Audio File Download: Episode 004
In this episode I wanted to talk about Preterism, Postmillennialism, and their view on Eschatology. This was brought up again and again in the notes from my advisor on my dissertation so I wanted to address it at length after I finished my own research on the subject.
Personally, I am a very uncommitted (well, more committed than I initially thought I was) Premillennial Futurist. I’m quite squirmish on when the rapture happens in these end time events, but I am very much convinced that the rapture will take place and I think it can take place at any time (but with a few conditions).
But, let’s dive into the deep end and find out what’s happening in the End Times since the whole world seems to have gone mad lately….
Preterism is not known in the early church and most Church Father’s looked to the future for the fulfillment of what was written in Revelation. It was not until the 1600’s that a few individuals responded to the popular idea that Rome was the Beast of Revelation and countered it with the view that the last book in the Bible had no real bearing on the modern world.
Today, Partial Preterism asserts that most of the prophecies in the Bible have already been fulfilled, most happening in 70 A.D. when the Jewish temple was destroyed. This offshoot of full Preterism or historical Preterism which argues that the Bible has no predictive mechanism at all for modern day, and even states that the second coming of Christ has occurred.
This, of course, could be likened to the false teaching Paul contended with in Thessalonica, when forged letters were circulating in the churches there claiming that those believers had missed out on the resurrection and on Christ’s return (2 Th 2:1-12).
Paul corrected them with this second letter, explaining that it was impossible for the second coming to occur before two events took place: 1. the falling away, 2. the man of sin is revealed.
Despite this, Preterism continued and grew especially in the 1800’s and then after WWII. Even though they gained adherants, they still struggled to explain how certain prophecies in the Bible were already fulfilled. In Matt 24-25 and Re 6-18 it states a third of the stars fell from the sky and a third of the humans on earth are killed, and all life in the oceans cease. The only way to maintain their theological scaffolding is to bring in allegory as their main interpretive tool. This allows them to render any difficult or contradictory passage as irrelevant or easily fulfilled spiritually rather than literally.
In the end, Preterism in all its forms is a denial of a straightforward, plain reading of the biblical text.
Some Preterists have gone so far afield as to state the word “literal” must appear before a statement in the bible before it can be interpreted literally. This, of course, renders the entire prophetic message of the Bible mute and allows them to make the Bible say whatever they want it to say, which is really the point of all liberal hermenutics.
At the outset let me say there may be some more research that needs to be done on this topic in the future, most specifically looking for postmillennial interpretations of particular references in the Bible. This seemed to be my advisor’s go-to note whenever I used a passage in the context of future events, he always wanted to know (or wanted me to discuss) the postmill interpretation of that particular passage. As I started digging into this theology, though, major issues with its inherent logic and its faulty hermeneutic began to spring up. To be honest, I am a little surprised this view has survived all these years.
I think instead of devoting another full episode to these interpretations, I will collect them and start providing their postmill interpretations in the Q&A section below in future episodes.
Postmillennialism generally expects the vast majority of the world’s population to convert to Christ from the evangelistic efforts seen on the planet by the church. They expect the world to be ruled by Christ, with perfect judgment until the King ultimately returns.
It’s very difficult for me to accept this view almost immediately for several reasons.
Just look around. The world is not getting better. The church is not growing in influence. In fact, it is the exact opposite. By and large, the church and her message is falling on the deaf ears of an increasingly lost and morally debased world.
Granted, it is possible under the postmill view of an unspecified millennial timeframe (not literally 1000 years) that things could come around. This would not only require the lost world to abruptly turn and move in the opposite direction, but the modern church would likewise need to turn direction as well.
Premill no longer requires the individual to wait and be watchful and pray. No longer are Christians to prepare themselves for coming persecution. Instead, the premill view is things are getting better and better all the time.
It is hard to imagine a world where some Christians today are imprisoned and tortured and killed and those believers in the West are ridiculed and are the butt of jokes, that this world will one day usher in a Christian utopia.
Likewise as troubling is Postmillenarrianism’s rejection of ethnic Israel’s promises from God. Worse, many in this camp adopt those promises for theselves through their replacement theology. But, despite this, Paul was pretty clear in Romans 8-11 “all Israel will be saved.”
There are many Church Fathers who would argue against the postmill view: Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian all reflected a premillennial theology.
Not only do postmillennials interpret Re 20:1-6 allegorically, they are free to interpret any part of Scripture the same way if they do not like what they can literally read. This is akin to the idealist approach (as there really are no difference, both simply allegorize away what they don’t want to accept), where anything and everything can be symbolized, spiritualized and storified.
This, of course, really began with Origen, who was heavily influenced by Gnostic thinkers of his day. He not only preferred the spiritual over the physical, but he even considered humans to be in a karmic type of cycle between forms (angel, human, and demon) and considered the possibility of the devil one day experiencing salvation.
This kind of allegoric madness spread to Augustine and Aquinas, was accepted by Luther and Calvin, and subsequently has poisoned a large portion of the modern church.
Worst yet is the postmillennial idea of reconstructionism or the development of some form of Theonomy taking over the planet and ruling through divine law by the hands of the church.
This god government is viewed as a gradual return to biblical norms through civil justice by way of widespread gospel success. It basically assumes the modern, evangelical church is on the right track and has its act together when it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Most often in postmill circles you will find preterist leanings, as the idea of a Christian kingdom run by the church is anathema to the foreboding found in the biblical prophecies. Subjugating these to being fulfilled in the first century, leaves the Preterist Premill free to craft any kind of society he wants.
But, to say that the modern church is doing it right (doing anything right) is laughable at best. I could argue that the church Christ is building happens to be found in the modern church, but the modern church certainly does not constitute the sum total of Christ’s church. His church is also found in many other places, as his church consists of people, of individuals, of living stones.
The modern church is an artifical construct of man, not the building of the divine. God help us all if the modern church ever seizes control of the world. It will be a nightmare worse than death for both Christian and the lost alike as the only enemy of the Christian church that is worse than the atheistic/humanist/socialist horde is the Christian church herself.
The Postmillennialist will point to Psalm 2, 22, 72, and 110 as references to Jesus ruling on earth and the gospel succeeding to convert the entire world. But a straightforward reading of these chapters hold nothing in them that points to such allegations. Likewise, each one of these can be easily applied to a literal 1000 year reign of Christ on earth, which is what Rev 20:1-6 states when it is allowed to speak for itself.
The same can be said for Isa 2:1-5; 9:7; 11. None of these explicitly mention a time frame or that this kingdom will be the result of the gospel spreading through all the earth.
Looking at 1 Co 15:20-28 it is clear to see how this passage fits, not with Postmillennialism, but with the Premillennial view.
“…For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.”
This is a perfect sequence of events.
2. Those in Christ at his coming (Rapture).
3. Then the end (Millennial Reign).
4. Destroy death (Re 20:11ff).
One comment I heard from a Postmillennial preacher that I agree with was this, “It is possible that all three options could be wrong. But they can’t all be right.”
Why Do They Lean This Way?
One has to eventually ask the question, why? Why would individuals seek to find an alternate interpretation of Scripture’s clear, straightforward reading of the text? What would be the motivation?
Certainly over the years there were multiple reasons, but what seems to be the most prevalent one is psychological survivability. What I mean by this is the development of a long term plan, the justification to explain why God has delayed in coming for so long. Along with this, which I’ve seen now as a pattern, is the justification to provide positive outlook for future generations.
This is boiled down to a desire for optimism. It appears that for some the Premillennial Futurist interpretation wears people out. Especially tempting is a postmill alternative for those who start families, establish roots in a community, have children and grandchildren, amass wealth and property and standing among their peers. These people are susceptible to the positive ending to postmil eschatology as it leaves the worst of persecution behind in the first century and paints only a rosie picture for the future to come.
This, of course, has not been my experience while on this earth. I have neither money nor assets, career or loved ones, no offspring and no standing. In fact, my experience with both the world and the so called modern church have been pretty synonymous. Because of this I can interpret the Bible without shade or bias to weigh down the corners. Of course, many would argue my experience presents an inherent bias the other way. If so, so be it.
