Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Biblical Case For Puritan Postmillennialism

The following notes were taken while I listened to Rev. David Silversides' sermon Postmillennialism and Revelation 20. Rev Silversides presents various views on the Millennium by examining each in terms of how well it addresses key aspects of Biblical prophecy with special attention given to the binding and loosing of Satan and the impact on the spread of the Gospel.
Rev. Silversides is a pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland which is descended from the Scottish Covenanters. As most of the Covenanters also did, Rev. Silversides holds to what is known as the Historicist Postmillennial view of the Last Days. Rev. Silversides refers to it as the "orthodox Puritan form" of Postmillennialism because it was indeed held by many of the Puritans and is distinguished from 20th Century versions of Postmillennialism as you will discover.
I commend any reader who is interested in a full-orbed examination of Bible prophecies from the Historicist Postmillennial perspective to read the works of Dr. Francis Nigel Lee who has published numerous works (Revelation and Daniel are highly recommended) and has gracefully made them available online for free.
The Last Days (plural) is defined as the time from Christ's first coming until his Second Coming.
Heb 1:1-2
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
There are 7 visions of Revelation with increasing emphasis on what will take place at the VERY end (the last day) after which is the eternal state.
Why Premillennialism Must Be Rejected:
Premillennialism claims that Christ will come and visibly reign on earth for 1,000 years before the final judgment.
The only possible passage from which we might glean an earthly reign of Christ is 2 Thess 1:8-10
8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
However, this interpretation of the 2 Thess 1 passage is problematic since the Scriptures teach that Christ's return is a single event at the very end accompanied by the Resurrection and Judgment, so this cannot be interpreted with a Premillennial view as seen in the following passages:
John 5:
28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Acts 2:
34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool.
Notice that the victory of Christ over His foes is clearly not complete at His return in the Premillennial view.
Christ in fact remains at the right hand of power until the restitution of all things - the fullness of the Gentiles and the Jews being grafted back onto the root which the Gentiles are engrafted (Romans 11):
Acts 3:
19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
Instead of  a Premillennial return, Christ must remain at the right hand of the Father until the fulfillment of the great prophecy of victory in verse 25 below:
1 Cor 15:23
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
The reign that is at the right hand of the Father.
John 6:
39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
The "last day" is the day after which there will be no more days but only the eternal state (WCF Ch. 33).
And here, quoting Dr. Silversides, is a thorough condemnation of the error of the Premillennial view:
"Premillennialism proposes a glorified Christ and glorified saints in the midst of a fallen world and an unrenewed earth. The same glorified Christ who caused an unglorified John to fall to his feet as one who is dead (Rev 1:17)! For Christ to dwell in a world where sin still exists unjudged and unpunished would involve a measure of humiliation for the Lord Jesus Christ and that is unthinkable! Christ's humiliation is finished and he is exalted to the right hand of God. There will be no humiliation again for the redeemer! And when he comes, it will be to judge the world in righteousness and to put all contradiction of his sovereign majestic claims eternally to an end."
Why Amillennialism Must Be Rejected:
Amillennialism, or perhaps more literally, Non-millennialism claims there is no literal or figurative millennialism. No time has been appointed by God when his blessings will be on the earth other than the New Testament age as a whole. No unprecedented abundance of the Spirit of God will be outpoured.
We reject Amillennialism for the following five reasons:
1) The binding of Satan: The binding of Satan does not refer to Christ accomplishing redemption on the cross. The reason is that Rev 20:3,7 "and after that he must be loosed a little season." also, "And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison" and therefore the binding of Satan is reversed for a time but the redemptive work of the cross can never be reversed. Christ's triumph is irreversible. If the binding is followed by a loosing, it cannot fit the work of the cross.
The binding of Satan can't be marked at Pentecost either which cannot be reversed. The greater presence of the Spirit than in the Old Testament Church and its effects will never be eradicated.
The binding and loosing of Satan instead refers to a variation in the degree of the application of redemption among men by the spirit of God acting in the hearts of the elect. Not in redemption accomplished, but in the degree of effectiveness of the preaching of the Gospel.
