At last we will look at Revelation 20 in order to see where the term the “millennium” originated and what is its meaning.
In Revelation 20, we see the phrase “thousand years” mentioned by John six times. The words in the Greek and Latin Bibles, chilias and mille, give us the words “chiliasm” and “millennialism” (or the archaic, “millenarianism”) – a one thousand year reign of Christ. This is the only place in the Bible where the “millennium” is mentioned. There are, of course, other passages in the Bible that speak of a prolonged era of prosperity and peace. But there is only this passage that speaks of the “thousand years.” Therefore, most postmillennialists are not dogmatic about the literal length of time of the “thousand years.” It is interpreted to mean simply a long time.
Postmillennialists view the number “thousand” as a symbolic and not an exact or literal number. This is consistent with other passages in the Bible, such as when God says that He owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalms 50:10). Surely what is meant here is much more than exactly one thousand hills, but all the cattle in the world.
Postmillennialists teach that Jesus will return after the millennium is completed in order to judge the world. Premillennialists teach that Jesus is to return prior to a literal one thousand year reign of Christ on earth. Does Revelation 20 state that Jesus is to return prior to the thousand years? No, neither explicitly nor implicitly does Revelation 20 state that Christ has returned to the earth prior to the millennium. Premillennialists believe that Revelation does imply this because Jesus is on the throne and Satan is bound. However, we know that Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father shortly after His resurrection and ascension (Hebrews 8:1; Revelation 4:2). Christ is already seated on a throne and is even now the ruler over the kings of the earth (Revelation 1:5).
Is Satan really bound now?
Yes, Satan was bound in the first century during the first coming of Jesus. Scripture teaches this.
“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house” (Matthew 12:28-29).
The New Testament speaks of the binding of Satan in various places. Satan falls from heaven (Luke 10:18); he is cast out of heaven (John 12:31); he was crushed under our feet (Romans 16:20); he was disarmed (Colossians 2:15); he was rendered powerless (Hebrews 2:14); his works were destroyed (1 John 3:8).
Note that John doesn’t say that Satan is bound in every respect. Christ binds Satan for a well-defined purpose: “to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore” (Revelation 20:3b). In the Old Testament only Israel knew the true God. But Christ’s coming changes this as the Gospel is preached to all nations (Isaiah. 2:2,3; 11:10; Matthew 28:19; Luke 2:32; 24:47; Acts 1:8; 13:47).
So if Jesus is on the throne of heaven and if Satan is bound from deceiving the nations, then we are now in the millennium. The “millennium” is a figurative term for the period of time in which the Gospel is being preached and the nations of the world are being converted. We are in the midst of the “millennium” now and have been for about 2000 years.
The Common Church Doctrine is that the millennium is a metaphor for Christ’s kingdom on earth. First, the millennium will be completed. Then simultaneously, the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, and the final judgment will occur.
The General Resurrection
As the Apostle’s Creed suggests and Scripture strongly maintains, three great eschatological events occur one time at the Second Coming of Christ.
- The New Heavens and the New Earth (Revelation 21:1,4)
- The simultaneous resurrection of living and the dead, redeemed and unredeemed (John 5:28-29)
- And the last enemy (death) will be conquered (1 Corinthians 15:26).
Does the resurrection of the righteous and unrighteous occur simultaneously?
Or – does the pretribulational rapture view have the scriptural upper hand in the debate over eschatology?
Again, the method for discerning the truthful answer to this controversy ought to be the historical-grammatical method, scripture interpreting scripture.
In John chapter 5 there appears a passage in which Jesus speaks of the resurrection of the dead:
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28,29).
The sense is that there will be a simultaneous resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. How can we reconcile this with the popular belief that the Church will be raptured first, and then the rest of the world at some later point – possibly as much as 1000 years later? Actually, it would be 1007 years to be exact if you accept the dispensationalist premillennial view of the rapture.
Then we should compare this with other Second Coming passages that indicate that when Christ does return, human history as we know it will be over. The earth will be transformed, our works will be judged and time will be subsumed into eternity.
We should also consider the current popular dispensational view did not appear until 1830. Prior to this time, most of the giants of the faith such as Augustine, Athanasius, Calvin, Luther, Knox, Edwards, Wesley, Whitefield and Hodge believed in a simultaneous rapture, general resurrection, judgment and consummation of history. This was the unified, general view of the Church for many centuries.
This certainly doesn’t fit with what many popular evangelicals believe about the end-times – with a dispensationalist scenario that has the Second Coming of Jesus taking place before a future 1000 year reign of Christ from an earthly throne and then a final resurrection that would take place after the millennium is fulfilled.
It has only been since the 1830s that the idea has originated that a small remnant of the Church would escape the growing darkness of this present evil age in a “secret rapture.”
Now it is important to note that even though dispensationalism has only been around since the 1830s, a more orthodox version of the premillennial view has been around since the early centuries of Christianity. Some Church Fathers were premillennialists while others held to the amillennial or postmillennial view.
If they were right, then the prevailing eschatology of our modern era doesn’t just have problems it is a problem.
It is important to remember that the pre-, a- and post- prefixes are fairly modern adaptations to describe millennial thinking. The Common Church Doctrine on the end-times did not distinguish between amillennialism and postmillennialism for over 1500 years.
In fact, until the time of the Protestant Reformation, premillennialism was called either “chiliasm” or “millenarianism.” Both phrases mean literally, “belief in the thousand years” (from the Greek and Latin, chilias and mille). Proponents held that there would be an earthly kingdom of God that would only appear at the Second Coming of Jesus in the future and would last for exactly 1000 years.
Postmillennialism is a phrase that came into being after centuries of Reformation influence in creating a Christian social theory from a biblical perspective. Prior to the 1600s, there was no distinction between postmillennialism and amillennialism. Postmillennialism was first called “progressive millennialism,” to distinguish it from both amillennial and premillennial thinking.
To summarize the postmillennial age that is even now occurring prior to the resurrection, A.A. Hodge wrote:
Christ has in reserve for his Church a period of universal expansion and of preeminent spiritual prosperity, when the spirit and character of the “noble army of martyrs” shall be reproduced again in the great body of God’s people in an unprecedented triumph of their cause, and in the overthrow of that of their enemies, receive judgment over their foes and reign in the earth; while the party of Satan, “the rest of the dead,” shall not flourish again until the thousand years be ended, when it shall prevail again for a little season.
The Three Pillars of Postmillennial Optimism
There are three promises or signs of Christ’s return spoken of in the Bible that are undeniable biblical truths.
Promise #1 – The unity of the faith
Till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure and stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13).
We are to expect and work for, prior to the coming of Christ, a unity of the faith within the Church throughout the entire world.
How can such unity come to pass?
Only the postmillennial view contains such optimism as to suggest that Church unity within history will occur. All other eschatological views see the Church as a fragmented minority at the time of the second coming of Christ. To the contrary, although we seem at present to be very far from the unity that is foretold in the Scriptures, we have reason to believe, that these things will be fulfilled. As Joshua said to the children of Israel, “that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you” (Joshua 23:14).
We do not know exactly what form this unity will take. Will there still be a division between Protestant, Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches. Will Roman Catholicism be reformed, destroyed or become obsolete? Christians now disagree as to what this unity should be based upon. Yet it will occur in history. The Body of Christ will be built up into a mature man.
Promise #2 – A glorious Church without spot or wrinkle
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27).
The Apostles made the connection between the glory and holiness of the Church and the Second Coming. “What manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11,12).
Only the postmillennial viewpoint contains this optimism concerning the holiness of the Church. Nearly all other views emphasize rather the evil state of the world and the final apostasy to come.
While most postmillennialists do not deny that, according to Revelation 20, there will be a final apostasy, we do not think it to be prevalent or long lasting. Nor do we think that it will destroy the holiness of the Bride on earth who is prepared to meet her Bridegroom. In keeping with John’s warning that everyone who hopes to see Christ “purifies himself” (1 John 3:2-3), we also read, “the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7).
Peter and John paint this picture of the Church preparing herself prior to Christ’s return. Therefore, there will be a worldwide revival of holiness in the Church preceding Christ’s return.
Promise #3 – The Gospel will be preached in the uttermost parts of the earth
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).
Almost all Christians believe that the Great Commission will be accomplished at least to some extent in history. However, few place a great stress on discipleship. Yet the instructions our Lord left us were: “Teaching them [the ethnic nations of the whole world] to obey all that I have commanded you.”
Which commandments are we to teach the nations to observe? These are found in the whole Bible. These commandments deal with individuals, families, churches, businesses, schools, arts, sciences, civil governments, and all of society.
Not only do we believe that the Great Commission includes preaching the Gospel of salvation to all creation, but we also include the idea that this Gospel of the kingdom will take root and thrive in the whole world. There will be a resulting kingdom influence in all human institutions. There will be great victory for Christ and the hurch before He comes again.
The following is an excerpt from the script of a video to be produced in the future, Christ’s Victorious Kingdom: Postmillinnialism Rediscovered. Some of the following has been edited from the writings of my friends, Bob and Rose Weiner.
The Immeasurable Power of the Gospel
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head,
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep,
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth good will to men.”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” December 25th, 1864
The U.S. Civil War was still raging when Longfellow wrote these words. Over 600,000 died, more than half due to disease and primitive medical care. He had just received news that his son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, had suffered crippling wounds as a soldier in battle. Just two years earlier, he had lost his wife to an accident with fire. Sitting down at his desk that Christmas Day, he heard church bells ringing. It was in this setting that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a committed Christian, wrote these lines.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep,
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth good will to men.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1868
While it might have looked as though the apocalypse was at the doorstep of his nation, Longfellow quoted scripture and persisted in what was known in early America as the “Puritan Hope” – that the Gospel was strong enough, not only to convert souls, but also to transform the nations bringing “peace on earth.”
The historic belief of the Church that the Gospel is destined to overcome all opposition is totally opposite of the ideas of the end-times that have been propagated throughout evangelical Christendom over the last century. The presence of evil in the world and sin in our nation has been viewed by modern Christians as an indication that civilization is crumbling, and that we Christians on that “sinking ship” should spend as much time as possible trying to rescue as many of the passengers as we can. This has resulted in an escape-orientated Christianity rather than dominion-oriented Christianity.
As David Chilton wrote in Paradise Restored:
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. Jesus returns at the last moment, like the cavalry in B-grade westerns, to rescue the ragged little band of survivors.
As a result of almost a century of this type of teaching, the Church has lost many major battles to the enemy. The Gospel is just as powerful today as it was in the days of the Reformation and the two Great Awakenings in America. It is not the Gospel that has changed; it is the orientation of the Christian that has made the difference.
Therefore, some questions we ought ask ourselves.
Do I have an eschatology of defeat or an eschatology of victory?
Do I see the devil running the world and getting more and more powerful all the time?
Do I see the ministry of the church as mainly that of a rescue mission, with no other lasting effect in the world other than saving a few individuals from hell?
Is my message for the “last days” simply: “Antichrist is coming, run to the wilderness”?
- or -
Does the Gospel center on a powerful vision that sees Christianity becoming victorious throughout the entire world before the second coming of Christ?
Such a worldview was completely foreign to many of the great Christian scholars of past centuries. On the contrary, the view of the Church in history was held by such godly and respected men as throughout history, such as, Athanasius, Augustine, Eusebius, John Calvin, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Robert L. Dabney and Benjamin Warfield to name just a few.
This ought to tell us that the postmillennial worldview is well worth considering.
The date of Christmas was not determined by Church Fathers by copying the date of a pagan Roman winter solstice festival. Instead, the date was calculated from the Jewish calendar using the date of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, September 22nd, 6 BC, when Gabriel appeared to Zecharias in the Temple according to Luke 1:5. The conception of John occurred “immediately after that” when Zecharias returned home to Elizabeth to the hill country of Judea, by calculation on September 24th, 6 BC.
The conception of Jesus was calculated to have occurred when Elizabeth was “in her sixth month” (Luke 1:26,36) on March 25th, 5 BC, which was also the first day of Passover in that year. John’s birth was June 24th, 5 BC, followed by Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem on December 25th, which was also the first day of Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, in that year. The Church Father, Hippolytus of Rome, in his work Chronicon, saw that each date had allegorical significance.
So why is Christmas celebrated on December 25th?
The usual answer to this question is that it was adjusted, like many Church feast days, to coincide with the pagan feast days, this one being the winter solstice. This is a convenient explanation, but the exact date of December 25th is for another reason entirely. It was proposed by several of the Church Fathers at least as early as the second century. Since the “celebration of Christmas” was a custom instituted later, the second century is far too early for the “pagan copycat” thesis to be valid. To explain how the Church Fathers arrived at this date, we need to examine first the date of John the Baptist’s conception as told in Luke.
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zecharias, of the division of Abijah (Luke 1:5).
According to 1 Chronicles 24:7-19, King David had divided the priests into 24 divisions who took turns serving in the Temple. During their service they lived in the Temple and were separated from their wives and children. Each order served for a period of eight days twice a year. The priests of the course of Abijah served during the 10th and 24th weeks of the Jewish year. Luke goes on to recount how the angel Gabriel appeared to Zecharias while he was serving in the Temple.
So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zecharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zecharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:8-15).
Note here that “the whole multitude of the people” (i.e., the whole nation of Israel) was present outside the Temple. Some have attempted to reconstruct the weeks of service according to Josephus’ account in Antiquities 7:14:7, which relates that the first division, the division of Jehoiarib, was on duty when Jerusalem was destroyed on August 5th, AD 70. Using this date as an anchor, the eighth division of Abijah would serve two times in the year, one of them being in late September. However, it is uncertain if these allotments began on exactly the same day of the year, since there would be four extra weeks to account for at the end of the year. But there were only two times in the year when the “whole multitude of the people” of Israel was required to be in Jerusalem worshiping at the Temple. These were the fall and spring feast days. Zecharias’ vision apparently occurred on one of the high feast days, several of the Church Fathers thought it was the Day of Atonement, and then Zecharias returned to his home immediately after that.
So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived (Luke 1:23,24).
Since “the hill country of Judea,” where Elizabeth lived according to Luke 1:39;65, is no more than a day’s journey from Jerusalem, the conception of John the Baptist must have occurred soon after that. Several of the Church Fathers noticed this correspondence and made the inference that John must have been conceived shortly after the Day of Atonement, which usually falls in September. In fact, the Church Father John Chrysostom thought that Zecharias was actually the Jewish High Priest because he was in the Holy Place on the Day of Atonement, which in 6 BC fell on September 22nd. So September 24th was calculated as the date of John’s conception. The birth of John occurred exactly nine months later on June 24th.
Since Jesus was conceived six months after John (Luke 1:26,36), various dates around this time, December 25th, January 2nd and 6th were given by various Church Fathers and each of these have been celebrated as the Nativity of Jesus. In fact, the Eastern Orthodox Church has always used January 6th or 7th as the date of Christmas.
If John was conceived during one of the spring feasts — Passover or Pentecost, which were the other two times in the year when the “whole multitude of the people” of Israel was required to be in Jerusalem — then we would have a winter birth for John and a summer birth for Jesus.
Notwithstanding, the Day of Atonement fits well as an anchor date because it points to a winter birthday for Christ. Josephus notes that Herod died shortly before the Passover in 4 BC, which began on April 11th of that year. This gives several months for the events surrounding the Nativity and fits the narrative accounts of both Matthew and Luke.
We should not be dogmatic about the exact day. However, we can use December 25th as the anchor date. This date helps explain several events recorded in the Nativity accounts and is important for establishing a timeline that supports the historicity of the Gospels.
By Ruth Nourse
“The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth,” Jennie Brownscombe, 1914. Click to enlarge.
History as Truth
If it is possible in a courtroom to judge a defendant guilty or innocent, or in a laboratory to discover the relationship between physical properties and phenomena, it must be possible to know the truth about history.
The word “history,” according to Webster, is related to the Greek historia, “a learning by inquiry.” The word “skeptic” also comes from the Greek skeptesthai, meaning to examine or consider. A true skeptic is a “considerer” who will not pass judgment before the evidence has been thoughtfully examined.
In a world of sunshine and rain and natural beauty beyond measure, who is so cynical as to refuse to examine available evidence of the work of a Creator God in the history of man? For the open minded scholar the possibility of God’s presence in history is not unthinkable.
Page Smith points out in his book, History and Historians, that the Jews discovered history. For them chronology was transcended by the relation of a people with their God. The meaning, purpose and direction of history was found in God’s will and their Messianic expectation.
According to the Old Testament view, man is able to effect his own destiny in partnership with God. The New Testament demonstrates and affirms the validity of this view. According to the gospels, Messianic hopes of the Hebrew Scriptures were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth; the Abrahamic covenant, according to Paul’s writings, was made universal through faith in Him.
Eusebius, the first important Christian historian, saw history as the unfolding of God’s purpose in the world. The verifiable experience of millions alive today supports this view – a view held since ancient times and, until our century, as the prevalent view of western historians.
Those who have seen God’s plan unfold in their own lives, find no reason to doubt Columbus’ claim that expeditions to undiscovered lands were undertaken as a divine mission. Samuel Eliot writes of Columbus: “His frequent communion with forces unseen was a vital element in his achievement.”
Intelligent purpose gives meaning to history and links believers of all generations in the on-going expansion of God’s kingdom on earth. Understanding this, we can readily accept what early colonists wrote of divine purpose in the settlement of America. In America, a new, and specifically Christian, start was made.
The Founding of America
Generations of English and European peoples were motivated in pursuit of sound government by a Bible based concept of justice. Before the settlement of New England, however, achievement along this line had been both remarkable and disappointing. Success and failure had been their mixed experience. The tyranny of the institutional church had proved as hard to bear as tyranny of kings.
Jamestown, the first colony in the new world, was almost exclusively profit motivated. Thoughtful consideration finds in the Jamestown experience inadequate impetus to explain the settlement of the continent much less the nation that grew here from such small beginnings. That first colony’s inability to cope with famine, sickness, hostile Indians, and chronic infighting among promoters and colonial leaders held no lamp of hope to bring throngs of would-be settlers willing to take the attendant risks.
Schemes to enlist Jamestown emigrants included suppression of facts about what colonists actually suffered in Virginia. Disillusionment provided no emotional stimulus for survival, and the colony struggled for years on the brink of disaster. The Jamestown episode fails to explain the resilience and success of colonial America.
The experience of the Mayflower Pilgrims, who landed at Plymouth in 1620, more adequately accounts for the survival and productivity of early American colonies and for the continual flow of immigrants to these shores. Doubters need only read the first line of the Mayflower Compact to confirm the faith of the Pilgrims.
It was a broad faith demonstrated by 102 hardy souls who knelt with William Bradford to ask journeying mercies before their little ship set sail and, again – as they viewed their new homeland – to thank God for delivering them from the “vast and furious ocean.” Prayer was not their only demonstration of faith. Hardships that broke the spirit of the colonists at Jamestown drew the Pilgrims closer together and caused them to pray more fervently.
Why must we doubt the testimony of the colonists themselves, who believed that God prepared the way before them and sustained them in the new land? Can the sequence of events that accompanied their coming be explained in a better way? Could such a series of enabling circumstances be expected to burst by chance into the stream of history?
Hostile Indians had been removed from Plymouth by a mysterious plague four years before the Mayflower landed. Apart from this “preparation” for their coming, the sea-wary strangers would have landed among unfriendly Native Americans. Nearly half the Pilgrims died the first winter, yet the faith of the survivors was not diminished.
The turning point at Plymouth came when Samoset, an amiable Algonquin chieftain, brought Squanto to the colony. Stolen away from those very forests by English tradesmen before the plague, Squanto gained a knowledge of the English language and lifestyle by the time he found a way back to his childhood home. Finding none of his own people alive, he spent six months with the Algonquins, seeming not to know which way to turn.
Squanto found new purpose in life as he taught the English settlers how to plant crops, harvest fish and otherwise survive in a perilous environment. Without this native guidance, Plymouth might well have suffered losses like those at Jamestown, where the mortality rate the second year was nine out of ten. The Mayflower Pilgrims recognized God’s providence in all this; but the story is seldom told as originally written in William Bradford’s account Of Plimouth Plantation.
Providential reward of faith was claimed in the same way by Puritans who arrived on New England shores ten years later. In 1630, John Winthrop was sent as governor with colonists to reinforce the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s languishing settlement at Salem. Shocked by the appearance of gaunt and ragged survivors who met him at the shore, Winthrop may have considered returning to England had he not remembered the clear purpose with which his band of Puritans had set sail.
They were people of faith, and their purpose would be achieved in spite of distressing circumstances. The governor outlined his plan for overcoming adversity in a bold and noble sermon entitled “A Model of Christian Charity.”
“For this end we must knit together in this work as one man … We must hold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience, and liberality. We must delight in each other, make one another’s condition our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our Commission and Community in this work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace …
“We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when He shall make us a praise and glory, that men of succeeding plantations shall say, ‘The Lord make it like that of New England.’ For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill …”
The Puritan Hope
Pilgrim and Puritan colonists, in the characteristic manner of Christian believers, held to the Hebraic view of history. Experience of other early settlers in America, their compacts, the founding documents of the several Colonies, and of the United States, demonstrate that the character and the faith of her first leaders was like that of the Pilgrims and Puritans.
Such was the faith perpetuated by America’s early literature and the textbooks of her schools. The first book printed by Harvard Press was The Whole Booke of Psalmes “Faithfully translated into English metre.” That the faith of the early colonists reigned well into the 19th century is a fact born out by the universal popularity of Longfellow’s writings and McGuffey’s readers.
It seems evident that devotion and sincerity diminished in proportion to an increase of hypocrisy in life and formalism in worship. Departure from living faith contributed to the instability of the times. Society seemed to depend on enforcement, rather than demonstration, of Christian virtue. Objectivity was forgotten in a subjective purpose to throw off uncomfortable restraints.
Once freedom to do good had been enough, now freedom was granted to do almost anything one wished to attempt. With several generations of results to observe, we may consider more objectively what have been the consequences of rejecting the Bible as the measure of truth. Note that the emphasis here is on the Bible as the basis for faith. Confusion over religious dogma, tradition, ritual has divided Christians for centuries and has undoubtedly discouraged many honest inquirers.
Wisdom in our day is to distinguish between truth and religious verbage in the present as well as in history. Differences over dogma, tradition, and the conduct of people who wear Christian labels confuse the real issue, which is: The Bible either tells the truth about the origin and nature of man, and actual events of history, or it does not. Those who say they have experienced God’s intervention in their lives, just as people did in Bible times, are either telling the truth or they are not.
Probably no other human experience has ever been so commonly reported, and at the same time so flippantly discounted. True historians, according to the etymology of the word, will learn by inquiry what has actually happened, rather than distort the record to accomplish some preconceived purpose.
The 20th century has been termed, “The Violent Century,” by some historians, referring to the two great world wars, the holocaust, abortion, Soviet and Chinese communism killing millions of their own people, famines, the AIDS epidemic, etc., all happening on a global scale. Despite all of these obstacles, the Kingdom of God has grown and multiplied.
During the same period, the greatest number of conversions to the Christian faith occurred. Remarkably, this exponential growth has occurred at an even higher rate than the staggering world population explosion. With a tremendous increase in world population has come an even greater increase in the total number of Christians. This great number of conversions has occurred despite great violence and persecutions against the Church.
According to the U.S. Center for World Mission, Christian evangelism in the last 100 years has reached a growth curve which is now increasing exponentially. Comparing the percentage of Christians in the total world population, the following statistics have been noted.
- In the year 100 (70 years after Jesus Christ’s ministry began), there was a total of one believer for every 360 nonbelievers on the planet Earth (or .27% of the world’s population).
- In the year 1000, the ratio became 1 in 220 (or .45% of the population).
- In 1900, the ratio became 1 in 27 (or 3.7%).
- In 1980, the ratio became 1 in 11 (or 9.1%).
- In 1990, the ratio was 1 in 7 (or 14.3%).
- At the time of the publishing of this book, the ratio is 1 in 5 (or 20.8%).
The U.S. Center for World Mission defines a Christian as a person who has had a born-again experience, attends a church service at least twice a week, and prays at least once a month for world evangelization.
