In Defense of Pan-Millennialism

Not long ago, a friend of mine was challenging me on eschatology. He believes that it is very important to embrace the pretribulational, premillennial position. I asked why this was so important. His answer was that we need to know which season we are in because the danger of false teachers will appear in the last days. I asked him whether believers in the second century worried about false teaching or whether only believers in the last days will need to be concerned. He said that today is different; we need to be more on the alert, he said, because false teaching will be more cunning. Later in our conversation, he read me a quote from The Shack.

True story.

In the end, I told him that I was reluctant to agree that what he was trying to argue was of much importance, even if he was right. At that point, he accused me of being a “Pan-Millennialist.” I told him that I was surprised that he had used a term I was completely unfamiliar with. When I asked him to define it, he squinted, pursed his lips, inclined his head, and said, “Look it up,” as though a description of this horribly bad doctrine would never pass his lips.

Here I point out three passages I believe should influence our eschatology and explain why I am indeed a “Pan-Millennialist.”

Passage #1: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (ESV)

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

This passage was Paul’s final word on the debate between those who followed him and those who followed Apollos. The Corinthians were going to make a judgment about Paul’s teachings, and Paul desired that they would make a good judgment. But the human judgment they were going to make would not be a big deal compared to the judgment Jesus will make when He comes.

We need this attitude. We need to lose some of our fear of man in regard to our doctrine. Does everyone agree with you? Don’t let that comfort you too much. Does everyone disagree with you? Don’t let that bother you too much. Tremble before God’s Word. Meditate on Him and His judgment. Study hard and live in fear of dishonoring Him with poor doctrine.

At the judgment, we will give an account to Him for our teachings.

Passage #2: Romans 14:5-9

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Here Paul writes about personal convictions. We understand that we should obey these as one way to honor the Lord. And we must understand that Jesus died and rose again so He could be lording over both the dead and the living. Are you welcoming His act of lording over your convictions? Are you training your conscience according to the principles of God’s Word? Are you obeying your conscience?

At the judgment, we will give an account to Him for our obedience in issues of the conscience.

Passage #3: Philippians 2:12-17

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians reminds me of a visit to Grandma or perhaps an old teacher. “I am so proud of you!” rings through as Paul rejoices over these believers. And in verses 16-17, we see a small hint why. Paul poured out his life [by?] taking the good news to people like the Philippians. Now, near the end of his ministry, he looks forward to his post-life interview with Jesus. He wants the Philippians to hold fast to the Word and to persevere in their faith so he may be proud that his labor was not in vain.

You are pouring your life into… what? Do you have an active ministry? When you die and stand before God to be judged, who will be following Jesus because God poured your life into them? Will you be proud?1 Or will you have lived your life in vain?

At the judgment, we will give an account for our ministry in the lives of others.

So, what is a “Pan-Millennialist”? I had to Google the term. It turns out that it’s a joke: I’m a Pan-Millennialist. What does that mean? I don’t know what is going to happen, but God is in charge, so … everything will pan out in the end.

This is from my church’s doctrinal statement:

We believe God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring all earthly things (the Church, Israel, the Tribulation, and the 1000-year reign of Jesus Christ) to their appropriate completion and establish the new heaven and new earth. Jesus Christ will return to the earth suddenly, personally, and visibly in glory according to His promise. The dead will be raised, and Jesus Christ will judge mankind in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to the everlasting punishment prepared for the devil and his angels. The righteous, in their resurrected and glorified bodies, will receive their reward and dwell forever with the Lord.

We spend a lot of time wondering and debating (and even drawing lines of fellowship) about what will happen in the last days. What if the eschatologist spends loads of time precisely refining his view and actually gets it right, correctly divining the identity of the beast, grasshoppers, bowls, and seals? I just don’t see how that will be any source of satisfaction on the day of the Lord.

We need to be spending more time considering what we should be doing now and what meeting Jesus face-to-face will be like. How will He judge your teachings? How will He judge your conscience? How will He judge your ministry?

1 I don’t mean proud in a vain sense but in a satisfaction-of-service sense.


Dan Miller is an ophthalmologist living in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He received a B.S. in Premed from Bob Jones University in 1991 and an M.D. from The University of South Carolina School of Medicine in 1995. He serves as youth leader and board member at Cedar Heights Baptist Church, also in Cedar Falls. He has been happily married to Jenny since 1992. He and Jenny recently adopted a baby boy, Gabriel. Dan’s opinions are not necessarily those of his church.

