Great Awakenings should probably be titled, Great Awakenings To Come, for that is what we are to consider. The past is past, and, while it has a huge influence on the future, that influence is often denigrated by other factors such as eschatology. Quite frankly, our views of last things can cause us to overlook, misinterpret, fail to understand, and blunder in our representations of what the Bible is actually teaching concerning the future.
I shall never forget how one man’s question and a text in Jonah opened my eyes to the fact of the filters in my mind that prevented me from understanding and grasping what God was actually saying in some of His remarks in the Bible. In this particular case, I always thought that if a verse stated something quite dogmatically, then it had to be that way, no ifs, ands, or buts about the matter. Jonah’s message to the city of Nineveh is a case in point. The prophet declared, “Forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” However, it was not.
It had been very easy to assume that Jonah had added, “But if you repent, God will spare the city.” That is precisely what he did not say, though I have heard ministers say so. It is their theology and soteriology which demands that they add the clarifying qualification. Jonah, however, did not say such a thing. In fact, he did not want the city spared. He wanted it destroyed, lock, stock, and barrel as the saying once was.
The truth is that to say that the prophet must have added, “But if you repent, God will spare the city,” is to add to God’s word. The old King of Nineveh did not speak so presumptuously, only saying perhaps God would spare the city. The prophecy, in any case, becomes unfulfilled, raising the question: “Could it be that the unconditional prophecy here stated was intended to shock the Ninevites into repentance so that God would have mercy? And could such be the truth of other unconditional prophecies. Counseling knows of methods of therapeutic paradoxes and shock therapies. Surely, God might well have an even firmer handle on such techniques. In any case, for the present, we will assume such to be the case.
The next matter we face is the innumerable host that will constitute the seed of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. Even greater hosts that cannot be counted or comprehended by any human are those that will make up the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. The elect, our Savior said, are to be gathered by His Holy Angels from one end of the starry heaven to the other which betokens the possibilities of such numbers as utterly strains all credulity. I can never forget coming across a statement in John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ to the effect that the atonement was of such value that it could save the people of other planets (he did put it in a manner that simply raised the issue). I hope to continue this later, deo volente!