This post is the full text of my Hope Engaged: A Postmillennial Framework. I wanted a free version accessible for those who are cash strapped or unable to get kindle books due to their country’s laws.
If you like ebooks, feel free to snag a copy.
All unmarked scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
All other Scripture references marked with WPNT are from Wilbur Pickering’s New Testament Translation.
In a day when many Christians are fighting a war of attrition and defeat rather than one of contrition and conquering, Hope Engaged actually proposes the only surely successful paradigm for the future, fully trusting the promises of Christ. One may not necessarily agree with all points to benefit from the trajectory of hope and necessity of engagement proposed herein. Nonetheless, if you want to understand what it means to carry out the great commission and be the feet under which all of Christ’s enemies will be placed, and to be leaf-people binding up the wounds and afflictions of the nations—then take up and read!
- Brian Mann, Pastor, MTS Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Hope Engaged proves again that eschatology does matter. Matthew lays out a Christian framework of how a life of service, love, and discipleship can be used by God to transform the world. And don’t forget to read the appendix at the end—set your hope on a future that is Christ’s!
- Kamaron Gray, Pastor of Harvest Bible Fellowship in Pendleton, Indiana
Before we get goin’
The first book published in this series, Hope Defined: A Postmillennial Primer, was a concise introduction to optimistic eschatology. How you view the future significantly impacts your actions today, which is a major reason for publishing this series.
The first book focused on the postmillennial position itself. In contrast, this current volume focuses on our relationship to Christ’s victorious reign—the roles we play and how they affect the present manifestation of the kingdom. Some might consider this an apologetic tool for our active efforts to extend God’s kingdom, and they would be right.
In the end, I hope that you will have a firm grasp of your role in Christ’s advancement of His Kingdom after reading this book.
Psalm 110 is rich in eschatological insights, and verse 1 is the most quoted Old Testament text in the New Testament. Psalm 110, specifically its implications for postmillennialism in New Testament quotations, is dealt with in Hope Defined. Our current endeavor is understanding how it informs our efforts in the postmillennial hope.
The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!
- Psalm 110:2
In verse 1, ‘Lord’ refers to the Messiah, David’s Lord. Verse 2 gives us some groundwork regarding the enthroned Lord—Jesus Christ.
First, the ‘scepter’ is that of a king, and the Messiah’s ‘mighty scepter’ connotes both His power and dominion.
Second, the genesis for this mediatorial reign is the ‘seating’ at the Father’s right hand.
Third, Christ’s kingdom’s complete and progressive victory is not satisfied with limited dominion. It is ‘sent,’ which means expanded or extended, and implies that Christ’s authority will be expressed throughout all the earth.
Fourth, Christ’s dominion and authority cannot be limited to the spiritual realm since He already completely rules the heavenly ‘Zion,’ and it will be ‘sent’ beyond into other jurisdictions (encompassing both the spiritual and earthly.
Fifth, strong opposition and seemingly situations of small beginnings or soon-endings are not legitimate arguments against the progressive victory. Christ has, does, and will “rule in the midst of His enemies.” They feel the authority and dominion of His sent scepter, either in submission or upon their destruction. Even when surrounded by enemies, this conclusion of being victorious is clear from the word ‘rule,’ which means “to tread with the feet.” It connotes subduing, ruling over, taking possession of, or dominating—the surety of victory in these confrontations is indicated by ‘rule’ being in the imperative mode. So the Messiah—Jesus Christ the Anointed One—must fulfill this command or be in sin (which He cannot).
I encourage the reader to do a detailed study of the parallel between Psalm 2:1-9 and 110:1-2 for further edification. The themes are beautifully interwoven—enemies, including kings and nations, rebel against God’s Messiah (Psalm 2:1-3; 110:1). The Messiah is enthroned (Psalm 2:4-6) and then goes from ‘Zion’ to destroy His enemies (Psalm 110:1-2). The Messiah puts down the rebellious nations and kings to the ends of the earth (Psalm 2:7-9), and His feet will rest upon His enemies (Psalm 110:1-2). There is great encouragement here, both in our hope and our participation (covered in the next section).
Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.
- Psalm 110:3
This verse introduces that the war will not be fought by the Messiah alone. He will have a people, an army, who will be his commissioned agents of victory. Let’s consider the lessons from verse 3.
First, all of Psalm 110 is transpiring during the Messiah’s “day of power.” This ‘day’ is the reign of the Messiah after His enthronement when His dominion is extending from Zion. Ever since the ascension of Christ to the Ancient of Days, including today, it is His “day of power.”
Second, the Messiah has a ‘people’—the redeemed in Jesus Christ.
Third, the ‘people’ are ‘willing,’ or uncompelled in their service to their King. They are a ‘free-will offering’ given to the Messiah. They are His willing servants. We—the Church—are servants who offer our lives as a ‘living sacrifice’ (Romans 12:1)—a perpetual free-will offering.
Fourth, the ‘people’ are dressed in ‘holy garments.’ They are priestly people. Leupold (1892-1972), regarding this verse, writes,
Nor shall He be alone in this warfare (v. 3). When He sets forth to give evidence of His power and control, there will be a great army of men in the prime of their youth who shall cheerfully volunteer their services and shall come fittingly equipped for holy warfare in holy garments, that is arrayed in true righteousness and holiness. As dew in unnumbered globules is born at each new dawn, so shall these warriors be, numberless and continually fresh.
- H.C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms, pp 772.
As a priestly people, our warfare will not be conventional warfare. As an army of ‘Levites,’ we’ll teach and apply God’s Word to every area of life. These ‘weapons,’ empowered by the Kingly Messiah—Jesus Christ who is seated at the right hand of His Father (Ephesians 1:20) in the heavenly Zion (Hebrews 12:22)—will overcome and rule (literally tread with the feet) His enemies. This is what Jesus meant when He said that His Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).
The priestly army’s armory
The weaponry and strategy of the priestly army is service. The first priestly vice-regent—Adam—was told to serve in the Garden (Genesis 2:15). The double command to ‘serve’ and ‘keep’ is used to describe the duty of the Levites who were at the tabernacle (Numbers 3:7-8; 8:23-26; 18:1-7). God commanded Israel to ‘watch’ their hearts and not ‘serve’ other gods (Deuteronomy 11:16; 12:30). God also called for His people to ‘keep’ the Law ‘very carefully’ as their ‘service’ toward Him (Joshua 22:5; Deuteronomy 13:5). If God’s priestly people did not ‘keep’ his commandments and ‘serve’ other gods, they would be judged (1 Kings 9:6-9; Jeremiah 16:10-13).
