A little more than a week ago I conducted an informal survey during my message, “Paul on the Lord’s Return.” The goal? To find out how many people in the audience definitively knew what eschatological label they wore; in what end times “camp” they pitched their tent. I showed four main views on the screen in alphabetical order—amillennialism, dispensational premillennialism, historic premillennialism, and partial preterism*—and asked everyone to select the one they knew they identified with, then anonymously write it on one of our feedback cards. If they didn’t know which label or camp they primarily identified with, I asked them to simply put IDK.
We were only a few seconds into the casual survey when the questions flooded our text line—brows wrinkled and heads tilted—What’s the meaning of the views? Can you provide an overview of each? Clearly many across the room were wanting definitions and explanations.
But that was precisely my point: to find out who actually knew what/where they were, eschatologically speaking, without being “tipped off” or led towards the answer. For it was, and still is, my contention that most of the issues surrounding end times are things we hold loosely. Frankly (and humorously), so loosely that many don’t even know what they’re holding. That is not to say that knowing non-essential details is unimportant; it just isn’t all-important.
The essential that we do hold tightly is the doctrine of Christ’s return. That’s what is paramount, and what unifies us in eschatology, regardless of which system you follow and in which you find the least amount of holes.
That’s what my survey aimed to do: showcase that our faith family can have differing opinions on some end-time matters—or not have any opinion at all!—and still be a unified body around the central item: Christ’s future return.
Without a doubt the survey worked. Here are the results (again, in alphabetical order):
- 4% of the respondents embraced/leaned towards amillennialism.
- 26% of the respondents embraced/leaned towards dispensational premillennialism.
- 9% of the respondents embraced/leaned towards historic premillennialism.
- 2% of the respondents embraced/leaned towards partial preterism.
- 59% of the respondents didn’t know what view they held.
Yet, 100% of the respondents believe in the doctrine of Christ’s return! Proof positive, at least in the services at FFC that day, that even though some may not know the term that describes their view of end times, we all know the central truth of end times: Jesus will return!
Ah, there it is! Unity in essentials yet humility and diversity in non-essentials. And charity in it all.
Come, Lord Jesus!
*I did not include postmillennialism in the survey for reasons beyond the scope of this post. However, a short description of these four views, along with the postmillennial viewpoint, will be the focus of tomorrow’s post.