Showing posts with label Postmillennial Perspectives. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Postmillennial Perspectives. Show all posts

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Many or Few? A Surprising Answer

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
This is part of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” It is a popular text for many preachers, one they can use in any number of sermons to bring a strong sense of urgency to whatever their message happens to be. Just tag on a few words about the narrow and broad ways, about how few find the narrow way that leads to life but many continue on the broad road to destruction. It plays well, especially to those who have assured themselves that they are among the few who are on the narrow way to life. And these are, after all, the “red letter” words, the word of Jesus.

However, this is not the end of the story. For not many verses later — in the very next chapter, in fact — Jesus says this:
Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:10-11)
Jesus had just healed the servant of a Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-10). Being a centurion, this man understood very well the nature of authority but he also believed that Jesus had the authority to heal, and that made for a strong faith. The result is that his servant, though not even present, was healed at Jesus’ word.

Jesus commended the man’s faith. It was exactly the kind of faith He had been looking for in Israel, among the Jews, but had not found. And now here was an outsider who knew how to trust Him. But then Jesus talked about others just like this man, outsiders who would come from east and west and would be a part of the kingdom of God. Not just a few, but many would come. The Greek word for “many” here is the same one used earlier, about the “many” on the broad way to destruction. In the earlier passage, only a few would find the way to life. But here is this one, there are many who will enter it.

So which will it be, many or few? Will there be only a few who come into the kingdom of God and find life, or will there be many? We can find the answer to that by considering two things: Who is Jesus talking about, and when is Jesus talking about?

First, who was Jesus talking about? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was addressing the Jews, many of whom, whether they realized it or not, were on a path to destruction. But in Matthew 8:10-11, Jesus was talking about those who come from east and west — the outsiders, like the Roman centurion whose servant He had just healed. Not just a few, but many like him will come into the kingdom.

Second, when was Jesus talking about? Pay attention to the tenses that are used in each case. In Matthew 7:13-14, we find the present tense: “There are many” who go in by the broad gate, and “there are few” who find the narrow one. Jesus was not necessarily foretelling the way things would be in the future but He was talking about the way things presently stood. Many of the Jews were at that time on the wrong path, one that led to destruction. But surely one purpose of Jesus’ sermon was to show them the right path, the one leading to life. For He said that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Now look at the tense used in Matthew 8:11: “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” This is future tense, not about the way things were at the time but about the way things will be in the future. Many will come, and many will sit down in the kingdom of heaven (the Greek text shows that both the coming and the sitting down are future tense).

There will be many, then, who enter into the kingdom of God and see life. Even among the Jews, we should not suppose that only a few will find it, for Jesus’ warning was not about what will be or must be, but only about what then was the case when Jesus began His ministry. Indeed, we can expect to see many Jews, as well, who will take their place in God’s eternal kingdom. For that appears to be Paul’s expectation as he concludes his long discussion about Israel in Romans 9-11, “And so all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Parameters of God’s Millennial Kingdom

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)
This passage at the end of the book of Matthew encapsulates the millennial reign of King Jesus the Messiah. At the cross, Jesus disarmed the principalities and powers, the demonic influences that pervert nations and cultures away from God (Colossians 2:15). Their power is now broken and cannot withstand the power and purpose of God in the world. At the resurrection, Jesus became the firstborn from the dead, the firstborn over God’s new creation (Colossians 1:18).

Then, after forty days of teaching His disciples about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3), He came to them and announced, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” This is the language of enthronement, the King receiving His kingdom. The next thing that was about to happen was His ascension to heaven, to His throne at the right hand of the Father,
far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:21-23)
The kingdom of God has come into the world and Jesus the Messiah, God’s Anointed King, has begun His reign. This is what all the Old Testament prophets pointed forward to, the time when God would change the world, rescue His people, Israel, and gather all the nations to know Him. It is the time figuratively represented in Revelation 20 as “a thousand years” (which is why it is called the millennial reign).

The millennial reign has already begun — it began with the ascension of King Jesus to His throne. It will reach its ultimate fulfillment when King Jesus returns at the end of the age. That is when all those who belong to Him will be resurrected, raised bodily from the grave, just as He was. Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 15:
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
But what happens next? Some believe that this is when the millennial reign of King Jesus begins. Others believe the newly resurrected are carried off to heaven for seven years while there is great tribulation and terror on earth, after which the resurrected ones will return to earth with King Jesus, and then the millennial reign begins. However, Paul says none of this, and what he does say leaves no room for it. What, then, happens after the return of King Jesus and the resurrection of all those who belong to Him?
Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:24-26)
“Then comes the end.” Not seven years of tribulation. Not even the millennial reign — that will have already taken place before the resurrection. But, “the end.” At this point, the millennial kingdom will have reached its fulfillment.

What happens at the end? King Jesus delivers the kingdom to His Father. At that time, every rule and authority and power that opposes God will be completely destroyed. Even death itself will be destroyed, cast into the “lake of fire,” as Revelation 2:14 says.

But what happens in between the beginning of the millennial kingdom, when Jesus ascended to His throne in heaven, and its completion at His return? Jesus rules and reigns, bringing every enemy under His feet. How does He do this? Through His body, the church, all those who belong to Him. For God has not only put all things under His feet — given Him all authority over them — He has also given Him as head over the church, which is His body.

King Jesus has already been given all authority on earth as well as in heaven. We are His body in the world, to exercise His kingdom authority and power on earth. How do we do this? By obeying the commission He gave us: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” That is our job until the end of the age, for Jesus said, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

These, then, are the parameters of the millennial reign of King Jesus the Messiah. It began with His ascension and all power being given to Him in heaven and on earth. It will reach its completion when He comes again. In between, we, His body, make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to follow Him in everything. When all the nations are discipled and following King Jesus, then the end of the age will come. Heaven and earth will be joined together as one (Revelation 21) and the will of God will be done on earth exactly as it is done in heaven. In the meantime, King Jesus is always with us, assuring the success of His kingdom and the commission He has given us to fulfill.

So, as a friend of mine likes to say, “Be encouraged.”

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Lord’s Prayer and Postmillennialism

In a recent chat online, I posted that I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Eschatology is the doctrine of “last things,” i.e., what happens at the end of things. Postmillennialism is basically the view that when Jesus returns, the Church will have been successful in the mission He gave to disciple all nations, teaching and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). Someone asked me if this has led me to pray the Lord’s prayer less than Christians did a millennium or two ago. Here is how I answered:
I pray the Lord’s prayer more now that I ever have in my life, and I pray it more aggressively. Wherever I see something out of alignment with heaven, I pray, “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God be done here as in heaven!”

When I pray over someone who is sick, it is, “Kingdom of God, come into this body! Will of God, be done in this body as it is being done in heaven” (because there ain’t no sickness in heaven).

When I hear about the troubles in the world, say in Libya, I pray, “Kingdom of God, come into Libya! Will of God, be done in Libya as it is in heaven.”

My conviction is that the kingdom of God is forcefully advancing in the world, ever since the days of John the Baptist, and forceful men lay hold of it (see A Kingdom Forcefully Advancing). And my confidence is that the kingdom of God will increasingly saturate the earth and the will of God will increasingly be done on earth as it is in heaven. And I am convinced that when we pray the way Jesus taught us to pray, God hears and answers.

I am postmillennial because I believe God intends to answer the Lord’s Prayer. And because I believe that the Great Commission, to make disciples of all nations (not just in all nations) will be fulfilled, because all authority has been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth. That does not cause me to slack off but to move forward with greater passion and assurance.