There is much to glean about our eschatological enlistment as Christ’s priestly army from the texts using ‘keep’ and ‘serve’ covered above. First, we are to protect that which belongs to God. We are told to ‘keep’ our hearts in check—making sure to be constrained by God’s law regarding hopes, desires, and ideals so that we do not worship other gods.
Not only was a spiritual guard commanded, but physical ‘guarding’ was commanded as well, which we see when considering the Levites. In The Hands That Will Restore Humanity, I showed how deacons were the direct continuation of the Levites, serving in all sorts of practical manners. One Levitic duty alluded to was the guarding of the Tabernacle/Temple against intruders. When the Church gathers together in their local expressions (local churches), deacons should be armed in case someone desires to harm the ministry happening therein. We might call this an application of the general equity of this law. Just as certain Levites would protect the cultic activity of the Tabernacle/Temple, there should be deacons armed to protect the current Temple—God’s people gathered.
Second, our ‘service’ to God is the ‘keeping’ of His commandments. We are to walk humbly and do justice and righteousness (Micah 6:8; Deuteronomy 6:25). Rushdoony writes, regarding ‘righteous,’ ‘justice,’ and ‘charity,’
In Hebrew, there are three words based on a common root, the word justice. “Tzaddik is a righteous person; tsedek is justice in a court of law; tsedakah is ‘charity.’” Because God is the Creator and Lawgiver, in His sovereign purpose and plan the just or righteous man, the court of law, and charity are essentially related.
- R.J. Rushdoony, In His Service: The Christian Calling to Charity, pp 276 [Epub].
We have three areas of ‘service’ highlighted explicitly by the language of Scripture. Being made in the image of God, we must be righteous in character. Following the judgments of God, our judgments of right and wrong at every point must be just. Like our Gracious God, we must excel in charity.
Third, service is power. Dominion is a blessing for our gracious obedience, so our ‘service’—law-keeping towards God and neighbor—is power. After citing Matthew 20:25-28, Rushdoony writes,
The word in verse 26 translated as “minister” is diakonos, servant, and in verse 27, “servant” translates doulos, slave, servant. Our Lord is emphatic: service is power, and the Gentiles fail to recognize this and so substitute the exercise of brute force for service. Today, however, the ungodly have borrowed from the church things the church often forgets, namely, that service is power. Hence, the modern state has created an unprecedented form of power by taking over the church’s diaconal services.
- Rushdoony, ibid., pp 20 [Epub]
The connection between the lack of God’s priestly army serving, and the rise of Statism, will be considered further in the following book in this series on postmillennialism.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.
- Genesis 3:15
The God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
- Romans 16:20 (WPNT)
The first promise we receive is that our chief nemesis will fall under the crushing feet of the offspring, or seed, of the woman. Genesis 3:15 is the subject of many commentaries and volumes on biblical theology from a wide range of theological perspectives. Often highlighted, ‘offspring,’ or ‘seed,’ can both refer to a single person, but also a people.
However, it is widely understood the seed ultimately culminates in the One who bruises, or crushes, the head of the serpent—Jesus Christ. Jesus abolished the power of death (2 Timothy 1:10), destroyed death as a tool wielded by Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15), and gained authority over the nations by binding the strongman, Satan, and taking back what was handed over by Adam—authority over the nations (Mark 3:22-27; Matthew 28:18-20).
We have covered the scale of Christ’s work of redemption in Hope Defined: A Postmillennial Primer. However, the question we seek to answer is different. How does our status as “seed of the woman,” and the promise-calling to bruise heads inform our theology of enlistment in postmillennialism?
The recurring reality
Besides it pointing to the ultimate bruising, Genesis 3:15 assumes a raging battle between the two seeds—those who submit to God’s covenant and those who don’t. Keith Mathison writes,
God’s pronouncement hints that humanity will henceforth be divided into two communities: the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. God promises that he himself will initiate and perpetuate conflict between them. The verb translated “bruise,” as Wenham explains, is iterative. “It implies repeated attacks by both sides to injure the other.” The text, therefore, is profoundly eschatological in that it points to “a long struggle between good and evil, with mankind eventually triumphing.”
- Keith A. Mathison, From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology, pp 26.
This curse placed on the serpent manifested itself concretely throughout the Old Testament. Time and again, we see men who obtained great renown for their wickedness. First, we have Sisera, who was known for, among other things, manstealing and raping the women from fallen enemies (Judges 5:30). Considering the importance of generational covenant-keeping and marrying within one’s tribe, Sisera’s hoarding of ‘wombs’ is a direct attack on Yahweh’s covenant. This son of the serpent had his head pierced by a tent peg. The Seed of the Serpent waged war, but the Seed of the Woman prevailed.
Second, we have another serpent-man, Abimelech. Jerubbaal (the apostate name of Gideon) gave his half-Canaanite son the name Abimelech, which means ‘My father is king.’ Carrying forward the desire of his father to rule over the people as tyrant-king, Abimelech led a rebellion. He slaughtered all of his brothers but one—he escaped (Judges 9:3-6). After much warfare against those who did not want to submit to him, he finally came to a second tower to set it ablaze. As he approached, a woman threw down a millstone and crushed his head (Judges 9:53). Resultantly, the curse of Jotham, the covenantally faithful brother who escaped, was fulfilled (Judges 9:57). The Seed of the Serpent waged war, but the Seed of the Woman prevailed.
The third is the confrontation between David and Goliath. Scholars of Biblical Theology have pointed out many points of symbology (theology of symbols) regarding Goliath. The length of his spear, the weight of his armor, and his height make 6-6-6, symbolizing his being a mouthpiece for Satan. This might be the case. However, the 666 in Revelation isn’t three 6’s, but six-hundred-and-sixty-six (which supports the view that 666 signified Nero). I think there is a stronger case for his unique status as a Seed of the Serpent in that he wears scale armor (1 Samuel 17:5). He received a fatal head wound from David (1 Samuel 17:49), perfectly depicting the promise of bruising, or crushing, heads. The Seed of the Serpent waged war, but the Seed of the Woman prevailed.
A fourth example is Sheba. Scripture tells us the quality of the man—worthless. Throughout the Old Testament, the designation ‘worthless’ describes rebels against the covenant—lawless and wicked. Sheba’s wickedness is clear to readers through his treason that led Israel, except for Judah, to rebel against David. This wasn’t just a denial of David’s rule, but a rejection of covenantal inheritance:
And he blew the trumpet and said,
“We have no portion in David,
and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse;
every man to his tents, O Israel!”
- 2 Samuel 20:1
God reveals that the Messiah will come from the ‘root of Jesse’ (Isaiah 11:1-10). Sheba’s worthlessness concerning God’s covenant is ethical and eschatological. He will have no place in the promises and victory of God’s covenant mediated through the Messiah—Jesus Christ. This serpent-man who sought to dissolve God’s covenant was beheaded and his head thrown over a city wall to his pursuers (2 Samuel 20:22). The Seed of the Serpent waged war, but the Seed of the Woman prevailed.
We could mention a few other references, like Absalom being defeated by his hair getting caught in a tree (2 Samuel 18:9-15) and Joshua stepping on the necks of ungodly kings and later hanging them (Joshua 10:22-27). The promise is not only eschatological but it is fulfilled throughout the history of God’s people by their participation in bruising or crushing the head of the Serpent and his seed.
The ultimate skull-crusher was Jesus Christ, and He decisively bruised the head of the serpent through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. As the Church of the Old Covenant bruises the Serpent’s seed in anticipation of the Messiah’s ultimate bruising, the Church in the New Covenant participates in the bruising of Satan’s remaining influence.
The God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
- Romans 16:20 (WPNT)
This verse is significant for the study at hand. First, this tells us that we still carry out the warfare against the Serpent and his seed. Our foe is mortally wounded, and as we walk in Christ, we will crush him under our feet.
Second, as we walk in persevering obedience to Christ, we not only have victory over Satan’s machinations in the world but also perpetuate peace. It is the God of peace who places us in victory over our foes. The result of covenantal victory is peace.
Third, we are empowered to participate in victory by God’s grace through our Lord—the skull crusher par excellence—Jesus Christ.
The fourth thing we learn is that we participate in the historical victory of Christ over all of his enemies. Many postmillennialists have referred to this as footstool theology. The exact Greek phrase is used in two other places in the New Testament.
Because it is necessary that He reign until He has put all the enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
- 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 (WPNT)
We dealt with the eschatological implications in Hope Defined, but we shouldn’t miss the significance of this promise and our relationship to the progressive victory of Christ’s Kingdom. Satan must fall beneath our feet (Romans 16:20), and all of Christ’s enemies will be put under His feet (1 Corinthians 15:25). The question to be asked is, “What’s the connection between ours and Jesus’ feet?”
And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
- Ephesians 1:19-23
The reason why the Father gave Christ authority is that He accomplished His redemptive work. The power behind this work is the same power that strengthens the hope of our inheritance. What does this text in Ephesians identify as our inheritance?
After Paul tells us of Christ’s earned authority, power, and dominion above every name and age, he tells us that Christ has absolutely everything under His feet. God gave us this all-things-under-his-feet-Christ as our federal head. We are His body and described as ‘his fullness.’
Putting it together
It’s incredible, but maybe you missed it. I know I did for a long time. We are the feet where Christ will put all His enemies, the final one being death itself. We are God’s chosen means to teach (literally to disciple) the nations (Matthew 28:17-20) and bring about their obedience (Romans 1:5; 16:26) to God’s revelation and kingdom.
Through the faithful preaching of the comprehensive Gospel revealed in the totality of God’s Word (tota Scriptura) and obedience to God’s Law empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Church, God’s people will crush the remainder of the strongman-serpent and his seed. In doing so, we will take back their illegitimate possessions and humbly submit them to the rightful owner (Mark 3:22-27). Finally, we will transform the nations from ‘worldliness’ (antithetical to God) into the nations of God (Revelation 11:15).
A Growing Tree
When thinking through biblical theology, a frequent picture of Jesus Christ, both in the Old and New Testament, is a tree, branch, or vine. We might consider this chapter a study in eschatological botany. The study of this plant, in particular, has much to offer in building out our understanding of eschatological participation.
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
- Isaiah 11:1
In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
- Jeremiah 33:15
And say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.
- Zechariah 6:12
The Messiah is a Branch, the Branch, and the Lord’s Branch. Specifically, He is a branch from the ‘stump of Jesse.’ Jesse was David’s father, and so this promised branch contains and communicates all of the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The prophecies of this Messianic-branch include:
- the establishment of justice and righteousness,
- the establishment and spread of His kingdom,
- healing and freedom to the afflicted and oppressed,
- peace permeating throughout creation, and
- the building of a new Temple.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
- John 15:1-2
As it was with resting feet upon Christ’s enemies and crushing heads, we are included in the botany of Christ. Jesus is none other than the ‘true vine,’ and his Father the ‘vinedresser.’ To the scripturally aware Jew, they would be thinking of the prophecies of the Branch who was to come. What we have here are words dripping with eschatological significance. Jesus is the Vine who will establish justice and righteousness through the establishment and extension of His Kingdom. He is the very Vine in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) and in whom we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
First of all, this text is primarily about judgment. Every interaction with God is judgment one way or another, and it’s nothing we should shy away from in our walk with Him. In this intro to His discourse on the ‘vine’, the chief players are the Son and the Father.
We are branches grafted into Jesus Christ. The one who remains visibly in covenant with Christ, signified by these branches, is the one who bears fruit (obedience to God’s commandments). The Father removes dead branches—faith void of works (James 2:14-26)—from visible unity with Christ.
This Vine, and its branches, will not be stunted. Some branches will be broken off—even huge sweeping portions—, but the Father is a Master Gardener. He prunes so that the Vine might grow, both quantitatively and qualitatively. The Vine not only represents the Messiah Himself, but also His Kingdom. The Vine represents His organic, covenantal relation to the world. And the Tree-Kingdom pictures the administration of His rule (Matthew 13:31-32).
The blessing and healing of the nations
…through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
- Revelation 22:2
We’ve already discussed our being fruitful branches of the Vine. Unfruitful branches will be pruned and tossed into the flame. Here, Jesus is the Tree of Life in the center of the Kingdom.
The precedence for our eschatological participation is clear from the descriptive word-pictures of Christ. I’ll quickly bring two more to our attention. First, Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12), so we are lights to the world (Matthew 5:14-16). Of course, our light is merely a reflection of His, something akin to the Moon, giving light by reflecting the more significant entity, the Sun. Second, Jesus is said to hold all things together (Colossians 1:17). He upholds all of creation, and by our covenantal unity to Jesus Christ, we are ‘the salt’ (Matthew 5:13) that preserves the life of cultures and nations and flavors them with righteousness when we follow the mandates of our King.
In this study of eschatological botany, we again see our participation in the progressive, assured, and worldwide victory of Christ’s Kingdom. At this point, it’s good to slow down and remember the foundation of our eschatological role—Jesus’ redemptive work. The only way man can once again enjoy accessibility to the Tree of Life is because Jesus, the Tree of Life, overcame the Curse-Tree and all its power of sin and death. The surety of victory for our Life-Tree reminds us that the eschatology we’re enlisted in is nothing but victorious.
We are fruitful branches whose leaves will heal the nations. The fruit we produce is plentiful (yields every month) and diverse (12 kinds). The question we should ask is, “How will these nations be healed?”
