Why the eschatology?

I have heard from some readers that they struggled with the frequent references in Mediko to eschatology (the doctrine of last things).  It is true that I included much about that subject from Raph’s training at Newton Seminary to the latter years of his life.   While Raph’s struggle with the date-setting of the word “imminence” as he saw it is not crucial to his story, his view of dispensationalism is.

The careful reader will have noted that Raph’s insistence on emphasizing the “immanence” of Christ over the imminence of His return, and evangelism over eschatology, led to some of the clashes he experienced with the new ABEO missionaries.  Those new missionaries were passionate about their premillennial faith, and they bristled at the idea that their revered but oppositional leader should discourage them from teaching their view of the future.

Those missionaries were teaching that Christ could return at any time.  Their missionary zeal was increased because they knew that if He were to return soon, those who had not believed in Him would likely perish without new life in Him.  They believed that God was not finished with the Jewish people, and that, following the removal of the church (usually called the Rapture), a period of tribulation would come upon the remaining Jews and Gentiles.  They taught that the Christ would appear in heaven as King of Kings and Lord of Lords at the end of the Tribulation, and that His feet would stand upon the Mount of Olives, from which He had ascended.   They were chiliasts, that is, they believed that Christ would set up His Millennial (1000 year) kingdom on earth at the time of His coming.  Believers, Jew and Gentile, would participate in this period of peace, righteousness, and justice.

Raph feared that supporters of the mission who held a different theological position would cease to support ABEO if they were aware that many of the missionaries were preaching and teaching these things that they, like Raph, his early colleagues, and Mrs. Peabody had not been taught.  In addition, he viewed the greatest need in the Philippines to be that of preaching the Gospel, and he struggled to see how preaching when Christ will come and what God will do in the future could be of equal importance to meeting that need.

Raph’s own personal view of eschatology gradually changed, but his earlier views certainly influenced His leadership in ABEO in its earliest years in the Philippines.  For this reason alone, an emphasis on his eschatology was necessary.

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