Beware of Holding an Eschatological Belief
That Causes You to Shirk Your Christian Duty
by Stuart DiNenno
We must reject any teaching about eschatology (doctrine of the end times) that causes Christians to believe that the present time period is an age when the church must lose ground because God has ordained that it must be so, and that therefore we must be powerless to correct the current apostasy. This is a belief that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for its adherents and will be reflected in Christians behaving unfaithfully, for it is not possible to fight for any advance in the kingdom of God if one has already been indoctrinated to believe that he is living in a time period during which the Almighty has determined that our best efforts must necessarily fail.
Not only are such beliefs self-defeating but they are a way of blaming God for the defections and infidelities of professing Christians in our present age. It is true that there is a sense in which the Lord ordains all things that come to pass but we have to be careful that we do not erroneously draw the doctrine of God’s eternal decree out to the point of it being a hard determinism that excuses man for his failures — as if he had no possibility to succeed and so no necessity to try — and makes God responsible for man’s dereliction of duty. God is going to judge the apostates of this age very harshly and, make no mistake about it, the many so-called Christians who have given up the fight and are silently hiding themselves away out of apathy, defeatism, or fear, while the wicked advance their agenda unopposed, are complicit with them and will be judged unfaithful for their failure to speak out and stand against the ungodly, according to the abilities and opportunities that were given them to do so.
Yes, there are passages of Scripture which appear to teach that there will be a falling away at the end of the world, but there were many periods of apostasy in Israel’s history before the final one that brought the nation to an end, there have been other periods of apostasy in Christian history, and we do not know when the end of this age will come or how close we are to it, and it is sinfully presumptuous to assume that it must be in our time period and that we must accept the current apostasy because it must be foreordained. If a man has convinced himself that he is living in an age when it is not possible to overcome the evil around him, and that causes him to shrink back from boldly declaring the truth or militating for the kingdom of God openly when opportunities arise for him to do so, and instead causes him to be reticent about doing these things and desirous to remain in the shadows out of fear, then he is sinning regardless of how sincerely he may believe that his eschatology is in agreement with the Bible.
Christians need to stop the guesswork of both trying to figure out which eschatological system is correct and attempting to locate where we are now on the timetable of history, and instead just get on with doing all that is within their power to build the kingdom. Any doctrine that hinders them from doing so is necessarily sinful to hold. I believe that behind much of today’s eschatological beliefs is a desire to excuse Christians from doing their duty, just as other theological doctrines, most notably “Radical Two Kingdom” theology, are promoted because they justify a cowardly retreat from the world and a compartmentalization of one’s religion.
The parable of the unfaithful servant (Matthew 25:14-30) has a lesson for us on this matter. When the servant unfaithfully hid his talent in the ground, he justified this action in his own mind. He convinced himself that he was being faithful because he did not squander his master’s money and instead preserved it for him. Not only so, but the servant attributed his bad behavior to his understanding of his master (“I knew thee that thou art a hard man”). No doubt the servant was sincere and believed his action was appropriate but he was condemned to “outer darkness” for his evil conduct.
Likewise, those who hide their talent in the earth by fearfully shirking the duty they would otherwise be doing if they had not convinced themselves that God had ordained their lifetime to be a period when little or no progress could be made, are not only being unfaithful to their calling but are blaming God for their own failure. They will receive the same reward that the unfaithful servant received and it will not matter that they preserved what was given to them — in that they did not deny or oppose the truth — just as it did not matter that the servant preserved what was given to him. If they do not improve upon their gifts by trying to do all they can to advance the kingdom according to the abilities and opportunities that God has given them, then they will be condemned and they will not be excused by an appeal stating “I was only acting according to my understanding of biblical eschatology,” any more than the servant was excused for his belief that he was doing the prudent thing by not putting his master’s money at risk.