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Jonathan Charles's picture

The first I heard of "Pan-Millennialist" was from John Piper; maybe he coined the word.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think I may have heard it when I was a kid... or in college.
We should ask Doug Kutilek to research it (since he enjoys tracing figures of speech or quotes back to their original sources).

For my part, I'm not quite a "pan.." but I've always found a lot to like in the attitude.
I would challenge Dan on one point though. Will figuring out the obscurities of Revelation be any source of satisfaction on the Day of the Lord? I think it may very well be. Is there really anything in the Book that is waste of time to figure out? After all, we believe in plenary inspiration, and then you have the fact that there are only 66 books when God could have given us 100 volumes if He had chosen. That speaks of the importance of every detail of what we do have.
On the other hand, I agree with the spirit of Dan's observations here in that every detail in the Book is not equally important (Jesus spoke of "weightier matters"), and some things, though immensely important are extraordinary difficult for us to discern with certainty now, so far removed from the time and setting of the writing... so the work-results ratio is quite low.

So I don't want to say figuring out a likely end-times scenario is not worth the trouble, but I also share Dan's view that many make too much of these questions and their answers.

Red Phillips's picture

A pan-millennialist. I guess that is what I am. In my opinion the Bible is not clear on the exact end-times scenario. If it was, we wouldn't still be arguing about it. I tend to believe this lack of clarity is intentional. (Other than the clear teaching that Jesus is coming again.) It is potentially dangerous to know the future, because it could affect how you behave in the present. It is particularly dangerous to think you know the future and be wrong about it. The post-mils and pre-mils are both correct when they condemn each other based on the consequences of their beliefs. Ideas (theology) do indeed have consequences. One should be hesitant about embracing a certain set of consequences when the theology it is based on does not warrant the level of certainty that many give it.

Charlie's picture

Red Phillips wrote:
A pan-millennialist. I guess that is what I am. In my opinion the Bible is not clear on the exact end-times scenario. If it was, we wouldn't still be arguing about it.

Although I'm in general agreement with your post, I'd like to pick at this statement a little. First, who is "we." Construed broadly enough, "we" could still be arguing about the authority of the Bible, justification by faith, and the reality of hell. If we limit "we" only to those who hold to the Reformation principle of sola scriptura, "we" are still arguing about gender roles, infant baptism, Calvinism, Bible versions, etc.

So, based on your statement, it seems that "we" must either limit "we" down to a very small group or must conclude that the Bible is not clear about most of its doctrines.

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Red Phillips's picture

I get your point Charlie. There are certain settled arguments - the Virgin Birth, the Deity of Christ, the Trinity, the Resurrection, etc. and the fact that the Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, dispute the Trinity and the Deity of Christ doesn't make those things any less settled. Infant Baptism, Calvinism, etc. are not settled matters and belong to the realm of things that Christians of good faith should agree to disagree about. The problem is when people don't recognize this and attempt to elevate disputed issues to the level of settled. That fact that so many sincere Christians of good faith cannot agree on the issue of the end-times is evidence that it is not settled. There is a lack of consensus across broad Christian groups unlike say, the Virgin Birth. That was my point, and it is a general one. It will admittedly breakdown in some specific cases. What I witness in a lot of discussions re. the end-times is a lack of charity and a willingness to acknowledge that the other side is not, in fact, a bunch of babbling fools. I see more charity on this matter at Sharper Iron than I do at many other places.

Renee Suzanne's picture

I am sad about two things:

1. I was 35 years old and a Christian for 16 years before I found out there WERE other views of the end times besides pre-trib/pre-mil. I believe pastors should teach all views fairly , explain why you chose your view,
but state clearly that other views are not heretical. Godly men that hold each view should be mentioned, not just those on the lunatic fringe. (Such as Harold Camping). I know so many Christians that are scared to death of even considering another view because they associate other views with those who are not fundamentalists. I know fundamentalists of every eschatological stripe, so this fear and ignorance should be eradicated.

2. I recently (this year) heard of a church that "un-supported" one of their missionaries solely because he switched from a pre-trib to post-trib rapture position. The timing of the rapture was deemed a SURE THING and an issue so important that he could no longer be supported. This breaks my heart.

The ideal position of a church to me would be one in which all members could believe whatever they wanted regarding end times as long as they believed Jesus is coming again. . It would be really cool if the Pastor and Asst. Pastor had different views and were able to make jokes about that!

