PMT 2014-104 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In my last blog post (PMT 2014-103) I began a consideration of the question: “How can we have hope today?” Is hope hopeless. And if it is, what is to become of the postmillennial hope. This is the second and concluding article on that question. I hope you will read the previous article first (see there is hope!).
Earthly Hope in History
The early ante-Nicene church struggled mightily in their task. Initially, they were but a “little flock” (Luke 12:32) who humbly committed their lives to a despised, rejected, and crucified Lord (1 Cor. 2:8). Initially, they were hunted down by the mightiest empire of the world, to be thrown to the beasts for refusing to worship Caesar, to be burned in the fires for affirming Christ’s lordship. Surely their times were fraught with unspeakable terror such as we have not known in modern America. Yet by the grace of God, a little over 200 years after the Apostles left the scene the emperor Constantine professed faith in Christ, lifting the earthly burden from our spiritual forefathers. Christ’s little flock was witnessing His kingdom coming with power, His gospel exercising a growing influence in the world.
Indeed, shortly thereafter Athanasius wrote: “the Saviour works so great things among men, and day by day is invisibly persuading so great a multitude from every side, both from them that dwell in Greece and in foreign lands, to come over to His faith, and all to obey His teaching” (Incarnation 30:4). In ever greater numbers idol worshipers were turning from their lifeless idols to serve the living God (cp. 2 Thess. 1:9). The mustard seed was growing in stature; the leaven was powerfully penetrating the earth (Matt. 13:31-33).
Consider the plight of faithful Christians who were later tormented by a corrupted form of Christianity in the Middle Ages. They were burned at the stake for their evangelical faith in Christ. And though the Church of the day was in such a tragic condition, the Reformation erupted on the scene shaking the very foundations of western civilization. Christians were witnessing the answer to their continuing hope-filled petition to God: “Thy kingdom come; they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Once again Christian hope burned anew in time and on earth. The flame of Christ was inextinguishable.
Consider the plight of the bold believers in England as the Reformation flared up there, then died back, only to flame forth again. Faithful ministers were hounded from their pulpits and humble saints beheaded for their faith, taunted as “Puritans.” Yet, as before, the evangelical faith shook itself and arose, bringing forth the Puritan hope and the explosion of a massive Christian missionary outreach. In their earnest hope of serving God without constraints, they migrated to the New Land to establish “a city set on a hill.”
Earthly Hope in the Present
Of course, once again we today look around with growing despair and a deepening concern for our country. Our Christian influence is waning in America. We hear tragic reports of various evils in our land and in the world. What are we to think? Shall our hope fade with the troubling news? May it never be! As did lonely Abram of old, so must we advance in hope of God’s will being effected in the earth which belongs to Him. We should be encouraged by the continuing historical resilience of our faith. What a “great cloud of witnesses” has preceded us!
We must remember the bold hope of Jeremiah. Though he prophesied the fast approaching destruction of Jerusalem, even penning a book of prophecy so disturbing we call it “Lamentations,” yet did he still hope. He looked beyond the dismal events of his day, his eyes penetrating the dark clouds of despair. He was so confident that the earthly future was in God’s hands that he purchased a piece of land in doomed Israel (Jer. 32). He believed that history was indeed “His story,” and not man’s.
We must have a hope such as did righteous Simeon. His beloved nation was subjugated to Imperial Rome. His longed-for Messiah had not come despite hundreds of years of prophetic hope. Yet like Abram and Jeremiah before him, he too continued with hope. He confidently awaited the Messiah in the Temple of God: “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Luke 2:25). And what became of his hope? He saw in the baby Jesus “Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel’” (Luke 2:30b-32).
Eschatological Themes: Postmillennialism and Preterism (7 CDs)
These lectures cover themes important for understanding the relationship of preterism and postmillennialism. The issues covered are not only important but fascinating as you come to realize better and better that the looming of AD 70 had an enormous influence on the New Testament.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Ultimately, of course, we must draw our hope for the earthly future not from “below the sun,” feeding it solely from an historical tributary. After all, we do not yet see the end result; we can trace only the slow, developing providence of God through the shifting sands of time. Yet we know that He has promised that His kingdom will grow imperceptibly in the earth, like a budding twig (Eze. 17:22-24), a growing stream (Eze. 47:1-12), a developing mustard seed (Matt. 13:31-32), penetrating leaven (Matt. 13:33), a sprouting seed (Mark 4:26-29). Nowhere does the Scripture promise that by the year 2002 will we see the full fruit of a conquering faith and the mature and final blossoming of earthly hope. We must draw our hope from above the sun, from the light of God’s revelation in the prophetic Scriptures. But we can discern the ways of God from his actions in the past in delivering His people and granting them victory despite opposition.
We should no more be discouraged in our hope of the conquest of our faith in the earth because it has not yet transpired in fulness, than we should despair regarding the Lord’s return simply because He has not yet done so. We must have a hope in the future.