By Rev. R.J. Rushdoony
David, faced with enemies, an uncertain future, and costly moral choices, prayed earnestly:
- Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.
- O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.
- Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
- Shew me thy ways, O LORD: teach me thy paths.
- Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. (Ps. 25:1-5)
Man, having been created not only by God but in the image of God, lives in terms of an inescapable purpose which is basic to his being. Man was created to serve and glorify God and to become a working citizen of the Kingdom of God.
Man thus has a given nature by virtue of his creation. This nature ‘the fall’ cannot alter. The fall is a moral, not a metaphysical, fact. Fallen man cannot evade the nature of his being. He is God’s creature, created in God’s image. His moral rebellion against God does not alter man’s being; it simply perverts the goals thereof. Thus, to state the matter theologically, fallen man substitutes for God’s eschatology his own man-centered one.
Eschatology is defined by the dictionary as the branch of theology which “treats of death, resurrection, immortality, the end of the world, final judgment, and the future state.” The root of the word is eschatos, last. This definition is accurate yet limited. Eschatology is much more than a concern about the end, or the last times. Eschatology sets forth the goal of man and history and is thus inseparable from purpose.
Eschatology is thus a very intensely practical concern. Questions such as, Why am I here?; What is the meaning and purpose of life?; What should we do, and why?; and, How will it all end?; all have to do with eschatology.
The eschatology of ‘fallen man’ is humanistic, man-created and man-centered. It seeks to give meaning to an otherwise meaningless world, to establish a thin edge of meaning against chaos and the void. Not surprisingly, humanistic eschatologies end in despair. Having no doctrine of theistic creation, man for them begins and ends in the void. Again, having no doctrine of providence, their brightest eschatological hopes operate against the frustration of brute and meaningless factuality. Often, on borrowed, Biblical premises, humanistic eschatologies will flourish briefly. Thus, the belief in progress was a secularized version of the doctrine of providence, and it flourished for a time on that borrowed capital. In time, of course, it was apparent that any belief in progress, without the presupposition of the God of Scripture, is rootless and futile, and the faith has waned accordingly.
Humanistic eschatologies regularly appear as the great hope of fallen man, but, in due time, they give way to defeat and despair. Socialism, the state, statist education, sociology, psychotherapy, and much more have been eschatological instruments, designed by fallen man to usher in the humanistic millennium. These are neither the first nor the last of such instruments. Certainly, the sexual revolution and existentialism have been eschatological and their promises extravagant at times.
Man requires a valid goal: the image of God within man mandates his being and requires man to move in terms of God’s ordained purposes. Augustine, out of his own experience, saw this, as he made clear in his Confessions: “Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.” Francis Thompson, in “The Hound of Heaven,” made the same point, which, of course, was first set forth by David in Psalm 139.
Creation has a purpose, and that purpose is God-ordained and is written into the being of all creation, so that all of creation, organic and inorganic, moves in terms of that purpose. Paul, in Romans 8:19-23, makes this clear. Any deflection from that eschatological goal, from that purpose, is death. Sin, as the deflection of man from God’s eschatology to a man-made one, is thus clearly death. Creation is thus inseparable from eschatology.
The same is true of providence. All of God’s providence moves in terms of His glorious and eternal purpose. Thus, the declarations of eschatology cannot be separated from the affirmations of providential care which Scripture sets forth. For example, in Psalm 34:7, we read, “The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them,” and in Psalm 91 we have a moving account of God’s providential care of His Son, Jesus Christ, and of us in Him: “for he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Ps. 91:11). The Lord’s care of His covenant people is not for their sakes, but for His covenant’s sake, and for His eternal purposes. It is eschatological. There is no other cause in the universe which is ultimate and determinative than the triune God and His eternal decree. The goals of providence are not man-centered. Rather, it is man himself, willingly or otherwise, who is God-centered. Man’s being is thus governed by God’s eschatology.
David, in order to better understand God’s purposes and his own place therein, prayed: “LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am” (Ps. 39:4). David prayed that he might be ever mindful of himself as a frail creature. Frail, chadel, means frail, rejected. David sees his own being as fallen; at best, it is still frail, and no purpose of man’s can supplant God’s purpose. Therefore, David’s prayer is not governed by any neoplatonic withdrawal but by a desire to serve God in terms of God’s purpose. Not man’s eschatology but the Lord’s must govern us. Hence, David says:
- Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.
- And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee. (Ps. 39:6-7)
The eschatologies of men are a “vain shew.” All their accomplishments and wealth are nullified by death, and another man gathers of their labors. David’s hope, however, is in the Lord, whose purposes alone prevail.
The goal of history, the meaning of eschatology, cannot be sought within history but only in God. Neither the Jew nor the church, nor the millennium, are the goals of God’s working, but only Himself, and His eternal Kingdom. God’s purpose in history far exceeds the salvation of man, or of the Jews. He is emphatic: “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images” (Isa. 42:8).
If our doctrine of creation is weakened, then our doctrines of providence and eschatology are weakened. The word of God is a seamless garment; rending any part thereof is damaging to all of it.
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916-2001) was the founder of Chalcedon and a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical Law to society.
See more at www.chalcedon.edu
“How Jesus is Conquering the World”
By Jay Rogers
When thinking about eschatology today, few Christians are even aware of the postmillennial view. When I have traveled to Russia, Ukraine, Latin America and other nations on short term missions trips, I am usually asked this question by new converts: “Are you pre-trib, mid-trib or post-trib?” as if these were the only three forms of eschatology. I often have to explain that I am not a dispensationalist (at all). It is difficult to show some Christians that there is another way of looking at the end-times and the millennium altogether.
Postmillennialism (literally, “after the thousand years”) is the belief that Christ will physically return to the earth only after a non-literal millennium is completed. Postmillennialism is optimistic (not pessimistic) about the “end times.” Christ’s reign over the earth from heaven increases during the millennium, which is thought to be not a literal one thousand year period, but “a very long time.” (Yes, this is Biblically consistent). Postmillennialism places the Church in a role of transforming (through gospel application) whole social structures before the Second Coming and endeavoring to bring about a “Golden Age” of peace and prosperity with great advances in education, the arts, sciences and medicine.
All Christians must believe in the literal, physical return of Jesus Christ. Christians may differ in their opinions as to the nature of the millennium and the exact sequence of “end times” events without departing from biblical orthodoxy.
However, I believe that major problems have been caused by the most popular system: dispensational premillennialism. Ironically, I did not know anything of the postmillennial view until I became aware of the limitations of the dispensational paradigm. In searching for a view to replace dispensationalism, I found postmillennialism to be most convincing.
Dispensationalism is the idea that God has worked in different ways throughout history through different economies or dispensations. A dispensationalist makes a major division between the Covenants, God acting with wrath and vengeance in the Old Testament, and with love and grace in the New Testament. Dispensationalism teaches pre-tribulational rapture, divides the end times into several dispensations and teaches a conspiratorial view of history. Dispensationalism is the system devised by two men who wrote in the 1800s.
John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), an Irish priest (Anglican), organized a group called the Plymouth Brethren. Darby taught that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent. He rejected the creeds of the early church and believed that social reform is useless. Darby’s followers concentrated on saving men and women out of the world. (Darby began preaching the soon, ‘imminent’ coming of Christ in the 1830’s).
C.I. Scofield (1843-1921), a Texas pastor, popularized the teachings of J.N. Darby in a systematic theology known as dispensational premillennialism. C.I. Scofield first compiled his reference Bible as a teaching aid for missionaries. It soon became one of the most widely used tools for Bible study among entire denominations such as Southern Baptists and Disciples of Christ.
Despite the fact that many of the dispensationalists stressed personal holiness, the paradigm shift toward dispensational theology has paved the way for a greater evil, antinomianism, which means literally “anti-law.”
Antinomianism is an anti-law position which states correctly that man is saved by faith alone; but states incorrectly that since faith frees the Christian from the law, he is no longer bound to obey the law. Antinomianism creates a system in which the laws of the Bible cannot apply to governing an individual or society. Dispensationalism promoted antinomian thinking by de-emphasizing the relationship of the Old Covenant law to the individual. In turn this led to a waned influence of Christians in society. (i.e., Christians began detaching themselves from the every-day concerns of social life and governmental influences).
In my study of church history, I found that the great revivalists and reformers of past centuries were not dispensationalists. When I read Athanasius, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Edwards, Whitefield and Wesley, I found to my surprise that none of them ever spoke of “the rapture.” This is because they were either postmillennialists, amillennialists or historical premillennialists. They put “the rapture” (a synonym for the resurrection) at the end of history. According to the prevailing view of most Christians in history, the resurrection (of the Church, Christ’s Bride) will occur at the same time as the Second Coming of Jesus and the final judgment. Darby and Scofield were the first Christians in history to place the resurrection (of the church) seven years prior to the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth. In doing so, they proposed two Second Comings.
In answering questions about eschatology from a postmillennial view, first I must stress that there is a difference between millennial viewpoints and hermeneutics. The manner in which one interprets the Bible (hermeneutics) will have something to do with one’s millennial viewpoint. However, one can often arrive at very different conclusions about the millennium or the end-times using either a futurist, preterist, historicist or idealist approach to the Bible. The definitions of these hermeneutical approaches are as follows.
Futurism: This is the “end-times view.” Most of the prophecies of the Mount Olivet Discourse (Mat. 24) and the book of Revelation are yet to be fulfilled. The locust plagues of Revelation 9 might be interpreted to be Cobra helicopters, and the northern invader of Israel described in Ezekiel 38 might be the Soviet Union’s army.
Preterism: This is the “before-times view.” Most of the prophecies of the Mount Olivet Discourse (Mat. 24) and the book of Revelation were literally fulfilled by 70 A.D. The book of Revelation and the Olivet Discourse (Mat. 24) are thought to deal with the coming persecution of the church by Caesar Nero and the destruction of the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Historicism: This view states that the prophecies of the book of Revelation was fulfilled sometime in history, but not in the first century or in the future. The black plague of the Middle Ages might be interpreted to be one of the plagues brought by the four horsemen of Revelation 6. The pope at the time of Martin Luther is often thought to be the Beast of Revelation 13.
Idealism: This is also called the spiritualist approach. This view states that the prophecies of Revelation are not to be taken literally, but have a general symbolic application in all history. The heavenly battle of Revelation 12 is thought to describe the ongoing battle between good and evil in the spiritual realm.
My view differs from premillennialism and amillennialism in approach as well as in application. I will be describing a postmillennial view that is partially preterist. However, not all postmillenialists of history were preterists. Most have been historical postmillennialists.
- Most postmillennialists are either preterists or historicists.
- Most amillennialists are either idealists or historicists.
- Most classical premillennialists are either historicist or futurist in their approach to Revelation.
- All dispensational premillennialists put virtually every biblical prophecy about judgment in a “seven year tribulation” thought to be coming in the near future.
Most Christians today know less about their eschatology from a careful study of the Bible than they do from books such as The Late Great Planet Earth, the Left Behind series, and the wild conjecture of films such as The Omen, The Seventh Sign, and even an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, The End of Days.
