Permit me to preface this book with part of my personal story. I was raised in a Baptist Church and my wife Jan, of over forty years, in a Lutheran Church. When we were first married we would alternate between the two churches as we lived in the same city in which we grew up. After a stint in the military, the children started to come and we visited new churches to find a single church home. This went on for about twelve years and during that time I began to have an interest in studying about End Times, known as eschatology.
During the late 70ís, I read a book by Hal Lindsey titled Late Great Planet Earth and it was helpful in kindling my interest. As I would try to study in the various churches we visited, I discovered that there was a wide variety of opposing views concerning what the Bible taught about End Times. I was still a few years away from coming to a knowledge of the mystery given to the Apostle Paul by direct revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Basically, I found two main systems of theology, covenant and dispensational. Covenant theology centers around the belief that God has but one overall program in dealing with us and tends to spiritualize many passages that the dispensationalists take as literal. Dispensational theology includes a belief that God has changed the program from time to time in dealing with us.
On the covenant side you have amillennialism, where itís believed that the kingdom promised to Israel is occurring now in the spiritual realm, and there isnít to be a literal earthly kingdom set up in the future. Under this covenant system there would be no rapture of the church prior to the end and the majority of the events of the book of Revelation are taken to be fulfilled in a spiritual setting only. My wifeís upbringing in the Lutheran Church embraces this type of interpretation.
The dispensationalists, on the other hand, believe in a literal earthly kingdom established after the rapture of the church and the period of time known as the tribulation, when the events of the book of Revelation will be literally played out. My Baptist upbringing embraces this type of interpretation.
As I was wrestling with trying to sort out the above, some friends invited my wife and me to their baptismal ceremony as they were joining a new church. At that service we met the preacher of their new church, which turned out to be a non-denominational church, on the covenant side of interpretation. We ended up joining that church in the early 1980ís. The preacher was a great teacher and we had a good sized Bible study that met each week for years. Without that Bible study I would never have learned how the covenant side worked.
As I studied I realized that what I was learning was very different from what I was taught growing up, but I couldnít seem to find a way to understand what the Bible really taught on End Times and many other issues. For example, I was water baptized by immersion when I was ten years old after making a public statement that I wanted to trust Christ for my salvation. My wife, on the other hand, was water baptized by sprinkling as an infant. The new church believed that water baptism by immersion was a necessary act for anyone wanting to trust Christ for salvation and my wife and children were all water baptized in this fashion (the children were also water baptized by sprinkling as infants).
After about five years at the new church, I had studied about everything I could get my hands on regarding End Times and many other topics. At this time I began reading the Bible through cover to cover to see if I could figure out which system of interpretation fit the Scriptures.
A friend of mine, Dave, called me one day about one to two years after my starting to read the Bible on a daily basis. He said he had an idea he wanted to run by me. When we were together he seemed more serious than I usually saw him and said he had something to share that he didnít know with whom else he could share it with but me. Over the years, he and I had talked extensively concerning matters of the Bible, and through the Bible studies we both attended; he came to know the Lord.
He related a story to me that took him back to his younger schooldays. As the story went he had run away from home, due to a disagreement, by hitchhiking from Michigan to Indiana. On one of the rides he received, somehow his wallet worked its way out of his pocket and was undiscovered by Dave until it was too late. Through a series of events his father drove down to pick him up and he was homeward bound still with no wallet. After being back home for a few days a package arrived containing his missing wallet. It turned out that the driver was a local pastor, who found the wallet, was able to get an address from its contents, and mail the wallet back to him along with a Bible tract titled, Simple As Can Be by Cornelius Stam. Dave was delighted to get the wallet back and took the tract, without reading it, and zipped it into the Bible he received when he was confirmed a few years before at his local church.
After more than twenty years, and during a move to a different house, the zippered Bible showed itself and Dave realized that he hadnít opened that Bible in over twenty years. When he did the Bible tract popped out and this time he read it and called me for the meeting mentioned earlier. Our conversation over lunch centered on the concepts in that tract, which outlined a system of Bible interpretation that takes into consideration the idea that God changed the program of his dealings with mankind about midway through the book of Acts. At that point God essentially concluded the kingdom program temporarily and ushered in a new program, known as the mystery, through the Apostle Paul. The complete changeover to the new program took about thirty years as Paul was receiving direct revelations concerning the new program from the ascended Lord Jesus Christ. This system of Bible interpretation is dispensational except that it recognizes that the current church, the body of Christ, began in the mid part of the book of Acts and not, as most view its start, in the first part of Acts. The significance of the mid-Acts position is that the truth of the distinctive message and ministry of the Apostle Paul is recovered. When you view his letters, as such, all the confusion disappears that occurs when you mix the previous kingdom program with the current one, communicated to him, known as the mystery. It took some time to discover the broad and sweeping nature of this new program, but it has led me to a much clearer understanding of topics such as End Times and others.
Since that meeting I have read the Bible through numerous times, in many versions, and have spent hundreds of hours in intense study to be able to come to a better understanding of many biblical topics. It is from this backdrop that I submit the following:
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- Part 1 - Simple As Can Be by Cornelius R. Stam
(Bible tract mentioned above reprinted by permission)
- Part 2 - Confusion in the Church Today
- Part 3 - A Trip through the Bible
- Part 4 - A Biblical Look at End Times