Text: Rev 20:1-10
NT Text: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 ("The Parable of the Weeds")
Featured Verse: Matt 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
Main Idea: We will continue to explore the practical importance of millennial views.
After yesterday's marathon post, we will return to the theme of the Millennium, but we will focus on practical implications (and hopefully keep this to a more reasonable length.)
I would like to continue to explore the practical relevance of millennial views by sharing a paraphrased post from Dave Snoke. Dave is overseas, but we have been discussing this over email and I asked his permission to modify our recent exchange and include it in the blog.
In summary, the "Parable of the Weeds" gives a good overview of Church history from an Amillennial viewpoint. In this view, both the weeds (Kingdom of Darkness) and the wheat (Kingdom of God) grow together until the harvest. (Matt 13:30) When we see the Millennium as referring to the Church age, it means Satan is (now) restrained and unable to prevent the worldwide spread of the gospel by "deceiving the nations." (20:3) Therefore, the Kingdom of God ("wheat") can grow. At the same time, the agents of Satan are active in the world ("weeds"), but with limited power. Babylon grows in splendor. The beast and the false prophet emerge to attack the church. Both of the Kingdoms are growing - until the final harvest at the end of the age.
So how does this impact our view of the Christian life, now? The following is Dave's contribution to this discussion.
Guest Post - Dave Snoke
Here is a thought on how this relates to us, practically. We can ask the basic question, "How should we see the Church overall-- as a defeated power on the run, or as victorious over its enemies, or with its future in doubt--maybe one or the other?"
Premillennialism has often been associated with pessimism-- the church is a defeated scrabble on the run. This leads us to think, "This is the devil's world." By contrast, Postmillennialism is often associated with optimism-- "just a little more work and we will make this world into paradise!" Historically these views are correlated with how much influence and power the church seems to have at that time in a culture. In the late 1800's people felt the church was winning and everything was getting better, and Postmillennialism grew in popularity. In the late 1900's, after two world wars and the sexual revolution and "God is dead" movement, the church turned strongly to pessimistic Premillennialism.*
I think the Postmillennialists have a good point in directing us to all of the passages that talk of the church victorious-- the growth of the church like leaven, the stone of Daniel's vision that grows to fill the world, Jesus talking of the Gospel going to all nations, etc. But one can hardly read Revelation and see only upward progress. Satan is real and active!
I think the answer is to have both pessimism and optimism - about different aspects. We should be optimistic that the church is on the march, and the gates (defensive positions) of hell will not hold against the victorious march of the church to save souls from all cultures. But at the same time, persecutions and opposition also increase, as well as the temptations to worldliness. The more influential the church, the more its enemies fear it and fight against it.
This also affects how we view our work and calling. If we have an entirely pessimistic view, we will see work to build long-term structures in this world as pointless. Instead, we would just do evangelism to save a few people from the fire before everything collapses. (I was told in the 1970s that working to make this world a better place was "polishing the brass on the Titanic.")
On the other hand, if we view ourselves as building heaven on earth by conquest and influence, then we want to "lawyer up" to gain power, try to take over institutions, etc. (I was told by Postmillennialists in the 1980s that evangelism would always fail if the secular humanists controlled the schools, so control of the society was the first task.)
An Amillennial view allows us to take a "both/and" perspective. It says that savings souls AND cultural influence are both valuable, but neither is ascendant. We should not neglect evangelism, but we can also work with a long-term vision to create positive institutions.**
* I'll add my own comments here and point out that Premillennialism was popular among the fundamentalists, while Postmillennialism was more popular among modernists. So, the Pre/Post debate split along the lines of liberals and conservatives in the early 20th Century. Historically, Postmillennialism had advocates from other parts of the church, but I think that Dave's point about the attraction of various systems based on the perceived cultural power of the church in a given society is a really good insight. (Matt)
** As we consider Christian history, we can see ways in which the Church has often had tremendous influence on the culture around it. There is reason to believe that God's Spirit, working in the midst of his people, can bring salt and light into the fallen world. Amillennialism makes sense of this sort of optimism during the Church age, while Satan's power is constrained. At the same time, our hopes are tempered by realism. The ultimate goal of our Christian hope is the return of Jesus and the restored humanity after the final judgment. Amillennialism guards against utopian dreams which seek to bring the fullness of the kingdom into the world, here and now. Unfortunately, utopian dreams (both religious and secular) have been the justification for great atrocities in history. The road to hell is paved with "utopian" intentions. (Matt)