Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Yes, I'm full of something: Optimism

The difference between amillennialism and postmillennialism is said to be the degree of their optimism. Both views agree that the end-times will not include a post-rapture millennial kingdom with Christ reigning on earth, sitting on the throne of David amidst a rebuilt Jerusalem temple (complete with a resumption animal sacrifices! Abomination!) kick-started by a mid-tribulation or post-tribulation “third coming.”

The question that distinguishes the amillennialist and postmillennialist is this: what will be the condition of the church when Christ returns to end history?

This question, all would agree, should not be answered on the basis of whether we puny humans are optimistic or pessimistic. It should be answered on the basis of scripture. The question is then: does the bible promise that Christ will return to a church-victorious or a church that is stagnant or in decline?

Will the Great Commission be completed successfully, or prematurely mercy-killed by God as another reminder of inevitable human failure?

One such verse to consider is from the last book of the Old Testament:
For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts. (Mal 1:11)
Nobody would disagree that this is a prophecy of God. A question is: has it been fulfilled? Is or has God’s name been great among the nations? Has in every place incense, metaphorically speaking, been offered to God’s name?

The amillennialist has to say yes. Or he has to say no, but this will happen after the end of history, which could occur as you are reading this post.

The postmillennialist says: this (and similar passages found throughout scripture) are promises that, in spite of how gloomy our situation appears, we will see fulfilled as part of human history, not after its terminus. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will. The postmillennialist is supremely optimistic but not, he would say, without reason. He is optimistic because scripture is optimistic.

Optimism such as that found in the great Christmas postmillenial hymn that sings of a victorious church celebrating the first second advent:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

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