Searching out God’s concealed end-time truth
David Coote reviews Robert Sheldon’s unique aid to understanding.
We all struggle
At 46pp this is a remarkably succinct free resource available to download in PDF format. With a clear endorsement from David Lambourn (himself a published author of several well known Christian books) you immediately know this is something of exceptional value.
We all struggle with what the Bible teaches about the future (eschatology). If you’re like me you probably begin with Matthew chapter 24 and then try to ‘fit’ other biblical data around Jesus’ specific teachings (and I don’t think that’s a bad starting point). It’s not an easy task!
As Christians project forward they can emerge with a range of ‘doctrines’ built around certain presuppositions such as – classical dispensationalism, revised dispensationalism , hyper dispensationalism, preterism, futurism, amillenialism, dispensational premillennialism, dominionism, pan millennialism; and there are no doubt plenty more! Besides being largely unintelligible (except to their dedicated adherents) these theological constructs are meaningless to the ‘average man or woman in the street’. Do they help? Do they hinder?
Yet God has, in His wisdom, concealed certain matters from the common gaze. The title of Sheldon’s short book reminds us of this truth. But praise God! As Proverbs 25:2 reminds us, “it is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of Kings”. I’m sure this verse contains some wonderful sermon opportunities, but I shall resist the urge here, as we are focusing on Sheldon’s truly excellent little book; let’s not get distracted! Proverbs 25:2 reminds us of something extraordinarily beautiful – some things are deliberately hidden, yet it is a profound blessing to search them out and uncover them through the instruction of the Holy Spirit, in the Word that he has inspired.
Tools, not answers
“Give us the tools, and we’ll finish the job” said Winston Churchill in WW2. What Robert Sheldon gives us in his 46 pages is not so much ‘answers’, but rather the tools with which to explore and illuminate. As Proverbs 25:2 has reminded us, God does conceal things, but we are mightily blessed as we seek diligently to understand (search-out) such questions. We are supposed to. Jesus revealed what he revealed because we need to know…… and perhaps, we might add, this is given on a strictly ‘need-to-know basis’. Elsewhere Jesus said we should not cast pearls before pigs ( Matthew 7: 6 ) . To fully reveal the future to ‘the unwashed’ would not bless them. They would probably reject the revelation, in any case, and yet hate us for our certainty about what the future holds.
Robert Sheldon sets out nine useful principles for deciphering the future with Scriptural eyes, though he does not claim they are exhaustive:
A Geography Matters
B Details matter
C Same or separate events?
D Exegesis or eisegesis?
E The meaning of words and language
F Increasing clarity as the Lord’s return approaches
G There will be shadows!
H Consistency of context / Scripture’s ‘big picture’
I Knowledge of history plus current trends and events
Then he applies these principles to five categories of questions we need to explore to achieve a ‘rounded’ picture of the End Time:
1 Believers and the Last Days
3 Details of Significance?
4 Types and Shadows
5 Trends – a more helpful approach?
Within these five categories of questioning Sheldon provides a total of nineteen areas of relevant and recurrent biblical exploration such as * (3) Globalism versus regional and ethnic conflicts * (7) Turkey Coming into focus? * (12) Daniel: past, future, or both? Sharp eyed readers to this point will have noticed that Sheldon provides questions as much as answers. Indeed, a core strength of his material is its refusal to be dogmatic (unlike some of the so-called ‘theologies’ closely associated with eschatology) and his humility, in more than one place, to acknowledge that Sheldon himself has not finalised certain questions in his own understanding. As he reminds us, some things will remain obscure until shortly before the Lord’s return. Yet it is the glory of kings to search out a matter …..
The previous sentence highlights that Sheldon’s overarching insight is that the Lord is to return physically to this earth. In this he is open that his hermeneutic is millennial (specifically pre-millennial) and Sheldon holds the understanding that the Lord will reign as ruler in this earth (remember – thy kingdom come ….)
What Robert Sheldon gives us is a series of subjects and questions to prayerfully work through, whilst keeping ‘the big picture’ always in view. What I particularly appreciate is his tabular presentation of how biblical prophecy deals with a number of specific nations / locations that are key players throughout scripture (Egypt, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Greece and others). This I found to be highly innovative (I have certainly not encountered this approach before) and a very valuable tool, reproduced here:
As mentioned, this book is endorsed by David Lambourn. The ‘bottom line’ is that this free resource will help to free the genuine Bible student from the too-often tired and stale, and usually hotly-debated, standard ‘theologies’ of the varying ‘schools of interpretation’. Thank God! This is approach much needed, and frees us to see with greater clarity what Scripture reveals – and sometimes what it does not reveal. A glory indeed! It is the glory of Kings …..
Here is the link to the book in PDF form: