Monday, January 12, 2009

Earl's Cut to the Chase

I am guilty of diarrhea theology -- writing many words that muddies ideas and adds little clarification. New Kid rightly asks me to write plainly -- to cut to the chase. Here is what I believe concerning Revelation and eschatology:

  1. When Christ came 2000 years ago, He opened the new age in which we live. This is when the millennium began because salvation was now being offered to all the nations.
  2. How do we know we are in the millennium? The gospel is advancing throughout the world. Satan is bound, he cannot stop the spread of the gospel.
  3. We also live in the tribulation. That began with Christ's first advent and will continue until his second coming.
  4. I believe that Christ prophesied about the fall of Jerusalem in the Olivet discourse. But much of Christ coming in the clouds in glory speaks of the yet to happen second coming of Christ. I am open to a visitation of Christ in judgement in 70 AD, but that was not the close of the age then. The new age began with Christ's first advent and we are living in the millennial age that he ushered in.
  5. Revelation is first and foremost about: “Jesus is gonna win!” (Poythress' quote of a janitor who read Revelation). It is the gospel of God's redemption of his people throughout history. It is about God's grace granting perseverance, sealing the Christians, and keeping them through all difficulties and trials. Its the story of difficult times with a glorious ending. Its the story of God actively involved right now, Christ ruling with his iron rod right now and summing all things up.
  6. Revelation paints history in a series of overlays, repeated looks at history, painting different aspects of history. This view is called recapitulation.
  7. Some of what Revelation speaks of have historical identification. Nero is possibly one of these, but Nero is not the final word of that kind of history, but a pattern.
  8. There is nothing in principle that must happen before Jesus' second coming.
  9. There may or may not be a final great tribulation yet to come. If there is, we should be able to see signs of its coming -- but it may come very quickly. This may be accompanied by the great apostasy. Further, given what has happened globally in the past century to other Christians around the world, we may indeed be in the great tribulation.
  10. God's kingdom is advancing.
  11. Christians achieve victory throughout Revelation in an ironic way. In the eyes of the world, Christians look or will look defeated in persecution, trial, and death. But these are the very things through which Christians are vindicated and victorious.
In summary, Christ is ruling. Christ is active in all Christians' lives even when they are in the midst of intense persecution and suffering. Christians will persevere because they are sealed and protected by God. Thus Christians do not need to fear the future or worry whether they can "hang on" in difficulty -- God will make sure they hang on.

The view I hold to is sometimes called "idealism" (poor name), amillennialism (also a poor name because that is just one part of many things about the view and it is postmillennial), and eclectic (in that it seems to pull concepts from various other views).


  1. Earl,

    It is my understanding that as an amillennialist, believing Jesus will come after the millennium, you think that the millennial period will see a parallel development of good and evil. The world will not be conquered by the gospel, will not be converted by the preaching of the Church, and will not be subdued (as yet) to Christ the King. There will be individuals who are saved and they will enjoy, what is in the confines of the Church, spiritual victories. Those who go to heaven will enjoy the presence of Jesus. This is what the millennial blessing is all about. It has nothing to do with the outward success of the gospel or the world coming to be subdued and brought to obey Christ as King. In which case, the prophecies of prosperity that we find in the Old Testament must be taken in a figurative way -- referring to inner-victories or heavenly victories -- not things that pertain to flesh and blood matters, or public matters out in the world between the two comings of Jesus Christ. As to the preaching of the Church, no matter how much we want it to achieve widespread revival and conversions, and believe that God is capable of it, there is no promise in the Bible that this is what will happen. The preaching of the gospel by the Church will not achieve long term and pervasive success. Indeed, a period of increasing lawlessness in the future will even set back the limited successes of the Church. The Church will preach the gospel, we will see some revival, some periods of growth and so forth, but it will not be widespread. It will not be sustained over a long period. At the end of time, increasing lawlessness will even set back whatever has been achieved.

    These are words Dr. Bahnsen uses to summarize the amillennial view. What do you think. Did he get it right?

  2. If by what you mean for millennial rule, which is what we are in now, that prior to Christ's second coming, evil will be so vanquished that virtually everyone alive will be Christians, God's Old Testament law will become the established law around the world -- no, that is not what I see.

  3. Earl, thanks for simply stating your views. Now I get to grapple with this ideas and cogitate and ruminate. It may take some time before the perculating is done in my brain. Dear Lord, help me order my days, priorities and thoughts. Amen.

  4. Kidd,

    Thanks for the "optimistic amil" tip from Gentry. It is very helpful.

  5. Earl,

    You may have mentioned it before, but would you describe your view as "optimistic" or "pessimistic"? Do you think the Great Commission will be fulfilled in history and will it result in a majority Christian influence in the world before Christ's return? (How great is the Great Commission? -- See Dr. Gentry's book, "The Greatness of the Great Commission")

  6. Bill,

    I would describe my view as Christ-centered, gospel focused, biblically oriented, and realist. I don't think the scale of "optimism" is the scale to use because if you push optimism to the exclusion of these other more important things, you go off the track, biblically.

  7. Earl,

    So realistically speaking, can we expect the Great Commission will be fulfilled in history and will it result in a majority Christian influence in the world before Christ's return?

  8. Bill,

    I make it a point to share the gospel with as many people as I can. I assume you do too. Is your church growing exponentially? Has your new conversion baptisms doubled every year of your church's existence? You admit you're living in the millennial age. If you're not experiencing the explosive grow in new convert baptisms, why not? Is it your lack of faith, your lack of optimism? Christ is with you to the end of the age. He is right there at your church, right? So you should see sustained exponential growth. Correct? Christ gave the command, he has the power to fulfill it, so you can speak from experience the doubling each year of new members.

  9. Earl,

    First of all, I love and respect my Christian brethren who hold to premil and amil positions. But I would like, with humility, to point out that postmillennialism does not expect exponential church growth nor doubled conversions each year. Rather, "postmillennialism believes in the gradual growth and success of the kingdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Church's preaching of the gospel. We believe the preponderance of many nations and men will submit to Christ some time in the future in gradual stages". There will no doubt be ups and downs along the way. This is #8 in Bahnsen's ten things postmillennialism believes (Victory in Jesus: The Bright Hope of Postmillennialism -- page 43).

  10. Bill,

    Thanks for the dialog, I really appreciate our conversation and I respect and admire all that you and your church are doing. My differences with you are extremely minor compared to what we do agree. Because of my great respect for you all, I can ask these questions.

    Postmillennialism is sort of a "cheap belief" in that all the real significant advance of the kingdom is done later, not in our lives. It is easy to believe that kind of thing. I don't have to question why Christianity is not keeping up with the birth rate. I don't have to ask why didn't we see a steady advance of the gospel in Europe, the very home of the Reformation. I visited Geneva, attended a service where John Calvin taught and preached. Geneva, spiritually, is a hollow shell of what it once was spiritually. Why? If we are to see the gradual steady advance of the kingdom in visible terms that Bahnsennian Postmillennialism says, why has it failed? Why don't we see growth in our churches out pacing the growth in our cities?

    It's easy to say it will happen in the future. Cheap words, cheap belief. We've been in the millennium for close to 2000 years now. Jonathan Edwards expected to see huge growth starting around the year 2000.

    I think there needs to be a sanity check and reevaluate the position.

  11. New Kid,

    What I am doing is taking the other person's premises (in this case, Bahnsennian Postmillennialism) and drawing what I think are logical conclusions about it and pointing out inconsistencies. Bill knows what I am doing and he is attempting to show where my reasoning is wrong. I counter and explain where I think there remain inconsistencies and weak areas of the view.

    Bill and I will go back and forth on this. It is a form of iron sharpening iron. I really appreciate Bill doing this with me. Very few people are willing to do this. Usually such discussions break down in ad hominin attacks and all sorts of name calling. Bill is doing an outstanding job discussing this and I am better learning the Postmillennium position and gaining a better appreciation of it.

  12. Earl,

    I like to think that I embrace postmillennialism because it fits the overall biblical revelation better, rather than easy believism or some psychological sense of well being. My long term optimism is not based on human wishful thinking. It seems to me, that what I and other Christians do now is important in God's overall plan, regardless of the timing of the resulting growth. One should not judge the validity of the postmillennial view based on decline in Geneva and the like. One needs to think more broadly and over longer periods of time. Some have argued the foolishness of believing in a return of Christ since 2000 years have passed and no result. Or how about the great length of time separating promises made to Abraham and their fulfillment. Or what about promises made to David followed 400 plus years later by the destruction of Solomon's temple and the Exile. Didn't the historical evidence at that time militate against the validity of the promises made? Wouldn't you agree that Christ's kingdom has grown and expanded since the days of the early church? And far from being a "cheap belief", postmillennialism requires diligent effort to apply all of the bible to all of life. Providing a Christian education for one's children by home schooling, for example, in order to be obedient to Scriptural mandates, is a major undertaking. Similarly demanding, is the effort required to apply Scriptures to every other arena of human endeavor. But we make these commitments and do these things in an effort to be obedient to Christ's commands such as the Great Commission. We believe that all this works together under God's sovereign rule to accomplish His will according to His timing.
    Need I mention, (Gentry's quote provided by New Kid) "As a system of gospel proclamation it (amillennialism) teaches that the gospel of Christ will not exercise any majority influence in the world before Christ's return;
    As a system of historical understanding it, in fact, holds the Bible teaches there are prophetically determined, irresistible trends downward toward chaos in the outworking and development of history; and therefore
    As a system for the promotion of Christian discipleship it dissuades the Church from anticipating and laboring for wide-scale success in influencing the world for Christ during this age."

