On my travels again yesterday, this time to our Bradford church where I spoke on the 2nd Coming and the Millennial reign.
In days when we (again!) see Russian tanks on the move, and continued sectarian strife and persecution of believers in the Middle East, how we as Christians must long for the day when,
“…a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth” (Jer 23:5).
The Old Testament prophets foresaw a universal reign of peace, justice and righteousness, centred in Jerusalem from where Christ would reign over the nations as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
And as our society seems to move rapidly from mere wickedness to actual moral insanity, we look to the scriptures for hope of a time when, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab 2:14)
The Millennium is not some obscure piece of theology that is of little relevance to our everyday lives (actually that is hardly ever true of theology!).
Our view on this subject will actually help to shape many of our opinions on a range of issues from how we see the Middle East situation to how we conduct evangelism in our churches.
Premillennialism was very popular in the early Church but therafter fell out of fashion for many centuries. There came a time after the “peace of the Church” in AD 313 and the emergence of a Roman emperor who professed the Christian faith that it seemed possible that the Church might just be able to “win the world for Jesus” without actually needing His help!
Good luck with that. That view seems to me to be a bit of a stretch at present.
Today I would guess premillennialism is the default position in most Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. We see the current age between the two advents of Christ as an era, not of the Church’s triumphalist march towards the gaining of temporal power but rather as a time when the proclamation of the Gospel sees men and women pulled out of the present world-system.
The Kingdom of God is present but in an invisible, spiritual sense.
Christ’s Kingdom is “now-but not yet.”
Things in the present era may get better socially and politically from time to time, but there is no theological requirement for them to do so. We are not in charge and we are not meant to be. “My kingdom is not of this world” Christ declared.
If we can influence society and government through our prayers and the preaching of the Word then all well and good but if not, we just carry on carrying on until Jesus comes back to sort things out.
In fact there is an expectation in premillennialism that things will get steadily worse.
And with good reason ...
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Tim 4:1)
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come” (2 Tim 3:1)
“…scoffers will come in the last days…saying” Where is the promise of his coming?”(2 Pet 3:3-4)
If the postmillennialist is right then the Last Days before the return of Christ ought to be the brightest in history. Yet if the Last Days are to be so rosy how come the men who wrote the New Testament were so downright pessimistic about them?
However there is danger for us premillers here too.
If we are not careful our outlook can result in a kind of siege mentality where all we desire to do is to lock the doors & shut out those awful people outside.And if we despair completely of the future of this age then from where will come the social reformers like Wilberforce and Shaftesbury who once worked such profound good in our midst?
There is still a Gospel to preach, and (if we can) a society to be influenced.
But please forgive us premillennialists if we keep one eye on the horizon whilst we are doing it…