Cheer Up, Buttercup

Since the rise of Scofieldism in the last hundred years or so there has been an increasingly pessimistic outlook on the culmination of history. It seems that the dominant eschatological view today is equivalent to that of a house that is being torn down. Once this demolition of earth is complete (there is also some sort of secret “rapture” mixed in here somewhere, where the Church is lifted out of the decaying earth, because, lets face it, if you’re inventing an eschatology with all these bad things happening, you better write yourself out of it), Jesus will come thundering back.

Is this what the Bible teaches? Does Scripture show that God’s world will suffer incredible defeat before the return of Christ? I intended to promote a view here that answers emphatically: “Nah son!”

Although not as prevalent in today’s evangelical world as it was the evangelical world of yesteryear, there is a view of the consummation of all things that’s is explicitly optimistic. This eschatology of victory is known as postmillennialism.

Simply put, things will get better. The gospel will achieve its full victory as the Great Commission is fulfilled and a majority of the world is converted. The prophet Isaiah says that there will be a day where “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:9). God did not set up the earth only for it to go down in flames. Jesus is not sitting at the right hand of the Father watching things get worse. Jesus has been promised that he will reign until all things are made subject to him (Ps. 110:1; Heb. 10:13, Matt. 23:44). This will not happen by things being beaten to a pulp.

A common objection against Jesus’ victory in history is that the world does not appear to be getting any better. This is a result of “newspaper exegesis.” Christians must look at the Bible as their authority on what will happen during the “end times,” not modern media. As displayed a little above, this view is not without Scriptural warrant. God’s plan is to put all things subject to Christ, as the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth. This is not just silly optimism; these are ideas set forth in the Holy Writ.

The question then arises: What will this time of increasing gospel prosperity look like? Noted postmillennial scholar Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry answers:

“It will be a great time of domination of Christianity, not in an oppressive sense, but in a gracious sense that the world, education, politics, news media, and everything else will be working and operating on the basis of Christian principle. So the postmillennialist is considered to be an optimist. He views history as ultimately issuing forth in a time of great Gospel prosperity and blessing.” [1]

This post is not intended to be an exhaustive, exegetical defense of postmillennialism. This is merely to show that there is an alternative to the extremely pessimistic outlook of the common premillennial view. We can have some optimism for the future. We don’t have to sit around and watch this world burn like Sodom and Gomorrah. In the end, the Great Commission is fulfilled, the gospel flourishes, the nations are converted, and Jesus wins. So cheer up, buttercup.


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5 Responses to Cheer Up, Buttercup

  1. abbie says:

    scofieldism? nice.

  2. Pingback: Onward, Christian Soldier | Black Coffee Calvinist

  3. Daniel says:

    Zack just told me today that you two had created a blog site, awesome! I have only read a few blogs but they were all very engaging and thought provoking, keep it up. I really think God could use this if you both keep humbly using it to serve him and refine your knowledge and ability to articulate God’s word and apply it to all of life. With that said, I hope you will take my questions about this particular blog in the best way possible. Here are a few of them:

    First, how does the postmillennial interpret passages like Matthew 24? According to Matthew 24 the kinds of signs of Christ’s return include: the coming of deceptive false christs (v.4-5), wars and rumors of wars between kingdoms and nations (v.6-7), earthquakes and famines (v.7), a great persecution of the Church in which many will be killed and betrayed and all will be hated by “all nations” (v.9-10), many false prophets will arise (v.11), and lawlessness will increase throughout the world as most people’s love will grow cold (v.12), in addition: the “abomination of desolation” will desecrate the holy place (v.15), people will flee their homes (v.16-20), there will be a great tribulation such as has never happened before and never will come again (v.21), the days will graciously be cut short (v.22), again false christs and prophets will come to deceive many (v.23-26), and then immediately after all this “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of heaven will be shaken” (v.29), and then, and only then, will Christ return in glory and power on the clouds (v.30). And, Christ’s return immediately after this tribulation (v.29-30) will not be just to Jerusalem but all nations will see him coming in power and glory and mourn (v.30) (why are “all the tribes of the earth” mourning at the return of Christ if they are all Christian and have no fear of condemnation?). And, notice how verse 31 follows immediately after verse 30 (which seems to imply judgment for the nations of the world) with there being no indication that these are two separate returns of Christ but one and the same, in verse 31 Christ gathers all the elect from the world (“the four corners”) to Himself at the consummation of all things. This, according to Matthew 24 (and similar passages like 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 19:11-20:15), is how the end comes with the return of Christ. Now, how does the postmillennial interpret such passages and do justice to the eschatological and awesome nature of them? Must the postmillennial also be a preterist? If so, how does the preterist interpret such passages and do justice to them? Does 70 AD really fulfill all this? Does it appear that there is one return of Christ in judgment for Jerusalem and another in salvation for the world according to these passages?

    Now, before concluding I feel it necessary to add some qualifications. First, I am no dispensationalist or “scofieldist,” but I am currently a historical premillennialist since (and I confess I have a limited knowledge on such things) it seems that the historical premillennialist has the best position to rightly handle such passages in a way that is coherent with the narrative of redemption as revealed in scripture. With this said, in regards to the overall message of this blog, I do not think this position is necessarily pessimistic but rather realistic.

    Let me explain. There is one verse in Matthew 24 that I intentionally skipped over. In verse 14 it states, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” According to this verse, before the end, the gospel will be preached to all nations. This means the Church, through the grace and power of God, will fulfill the Great Commission! Thus, when Christ returns there will be people from the four corners of the earth (from every nation and tribe) that will be elect and will be gathered to him (v.31)! This is good news indeed and is definitely a happy ending that gives us much hope and confidence as we strive to fulfill Christ’s commission which will bring about his return and the consummation of all things. This is not a pessimistic outlook. At the same time, it is not an unrealistic optimistic outlook since this verse does not erase the verses before or after it about the great tribulations the Church will endure. But, as the world declines the church will be spreading throughout the world, preaching its gospel to bear testimony to the world. For those who believe it will be a testimony of a soon coming everlasting life, for those who reject the gospel it will be a testimony of a soon coming everlasting death and judgment. This seems to be the most consistent view with all of scripture and the most consistent with Jesus’ own words to “enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). Although some may say, applying a postmillennial method, that Jesus is a pessimist here, I believe he is a realist who realizes that in the end it will all work out for his utmost glory. For, despite the majority of the world’s rejection of him which will gloriously reveal Christ’s power in judgment, all the elect throughout the world (from every nation and tribe!), both alive and dead, will be gathered to him to join him in eternal glory. That is a happy ending we all have to look forward to as the culmination of history!

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