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Will the Real Millennium Please Stand Up!
What is the millennium? What is the difference between pre-millennialism, amillennialism, and post-millennialism? Which one of these fits the Bible’s teachings best? Let’s first define and explain what the millennium is and what will happen during it. That is the foundation for beginning to understand pre-millennialism and post-millennialism. The Bible does teach in Revelation 20 that for a period of 1000 years, between the first resurrection as Jesus returns and the second resurrection, that His kingdom would rule. For example, notice verse 6: "Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they [saved Christians] will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years." The more direct translation of the key pronoun in this verse indicates that this kingdom will rule directly over the earth today, just as man's governments do today: "And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth" (Rev. 5:10). The rock that hits the statue in the Babylonian King's Nebuchadnezzar's dream shows God's kingdom will take over the whole world in Daniel 2:44: "And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms [of humanity, the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman and their continuance in principle to this day], but it will itself endure forever." Jesus was predicted to a born a king in the prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7. His kingdom will be literal over the physical men and women of the world who live during the millennium, not something metaphorical, allegorical, or only spiritual.
The Bible teaches that Jesus would return. For example, the angels who spoke to the apostles after Jesus' ascension to heaven said: "'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him to into heaven" (Acts 1:11). The apostles asked in verse 6 a question that reflected their belief that Jesus would possibly set up a kingdom on earth with Him being the ruler right then: "Lord, is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" For the Jews in the first century badly wanted national independence from the Roman Empire, and later revolted three major times over the next century (twice in the Holy Land). But, much like the Pharisees, the apostles at this point were still expecting Jesus possibly to be a Conquering Messiah, not just a Mournful Messiah, even after the resurrection. Rev. 1:7 says that Jesus will be seen by every eye and that He will come in the clouds. Jesus said to the Jewish leaders questioning him (on the Sanhedrin) that He would come in the clouds of heaven also (Mark 14:61). When the disciples asked Jesus, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" (Matt. 24:3), the famous Olivet prophecy that follows concerns the events leading up to His return (see verse 27, 30). See also Revelation 19:11-16; I Thess. 4:13-17, II Thess. 1:7 for more about Jesus' return as being a Biblical teaching.
When Christ rules the earth there will be a great period of general peace and prosperity for all the people then living on the earth and born during it. True, there will be a need to recover from the terribly war that occurred during the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord. There also would be a need to fix things after the Holy Land is attacked by Gog and Magog, as described in Ezekiel 38-39, which will occur perhaps one or two generations into the millennium. This attack by Gog and Magog is separate from the attack described in Revelation 20:8-9.
The book of Isaiah is full of idyllic descriptions of life during this time of spiritual and physical peace and prosperity after Christ returns. People on earth will be much happier on average during this time period than they are today. One reason for the difference is because Satan and the demons will be tied up during this time, and not be able to deceive the nations until after it ends (see Revelation 20:1-3). Christ would be the righteous ruler over all the earth (Isaiah 9:4-5). There would be so much harmony that even the animals that preyed on others would get along with each other instead. A lion would eat straw (or hay) like an ox! A young child would lead a lion and calf together. And, most importantly, spiritual deception would end, since the knowledge of the Lord would fill the world as the oceans do today (see Isaiah 9:6-9).
There would be imposed peace on the whole earth by God's power, and His law would go out to all the nations from Jerusalem. Everyone would have the opportunity to learn of His ways. Now the United Nations was established by mankind after World War II with the hope of turning swords into plowshares. Well, this will actually occur during the millennium, but by God's power, not by man's. (See Isaiah 2:1-4). People's general medical problems would be divinely healed: The blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the lame will leap (Isaiah 35:4-6). According to Amos 9:13, the agricultural blessings would be so rate the plowman will overtake the reaper!
A key job for the saints ruling with Christ (Revelation 5:10; 20:4, 6) would be to prepare the world for when Satan will be unleashed at the end of the millennium and when the vast majority of the world's pre-millennial population would be resurrected at the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:5). People would need to be taught to resist Satan's pull. They also would have to be told it would be there duty to help prepare the world for the multiple billions to be resurrected just after the thousand years ended. These billions of people will receive then their first and only chance at salvation during an apparent one hundred year period (Isaiah 65:17, 20) during which they'd have to make up their minds about whether to go God's way or not.
An important aspect of ultimate salvation, once we are glorified, is that what we inherit or control under God is the earth initially, not heaven. Consider Jesus' well-known statement from the Beatitudes that begin the Sermon in the Mount: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5). Saved, glorified Christians will rule over the earth during the millennium (Rev. 5:10), even from the earth itself: "And [You, the Lamb] have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth." Notice that Jesus comes to and lands on the earth when He comes to fight the nations after He returns: "Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two" (Zechariah 14:3-4). God's kingdom comes to earth, and fills it, according to Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream: "And in the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Dan. 2:44).
Someone may ask: Who will Christians rule over? Obviously, the people left over from the rebellious nations that fought against Jesus when He returns, and their future descendants during the 1000 year period of His reign. The earth won't remain a wasteland for that whole period, but will be repaired and beautified, and people will have great physical prosperity then, as well as much greater spiritual knowledge, such as described in Isaiah 2:1-4, 11:6-9; 35:1-10. According to Daniel 7:14, Jesus will be given rule over the physical nations: "Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed." The kingdom of God that Jesus often spoke of should be perceived as a literal kingdom or rule of God on earth over the nations in its ultimate fulfillment. It's not just some nice sentimental, ethereal something in men's hearts.
Also, consider the interesting parables in which Jesus gives His servants minas or pounds, and then when He returns, He rewards them according to their works will so many cities (10, 5, 2) relative to the amount they did or believed in works of faith as stewards with what He entrusted them with (Luke 19:11-27; Matt. 25:14-30). The cities aren't going to be empty of people. These illustrations or parables should be taken somewhat literally in this regard. During the future life, we as Christians will be active and working, not stereotypically playing harps and floating around in the clouds of heaven with little to do.
Now, having explained the millennium some, what are pre-millennialism and post-millennialism? Pre-millennialism maintains that Jesus will come before the millennium starts. He will end the world’s terrible end-time crisis by dramatically intervening in the world to save humanity from destroying itself. By contrast, post-millennialism maintains that Jesus will come at the end of the millennium. The period of peace and prosperity will occur before Jesus arrives, according to this view of eschatology (end-time events). Pre-millennialists expect the world to get worse before Jesus returns, but post-millennialists believe it will become better. Jesus’ return is like a capstone ending a successful, prosperous period from the post-millennialist viewpoint. Another common view is called “amillennialism,” which takes the millennium non-literally. They interpret Revelation 20 simply as teaching general spiritual truths. Often this view maintains that the church is the kingdom of God and that Christians are now living spiritually in that period since the Holy Spirit came after Jesus’ ascension to heaven. They believe there is only one general resurrection, not two. They don’t believe there will be an actual literal reign or rule by Jesus Christ on earth. Now, the key issue is to figure out which view does the Bible support? Should Christians be pre-millennialist, amillennialist, or post-millennialist? Below the case will be generally made for the pre-millennialist view as opposed to the post-millennialist teaching since the Bible doesn’t teach any kind of optimistic view of end-time events before the Messiah’s return to earth. Often post-millennialists will use the system called “preterism,” which maintains the events described in the Book of Revelation occurred in the first century Roman Empire, as a means to escape how disastrous they would be if they were still to be fulfilled in the future.
However, pre-millennialists have to avoid certain traps even as their view of eschatology is the most accurate. It is wrong to set specific dates for Jesus' return, for He said nobody besides the Father knew the date of His return (Matt. 24:36): "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." On the other hand, there is wisdom in looking for general indications that His return may be close. Consider the verses almost right before the one just quoted: "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place" (verses 32-34). The issue would be what specific "generation" is Jesus describing here that would experience the events just before His return. Mark 13:33-37 makes a point (see also Matt. 24:42-51) of telling Christians to be spiritually alert so they are ready when Jesus returns. (See also the message taught by the parable of the 10 virgins in Matt. 25:1-13). Notice, however, that Jesus did teach general indicators about His return would appear also, as per the fig tree analogy in Matt. 24. Learning about Biblical chronology and eschatology (end-time events) is fine, so long as one has balance about it and doesn't spend too much time on it relative to other spiritual priorities (like those listed in I Cor. 13 and Matt. 23:23). But it would be wrong to set specific dates, such as William Miller's movement did when they came up with 1843-44 (which helped create the Seventh-day Adventist church), and the Jehovah's Witnesses/Watchtower Bible and Tract Society did concerning 1914 and 1975.
Some of the markers for His return generally speaking would be when certain texts could only be fulfilled at a certain time, and not sensibly earlier. This is the best argument for the pre-millennialist viewpoint when using historical evidence to help interpret the Bible. For example, consider Matt. 24:14: "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come." It's well worth some thought about when this became possible, even from a broad general traditional Christian viewpoint, was only in the past two centuries or so, for many areas like China, India, and Africa had had little or no Christian witness. The definition is narrower than that, since the "gospel of the kingdom" isn't only or even primarily about salvation in Jesus, but that's a separate subject. Another text that can mark when Jesus couldn't return until it could be possibly fulfilled is verse 22: "And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short." Now, could have all the weapons of all the world's armies literally killed everyone before the invention of the atomic bomb in the 1940s? The same goes for nerve gases that the Germans had developed or had made ready, like tabun and sarin. So "that generation" has to be the one that could hear the gospel of the kingdom taught in their countries and also lived when everyone on earth could be killed by mankind's weaponry. Another indication concerning Jesus return is the regathering of the Jews to the Middle East, such as described in Zechariah 12, which has to be before Jesus returns, not afterwards. Admittedly, a number of these texts about the Jews and/or all the tribes of Israel returning to the Middle East are ambiguous or only about their return after Jesus' return (such as Zephaniah 2:4-7; Jeremiah 30:3-11, 50:17-20). But one needs a certain critical mass of Jews running their own nation are necessary to make Zechariah 12 possible; a few scattered ones under Arab or Turkish Muslim rule wouldn't sensibly be enough. Therefore, Jesus couldn't return until after 1948, and the establishment of the modern state of Israel.
A pre-millennialist’s basic approach would often be to see where Scripture's description of general conditions and also certain individual texts would fit in with what's presently going on in the world, as reported in the news media, including newspaper headlines. These can help supply us with background that shows where we are in the march of events leading to the end time when Jesus will return. In the Olivet Prophecy, Christ mentioned we should observe what's going on around us as indications in advance of His return, which would include in today's world media sources: "Now learn the parable from the fig tree; when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door" (Matt. 24:32-33). When considering the Olivet Prophecy, where could anyone fit in an optimistic post-millennialist viewpoint anyway? Where does it or Revelation talk about humanity's actions in the world making the world's general conditions more Godly, more spiritual, before Christ's return and the establishment of His kingdom on earth (Daniel 2:44; 7:13-14)?
When we examine both the Olivet Prophecy and the Book of Revelation, there's no reason for optimism about future human history before Jesus returns. For example, the summary of the history of the true church in Revelation 12 is one of persecution and flight into the wilderness, not a triumphant takeover of the world's civilization before Jesus' personal return. Likewise, the description of the Beasts of Daniel 7, which building upon Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the great statue in Daniel 2, simply allows no space for a truly Godly civilization to develop. Revelation 13, when interpreted in either a historicist or futurist manner (HWA used both, as per his method of finding duality in fulfillments of prophecies in Scripture), shows that oppression and evil will rule the world before Jesus returns and, more or less, all the time before then. There's no optimistic, Godly interlude possible when the last Beast of Daniel 7 keeps being resurrected and ruling harshly. Presumably, post-millennialists will resort to a preterist interpretation to escape this reality, by trying to make all of these texts be fulfilled in the first century A.D., but that isn't persuasive. The abomination of desolation didn't occur then, for example. Nor was the world world evangelized by 70 A.D., which a preterist interpretation of Matt. 24:14 would necessitate. It's worth remembering in this context that the first horseman of the apocalypse is one representing religious deception, an interpretation that isn't unique to the Church of God. (Billy Graham has the same view, which is derived by the same interpretative method of correlating the Olivet Prophecy with the Four Horsemen of Revelation). Furthermore, the preterist method of interpreting Revelation has a dubious historical origin: It was the result of Catholic scholars trying to escape stinging Protestant accusations (such as Luther's) that the Catholic Church was described in the Book of Revelation as the antichrist, Scarlet Woman, Beast, etc. Satan has deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9), which is a religious condition certainly not compatible with Reconstructionist triumphalism. To use such texts as Ps. 110:1, which don't describe the general condition of the world historically, to overturn the historical or even futurist school of prophecy about these sections of Scripture, simply isn't persuasive. It's much too vague for this purpose. Jesus can be the Father's "right-hand man" yet still wage war against His enemies. It's hardly a text that says Jesus has to be passive while the Father gets the world to obey His Son.
Where are the "optimistic" texts from the Book of Revelation or Olivet Prophecy that prophecy that the world will be converted to Christianity by gradual means before Jesus' personal return to earth. The parable of the Ten Virgins and the condition of the last church mentioned in Revelation 3, Laodicean, doesn't bode well for any post-millennialist interpretation. Jesus was indeed a pessimist about any worldwide Christian takeover when He asked, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).
The principal problem with post-millennialist would be that the world seems to be getting worse by many moral measures, not better, such as concerning the stability of family life and the general rise of irreligious viewpoints in the Western world. Of course, although the newspapers and media have long been full of bad news, there are reasons to believe things really have been getting worse in certain regards overall in the past two or three generations, for now humanity has the ability to destroy itself (Matt. 24:21-22). And, if anything, the general trends in the culture have been towards de-Christianization over the past 250 years, with a rapid increase in the past 70. God has a plan that will stand. He will push humanity along as is necessary to accomplish it. But, He also allows people free will such that it's a cooperative enterprise as that interacts with the help given by the Holy Spirit in obeying Him better in their personal lives. But I don't believe the few true believers, or even the many sincere traditional Christians, Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox, are fundamentally going to change things in the world as a whole for the better permanently before Jesus' arrival. No great improvement was prophesied for the world's conditions before Jesus returns in His Olivet Prophecy, for example, or in the Book of Revelation. Fundamentally, post-millennial eschatology was buried in Flanders' mud and further destroyed by the gas chambers of Auschwitz. True, not all the trends in American culture are bad, for since about 1993 some improvement has occurred in (say) the divorce, violent crime, and abortion rates, but we still aren't back to where we were in (say) 1959 overall. Furthermore, although the Western world has become less Christian, a large chunk of the Third World and even the Communist (or former Communist) countries have become more Christian even as Western Europe has become more secular.
If "common grace" were indeed a sound concept, and post-millennialism were indeed true, the general conditions of society should be getting better and better, but that's hardly the case morally overall for the Western World over the past century. The influence of the two world wars as well as the Marxist/Communist movements have helped to cause much of the de-Christianization of the (popular) Western culture through their practical experiences with problem of evil and promoting a cynical, instrumental view of religion's role in society as a tool of the upper class to keep the lower class in line. The baneful influence of Darwinism has reached down to average people over the past two or three generations, helping make the masses made in God's image think they are mere animals with no higher individual destiny than to reproduce themselves before a permanent death overtakes them. Freudianism has piled to help justify an obsession with sex and to cause criticisms of this obsession to be dismissed as "unhealthy" or as "repression."
Consider then the reality that such an atheistic/agnostic/pagan nation as Japan has better rates of social statistics in certain crucial areas (divorce, illegitimacy, and violent crime) than the (supposedly) "Christian" USA. Consequently, one could conclude that the "Christian" population isn't really Christian, isn't really saved, since their faith isn't manifested by their works. (Here in this context John MacArthur's "The Gospel According to Jesus" is worth some thought, and the whole Lordship salvation controversy, that repentance is a condition to salvation). The Holy Spirit isn't obviously transforming their individual lives, and therefore the culture as a whole as a consequence. Here my view that God is only presently working with a small flock is no doubt driving this analysis, but there is serious evidence for it, as per Christ's explanation as to why He spoke in parables and citation of Isaiah in Matthew 13:11-15: "'To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted . . . . Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, "You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hears and return, and I should heal them."'" Just as only a relatively small number of Jews accepted Jesus as their Savior and Messiah in the first century, it's the same today.
Now a believer in post-millenialism could counter-attack this kind of analysis by calling it "newspaper theology" or "newspaper eschatology." That is, premillennialists will cite present problems in society, and then say these are signs of the end or at least that the church (broadly construed) isn't triumphantly taking over the culture, as post-millennialists confidently predict. Now, there is an obvious tension here between the Reconstructionists' Calvinist theology of the innate depravity of man and their confidence in such pathetically weak, sinful creatures to transform totally the world by individual and collective action as assisted by God's Holy Spirit. I also don't see where in Scripture such beings with an evil human nature are predicted to create such a perfect society largely on their own in some cultural respite before Jesus returns. The Olivet prophecy is a major challenge to optimistic post-millennialism, especially when the first four signs (Matt. 24:4-7, using the KJV/NKJV) are correlated with the first four horsemen of the apocalypse. The preterist/post-millennialist move to confine Christ's predictions to the period before A.D. 70 isn't persuasive, for remember Christ's disciples really asked two or even three questions (Matt. 24:3): "Tell us, when will these things be, and will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age." The dual nature of prophetic fulfillment destroys preterism’s plausibility. Jesus' coming, and the end of the age, wasn't fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem through Titus's Roman legions. Does anyone seriously think, for example, that this text was fulfilled by when the second temple was destroyed (Matt. 24:14): "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come"? Likewise only since the development of atomic, biological, and chemical warfare has the possible condition mentioned in this text been theoretically fulfillable (Matt. 24:22): "And unless those days had been cut sort, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short." Sure, if someone wants to put on the postmillennialist/amillennialist straight-jacket, these texts can be reinterpreted to ("safely") confine them exclusively to the first century A.D., but that isn’t persuasive or natural. There's also the return of the Jews en mass to the Middle East in their own self-governing entity (which is another example of prophetic duality, by the way), which has to occur before Jesus would return (Zech. 12:8-10; cf. Zeph. 2:7).
The pre-millennialist believes that a better world is coming, but that it has to be violently imposed from above, as per the rock of Christ hits and destroys Nebuchadnezzar's image of the world's kingdoms (Dan. 2:44): "And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever." The post-millennialist believes it will come from below, by the actions of millions, even billions of sincere believers changing the world. That seems to be much too optimistic a scenario. Furthermore, some trends in the world today never have occurred before on such a broad scale in all of human history, such as how science, technology, and science have transformed the lives of the great mass of average people in broad swaths of the world, thus lifting them out of subsistence agriculture and the raw ignorance caused by mass illiteracy. We also see how such trends, such as women being able to get good paying jobs outside the home, has helped undermine the stability of the (nuclear) family unit, and thus promoted a divorce and remarry lifestyle among the masses that (say) used to be largely confined to the Roman Empire's elite. So isn't worth some thought that with such a fundamental societal transformation in progress over the past roughly 250 years that something strategic is afoot, that for once when premillennialists think the end is near that for once it isn't "crying wolf," or knowing the day and the hour, but rather the parable of the fig tree (Matt. 24:32-34) applies instead?
How can a post-millennialist escape the Book of Revelation's dire events, such as the plagues inflicted by the Seven Trumpets and Seven Bowls? The Fourth Horsemen is given authority to kill 14/th of the earth (Rev. 7:8). When did that occur? The first century A.D.? Why does God have to inflict all these punishments on the world if the world is converted already when Jesus arrives? Where does Scripture describe a utopia on earth created by believers themselves as aided by the Holy Spirit, without using force on unconverted nations (Rev. 2:26-27)? Packing all this dire stuff described in the prophetic books to the first century and earlier simply is unnatural to the texts involved, especially when we have so many more centuries of history to gain more perspective than the prophets themselves often had (Dan. 8:27; 12:8-9). Only by denying the texts through re-interpreting them can the post-millennialist viewpoint escape falsification. The First Horseman was religious deception, a conclusion drawn by comparing the Four Horsemen with the Olivet Prophecy. If so, why should we think all or most people will be persuaded to accept the light before Jesus returns when only a few are called & elected now? I think it’s completely futile to dream of converting the Muslims, Hindus, and Chinese, those vast reservoirs of humanity, without convincing miracles that their prior ways of thinking are demonstrably wrong. Handing out a lot of copies of books of C.S. Lewis, Henry Morris, Lee Stroble, and Josh McDowell isn't going to do the trick, even when the Intelligent Design people seem to be making at least some academics sweat.
So then, turning to a related matter, consider the views found in Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson "Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America?" They wouldn't agree with the total political disengagement views of the Amish, Mennonites, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc., but they perceive the ineffectiveness of using political power to change America's cultural trajectory. Just how effective is political action in changing people's hearts anyway? How much do state ways change folkways? Sure, it can help push things along, like the 1960's civil rights laws have reduced racism some, but the man's law, even if based directly on Scripture as implementing by believers, hardly can truly transform society by itself. He who is forced against his will is of the same opinion still. The history of Medieval Catholicism, with the Inquisition and the Crusades, or even the Communists when trying to build the "new Soviet man," should tell us such social engineering projects from above are doomed to failure. Satan is the god of this world (II Cor. 4:3-4), and has a continuing influence on our human nature, including making it evil to begin with, why should we expect any better results from forcibly imposing any kind of self-sacrifice or altruism or correct belief on people? In practical terms, how well would (say) imposing the seventh-day Sabbath or “Thou shalt not commit adultery” on unregenerate people work? We think Prohibition was a failure! Hence, when thinking about America's destiny over the next few decades, the premillennialists' pessimism is realism.
The case of Noah refutes optimistic post-millennialism, if anything in Scripture does. That is, God foretold to Noah nothing about a gradual improvement in society, but instead about an abrupt worldwide disaster was coming, for which Noah needed to prepare. Jesus cited this very case in the Olivet prophecy, saying it was analogous to the time before His return (Matt. 24:37-39): "But as the days of Noah were, so shall be the coming of the Son of man. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered into the ark. And they did not know until the flood came and took them all away. So also will be the coming of the Son of man." Hence, there isn't going to be any gradual improvement in society as sincere believers inspired by Biblical ideals and Christian theology take over the government and society's institutions. Instead, it will require God's direct personal intervention by the visible return of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to change the world system, which is the pre-millennialist viewpoint. Whether Christians believe in the post-millennialist scenario or the pre-millennialist eschatology, they have to wait for those views to be fulfilled in order to know by personal experience which is right. Of course, it may be we will die before events confirming either edition of eschatology becomes clear. However, the present empirical evidence over the past half century and generally over the past 250 years in the West certainly favors the pre-millennialist viewpoint, since the Western world's institutions and governments have become less and less Christian in their worldview. Think of how the spread of gay marriage even into poorer Third world countries indicates that governments aren’t willing to uphold a Christian viewpoint and definition of marriage and family.
The weight of evil human nature, or the general depravity of man as influenced by Satan and this evil world's civilization, is enough to make me question optimistic post-millennialism. That theology was enabled and supported by the Victorian era's optimism as the fruits of industrialization started to lift up the masses of Europe from mankind's ancient condition of living hand-to-mouth in the "La Belle Epoch," that "Generation of Materialism" before World War I (1914-1918) blew that ideology to bits. Furthermore, it was a secularized version of Darwin's theory of evolution, which emphasized slow gradual change of the species towards a "higher" condition. In addition, those believers who get involved in politics normally end up acting the same as anyone else in politics and government, as the Catholic Centre/Christian Democrat Parties of Europe demonstrate. Instead of Christians transforming the world, the world transforms them instead. The old corrupt union of Church and state under the ancien regimes of Europe before the French Revolution (1789) is further evidence of this point: It's how the scarlet woman riding the Beast committed fornication with the kings of the earth (Rev. 18:3), such as demonstrated by king of France's influence over appointing who became bishops (i.e., the sin of simony). So believers have tried to do this before (i.e., in Medieval Europe, Christians controlled the governments and all institutions of society), and it didn't work out very well, did it? Indeed, the Medieval union of church and state has permanently discredited traditional Christianity in the minds of most intellectuals and many others in the West. So was the post-millennialist model of the world already tried and failed during the late Medieval and early modern periods?
Furthermore, for post-millennialism to become true, something has to keep Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, and any other future crackpot "Ruritanias" from blowing up the world with atomic bombs. A few misplaced nukes in the wrong (non-Christian) hands can easily nuke post-millennialism. In the tinderbox that's the Middle East, if Iran gets the bomb, the Sunni Arab nations will build theirs too. The people who control many of those nukes have little or no use for Christian theology: Witness how hard it is for Muslims to convert to Christianity, especially since they threaten their apostates with death. I wouldn't hold my breath for any of these Muslim nations to convert to Christianity in order to lift this kind of threat.
Furthermore, Christians who believe in post-millennialism can't control the actions of non-Christian nations and civilizations, such as what the Muslims, Hindus, and Chinese do. Post-millennialism can easily be literally "nuked" by non-Christian nations choosing to wage war with weapons of mass destruction, made cheap and obtainable by modern technology and the spread of wealth (by oil sales and industrialization) outside the Western world. Do you really want to reassure me that traditional Christians, of any stripe or belief, can really prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and stop the usage of nuclear weapons by non-Western nations? It's far more likely they will be used before those nations could possibly be converted, which is astonishingly unlikely, when we consider how tough-minded and zealous so many Muslims are.
