Keith Hunt - What Does the Future Hold - Page Four   Restitution of All Things

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What does the Future Hold?

Going through Marvin Pate's book #4

                      WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

                                Part Four


WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD

From Marvin Pate's book


Thy Kingdom Came

The Postmillennial View of End -Time Prophecy

The parousia of Christ! The second coming of Jesus! The return of
the Lord! These are powerful, synonymous labels for end-time
prophecy. Or are they? Not so, according to the postmillennial
school of interpretation. Rather, the previous terms are symbolic
descriptions of the coming of Christ to judge Jerusalem back in
AD 70 by the hands of the Romans! How's that for a topsy-turvy
reading of biblical prophecy? But there is more. According to
many postmillennialists, the kingdom of God appeared with the
first coming of Christ, whose death and resurrection signaled the
end of the Jewish old covenant. And its replacement was the
gospel of Jesus Christ, with a message that transformed the
structures of society for righteousness' sake beginning in AD 33.
In other words, the church of Christ brought on the
millenniumwhich culminated in the coming again of Christ, the
triumph of the kingdom of God through the preaching of the gospel
in AD 70 to destroy Jerusalem, hence the title-postmillennium:
Christ returned "post"-after-the millennium. Obviously this
perspective emphasizes the already aspect of the kingdom of God.

Postmillennialism is tied into the preterist reading of
Revelation. Preterism-Latin for "gone by" or "past" interprets
the book of Revelation, not as prophecy about the future end of
the world but, rather, as prophecy about the return of Christ to
judge Jerusalem, which occurred in AD 70. So the prophecies of
Revelation were fulfilled in the first century, in connection
with the Roman overthrow of Jerusalem. More on this particular
point under Biblical Postmillennialism below.

Here we highlight the postmillennial view by way of a chart:

Postmillennialism

Christ comes after the millennium

Church  Millennial Kingdom

Christ returns - Judgment - Resurrection of believers/unbelievers

Heaven

Hell

Eternal state


Here is how one notable postmillennialist unpacks the previous
chart:

     Postmillennialism expects the proclaiming of the
     Spirit-blessed gospel of Jesus Christ to win the vast
     majority of human beings to salvation in the present age.
     Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in
     history prior to Christ's return in which faith,
     righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the
     affairs of people and of nations. After an extensive era of
     such conditions the Lord will return visibly, bodily, and in
     great glory, ending history with the general resurrection
     and the great judgment of all humankind.

Actually the postmillennial/preterist view is not unified; there
is a liberal postmillennialism and a biblical postmillennialism.

I will summarize these two views in the sections that follow.

Interestingly enough, both of these viewpoints are based on a
political mind-set. The former is championed by Barack Obama
while the latter appealed to Ronald Reagan.

Liberal Postmillennialism

Liberal postmillennialism had its heyday in the nineteenth
century in association with the "social gospel," whose mission
was the liberation of humanity from societal evil (poverty,
racism, disease, war, and injustice). The presupposition of this
school of thought was that humanity is basically good and that
ultimately society will get better and better, resulting in a
golden age on earth. Laudable as this attempt was, however, the
social gospel suffered from two flaws: it abandoned the preaching
of the gospel, and it naively based its positive view of history
on the Darwinian evolutionary process. Time dealt a mortal blow
to liberal postmillennialism - the catastrophic events of the
twentieth century (two world wars, the Great Depression, the
threat of nuclear destruction by the world's superpowers or by
terrorists or both) rendered it an untenable position....

Interestingly enough, the twenty-first century has witnessed the
revival of such a movement in the message of Barack Obama. In the
next section we will focus on the biblical counterpart to liberal
postmillennialism.

The Social Gospel

The social gospel of nineteenth-century America saw two problems
with the gospel of Jesus Christ as preached by conservatives at
that time: it was not social enough and it was too
individualistic. Walter Rauschenbusch (1868-1918) sought to
correct these two weaknesses with his message of the social
gospel. Rauschenbusch once pastored in New York's notorious
Hell's Kitchen. There he witnessed firsthand the poverty,
violence, and despair unbridled capitalism could unleash on a
people. Not unlike Karl Marx in that regard, Rauschenbusch
believed that a capitalist-run government, with its self-interest
and myopic agenda, is an obstacle to the progress of a nation
rather than a means to its betterment. And as far as
Rauschenbusch was concerned, the church of his day had sold its
soul to corrupt government. No longer a prophetic voice for God
and his people, the church had become the mouthpiece for
institutional religion.

What was needed was the preaching of the kingdom of God, as Jesus
preached it, so said Rauschenbusch. For him, this meant two
things, two correctives to the traditional gospel as preached by
conservatives. First, the kingdom of God is a goal-oriented
concept. It looks forward to the transformation of the whole
social order, not backward to the tradition and doctrine or dogma
of the church. Thus the kingdom should not be reduced to the
church. It is broader and better. So often the church helped to
entrench evil institutions rather than reform or even replace
them. The social gospel does the latter of these two
possibilities: it seeks to reform or replace rather than
entrench.