Walking among the leaves
As nations come to the Tree of Life to taste its fruit, they’ll brush against the leaves. Contact with these leaves heals. As God’s leaf-people, contact with us will heal the nation. The chief means of healing is love.
I won’t spend much time on this, as many commentators have already covered the topic ad nauseam, but I will add that this love isn’t just raw emotional output. It’s mainly ethical.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
- 1 John 4:7-12
We are called by the Apostle John to love one another. John’s command primarily focuses on the covenant community.
John teaches us, first of all, that the genesis of love is God, for it ‘is from God.’ Without God’s communication of love—a gracious gift indeed!—we would know of no such thing.
The second is like the first, in that the communication of love requires a loving God, ‘He loved us.’
Third, God’s love is atoning. The Father sent His Son—Jesus Christ—to satisfy the wrath of the Triune-God, and the Holy Spirit communicates the benefit of that satisfaction to us. Love something God communicates to us.
Fourth, for us to have the ability to love requires regeneration. “Anyone who does not love does not know God.” Our sin blinds us to the truth, so we need the renewal of our nature to rightly see and know God (Romans 1:21; Ephesians 4:17-18). Love, biblically defined, is impossible without a heart of flesh.
Fifth, love is a covenantal litmus test. It is an ethical gauge for our relationship with God. If our lives are devoid of love, the only conclusion is that we do not love God.
Sixth, Christians are morally responsible to love one another. This love manifests itself in many ways, such as empathizing and suffering alongside one another (Romans 12:15), forgiving offenses (Proverbs 10:12), patiently confronting sin, encouraging the doubting, and helping those who are weaker (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Love is not optional.
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
- Leviticus 19:18
Seventh, if a neighbor wrongs us, we cannot take ‘vengeance’ against them—no leveling the scoreboard, taking ‘justice’ into our own hands, or using means that are not lawfully available to us to deal with disputes.
Eighth, our love is manifested by keeping our anger short-lived, for we are not supposed to bear grudges.
Ninth, our duty to love is wrapped up in the lordship of God.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Matthew 5:43-48
Tenth, Christians are required to love not only their neighbors but their enemies—those who are covenantally at odds with God, His Law and Kingdom, and our task of dominion and service.
Eleventh, our love for our enemies is an expression of what many theologians called God’s ‘common-grace.’
Twelfth, our love mimics the ‘perfection’ of God the Father. The real key to this verse is understanding the word ‘perfect.’ It means ‘mature.’ This makes sense when we consider the previous observation. God has ‘particular’ grace towards His covenant people, but He has a ‘common’ grace that He gives to uncovenanted humanity. As God’s people, we must have a particular type of love for specific categories of people. That is where ‘perfection’ or ‘maturity’ comes in, knowing how to love your enemies the appropriate way.
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
- Romans 13:8-10
Thirteenth, love is law-keeping.
Fourteenth, the law informs us how to love within certain ethical, relational boundaries (parents, spouses, children, neighbors, enemies, etc.).
Fifteenth, to ‘love’ someone lawlessly—in a way that transgresses God commands—is to hate them.
Sixteenth, love towards our neighbors requires not harming them. Such as stealing, physically abusing, bearing false witness, among other things highlighted in God’s Law.
Seventeenth, the ‘two greatest commandments’ assume and require obedience to the Ten Commandments. Summaries do not abrogate what was summarized.
And this is the love, that we live according to His commandments—this is the commandment, just as you heard from the beginning, that you should live according to it.
- 2 John 1:6 (WPNT)
Eighteenth, living your life in joyful obedience to God’s Law is to live a loving life. This law-love principle has always been the case throughout redemptive history and still is today.
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
- 1 John 5:2-5
Nineteenth, keeping God’s commandments shows that we love God.
Twentieth, loving — keeping God’s commandments towards God and neighbor—is not burdensome.
Twenty-first, living by faith, overcoming the world, and believing in Jesus are equated with loving God, which we’ve observed is keeping His Law.
Why did we spend so much time on this point? This is how we—God’s leaf-people—will bind up the wounds and afflictions of the nations. We will teach the nations justice, peace, and liberty provided by God’s Law by loving and teaching the world what love is. They will learn to love God, believe in Christ, and in turn, overcome the world. To help understand the connection between the judicial-ethical command to love and the postmillennial victory of overcoming the world, I will quote Greg Bahnsen at large:
It is quite common for the term “world” to be used, not in a geographic sense, but in an ethical sense; here it denotes the immoral realm of disobedience rather than the all-inclusive, extensive scope of creation. The “world” represents the life of man apart from God and bound to sinful impulses. Thus, when scriptural writers speak of “the world,” they often mean the world in so far as it is ethically separated from God. Paul contrasts godly sorrow to the sorrow of the world; the former brings salvation, while the latter leads to death (2 Cor. 7:10). If “world” here meant the geographic scope of creation (embracing all men and things), then the “sorrow of the world” would include the sorrow of any and all men who live in the world—thus precluding the possibility of any earth-dweller repenting with godly sorrow and finding salvation. Furthermore, the juxtaposition of “godly” with “worldly” would require—if “world” denotes a location rather than an ethical state—that “godly” correspondingly denote a physical realm or location; otherwise Paul’s contrast would not be categorical and mutually exclusive (i.e., some sorrow could be simultaneously godly and located in the world). Paul is clearly using “world” for the unethical state of sinful rebellion, and thus can contrast it to the ethical state of godliness. In Colossians 2:8, Paul appositionally explains “the elementary principles of the world” as philosophy which is “not according to Christ.” Hence the elements of “the world” (cf. Gal. 4:3) stand in direct antithesis to Christ. Here the world is the unethical sphere of opposition to Christ. In Philippians 2:15, Christians are called “lights in the world”—that is, “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” The “world” is not each and every human being, but rather the generation which is perverse and crooked; the term is qualitative rather than quantitative. It has an ethical, not geographical, focus. The world in its wisdom knows not God, and God makes the world’s wisdom foolish (1 Cor. 1:20–21; cf. 3:19). The world is that realm which is under God’s condemnation (1 Cor. 11:32), for to walk “according to the course of this world” is to follow Satan and to be a “son of disobedience” and therefore a “child of wrath” (Eph. 2:2–3). From these verses it is evident that “world” denotes the ethical sphere of sinful rebellion.