In viewing these ratios on the graph above, one can see a rapid increase of Christians toward the year 2020. This dramatic increase shows the impact that the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s, the First and Second Great Awakenings of the following centuries, and the Holiness and Pentecostal Revivals at the turn of the 20th century have had on world evangelization.
While many people might think the United States has the largest population of committed Christians, a study by the Pew Research Institute that found that the world’s most committed Christians live in Africa and Latin America.
By 2060 six of the countries with the top ten largest Christian populations will be in Africa, up from three in 2015, according to a Pew Research Center report in 2019. The projections are in line with the gradual shift that has increasingly seen Christian populations on the rise in the Third World. The size of the Christian population in Nigeria alone – already the largest on the continent – is projected to double by 2060. In addition, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya are projected to join the list of countries with the top ten largest Christian populations, replacing Russia, Germany and China.
In 1976, the U.S. Center for World Mission numbered at least 24,000 distinct ethnic groups that can be viewed in biblical terms as the ethne, “the nations,” or “people groups,” that must be reached with the gospel in order to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). Of these 24,000 people groups, there were 10,000 that had an indigenous witness in the form of churches made up of people from their own culture. This left 14,000 people groups which still must be reached with the Gospel in order for the Great Commission to be fulfilled.
By the year 2001, this number of unreached groups had dropped to 10,000. According to the U.S. Center for World Mission, an “unreached people group” is defined as one having less than two percent of its population as evangelical Christian. By way of disclaimer, various missions organizations number the people groups differently using varied criteria. However, using any criteria we can see a remarkable exponential increase.
With this phenomenal growth, it is possible that these remaining unreached people groups could be reached within 21st century. But we should remember the words of Jesus Christ, which have been borne out in the experience of the last century.
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).
Is the world getting better or worse?
Have these gains resulted in the world becoming a better place? While people might differ in their definition of “better,” there are some real, measurable indicators of material and physical prosperity. Although material wealth is not an indicator of God’s blessing, the Bible teaches that the person who obeys the Law of God will have a longer life and material prosperity.
However, here is the irony. Evangelical Christians have become generally more pessimistic in the last 100 years. There used to be more postmillennialists who thought the world was becoming a better place due to the great missionary thrust of churches in the 1800s. Ironically, now that Christianity is the largest religion in the world, most evangelicals are premillennialists who think the world is predestined to get worse and worse until the end.
Below are some statistics for you to consider from the book by Greg Easterbrook called, The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. Note that the book is taking a purely secular perspective on how the world is getting “better.” Nevertheless, the following statistics show that disease, war and poverty are being vanquished by the progress of the Gospel.
Here are 63 indicators that the world is getting better not worse.
- In 1890, less than 1 percent of American households earned the equivalent of $75,000 in today’s dollars; now nearly a quarter of households are at that favored point.
- The typical person now commands twice the real buying power of his father or mother in the year 1960.
- Cars, furniture, clothing, and other common goods have shown a steady, ongoing decline in the number of work-hours required for the typical American to purchase them.
- Today a third of America’s families own three cars or more.
- Today the typical American place home has 5.3 rooms for its average of 2.6 people. This means that a longstanding metric of comfortable living, “a room of one’s own,” has been gone one better; on average, Americans of today have two rooms of their own.
- The average child or teenager has his or her own bedroom–surely the first time in history this has been achieved for an entire large society.
- In the 2000 Census, the fraction of American dwellings without indoor plumbing dropped below 1 percent for the first time in history.
- The typical new home now built in the United States is 2,349 square feet, including three bedrooms and two and a half bath compared to 1,100 square feet in 1950.
- Ninety-five percent of American homes are now centrally heated, versus about 15 percent in our grandparents’ generation; 78 percent have air conditioning, versus essentially zero then.
- Almost 70 percent of Americans own their own home, versus less than 20 percent a century ago, when most Americans were tenants.
- Four-fifths of American adults are now high school graduates, compared to one-third in 1947.
- One-quarter of Americans hold college degrees, compared to about six percent in 1947; today Americans average 15.2 years of education.
- Two-thirds of high school graduates go on to at least some college, while fewer than 10 percent drop out of high school.
- The United States is on the short path to becoming the first society in history with more adults who are college graduates than are not.
- 84 percent of Americans have medical insurance and most of those who don’t have it receive medical attention in an emergency room situation. Medical insurance was practically non-existent after World War I, and only the elite wealthy were protected against ruinous medical expenses.
- Americans collectively take twenty-five million overseas vacations per year.
- Americans took 612 million airline trips in 2002. Approximately 200 million Americans, 70 percent of the nation, are members of the “jet set.” Just 105 years ago airplanes did not exist.
- The typical American eats four restaurant meals per week and spend 49 percent of their food dollars in restaurants compared to just 25 percent in 1955.
- 58 percent of American men work in white-collar occupations which require no physical toil, along with 52 percent of women. This means there are now more white-collar Americans than blue-collar.