Second, "the kingdom is a fellowship of righteousness." Therein
lies the heart of the social gospel. It is ethical in
nature--feeding the poor, caring for the sick, educating the
illiterate, equalizing job opportunities, and so on. So salvation
is not from sin, as conservatives preached, but from inequality
and injustice. And we experience such salvation by loving our
fellow humans as Jesus did. Moreover, the social gospel is
corporate in nature it is a "fellowship." Rauschenbusch, by now a
professor of church history at Rochester Seminary, had come to
believe that the problems of the poor and disadvantaged were not
their own doing. That is, the problems were not individual in
nature as conservatives had been preaching for years. Rather, the
problems of the dispossessed were due to corrupt corporate
structures. Thus the institutions themselvescapitalism, for
example-had to be changed for the purpose of truly representing
the good of the individual, not the reverse. Rauschenbusch put it
this way: "The social gospel tries to see the progress of the
kingdom of God in the flow of history ... in the clash of
economic forces and social classes, in the rise and fall of
despotisms and forms of enslavement."
Rauschenbusch could put it more bluntly: "The fundamental terms
and ideas [associated with salvation as atonement from
sin]---'satisfaction,' 'substitution,' 'imputation,' 'merit' -
are post-biblical ideas, and are alien from the spirit of the
gospel.... The problem of the social gospel is how the divine
life of Christ can get control of human society."

All of this sounds suspiciously similar to the successful
presidential campaign platform of Barack Obama, who was nurtured
in the "social gospel" (Obama's own words) message of Reverend
Jeremiah Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ in South
Chicago.


Biblical Postmillennialism

Alongside liberal postmillennialism was its evangelical
counterpart. Those theologians of the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries following this approach maintained their commitment to
the gospel and to its transforming power. Stanley J. Grenz writes
of them:

     Their outlook differed fundamentally from both secular and
     liberal Christian utopianism. They were optimistic
     concerning the future to be sure. But their optimism was
     born out of a belief in the triumph of the gospel in the
     world and of the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing in the
     kingdom, not out of any misconception concerning the innate
     goodness of humankind or of the ability of the church to
     convert the world by its own power.

Today biblical postmillennialism has rebounded from the
catastrophes of history and is currently experiencing a
resurgence of influence, especially Christian Reconstructionism.
Its conviction is admirable - as the church preaches the gospel
and performs its role as the salt of the earth, the kingdom of
God will advance until the whole world will one day gladly bow to
the authority of Christ. The means for accomplishing this goal
will be the law of God, which impacts the church and, in turn,
the world.

Biblical postmillennialism has its origin in the likes of Daniel
Whitby and Jonathan Edwards, as we saw earlier. It also boasts
followers in such notable missionaries as William Carey
(1761-1834), "Father of Modern Missions"; the old Princetonian
theologians Charles Hodge (1797-1878) and B.B.Warfield
(1851-1921); and Gresham Machen (1881-1937). But as we also noted
earlier, with two world wars, the Great Depression, the
Holocaust, and the worldwide nuclear threat, postmillennialism
fell into disfavor in the twentieth century. However, during the
presidency of Ronald Reagan (1980-88), which brought renewed hope
to many Americans, biblical postmillennialism made a comeback in
the form of Christian Reconstructionism or theonomic ethics
(theonomy, meaning "God's law"). Ken Gentry writes of this:

     The theonomic postmillennialist sees the gradual return to
     biblical norms of civil justice as a consequence of
     widespread gospel success through preaching, evangelism,
     missions, and Christian education. The judicial-political
     outlook of Reconstructionism includes the application of
     those justice-defining directives contained in the Old
     Testament legislation, when properly interpreted, adapted to
     new covenant conditions, and relevantly applied.

Such an idea reminds one of the Puritans. Indeed, the Puritans
are the heroes of Christian Reconstructionism. Thus enamored with
the Puritan ethic and committed to the preaching of the
traditional gospel, biblical postmillennialists demonstrated a
positive view of where things are going prophetically: the world
will get better and better because of the triumph of the gospel.
In that sense, postmillennialism aligns itself with the role of
the Old Testament prophet, whose message proclaimed the
intervention of God in history, rather than with the
apocalypticist's doom and gloom forecasts of the future.

(Actually the Biblical prophets preached both - destruction and
restitution, as will clearly be seen when you study all my
expounding of the Old Testament prophets on this website - Keith
Hunt)

Although some biblical postmillennialists believe that the
parousia is still in the future, many hold to the preterist view
that Christ's parousia already occurred - at the fall of
Jerusalem to the Romans in AD 70. Therefore this group of
interpreters reverses the commonly accepted position on the key
passages in the debate - the Olivet Discourse, Revelation 1-19,
and especially Revelation 20---by arguing that these passages
refer to the past coming of Christ to judge Jerusalem, not some
future coming of Christ to establish his kingdom in Jerusalem. 
We turn now to the preterist's summary of these biblical passages. 
After that, I will evaluate the biblical postmillennial position.

....................

All this theology of the "social gospel" in relations to the
coming of Christ and the 1,000 year reign, is upside-down and
inside-out. Jesus taught in Matthew 24 that before He came again
"evil will abound and the love of many will wax cold" - not that
the Christian Gospel would eventually win over the world in some
social way and produce a millennium of peace and love, then Jesus
would return.

The Post-millennium view is not only silly, and stupid, but lacks
any real insight into the correct reading and understanding of
the Bible, especially the prophetic books of the Bible.

Keith Hunt

To be continued


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