts displays the radically different ways in which they have interpreted the Bible. The issue is not, generally speaking, one in which one view holds to the Bible while the other is “liberal” or rejects the authority of the written Word.

In all of this one thing is certain: since the first century Christians have agreed that Jesus Christ is coming back at the end of this age. What has never been profoundly clear, and what has caused significant disagreement, is how and when. Devout believers, who have a high view of the sufficiency and authority of the Scriptures, have argued that “the Millennium” passage (Rev. 20:1–6) must be taken literally and nonliterally. Among those who take the “literal” view—that this passage refers to an actual 1, 000 years of history—some have held that this period must come before Christ’s return at the end of this age, while others have insisted that the coming of Christ must precede the 1,...

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