“Artfully Woven”Categories: millennialism, Reflections (articles from R.Bowman)
Vol.XXVI February 16, 2011 No.4
Human beings love a good story. For whatever psychological reason, we are attracted by the dramatic and fantastic. Thus, most “best sellers” are fictional works, and the most successful and popular movies tend to be those that transcend reality. And, while many people enjoy history or biography or other types of literature/media that are grounded in fact and reality, we all, to some degree, appreciate a compelling tale, artfully woven. For the most part, my casual reading tends toward the fictional. I like Louis L’Amour and I used to enjoy Tom Clancy (until he opted for a more “realistic” vulgarity in his tales). I go back fairly regularly and read again Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and “The Count of Monte Cristo” remains one of my all time favorite books. These stories appeal to me for the same reason that fiction tends to appeal to everyone. Fiction allows the writer to control the outcome, and to do so with as much drama and spectacle as he/she chooses. While real life does sometimes imitate art and truth is sometimes “stranger than fiction,” such is not the norm. Fiction captivates our minds because of its grandeur, it’s adventure, it’s fantasy, it’s carefully crafted twists and turns and surprises. And, generally, because fiction turns out the way we want it to. The good guys in the white hats nearly always win.
I offer these considerations because the religious world that considers itself “christian” has for the most part adopted whole-heartedly a doctrine that is essentially fiction. Most protestant organizations in our day are zealous in their promotion of the concept of “millennialism.” In short, this teaching proposes that Jesus Christ will accomplish the final activities of redemption in several stages, eventually establishing a physical kingdom upon the earth, over which He will reign for 1000 years. Understand that there are myriad variations upon this idea, but the fundamental storyline is fairly-well established. The story goes that God had long intended to establish His kingdom upon the earth and that He had revealed an essential time line for the fulfillment of such by means of certain Old Testament prophecies (especially featuring Daniel 9:24f). However, instead of ascending to the throne of David in Jerusalem, Jesus was rejected by the Jews and crucified. Thwarted in His plans, God then “suspended” prophetic time and inserted a parenthetic age known as the “church age.” Jesus Christ was preached as the Son
of God and Savior of man and salvation has been offered to the Gentiles until the time of His return is accomplished. At some point, prophetic time will restart, Jesus will invisibly “rapture” the faithful and there will begin a seven year period of great tribulation upon the earth, wherein the Antichrist will appear and lead a great consortium of nations in warfare against the Jews, who will be converted to Christ and who will begin to re-establish the nation of Israel. This hostility will culminate in the battle of Armageddon, when Jesus will reappear with the “church” from heaven. They will return to the earth, win victory at Armageddon, and establish the kingdom of God (Israel) upon the earth and reign for 1000 years. After this, God will proceed with final judgment which will result in the eternal destiny of heaven or hell. Of course, as this fascinating tale is woven, there are great dramatic events which captivate our sense of the fantastic - the rapture; the post-rapture world; the identification and rise of the Antichrist; the conversion of the Jews and rebuilding of the temple; the amassing of evil forces; the “mother of all wars” - Armageddon; the spectacle of Jesus descending to accomplish victory; the world purged of sin; etc. It’s a compelling tale, and it does appeal to our affection for the spectacular. But there is one predominant problem with millennial teaching - it’s fiction.
Oh, I understand the difficulties of OT prophecy, and the challenges of properly understanding passages such as Matt.24, II Thes.1, and the book of Revelation. I don’t have every answer that I would like to have regarding those sections of scripture. And, the imagery which God employs in those passages and others is arresting. Without doubt, apocalyptic literature is dramatic and fantastic. And hard. And were the issue of millennial doctrine simply a matter of accepting that God will establish an earthly kingdom for 1000 years prior to final judgment, I’d be unwilling to argue against it. The problem is that God’s Word, in several ways, denies millennial doctrine. The Bible clearly reveals that God’s kingdom is spiritual in nature, not physical (Lk.17:20-21; Jn.18:36). The Bible clearly reveals that the church (God’s saved people) was God’s intended aim from the outset (Eph.3:8-11). And the crucifixion of Jesus as a sacrifice for all mankind was a part of God’s eternal purpose (I Cor.1:18-24; 2:7-9). Millennialism essentially denies all of these.
But there is one problem with this fictional fabrication that transcends all others. If millennialism is true, then God is not God at all. If He originally intended to establish a physical kingdom with Jesus sitting upon the throne of David in Jerusalem, and man rejected Jesus and crucified Him in opposition to God’s will, then God has shown His inability to rule in this world. According to millennialism, man thwarted God. How am I supposed to believe that Jesus will be successful the next time He returns, if He couldn’t accomplish His task the first time? I don’t believe in a God Who is not omnipotent and is incapable of accomplishing His will and defeating Satan and his forces. But that is precisely the God of millennialism. The Bible does not portray such a God.
Don’t buy into the fiction just because it is fantastic. “Star Wars” is fantastic too, but that doesn’t make it real.