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JohnBrian's picture

Renee Suzanne wrote:
It would be really cool if the Pastor and Asst. Pastor had different views and were able to make jokes about that!
Along this line, when I was growing up on the mission field there were 2 groups of missionaries that had some level of fellowship. Our group was pre-mill, pre-trib, and the other group was a-mill.

I remember a Bible College graduation (I was in my early teens), where the a-mill fellow participated - he either prayed or read Scripture. When he went to the platform he said something to the effect that the Bible College needed a few a-mill guys on the board or staff. I did not know what an a-mill was, but I do remember the laughter at his remark, and my recognition that whatever this was that they disagreed about, it was something that they could laugh about and still enjoy close fellowship.

I want to follow that example.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I used to get hot and bothered when I heard about mission boards ousting guys for having the "wrong" millennial view. I don't feel quite the same way anymore. Here's why...
1) When you sign up you know what the board's views are and you're free to work with one that agrees with you
2) If your views change during your tenure, you pretty much know what's going to happen--and probably ought to happen--if you start teaching them
3) With so many good organizations to choose from, it's really not an evil thing for one board or another to say "We believe the rapture will happen in 40 stages, each corresponding to one of the 40 days Moses was on Sinai" or "We will only send missionaries to people who speak Manipuri" or whatever they like. ... I'm being extreme to illustrate, but my point is that I'm in favor of allowing these groups to have whatever distinctives they choose--hassle free.

I do think they need to be honest about what's a fundamental of the faith and what's clearly open to varying views, but having made that distinction, they shouldn't be required to limit their identifying principles to fundamentals of the faith only.

sbradley's picture

Sure, it shouldn't be a hobby horse or an issue by which we label someone a heretic, but your millennial view does matter, and saying that it will all pan out in the end is coming dangerously close to having a flippant attitude about a repeated and important teaching of Scripture, nor would it be "cool" to have two people on the same pastoral staff that have differing views on this. In recent months it seems that through various high profile internet posts the attitude has been advanced that millennial views are merely divisive and hold no real importance. I strongly disagree with that assertion.

I wonder if any fellow pastors or ministers have an already made article or link to how ones views on the millennium affects how various passages are interpreted and by extension how one lives their life based on their millennial view. I think it matters more than some people would like to think, or at least it should.

Dan Miller's picture

sbradley,
I'm open to hearing about why it is important. I don't want to minimize something important. How does one's view matter?

Could you explain what negative consequences you would foresee for two people on a pastoral staff who held different views on ____-millennialism?

Dan Miller's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
...
I would challenge Dan on one point though. Will figuring out the obscurities of Revelation be any source of satisfaction on the Day of the Lord? I think it may very well be. Is there really anything in the Book that is waste of time to figure out? After all, we believe in plenary inspiration, and then you have the fact that there are only 66 books when God could have given us 100 volumes if He had chosen. That speaks of the importance of every detail of what we do have.
...
I would agree with you. I do believe that reading and learning from Revelation is very important. Perhaps it is meant to assure us the the specifics of the future is in God's hands. John was allowed to observe them and to cryptically describe them. And at least we should see that Jesus is coming back. And that He will be powerful, vengeful, terrible, and completely unstoppable.

Joseph's picture

Dan,

While I think it would be healthy for pastors to have different takes on the end times (in my last church, this was the case), I think eschatology (in the sense the word is being used in this discussion: to refer to future events, etc.) can make big difference, but usually only when it's coupled with a lot of other beliefs that get mixed in, like beliefs about culture, foreign policy, etc.

I think Christian Zonism, for example, has been largely unfortunate when it comes to its effects on foreign policy, politics, etc., although I would be happy to support missionaries who are ionists, fellowship with them, and so forth. Pre-trib views are not a sufficient condition for political Zionism, just like post-mill views are not a sufficient condition for forms of cultural imperialism, etc., but they can, when combined with (or, arguably, co-opted by) cultural and political positions, the be necessary conditions for certain expressions that have a huge influence, like Christian zionism, for example.