We have almost forgotten the postmillennial view of Bible prophecy which has had many adherents in church history. However, this historic view is being repopularized today by many well-known conservative Bible scholars, such as, Loraine Boettner, J. Marcellus Kik, R.J. Rushdoony, Ian Murray, Greg Bahnsen, Kenneth L. Gentry, R.C. Sproul, Dr. George Grant, Dr. Gary DeMar, Dr. Gary North, Dr. Joel McDurmon; to name just a few.
The Great Tribulation and the Antichrist
In my view, the answers to these questions are determined more by hermeneutical approach than by a particular millennial view. In fact, the terms “seven year tribulation” and the “antichrist” do not appear anywhere in the book of Revelation or in any passages about the “end-times.” In my view, the “seven year tribulation” and the “antichrist” are simply not end-times events!
What did Jesus mean by “great tribulation?”
“Great tribulation” is mentioned by Jesus in Mat. 24, “For then shall be great tribulation”(v. 21). Jesus is here referring to the tribulation that is about to come on the land of Judea just before the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. The tribulation is defined as something soon to come, “this generation shall not pass away” (v. 34). Also, history will continue for some time after the great tribulation: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor shall ever be” (v. 21). He also tells us that the tribulation will be cut short for the sake of the elect (v. 22). So according to Jesus, history is going to continue for some time after this tribulation. The textual context points to a time one generation after Jesus, to the destruction of the nation of Judea and the Temple at Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Some today may doubt that the Roman siege of Jerusalem from Spring AD 67 to the fall of the Temple in September 70 was the greatest tribulation in history, but if you were a Jew living in Jerusalem in those days, you would have believed it was. Josephus’ History of the Wars of the Jews sheds some interesting light on this fact. In any case, we have to interpret the text faithfully as objective truth. Thus, we see that this “great tribulation” does not come at the end of the kingdom age, but shortly after the beginning (64-70 AD).
According to John, “Who is the antichrist?”
In the epistle of 1 John, the word “antichrist” is only used as a description of people who don’t believe in the teachings of Jesus. He is not described as one satanic entity as the Beast of Revelation but as a person, any person, who deviates from the Christian orthodoxy. But, through years of myth-making, futurists converted “many antichrists,” into a single Antichrist; an apocalyptic villain.
“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).
There are now many antichrists. Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ is an antichrist.
Who then is the Beast of Revelation?
The Beast is believed by many Christians to be the same figure as the “Man of Sin” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and the “antichrist” mentioned in 1 John. However, this is a strained, unbiblical leap of logic. Many Christians who are supposed to be looking for Christ’s glorious appearing and busy with fulfilling the Great Commission are instead looking for an Antichrist.
According to the Apostle John in Revelation 13:18, the Beast is a reprobate villain of the most ultimate depravity. The Beast is the very incarnation of evil and the persecutor of God’s people.
Numerous candidates for the Beast of Revelation have been advanced throughout the years by noted Bible experts. These have included Caesar Nero, the Roman Emperor Justinian, Pope Leo, Napolean, Lenin, Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mussolini, Henry Kissinger, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, and even now Bill Gates! The theories and predictions about the Beast go on and on…
The popularity of this theorizing on the identity of the Beast is seen in the many books on the market which have sold tens of millions of copies. The Beast of Revelation is the main character in many films which paint him as a diabolical world dictator who will bring about a New World Order, who will unite all world religions in order to worship him. According to some Bible prophecy experts, the Beast will control the destiny of every individual on the planet through hand-implanted computer chips with personal identification numbers. And finally, it is believed that the Beast will seal his own destruction by bringing the late great planet earth to the brink of Armageddon through a nuclear holocaust.
According to Newsweek magazine, 19 percent of all Americans and nearly half of all evangelical Christians in America “believe that the Antichrist is on the earth now.”
Why do so many believe this? According to 1 John 2:18, antichrist must come in the “last time.” So it is no wonder that some of the most noted Bible experts in our day are trying to identify him. However, the Bible does not say there will be one special “antichrist.” [The Apostle] John said, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18).
Note that John, writing in the first century, says that now is the last time. When Christians speak of the “last times” or “end times,” most often they are referring to any passage in the Bible which refers to the “last days.” But not all references to the “last days” speak of the end of history. There are at least two other senses of the term used in the New Testament.
- Sometimes the “last days” refers to the time after the appearance of Christ in public ministry (c. 30 A.D.) and before the destruction of Jerusalem (70 A.D.) i.e., the last days of Israel as a nation-state.
- The “last days” may also refer to the entire time after Christ’s ministry and before the end of history. We were in the “last days” during the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:11) and we are still in the “last days” now.
In my view, John was writing about first century events. The Beast of Revelation and his number, six hundred sixty-six, is a cryptogram for Caesar Nero, while the antichrist is another figure, any man who denies Jesus is the Christ. But most Christians have never heard of this view. The problem is that many Christians, having not seriously studied the Bible, don’t know the difference between sensationalism and sound doctrine, between fiction and biblical theology. Many sincere Christians accept some wild theories about end-times prophecy as though this loose style of Bible interpretation has the same authority as the infallible Word of God itself.
The Second Coming, Final Judgment
The second coming and final judgment occur after the millennium is completed. My view is identical with almost all postmillennial and amillennial views. The order of end-times events would occur like this:
- The millennium (thought to be non-literal “one thousand years” or a very long period of time) is first completed.
- Jesus Christ then returns physically to the earth.
- Immediately after this is the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous.
- Immediately after this comes the final judgment.
I should interject here that there is always a first judgment that occurs at our death. But the final resurrection and judgment will occur at the end of history.
