Left Behind for Now: Tribulation and the Need to Know God’s Word
Tribulation is here, and we need to know God's word.
This is the gist of chapter 7 in Greg Beale's A New Testament Biblical Theology. In 37 pages, he lays out how the eschatological tribulation has been inaugurated with Jesus and the church. It's here, now.
Telltale marks of the tribulation, according to Daniel 7–12, include persecution and deception through false teaching. The apostles were mindful of how present these things were in their own day, especially the rise of false teaching. John even drops the A-word (antichrist) in 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7. Though it seems to have not yet reached its climax, the tribulation clearly has begun (the whole period between Christ’s two comings), and Christians are called to persevere.
On the corporate level, a major part of this perseverance is church elders (gently) correcting insidious doctrines that raise their head within the covenant community (see 2 Timothy). As individuals, the best antidote is to understand temptation — and know the Bible.
Deception All Over Again
Beale observes that the same ways Satan deceived Adam and Eve at the beginning of history are reproduced by the biblical authors to characterize his deception at history's end. On this note, Beale shows how we can learn from the initial failure to trust God's word:
Eve was deceived because she did not know God's word sufficiently or did not esteem it highly enough. . . . [W[hen confronted by the satanic serpent, Eve either failed to remember God's word accurately or changed it intentionally for her own purposes. First, she minimized their privileges by saying, “We may eat,” whereas God had said, “You may eat freely.” Second, Eve minimized the judgment by saying, “Lest you die,” whereas God said, “You will surely die.” Third, she maximized the prohibition by affirming, “You shall not . . . touch” (becoming the first legalist in history), whereas God originally said only, “You shall not eat.”
If Adam remembered God's word, then he did not trust it, since he did not come to Eve's aid when she failed to recollect the word rightly in the face of the serpent accusations. Adam and Eve did not remember God's word adequately, and they “fell.” When the defense of God's word is taken away, all kinds of satanic lies come to fill the void, the desire to resist temptation breaks down, and sin inevitably occurs. (222)
Beale explains, "Jesus Christ, however, knew the word and, by obeying it, established himself as God's true last Adam and true Israel. . . . Jesus succeeded against exactly those temptations in which Adam and Israel failed because he remembered God's word and obeyed it" (222).
Know and Believe God's Word
Beale concludes with application for where we live:
The heart of the matter is this: do Christians know God's word, do they believe it, and do they do it? If not, then the lies of the evil one will slip into our lives and churches ever so subtly. When this happens and the process goes unchecked and uncorrected, then the deceptions begin to pour in like an overflowing river (cf. Revelation 12:15). . . Do Christian families make God's word the center of their homes? Do pastors set aside sufficient time to study God's word in preparation for Sunday sermons in order to "be diligent to present yourself approved to God as workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15)? If not, then the false teaching of those "who have gone astray from the truth" will make inroads into the church (2 Timothy 2:18). (223)
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