I would recommend Boyer's When Time Shall Be No More, as well as some of Norman Cohn's work on this topic (Pursuit of the Millenium was his seminal work). Both are good historians.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
Could you explain what negative consequences you would foresee for two people on a pastoral staff who held different views on ____-millennialism?
It can have some significant impact on how one views the ministry of the church. If the church is some form of the kingdom, then all the kingdom mandates including social justice, economics, politics, etc. come into play now. If you read the arguments made for church involvement in community development, social justice, poverty, education, etc, you will find that almost all (I know of no exceptions, but I say "almost" in case I missed some) are based on the idea of kingdom now of amill or post mill (though post mill is pretty much gone I think).

So if one pastor holds to the present kingdom, he will seek to lead the church to certain types of ministries. If another pastor does not hold to the present kingdom, he will seek to lead the church to other types of ministries.

The question is, Can one be involved in social justice type ministries without a kingdom now belief? Perhaps, but it is doubtful that one can hold to a kingdom now belief and not be involved in social justice type ministries.

Obviously this could be developed in more detail, but I won't for the sake of time. But suffice it to say, it is not merely an irrelevant intramural debate. It does matter.

Greg Long's picture

Dan, I agree with Larry. Millennial views do matter. Is it of the same level importance as the deity of Christy and substitutionary atonement? No, but if it is clearly taught in Scripture, then it's extremely important that I believe it. Of course, that's the crux of the matter...is it clearly taught in Scripture?

Also, I don't care for this statement you made:

Quote:
We spend a lot of time wondering and debating (and even drawing lines of fellowship) about what will happen in the last days. What if the eschatologist spends loads of time precisely refining his view and actually gets it right, correctly divining the identity of the beast, grasshoppers, bowls, and seals? I just don’t see how that will be any source of satisfaction on the day of the Lord.
You realize, don't you, that you're using exactly the same line of argument that other people use against other cardinal doctrines? They would say:

Quote:
We spend a lot of time wondering and debating (and even drawing lines of fellowship) about [the person and work of Christ ]. What if the [christologist ] spends loads of time precisely refining his view and actually gets it right, correctly divining the [precise relationship of divinity and humanity, kenosis, hypostatic union, etc., etc. ]? I just don’t see how that will be any source of satisfaction on the day of the Lord.

Rob Bell, for instance, wonders how important a belief in the virgin birth is. Does it really matter? If the "brick" of the virgin birth is removed from the "wall" of Christianity, will the wall fall down?

-------
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Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

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Brian Jo's picture

Larry wrote:
Quote:
Could you explain what negative consequences you would foresee for two people on a pastoral staff who held different views on ____-millennialism?
It can have some significant impact on how one views the ministry of the church. If the church is some form of the kingdom, then all the kingdom mandates including social justice, economics, politics, etc. come into play now. If you read the arguments made for church involvement in community development, social justice, poverty, education, etc, you will find that almost all (I know of no exceptions, but I say "almost" in case I missed some) are based on the idea of kingdom now of amill or post mill.

So if one pastor holds to the present kingdom, he will seek to lead the church to certain types of ministries. If another pastor does not hold to the present kingdom, he will seek to lead the church to other types of ministries.

The question is, Can one be involved in social justice type ministries without a kingdom now belief? Perhaps, but it is doubtful that one can hold to a kingdom now belief and not be involved in social justice type ministries.

Obviously this could be developed in more detail, but I won't for the sake of time. But suffice it to say, it is not merely an irrelevant intramural debate. It does matter.

Larry,
I'm a-mill, and I would like to kindly take issue with your post.
In a way, you could describe a-mill as "kingdom now", but the reality is that the kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, and no amount of social justice is going to get unbelievers into it. The only effective and authoritative means of spreading the kingdom is preaching the gospel. That is the church's mission, not some social adgenda.
BTW, Piper has a message in his Romans series on the kingdom (Piper is a Premillennialist), in which he speaks of the now/not yet aspect (or mystery stage) of the kingdom, and I almost fully agreed with what he said.
It seems to me, from my limited viewpoint, that social justice ministries are more of a result of liberal theology than one's position on eschatology.

Larry wrote:
(though post mill is pretty much gone I think)

Actually, I would guess that at least half of the folks at my (admittedly small) seminary are postmill. It has a pretty good representation in Presbyterianism.

P.S. Charlie, do you want to address or correct anything I said?

sbradley's picture

I am encouraged to see some other brothers take up the cause that your view on the millennium does indeed matter. I would agree with a lot of what Larry said about the implications of it all. Your millennial view should affect how you live, and different millennial views cause you to live differently. It really isn't any defense to say that you know post-mill or a-mill people who live just like pre-mill people. If they lived out their doctrine they would live differently. These people, like many Christians, simply don't live according to their beliefs, and I would think this would especially be the case for younger Christians who may have recently espoused their view but haven't yet figured out all the applications yet.

