trying to untangle eschatology

I can get anything tangled. Shoe laces, garden hoses, computer cords, seat belts, …. and theology. Especially eschatology (the doctrine of the end times). A few preachers are consumed with prophecy, making charts, and scaring people into readiness. Many prefer to stay away from the hot-button issues that lay people love to test their pastors about – you know test the pastor’s alignment with a preconceived theological system. This month I waded into these muddy waters for a short 3 part sermon series. This of course is an adventure deserving much more effort and time, and is more worthy of a New Testament scholar or Professor of Christian Theology. I must admit that the study and preparation reminded me of those days 40 years ago when curiosity, passion and adrenaline (and the quest to score at least a passing mark in my courses) drove my academic blood.

Simply, here is what I did:
1. “Watch! No Sleeping On Duty“. Mark 13:24-27, 32-37
2. “Ready Or Not, Here I Come!” 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, 23-24
3. “Ask Any Question” An opportunity for people to seek eschatological clarity

Our church website is sadly, badly, out of date. However links to the audio of sermons is current.

If anyone wants to look at my modest notes I can certainly email them to you. Just message me on Facebook or email

I depended heavily on some good sources, which I list below. I brought only a small portion of my library to Germany, and you no doubt can locate some good academic resources, but these books served me well. (And yes, my default ‘go to’ publisher of much of my library has always been Inter Varsity Press.)

I believe the best scholarly treatment of Mark 13 is by Robert H. Stein; his book published by Inter Varsity Press Academic in 2014 Jesus, The Temple and the Coming Son of Man. It is concise, readable and persuasive intellectually.

99 Reasons Why No One Knows When Christ Will Return by B.J. Oropeza, Inter Varsity Press 1994

Jesus, Paul and the End of the World: A Comparative Study in New Testament Eschatology, Ben Witherington III, Inter Varsity Press 1992

What the Bible Teaches About The End of the World, Bruce Milne, Tyndale House, 1979

A balanced and easy to understand commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians is by John Stott, The Gospel and the End of Time, Inter Varsity Press, 1991

A very helpful presentation of various theological and Biblical approaches to heaven, hell, resurrection, the return of Jesus and the millennial kingdom is found in The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity & Diversity by Roger E. Olson, Inter Varsity Press 2002, (note chapters 14 & 15)

I recommend reading the debate writings about hell. Two Views of Hell: A Biblical & Theological Dialogue, Edward William Fudge, Robert A. Peterson, Inter Varsity Press, 2000

After Life: What the Bible Really Says, Douglas Connelly, Inter Varsity Press, 1995

MARANATHA! – Doug Johns, May 2017

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Preaching in an Age of Distraction


From Doug’s Preaching Mentorship Notes:
Design2Delivery #7 – Wednesday October 26 2016 – Rev. D. Johns

More and more we are preaching to an audience that is ‘disposed to distraction’. I have preached outside and had to compete with animals, wind, rain and beautiful scenery. I have preached in old ‘steeple churches’ and had to do battle with rodents on the floor and bats in the air. I think my ability to raise my voice above babies crying and old men snoring scores high on the concentration scale. I have preached through power outages and natural gas leaks. All that being said, the biggest challenge these days is to somehow communicate with an audience accustomed to fifteen-second sound bites; an audience that lives with continuous visual stimulation much of their day. It’s an audience that doesn’t have much patience for a delayed punch-line.

But I think the built-in attention-avoidance to lecture and preaching so prevalent our culture runs much deeper than a quick fix of video or PowerPoint. Somehow we have to capture their interest at the outset in such a way that the subject we speak or teach about is so compelling, so essential, that minds are jolted into awareness that this moment in time could indeed be a ‘game-changer’. This means, though, that each time I speak, I have to be satisfied with the knowledge that my effectiveness is going to be measured in small numbers. I mean, not every Sunday will be a ‘game-changing’ experience for all who are present. It also means that the introduction might be of more value, and therefore demand more preparation energy and creativity than hitherto invested.

Caution: Don’t let the preacher off the hook too quickly. It is all too easy to label the audience as ‘low concentrators’ while elevating the speaker into the heaven-blessed thoughtful, reflective, meditative zone of super spirituality. The preacher can easily be led into ‘the land of lazy’ just as much as the listener. Attention spans for all of us need some serious re-training.

Matt Woodley recently wrote an article in Preaching Today, titled Deep Preaching in a Distracted Age: Will anything capture people’s attention and keep it long enough for God to do his work? You can see the full article here

He says,
Recent articles and books highlight what Microsoft researcher Linda Stone calls our “continuous partial attention.” Consider this trio of recent articles from The New York Times—”Addicted to Distraction,” “The End of Reflection,” and “Don’t Distract Me.” The stats don’t lie about our heightened distractibility. The average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8.25 seconds in 2015. Little wonder, since an American on social media receives 54,000 words and 443 minutes of video every day.

I love what he calls a ‘counter-intuitive strategy’ to take face this challenge head – on.

In a distracted, outraged, shallow culture, people begin to hunger for something rare: the focused, balanced, deep. Because we chronically distract ourselves, we crave depth. Deep preaching is our best chance to change lives.

Matt’s plan is to foster four disciplines which impact the development of deep sermons. But be warned, there is no quick and easy solution to reverse the fall into distraction and diversion which has debilitated our society by depriving us of the power of vocal persuasion. Surprisingly though, a slow, deep, and thoughtful preparation on our part can lead to a deep, vibrant and substantial life-change – which in turn becomes noticeable in a loud world that is searching for reality beyond the superficial and transient, above the brevity and shallowness this world has to offer.

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basis for a new reputation

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how’s your reputation these days?

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why some miss Christmas

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“Running efficiently demands good technique, and running efficiently for 100 miles demands great technique. But the wonderful paradox of running is that getting started requires no technique. None at all. If you want to become a runner, get onto a trail, into the woods, or on a sidewalk or street and run. Go 50 yards if that’s all you can handle. Tomorrow, you can go farther. The activity itself will reconnect you with the joy and instinctual pleasure of moving.” Scott Jurek, Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

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don’t miss it!

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