From Generation to Generation (8)

…pietists have sharply separated the kingdom of God (narrowly defined) from the world. Separating the institutional church from the world is necessary, but separating God’s kingdom from this world leads to the surrender of the world to Satan’s kingdom. Thus, it is never a question of “earthly kingdom vs. no earthly kingdom”; it is always a question of whose earthly kingdom, God’s or Satan’s? To deny that God’s kingdom extends to the earth in history—the here and now—is necessarily to assert that Satan’s kingdom is legitimate, at least until Jesus comes again. But Satan’s kingdom is not legitimate, and Christians should do whatever they can to roll it back. Rolling back Satan’s earthly kingdom means rolling forward Christ’s earthly kingdom.[1]

It’s hard for us to change the way we think. We don’t like it. It means we have to admit that what we were believing yesterday was wrong, and that requires an element of humility, which doesn’t come naturally to fallen hearts.

But God requires that we change. Paul challenged the Romans,

do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Ro.12:2).

God has always required that His people change the way they think. He’d made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that their descendants would inherit the land. These promises were known to the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt, because Moses quoted them to God (in Ex.32:14) when Israel sinned. Paul explained how these promises are relevant to us today:

For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith (Ro.4:13).

But the people had gotten entirely used to slavery, to a slave mentality. For all of them (apart from Joshua and Caleb), freedom was a frightening concept for them. So when the twelve spies entered the promised land, ten of them saw the walled cities and the giants in the land, and panicked. In unbelief they ignored God’s promises to their fathers, saying,

Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt? (Num.14:3)

Over 95% of the church today, has little confidence about the church becoming a great social institution. For generations we’ve been taught the opposite, that the lights of the church would get dimmer and dimmer, that everything would get worse, and that finally Jesus would have to suddenly return to get us out of the mess.

This view of eschatology is called pre-millennialism, and has steadily grown to pre-dominance today, since its beginnings in 1830.

Those who hold to the conclusions of pre-millennialism, effectively agree with the 10 spies:

It’s all too hard. We can’t do it. We’ll always be on the back foot. The Promised Land is just too hard for us to take. At the end of the day the devil wins, and we just get raptured, and that’s the end of everything. All we can do is try and evangelise all we can, but the cultures and nations of the world will all go into decline, and that will include the church, too.

God wasn’t impressed with the attitudes of the ten spies, along with those who followed them. Five hundred years later, He gave us this commentary through the Psalmist:

For forty years I loathed that generation, and said they are a people who err in their heart, and they do not know My ways. Therefore I swore in my anger, truly they shall not enter My rest (Ps.95:10-11).

I’m a post-millennialist. Yes, Jesus Christ will return to the earth, but He started to set up his kingdom on the earth 2,000 years ago, and He’s still building it today. He has a lot still to do, through the church.

Psalm 110 (the most frequently quoted passage in the New Testament), says this:

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).

What does this mean for us?

Today, Jesus Christ is at the right hand of our Heavenly Father, in heaven. He is waiting there for His people to disciple the nations of the world through the Gospel, bringing them into subjection to Jesus Christ. Only then will He return to claim what is rightfully His, as His rightful heirs (the spiritual descendants of Abraham that Paul spoke of in Romans 4:13), joyfully present it all to Him.

At least 95% of the church today would declare this to be theological insanity, but that’s their problem, not mine. And when I get to heaven, I’ll be looking forward to catching up with Joshua and Caleb (assuming that’s possible), two men I have a lot of respect for.

For they knew in their generation what needed to be done, and God helped them accomplish it, though it seemed to be a long time coming.

Shouldn’t we want to be like them, in our generation and our time, too?

 

 

[1] Gary North, “Comprehensive Redemption: A Theology for Social Action” (1981), reprinted in North, Is the World Running Down? Crisis in the Christian Worldview (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1988), Appendix C. Quoted by Joel McDurmon in “Macarthur: Wrong on Politics, Wrong on America, Wrong on the Kingdom of God,” American Vision, 20/10/2016.