May Update - 2021


Welcome to the new Romans 15:8 blog for May.  As this blog enters its 4th year it is encouraging to see new church leaders signing up.  I hope and pray you will let others know of this blog and find over the months something within these blogs which will inspire, encourage and challenge in equal measure.


Ministry News Update

There are three major issues to share.  Firstly, the long awaited new LCJE book on Jewish Evangelism has been completed.  It is available now online. It is also hoped to have some printed copies available at our Conference.  Secondly, speaking of the Conference, I am pleased this is scheduled to take place ‘live’ from 16th - 18th July.  Our key-note speaker is the well-known evangelist Canon J.John.  A few spaces are still available – please do consider booking in.  Thirdly, we are in the process of adding to the staff team - the role is the Events Manager.

Book News

This month I would like to bring to your attention a book I read this year as I was preparing to preach on Good Friday.  It is A Cross in the Heart of God by Samuel Wells (Canterbury Press, 2020).  In some ways this book compliments the book I recommended back in my March 2020 blog, The Cross in Four Words (Good Book Company, 2020).

In this book we are given an in-depth study of the cross in the Old Testament with a focus on Covenant (Noah), Test (Abraham), Sacrifice (Esther) Passover, Atonement (Joseph) and Servant (Isaiah).  This is then followed by the cross in the Epistle and the Gospels. 

Samuel Wells writes with a passion and a pastoral wisdom which helps draw out key insights from the Biblical texts.  I am convinced that every preacher and Bible teacher, however experienced she or he is, will find ‘new gems’ through reading this book.  I marked 5 new insights I gained from reading and reflecting upon the book; my marked pages are pages 30, 71, 73, 92 and 117.  Maybe if you read these pages, you can guess what I marked - a prize awaits anyone who can identify all five!  Also, every Christian will be encouraged by reading this book - as Jane Williams says in her endorsement of the book “I defy anyone to read this book without being touched and moved to tears by the shocking love of God”.

Monthly Memory Verse

Bright eyes bring joy to the heart.  Good news gives health to bones.  (Proverbs 15:30 - Messianic Jewish Family Bible - Tree of Life Version)

Romans 15:8 Blog May

Teaching Reflection of the Month

Recently I was asked to prepare a discussion and positional paper exploring the ‘CMJ perspective’ on eschatology.  This request was partly fuelled by the current covid pandemic and other current affairs, especially in Israel.  The paper below is a slightly amended version of the paper discussed initially at the CMJ Trustees meeting in May.  The paper reflects my insights and does not necessarily reflect the views/insights of the wider CMJ community.  I look forward to any feedback from members of the Romans 15:8 network on this important issue.

Setting the Scene and defining some terms

Eschatology (the doctrine of the ‘last things’ or ‘end times’) deals with the end of the world.  Within this overarching subject much attention is rightly given to the promised return (and rule) of Jesus, the final judgement and the eternal destiny of every person. 

There will be a range of beliefs, chronologies and interpretations held with conviction by different Christian groups; these will range from views which coalesce around judgement, punishment and annihilation to those which focus upon judgement, renewal and consummation.  However, all Christians are united in proclaiming that the ultimate future rests in God, and not in human failings, plans or progress.

The ministry and theology of CMJ has flourished and has been shaped within an ‘evangelical theological framework’.  This has rooted our teaching in the Bible, often with a focus upon more literal interpretations of the texts in question.  Along with this I think the vast majority within CMJ today (and throughout the years) would share a historicist or futurist interpretation of prophecy (especially in the case of the book of Revelation) rather than a preterist or idealist (symbolic) interpretation of prophecy.

The teaching of the Bible clearly affirms the promise and hope of God’s coming Kingdom.  The Gospel is rooted in the promises and power of God - time is linear (not locked into an eternal circle as in aspects of mystical philosophy), there is an unstoppable movement towards God’s ultimate eternal plans.  This truth is clearly taught in the ministry of Jesus, the message of the early Church and within the historic creeds - for example the Nicene Creed affirms: He (Jesus) will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.  The creed closes with the declaration - We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. 

For Christians, the reality of the Gospel is ‘3 dimensional’ regarding chronology.  This is perhaps best reflected in the well-known acclamation during the celebration of Holy Communion, in which the mystery of faith is proclaimed - Christ has died (we look back to our faith which rests upon historical events), Christ is risen (we look to the present encounter with the risen Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit), Christ will come again (we look to the future - the ‘blessed hope’ of His return).