“This use of the term is not exclusive to Paul. James says that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (4:4); thus “true religion …[is] to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (1:27). Again, the word is obviously being used in an ethical sense for sinful pollution and antagonism to God. Peter speaks of “the corruption that is in the world” (2 Pet. 1:4) and “the defilements of the world” (2:20), thereby utilizing the term “world” in the same way that Paul and James use it. It is especially to be noted that the apostle John thinks of “the world” as the domain of disobedience, disbelief, and darkness. The world is in sin and therefore needs to be saved (John 1:29; 3:17; 4:42; 12:47; 16:8). The world is the place of darkness, ethically speaking, into which the light (God’s holy Son, Jesus Christ) has shone (John 3:19; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). The world is spiritually dead and thus needs life given to it (John 6:33, 51); this clearly demonstrates that “world” cannot be taken in a natural sense, for the world (understood descriptively as the created order) is animated and alive. It is in an ethical or spiritual sense that the world needs life. To be “from beneath” (that is, “of your father, the devil”—8:44) is to be “of this world” (8:23); consequently, Jesus categorically affirmed, even though He was born of a human mother on earth, that He was “not of this world.” Even though Jesus powerfully sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the world could not receive, behold, or know Him (John 14:17; cf. 1 Cor. 2:14). The world is that aspect of humanity that rebels against the truth and is unregenerate; consequently, the elect are not of the world (John 15:19; 17:14, 16) even though they are chosen out of the world (John 17:6, 9).
- Bahnsen, G. L. (1974). The Person, Work, and Present Status of Satan. In G. North (Ed.), JCR Vol. 01 No. 2: Symposium on Satanism (pp. 32-33). Chalcedon.
Christ will overcome the unethical domain of ‘the world’ and heal the nations by our obedient, Holy Spirit-empowered love towards God, neighbor, and enemy.
Feeding the nations
The branches of the Tree-King—Jesus Christ—will produce abundant and varied fruit. What is this fruit? The ‘fruit of the Spirit.’
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
- Galatians 5:18-24
This portion of Scripture is chalked full of insights into eschatological botany and our postmillennial engagement in Christ’s victorious reign.
First, a prerequisite to bearing fruit is having the law’s curse removed. This is what it means we are ‘not under the law.’ We are led by the Spirit, whereas the fallen man outside of God’s Covenant of Grace is morally crooked and rebels against God at every point. Being enslaved to the list of sins here is antithetical to being ‘led by the Spirit.’ Paul tells us that we, Christians, at one time fell under a similar list of sins (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), but we were justified and sanctified by Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11). To follow the Spirit and produce His fruit, Christ must redeem us.
Second, the fruits of the Spirit are indicators of being an inheritor of the ‘kingdom of God.’
Third, the contrast of sins—the breaking of God’s commandments—with the fruit of the Spirit shows us that a fruitful person conforms to God’s Law.
Now, let’s look at the fruits specifically and how they benefit us. We have defined love above, so we will not dwell on it further. Christians must be joyful. Consider a few examples, from Scripture, of unending sources of joy available to us. The Messiah came as promised (Luke 1:14; John 3:29). The repentance of others from sin to Christ (Luke 15:7, 10). Our obedience brings glory to God the Father (John 15:8-11). God answers our prayers (John 16:24). God’s supernatural healings and deliverances (Acts 8:8). The joy of rejoicing in the obedience of others (2 Corinthians 2:3). The growth of those we train brings great joy (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). Our fellowship with the Triune-God was revealed through the Apostles’ teaching (1 John 1:1-4). This is just a tiny sampling of what can bring us joy and how we can share that joy with others.
Peace. The word (εἰρήνη) found here mainly falls into three categories. Peace received, shared, and extended. The most occurrences are the peace we receive from the Triune God, primarily understood as peace of mind. The second category is the peace shared—or should be—between Christians. This communal peace is a derivative of the first category of peace.
With the smallest number of occurrences, the final category is extended peace. The example we find in the New Testament is when Jesus sent out his disciples (Matthew 10:5-15). This was a mission trip. The disciples would go town to town preaching the Messiah and His kingdom. If someone takes them into their home and is worthy, the disciples should let their ‘peace’ rest on their hosts. If the opposite is true, they should take their ‘peace’ with them. The use of ‘worthy’ in conjunction with peace-giving or peace-taking denotes an ethical estimation of the hosts. Suppose they were antithetical to the kingdom, perhaps not willing to give an offering to the “workman worthy of their labor,” or didn’t happily receive the proclamation of the kingdom. In that case, peace shall leave them, and judgment would take its place.
The peace we extend is both by our service—like the healing and casting out of demons by the disciples—and the teaching of Christ and His kingdom. The peace will either be received, and the recipient submits to the King, or they are crushed under the feet of Christ (refer to the image of Chapter 1 & 2).
Patience. This fruit has also been categorized as ‘slow to anger.’ Not easily offended. When sinned against, the patient man doesn’t instantaneously commit oneself to the warpath to vengeance. This exact word speaks to God’s patience in waiting to pour out his wrath on humanity during the time of Noah (1 Peter 3:20).
Kindness. This refers to being merciful to others. The New Testament uses this word to refer to God’s ‘loving kindness’ (Titus 3:4). One could argue a connection to God’s covenant loyalty (hesed). If this connection is considered legitimate, it could be asserted that when we act loyally towards others, it is loving them (Christians, neighbors, and enemies) according to God’s ethical boundaries for relationships (covered in the section above).
One example of this fruit nourishing the nations is the godly denial of litigiousness. A prime example of this fruit of unkindness is legislating our preferences against others, often by lobbying lawmakers. For a long time, I have taught that our culture’s desire to conform others to personal preferences is why we have lawmakers constantly making laws. We told civil servants that we expect this from the government by our pressure to force our neighbors into conformity through legislation. This is a lesson most cultures need immediately.
Goodness. This speaks of moral uprightness. This fruit is available in a life aligned with God’s commandments. ‘Goodness’ is a vital fruit, as the law is said to revive hearts (Psalm 19:7). We need this reviving fruit for the souls of individuals and nations.
Faithfulness. This is the quality of loyalty. This fruit is visible in our allegiance to God, our keeping of vows with our neighbors, and our honoring contracts.
R.J. Rushdoony, writing on the fruits of the Spirit to this point, writes, “We are faithful to God in Christ, and, in Him, to our responsibilities to the Kingdom, its peoples, and its duties.” (Romans & Galatians, p 394)
Gentleness. An arguably better translation is ‘meekness.’ I find this contextually a better option, as the word comes from meek (πραΰς). The Greek word means to ‘be harnessed.’ According to biblical reasoning, we are harnessed by God and reigned in by His Word. A harnessed man will not be hostile towards people but will be lawful in all his relations and encounters with others.
Self-control. Taking a hint from the root of this word—strength—speaks both to the exertion of force and the power to restrain one’s strength appropriately. The unregenerate man cannot control the lusts of his heart and so is lawless.
