Friday, March 30, 2018

OPTIMISTIC POSTMILLENNIALISM AND THE END




Postmillennialism (PM) is the view that we are already in a non-literal millennium in which the Church will gradually Christianize the world before Christ’s return. This optimistic view has energized societal change:

·       Postmillennialism was a dominant theological belief among American Protestants who promoted reform movements in the 19th and 20th century such as abolitionism and the Social Gospel. (Wikipedia)

However, through the disillusionment resulting from the two World Wars, PM has lost favor:

·       John Jefferson Davis notes that the postmillennial outlook was articulated by men like John Owen in the 17th century, Jonathan Edwards in the 18th century, and Charles Hodge in the 19th century. Davis argues that it was the dominant view in the nineteenth century, but was eclipsed by the other millennial positions by the end of World War I due to the "pessimism and disillusionment engendered by wartime conditions." (Wikipedia)

I cannot find any clear and explicit support for PM in the Scriptures. Instead, it seems that the end will be characterized by widespread apostasy and persecution:

·        “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:9-13 ESV)

·       Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:17-23)

·       But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Jesus had rhetorically asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8). He taught that the world would be taken by surprise at His coming:

·       They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. (Luke 17:27-31)

Rather than being in the majority, as PM suggests, we will belong to a persecuted minority, which is forced to flee. The Book of Daniel describes the “shattering of the power” of God’s people:

·       “And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished.” (Daniel 12:7)

·       As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom. (Daniel 7:21-22)

However, this “shattering” will only be temporary:

·       “He [the evil king] shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time... And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’”(Daniel 7:25, 27)

Nevertheless, God will strengthen and purify His people prior to our Lord’s return:

·       “He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder...  and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.” (Daniel 11:32-33, 35)

In His Olivet Discourse, Jesus taught that His people wouldn’t be cowered into submission. Instead, this would be a great time of evangelism:

·       And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

The noted preacher, Charles Spurgeon wisely wrote, “If the road to heaven were smooth, heaven wouldn’t be so sweet in the end.” His words mirror those of Peter:

·       Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

We have every reason for confidence, for our confidence is in our Savior.

·       Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake. (Philippians 1:27-29)

3 comments:

  1. I have heard about a doctrine called "soul sleep". It is that when someone in this world dies, they have no conscious awareness of anything until they are resurrected for judgement. And there is a Bema judgement and a Great White Throne judgement. I've also heard that when a saved Christian dies they go to heaven immediately. I've heard and read about many different eschatology explanations and I often don't know what to think about them. Anyway, I usually conclude that what I don't know or understand, I don't need to. njp

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  2. PERHAPS THIS MIGHT BE HELPFUL:

    http://mannsword.blogspot.com/2017/01/where-do-we-go-when-we-die.html

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  3. It is helpful, thanks. However, there are still some open questions for me. njp

    ReplyDelete