J. A. Hardgrave is someone that I have just met about a year ago on Facebook. There was an immediate attraction to his personality and faith. Here was a person that is looking into matters and is willing to change his own views if the text demands it. There is an honesty there that also realizes, “we ain’t all arrived, yet” – and that is rewarding to meet in this age where everyone is just so certain about what cannot be certain, yet uncertain about what can. Topsy turvy.
Needless to say, I was approached by him on matters of Eschatology, and we both shared our disdain for what has come to be known as Full Preterism: everything is fulfilled. Hardgrave writes, “In this book, I am going to give you simple tools that anyone can start using today to finally understand Bible prophecy and grasp what the future holds” (p. 13 – my copy – sent before publication, so there might be page differences).
“Jesus wants to work with you to transform your city, state, and the nations of the world by advancing His Kingdom and picking up where He left off in His ministry. He promised us that even greater works are available to us now that He has ascended to the Father and sent His Spirit to us, and I believe it’s time to see that promise come to pass. God has given you dreams deep within your heart that are worth investing your life in, and I believe a Biblical end-time view is crucial to seeing those dreams come to pass” (14). My readers might immediately recognize a triumphant-in-culture view here. They would be right. Hardgrave exudes a contagious sense of optimism in his words – and regardless of not seeing eye to eye on every matter – that is worthy in and of itself.
J.A. starts the book off noting his being influenced by the popular Left Behind series of Tim LaHaye, thinking that the rapture might occur at any moment because the “signs” of the times were obviously pointing to the end of the world in his own day. I was raised in the same fashion, circa 1976, when Orson Wells narrated The Late, Great Planet Earth – a movie that scared the hell out of me at church when I was nine years old. That’s not all bad, since, after all, the fear of the LORD never hurt anyone, and is the beginning of wisdom. But, upon study, Hardgrave noticed that virtually every generation faced an “apocalyptic” scenario. The pattern seemed to repeat itself – and there was no return of Jesus, and there was no resurrection of the dead (two Doctrines Mr. Hardgrave adamantly supports and believes in).
The book then moves to consider, step by step, how the first century would have possibly heard Jesus in their time. They had catastrophes, too. By relating much detail to their own time, this helps us navigate in our own. The focus of Christianity is not looking for the end of time (although this is affirmed), but serving God in his Kingdom in the here and now.
“I don’t believe Jesus is coming soon, because His bodily return is determined by how much the Kingdom has advanced in the earth, and there’s still way too much advancement to be done” (114). In other words, Hardgrave is advancing a Postmillennial worldview. His last chapters on statistics concerning the influence of Christianity on culture in history is a valuable, quick go-to source for such information (all footnoted for further study).
“Prophecy is very important and should be studied and talked about, but what’s most important is people entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ by hearing the gospel and seeing that love demonstrated through us. No matter what subject we talk about, we should talk about it with love and humility because we are always growing” (119). This is why, while not agreeing with everything in the book, the author himself should be read, for the nuggets, the humility, and the passion concerning the Kingdom of God is there – and that’s far more important to generating a conversation about the son of man at the right hand of the Father than what we think we know about these things. That comes through the book more than anything else – at least to me it did. J.A. strikes me as a person that can have disagreements on issues here and there – but whoever disagrees with him will know that they both talked about the same Jesus in heaven. The focus is on Jesus and the power of the Spirit today exemplified in holding ones own in these matters, yet knowing that essential things are of far more importance. There is an enthusiasm here that I missed in the days of being a Full Preterist (which appears more concerned with building a doctrine than in building anything else). Hardgrave certainly builds his case, but he builds it on the foundation of the man, Christ Jesus, who has given us His Spirit to fulfill the Commission to the world until he comes again. He connects us to the ongoing, biblical Story that started back then, and ends up when, but is going on now. We can toss the details about here and there, and we can also speculate on the end and the last day. But if these conversations are taking away from the here and the now and dynamics of the never-passing-away words of Jesus, then something isn’t right.
With that, I heartily endorse this book, and I know….I have a hunch….it will not be the last book I endorse from this author.