The order of events is exactly the same in postmillennialism as in amillennialism. Postmillennialists differ only with amillennialists in viewing the progress of the kingdom of God during the millennium with much more optimism.
There is a difference between this view and the view of the historical premillennialist. The premillennialist is inclined to think that the millennium is complete before the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment. The only difference is that Christ returns before the millennium. (Hence the term: premillennialism.) I don’t agree with this order of events, but it is not a departure from orthodoxy.
The major disagreement of the postmillennialist is with dispensational premillennialism and its elaborate conspiracy theories, time tables, charts and graphic scenarios of prevailing evil in the end-times. Dispensationalists seem to ascribe biblical significance to almost every new development in current world events. [Ascribing biblical prophecy to current events by dispensationalists has been going on for over 175 years; any day now!] Critics also point out that bizarre eschatological theories are the hallmarks of many cults.
Aside from concerns about faulty interpretation, I also worry that some Christians may be getting so wrapped up in deciphering prophecy and awaiting divine deliverance (secret rapture) that they ignore the Great Commission. [Gospelbbq adds this comment: “I agree and disagree with Mr. Rogers on this point, in that, it depends on how you view the gospel in fulfilling the Great Commission. The Great Commission to some is merely saving souls for the Kingdom of God. In this regard dispensationalists are doing a far superior job of winning souls because they believe the end of history is near. In this regard, many postmillennialists seem to lack initiative. But, if your view of the gospel in the Great Commission pertains to ‘all of life’ — and teaching individuals and nations the ways of godliness as a more complete fulfilling of Christ’s command, then postmillennialists do a far superior job. So, there seems to be a bit of irony in the point about dispensationalists ignoring the Great Commission, at least as they would see it.]
The Nature of the Millennium
The millennium is occurring right now! To understand what I mean by this, you must first see that the main point of debate centers around the question of good versus evil (the gospel vs. humanism). Will Christ or the devil prevail in history in the time prior to the Lord’s return? The eschatological view of many Christians today puts much more emphasis on a coming Antichrist, than on the victory of Jesus Christ. But postmillennialists believe that Satan and the Beast of Revelation have already been defeated and that great victory lies ahead.
Postmillennialists in history were once known as “progressive millennialists.” These were Christians who rejected the “millenarian” view (the archaic term for premillennialism) that the kingdom would only come on earth when Christ came physically to set up His throne on earth as it is in heaven. They (Postmillennialists) opted instead for a view that the (Gospel) kingdom is advancing progressively in history.
Postmillennialists believe that the Kingdom of God came on earth during the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth. “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you” (Mat. 12:28). The kingdom of God is already here, but it has not yet grown to its fullness. In history, the kingdom has been advancing little by little. The kingdom is likened to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field until it grew into a great tree (Mat. 13:31). It is also likened to leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened (Mat 13:33). The kingdom of God is always progressing and growing until it spreads into the whole world. The role of the Church during history is to bring all things into captivity to Christ.
If we are going to work for the kingdom with an eye toward winning, we must have a postmillennial faith. If we are to bring everything into captivity to Christ, we must have a theology that tells us it is impossible to lose. Ideas have consequences. We must believe that we are the people of victory and Christ is going to triumph in history. Only when all things are put under His feet will the last enemy, death, be destroyed.
“For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25,26).
This is a remarkable idea. According to this passage, Christ is reigning now from heaven. He will do so until all enemies of the Gospel are put under His feet. The postmillennial view is that Christians are used of God to put His enemies into submission (Christ working through believers). Through the conversion of the nations of the world, God’s enemies will be destroyed. The last enemy, death, is destroyed only at the Second Coming. Until that time, we can look forward to great victories. We are told that “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ” (Rev. 11:15).
The idea that the Lord has entrusted the stewardship of the world to His people is found in the parable of the talents in Luke 19. Here the Lord says to His servants, “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13). The Lord is gone for a long time, while His most faithful servants work to increase the wealth of their Master’s kingdom. When the Master returns, He rewards those who have done the best job with the wealth entrusted to them in advancing the kingdom in their Lord’s absence. Those who work for the advance of the kingdom receive rulership over entire cities. But the enemies of God who would not allow Christ to reign over them are slain (Luke 19:27).
So ideas do have consequences. If we believe that Satan is already bound according to Revelation 20:2 and Christ is seated on the throne of heaven, then we ought to work for the increase of the kingdom of God in history. If we do not work for the kingdom, we will see no increase, and God will judge us accordingly.
The nature of the millennium is a time of great victory for God’s people. As we draw closer to the Second Coming, we will see the nations not only evangelized, but taught to obey all the things God has commanded us, according to Matthew 28:18-20.
Interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6
When we look at Revelation 20, we see the phrase “thousand years” mentioned by John six times. This is the only place in the Bible where the “millennium” is mentioned. There are, of course, other passages in the Bible which speak of a prolonged era of prosperity and peace. But there is only this passage which speaks of the “thousand years.” Therefore, most postmillennialists are not dogmatic about the literal length of time of the “thousand years.” It could be interpreted to mean a long time.
We may view the number “thousand” as a symbolic number. This is consistent with other passages in the Bible, such as when God says that He owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalms 50:10). Surely what is meant here is much more than exactly one thousand hills but all the cattle in the world. [Gospelbbq adds this note: If you are a dispensationalist and you are troubled by using words symbolically in eschatology, then you may want to look at dispensationalist’s use of “this generation,” “the time is at hand,” the time is near, etc., etc.]