But, I view this postmillennialism as an excuse to justify living life in the world. Establishing themselves in the things of the world and pretending these things are of God when they are really of men. It provides a hope in materialism and in prosperity. Jesus, Paul, James, and John all explicitly warned of doing this with our things, with our work, and even with our spouses (1 Co 7:29; Lu 12:20; Ja 4:13-15; 1 Jo 2:16). Premillennialism and the Futurist persecutive tend to be rather pessimistic, as Paul amply examples, “the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none,” (1 Co 7:29). He was certainly expecting the return of Christ at any moment.
Why am I a Premill Futurist?
I was not saved inside a church or by the preaching of a pastor or evangelist or a friend who happened to be a Christian. In fact, I was a Buddhist for much of my teen years and a happy one at that. I had acolytes and was considering entering the monastery after high school when something bizarre happened to me. My girlfriend at the time got into a terrible car accident and was in the hospital with severe injuries. I was there at her bedside the first night and simply stayed passed visiting hours with the nurses not bothering to tell me it was time to go. Around 2am I got up from my chair and went out into the hall to get a cup of water. On my way back I noticed a blue Gideon Bible on the window seal just outside my girlfriend’s room. Something came over me and I grabbed the Bible on my way back to my seat. I then flipped over the book to a random spot and read through 2 Peter 2. After reading that passage I looked up and recognized a God who I had denied my entire life. That night he took away my worldview, my belief in reincarnation, my ability to meditate, my ability to do martial arts, and replaced it with a fully formed belief in God, in his will.
I say all this to say, I did not choose to believe in God. He took me and wrestled free from me the delusion I had been clinging to. He put an insatiable thirst in me that had flowed out of me all these years, driving me back to the Word again and again. The only other thing close to this drive is my desire for deserted places, to be alone, to be unencumbered, to be immersed in silence and in contemplation.
My first mentor was David Smith. He was an Airforce Sargent and we attended a community church together overseas. I don’t remember learning a whole lot from him. But, what I do remember is him striking a deal with me. Every week I would write a list of theological questions of him and I would give them to him after the Sunday service. He would take them home that week and write out answers to them. Sometimes he would stop off at my barracks during the week to return the questions/answers (he worked close by) and sometimes we would sit and chat. The pastor of that little missionary church was Pastor Joe. He agreed to do a disciple class with me and another American at 12am at night because it was the only time we could schedule it. There was not a whole lot of end times discussion going on.
It wasn’t until my second or third year that I started reading about end times, prodded on by tapes I would get of Chuck Missler’s Bible Series. I loved his teaching style because he incorporated scientific topics with his Bible research, something I found fascinating. Missler was a pre-trip, pre-millennial, futurist with strong nationalistic tendencies. But, to be honest, I really didn’t care all that much about End Times subjects, about the Book of Daniel or really Revelation. I was more interested on the issues of the present day with the churches, on abuses of the gifts, and on serving Christ.
Needless to say, I was a loose adopter of pre-mill. It didn’t all make much sense, to be honest, but I always just concluded that it would work out one way or the other. Plus, I lived in a region of the US that was not really reformed in any sense of the word. There were no postmillennialists that I was aware of.
It wasn’t until I started my doctorate program that I became interested in the End Times and more specifically in persecution. Before I could see no plausible scenario where the US would experience a falling away. But, by the time I was finishing up my Master’s degree and looking for a Seminary doctorate program, I knew I wanted to do my research on future persecution in America.
