Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Mission and Eschatology (3)

Where pre-millennialism holds the view that Christ will come before the thousand years of peace, post-millennialism has the opposite view that Christ will come after the thousand years of peace. In a nutshell they believe that kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit, that the world eventually is to be Christianised, and that the return of Christ will occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace, commonly called the millennium. Christ’s victory will therefore not be sudden and unexpected (the way the pre-millennialists see it), but will come gradually, almost evolutionary and a time of peace and righteousness on earth will precede the second coming of Christ.
The implication of this viewpoint for the church and missions is fairly obvious. Because they believe that a time of peace and righteousness will precede the coming of Christ, they consider the task of the church to be mainly to work towards this peace and righteousness on earth. Those who feel strongly towards missions, consider missions mostly as work done to improve the world we live in so that the world can ultimately be saved. They are therefore strongly focussed on social upliftment programs, eradication of poverty and similar work. Contrary to the pre-millennialists, the post-millennialists usually have a very optimistic world view.
However, this optimistic world view, which may well be considered as one of the greatest assets of post-millennialism, is probably also its greatest weakness. It does not seem to take the forces of evil seriously enough and at times things happen which seem to eradicate all possibility of optimism. The First World War was one of those times when the post-millennialists seemed to be at a point where their natural optimism couldn’t carry them through. The same happened during and after the Second World War, with the result that they seemed to become disillusioned and had nothing to say through which people could be comforted. According to their understanding, the world should have been evolving into a better place and suddenly they were light-years back from where they previously were.
On the one hand then we have the pre-millennialists with a message of the imminent coming of the Lord and the emphasis on urgent repentance in order to be saved and on the other hand we have the post-millennialists with a message of peace and righteousness which we have to work for in order to make the world a better place before Jesus can come again.
Both these extreme viewpoints create problems if we compare this with the missionary vision of Jesus and the apostles in the Bible. It may therefore become clearer why it is said that one’s eschatological understanding influences to a great extent one’s understanding of missions.
I’m not quite sure how much Bob Roberts knows about the topic, but he clearly distinguishes between the two extremes when he writes on page 38 of his Glocalization: Although I’m not a postmillennialist theologically, I love the fact that Edwards, Whitfield, and many of the earlier preachers believed they had a responsibility to prepare the church, the bride, for Christ’s return. That meant they had an active role in establishing the kingdom here in society. It may have been a flawed theology (or maybe not), but it sure didn’t hurt us here in America.
Today the prevailing theological wind toward society is “us against them.” The assumption is that things are going to get worse and worse and worse until Jesus returns-so what’s the point? Why do anything to help society at all if it’s all going to pot anyhow? What a pessimistic view! That’s totally opposite of what Jesus told his followers
.
On a next occasion I would like to look at a-millennialism as another eschatological model and see how that would influence one’s view on missions.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007 - Posted by | Bob Roberts, Church, Eschatology, Hope, Millennianism, Mission, Social issues, Theology

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