Insights from the past and present ministry of CMJ

As stated earlier, there is a range of beliefs, chronologies (timelines) and interpretations concerning eschatology among evangelical Christians, and this has been (and is) the case within CMJ.  It is important that CMJ provides a ‘safe-space’ to explore and learn together.  There must be unity on core issues while allowing for personal conviction on ‘secondary’ issues.  It is for the leadership of CMJ in consultation with the wider Church to discern when differences of conviction hurt our unity and distort our ministry.  This overview position is reflected in the fact that CMJ has never set out a precise statement of faith regarding eschatology for its staff to adhere to.  However, CMJ over the years has brought to the forefront a number of eschatological insights which are important.

Early within the ministry of CMJ, alongside ministries of evangelism, social emancipation, education and discipleship, there was a clear focus on the restoration of Israel as a nation.  Kelvin Crombie strongly argues that CMJ has two clear callings (he sees these as the twin pillars on which all other aspects of the ministry rests), namely evangelism and restoration (of Israel). 

In terms of the restoration of Israel as a Jewish (democratic) nation, there are embedded certain Biblical eschatological insights, all of which can be seen in the past and present teaching of CMJ.

  • Israel will become the focus of world politics and will face much opposition from many other nations and groups.
  • Israel is used in the Bible as a ‘prophetic time clock’ - her gathering from the ‘four corners’ of the earth, her re-establishment as a nation, and her sovereignty over Jerusalem, all have great ‘end-time’ significance.
  • Israel’s physical restoration is part of a bigger spiritual rebirth which will lead to the fulfilling of Romans 11:26.  This promised fulfilling has implications not just in terms of eschatology but also for ecclesiology, discipleship and mission.

For many within CMJ the most astute way to develop and share these ideas is within a pre-millennial theological framework.  A prime example of this theological framework within the developing ministry of CMJ was given in the teaching of Lewis Way.  Lewis Way became increasing more convinced by (and passionate about promoting) a pre-millennial eschatology. 

He used his inherited fortune to work towards the two connected goals (or as Kelvin Crombie describes ‘twin pillars’) of the conversion and restoration of the Jewish people.  By doing so he believed he would help to bring forward the Second Coming (return) of Jesus.  These views of Lewis Way were in some ways contrary to the views of other key CMJ pioneers such as William Wilberforce, Charles Simeon and members of the Clapham Sect who held to post-millennial (or in some cases an a-millennial) perspective.  In general, I think it is fair to say that British Evangelical thought was shifting at this time from a post-millennial view to a pre-millennial view. 

Lewis Way was part of this shift with key input from others such as Frederick Faber and John Nelson Darby.  However, Darby was wedded to a dispensational framework in a way in which Lewis Way was not.  Darby’s emphasis on dispensational thought and the rapture (pre-tribulation) gained much support and is today the bedrock of much conservative evangelism especially in America.  This dispensational model tends to downplay conversion/evangelism.

I think our online conference speaker (July 2020) was a very good example of someone teaching a pre-millennial ‘end-time’ scenario.  In talking with our speaker, he made clear to me that these days are not simply the ‘end-times’ in the New Testament sense of this concept, but we are in the final days (generation).  Our speaker has a clear order of end-times events which begins with the reestablishment of Israel (1948), and the restoring of Jerusalem (following the Six Day War in 1967).  From this point forward there is clear teaching on a pre-tribulation rapture (while David Pawson advocates for a post-tribulation rapture), the rise of the Antichrist, ongoing moral, spiritual and environmental decay, the tribulation and the millennium reign of Jesus. 

In talking with our speaker, I was not sure if he believed there was anything we (the praying Church) could do to hasten or delay these events.  I was not sure if the timetable is set in concrete (the clock is ticking) or if there is a degree of fluidity.  I also was somewhat unclear what should be the practical, emotional and theological outcomes of believing we are in the final generation.  Clearly, I can see how this conviction could well be a powerful spur to radical forms of discipleship, to renewed evangelism and to turning our capital reserves and long-term pension investments into cash!

A word for CMJ and the wider Church today?