I also agree with Greg that the statement you made, while I think I understand your spirit and would generally agree, can be a dangerous one if carried too far. Ultimately, the only thing that would matter would be the gospel and everything else is an unneeded distraction and divisive.

Joseph's picture

Emphasis on justice should characterize all true believers everywhere; it's an utter disaster and disgrace that so many conservatives dismiss issues of justice as somehow "liberal."

Tim Keller places a huge emphasis on issues of justice, and has a very good sermon on justice, which one can listen to here: http://theresurgence.com/r_r_2006_session_eight_audio_keller

I think conservative churches are committing a kind of suicide in not paying attention to issues of justice, and I hope that changes.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
In a way, you could describe a-mill as "kingdom now", but the reality is that the kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, and no amount of social justice is going to get unbelievers into it. The only effective and authoritative means of spreading the kingdom is preaching the gospel. That is the church's mission, not some social adgenda.
BTW, Piper has a message in his Romans series on the kingdom (Piper is a Premillennialist), in which he speaks of the now/not yet aspect (or mystery stage) of the kingdom, and I almost fully agreed with what he said.
It seems to me, from my limited viewpoint, that social justice ministries are more of a result of liberal theology than one's position on eschatology.
I would encourage you to interact with some solidly evangelical people who actually agree with me on this, and not with you, such as Tim Keller. Christopher Wright in another. There are a lot of them, and they base their view of social justice on the gospel and the presence of the kingdom. Again, I won't go into detail, but here are a couple of examples:

Tim Keller in in intro to Ministries of Mercy says, "Only Christians, armed with the Word and Spirit, planning and working to spread the kiungdom and righteousness of Christ, can transform a nation as well as a neighborhood as well as a broken heart. That is what the rest of this book is about" (p. 26).

Last week, I listened to a man who has gone into a very poor urban neighborhood and started a church, a community health center, a community fitness center, a community development corporation that builds and rehabs low income housing. He based it all on the fact that Jesus' central message was about the kingdom, and we are working in that kingdom and therefore these ministries are what we do as a part of that.

Christopher Wright in his book [t ]The Mission of God says something very similar in saying that the Exodus was a paradigm for redemption that includes spiritual, political, and social issues. Most of the emergent church (from conservative to liberal) say very similar things.

If you read the support for social justice ministries, most of them will appeal to OT passages that talk about the kingdom.

Few if any of these believe that we will get people in the kingdom through social ministry, though many believe it will open the door to share the gospel with others so that they can be saved through faith.

Quote:
Actually, I would guess that at least half of the folks at my (admittedly small) seminary are postmill. It has a pretty good representation in Presbyterianism.
You may be right, but my impression is that most people are Amill. But that's really a side issue here.

I was merely responding to the idea that there is little to nothing at stake in what you believe about the issue. People will parse it out in different ways, but the basis for most social justice ministries is eschatological in nature.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
Emphasis on justice should characterize all true believers everywhere; it's an utter disaster and disgrace that so many conservatives dismiss issues of justice as somehow "liberal."
I certainly haven't said that. But it is undeniable that much of the social justice agenda of "Christianity" (broadly speaking) is liberal in nature. That's where it started. It continues to be that way.

I think many of us would identify with certain social concerns. The issue for us would be whether or not it is the mandate of the church qua church (to use your terminology) to pursue those. Those who think it is have to answer why the epistles, written directly to the church, are so void of any teaching on the institutional agenda for social justice. There are some legitimate theological and ecclesiological ideas here.

I recently heard someone say that the Great Commission is too small of a vision/agenda for the church. It must be bigger than that.. That's a serious statement (and has some serious problems).

Red Phillips's picture

Quote:
"ones views on the millennium affects how various passages are interpreted and by extension how one lives their life based on their millennial view. I think it matters more than some people would like to think, or at least it should."

sbradley, that is my point although with a different conclusion. A person's view of the end-times does make a difference, in some cases a profound one. It is because of this that the different positions should not be held to dogmatically if dogmatism is not warranted from Scripture.

Quote:
“I was 35 years old and a Christian for 16 years before I found out there WERE other views of the end times besides pre-trib/pre-mil. I believe pastors should teach all views fairly , explain why you chose your view, but state clearly that other views are not heretical.”