Nations, communities, and churches of lawlessness, made up of a people, from the least to the greatest, who is not in submission to God’s Word, will tear themselves apart. As the Tree-King’s branch-people, the fruits of the Spirit manifested in our life and teaching will nourish the nations. No longer will they need to feed on themselves and others.
Baptism and the Kingdom
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
- Ezekiel 36:25-28
Our survey has taken us through various texts while building our theology of eschatological engagement. You might wonder how baptism is related to eschatology. The truth is, eschatology saturates baptism.
Baptism isn’t something foreign to the Old Testament. Speaking to Jewish-Christians in the book of Hebrews, Paul — by my estimation — taught that baptism was foundational to the faith (Hebrews 6:1-3). The context and audience tell us that this foundational information was the ABCs of the Old Covenant, as it is in the New Covenant. We can’t start in the New Testament to understand baptism but must begin in the Old Testament.
Before moving to baptism, we must understand the importance of grasping baptism. Paul tells us that ‘maturity’ is impossible without mastering the ‘elementary’ principles (Hebrews 6:1). The weight of this lack of comprehension is also because New Covenant and Old Covenant baptisms are connected (Hebrew 9-10).
In our Ezekiel text, we are told that we will be ‘sprinkled’ by ‘clean water,’ which will result in ‘idols’ taken away and ‘uncleanness’ purified. This makes sense when we focus on the word translated as purification, separation, washing, and baptism. The following list looking at the purifying nature of baptism, as seen in the usage of nidah and the antithetical category of ‘cut off,’ is developed from the work of Phillip Kayser.
- People made unclean by death or leprosy were baptized (Numbers 19; Leviticus 13-14).
- Those who were covenantally dead to God or ‘cut off’ from God’s people were baptized.
- Purification was required, baptism/washing, of any object or person from pagan nations (Numbers 31:20-23).
- Converted Gentiles from pagan nations required baptism/purification.
- Heathens, or unconverted Gentiles, invariably fell into the category of covenantal death (Ezra 9:11; Lamentations; Zechariah 13:1; 14:16-29). Resultantly, proselytes required baptism/purification. This is ‘baptism from/of the dead.’
- The Gospels refer to this purifying baptism for covenantally unfaithful Israel and Gentiles, both being covenantally dead (John 3:22-26; Luke 3:7-9,12,14).
- This is the logic behind the New Testament’s demand for repentance and baptism in the early parts of the Gospels. Israel was ‘cut off’ because of her disobedience, which is seen in Scripture covenantally equating her with Egypt and Babylon. The Jews had to repent and submit to baptism-purification, which separated/purified them from the now pagan nation of Israel.
- A woman who was discharging blood (menstruation) was unclean and needed purification/baptism (Leviticus 15:19:20,24-26,33; 18:19; Lamentations 1:17; Ezekiel 18:6; 20:10; 36:17).
- A woman became unclean after giving birth, and so she needed to be purified/baptized (Leviticus 12:1-8).
- Before purification/baptism, the child was unclean until the eighth day (cf. Isaiah 52:1; Ezra 9:1-2).
- An interesting note is that Genesis 17:14 calls the unclean newborn “cut off” from the people of God.
- Although Genesis 17:14 is about the need for circumcision to become a covenant keeper, it does reaffirm the point of uncleanness.
- Also, even though circumcision was required to keep the covenant, baptism or purification was still needed not to be “cut off,” emphasizing, once again, the theological importance of baptism.
- Unlike the New Covenant, it was easy to become unclean or ‘cut off,’ for God’s people in the Old Covenant. Many baptisms/purifications were needed.
- An interesting note is that Genesis 17:14 calls the unclean newborn “cut off” from the people of God.
- The nidah (separating, washing, purifying) baptisms commanded by God led to an understanding that proselytes were ‘born’ into God’s people by baptism. It was the marker of new birth.
- Understanding this ‘elementary principle’ brings clarity to John 3:5-7. Jesus, while speaking to Nicodemus, alludes to ‘birth’ by nidah baptism. He tells him that birth by ‘water’ won’t suffice, but one ‘born of the Spirit’ will enter the kingdom. Sadly, Israel largely understood and focused on the outward (water) nidah baptism, and not what it signified — the cleansing baptism of the Spirit — explaining why Jesus shamed Nicodemus for being ignorant of what he should have known.
- The New Testament (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5; 10:44-48; 11:15-16) and Old Testament (Ezekiel 36:17-38; Isaiah 44:3-4) tie the meaning of water and Spirit baptisms together by nidah.
- The portion of Ezekiel referenced above pointed out Israel’s lack of nidah because of her unfaithfulness, and so she needed both water and Spirit baptism. This was true of Israel in the time of Christ. She was unfaithful to Yahweh and ultimately ‘cut off’ (signified by A.D. 70) because she rejected both Jesus’ offer of water and Spirit baptism.
- The Isaiah reference talks of the two nidah baptisms — water and Spirit — that would be poured out on believers and their children.
- The realities of the Ezekiel and Isaiah prophecies were directing God’s people to the Messiah — Jesus Christ. He is the fountain of living water “for sin and for nidah” (Zechariah 13:1).
We are God’s cleansed people, set apart to serve and glorify Him. After receiving both of the nidah baptisms—water and Spirit—we are cleansed not only of our past contaminating sins but are freed from the corrupting tyranny of our sinful nature. The New Covenant’s nidah baptisms are how the Messiah’s priestly army (Chapter 1) is filled.
The Messianic Baptizer
‘I will sprinkle clean water on you.’
- Ezekial 36:25a
The gift-baptism of the Holy Spirit from the Messiah is no stranger to prophetic literature (Isaiah 42:1; 44:3; 59:21; Joel 2:28f.). His baptizing with water was expected by Jews (John 1:25) and desired by Gentile converts (cf. Acts 8:28-39 with Isaiah 52:15). From the beginning until now and into the future, baptism is pregnant with eschatological significance. It’s a calling from death to life, rebellion to service, and defeat to victory.
As mentioned above, the baptism of the Spirit allowed for a new division of humanity. Our family was soaked in sin—baptized into death—since the fall of Adam. Rushdoony wrote our covenantally dead heritage as, “…the world of Adam is a continuing re-run of man’s fall” (Faith & Action, p 1184).
At the beginning of the chapter, the ‘I’ in our Ezekiel text (Ezekiel 36:25-28) is the Messiah—Jesus Christ. He is the one who brings the gift-baptism of the Holy Spirit that makes us clean. Baptism symbolizes (with water) and actualizes (with the Spirit) the break with our awful heritage. That’s not all—it brings us somewhere. Both water and Spirit baptism are Messianic. They mark the coming of His kingdom, bring us into participation in that kingdom’s task, and mark the end of humanity’s enslavement to sin, death, and the devil—the last we will discuss next.