- In 1850, the typical American man’s workweek was sixty-six hours; in 1900, fifty-three hours; today it is forty-two hours.
- A century ago, 90 percent of women spent at least four hours per day doing primary housework: cooking, cleaning; But only 14 percent in the year 2000 spent four or more hours per day at this task.
- Compared to 1880, the typical adult male has forty more hours per week available for relaxation; the typical American woman now has about thirty more relaxation hours per week.
- You can spend your leisure time watching movies that cost $100 million to make for $8 at the cinema, for $15 on your DVD player or computer, or for free on one of your four televisions.
- In the mid 1800’s, the typical person spent 50 percent of his or her waking hours engaged in some form of imposed labor (ie, working). Today it is a little under 20 percent of a person’s lifetime.
- During the 1990s, homicides fell by 75 percent in San Diego, 70 percent I New York City, by big margins in Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, and other cities.
- Domestic violence against women fell 21 percent in the 1990s. Robbery and burglary declined; car theft declined. Rape declined by 40 percent. Gun violence declined.
- By 2001, the figures for the Forty-first Precinct in the Bronx had fallen to 12 homicides from 130 homicides per year in the 70s, to 225 burglaries from 6,433, and to 239 robberies from 2,632–in total, roughly a 95 percent decline.
- Twenty-five years ago, only one-third of America’s lakes and rivers were safe for fishing and swimming; today two-thirds are (Leading Index of Environmental Indicators, EPA).
- Since 1970 smog has declined by a third, even as the number of cars has nearly doubled; acid rain has declined by 67 percent, even though the United States now burns twice as much coal; even airborne lead, a poison, is down 97 percent.
- During the 1980s, Los Angeles averaged about 150 ozone “health advisory” days per year, and about fifty “stage one” ozone alerts. By 2000, the number of advisory days had fallen to about twenty per year, and in 2003, Los Angeles has had no stage-one ozone alert for four years running (www.aqmd.gov).
- Toxic emissions by industry declined 51 percent from 1988 to 2002.
- Total American water consumption has declined nine percent in the past fifteen years, even as the population has expanded in the arid Southwest.
- The wooded acreage of the United States has been expanding for more than a decade.
- Deer populations have expanded, and once-periled species such as the bald eagle, gray whale, brown pelican, and peregrine falcon have recovered in numbers and been “delisted” from emergency protection.
- Prices of most primary commodities, especially metals, coals, and ores, have been falling for two decades.
- Credible estimates put the world’s proven reserve of petroleum at about one trillion barrels, a forty-year supply at current rates, while an additional trillion barrels will become recoverable with improved technology, such as drilling in the deep ocean.
- At the beginning of the twentieth century, the average American life expectancy was forty-one years, but by the twenty-first century it had risen to seventy-seven years.
- The average life expectancy for the entire world is sixty-six years.
- Heart disease and stroke have been declining for decades. By the year 2000, U.S. incidence of heart disease death was 60 percent lower, adjusted for population increase, than in 1950; incidence of stroke deaths fell 70 percent in the same period.
- Most cancers, including breast cancer are in retreat for the first time since increasing average age made cancer a general concern. Most studies by the National Cancer Institute show cancer mortality declining at about 1 percent per year since 1993, again despite overall aging (Annual report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer).
- Infant mortality has declined 45 percent since 1980, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and is now down to 0.7 percent of live births, the lowest figure ever for the United States.
- The rate of suicide in the U.S. rate has fallen 18 percent since 1950.
- Most forms of accidental deaths are in long-term decline, as are workplace fatalities. Deaths by fire, especially, have declined, down by 50 percent.
- Traffic deaths have been hitting new lows on an almost annual basis. For example, 42,850 Americans died in automobile crashes in 2002 versus 52,627 in 1970, though the population rose and auto miles traveled increased about 75 percent through that period.
- Use of most illegal drugs has been declining for two decades. Alcohol consumption per capita has been declining for a generation, including among the young. Cigarette use continues to decline. Today just 10 percent of Americans tenth-graders smoke, believed to be the lowest number for this age group since packaged cigarettes became common in the 1920s (America’s Children: Indicators of Well-Being 2002).
- The divorce rate, which had been climbing seemingly inexorably since the 1950s, flattened out in the 1990s and at present is in shallow decline. It is no longer true that, when you attend a wedding, there is a fifty-fifty chance you are watching people swear vows that will not last.
- The rate of children born out of marriage, climbing seemingly inexorably since the 1950s, like the divorce rate flattened in 1990s and at present is in shallow decline.
- During the 1990s, the segment of children who lived with both parents rose from 51 percent to 56 percent.
- Teen pregnancy and births to teens fell, by 22 percent and by 15 percent, respectively, during the 1990s.
- Most public-school test scores are either slightly up (math proficiency) or flat (reading proficiency) (Thomas Loveless of the Brooking Institution).
- Since the beginning of the twentieth century, overall IQ scores have risen about 20 percent.
