Friday, 9 March 2018

Expectations and Hopes

A Second Christendom

The first Christendom is over.  The West has now succumbed to a form of technological atheism.  The resident deity is Man.  The question, What will happen next? becomes more pressing.  The respective answers or "outlooks on the future" amongst Christians and the Church become more critical in our life and witness.

One influential stream of thought within churches has been pre-millennialism, in most cases taking the form of dispensational pre-millennialism.  The looks forward to the triumph of the Kingdom of God upon the earth, but only after Christ's coming again to earth and setting up the nation-state of Israel in a more perfect form.  The temple upon Mount Zion will be literally rebuilt.  The sacrificial system will be re-instituted.  The Church will disappear.  All believing Christians will have been taken up into heaven.

Pre-millennialists are often fervent evangelists.  The more people converted to become Christians, the sooner the new Jewish millennium will come.  But beneath the system there is a theme of defeat.  The world is getting worse.  Evil is on the march.  Only the supernatural intervention of Christ to set up the millennial Jewish Kingdom will stop the rot.  Meanwhile, the hope of the pre-millennial believer is to be whisked away to heaven.

A second school of thought is amillennialism.  This teaches that Israel bears no significance any longer in God's Kingdom.  Christ has set up the eternal kingdom in heaven where He reigns amongst the saints, the angelic host, and over the Church upon earth.  When the precise number of the elect (known only to God) has been gathered into His Kingdom, He will return to earth to re-create it, re-make it, and set up His eternal throne upon earth.

Amillennialists don't see much hope of triumph or victory upon earth, until after the second coming of Christ.
  The direction of human history as we know it is uncertain.  Things might get better.  Things might get worse.  We don't know.  Only God knows.

The third school is known as post-millennialism.  This teaches the triumph of God's Kingdom throughout the earth before Christ returns.  This triumph comes about through the progressive discipling of all nations, to where the entire world becomes christianised.  This is understood to have always been God's plan; His Spirit dwelling amongst His people will make it happen.  This is the "second Christendom"--of which the first Christendom is a foreshadow.

These three schools represent quite different outlooks and expectations.  They affect how we live out our Christian lives, our strategies of service to Christ, the organisation of churches, the way we educate our children, and so forth.  But there is something new on the horizon which the West--the remnant of the First Christendom--has not seen before.  The enemy before us is far, far more militant than former generations have seen.  It has reached the stage where Christians now face the prospect of civil oppression (otherwise known as persecution) if they attempt to live out their faith in the "Public Square".  We face a second, pagan, increasingly militant Roman Imperium.

Our expectation and outlook for the Kingdom of God affects how we react to this rising militancy of Unbelief.  How the Church reacts and what strategies it deploys will depend most critically upon its outlook and expectation for the future of God's Kingdom.  If we believe the Second Christendom is most certainly coming, we will rededicate ourselves to taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  We will also seek to build the core institutions of a Christian culture: godly households, biblically constructed church fellowships, Christian schools, and the reformation of prisons, slums, the indigent, the sick, and the poor--along with the remaking of a much more limited, far more focused state.

These works and tasks will take a lifetime of energy and labour.  We will only undertake such gargantuan work if we are confident that the God of all glory will use our work and labours to mature and perfect the Kingdom of Christ upon earth.

At this blog we are of the postmillennial persuasion.  But we welcome all co-labourers in extending the Kingdom of God upon earth.  We also rejoice in the labours of other Christian traditions.  After all, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

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