Friday, August 13, 2010

View of the Future

by David Chilton
from his book Paradise Restored

No Christian believes in ultimate defeat. All Christians know that God will be victorious over the devil at the end of history. As a young Christian, I remember my Bible teachers informing me that they had "peeked at the last chapter (of the Bible), and the Christians win!"

But that is just my point: according to certain popular brands of eschatology, victory takes place only in "the last chapter." In time, in history, on earth, the Christians lose. The world is getting worse and worse. Antichrist is coming. The devil is running the world, and getting more and more powerful all the time. Your work for God in this world will have no lasting effect, except to save a few individuals from hell. But you’d better do it quickly, before the Tribulation hits, so that you can escape in time. Ironically, the unintentional message of this gospel is: Antichrist is coming! There is something terribly lopsided about that. The eschatology of defeat is wrong. Instead of a message of defeat, the Bible gives us Hope, both in this world and the next. The Bible gives us an eschatology of dominion, an eschatology of victory. This is not some blind, "everything-willwork- out-somehow" kind of optimism. It is a solid, confident, Bible-based assurance that, before the Second Coming of Christ, the gospel will be victorious through-out the entire world.

For many, that will seem incredible. It goes against the whole spirit of the modern age; for years, Christians have been taught to expect defeat. However until fairly recently, most Christians held an eschatology of dominion. Most Christians throughout the history of the Church regarded the eschatology of defeat as a doctrine of crackpots.

The Church’s eschatology of dominion radically shaped the history of Western civilization. For example, think about the great cathedrals of Europe, and compare them to the church buildings of today. Those old cathedrals, magnificent works of art constructed over decades and sometimes generations, were built to last for centuries—and they have. But modern evangelical churches are usually built to last a generation at most. We don’t expect to be around long enough to get much use out of them, and we certainly don’t expect our great-grandchildren to worship in them. We don’t even expect to have great- grandchildren. It is safe to say that the thought of descendants living five hundred years from now has never even entered the minds of most evangelical today. Yet, for many Christians of previous generations, the idea of future generations benefiting from their labors was not strange in the slightest degree. They built for the ages.

The eschatological issue centers on one fundamental point: Will the gospel succeed in its mission, or not? Regardless of their numerous individual differences, the various defeatist schools of thought are solidly lined up together on one major point: The gospel of Jesus Christ will fail. Christianity will not be successful in its worldwide task. Christ’s Great Commission to disciple the nations will not be carried out. Satan and the forces of Antichrist will prevail in history, overcoming the Church and virtually wiping it out—until Christ returns at the last moment, like the cavalry in B-grade westerns, to rescue the ragged little band of survivors.

Does it make a difference? Does your view of prophecy really affect your life? The basic issue has to do with your attitude toward the future. I recall a "Jesus People" newspaper of the early 1970s which carried an interview with the most popular "prophecy expert" of those days. On the basis of the "fact" that Jesus was going to rapture His Church "at any moment," this man actually counseled his young followers not to marry and raise families. After all, there was no time for that sort of thing. The Rapture was coming, so any work for dominion would be useless. (If you were the devil, could you devise a better, more "spiritual-sounding" excuse for Christians to abandon God’s plan for victory?) The "Rapture Ethic" of those years led many to leave school, jobs, families, and responsibility in general; flocks of Jesus People wandered aimlessly around the country, with no clear goal beyond the next Christian rock concert. It was years before many of them woke up, and it sometimes took years more to put their lives together again.

The fact is that you will not work for the transformation of society if you don’t believe society can be transformed. You will not try to build a Christian civilization if you do not believe that a Christian civilization is possible. It was the utter confidence in the victory of the Christian faith that gave courage to the early missionaries, who fearlessly strode into the farthest reaches of pagan Europe as if they were at the head of an army, preaching the gospel, driving out demons, smashing idols, converting whole kingdoms, bringing vast multitudes to their knees at the feet of Christ. They knew they would win. They could give up their lives in the struggle, certain that history was on their side, that Satan’s domains were being shattered daily, his illegitimate hold weakening and slipping with every advance of the Christian forces. They were not in the least bit pessimistic about the power of the gospel. God honored their faith in His promises, and enabled them to lay the groundwork for a Christendom which will someday embrace the entire world.

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