Monday, July 31, 2006

The Trouble with Postmill

So far, I've not said much about my prophetic interpretations on this blog, in part because of my impending debate with Don Preston--I didn't want to be perceived as having the debate before the debate. However, since he's actually requested that I post some of my understanding of eschatology on my blog, I'm happy to do so.

Just because it came up on an FR thread, I figure that I'll start by expounding on the major error of postmillennialism.

Postmill has been described as an "optimistic amillennialism." It agrees with the basic premise of amill that we are currently within the millennium, which is not to be understood as a literal 1000 year period of time, and is usually preterist--that is, believes that the Olivet Discourse, the Revelation, and the related prophecies all had their sole and final fulfillments in the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. I'll come back at a later date and explain why preterists aren't entirely wrong--they're just incomplete in their understanding.

For today, I'd like to touch on the "optimism" of postmill. One of the frequent arguments that postmill's adherants will throw at us premill types is that we deny the power of God to redeem the world, since we believe in the final victory of evil over good before Yeshua returns to set things right. For example, one poster on FR complained, "Premillennial eschatology tells us that those believers won't accomplish jack in the way of impacting, let alone redeeming, the culture around them."

Actually, it's history that tells us that, not eschatology.

There has never been such a thing as a permanently redeemed culture. Whenever Christianity (and Israel before it) has had one of those truly great and Godly generations, it has been because they came out of a period of darkness and testing which purified them, as fire purifies gold.

Because that generation walks with the Lord, the Lord blesses them, resulting in great material wealth. However, as the first generation that went through the time of testing passes, they are succeeded by a generation to whom church is just something you do . . . just because. They become Laodicean.

Then follows the cynical and rebelleous generation, to whom, "Don't ask questions, just have faith," the mantra of the "just because" generation, is sheer foolishness. The culture changes from Christian to post-Christian, and then to anti-Christian. In doing so, it looses its blessings. It also becomes decadent and dependant--which leads it back into darkness and bondage.

John Adams understood this cycle. He said, "Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate for the governance of any other." We're finding that to be true in our own generation.

This is a cycle which no democracy has ever managed to escape. What, then, about a monarchy or dictatorship? The problem they run into is the need to enforce "Christian" standards by increasingly draconian laws. Conscienceless men can be ruled by fear, and in some cultures by honor and shame, but they cannot be ruled with a light hand. Bondage is still bondage, even if the mortal king proclaims himself a Christian.

These periods of darkness and bondage are actually important to the overall spiritual health of the Church. Indeed, I believe that Christian political rulership does not so much "redeem" as it does create more tares among the wheat. When the Church is in political power, those who are attracted to political power rather than the Messiah are attracted to the Church. Only when it is unpopular to be a Christian, when we are persecuted and downtrodden, when there is a real cost to be counted for living a holy life set apart for Yeshua do the tares flee the sanctuary and the wheat grow to fruition. And only when the Church is full of wheat bearing the fruits of repentence do we have the impact on our culture for the bondage to be broken and the cycle to begin anew.

There's an old story, probably apocryphal, which illustrates this point: Back in the Soviet days, a small home church in Russia was suddenly invaded by gun-wielding men. "We are the KGB," they said. "Anyone who doesn't want to die for their faith, get out now!" Maybe 2/3rds of those there sheepishly duck out. After they're gone, the KGB men sit and say, "Now that we know who the real Christians are, we want to learn about God."

I believe that the End Times scenario of persecution is not truly a victory for the Adversary, however much carnal eyes might see it to be so; rather, it is the last purification of the whole Body of the Messiah, the separation and bundling up of the tares from the wheat, "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Yeshua HaMashiach" (1 Pt. 1:7).

The flaw with postmill is that it refuses to acknowledge this cycle, a cycle which has been and will be in motion for as long as flawed human governments rule the world system. Premill supposes that somehow, we can create a visible Kingdom of Heaven on the earth--and if that's not working, if we find ourselves on the downslide part of the cycle, well that must be because of those darn Dispensationalists with their defeatist attitudes! Premill, in contrast, recognizes the cycle of history, and it recognizes that only when the Messiah King Yeshua sits on David's throne in Jerusalem and rules bodily over the whole earth "with a rod of iron" will that cycle be broken--and even then, there will be one last grating turn of the rusty wheel at the end of the Millennium before all is made new.

Premill is not defeatist because it recognizes the truth of history, or because it recognizes the truth of Scripture, that the whole world will go into a brief period of bondage brought on by spiritual darkness before the Lord Comes. It is simply realistic and Biblical.

There will be true shalom only when the Shar Shalom, the Prince of Peace, sits on David's throne.


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