Postmillennialists teach that Jesus will return after the millennium is completed in order to judge the world. Premillennialists teach that Jesus returns prior to a literal one thousand year reign of Christ on earth. Does Revelation 20 state that Jesus is to return prior to the thousand years? No, neither explicitly nor implicitly does Revelation 20 state that Christ has returned to the earth prior to the millennium. Premillennialists believe that Revelation does imply this because Jesus is on the throne and Satan is bound. However, we know that Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father shortly after His resurrection and ascension (Heb. 8:1; Rev. 4:2). Christ is already seated on a throne and is even now the ruler over the kings of the earth (Rev. 1:5).
Is Satan bound now? Yes, Satan was bound in the first century during the first coming of Jesus. Scripture teaches this.
Jesus said: “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house” (Mat. 12:28-29).
The New Testament speaks of the binding of Satan in various places. Satan falls from heaven (Luke 10:18); he is cast out of heaven (John 12:31); he was crushed under our feet (Romans 16:20); he was disarmed (Col. 2:15); he was rendered powerless (Hebrews 2:14); his works were destroyed (1 John 3:8).
Note that John doesn’t say that Satan is bound in every respect. Christ binds Satan for a well-defined purpose: “to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore” (Rev. 20:3b). In the Old Testament only Israel knew the true God. But Christ’s coming changes this as the Gospel is preached to all nations (Isa. 2:2,3; 11:10; Mat. 28:19; Luke 2:32; 24:47; Acts 1:8; 13:47).
So if Jesus is on the throne of heaven and if Satan is bound from deceiving the nations, then we are now in the millennium. I interpret the millennium to be the period of time in which the Gospel is being preached and the nations of the world are being converted. We are in the midst of the “millennium” now and have been for about 2000 years.
Interpretation of Old Testament Prophecy Regarding the Kingdom
The Old Testament is rife with prophecies concerning the nations being under the Christ the Messiah. This is an important aspect of our faith. A whole book would be necessary to quote entirely the texts of the Old Testament that predict the triumph to come in Christ, how all the nations shall be His. Isaiah and Ezekiel especially, and most of the minor prophets, have foretellings of the kingdom age when the nations of the world will turn to Christ and obey God’s law.
The Bible is divided by two covenants, but it is really one Covenant, the original is renewed again under Christ’s reign. In the New Testament, the promises made to Abraham are given to the Church. Paul refers to the Church in as the “new Israel of God.” (Gal. 6:6). All of Israel’s promises apply to the Church today. “That the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:14).
Dispensationalists spiritualize this passage saying that the covenant with the church is for salvation only, but the covenant with Israel is for the land and material blessings. According to the futurist view, the material blessings for Israel will occur only during a future millennial reign after Jesus returns to the earth.
Postmillennialists agree that the promise of the Spirit is a greater dimension than material blessings, however, the church is to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. This means that we have a duty. Christians must occupy the whole world. The Great Commission is to make disciples of all nations with Christ as the ordained King of all creation. As we do this, great material prosperity and peace will be secured by the people of God that all nations will enjoy.
Amillennialists and premillennialists know that eventually Christ will win, but for now Christians are on the losing side. But I believe that the impulse for victory is a God-given instinct. Victory has a strong appeal to the people of God. The promise of God tells us we can’t be losers. I don’t believe God programmed us for defeat. We have a magnificent calling because we are a people called to victory not to defeat.
Of course, premillennialists also believe that the millennium will be a time of great victory, prosperity and peace in the world. But postmillennialists believe that these trends will increase gradually and will become the normal state of affairs for a very long period of time before Christ’s Second Coming. In studying the prophecies of the Old Testament, I became more and more convinced of the postmillennial view. Just a few examples will explain my conviction.
“There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed” (Isa. 65:20).
What is remarkable about this passage to me was not the prediction that there would be no infant mortality in the millennium, but that people would live to be an old age. That implies that the resurrected saints of God, who return to earth with Christ (according to the dispensationalist view) will live side by side with mortal men who will be born, live to a very old age and die during the millennial reign. I began to suspect that this passage and others like it refer not to a future millennial reign after Christ’s return, but to history before the Second Coming. It is not unlikely that in the next few generations, infant mortality will be all but wiped out and that most people will live past their one-hundredth year. There will be a literal fulfillment of this prophecy in history.
There will not be universal redemption of all men during the millennium, but in some nations the vast majority of people will at least outwardly profess to serve the one true God. Isaiah says that even in Egypt, being a type of the unregenerate world, five cities out of six will call upon the name of the Lord, an image of great victory. “In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear unto the LORD of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction” (Isaiah 19:18).
There will be a time when the holiest of all men will be advanced to greatest positions in civil politics. “And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers” (Isa. 49:23).
The richest men in the world, those who have great influence, shall devote all to Christ and His church. “The daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift, even the rich among the people shall entreat thy favour” (Psa. 45:12).
Wars will one day cease according to the Bible. There will be universal peace, love and understanding among the nations of the world, instead of confusion, wars, and bloodshed. “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:4).
There will be universal disarmament as weapons of warfare will be destroyed. “He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth: he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder: he burneth the chariot in the fire” (Psa. 46:9). All nations will live together in peace. “And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places” (Isa. 32:18).
Strong families will be restored and there will be great love between children and their parents. “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Mal. 4:6).
There will be a time of great economic prosperity in the Christian nations of the world. “For the seed shall be prosperous, the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew, and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things” (Zec. 8:12). “And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it” (Jer. 33:90).
There will be a time of great light and knowledge. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark. But it shall be one day, which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light” (Zec. 14:6,7).
It will be as though God will give so much light to His church, that the sun and moon will be ashamed. “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients, gloriously” (Isa. 24:23).