2) The 1,000 years does not represent the New Testament age as a whole. There are no grounds for starting the 1,000 years in the New Testament because they do not start at the cross. Additionally, this 1,000 years ends BEFORE the end: Rev 20:3,7 again.  So it doesn't end at Christ's second coming. So the millennium cannot represent the whole New Testament age.
3) The reigning with Christ does not refer to the heavenly intermediate state of the saints who are with Christ from their death until the second coming because this reign ends BEFORE the end which inaugurates the eternal state.
Rev 20:4,7
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
This reign does not last until the last day and therefore cannot refer to the intermediate state of believers in heaven awaiting resurrection.
Neither  does it represent regeneration which is permanent.
4) The first resurrection is not the entry of the believer into glory at death. Rev 20:4-5, this resurrection leads to something that ends with Satan's little season coming in.
Rev 20:5
But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
5) The second resurrection mentioned in v.5 is not the resurrection of the body.
1. It applies only to the rest, not the all - it is therefore not descriptive of general resurrection
2. Something analogous to the first resurrection - these live not until the end of the 1,000 years
3. It does not take place at the last day:  "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" which is before Satan's little season. Bodily resurrection takes place only at the last day.
Amillennialism fails because it doesn't deal properly with Satan's little season which must come after the 1,000 years.
Why Rushdoony's Postmillennialism Must Be Rejected:
In contrast to Historicist Postmillennialism, Rushdoony's flavor of Postmillennialism is essentially the same as Amillennialism except for the reigning with Christ is applied to the overall progress and triumph of the Gospel throughout the NT age.
In this scheme, the 1,000 years and Satan's little season are not periods of time but are figurative periods representing the relative triumph of the Gospel and the futility of Satan's resistance. The time periods are merely symbolic of the relative strength of the Gospel vs. Satan's resistance to it. It is a pattern of overall advance of the Gospel from Christ's first to second coming.
However, In Revelation, symbolic periods of time are symbolic of REAL periods of time. The quantity of time is symbolic but it is still referring to time periods that exist or will exist.  Because the Postmillennialism of Rushdoony borrows the non-millennial view of the periods represented in Biblical prophecy, it must ultimately also be rejected.
Why Orthodox Puritan (Historicist) Postmillennialism Must Be Accepted:
Puritan Postmillennialism posits that Christ comes after a millennial period of great blessing and advance of the truth and the Gospel.
Why does Puritan Postmillennialism best explain Biblical prophecy?
1) The binding of Satan must refer to the progress of the Gospel because it is reversible. The advance of the Gospel is subject to divinely ordained ebbs and flows. The presence of periods of revival in the history of the church supports this understanding.
2) The 1,000 years must refer to a period of great Gospel advance.
It does not represent the whole New Testament age. It is a comparatively long period which precedes a comparatively short period in which Satan is loosed again for a season and then we have the last day before the eternal state.
It is an appointed and complete period of time (10 x 10 x 10 indicates a prolonged period of time), when Satan's opposition to the Gospel is limited and coincides with the reign of the saints and comes after many have been martyred for the name of Jesus (Rev 20:4).
It ends before the close of the New Testament age (Rev 20:3,7).
3) The reign of Christ refers to the glorious advance of the cause for which the martyrs died.
Judgment was given unto them. Here, judgment means the vindication of one's righteous cause. The Lord avenges the deaths of the martyrs.
Daniel 7:21-22
21 I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;
22 Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
The antichrist who sought to wear them out is destroyed. The judgment is not given to the SAME saints Antichrist persecuted but rather to their spiritual successors. The unprecedented advance of the Gospel cause vindicates them and their cause.
Rev 6:
9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
This takes place during the millennium.
The FULL vindication is at Christ's second coming
4) The first resurrection is the glorious revival of the Church on Earth (cause for which the martyrs suffered). A period that ends before the end of the NT age. Not a physical resurrection because it can be reversed as it will be for a season.
5) The second resurrection (v. 5) is the resurgence of ungodliness at the end of the millennium that brings in Satan's little season. This is confined to the "rest" (not resurrection of "all"). After this, Christ comes in judgment.
6) Confirming evidence:
Parallels with Ezekiel 37-48
37: Israel's revival, Destruction of Gog and Magog, Vision of beautiful temple
Rev 20 -22: Millennium, Destruction of Gog and Magog, Holy City and beautified temple
THEN: The vision of the dry bones brought to life is a parallel to the REVIVAL of the church, the most glorious period of the Gospel.
Destruction of Antichrist in Dan 7:26
26 But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.
27 And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
2 Thess 2:8 gives greater weight to the view that this man of sin (the Papacy) will be destroyed by the breath of the spirit of the Christ's mouth and with the brightness of his coming.
The spirit of His mouth is a reference to Isaiah 11:4
4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
The Word of His Mouth: the Gospel proclaimed and preached will bring the man of sin down: it will end popery.
The future revival will outshine the Reformation of the 15-16th Century because the papacy survived it. It will not survive the breath of Christ's mouth in the millennium.
Romans 11:12,15,25
Israel's rejection is not final. The remnant will become a fullness.
12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
They will be brought INTO the Church through the GOSPEL, not separately in a different organization. And it will bring greater blessings still to the Gentiles.
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
Mystery: an unfolding of God's purposes (i.e. Ephesians 3)
It connects back to Ezekiel 37 and Rev 20! The dry bones brought to life.
Psalm 72:17, 19
17 His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.
19 And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.
For more on the final victory: c.f. Psalm 86:9; 102:16,21; Isaiah 60:8-12,16
The vision of the glorious millennium can be practically seen and tasted by the mind in the words of Malachi:
Malachi 1:11
11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts.

First Amendment or First Commandment? Choose whom you will serve.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has recently published an article lauding the distinctly American value of religious pluralism. Given that the stated purpose of the commission which he heads is to be, "the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination," Moore is intending to influence the massive SBC and other Americans with this article.
In the article, Moore poses the question, "must a person who believes Jesus Christ is the only way to God defend religious freedom for Christians and non-Christians alike?" and then proceeds to defend that very idea: that we as Christians are duty bound to seek legal protections for non-Christian religions. Given the unfortunate recent support of mosque-building efforts by the SBC, this doesn't come as a surprise.
A word of clarification: I stated that religious pluralism is a distinctly American value and while I readily recognize that it is now a commonplace state of affairs outside of the Islamic world, that was not always so. Particularly in European nations, nationally established churches were once the rule of the day. A single "catholic" church in covenant with God as a nation more closely resembles the Israel of the old Covenant administration and as the Church today is true Israel by faith, we ought to set that historic church (Israel) as our example of God's will being done "on Earth as it is in heaven."
And that is the crux of this article. God's Law clearly states in Exodus chapter 20:
"And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:1-3).
Recognizing that Mr. Moore would have no argument with the text on its face, it seems the problem is how Mr. Moore seems to believe this law should be understood in its application, particularly in its obligations to a righteous magistrate. More on that in a moment.
A major problem with Mr. Moore's article is that while he rightly calls for the Gospel to be our means of seeing the souls of men saved so that they might enter into covenant with the triune God, he does not lament the national sins of our laws that enable and embolden paganism. Moore instead celebrates the offense to God's Holy law as if it were a virtue. This is not what one who truly wants the Father's will to be done "on Earth as it is in Heaven" should seek and endorse.
For example, Moore espouses the good old American civil religion as a moral good:
Religious freedom means religious freedom for everyone, including those who reject our gospel.
Some who are reading right now may be asking exactly what Biblical examples of the application of this law looks like in a covenanted nation (since that is our stated "ideal"), particularly given Moore's citation of supposed examples of such from Scripture. But the problem is that Moore's examples are of unrighteous pagan rulers and not of a covenanted people and their righteously covenanted magistrate:
There is precedent in the Bible, of course, for a religion using the state to force people to externally conform to it. Those examples, though, are those of Nebuchadnezzar, and of the Beast that John saw rising out of the sea (Rev. 13), not the church of Jesus Christ.
On the contrary, when Scripture gives historical examples of righteous behavior on behalf of the leadership of the church and the righteous magistrate, we see something entirely different - the church unified in expunging idolatry from the land:
2 Chronicles  23:
16 And Jehoiada made a covenant between him, and between all the people, and between the king, that they should be the Lord's people.