I can’t say I’m firmly anything other than a servant of Christ. But, even that designation is not mine to give but the Lord’s. I know the Bible (and Jesus) clearly state I should be watchful until the end, not knowing when Christ will return, and that his return will be when we least expect it. I also know more is being fulfilled today around the world as it pertains to end times Bible prophecy that at any other time in history. It is a terrifyingly exciting time to be alive! I do think, as Paul explained, the falling away will come first, and likewise the son of man must be reveiled. In order for the latter to happen, there must be a temple in Jerusalem with active sacrifices taking place for this man to stop. I don’t know how that would be possible given the current political tensions in the Middle East, but anything is possible. I don’t know about the Rapture. I am convinced Paul’s statements are accurate. At the last trumpet (the 6th), the dead in Christ will rise first, then those who are still alive will join the newly resurrected and will meet the Lord in the air (1 Th 4:16). I am also convinced that the Jews will go through the tribulation and will come out the other end with the veil removed and will accept Jesus as their messiah.
But, this is all to say, I am simply a premillennialist because it is what I see when I read the Scriptures. Shortly after my experience in that hospital room, I enlisted in the military and was sent overseas. I spent several months in my barracks room by myself reading through the Bible from cover to cover. I had no commentaries. I had no Bible software. Just me and an NIV. These understandings seem correct from the reading itself and not because someone else believes them or taught them to me.
How Should We Interpret the Bible?
This is the major issue I have with Postmillennialism: how they approach Scripture. What would lead someone to interpret Re 20:4–6 other than in a simple and straightforward way, allowing the reading to stand on its own merit? Unless, of course, they had an ax to grind with the literal interpretation. Why would they go against the dominate view that was held in the early church, and especially by Paul?
This is usually the root cause of most heresy in Bible interpretation, having a hidden, preconceived agenda that you want to read into the text.
Do you hold high esteem for the Scriptures? Do you accept that they are God-breathed and profitable for “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” or do you simply assume the biblical writers were, although well intentioned, simpletons from a different time when rocks were still soft and they couldn’t help but believe mosquitoes were demons?
We should develop doctrine not in piecemeal but from the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), in that it is “all Scripture” not just some Scripture that is profitable for such.
To the allegorist I argue against. Stop twisting the Scriptures to mean what you want it to mean. Just read it as it is. Accept it for what it says. Do not spiritualize it. Do not mythologize it. You risk reading into the book what is not there. Don’t be misled. Don’t be deceived.
There is quite a bit of background static that goes into peoples’ theology. I would bet many who are drawn to postmillenialism are those who have either stationed quite well in life or are intending to. If you have amassed some wealth, if you are respected in your career field or seem to be at a good place in the socio/economic strata, then it stands to reason you’ll be drawn to a theology that extends the possibility of you enjoying those advantages long-term.
Of course, many wealthy people forget how great a burden money can be. You will be judged by God not only by what you have said and done and what you believed, but also by what you did with the resources you were given. You weren’t given that money because you deserved it, I can assure you. And, trust me when I say, there was a reason it was earmarked for you. It could very well be the last nail in your coffin. God help him who deceives himself into thinking he is right and doing well when in fact he is “…wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…” (Re 3:17).
Let’s reason together while the day is still day and the darkness has not yet fallen across the hills. The Bible has a specific message to be delivered and it has been broadcasting that message through the last six thousand years, and I believe for eons before that and will be declared throughout all dimensionalities for all the eons to come. We need to “be diligent to present ourselves approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” This simply cannot be done through allegory or mythification.
Q & A’s
So, we received our first several questions this week and I’m excited to provide answers to the best of my ability. Keep in mind, these are just my educated opinions, so please do not establish your own personal doctrine, beliefs, or theologies on what I say, but be worthy of the task and search the Scriptures daily to see if what I say is so.
I’m 18. Should I go to seminary after I graduate college? (Mark P in Parkland, IL)
This is really a difficult question to answer, Mark, without more information. But let me see if I can. You really need to approach this decision from a number of different perspectives. First, you need to pray about this extensively. I would say through the remainder of your undergrad program. Pray daily about it. Pray fervently about it. In fact, this will probably help you more than anything else. Second, you need to determine what kind of career you’re looking to go into. If you are wanting to be a pastor my answer will be different than if you wanted to be a university or seminary professor. Third, you need to run an ROI on your seminary program, hopefully you did the same thing with your undergrad program. If you’re ROI is at all negative at any point then you need to think long and hard about living under that debt.
