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Why the End is Not Near Paperback – July 28, 2008
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"When Christ came to earth over two thousand years ago, he came to inaugurate his kingdom successfully. During his ministry here, he bound Satan. Within a generation of his crucifixion he destroyed the old world of the old covenant and ushered in a new heavens and a new earth. The church is now the Holy City of God and all the nations are brought into it. She will continue to preach the gospel on earth for thousands of years, progressively growing in number and strength until one day, far in the future, the entire world will be transformed by the power of Christ and an Eden-like paradise will be restored. At some point in that golden day, Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. Those who reject the Gospel will be sent to eternal punishment. The dead in Christ will be raised, joined to their resurrected bodies, and all the saints of all ages will live together in union and communion with the Triune God for eternity."
The book presents an alternative. Pastor Garner offers an explicitly biblical response to this dangerous eschatology that has paralyzed the modern church. This alternative is an optimistic view of the future based on the promises of Yahweh throughout Redemptive History and fulfilled in the Messiah, the Christ, who ushered His Kingdom in the first century.
What's unique about it?
There have been many large books refuting Dispensationalism; John Gerstner and Kenneth Gentry come to mind. However, their works are large tomes for the seminary student or the curious layman who has at least eight hours to invest, and further, it assumes certain knowledge of the subject. Helpful and extraordinarily insightful as they may be, these books are not for the simple. Duane's book is for the layman who is new to the Reformation faith and stumbled upon this controversy he never knew existed. As Garner points in the book, there are some out there who believe that there are no other alternatives to the Rapture frenzy.
The other uniqueness of this book is that it touches on the political consequences of an eschatology of defeat. Pastor Garner pursues vociferously the inconsistencies of Dispensational advocates. On the one hand, they cry out for political justice. On the other hand, they are prophesying the doom of the land; a retreatist posture.
What is Dispensationalism?
Dispensationalism, as the author describes, "... is a system defined largely by its view of the end of the world and can hardly be described apart from it." (15) With such a defined pessimistic worldview, one wonders what keeps them from selling all they have. Actually some have! Fortunately, the majority do not live consistently with their basic premise.
What's so popular about this System?
Many have discovered the inherent flaws of this system. Their abuse of passages like Matthew 24 and Revelation are so blatant that it is hard to treat it with any seriousness. Yet, they enjoy the majority of popularity in this country. Michael Horton once wrote that every American has at one time been a "Teenage Dispensationalist." The story goes that as they come to greater understanding they quickly move away from it. Dispensationalism is a distinctly American eschatology. Garner writes:
The popularity of the doctrine has permeated popular Christian thought so completely that an entire generation of evangelicals and fundamentalists is not even aware of any other way of reading the Bible, and is entirely unfamiliar with any opposing view of eschatology. (17)
The system boasts of some mighty eloquent and persuasive proponents. This may explain much of the popularity. Our only hope is that this small book will spark the interest of some to re-consider their position. Hal Lindsey's books have made millions, but it has also deceived millions. How much false prophecy makes a false prophet? If this question were taken seriously, the answer would emerge forcefully. But people are merciful, and as long as an ideology fits their imaginative criteria, there is no such thing as a wrong theory.
Garner offers an eschatology of hope and not of fear; an eschatology that is not dependent on newspaper exegesis, but on the text of Scripture. The Psalms declare that the glory of God will cover the earth in time and history. This vision of the progressive increase of the glory of God throughout the nations is what led to the great missionary revivals of past centuries. It was the answer then, and it is still the only answer now. As Garner concludes:
Only with an understanding that the kingdom will one day cover the earth can the church consistently take on any task that will have any lasting value. (57)
the end times, I have been very suspicious of the profit motive involved in the Left Behind series. I hope the damage to
the work of the church can be corrected.