Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Lesson 7: Bringing in the Kingdom: Postmillennialism from a partial-preterist perspective (part 14)

[NOTE: This is the last of the series on postmillennialism. A series on amillennialism, the last of the major views, will follow.]

Paul's Warning to Timothy

In the following passages from Paul's (second) letter to Timothy, there is found, according to critics of postmillennialism, clear teachings that things will get worse, not better.
1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—

13while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
(2 Tim 3:1-4; 13)

Here the attack comes from both amillennialists and premillennialists:
The postmillennial expectation of a future golden before Christ’s return does not do justice to the continuing tension in the history of the world between the kingdom of God and the forces of evil. 213

These seasons will come and go, and the last will be worst than the first. They will be seasons of ever increasing wickedness. 214

The bible speaks of things progressing from bad to worse, of men deceiving and being deceived. We look out at our world and see how bad things really are. 215

Postmillennialists argue that Paul is giving a contemporary warning to Timothy, not a prophecy of the end of history. In verse 10, Paul writes You, [Timothy] however, know all about my teaching. And in verse 15: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it... Paul is not mixing immediate encouragement to Timothy with end-times prophecy.

Furthermore, the Greek translated as "times" is actually the word for season. The nuance is different, season seems to give the impression that a bad period is coming (and indeed it is, this is just a short time before the horrific events A.D. 66-70) but does no demand that it last indefinitely. Spring can follow winter.

Gentry comments on 2 Tim. 3:13:
The citation of 2 Timothy 3:13 leaves the impression [that] "things" shall irrevocably become worse in history. But the verse actually says: "[E]vil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse." Paul is speaking of specific evil men [including Nero? Vespasian? Titus?] becoming ethically worse, not more powerful. He is speaking of their progressive spiritual degradation…Paul says absolutely nothing about a predestined increase in the number and power of such evil men. He is not teaching that evil is rewarded with power in history.216

Indeed Paul’s message is one of doom and gloom, not for the church, but for the evil men to whom non-postmillennialists are ready to ascribe victory. In verse 9, he writes: but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all. This alleged weakness in their argument is actually part of the victory taught by postmillennialism.

213 Hoekema, Bible and The Future, p. 180.
214 William Hendriksen, I and II Timothy and Titus, 1957, p. 283.
215 House and Ice, Dominion Theology, p. 183.
216 Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 506.

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