17 Then all the people went to the house of Baal, and brake it down, and brake his altars and his images in pieces, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars.
18 Also Jehoiada appointed the offices of the house of the Lord by the hand of the priests the Levites, whom David had distributed in the house of the Lord, to offer the burnt offerings of the Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, as it was ordained by David.
19 And he set the porters at the gates of the house of the Lord, that none which was unclean in any thing should enter in.
20 And he took the captains of hundreds, and the nobles, and the governors of the people, and all the people of the land, and brought down the king from the house of the Lord: and they came through the high gate into the king's house, and set the king upon the throne of the kingdom.
21 And all the people of the land rejoiced: and the city was quiet, after that they had slain Athaliah [a pagan priest] with the sword.
2 Chron 24:2
And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.
A denial of the righteous magistrate and the nationally covenanted church leadership's shared responsibilities to rid the land of threats to covenantal faithfulness to God is inconsistent with what God calls righteous.
Clearly, we are not a covenanted nation today - a lamentable state of affairs. We lack the benefits and blessings of a magistrate that is morally accountable to Christ and His church, for example. From the adoption of the U.S. Constitution as the law of the land, we have been living in a state which codifies unrighteousness by going against God's law, which is moral and true in all times, and by tolerating false religions. Until this grievous national sin is addressed with the proper recognition of Jesus Christ as the source of governing authority and not the pretended autonomy of "We the People", this can never rightly be called a Christian nation. And since we are not in a covenanted nation today, we don't expect that secular people would lament the wickedness of these laws which are celebrated as natural rights.
As a confessing Presbyterian, I believe Scripture's teaching on the obligations of the First Commandment for God's people are well taught in the Westminster Larger Catechism:
Q. 104. What are the duties required in the first commandment?
A. The duties required in the first commandment are, the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him; trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him; being zealous for him; calling upon him; giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please him, and sorrowful when in anything he is offended; and walking humbly with him.
1 Chr. 28:9; Deut. 26:17; Isa. 43:10; Jer. 14:22; Ps. 95:6-7; Matt. 4:10; Ps. 29:2; Mal. 3:16; Ps. 63:6; Ecc. 12:1;Ps. 71:19; Mal. 1:6; Isa. 45:23; Josh. 24:15, 22; Deut. 6:5; Ps. 123:25; Isa. 8:13; Ex. 14:31; Isa. 26:4; Ps. 130:7;Ps. 37:4; Ps. 32:11; Rom. 12:11; Num. 25:11; Phil. 4:6; Jer. 7:23; Jas 4:7; 1 John 3:22; Jer. 31:18; Ps. 119:136; Mic. 6:8.
Celebrate pluralism? No, rather we are to be, "sorrowful when in anything [God] is offended." Considering the answer to WLC Question 106, which states, "God who seeth all things, taketh special notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other god; that so it may be an argument to dissuade from it, and to aggravate it as a most impudent provocation," we ought not provoke our Lord by celebrating that which He is much displeased with.
Of course, we are dealing with more than just the first commandment being violated by this pluralism.
Q. 108. What are the duties required in the second commandment?
A. ...the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry (Acts 17:16-17; Ps. 16:4; Deut. 7:5; Isa. 30:22).
In conclusion, just as God's law strictly required Israel to remove idolatry from the land, we should seek to do so as well. Until we are a Covenanted nation, that takes the form of the sharing of the Gospel with all peoples. Once the Gospel has transformed a nation and moved them to covenant for Reformation of the land, we should then continue to see God's kingdom will enacted among us and hold the magistrate accountable to punish idolatry in the covenanted land, not celebrate our willful breaking of the first commandment by tolerating paganism and idolatry among us.
Perhaps what is most disappointing about this is the lack of faith that seems to be evidenced when we think the church needs to ally itself with enemies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be preserved by the State. So, what is the true purpose of religious liberty?
"The final cause [of political association] is also the conservation of a human society that aims at a life in which you can worship God quietly and without error." Althusius, Politica 1.30
Confessional Resources:
WCF Chapter 19.1-523.1 and WLC 104 - 10