About the “Difficulties” Category of Articles
As with any eschatatalogical theory, the Temporary Ekklesia Theory has several difficulties and weakness—some that are merely perceived, and some that may be very real. Because of the incomplete nature of the Bible records, certain events and teachings could have taken place without us having any guarantee that we would:
- Know anything about them whatsoever.
- Know enough about them to have a thorough understanding of them.
- Know enough about them to recognize that we know something.
What if, for instance, the “many witnesses” with which the Christians were “surrounded” (Hebrews 12:1 and the preceding chapter) were in fact those “many holy people” who had been resurrected in Matthew 27:51-53, still on the earth and sharing their message? If this were the case, we would be without any direct evidence that confirms it. It could be true or untrue, and we would have no way to know.
The rational reader will understand that a difficulty is not a disproof, but only difficulty. To give an easy example, there is no way to prove from the Bible that Jesus intended the ekklesia to continue perpetually on the earth, and yet millions of believers do not consider that this difficulty alone would disprove the perpetual ekklesia theory. This works both ways, of course: There is also no passage in the Bible that explicitly states that Jesus intended the ekklesia to be only temporary, but this difficulty alone doesn’t disprove the Temporary Ekklesia Theory. (We would also need a passage of scripture that explicitly states that every eschatalogical fact is in the Bible and that no thing can be true that is not written in the Bible.)
Here are some of the difficulties that I have identified so far for the TET:
- The “Thousand Years” of Revelation 20:1-7. This passage is a problem for every eschatalogical theory of which I am aware, which may be really good reason to conclude that the number 1,000 was not meant to be taken by the reader as the literal number. Indeed, of the very few mysteries that were still in play for believers alive during the reign of the apostles, the most prominent one was that even Jesus, who definitely claimed to be inspired by God, said he did not know the day or the hour of his return. (It seems to have been kept deliberately secret for strategic reasons, probably related to Satan’s forces.) It is clear that he believed he understood the millenium, century, and generation of his return, however, for he promised in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) that these events would occur before that generation had come to a close. The TET puts the 1,000 years at about 40 years, fitting it with Jesus’ prophecy about that generation and timing it with the known destruction of the Temple.
- The lack of historical witnesses. There are no extant (as far as I know) records of a “rapture” of the ekklesia in or about 70AD. There are witnesses to some extraordinary related events at that time, but not specifically to the “catching up” foretold by Paul and others. The lack of witness records, of course, proves nothing, but it certainly presents a weakness to the TET, just as the lack of any Bible witness to the actual destruction of the Temple in 70AD presents a weakness to proponents of the perpetual ekklesia theory.
- The binding of Satan. Pinning down the exact timing of the binding (and incarceration) of Satan is difficult. I’m still working on this and don’t know how likely it is that a strong and plausible model can be defined. One of the difficulties here is that the word “Satan” seems sometimes to refer to the exact individual being, while at other times, referring in general to the activities of his entire following. Thus is it a painstaking investigation.
- Regarding Eternal Life: What now? There is precious little to go on in the Bible as to whatever was to become of life on earth after the second coming of Jesus. Even those who put that coming yet future to us are divided on whether life will go on on the planet thereafter and whether it will be possible for people to achieve eternal life after that time or not. (Just read the profusion of novels on this subject!) If the TET is correct, there is reason to believe that righteous humans today do indeed get to go to eternal life in the Holy City after death on earth. Nowhere, however, is such a thing stated explicitly in the scriptures, and this is disappointing, if not troubling. I intend to address this further as I’m able, and I believe there is good reason to be at ease, but simply haven’t been able to document it yet.
- Lack of Prophecy About This Age. The TET holds that it is fairly clear that the ages changed from Jesus’ “this age” to his “that age” in about 7o AD. This is easily proven from the scriptures. There is no known prophecy about life on the earth for believers in the second of the two ages (the present one). If we were but told, it would be much easier to believe that things that we can rationally deduce must be true of this age. But we simply are not told. Whatever one makes of this fact, it still makes it more difficult for us than we would wish. And I would note that perpetual ekklesia folks have exactly the same problem within their own theories, for they have no passages that prophecy a complete list of differences in the ekklesia from then to now. Thus do they constantly debate over which of the original practices and teachings are to be carried on today. Interestingly, none of them hold that lack of specific prophecy about their situation means anything about their situation.