Because of the world's perilous condition concerning governmental and private debt (or promises to pay through derivatives) and because of the spread of nuclear, chemical, and/or bacterialogical weapons, there's no reason to believe that the traditional Christian church (which is very much on the defensive culturally in the developed world) is going to persuade governmental policy makers to make better decisions, and fix this world's problems. It's much easier today for a few people to light the world on fire than it used to be, which is a matter of what one writer called "profusion." (Any number of good events or developments can easily be wiped out by one or more big, bad events, when the same scientific technological wizardy is used against human survival). I wish to have my words marked: Before a normal, natural lifetime of mine would end, the current events of the world will prove the premillennialist view to be true, and the Dominion theorists' post-millennialist views to be false. Post-millennialism should have already died in the mud of Flanders and the gas chambers of Auschwitz : The human race, whether motivated by its own human reason or by Christian theology, is not going to fix the world's problems on its own. It will require God's direct and dramatic intervention to overcome the weight of evil human nature, the influence of Satan and the demons, and the weight of the world's civilization, to do that.
It’s hard for post-millennialists to cite even two or three good clear texts that prophesy that Christians will slowly improve the world by gradual means as they take over the governments and institutions of the world before Christ's return (i.e., that the world's conditions will improve before Jesus' return). We're warned to see the world system as the enemy and as something to be lived in, endured, but not copied as a standard of conduct (I John 2:15-17; John 17:15-18). The book of Revelation prophesies a series of disasters that result in killing billions of people, if it's taken in a reasonably literal manner (Rev. 6:8). It's hard to fit in post-millennialist or amillennalist optimism with the Book of Revelation without allegorizing it completely. Do any texts clearly support post-millennialist Reconstructionist optimism?
Post-millennialism isn’t at all plausible because of the general de-Christianization of Western Civilization over the past approximately 250 years. Post-millennialism simply isn't compatible with retrogression since it predicts and prophesies a successful Christian conquest of the world without clear divine intervention. That's why citing the Christian culture of the USA at the time of the American Revolution isn't a very convincing argument, which was over 200 years ago now. Ironically, the origins of post-millennialism are during the Enlightenment. According to H. Wayne House and Thomas Ice in "Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse? An Analysis of Christian Reconstructionism" (pp. 206, 209) the origin of post-millennialism lies in the writings of one Daniel Whitby (1638-1726) in what he wrote in a book published in 1703, "Paraphrase and Commentary on the New Testament." By itself, this very late origin for this teaching makes suspicious when it builds upon obviously vague texts, such as Ps. 110:1, for this purpose. Pre-millennialism was the eschatology of the Catholic Church in the Roman Empire in the Pre-Constantine era (i.e., before the Edict of Milan gave Christians legal toleration in 313 A.D.) That makes it much more likely to have been the teaching of the apostles who knew Jesus than a theological system first appearing over a millennium and a half after the time of the early Catholic Church writers' views on about eschatology. True, the differences between amillennialism and post-millennialism are much smaller than the differences of either with pre-millennialism. So I suppose a post-millennialist could claim Augustine as a forerunner for Whitby if he wishes.
Just because some believers are so zealous, such as the Reconstructionists’ intellectual leaders, doesn't mean much when so many traditional Christians do get involved in trying to change their governments and societies by political action, which is why the behavior of the Centre/Christian Democrat parties of Continental Europe is instructive. The corruption of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages when the church and state were united is utterly notorious. There's a reason why there's a book entitled, "The Bad Popes." Should Reconstructionists really think that it would be any different in the future? Can we learn anything from past history? One of the oldest conceits about not learning from the past (such as investing on Wall Street) is, "It is or will be different this time." After all, do we really think professing Protestant monarchs really had a better record, such as the Hohenzollerns of Prussia/Germany? More recently, consider the great success Abraham Kuyper had in Holland in taking over the country as a leader of Reformed Protestants (in the general 1870-1920 period), yet today Holland is one of the most obnoxiously socially liberal countries on earth. Consider the utter apostasy and corruption by modernist forces of the Anglican Church in England, even by fundamentalist Protestant standards. Post-millennialists simply don't reckon with the power of the evil human nature to make even professing traditional Christian people sin.