    At some point, I hope to present a biblical case for the postmillennial position as over against premil and amil. I had intended to plod methodically along building layer upon layer. But as if often the case, it is hard to avoid "bottom line" matters for long.

  13. Bill,

    Thanks for your response. I appreciate all that you say. You're one of the few Postmillennialists I've had the opportunity to really talk with. The first was my former pastor, who was a partial preterist postmillennialist who first influenced me.

    You say about amillennialism, " irresistible trends downward toward chaos in the outworking and development of history..." -- that is not my view of it, nor others that I refer to (Hoekema, Riddlebarger, Beale). Let me give you a little thought experiment. I am convinced that Christ could return this very afternoon -- there is nothing in my understanding of prophecy that would make this unlikely. Is this a downward spiral to chaos? I think not. Postmillennialismist, I my opinion, would think it unlikely that Christ would return this afternoon just because of their prophetic stance, there is not enough victory of the church.

    If you claim that Christ is just as likely to return now as He is sometime in the future, then your view of the millennium in principle is not that far off from mine or many other Amillennialists. Your insistence of a certain kind of social/political advancement of the Church is not necessary. Neither is your view that Amillennialists view of chaos is true.

    There is a balance, a sanity check to all of this. That is what I am seeking.

  14. Earls comment makes me want to know if a post mil. point of view would allow Jesus to return at any moment,like right now,or does more have to take place beforehand??

  15. That is what I would like to know. From what I read from Bill's comments on Postmillennialism, there must be a delay. This is enough, in my mind, to rule out that version of Postmillennialism.

  16. Earl and DataLore,

    Perhaps you haven't noticed, but it has been about 2,000 years since Christ promised to return. Would you call that a delay? Also, don't you think Christ will return according to HIS plan. Jesus said He will return after He has subdued all His opposition. By the way Earl, it appears Jesus did not return yesterday. Do you think he will delay His return again today? I certainly don't know specifically when Christ is going to return. But you don't know either. It appears to me it may take a while, perhaps 1,000 generations. Do you grant that as a possibility? If so, then how can you reject postmillennialism on that basis.

  17. DataLore,

    Thanks for reading this blog from Russia.

    I am still forming my view of the end times (I may end up Partial Preterits/Postmillennial), but not my view of Scripture. In Matthew 25 in the parable of the ten maidens Christ told us we should watch and be ready for we do not know the hour. At any time is what I believe.

    New Kid

  18. DataLore, they're reading your profile. I had the same reaction when I read first read your profile. Then I saw a picture on your blog which showed a section of freeway within a few miles of where I live and it got me thinking...

  19. And my what fine English you have, DataLore! Age 107?

    The Wolf Finder

  20. Bill,

    You ask: "Do you grant [Christ's delayed return] as a possibility? If so, then how can you reject postmillennialism on that basis?"

    Yes, that is certainly a possibility. You see the position I take is that there is nothing in principle from my reading of Scripture that Christ could not return today. This is different from saying the Christ will return today. There is no logical contradiction in saying that there is nothing that would prohibit Christ returning today (which means I am open that Christ could return today -- or He could return later, say a thousand generations or more later). I see Scripture teaching that we are to be ever expectant of Christ's return, but don't be dismayed if His return is not immediate. This is logically consistent with what is taught in Scripture.

    The reason I don't accept Postmillennialism as presented is that it denies that Christ could in principle return today, that there must be something else to happen before Christ could return. I think that view contradicts the teaching in Scripture to expect that Christ could (not saying He must) return today.

  21. Thank you veddy much.I haf ben werking on my engrish four a wile now,.
    My question was not meant to be offensive,sorry if it was received that way.I have read a little on postmillenialism but was not sure of that point.I thought there was a literal 1000 years that take place of continuous improvement until Christ return.Was not sure how that fit in with 'any moment.'

  22. DataLore,

    How do we know you indeed are from Russia and that English is a second language? This seems to be a logical inconsistency. You wrote above: "Thank you veddy much.I haf ben werking on my engrish four a wile now,." but your second paragraph is essentially fine.

    Help with English? I am a retired English teacher and can help with your first sentence above: "Thank you very much. I have been working on my English for a while now."

    Earl thinks you are from the state of Georgia in America because he recognized a local Georgia picture in your profile.

    I think Christ's return can be at any moment, but will let Bill and Earl respond to that question.

    New Kid


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