One of the greatest postmillennial theologians of history was Jonathan Edwards. In his book, History of Redemption, Edwards theorized that the advance of the Gospel would someday spread to Africa and Asia. Edwards wrote:
There is a kind of veil now cast over the greater part of the world, which keeps them in darkness. But then this veil shall be destroyed, “And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations” (Isa. 25:7). And then all countries and nations, even those which are now most ignorant, shall be full of light and knowledge. Great knowledge shall prevail everywhere. It may be hoped, that then many of the Negroes and Indians will be divines, and that excellent books will be published in Africa, in Ethiopia, in Tartary, and other now the most barbarous countries. And not only learned men, but others of more ordinary education, shall then be very knowing in religion, “The eyes of them that see, shall not be dim; and the ears of them that hear, shall hearken. The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge” (Isa. 32:3,4).
In the first half of the 1700s, when Edwards was writing, the Christian population of Africa and Asia was less than one percent. That Africa would be converted to the Gospel was unbelievably optimistic. Today, I am encouraged to know personally of successful Christian missions among Africans, Indians and Tatars just as Edwards predicted. Many from among these nations are converted. They are entering the ministry, writing books and dedicating their lives to the conversion of the lost. I am also encouraged to imagine what is to come in the future.
At the beginning of the 20th century, 80 percent of the world’s Christians were in North America, South America and Europe. Now the Christian population of these countries is only 40 percent of all Christians because more and more of the new Christians are in Africa and Asia. In the 1990s, the Republic of Zambia identified itself as a Christian nation. Here are Africans running a country trying to reorder everything according to the Word of God. There is still a great work of reformation to be accomplished, but when the president and vice president of a nation in Africa have affirmed that they believe that God’s Law should rule, that is major news!
It has been a slow start, but things are happening dramatically all over the world today. Great things have been happening since Christ came, but in the 20th century the pace stepped up dramatically. Now we are seeing more people saved in each year than were saved in all the time period of the New Testament. This influence of the Gospel is reaching all parts of society. In short, The Old Testament predicts a time of great victory for the Church before the Second Coming of Christ.
This article was originally published April 2008.
Article by Jay Rogers from Forerunner.com
A few Questions and Comments on Pop-Eschatology
By Peter C. Coker
(A Friendly Challenge to the Validity of Popular Eschatology)
First: Some questions and comments on the notion of (supposedly) holding a literal interpretation of scripture. For example; Mt. 24: 33, 34:
Why do proponents of dispensational/pre-mil eschatology change the obvious and contextual meaning of the phrases “these things” (Mt 24:33) and “this generation” (Mt. 24: 34) by placing them in the distant future?
In context, the text literally relates to the generation to whom Jesus is talking to, (the first generation believers).
It contextually speaks to the near future and not the distant future. As when Jesus also said, “…when YOU see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.”
By turning the actual meaning into a (figurative or abstract) ‘future generation’ interpretation – ignores the plain contextual and literal interpretation of the text. By turning these phrases into abstract interpretations, it then follows that the entire segment of text is thus made figurative and its true contextual meaning altered to fit a (pre-mil/dispensational) presupposed context.
If we claim that the “future generation” interpretation is correct, don’t we then have to admit to adopting abstract or figurative interpretations in order to suit presupposed ideas?
Additionally, Jesus also made use of the phrase “this generation” in Matthew 11: 16. Here, Christ says: “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” Does it not appear even more obvious that Jesus is referring to that present generation? Just as it is when He says; “But to whom shall I liken this generation?”
The literal interpretation of Matthew 24 generally describes: (1) The coming of Jesus Christ via the Day of Pentecost; (2) the (soon coming) destruction of the Jewish Temple; (3) the close of the (Old Covenant) Temple Age; (4) the Abomination of Desolation, and (5) the first century Great Tribulation.
Have we not learned from the Bible and from the secular histories of that period that wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes (Matt. 27:4; 28:2; Acts 16:26), famines (Acts 11:28), false prophets (1 John 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1), tribulation (Rev. 1:9), and the gospel being preached throughout all the world (Rom. 1:8; 16:27–28; Col. 1:6, 23; 1 Tim 3:16) did take place before the Romans sacked the city of Jerusalem and tore down the Temple, stone by stone, just as Jesus predicted would soon happen? (Matt. 24:2)
It seems clear, in context, when Jesus refers to “this generation” He means His present audience, His contemporaries. Not a distant “future generation,” nor ‘another generation,’ nor a certain type of generation such as the Jewish race.
As F. F. Bruce clearly stated it (1983): “The phrase ‘this generation’ is found too often on Jesus’ lips in this literal sense for us to suppose that it suddenly takes on a different meaning in the saying we are now examining. Moreover, if the generation of the end-time had been intended, ‘that generation’ would have been a more natural way of referring to it than ‘this generation.”
Second, some questions and comments concerning Israel and Prophecy:
Chuck Smith wrote in his 1976 book ‘The Soon to be Revealed Antichrist’ that “we are living in the ‘last generation’ which Smith (and many others) said began with the rebirth of Israel in 1948” (see Matt. 24:32–34). Further, in his 1978 book ‘End Times’ Smith also said: “… Jesus taught us that the generation which sees the ‘budding of the fig tree,’ (i.e.), the birth of the nation of Israel, will be the generation that sees the Lord’s return. I believe that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981.” (1948 + 40 – 7 = 1981).