Amen Renee. I once had a conversation with a co-worker. I didn’t even know she was a Christian, but somehow the conversation turned to R.C. Sproul. She had really like Sproul and had followed his ministry. Then at some point he said he didn’t believe in the Rapture and thought we were living in the millennium, and she was just devastated. You could see it in her eyes. How could someone she thought was such a great teacher say such a thing? I tried to explain to her that he simply held a different view of the end-times and that his view was the normal one for someone from his theological perspective, but she just couldn’t get it. As far as she was concerned, all good Christians believe in the Rapture. I might as well have told her Sproul was a Mormon, and he might as well have denied the Trinity.

This kind of situation is not conducive to rational discourse.

Charlie's picture

Brian, I think you're right about the high number of post-mills at GPTS. In the last few decades, the a-mill and post-mill have basically merged under the rubric of inaugurated eschatology, with the remaining differences being the degrees of "success" one expects during the church age. By the way, I thought you were pre-mill. Recent change?

Larry, I can only partially agree with you. I don't see how one's view of the millennium necessitates a certain take on social justice. For example, all forms of pre-millennialism other than classic/revised Dispensationalism do believe that the kingdom has already come in some way. The already/not-yet rubric forms the basis for just about all eschatologies except those forms of Premillennialism. Second, within the a- and post- millennial systems, there is disagreement about the "spirituality of the church." Saying that the kingdom is in some way inaugurated does not specify exactly which aspects are inaugurated and how we ought to advance it.

SBradley, based on the above to Larry, there is no such thing as each millennial position matching up with one "consistent" lifestyle. That will be influenced by one's views of the church, the relation between church and state, etc. I have heard many pre-mills mistakenly identify post-millennialism with theonomic reconstructionism or "dominion" theology. The reality is that only a minority of Reformed people hold such a position (it is not taught at WTS, Calvin, WSCAL, or Covenant), and their doctrine is influenced more by their view of the law than by their eschatology. A superficial understanding of pre-trib might cause someone to ignore planning for the future or keeping normal responsibilities, but we both know that the pre-trib position is capable of more nuance than that.

Greg, I half-agree with you, which may be more than we normally get. Smile I agree that everything taught in the Bible has some degree of importance and cannot be discarded cavalierly (though I'm not sure Dan said that). I think that your Christology example is a bit off, since changing any of those doctrines would radically affect the core of Christianity and quite possibly endanger one's soul. I think maybe baptism or church government would be at a more equal level.

Joseph, I wholeheartedly agree. It is not the millennial view, but the combination of that doctrine with certain other political/social/theological outlooks that creates highly distinct approaches to culture. So eschatology is a factor, and not necessarily the most determinative.

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Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Dan Miller wrote:
I would agree with you. I do believe that reading and learning from Revelation is very important. Perhaps it is meant to assure us the the specifics of the future is in God's hands. John was allowed to observe them and to cryptically describe them. And at least we should see that Jesus is coming back. And that He will be powerful, vengeful, terrible, and completely unstoppable.
Yes... there's no question (in my mind, anyway) that Rev. is meant, in part, to humble us. I also agree that the themes you've mentioned are very near--if not at--the top of "what we ought to get out of the book of Revelation." Whether we should be able to get something more specific... well, folks will always differ. I'm among those who feel confident of a good bit more of the specifics. But I also see quite a bit less certainty about many of the details than many others I know/have read.

Had an opportunity to teach through Revelation in SS a few years ago (actually almost a decade now...wow...). We spent some time considering some of the possibilities and alternatives but I tried not to lose the message amid chronology/symbolism analysis. Don't know how well I succeeded!

Larry's picture

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Quote:
Larry, I can only partially agree with you. I don't see how one's view of the millennium necessitates a certain take on social justice. For example, all forms of pre-millennialism other than classic/revised Dispensationalism do believe that the kingdom has already come in some way. The already/not-yet rubric forms the basis for just about all eschatologies except those forms of Premillennialism.
It's not that it "demands" it, per se. However, most people are theologically inconsistent. If you think the full kingdom is here and now, then you have to find a place for the kingdom life described in the Bible. Since Israel was told to pursue it through judicial, societal, political, and economic means, and since the church is the "new Israel," then it make sense to think what Keller, Wright, etc. think. It really make little sense to be amill and not do it. It makes less sense to be post mill and not do it.