I was pleased to have a strong pre-millennialist as our conference speaker; I received more affirmation for doing so, and more complaints for doing so than any other speaker!  I would fully support the right to give our speaker a significant ‘CMJ platform’, yet I fully defend the right of CMJ supporters to question and refute his specific and nuanced interpretation of eschatology.

I fully believe that any theology which ignores eschatology blunts evangelism and ‘hallows out’ the Gospel.  Yet there can equally be a danger into turning eschatology into an ‘obsessive spectator sport’ which can give space for charlatans and equally undermines the Gospel.  This view is perhaps well expressed by Charles Schulz (famous for the comic-strip Peanuts!) who states - I think it is irresponsible preaching and very dangerous, and especially when it is slanted toward children.  I think it is totally irresponsible, because I see nothing Biblical that points up to our being in the last days ... a lot of people are making a living – they’ve been making a living for 2000 years preaching that we’re in the last days.  Those who oppose this view colourfully expressed by Schultz would probably argue that Schulz is best understood as a scoffer; such scoffers are spoken about in 2 Peter 3:3 - 7. 

Today a number of CMJ supporters have engaged afresh with issues of eschatology.  This has in some cases been shaped by the current Covid pandemic and other political, moral and environmental issues.  Three people have spoken to me recently about us entering now into the start of the tribulation.  I am not inclined to believe this view, yet it is impossible to completely rule it out (time will tell!). 

I think we should all be open and expectant to the Lord’s imminent return, the heart-felt prayer of Revelation 22:20 should often be on our lips.  Yet I also pray that my children may have the joy of becoming parents, and my future grandchildren may grow up to know, love and serve the Lord and that they themselves may in the fullness of time be agents of justice and blessing in this world and perhaps even become great-grandparents themselves!

I think it is vital for CMJ to make it abundantly clear that the Second Coming of Jesus is promised in the Scriptures.  Yet we should not be overly dogmatic about how this is interpreted, especially in the light of Mark 13:32 (see also Luke 17:20 and Acts 1:7).  However, I do think CMJ has rightly given (and must continue to give) clear witness to three key eschatological truths, (as stated earlier):

  • Israel will become the focus of world politics – and will face much opposition from many other nations and groups.
  • Israel is used in the Bible as a ‘prophetic time clock’ - her gathering from the ‘four corners’ of the earth, her reestablishment as a nation, and her sovereignty over Jerusalem all have great ‘end-time’ significance.
  • Israel’s physical restoration is part of a bigger spiritual rebirth which will lead to the fulfilling of Romans 11:26.  This promised fulfilling has implications not just in terms of eschatology but also for ecclesiology and mission.

Above all we put our renewed trust in God, who does not change like shifting shadows and will bring all things to His just and glorious conclusion - or as Paul writes; ...  God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).


A really interesting and thought provoking read - thank you Alex. With all the different eschatological views on offer, I think I'll have to plump for Pan Millennialism - it'll all pan out in the end! Meanwhile we get on with the task of making disciples.

A great piece to read Alex. I agree that the prophesies will come true when God is ready and not until then. He will not forsake His wife and Christ will come to gather his Brides. The day will come when we will all know and I pray all will receive Him as the savior of God's redemption whatever their current beliefs. The eschatological determination of the second coming of Christ is varied amongst Christians I have found in my research, whether Pre-, Post or A mil but all agree it must pan out through Israel one way or another. There are not many left that believe in replacement theology; even the older churches have acknowledged Israel's relationship with God has no end therefore it is ongoing and as important to the end of days as are the Christian body of Christ.

My view is that we are currently living in the 'Millenium', which simply stands for the period of time between Christ's Ascension and his Return. What John means by 'reigning with Christ' is no different from Paul's understanding in Ephesians 1:20 - 2:10, and a thousand years simply means a long period of time, as elsewhere throughout scripture. The 'Tribulation' is another way of looking at the same period of time from a different perspective; it describes what Paul calls the "suffering of this present time" (Romans 8:18). Three-and-a-half years is another idiomatic expression not to be taken literally. I would understand the Book of Revelation to be a commentary on the spiritual state of the world, the same in John's day as in ours, not a sequential view of future history. I believe there is nothing new in Revelation which is not already expressed in different words in Jesus' and Paul's teaching. John is simply writing in code to evade the Roman censors, and uses metaphor, symbolism and a wealth of OT imagery to restate the Gospel. Many scholars currently take this view, with which I agree.

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