I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
- Ezekiel 36:26
Baptism is meaningless without victory. If it weren’t victorious, Jews in the OT would never be cleaned, purified, or set apart through nidah baptisms. By nidah baptism, God gave a victorious means to destroy the pollution of sin’s uncleanness temporarily.
In the New Covenant, the nidah baptism of the Spirit, which the water baptism signifies, breaks the repetitious cycle of destruction that our fallen nature produces. The power of God, manifested in Christ, is made manifest in us by the Holy Spirit by separating us from sin and death and moving us to life, justice, and righteousness as a new creation. Spirit baptism is victory. Water baptism signifies faith, life, and victory.
I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
- Ezekial 36:27
The Messiah baptizes us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Jesus brings us into His victory over sin, death, the Devil, and all his works.
Jesus Christ also baptizes us into justice. He does so by His Spirit indwelling us. The work of the Spirit causes us to obey God’s commandments. This ethical effect of the Messiah’s Spirit baptism begins the historical expression of His mediatorial kingdom upon the earth. The governing of God’s Law begins in the Spirit-baptised-man.
This ever-expanding justice will extend throughout ‘the land,’ which we immediately understand as speaking of Israel, but ultimately the goal was never Israel only. Jesus Christ’s kingdom was always for the blessing of the whole world (families and nations) to God’s glory. This ties together our themes of purification (the regeneration of citizenry), victory (nations no longer ruled by fallen wisdom fueled by lusts), and justice (nations submitting to the Law of God).
Us | The Army of The Messiah
When we receive the nidah baptisms of water and Spirit, we become God’s covenant people, the Messiah’s priestly army—purified from sin and equipped with a new heart, which is filled with the Divine Law Teacher—the Holy Spirit. From the words of Christ himself, this army (us) is to teach the nations all of His commandments (Matthew 28:18-20a; Psalm 110:3). And like the priestly army in Psalm 110, the Messiah—Jesus Christ—is the mediating priest Himself for his people (Matthew 28:20b; Psalm 110:4).
Baptism is, as Rushdoony put it, our ‘kingdom sacrament.’ It symbolizes bringing us into, fashioning us after, and equipping us to further God’s covenantal-kingdom. Baptism both declares and promises eschatological victory. This is why it is wrong to view baptism as chiefly an institutional reality. Baptism doesn’t bind one into an institution but the Kingdom.
Baptisms should be joyous, boisterous, and confident events in the life of God’s people. Each one is a Messianic proclamation of Christ’s victory behind us, with us, and before us.
Weight in the Kingdom
Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
- Matthew 5:19-20
Scripture commands the use of just scales and measures in the marketplace as it is Yahweh’s delight and an abomination to do otherwise (Proverbs 11:1). God also operates by just and righteous weights, and in fact, every ‘weight’ is His (Proverbs 16:11). This is very much what God is dealing with here—the weighing and valuing of Jesus’ priestly army.
Since this text deals with the ‘kingdom of heaven,’ which we prayerfully (Matthew 6:10) extend (Matthew 28:17-20) so that it is like heaven on earth, its nature is eschatological. Specifically, it deals with our participation in God’s unfolding plan for history.
Our teaching of, and obedience to, God’s Law measures our greatness or lessness in the kingdom. It might seem like only a personal concern, but the kingdom’s progress is of concern in this weighing.
The light of the city on the hill
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
- Matthew 5:14
As God’s holy nation (1 Peter 2:9), having been transplanted through redemption from the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13-14), we are to shine light into the world. The question is, what is this light? It’s something visible, but what?
The context is the clue. The Sermon on the Mount is the re-giving of the Law, just as Deuteronomy was the re-giving of the Law of the Covenant given in Exodus. The tie between ‘shining light’ and ‘law keeping’ is not a new development here. Israel was to be a light to the nations. Their obedience to His just and righteous statutes would be an ethical apologetic for the justice, righteousness, graciousness, and glory of Yahweh (Deuteronomy 4:1-8). So it is with us.
When we walk according to God’s standard, which is just in every way and informs all of life, we show the world the light of Christ found in His kingdom (Isaiah 60:2-3). When we neglect His Law, we cover the light and show them the corruption and injustice available everywhere else.
As the Church, the greatness or lessness of our kingdom status is measured by our fidelity to Christ and inseparable from eschatological involvement. We, the Church, God’s priestly army, are accountable for both the spiritual darkness and physical oppression our neighbors deal with today. The degree to which we perceive defeat in our cultures is the degree to which we must ask God to strengthen us by the Holy Spirit to follow the Law of God.
As it was said in the introduction, eschatology shapes our current life. The ground we covered (Chapter 2 – Chapter 6) brings this notion to the next level. Eschatology is top-shelf stuff, you know, the kind of thing you make sacrifices for and work towards to get it in your hands (Matthew 13:44-46). Postmillennialism isn’t just bookish theology. It represents the blood-bought victory by the God-man Jesus Christ and our role in extending it.
We are Christ’s priestly army, His feet, branches, and leaves, purified and set apart people, and His providers of salt and light on the earth. Our marching orders are to nourish the nations with the fruit of the Spirit and heal them, and we do so through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel, obeying God’s Law-Word, and service. Postmillennialism, and our eschatological participation in it, touch every facet of our existence. Our calling to extend the kingdom is extensive (covering every area), intensive (thorough, exhaustive), and protensive (extended throughout time).
Obedience begins now, but don’t expect the extensive, intensive, and protensive now. You labor now for the future’s benefit.
Appendix A: How We Destroy Our Eschatological Participation
As sure as Scripture teaches the theological reality of eschatological participation, we can undermine our ‘greatness’ in the kingdom’s advance by our disobedience (Matthew 5:19). With the focus of this book, it wouldn’t be complete without a treatment of traps we should avoid.
As a caveat, if I refer to an author or theologian in exemplifying any of these failures, I am pointing out only a specific failure according to my estimation. I am by no means invalidating their total theological and practical contributions.
I know many postmillennialists, whose eschatology ultimately purports historical victory, often opine they are ‘long-term optimists and short-term pessimists.’ Now, I get the logic. Scripture tells us of the glorious future in time, but we see theological, practical, and cultural apostasy away from God and His revelation. The easy thing to do is set up a division between now and then, allowing for both an admission of ‘bad stuff,’ while holding to future ‘good times.’
I think there is a problem with the mentality, theology, and practice here. One of these, or any combination of the three, will undermine the success of our participation in Christ’s priestly army.
Short-term pessimism’s mentality
This is the easiest place to fail in our eschatological hope. This mentality fails both in its view of large-scale and small-scale happenings. First, let’s consider the large-scale failure. The slope is pretty straightforward once you think about it. If today you are pessimistic about the Kingdom’s influence in the culture, and tomorrow, the day after, what will happen? Psychologically you will train a thought-reflex, and this estimation will be second-nature.
