Aldersgate Convention: Challenging insights about the end times

THE Aldersgate Convention 2008, to be held from May 19 to 24, will present challenging insights and vital inspiration about the end times from the teachings of the New Testament.

With the theme, “The Road to Glory: The Future in Wesleyan Perspective”, the convention will feature two speakers, the Rev Dr Ezra Kok, Principal and Lecturer in New Testament at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia, and the Rev Dr Ben Witherington, III, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, the United States.

■ The Rev Dr Kok will address two topics in Mandarin – “Christ: Offering Hope in the Midst of Darkness” on Monday, May 19, and “The Church: Holiness in the Midst of Imperfections” on Tuesday, May 20.

The Rev Dr Witherington, a world-renowned speaker, will deliver three evening talks, as well as the Aldersgate Service sermon and conduct two morning seminars. His appearance in Singapore is part of a multi-nation tour from Sydney to Moscow.

All the events will be held at Wesley Methodist Church at 5 Fort Canning Road.

This year the focus will be on a Wesleyan appreciation of the biblical teaching on the end times. At a time when many in the church are drawn to trendy, yet often inaccurate, opinions about the end times, the speaker will present the findings of sound exegetical scholarship, especially from the last book of the Bible, Revelation.

■ On Wednesday, May 21, the Rev Dr Witherington will speak on the topic “Rapture or Parousia – Will there be one or two Second Comings?”

Observing that the concept of the rapture emerged for the first time in church history in 19th-century Scotland, he said in many circles it has “almost eclipsed the church’s traditional theology of the Second Coming”. While the idea of the rapture is popularly taught in churches, he raises the question, “Is this development soundly based in the New Testament?”

■ On Thursday, May 22, he will speak on the topic “Other-World or After-Life?” In this presentation, he talks about what happens after we die.

“In all quarters in the church there is a great deal of discussion of ‘dying and going to heaven’,” he said. However, he said that “90 per cent of the New Testament talks about the future resurrection of believers, not dying and going to heaven”. This evening talk will explore how we should understand this New Testament emphasis.

■ On Friday, May 23, he will speak about “The Future of the Church, Israel and the Kingdom”. This talk will seek to untangle current “muddled thinking” about Israel, the Church and the Kingdom. “We will try to sort out how each of these entities differs, and how we should view them,” he said.

All the evening talks will begin at 7.45 pm with about one hour of presentation followed by a time of question and answer.

■ For the Aldersgate Service on Saturday, May 24, the Rev Dr Witherington will preach on the topic “A Vision of Worship”, offering a biblical vision of worship. The service will begin at 7.30 pm.

■ There will be two seminars, one on Thursday morning, May 22, and the other on Saturday morning, May 24.

The Thursday seminar, designed for pastors and seminarians, will cover the topic, “Eschatology and Ministry”. Given that “all the NT writers wrote from an eschatological point of view”, he will focus on the practical implications of a 21st-century eschatology that does not give way to the pitfalls of fatalism, escapism, neglect of earthly duties or the abandonment of environmental concerns.

The Saturday seminar, for the general public, will address the topic, “What Have They Done with Jesus?” There are many popular impressions of Jesus, according to the Rev Dr Witherington. “There is Jesus the Cynic philosopher, Jesus the Gnostic revealer, Jesus the married man, Jesus the conservative politician. Almost all of these images have little or nothing to do with the historical Jesus.”

In the seminar, he will discuss how this has happened and how the church should respond.

Registration for both seminars is required, at $15 per person. Early bird registration, until April 22, is only $10 per person. Registration forms are available in Methodist churches, online or at the Methodist Centre, 70 Barker Road, tel 6478-4780, 6478-4781, or 6478-4782.

The Rev George Martzen is Minister Attached to the Bishop’s Office.