Premills (of whatever variety) are able to not do it since most see the kingdom as spiritually present now, and later will be fully realized when Christ is on earth. (And BTW, there are many classic dispensationalists who believe in a present form of the kingdom.)

Quote:
Second, within the a- and post- millennial systems, there is disagreement about the "spirituality of the church." Saying that the kingdom is in some way inaugurated does not specify exactly which aspects are inaugurated and how we ought to advance it
Of course.

But again, read the proponents of social justice ministry as an aspect of church/kingdom work, and see what they say. You don't ahve to take it from me. It is their eschatology that drives them to do what they do.

A. Carpenter's picture

Don't forget that one's millennial position is a destination that reflects the road he has traveled. Or with less metaphor, hermeneutics affect doctrine. It is almost axiomatic to say that a pre-mil and an a-mil will be using different hermeneutics to have arrived at their positions. For instance, many (all?) pre-mils believe that God made very literal promises to a literal nation and that if those promises are not fulfilled in the same way they were made, then God's veracity is in question. Now, the literal-ness of OT passages may not seem to be a big deal on the surface, but whether or not God can be trusted to keep His promises is a matter that is foundational to anyone's understanding of Scripture.

I agree that we should not be dogmatic where Scripture is unclear but rather to strive to understand the message God has given. The book of Revelation is not a snapshot from God's daytimer, but it portrays the future in a way that is intended to make an every-day difference. So eschatological conclusions could be handled more charitably than often are. However, we would be wise to look past the conclusions to the methods and means by which they were deduced. That might make a difference.

Faith is obeying when you can't even imagine how things might turn out right.

Brian Jo's picture

Larry ][quote wrote:
If you think the full kingdom is here and now, then you have to find a place for the kingdom life described in the Bible. Since Israel was told to pursue it through judicial, societal, political, and economic means, and since the church is the "new Israel," then it make sense to think what Keller, Wright, etc. think. It really make little sense to be amill and not do it. It makes less sense to be post mill and not do it.

I may be a little weird as a-mills go, but I tend to interpret many OT passages that Premills call "millennium passages" to be referring to Christ's eternal kingdom on the New Earth. Therefore, the current kingdom is only a spiritual reality, while the full physical kingdom comes after the consummation and lasts forever.
It's really similar to a Pre-mill now/not yet idea, except whatever they see in a future 1,000 yr. reign that still includes sin and death, I see happening in the eternal kingdom after death has been destroyed at Christ's second coming.

Charlie, my journey began about 2 1/2 years ago with some personal study on the timing of the rapture, and it ended up at basically an a-mill position. So, it's fairly recent, within the past couple years.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
I may be a little weird as a-mills go, but I tend to interpret many OT passages that Premills call "millennium passages" to be referring to Christ's eternal kingdom on the New Earth. Therefore, the current kingdom is only a spiritual reality, while the full physical kingdom comes after the consummation and lasts forever.
As I understand it, many would agree with this, but not all. And most do see the present form of the kingdom as having obligations for the church in terms of social justice. However, IMO your view has a number of problems such as with verses like Isa 65:20 which seems to testify to death during the millennial kingdom, but a very prolonged life. That certainly isn't true now, and it won't be true in teh eternal state. I think you have to find somewhere to put that.

Dan Miller's picture

Larry wrote:
...
And most do see the present form of the kingdom as having obligations for the church in terms of social justice.
...

Questions regarding social justice:
- Does the NOT YET crowd hold that Scriptures like these have no present application?
James 1:27-2:9; Galatians 2:10
- What about NT references to the Kingdom?
Romans 14:17 talks about what the "kingdom" is and is not about. Paul seems to be speaking about how to live in his present time.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Larry,

Maybe I am being overly picky, but I believe you are broad-brushing the roots of social justice within Christian History by primarily placing it within the liberal camp. I strongly take issue that it started among liberals. Many of the early church fathers had much to say about social justice. For instance, John Chrystondom, the golden mouthed preacher, was one of the early champions of social justice. However, maybe you are thinking about social justice within our modern times (enlightenment until now). As you probably know, In the late 18th and early 19th century, evangelicals such as William Wilberforce, John Newton, and Charles Simeon were largely responsible for overturning slavery in England. Social justice was also a major aspect with the father of modern missions, William Carey who not only labored in his translations of the scriptures and preaching of the gospel in India, but he also worked tirelessly to end evil practices in India such as widow burnings, child infanticide, and usury with interest rates of 150% to 500%. This happened 50-100 years before the social gospel movement took hold in America.

