I somewhat begrudgingly find myself spending more time studying and thinking about eschatological issues. I say "begrudgingly" because it appears that eschatology is the new theological animal where many Christians, male and female, find themselves in a "cage stage" of sorts. I first heard the term "cage stage" while reading the fine book by Greg Dutcher titled, "Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside."
In a 2007 blog article titled, "How To Avoid Cage Stage-itis," James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries wrote:
"I’ve seen it many times. The Cage Stage. A believer’s eyes are opened to the majesty of God as the sovereign King of the universe, and their entire life is turned upside down. And for a while, they have more zeal than they have knowledge. We call it the “cage stage.” That period in the experience of the new Calvinist where they would be better off kept in a cage until they can gain enough maturity to handle these vitally important topics aright. That time when they are more likely to hurt themselves, and others! You know, when they are all running around smacking someone upside the head with Pink’s The Sovereignty of God? Yeah."Unfortunately, "cage stage-itis" is not limited to the Calvinism/Arminianism debate. This "itis" extends to topics like evangelism, worship, church governance, Bible translations, and, most recently, eschatology. Cage stages never bring out the best in Christians. The current social media buzz about eschatology proves the point.
I'm reading Horner's book, not to come leaping off the top rope and into the ring of the eschatological fight. Trust me. I don't have to look for controversy in my life. It follows me like a cross between a gnat and an Internet troll. I'm reading the book because I am unashamedly premillennial in my eschatological point of view. I'm also older and wiser, now, than I was when I entered my very first cage stage (Calvinism) some 25 years ago. So, when it comes to eschatology, I also ascribe to the pan-millennial perspective. It will all "pan out" in the end. Eschatology is important, but I realize that since the days of Augustine of Hippo (who I believe was wrong on this issue, by the way), men far smarter than me have debated the "end times." Because I've landed at Premillennial International Airport, doesn't mean I'm the pilot of the eschatological plane. I still have much to learn, and I doubt I will earn my wings this side of heaven.
I also decided to pick up Horner's book because the subtitle, "Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged," intrigued me. It intrigued me because I have seen on Facebook and Twitter a disturbing trend among some who hold to eschatological perspectives that differ from my own. That disturbing trend is the increase in negative rhetoric about and toward Israel, which seems to be intensifying with Israel's current conflict in Gaza. There have been some Christians who sound eerily like the United Nations--condemning Israel for it's incursion into Gaza, while saying nothing about the daily shelling of Israel by Palestinian terrorists. For some, this anti-Israel rhetoric is spawned by theological constructs such as "replacement theology." also known as "supersessionism."
I am only 16 pages into Horner's book, so a book review would inappropriate and unwarranted at this point. However, I would like to share an excerpt (found on pages 9-11 in the book) in which Horner quotes from an article, "The Jew," written by 19th century theologian and hymnist, Horatius Bonar. Bonar beautifully wrote:
Let us speak reverently of the Jew. Let us not misjudge him by present appearances. He is not what he once was, nor what he yet shall be.Later Bonar boldly confessed:
Let us speak reverently of the Jew. We have much cause to do so. What, though all Christendom, both of the East and West, has for nearly eighteen centuries treated him as the offscouring of the race? What though Mohammad has taught his followers to revile and persecute the sons of Abraham? . . .
Nay, what though he [the Jew] may have a grasping hand, and a soul shut up against the world,--a world that has done nothing but wrong and revile him? What though he may inherit the crookedness of his father Jacob, instead of the nobility of Abraham, or the simply gentleness of Isaac?
Still let us speak reverently of the Jew,--if not for what he is, at least for what he was, and what he shall be, when the Redeemer shall come to Zion and turn away ungodliness from Jacob [Isa. 59:20; see. Rom. 11:26].
In him we see the development of God's great purpose as to the woman's seed, the representative of a long line of kings and prophets, the kinsmen of Him who is the Word made flesh. It was a Jew who sat on one of the most exalted thrones on earth; it is a Jew who sits upon the throne of heaven. It was a Jew who wrought such miracles once on our earth, who spoke such gracious words. It was a Jew who said, "Come unto me and I will give you rest;" and a Jew who said, "Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me." It was Jewish blood that was shed on Calvary; it was a Jew who bore our sins in His own body on the tree. It was a Jew who died, and was buried, and rose again. It is a Jew who liveth to intercede for us, who is to come in glory and majesty as earthly judge and monarch. It is a Jew who is our Prophet, our Priest, our King.