- Women and minority-group members continue to assume roles once restricted to white males.
- The gap between women’s and men’s wages has been shrinking for a generation, and today is the smallest ever. In 1982, women as a group earned 62.5 percent as much as men, and by 2002 that share had risen to 77.5 percent.
- Through the last generation, the portion of African-Americans living in middle-class circumstances has more than doubled. By the end of the twentieth century, black poverty had dropped to the lowest rate ever recorded. (2002 study National Urban League)
- The percentage of U.S. children living in poverty declined from a peak of 22 percent in 1993, just before reforms were enacted, to 16 percent, the lowest figure of a generation.
- In the United States there continue to be jobs, including plenty of desirable jobs, and an almost unlimited supply of goods and services at reasonable prices.
- Food, housing, clothing, and other essentials cost less in real-dollar terms than a generation ago, despite being higher in quality, while prices of some categories of consumer goods, notably electronics, fall steadily.
- The Cold War never became a hot war, and ended with democracy routing tyranny. Nuclear-bomb factories in the United States and the former Soviet Union once turned out doomsday weapons in hideous numbers; today they run in reverse, disassembling warheads in the largest and most important arms-reduction in history. In 2002, the U.S. and the Russian Federation agreed to reduce the number of strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 2,200 per nation. Once accomplished, 90 percent of the Armageddon arsenal will be gone.
- Twenty-five years ago, only about a third of the globe’s nations held true free elections; today, two-thirds do.
- That democratic governments now outnumber autocratic governments two to one is a situation unprecedented in world history.
- The number of armed conflicts in the world has declined. There were twenty-eight declared wars and forty-five armed conflicts globally in 2002, for example, versus forty-eight declared wars and sixty-five armed conflicts in 1993.
- In 2000, four times as many people globally died in traffic accidents than in any form of combat–1.3 million traffic deaths versus 300,000 deaths from war. That car crashes currently pose a greater threat to the citizens of the earth than combat is surely progress in the right direction (World Health Organization 2000).
- Annual global military spending peaked in the year 1985, at $1.3 trillion, and has been declining since, to $840 billion in 2002 (World Military Spending, 2003).
Hermeneutics not Zeitgeist!
If you haven’t been steeped in the dispensationalist paradigm and don’t think that the Left Behind Series is an accurate picture of what the Bible teaches about the end times, you may be scratching your head at this point and wondering.
If Postmillennialism has such an illustrious history, then how did dispensationalist premillennialism become so popular?
Some point to the split in the evangelical Church in the late 1800s as giving the impetus for the mass defection from the Puritan Hope. As liberals began to put more and more emphasis on the “social Gospel” – the care of the poor, the sick and righting social evils – they paid less and less attention to the fulcrum of social reform, the Gospel of salvation. Therefore, in a knee-jerk reaction, many well-meaning conservatives who continued to teach the Gospel of salvation and the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, slowly began to grow suspicious of any Christian movement that would champion social concerns – especially those that did it at the expense of the spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God.
Thus an entire generation of Christians threw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Then just a few decades later, they viewed the horrible atrocities committed in the two world wars and under the brutal dictatorships of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and other atheistic communist regimes.
Pretty soon, Zeitgeist (or the “spirit of the age”) began to define theology. Rather than let the Word of Truth itself guide its worldview, the Church began to let the pessimistic worldview of the daily news move its agenda toward cultural retreatism. The great irony here is that in focusing on the bad, much of the evangelical Church has ignored the great victories that have occurred under our very noses.
For the first time in history, the Church has had the opportunity to literally preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Yet at the same time, many disbelieve what has been the amazing result. Why should it be that there are more Christians in the world than ever before in history – and in fact a larger percentage of the world population is truly converted – and yet many expect things to grow worse and worse even as this success continues to grow? As Revival historian Iain Murray put it:
Why should it not be that in this era when the population of the world has reached its height, that God will show on a yet greater scale that truth is more powerful than error, grace is more powerful than sin, and that those given to Christ are indeed “as the sand which is upon the sea-shore” (Iain H. Murray, The Puritan Hope).
“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981
Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House.
The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.
“… a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine
Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese
Running Time: 28 minutes
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Foundations in Biblical Eschatology
By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.
All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?
These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.
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With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?
Is it biblical to stand in the public places of the world and proclaim the gospel, regardless if people want to hear it or not?
Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?
These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.
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Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?
Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!
Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.
Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)
Running Time: 145 minutes
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What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?
Discover the answer in this eyewitness account by Dennis Kinlaw, President of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, who recounts the story of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in 1970. This is the presentation that has continued to spark the flames of Revival in the hearts of people around the world. Contains eyewitness footage from the Revival at Asbury College in 1970 in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!
“This simple video does a wonderful job of conveying something of God’s heart and power, Everyone we have ever shown this to has received an immediate impartation of faith for revival and the power of prayer.”
— Bob and Rose Weiner, Weiner Ministries Int’l
Running Time: 40 minutes
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