We must ask, at what point does short become long? One month? Year? Decades? How long have our modern postmillennial heroes been short-pessimists? For a lot of short- pessimists, it started in the 80s.
So, what is the corrective to short-term pessimism? All-term optimism, which is the view that kingdom victory is normative. This is not a denial of bad things happening, seemingly massive opposition rising, cultural apathy, doctrinal heterodoxy, and neglect of orthopraxy in a large swath of the Church. However, we must face them with the backbone of providence. Like the woman in Proverbs 31:25, we look to the days ahead and laugh. There is a joy to be had both in the eras ahead and in the sequential days before us.
God works absolutely everything, down to the littlest of atoms while discipling the maverik-iest of molecules, for the good of those who ‘love’ God (Romans 8:28). Think of the biggest and worst enemy, the smallest and sneakiest wolf in sheep’s clothing, or the most undetectable poison that might stand in the path of Christ and His unfolding victory. Will it prevail? Hahaha, no (Matthew 16:18).
Heresy? Praise God. Most of the New Testament was written to negate heresies seeking to attach themselves to the fledgling Church. With all their destruction, heresies lead to doctrinal clarity, increase obedience (since ideas motivate actions), and make the wheat and chaff more evident.
Persecution and Oppression? God is judging his enemies. First, judgment begins in the house of God. If we do not establish and produce justice and righteousness, which is key to our participation in the extension of Christ’s kingdom as both are the foundation of His throne (Psalm 89:14), then we are our enemies. If we can’t judge ourselves as Christ’s priestly army, then He will use tyrants of all sorts to do so. Second, God is filling a cup of wrath for every persecutor, as the blood (Revelation 16:5-7) and prayers (Revelation 8:3-5) of the saints cry for judgment, just as Abel’s blood cried (Luke 11:51). Third, wide-scale oppression provides the fertile soil for Christendom by exponentially increasing the need for service. As George Grant puts it,
There is a fundamental principle of dominion in the Bible: dominion through service. This principle is understood well by the modern welfare State. The politicians and planners recognize that the agency that supplies charity in the name of the people will gain the allegiance of the people. So, they “serve.” And so they gain dominion.
This is why the question of the responsibility for charity is ultimately a question of authority. And this is why the issue of charity is such a volatile issue. At stake is ultimate control over the society. For that men will go to war.
Thus, the battle for the control over charity is very similar to a military campaign. And God’s people are warned repeatedly by God: make no alliance with foreign gods. Make no alliances with the enemy.
- George Grant, In The Shadow of Plenty: The Biblical Blueprint for Welfare, pp 40-41.
When the enemies of Christ’s rule bring about suffering both in the Church and to those outside, the action for dominion is service according to God’s standard and ordained means. Short-term pessimism turns us from dominion-oriented service to ‘prophetic’ complaining on our couches.
Now, we have short-term pessimism’s small-scale mentality. This mindset leads to practical issues that affect or infect our day-to-day living. It erodes individuals, families, and churches. The short-term pessimist can manifest one, many, or all the examples I give, and potentially ones I won’t cover. It all goes back to creating thought-reflexes that manifest in everyday life because thought-dross ends up in our action-metal.
First is the proliferation of doubtful prayer. Our prayers are filled with, “even if you don’t…it may not be your will…” and many other phrases that show there is doubt throughout our petitions. We pile up excuses for God and veil our minuscule faith.
Doubtful prayer willingly throws yourself into a raging storm (James 1:6). You are asking to get lost, lose your way, and wander around blindly. Your view becomes clouded by a storm you can’t see through. Prayer like this indicates a lack of self-government under God and His Law-Word. The person who prays with doubt is praying to a wall. God will not answer (James 1:7). The doubtful supplicant is hypocritical by appealing to and denying God (James 1:8). The foundation of prayer is God’s goodness, but this kind of prayer denies God’s goodness and His desire to give good gifts (Matthew 7:7-11).
Second, approaching new opportunities without enthusiasm. Short-term pessimism takes new avenues, ventures, and everything else “out of the ordinary” as an area where one will only experience more difficulty and defeat. Instead of seeing new opportunities as areas to extend Christ’s crown rights by teaching, training, and acting according to God’s Word in ways not ordinarily afforded to them, their trained short-term pessimism neuters their zeal and drive. This usually ends in a self-fulfilling prophecy, which only builds ‘legitimacy’ for their doubt.
Third, approaching new relationships without joy. The thought of meeting new people, entering into partnerships, or going to social events among unfamiliar faces is seen as a hassle, burden, or inconvenience. These opportunities should be viewed in the light of the Preacher’s teaching on covenantal loyalty (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). We should be ready to leverage relationships with Christians to help others, expand networks, growth in productivity, and increase resource availability to the Church and its institutions (local churches, associations, denominations, educational institutions, etc.). The mentality of short-pessimism dampens the desire to use loyalty and partnership (benefits of God’s covenant) to further the kingdom of our Messiah—Jesus Christ.
Fourth is the negligence of daily tasks. This mentality leads to regular failure when so entrenched into our thought structure. Failure to disciple and discipline children since “they don’t listen anyway…they’ll probably end up falling away from the faith…it won’t make a difference, etc.” diminish the power of daily obedience and practice in the bigger picture of future generations and history.
Daily tasks that make a home function orderly and increase the enjoyment of home are pushed to the side. “There is just gonna be more trash tomorrow…dishes pile up anyway…the grass will be there tomorrow…cupboards work without finish…It’s not a big deal, I’ll get to it later…” A home, or any shared living or workspace, filled with this hopeless fruit creates strife and division, which is summed up nicely by the biblical wording of ‘devouring’ and ‘consuming’ each other (Galatians 5:15).
Fifth, time becomes an enemy. As seen in the first book, Hope Defined, and our present study, time is given for growth in sanctification, maturity, fruits of the Spirit, and victory. I’llven though we will physically die, we aren’t waiting for death to win. Death is the one waiting for us to beat it down as we pass into the presence of God. Time is our opportunity for optimistic action for Christ and His kingdom, the glory of the Triune God, and serving and discipling our neighbors. Short-term pessimists see time as antagonistic to their employment in Christ’s eschatological purpose.
The mind of faith
Read all the postmillennial books, and listen to all the scholars who hold the position, but short-term pessimism will short-circuit it all. A pessimistic mentality breeds inaction stifles the hope of ruling amidst enemies, masks double-mindedness, and creates a smokescreen for unbelief.
Matt is a husband, father, and an avid reader. He holds a bachelor’s degree from New Geneva Christian Leadership Academy in Applied Christian Studies.