Theology Thursday: Thy Kingdom Come (Part Three)


This is part three of a brief series on orthodox eschatology, with brief comments on common “mongrel” forms that are considered unorthodox, heterodox, and/or downright heretical.

Today’s post is a summary chart which describes each position, it’s common hermeneutic, and highlights. There are degrees and shades of these, so it can hardly be called an authoritative or even necessarily accurate summary, but a generalization. I’m painting with a very broad brush here, so don’t come down too hard on what you perceive to be an error, but comments, as always, are welcome.

HERMENEUTICS:

Post-mil: Historical, grammatical method; context and genre are
interpretive considerations; Scripture interprets Scripture.
Apocalyptic literature mostly figurative, mostly fulfilled.
Context determines whether literal or figurative. Old
Testament interpreted by the New.

A-mil: As Postmil above. Revelation should be interpreted by it’s
intended audience, the 1st century Church, reassuring them
of Christ’s ultimate victory.

Historic Pre-mil: Historical grammatical method; context and genre
are considered, Scripture interprets Scripture. A “natural
reading” of apocalyptic literature determines whether a
portion is literal or figurative.

Dispensational Pre-mil: Strong inclination toward literalism.
Scripture divided into seven dispensations (periods of
time) in which God acted or acts in different ways towards
humankind.

SECOND COMING OF CHRIST:

Post-mil: Occurs after the millennium (which is not a literal 1000 year
period of time), when a triumphant church has conquered the
culture, planet-wide. A “golden age” of righteousness on Earth
to conclude this present age. The Second Coming initiates a
general resurrection, judgment of all men, and eternal state.

A-mil: The Second Coming occurs after the millennium, which is
this present age. “The millennium” encompasses all of human
history between the two advents of Christ. The Church triumphs
through the purity resulting from persecution. The Second Advent
initiates a general resurrection, judgment, and eternal state.

Historic Pre-mil: The millennium is a “golden age” that begins after the
second coming. After a time of great tribulation, Christ returns
and initiates the thousand-year golden age of peace.

Dispensational Pre-mil: Second Coming before the millennium but
preceded by a secret “rapture,” the catching away of the Church
(living and dead) before, during, or following a great period of
tribulation. He returns and sets up an Earthly, geopolitical
kingdom.

NATURE AND TIMING OF THE KINGDOM:

Post-mil: Began at the first advent of Christ, present reality. Spiritual in
nature, encompassing both heaven and Earth. It grows and gains
throughout the present millennial age until it fills the earth.

A-mil: Began at the first advent of Christ, present reality, encompassing
heaven and earth. It grows to reach a remnant from every tongue
and tribe on earth, but relatively few are saved – over time,
however, cumulatively, it’s citizens are a vast unnumbered multitude.

Historic Pre-mil: While the kingdom has come spiritually, but will not
transform the earth until the millennium the Second Advent.

Dispensational Pre-mil: In no sense present today, it is an earthly kingdom
initiated by the return of Christ, established suddenly and cataclysmically,
primarily as a Jewish kingdom.

In future posts in this series I’ll describe what each group teaches about Antichrist(s), the rapture, the resurrection, judgment, Christ’s reign, Israel, the binding of Satan and his current status, and tribulation, and re-creation. Buckle up!

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Theology Thursday: Thy Kingdom Come!


Welcome to another Theology Thursday! This is the first of a series on the promises the Lord has made to His people, to set everything to right in this world, and to re-create it unspoiled by sin. Theologians call this broad category of prophecy “eschatology.” And though I have written on this topic before, my remarks were limited to criticism of the single school of eschatology that has become the majority report among evangelical Christians in our time. This time I want to expand to the other schools of thought, to explain them, and to expose the “mongrel” forms of eschatology that have gained ground in recent years. While I lean towards one, I am by no means certain of it, nor would I make any one of the three historic schools of thought a test of orthodoxy.

Is Eschatology Important?

Inasmuch as one’s eschatology results from one’s hermeneutics (their way of interpreting Scripture) and on one’s view of the nature of God’s Kingdom, it matters a great deal! It is not, however, a primary test of orthodoxy (right doctrine) unless it omits or denies any or all of these three essential points:

The future, physical, bodily return of Jesus Christ to Earth;

The resurrection of all the dead, both righteous and unrighteous, along with the living, to face the judgment of God;

The future and physical destruction of this planet, and it’s re-creation by God into a perfect world, unstained by sin and forever free of it’s effects.

It matters how one interprets Scripture:

If one’s hermeneutic demands literal interpretation of all Scripture, then one’s eschatology will demand a very literal 1,000-year period of time, a “golden age” on Earth prior to it’s destruction and re-creation, during which Christ will reign literally from a literal throne in Jerusalem, and the Earth will be subdued. Literal interpretation of 1,000 years of peace is called “millennialism,” and takes two distinct forms – one historical and orthodox, the other recent and heterodox (unorthodox at least, if not heretical).

If one’s hermeneutic follows the historical-grammatical method, it does not necessarily follow that a “golden age” lasting a literal period of 365,000 24-hour days is required by Scripture. This is “non-millennialism” and also takes two forms, with historical-orthodox and modern-heterodox versions.

If one interprets the Scriptures according to one’s own imagination and “whatever it means to me at the time,” who knows what you believe anyway.

It matters how one sees the kingdom of God:

Is His kingdom political? Physical or spiritual? Of this world or the next? What is our role in His kingdom?

Some schools of eschatology (the study of future things) require that the kingdom of God is – or is to be – a physical and geopolitical one set up here on Earth. Others teach that the kingdom of God is spiritual and alien to this world, but that it’s influence will overcome the world and usher in that “golden age” where it becomes a physical and geopolitical reality in this world. And still another teaches that the kingdom is not destined to overcome this world, but to be in it and to rescue a remnant of it’s citizens (by means of the gospel) until the Lord returns, judges, and destroys the present creation.

It matters how we interpret Scripture! It matters how we view the King, His kingdom, it’s nature, and our role in it!

But it is not a test of whether or not a person is truly a Christian, unless, as I said above, it omits or denies any or all of those three essential points above.

In the next few thrill-packed episodes of Theology Thursday, we’ll look at the three basic schools of eschatology, what they teach, and warn against heretical forms of them that defy the clear teaching of Scripture. We’ll look one at a time at Postmillennnialism, Amillennnialism, and Premillennialism.