The vision of optimism that was fostered by the Puritans of the seventeenth century, as well as the Enlightenment thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is dead. The Puritan hope has almost been extinguished in the orthodox churches, and the Enlightenment hope has been extinguished in modernist churches, modernist universities, and the Federal bureaucracy. Those holding positions of authority have increasingly become time-servers, in much the same way that jailed criminals are time-servers. They are waiting for retirement, or this weekend’s tennis games, or a vacation. They are waiting for the end. It is this overwhelming cultural pessimism, rather than the so-called depletion of our natural resources, which constitutes the crisis of our age. It is this loss of faith in the future which marks our break with American history, not the high price of imported oil.
This is why eschatological optimism is a Christian imperative. We must regain our faith in the promise of God’s restoration after the period of captivity. If we can shake off the intellectual shackles of our secular captors, and regain hope, then we can begin to recapture the positions of leadership which were once ours as Christians. (Gary North, “The Paralysis of Pessimism,” 2/5/2016.)
It is a massive handicap to labour under a pessimistic eschatology, and I’m sorry for anyone who tries to do so. God doesn’t want us to, for though there may be serious problems ahead, His plan for His people is a good one.
It’s always been a good one. Right from the day of the disaster in the Garden of Eden (which God in His sovereignty permitted), it has never been side-tracked. Then, God said to the serpent,
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel (Gen.3:15).
This is essentially a prediction that Satan would be defeated by the seed of the woman, Jesus Christ. It was approximately 4,000 years before Jesus came to earth, so many of the Old Testament saints waited expectantly, thousands of years beyond their lifetime for the Messiah to come.
Yet, it wasn’t till 700 B.C. that Isaiah predicted,
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest upon His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isa.9:6).
What’s the lesson?
It’s all been unfolding to God’s glory, but it’s taking time. Yes, it certainly looked as if it had all gone pear-shaped in the Garden, but even this was a part of the overall plan, devised by God since before the foundation of the world. Genesis 3:15 links up perfectly with I John 3:8:
The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
By far the most common eschatology of the modern era, is pre-millennialism. The tragedy of it, is that it leaves believers totally pessimistic concerning the future of the church. It essentially teaches that Christians will always be fighting a losing battle against the forces of evil, and that the anti-Christ will triumph.
The ten spies accompanying Joshua and Caleb to spy out the land were pessimists. When they returned and spoke with the people, they essentially said, “This isn’t going to work. We can’t do it.” (See Numbers 13). But Joshua and Caleb were not of the same attitude. They said,
The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into the land and give it to us- a land flowing with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them (Num.13:8-9).
Joshua and Caleb were optimists. It wasn’t that they knew anything different to the other 10 spies, or that they had inside knowledge. They actually had a different attitude towards what they knew. Their attitude of optimism towards the promises of God made all the difference for them, between living and dying that day (Num.13:36-37). They ultimately died in the promised land, inheriting the promises of God. What about you?
When David heard Goliath’s taunts, his attitude was entirely different to his brothers and the other soldiers, including Saul the king. He immediately saw the opportunity for success against the Philistines. He said,
…Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God? (I Sam.17:26).
I believe in the eschatology of post-millennialism. Yes, Jesus will certainly return to earth, but at the end of time. In the meantime, His people have the task of discipling the nations, bringing “…every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor.10:5).
Very commonly, God likes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. How many people, after seeing Jesus crucified, were hoping for the resurrection, three days later? Jesus had no doubts about His future. He said to the thief next to Him,
Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:43).
The Christian should know he should never get his ultimate information from the state of the world, but from the scriptures. Yes, there is a great deal more to do before we see the final destruction of “the works of the devil,” which may be a long time yet. The important thing is that we all live faithfully before the Lord in the times given to us, taking His Word to be true.
Are there many problems? Of course. Every one of the saints of God have faced problems in their era that have had to be dealt with. Paul’s encouragement to us, is to
Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (I Cor.15:58).
If we want to have a Christian nation, we’ll also have to begin with a Christian culture, based in the Bible. Total cultural restoration is not only possible, but necessary and required by the Lord. Why should we settle for anything less?
Before we get to that, we’ll have to have generations of confident, persistent, tenacious Christians, who don’t give up and go home at the first trial that God sends them. That generation will have to take seriously the promises of God as they apply to His people, the Church. Promises like this one, from the most frequently quoted O.T. passage:
The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” The Lord will stretch forth Your strong sceptre from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.” Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; in holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew (Ps.110:1-3).
Is that what you believe, too?