In addition to this, on December 31, 1979 (in a taped message on New Year’s Eve), Smith told those who had gathered at Calvary Chapel that the ‘rapture’ would likely occur before the end of 1981. He also went on to say that because of ozone depletion, Revelation 16:8 would be fulfilled during the tribulation period: “And the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun; and it was given to it to scorch men with fire.” In addition, Smith said Halley’s Comet would soon pass near Earth in 1986 and would wreak havoc on those left behind as debris from its million-mile-long tail pummeled the planet (earth).Chuck Smith further explained this prophetic scenario in his book ‘Future Survival,’ which is nearly identical to what appears on his 1979 taped message, as follows: “The Lord said that towards the end of the Tribulation period the sun would scorch men who dwell upon the face of the earth (Rev. 16). The year 1986 would fit just about right! We’re getting close to the Tribulation and the return of Christ in glory. All the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.”
Since the foundations of Chuck Smith’s (and many others) prophecy predictions have not materialized as they were stated – and since it is has been over sixty-five years (since 1948) and no soon expectation of a rapture, no hint of the Great Tribulation, no coming Antichrist, and no Abomination of Desolation (not to mention the predicted havoc of Halley’s Comet); why then should we believe in the mistaken claims of Pre-millennial-Dispensationalism and its overall pessimistic narrative?
By 1988 it seemed obvious to me (and many others) something was very wrong in the Pre-mil camp. 1988 came and went and biblical prophetic events did not begin to pan-out as expected. Not even close. New theories then emerged and the narrative was altered. For example, it was then postulated by some that 1967 was the true beginning date for the state of Israel, as this was the year that Israel had won the Arab-Israeli war. So, forty years after 1967 would then put us at the year 2007. But, 2007 has come and gone, and still; no hint of a soon coming rapture, or an Anti-Christ, or of a coming Great Tribulation, etc., etc. It has now been more than forty-five years since 1967 and still none of the Dispensational prophetic claims appear on the near horizon. The eschatological urgency of the 1970’s and 1980’s has dissipated considerably, to say the least! Even the current troubles in Israel (which has been going on since modern Israel became a state) do not reflect the end-times scenarios postulated by the ever-changing Dispensational narratives.Third. Pre-mil/dispensational eschatology presents the overall narrative of a struggling end-times church that is ever-thwarted by the secular-world-order influenced by Satan and his minions. This view ignores Christ’s victory over Satan at the cross and portrays the Gospel of Jesus as being utterly defeated at some point in history. In this view, Christ’s victory ends up being a supernatural rescue of His defeated church from Satan’s overpowering evil-world-order. Here’s my problem with this scenario as an eschatological meta-narrative:
- The Gospel of Jesus appears to have less power than the already defeated Satan.
- The Holy Spirit’s overall power and influence is, in effect, weaker than Satan’s power and influence throughout history.
- Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection accomplishes only a relatively small remnant of believers throughout history.
- This perspective presents Satan’s overall strategy as cleverly outsmarting and overcoming God’s Gospel plan of redemption for mankind; that is, until God supernaturally intervenes to rescue an elite group of believers at the last minute!
This view of God’s supernatural kingdom seems to depict God’s glorious Gospel as inferior to the wiles of the devil. Satan’s clever scheming appears to win out over the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit in the life of the church. If God’s ultimate plan (since the time of Creation) is to save mankind through His own sacrifice on the cross, and, that good would eventually triumph over evil through the spreading of the Gospel by His church; why then would He have to end up rescuing His Spirit-empowered church from an overtly evil world? Did He not equip His church with the means to overcome the world’s evil? Or, did God provide a gospel plan for His church that is inferior to the powers of Satan? Did God set-up His church (the Bride/Wife of Christ) to fail? Is the gospel not a conquering victorious gospel?
(4) Fourth. One final question on Israel in prophecy: Pop-eschatology seems to have missed one possible aspect of Israel’s future in prophecy. This is found in Isaiah 19. Verses 23-25 are as follows:
(23) In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.
(24) In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
(25) whom the Lord of Hosts shall bless saying, blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.
Here, Isaiah’s passage appears to teach that in the end, Egypt and Assyria shall faithfully serve God prior to Israel doing so (the last will be first, and the first last?). So, prior to Israel coming to faith in Christ, it appears the ‘age of the gentiles’ will end with the conversion of the peoples in the Egyptian and Assyrian territories. How would this end-times scenario figure-in with the Pre-mil/Dispensational future timeline?
Some Pre-mil/Dispensationalists have criticized the validity of these verses (?) because they do not appear elsewhere in the Scriptures! But even so – it is still one-more-time than the Dispensationalist’s pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is found anywhere in Scripture! I have yet to find a single verse clearly describing the rapture occurring just prior to the “Great Tribulation.” In order to fabricate a pre-tribulation rapture, one must concoct a rapture narrative using Scriptures and stories unrelated to the rapture. Such a lack of Scriptural evidence (especially in the Book of Revelation) seems truly odd for such a miraculous and momentous event in the history of the church!
We may see every conflict, uprising, war or revolution as the future defeat of the Gospel; or we may see that the Bible describes a very different future for the church; a world radicalized by the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His victory over Satan — past, present, and future.
To get a clearer perspective of the worldwide spreading of the Gospel and Christianity in general, see “The Next Christendom – The Coming of Global Christianity” by Philip Jenkins. Jenkins has some mind-blowing data on the world-wide growth of Christianity in Africa, South America, and Asia in recent years.
Some Questions and Comments on so-called “Replacement Theology”
By Peter C. Coker
(A Friendly Challenge to Comments on Replacement Theology)
One. Is it not true that Pre-Mil/Dispensationalists also believe in their own version of so-called “replacement theology?” For example:
According to E. Schuyler English, Thomas Ice, and I think nearly every other dispensationalist, the Church has replaced Israel until the rapture? Correct?
