The Covenantal Kingdom
I have heard Christians profess to being uncommitted and unconcerned about eschatology. There are pro-millennialists: "whatever it is, I'm for it." And pan-millennialists: "it will all pan out." No doubt Christians who refer to eschatology in these terms are expressing their frustration over the acrimony which not infrequently characterizes debates over eschatology rather than their actual attitude toward the Biblical doctrine of the millennium. The fact remains, however, that it is intellectually frivolous and morally irresponsible not to seek answers about the doctrine of eschatology. To treat eschatology as an appendix to the Christian faith is to distort virtually every fundamental teaching of the Bible.
God created the world immature (cf. Gn. 1:28). The doctrine of eschatology is the Biblical teaching about God's purposes in creation and their realization through redemptive grace in spite of the rebellion of men against Him (cf. Rev. 21-22). God has sent a Second Adam to succeed where the first Adam failed through sin (Rom. 5:12ff.). As the head of a new race of man, Jesus our Lord has given us the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and lead us to faith and also, by teaching us His word, to enable us to live a life of good works for His glory (cf. Rom. 8:1-14; et al.). The Bible gives us the instruction that we need to live for the glory and praise of our heavenly Father (2 Tim. 3:16-17), so that we can fulfill the purpose for which He has created us.
To be brief, the doctrines of creation, the covenant, man, redemption, the Messiah, the work of the Holy Spirit, the inspiration of the Bible and the Christian life (IQ(J to mention only a few (IQ(J are clearly wedded to the doctrine of eschatology. What God has put together, let not man put asunder!
In my argument I have especially emphasized the covenant because it provides the structure for Biblical revelation. God created the world in covenant with Himself, with man as the covenant lord of the creation. God rules the world by His covenant from the beginning of history to the end. All of man's life, therefore, is covenantal. Understanding God's covenant is the key to understanding not only eschatology, but the whole of the Bible.
Recovering the Biblical doctrine of the covenant is vital to the recovery of the whole Christian worldview and the courage to fight for its realization in history. So long as Christians believe that history develops randomly, or that history is committed to Satan, they will not invest their hearts, their time, or their money in God's kingdom. Eventually, however, God will raise up a generation that trusts Him and will follow His commandments. They will see fulfilled the promise of Christ: "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples" (Jn 15:5-8).
I have written in these four chapters the basic arguments that persuaded me to become a postmillennialist. Whether or not the reader is persuaded, I hope that he will take the eschatological debate seriously. If we are not certain what to believe, it is incumbent upon us to continue to pray and study until we find Biblically persuasive answers to our questions. If we have reached convictions, it is our duty to live by them.
If it is really true, as Hal Lindsey and others teach, that Christ is coming soon, perhaps by the year 1981 1988 1989 1995 2000, then Christians should be in the streets witnessing. One's job future, the children's education, political concerns, investments in real estate, stocks and bonds, in short, anything that concerns life in this world should be put aside as we prepare ourselves for the imminent end. If you believe in Christ's soon return, live like it. Like James said, "faith without works is dead" (Jms. 2:17). Show your faith by your works.
Some premillennialists, of course, disagree with Hal Lindsey and the date-setting type of teacher. They believe that Christ may come any minute and so they must be prepared for His coming today. They also believe that Christ may not come today and so they must live for tomorrow. Cultural labor for God's glory may be meaningful, if Christ does not come soon, for it is a means of evangelism and a form of worship. But if Christ is coming soon, it may also be a waste of time since it takes years of education and labor to accomplish anything important in cultural evangelism. It might be good to invest money in the future since Christ may not come for another hundred years and children are important. But if Christ is coming soon, that money would be much better spent on evangelism. On the other hand . . .
Rather than go on like this, let me say it to you directly: if you believe in this type of premillennialism, you are in intellectual limbo. The best thing you can do is switch your theology. Can an eschatological doctrine that speaks with a "forked tongue" be true?
If you are an unpersuaded amillennialist, you will have to decide whether or not you agree with the date-setting premillennialists, like some amillennialists apparently do. If that is what you believe, live like the Hal Lindsey-type premillennialists. If, on the other hand, you think that history may go on for a few centuries and that there may be some real benefit in Christian cultural endeavor, live like a postmillennialist. Also, if you are theologically inclined, take the time to read the books listed in the footnotes and write a book to refute postmillennialism.
If you are persuaded of postmillennialism, then you believe that Christ has called us to build His kingdom by the power of the Holy Spirit. You should be enthusiastically pursuing distinctly Christian cultural advance either by your own efforts or by financing others who are gifted by God. You should be dedicating yourself to training the next generation to be better and wiser Christians than the present one. If you have children, make certain that you provide a Christian education for them. Political concerns and financial investments, too, are part of your responsibility as a citizen of the heavenly kingdom. Evangelism must not be less emphasized, but actually more emphasized, for the Holy Spirit will only save the world through the preaching of God's people. Rather than relegate evangelism to the few hours a week that one has time for witnessing in the streets, the postmillennialists sees evangelism in broader terms. Witnessing in the street is fine in its place. But it is more important to develop a worldview and lifestyle that are so distinctly Christian that one is evangelizing in all that he does, for "whether we eat or whether we drink," we are to do all "for the glory of God." When the non-Christians see that we live to the glory of God, they will be converted.
Whatever we believe about the millennium, we should seek to live consistently with our faith. Lukewarm, lazy Christianity is an abomination to God (Rev. 3:16). Christian debate over doctrine is not a hobby or a game, nor can it be carried on as an academic exercise. It is serious pursuit of the truth conducted in the fear of God. We are seeking an answer to the most important question we face in our daily lives: "How must I live to glorify God?"
May Jesus Christ our Lord grant understanding to His Church by the grace of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God the Father. Amen.