Unfortunately in America much of the social reform came from Finney-like revivalism, post-millenialism (which just about everyone held to up until after the civil war), and later was combined with the German Higher Criticism. All of this led to the liberal-led social gospel developed by Rauschenbusch and others.

As for those who advocate social justice right now, it is a mixed bag of conservatives, liberals, and "third-way" Christians. Those of us who are conservative in theology but advocate social justice-it often stems from having to deal with so much injustice around us. In our inner-city ministry we have to advocate for justice in the areas of employment, the police and court system, and especially ineffective government agencies such as Child Protective Services (I find it ironic that many Christians who want more government involvement to help the poor are blind to the ineffective service agencies that often do just as much harm as they do good). We don't have the luxury of having good schools (all of Grand Rapids public high schools have been labeled drop-out factories by a major study done by John Hopkins University), there is mutual distrust between the police and our inner-city neighbors-so often criminals get away with drug-related and violent crimes, we have D.A.s and prosecutors that are more concerned about furthering their careers by looking like they have been tough on crime than actually being concerned about justice, and we have professional government social bureaucrats and churches and charities that think they are doing wonderful things for the poor but rather perpetuate the cycle of dependency that the poor are trapped in. In otherwords, we live in a fallen world and the personal sin of everyone has also created systems of evil. Now one of the primary reasons we are involved in social justice is that these good works give glory to God (I Pet. 2:11-12). It enhances the reputation of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ in the neighborhood. If I am not mistaken, Christians from every millennial viewpoint can embrace the pursuit of God's glory including through our good works.

Charlie's picture

I am a believer that individual Christians, at least, should be concerned with justice for those around them. I'm not sure that I've ever really considered in light of my eschatology, but more so in light of the nature of God. He hates oppression, injustice, and cruelty. If I were walking in my neighborhood and saw through a window a man beating his wife, almost everyone would say I have some moral obligation to try to stop him or at least call the cops. If I intervene, someone might even call me a "hero." But if I become concerned in a more abstract way about thousands of cases of domestic violence, and if I attempt to involve certain other Christians in that concern, I may be called a "liberal." C'est la vie.

I do agree that "the Church" is primarily a spiritual entity and thus a step removed from direct social action. However, I also believe that a church that is discipling people into the image of Christ will include members who have compassion and a desire for justice for those around them. I would hope that Christians in general would be more sensitive to the plight of the poor, needy, and oppressed than their non-Christian counterparts.

Also, even though many liberals justified their social action through eschatological language, I think it's absurd to think that they are really driven by an eschatology. After all, most of them didn't believe Jesus was literally God born as a man by a virgin, literally died and rose again to inaugurate an objective kingdom age, or literally will return to judge the earth. Their social gospel was the result of their philosophy, then wrapped in convenient Christian terminology.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Joel Shaffer wrote:
Larry,
Maybe I am being overly picky, but I believe you are broad-brushing the roots of social justice within Christian History by primarily placing it within the liberal camp. I strongly take issue that it started among liberals. Many of the early church fathers had much to say about social justice. For instance, John Chrystondom, the golden mouthed preacher, was one of the early champions of social justice. However, maybe you are thinking about social justice within our modern times (enlightenment until now). As you probably know, In the late 18th and early 19th century, evangelicals such as William Wilberforce, John Newton, and Charles Simeon were largely responsible for overturning slavery in England. Social justice was also a major aspect with the father of modern missions, William Carey who not only labored in his translations of the scriptures and preaching of the gospel in India, but he also worked tirelessly to end evil practices in India such as widow burnings, child infanticide, and usury with interest rates of 150% to 500%. This happened 50-100 years before the social gospel movement took hold in America.

Unfortunately in America much of the social reform came from Finney-like revivalism, post-millenialism (which just about everyone held to up until after the civil war), and later was combined with the German Higher Criticism. All of this led to the liberal-led social gospel developed by Rauschenbusch and others.

The examples you've given here are not properly termed "social justice" which is a modern construct, rarely seen before Reinhold Niebuhr's Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study of Ethics and Politics (1932).
One can argue that "social justice" embraces any effort to seek to improve society and stop evil there, but that's really an anachronistic use of the term that I think only spreads confusion about what social justice has meant for the last century or so.

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