Now, about seminary. You really need to be selective about what program you will enter, what degree you want to get, and what seminary you choose. If you don’t have the grades you will most likely overpay for a usable degree and may even overpay for a useless degree. For seminaries in particular, you need to be sure of your degree portability. People change their minds all the time about their denominational affiliations, about the churches they attend, and their career trajectories. You definitely don’t want a degree from a school that is useless in 10 years.
Long story short, and if you were pinning me down to a concrete answer, I would say no. Don’t go to seminary. Become a plumber. I just had plumbing work done on my house and discovered after my plumber retires there will be no one to take his place. He gets paid $100 / hr, sets his own hours and accepts only those jobs that he’s interested in doing. That’s almost $200k a year @ 40 hours a week. Same with electricians and hvac installers. Make $200k per year and then study the Bible as a hobby or serve at your local church as a volunteer. Unless you are absolutely burdened with the call to ministry, don’t do it.
You’ve said you are not part of or participate in a local church. Is it okay to stop going to church altogether? I’m very frustrated where I currently attend. (Teri C in Salem, OR)
Well, Teri, there are a lot of potential landmines here depending on who you talk to. I remember when I left a church in my 20’s and one of the members came in where I worked asking about me. They wanted to know where I was going to church now and I told them I wasn’t. They flipped their lid! They told me I needed to get back to church immediately or I would be an apostate.
The problem with this response is my relationship with God was better than ever before once I left the church. And this has been the story pretty much my whole Christian life. But, that is me. The question you have to ask yourself is what is God’s conviction on your life at this moment? What is he telling you to do?
You say you’re frustrated where you’re currently at, but why? Are you bored? Are you in conflict with the leadership over doctrinal issues? Why do you attend a weekly service to begin with? Church attendance, membership, identity, it’s all very personal to the individual and no one size fits all.
For me, I came to the point where I recognized it was worse if I went than if I abstained. This could be because I am called to be a solitary contemplative. It could also be because I am psychologically and spiritually damaged. Either way, there is something within me that does not work or fit within the predominately extroverted structure of the modern, evangelical church activities. I feel wrong and all kinds of uncomfortable being there. I don’t feel as if I’m getting anything out of attending. Plus, I don’t get the feeling that leadership really wants me there in the first place or really knows what to do with me. I don’t have a family. I don’t have a spouse. I read and study the Bible extensively. I not only got a Master’s degree in Theological Studies but a Doctorate in Christian Philosophy. I know of at least one pastor that did not invite me to his church because I had more education than he did. I can only assume he didn’t want the potential competition.
I can say that for the last 10+ years that I have been “churchless” they have been the best years of my life and my growth in Christ. It’s not perfect. Sanctification is messy. And, don’t mistake me. I’m not saying everyone should abandon their church, especially if doing so means you backslide into your old life and old habits before you were saved. All I can say is, at least in my personal situation, I am being called out of the modern assembly for one of two reasons, either God is sparing me from having to be around those places and people or he is sparing them from having to deal with me. Either way, separation is best.
For you, Teri, that is only a question you can answer for yourself. I’ve been witness to churches implode over doctrinal issues. I’ve watched members sit in pews during sermons playing games on their phones because they were mandated by the doctrines of men to attend even though they got nothing out of it and were putting nothing in. All the things I used to “do” in the church meetings I still do, I just don’t do it in a local gathering. I pray (but in my closet and not out in the open), instead of listening to one sermon a week I probably listen to 15-20 a week online, plus lectures for courses I’m taking. I worship God, just not like the typical Christian does with half-baked songs. My worship is typically done alongside a trail in the middle of the woods, or sitting in a chair down at my dock as I watch the sun set behind the ridge. I even interact with other believers and talk about theological subjects, but I do this online and asynchronously.
But, I would caution you from moving too hastily, whatever you decide. Pray about it. Let your leadership know your concerns as humbly as you can. If they respond in a positive way you might have something to work with there. Most often I’ve found they will either ignore it/you or will lash out to try and bring you back in line. Either way you’ll probably get your answer on what to do. One answer to frustration is often service. If you’re not already doing it, get up out of that pew and start helping. Not necessarily with the meeting or teaching. But help people. Serve people. It doesn’t have to be in an official capacity. You don’t want credit anyway. Ask God to tell you who needs help in your church and then look around and wait. He will tell you what to do next.
