Eschatology, Webster tells us, is “the branch of theology dealing with the last things, such as death, resurrection, judgment, immortality, etc.” And, secondly, “the doctrines concerning these.”
My discussion today is sparked by my having recently viewed a video entitled “On Earth As It Is In Heaven.” This was recommended to me by a thoughtful Christian friend. He thought I might like it. He was right. Here is a link to the video:
Warning: this video is long. It is 1:52:41. (Another warning: I found the background music accompanying the comments to be very annoying. It didn’t bother my friend; he didn’t even notice the music.)
I watched the video in segments. The people who made the video talked to several prominent Christians who espouse the postmillennial view concerning the last things. The postmillennial view says, basically, that Jesus Christ will return to the earth only after (post) there has been a long (millennial) stretch in which Christianity is extremely influential for good on the earth. This view suspects that quite possibly we are in the early church. It could be, maybe, the very early church.
Postmillennialism is currently a doctrine held by very few people. You could slaughter us all on a rock, and no one would miss us except perhaps a few people in our families.
The two most numerically prominent eschatological views are amillennialism and dispensationalism. (Dispensationalism is a branch of premillennialism, but I am going to just talk about dispensationalism, and not make this more complicated than my minuscule knowledge can handle.)
Amillennialism says we can’t know when Jesus Christ will return. But there will be an ebb and flow of Christian influence over the centuries.
Dispensationalism says the world is getting worse, but that Jesus Christ is coming back in visible power, probably very soon, and He will take control and straighten things out. Some foresee a “rapture,” in which Christians will be removed from this earth, while non-Christians will be left behind. (There is a series of books with the overall title “Left Behind.”)
In my 2011 best seller Inconvenient Opinions I contend that all three eschatological views offer immense psychological benefits to their adherents. (What? It wasn’t a best seller? Details, details. It should have been.) I devote Chapter 16, “Why Do We Believe Our Eschatologies?” to showing what these psychological benefits are. I’ll summarize briefly here, what I spent eleven pages doing in the book
The psychological benefit of dispensationalism is obvious. If Jesus Christ is coming in visible power soon, what is not to like about that? Come right now, Lord! I hope He does. Our problems are all going to be solved within a few years at the most.
The psychological benefit of postmillennialism seems obvious as well. Things are going to get better! Excellent news! It may happen more slowly than we would like, but it will happen. The improvement of the earth may take centuries rather than years, but it is coming and it will be wonderful as it comes.
The psychological benefit of amillennialism is not as evident, right off the bat. Ebbs and flows, ups and downs? What is enticing about that vision? But I think there is a tremendous psychological benefit to amillennialism also. Because if amillennialism is true, we have no responsibility to build the kingdom of heaven on the earth, because the Bible says that it cannot be built. We are let off the hook. Oh sure, it is great to be godly, and it has some influence for good in our families and our church, but to actually see so much Christian influence in the world as to make a vast difference to everyone? It won’t happen, because the Bible says nothing about such a thing happening.
So all three eschatologies offer psychic benefits. But of course the most important question for us is not, what makes us feel good about life?, but rather, what does the Bible actually teach?
I think the Bible teaches that when we are obedient to God, from the heart, that He will allow Christian influence to increase very greatly in the world. So yes I am postmillennial, but even more fundamentally I think of myself as a Christian covenantalist. That is, we all make covenants–whether we know it or not–and when we consciously make a covenant to love and obey God, using His word the Bible as the instruction manual, He finds a way to bless us and to bless those with whom we come in contact.
Read the Bible for yourself, and see what you think He says about what is going to happen. It seems clear that a child was born to us, the government rests on His shoulders, He is the Prince of Peace, and that there will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, because, who knows, maybe this will happen not because we are wonderful in ourselves but because the zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6-7). Call it a theory.
What I want to say next will be shocking. The shock is intentional. I want to get people thinking. I think both amillennialism and dispensationalism are satanic.
I don’t mean that amillennial and dispensational Christians are consciously intending to serve Satan. I don’t mean that amillennial and dispensational Christians can not be very godly. They often can and do serve God wonderfully.
What I do mean is that they have fallen prey to Satanic deception. Satan knows he cannot defeat God in the long run. But Satan wants to delay the spread of God’s kingdom for as long as he can. If Satan can get Christians in large numbers to believe nonsensical things, and to act in terms of those silly beliefs, Satan can hamper the effectiveness of Christians very greatly.
If we believe that Jesus Christ is coming back soon, to a world scheduled by God only to get worse and worse, then our ability to build God’s kingdom is tremendously hampered. We are psychologically devastated.
If we believe that godliness will only ebb and flow, come and go, then once again we are hampered. We are psychologically devastated.
That is what has happened to Christians. Satan’s rearguard action has devastated us. He has been glad to see us believe nonsense, so we are not ready to work as diligently as we should to build God’s kingdom (because it can’t be built, right?). Whether Satan consciously promoted amillennialism and dispensationalism, or simply took advantage of our willingness to believe nonsense, I don’t know. It is an interesting question.
The proof of Satan’s success is in how we act. We don’t plan for the long term. If we had begun to plan for Christian education for every Christian, a generation ago, we would be well along to our goal by now. But most of us still expect our friends and neighbors and enemies to educate our children at their expense. We didn’t plan for the long term. We didn’t plan to build God’s kingdom on earth (because it can’t be built).
Education is an example only. Everything comes into play. When we understand that God’s kingdom can and will expand when we believe Him and obey Him from the heart, everything comes into play. We have not understood our potential for improving the world by our heartfelt obedience to God.
Heck, we don’t even plan to do the simplest thing to build God’s kingdom. Giving financially is the easiest thing we can do, far easier than dealing with the weightier provisions of the law (Matthew 23:23). The Israelites were expected to tithe (give 10% of their increase) to God, and God even reinforced the value of fulfilling that requirement by promising them a blessing if they did tithe (Malachi 3:7-12). This was before the full revelation of Jesus Christ as happened in the New Testament, a full revelation which every Christian now has. The modern American church gives about 2.5%. This is our obedient gratitude to our Savior? Check out emptytomb.org for details of our giving. What could we do if our funds were quadrupled?
So yes, amillennialism and dispensationalism are satanic. Their influence devastates the church, devastates the garden variety Christian, and devastates even the planning ability of our most godly and admirable Christians. Satan’s rearguard action is working.
Probably we are in the early church, and possibly it is the very early church. That should encourage us. As one of the commentators in the video noted, look how far we have come from the handful of Christians living just after the death of Jesus Christ! As rotten and disobedient and sinful as we have been, still we have come a long way numerically, and countless of our people (including countless of our amillennial and dispensational believers) are a joy to spend time with, and some of them have tremendous virtues.
This blog post is sort of a prologue to what I hope to talk about next week. That is, I want to begin to try to answer the question, what is salvation for? I think the church as a whole has a very incomplete and flawed understanding of the answer to that question. Today’s post clears the ground. God is going to build His kingdom on earth, in history, in dramatic fashion, postmillennialism correctly teaches, in agreement with the Bible. Period, full stop. Where does salvation fit into all that?