Amillennialism vs. Post-millennialism

I’m in a state of going back and forth on whether things get better or worse for the Church here on Earth before “the end” (assuming full preterism is not correct and we’re not already past the end, which is a whole different issue).

Post-millennialism sees the future as the golden age of the Church, with the whole world eventually converting to Christianity. I like the optimistic hope that post-millennialism offers, but the whole thing sometimes feels like man’s efforts drive the timing of events, especially those post-millennial reconstructionists who advocate a political/economic/social theonomy as the realization of the Kingdom.

I know that the preferred interpretation is that the expansion of the Church/Kingdom is led by the Holy Spirit not men, but then again, Jesus *did* tell Peter that whatever the church did would also happen in heaven, right?

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19, HCSB)

Amillennialism is the more pessimistic outlook that, despite Christ’s current reign in heaven, the church is headed for general apostasy before Christ returns. Was Jesus correct in saying “will I find any faith on earth when I return?”

Then the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. Will not God grant justice to His elect who cry out to Him day and night? Will He delay [to help] them? I tell you that He will swiftly grant them justice. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find that faith on earth?” (Luke 18:6-8, HCSB, emphasis mine)

Is the church destined to be a remnant of the elect or the dominant kingdom on Earth? Are we as Christians to be kin to Lot, saved from Sodom by the grace of God, or Abraham, father of the stars in the sky?

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7 Comments

  1. Posted January 29, 2008 at 8:56 AM | Permalink

    I’m in a particularly weird place myself in that I don’t believe in a future golden age (nor do I agree with reconstructionists and theonomists), but I also dont’ know if I believe that the “final” apostasy is really all that final. Or if it wasn’t tied to the events leading up to 70 AD.

    I tend to agree with Ligon Duncan that I’m an optimistic amillennialist. (Posts- now angry that they don’t have emotional rhetoric to use against me ;) )

    Here’s what he has to say:

    “[O]n the one hand I look for continuity between the already and the not yet in terms of the reign of God’s kingdom on earth [in a way that most amils don't], and yet on the other hand do not conceive of a “golden age” in the way that classic postmillennialism does – I see a simultaneously increasing opposition to the kingdom growing alongside an ever advancing and expanding kingdom.”

  2. Posted January 29, 2008 at 9:25 AM | Permalink

    Interesting quote, Bryan. Do you know what Ligon Duncan’s view on the binding of Satan is, especially with regards to his point that the kingdom of the Serpent is ever increasing as well?

  3. Dave
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 10:54 AM | Permalink

    El Shaddai,

    I don’t know much about amil or post-mill, since I haven’t yet done enough homework ;) As far as the verse in Matthew is concerned (which I think is actually in 18:18, not 16:19), I think it is taken a little out of context. The following is a quote from JP Holding’s study on matthew that can be found at this link (http://www.tektonics.org/lp/mattstudy.html) with regard to the verse:

    “16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

    “Skeptics isoate Matthew 18:19 from its context to make it look like a general instruction on how to pray for whatever you want in any context. This passage follows instructions for pursuing “sheep” (members of the believing community) who go astray. Verses 15-18 are further instructions for community discipline. Verse 19 is an amplification on verse 18, using the “Again, I say unto you” which indicates an expansion of what has been noted previously. Thus, even so far we see that whatever verse 19 means, it is restricted to the context of discipline within the believing community of Christ. It is not, as Barker imagines, or as health and wealth gospel preachers suppose, a license to request anything.”

    If you agree with what he describes as the context, maybe that will help sort out how to apply the verse.

    Bryan or El Shaddai,

    I’m interested in learning more about the views on the binding of Satan. I’ve read (and I’ll try to find out where) that even though most preterists see him as being presently bound, it doesn’t stop his influence on the church, apparently hes is just bound from decieving the nations. The article I read also pointed out a verse in the OT that talked about Satan being bound back then, which would support their conclusion that he could still have an effect on the world because he certainly did in the OT. Hopefully I can find where I read that soon. I wonder, if all of that is true, if the binding referred to in Revalation isn’t like a literal binding in chains and maybe more like God not allowing it and Satan obeys. Similar to the interaction of the two in Job.

    Dave

  4. Posted January 29, 2008 at 12:24 PM | Permalink

    Elshaddai and Dave,

    I don’t really know what Duncan’s views are on the binding of Satan, though I assume it is or close to, the usual understanding of Satan being bound from deceiving the nations so that the Gospel is free to spread. I read an interesting verse in Acts the other day which said essentially that God had let the nations/Gentiles continue in their way of life previously, but now salvation had come to them (I forget where exactly this is, I’ll try and find it — ed. Acts 14:16-17). This is of course, not to doubt the Ninevah repentance, or other places where Gentiles were considered righteous, but it does, at least at first glance, seem to fit the A/Post- view of Revelation 20.3 which specifically states how Satan was bound: “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer” (ESV).

    Dave, I don’t think there is a necessity to take the chains as literal chains, but indeed more like the Job encounter. The reason being that apocalyptic literature usually contains such imagery (e.g. the beast in ch. 13 is both a political structure and a man, yet it is also described in ch. 17 as a beast with 7 heads and 10 crowns). That being said, I think it seem fairly obvious that Satan still influences the church as well as other people. In acts, there are records (not as many as in the Gospels, but that’s really an argument from not-quite-silence) of the work of evil spirits and demons (see Acts 16.16ff, 19.11-20). Granted, since Acts was written pre-70 AD, those texts may or may not matter to the full-preterist (I am partial) because all things came to an end in 70ad, but to me it’s somewhat viable to the discussion of the work of Satan because it shows that even though the death and resurrection defeated Satan, there was still ongoing work by him afterwards (already/not yet understanding). Hope some of that helps.

  5. Posted January 29, 2008 at 12:29 PM | Permalink

    Oh, another thing. If I were to try and guess what Ligon Duncan meant, I would have to say that while the church does indeed grow, wordly opposition grows along side it. Sort of how Jesus says things like “the world will hate you because it hated me” and “you will have tribulation.” That’s certainly how I take it, as long as their is a church, there will be tribulation and hatred. Essentially, the Post- would say that the opposition is squashed, the optimistic amiller would say that the opposition continues, but it doesn’t stop the church from growing and growing. That would be my position. How much will it grow? I don’t know, but that seems to be the purpose of the kingdom parables– although starting out small, it grows to unimaginative size (mustard seed, leaven, etc).

  6. Posted January 29, 2008 at 12:35 PM | Permalink

    @Dave: I think that this verse is one of Matthew’s repeated pieces of content and does occur in both 16:19 and 18:18, and goes along with John 20:23, the disciples’ commissioning. In Matthew 16:19, the context is Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah; in 18:18 it is, as you wrote, the restoration of a fallen Christian.

  7. Posted January 29, 2008 at 12:43 PM | Permalink

    @Bryan: see my post on Mephistopheles for some more thoughts on the growth of the opposition as the Kingdom grows.

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