Let us, then, speak reverently of the Jew, whatever his present degradation may be. Just as we tread reverently the level platform of Moriah, where once stood the holy house where Jehovah was worshipped; so let us tread the ground where where they dwell whose are the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and of whom, concerning the flesh, Christ came. That temple hill is not what it was. The beautiful house is gone, and not one stone is left upon another. The
seventeen sieges of Jerusalem, like so many storms rolling the waves of every sea over it, have left few memorials of the old magnificence. The Mosque of the Moslems covers the spot of the altar of burnt-offering; the foot of the Moslem defiles the sacred courts . . . But still the ground is felt to be sacred; the bare rock on which you tread is not common rock; the massive stones built here and there into the wall are witnesses of other days; and the whole scene gathers round it such associations as, in spite of the rubbish, and desolation, and ruin, and pollution, fill you irresistibly with awe . . .
So it is with the Jew,—I mean the whole Jewish nation. There are indelible memories connected with them, which will ever, to anyone who believes in the Bible, prevent them from being contemned; nay, will cast around them a nobility and a dignity which no other nation has possessed or can attain to. To Him in whose purposes they occupy so large a space, they are still “beloved for their fathers’ sake” [Rom. 11:28]. Of them, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever.
I am one of those who believe in Israel’s restoration and conversion; who receive it as a future certainty, that all Israel shall be gathered, and that all Israel shall be saved. As I believe in Israel’s present degradation, so do I believe in Israel’s coming glory and preeminence. I believe that God’s purpose regarding our world can only be understood by understanding God’s purpose as to Israel. I believe that all human calculations as to the earth’s future, whether political or scientific, or philosophical or religious, must be failures, if not taking for their data or basis God’s great purpose regarding the latter-day standing of Israel. I believe that it is not possible to enter God’s mind regarding the destiny of man, without taking as our key or our guide His mind regarding the ancient nation—that nation whose history, so far from being ended, or nearly ended, is only about to begin. And if any one may superciliously ask, What can the Jews have to do with the world’s history?--may we not correctly philosophize on that coming history, and take the bearing of the world’s course, leaving Israel out of the consideration altogether? We say, nay; but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Art thou the framer of the earth’s strange annals, either past or future? Art thou the creator of those events which make up these annals, or the producer of those latent springs or seeds of which these arise?My next article will be a "Penciled Prayer" for Israel.
He only to whom the future belongs can reveal it. He only can announce the principles on which that future is to be developed. And if He set Israel as the great nation of the future, and Jerusalem as the great metropolis of earth, who are we, that, with our philosophy of science, we should set aside the divine arrangements, and substitute for them a theory of man? . . .
I believe that the sons of Abraham are to re-inherit Palestine, and that the forfeited fertility will yet return to that land; that the wilderness and the solitary places shall be glad for them, and the desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose. I believe that, meanwhile, Israel shall not only be wanderers, but that everywhere only a remnant, a small remnant, shall be saved; and that it is for the gathering in of this remnant that our missionaries go forth. I believe that these times of ours (as also all the times of the four monarchies [Dan 2]) are the times of the Gentiles; and that Jerusalem and Israel shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. I believe that, with the filling up of these times of the Gentile pre-eminence, and the completion of what the apostle calls the fullness of the Gentiles, will be the signal for the judgments which are to usher in the crisis of earth’s history, and the deliverance of Israel, and the long-expected kingdom.
How Jewish history shall once more emerge into its old place of grandeur and miracle, and how it shall unwind from itself the bright future of all nations, I know not. But so it is fore-written, “What shall be and miracle, and how it shall unwind from itself the bright future of all nations, I know not. But so it is fore-written, “What shall be the reconciling of them be, but life from the dead?” [Rom 11:15] “Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit” [Isa 27:6].