If you try everything I’ve mentioned here and you still feel the same way, try leaving for awhile. Lightning is not going to strike, trust me. Spend a month doing something different. Instead of weekly meetings, choose to volunteer at a shelter or use your time to visit with people in the hospital or consider mission work. God might be calling you to the field instead of the pew. After a month, assess where you are. Have you grown in your intimacy and knowledge of Christ? Great. Do more of what you just did. If not. If you’ve slipped into old patterns, if you’ve spent your time watching tv or some non-God-honoring hobby, maybe it might be time to re-connect with your weekly gathering.
If you are not being “fed” at your church, meaning there is no meat in the teaching there (this is typical for a modern church to keep the members as babes in Christ as they are easier to control this way), some people have found taking outside classes such as with the Koinonia Institute or another parachurch program satisfies that itch or that need and allows them to remain in their church as well.
Needless to say, there are options. Pray about it. Alot. Don’t be hasty. Listen. And God will let you know what is right for you to do. You need to know, though, as you work through this process, modern churches do have an agenda and it is not always to serve the genuine needs of their flock.
That’s it for this episode. If you have any questions about this show or have a Bible or theology or philosophy question you would like to ask me, or just want to leave me a comment you can do so by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or your can leave a comment on the show notes post on the website at isaachunterthewriter.com. If you want to support this podcast, please consider buying one or more of my fiction books. Just head over to the website and you can find them all listed there on the front page with excerpts and links to where they can be purchased.
Until the next time we get together…be well.
Please consider supporting my writing, my unschooled studies, and my hermitic lifestyle by purchasing one or more of my books. I’m not supported by academia or have a lucrative corporate job – I’m just a mystical modern-day hermit trying to live out the life I believe God has called me to. So, any support you choose to provide is GREATLY appreciated.
Excerpt from In the Meadow:
A second later, the engine roared to life, and Dawn glanced back, one last time, at the trailer she’d grown up in.
The empty yard.
The trail she’d blazed through the blackberries.
That gaunt looking trailer.
Everything she saw now looked so dirty and run down, almost a shambles.
It was like a dream.
Paul circled wide, then threw the truck in reverse and backed up. As he braked and put it back into drive, Dawn could see Harold’s place a few slips down.
Paul gave the truck some gas.
As they went by, she could see Harold standing outside, near his front door, motionless, watching them.
She didn’t mention the earlier conversation to Paul.
Why would she?
He was just a creepy ass guy, and one of the handful of things she didn’t have to deal with anymore.
They drove out the front gate of the trailer park, down the side street to the corner, Paul stopping for a moment as he waited on the traffic to clear.
He took her hand and smiled at her, then pulled out onto the highway, heading west.
They drove past the Ray’s Grocery Store, past the gas station, where Bart was out front, talking excitedly to the Desmond boy.
Paul kissed her hand and she smiled, laying her head back against the headrest.
There was nothing else standing in her way now.
As Dawn began to relax, she watched as her old life quickly dissipate into vapor in their wake.
For the first time in her life, she was leaving Oakridge. She was moving to an entirely different state, a new home, with the man of her dreams.
She’d never even been out of Oregon before.
“Now or never,” Paul said, as they drove past the trailhead sign, on the right.
Dawn tightened her grip on his hand.
She’d finally gotten her wish.
She was leaving Oakridge.
Buy my book In the Meadow to find out what Dawn will do as her perfect fairytale life begins to unravel. Are the girls calling out from the banks of the Skagit River trying to help her? Do they want to hurt her? What secrets will she find?
But, trust me when I say, this is going to be a roller coaster of a ride. People are dying all around her, and you have no idea what evil lurks in the meadow! Get started in this thriller story today and find out why they’re warning her…calling out to her….trying to tell her…to RUN!