The unfulfilled promises made to Israel are not fulfilled until after the Church is taken off the earth. Even dispensationalist, Ice, admits that the Church replaces Israel this side of the rapture: “We dispensationalists believe that the church has superseded Israel during the current church age, but God has a future time in which He will restore national Israel ‘as the institution for the administration of divine blessings to the world.” (English: A Companion to the New Scofield Reference Bible) and (Ice: raptureready.com)
So, it seems pre-mil/dispensationalists believe that prior to the rapture, the Church has replaced Israel, and this replacement has been going on for nearly 2000 years! It appears dispensationalists hold to their own form of replacement theology since they believe that Israel does not have any prophetic significance this side of the future rapture of the church. In other words, prior to the future rapture, in terms of dispensational logic, the Church has replaced Israel. This would appear to be unquestionably true since God’s prophetic plan for Israel has been postponed until the prophetic time clock starts ticking again at the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week; which starts only after the Church is taken to heaven in the so-called pre-trib rapture. Until then, God is dealing redemptively with the Church.
Further, the pre-mil/dispensational future outlook for Israel looks shockingly grim for the majority of people in Israel. In dispensational eschatology, during a period when Israel is at peace with the world (the Tribulation?), the Antichrist turns against her and the ensuing battle wipes-out two-thirds of her population! This view makes it appear that [God] in the last days gathers the Jewish population of the world to her “home land” only to have a majority of them wiped-out by the satanically-inspired Antichrist! …Yikes! Does this not seem rather sadistic!
In Addition, according to dispensational eschatology, the millennial kingdom will be fundamentally Jewish in character, even to the point of rebuilding the Temple, setting-up a Davidic tabernacle, re-instituting the Jewish sacrificial system, and exalting Jewish believers over Gentile believers. Really? Double Yikes!!
Ironically, those believers charged with holding to a so-called replacement theology, such as postmillennialists, believe that Jews will inevitably embrace Jesus as the Messiah this side of the Second Coming. They actually believe in a victorious conquering Gospel, and not in a victorious worldwide Satanic order! In a general sense, they believe the Jewish people are only replaced as the apple of God’s eye during the “age of the gentiles;” until they turn and embrace Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Second. I also question the charge or implication of anti-Semitism by dispensationalists to so-called “replacement theology.” (Hal Lindsey, Thomas Ice, etc.)
I believe the charge of anti-Semitism to be (not only offensive) dishonest, malicious, and possibly, outright sin.
True anti-Semitism is this: prejudice against Jews; dislike or fear of Jews and Jewish things; discrimination against or persecution of Jews.” This is the definition of anti-Semitism.
A view of history that does not conform to dispensational eschatology is not racist or anti-Semitic. I don’t know of any so-called “replacement theologians” who disdains or seeks to persecute Jewish people.
In fact, it is their view of history that holds that one day the Jews will be blessed of God — but on an equal footing with all who know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Not by some dualistic-mode of salvation, one for gentiles – one for Jews.
To demonstrate replacement theology’s so-called anti-Semitism, dispensationalists need to prove or show actual evidence of malicious intent against Jews because of their race.
Being opposed to the policies of the modern state of Israel for some of its West Bank policies or for its socialist government or for its anti-Christian laws does not rise to the level of anti-Semitism. If replacement theologian’s are opposed to certain policies of Israel’s government, that is not the same as being opposed to Jews as such. They are also quite critical of America’s anti-Christian laws and socialistic impulses.
It’s bad enough that many pre-mil/dispensationalists are using “replacement theology” as a derogatory phrase as if it were a religious “cuss-word;” but then, to add insult to injury, they have to play the “race card” and try and smear those who disagree with their brand of eschatology by falsely proclaiming (false witness) anti-Semitism! Is this Christian?
Third. Replacement Theology is also known as Supersessionism. Supersessionism is an idea fundamental to the Christian faith. The basic idea of supersessionism is that Christianity has superseded or replaced Judaism as the true faith. Is this now considered Christian heresy?
Supersessionism is despised by liberals because it endorses the words of Jesus Christ: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
Supersessionism has also been rejected by the Catholic Church since 1965.
Also note that many non-supersessionists believe that all the diverse faiths of the world are legitimate ways to God.
Supersessionism or Replacement Theology, on the other hand, upholds [Protestant] Christian orthodoxy, proclaiming that “neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). It is also exclusive in arguing: “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).
It thus proclaims that “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). To hold to a dualistic-covenant and say that there is a Gentile way and a Jewish way for salvation, seems heretical to my understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Fourth. For nearly 2000 years, or so the theory goes, God has being dealing with His “church,” but one day He will get back to Israel. But where does the Bible teach anything like this! Where does God postpone His covenants to a future time?
Isn’t Israel’s spiritual destiny the same as it is for non-Israelites: Repent and believe in Jesus as the Messiah! Who ever said anything about postponing the promises that had been made to Israel? In fact, didn’t Peter clearly tell his fellow-countrymen that the promises were for them and their children right then and there (2:38)? They didn’t have to wait 2000 years for God to renew His covenant for a later remnant. Jesus said as much when He met His disciples on the road to Emmaus.
The way many dispensationalists and other prophecy writers have told the story, the promises made to Israel have been postponed until a future time when God will once again deal with Israel as a separate redemptive people. We have been told that this dualistic covenant began in 1948 and that the pre-tribulation “rapture” would take place within a generation, within 40 years.
In my view, the term “replacement theology” is a theological straw-man designed and used to deflect any discussion or reflection of the doctrine of supersessionism.
I believe it’s time to re-examine our era’s popular dispensational prophetic system:
(1) How it minimizes the power of God’s Gospel plan for the future; (2) its lack of historical account, (3) its convoluted Biblical interpretations, and (4) its avoidance of an overall Biblical logic.