Medieval Catholic Christian rulers lacked the transforming agency of the Holy Spirit. That's why their historical record was about as bad as ancient Israel's, a physical nation which almost completely lacked the Holy Spirit as well. That's why the great church committed fornication with the kings of the world (Revelation 18:3, 9; 17:2) by compromising with the political forces of Medieval and early Modern Europe, such as concerning the sin of simony, which often concerned appointing spiritually unqualified men to church offices with political approval of political rulers. The Reconstructionists, who believe in post-millennialism, won't have any more success than the Catholics and Protestants who actually did hold political power had.
An unpleasant reality is that what the world does inevitably affects the church, true or not. The easy no-fault divorce laws passed in the 1960s shouldn't have affected the divorce rate of Christians, whether they are sincere Sunday keepers or in the Sabbath-keeping church of God . But of course, they have. The divorce rate, in my perception, in the Saturday-observing Church of God is higher today than that of USA (i.e., the world at large) in the mid-1950s. My Peruvian wife has been so disconcerted to see much more more common divorce is in America in the Church of God as well as in the world than it is in her home country, which is dominated by (generally non-observant) Catholics. We may claim, in the spirit of Christian separatism, "Hey, how the world defines marriage shouldn't affect the lives of serious Christians at all." The reality, as already shown by the easy divorce laws, is very different. The law has a teaching function that can't be ignored: When it teaches and enshrines perversion, it affects the true church's members as well. They inevitably start to think that perversion isn't so bad and that it's somewhat OK at some level.
The influence of the world upon the church seems to overwhelm the influence of the church on the world. For example, to legalize gay “marriage” will eventually undermine average people’s commitment to their vows since it puts the government’s official moral sanction on a nearly empty definition of “marriage.” One prominent liberal lawyer reasoned several years ago that legalizing gay marriage hasn’t had any such ill effects yet in the jurisdictions that have legalized it ignores what the long-term effects are on family stability from redefining the word “marriage” to mean anything and everything. His reasoning here is like a liberal’s claiming that since social democracy and the welfare state don’t effect people’s sense of personal responsibility, financial incentives to work, and willingness to take initiative in the short term, they won’t in the long term either, which is manifestly false. The no-fault divorce laws have already had similar effects, even on the socially more conservative, who theoretically reject these values. These laws made average people take their vows more lightly since getting rid of their husband or wife could be done so much more easily legally. The law has a teaching function that influences society as a whole, for good or for ill, that liberal, libertarian, or fundamentalist Christian separatist theorizing simply shouldn’t discount. It's further evidence that the premillenialist view of eschatology is far more accurate than the optimistic view of the post-millennialist Dominion theorists, as today's society is increasingly more degenerate, not improving, like that of the time before the great Deluge (Matt. 24:37-39). Since America’s illegitimacy rate hovers near 40% and the divorce rate is nearly 50%, the last thing policy makers concerned for the emotional, psychological, and physical well being of children should do is implement policies that increase family instability. And legalizing gay marriage is certainly one of them.
Furthermore, once the state defines marriage to include gay relationships and polygamy (that's coming too), inevitably the churches which refuse to perform them will be persecuted by the intolerant, self-righteous gays. That's one key reason to keep the law as it has been, even if we may want to say, it's none of the government's business. An expansive regulatory/welfare/secular state never sees it that way, but it wants to reach into all the crooks and crannies of people's lives, regardless of any pretenses to preserving human freedom and autonomy otherwise. Doma was one way to help put off that day. But now we see that the law will no longer use crude basic Christian values as its foundation. (Presumably the Dominion theorists would favor that, as well as laws such as DOMA that would promote such minimal Christian values). The clock is being turned back to the time before the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D., when Constantine declared tolerance for the Christian faith from pagan Roman persecution, and began the process of the union of church and state that reached its apex in the Medieval era. As bad as that often was, at least it maintained some crude Christian values, such as marital heterosexual monogamy. We now are beholding the real end of that era, at least before the time the EU is transformed into the Eurobeast and a future Pope starts calling down fire out of heaven in Rome.
So the pre-millennialist view is much better backed by the words of Scripture and the trend of events in the world over the past 300 years than the optimistic post-millennialist viewpoint. Jesus’ personal rule on earth (Revelation 5:10) as King of Kings and Lord of Lords will be necessary to fix the terrible mess that humanity, as influenced by Satan and the demons, have made of the world and will make of this world.
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