‘Realistic’ A-millenialism

Your eschatology shapes your ethics. How we expect the story to end shapes how we act in it now. And an under-rated area is the topic of the millenium. Rightly, this is a second order issue. But not unimportant.

In some discussions I had last week, we were confused about whether A-millenniallism is pessimistic or optimistic. It seems to be both, which is confusing.

On further thought, I think the confusion comes from this ambiguity: Optimistic about what?

It seems to me you could separate out at least two dimensions:

  1. The progress of the world as a whole: culture, civilisation, etc
  2. The progress of the gospel: conversions, church growth around the world.

Separating these out reveals, I think, the nuance of A-mil hopes:

Realistic A-millennialism — The ‘millenium’ is symbollic of these last days before Jesus’ return. We need take all the images about the last days together. Satan is bound and prevented from deceiving the nations, so we are optimistic about gospel progress. But the world still follows the beast and continues in rebellion against God.

  • Gospel expectation: (+) optimistic.
  • Cultural expectation (-) pessimistic.

Compare this to the other big views:

Pessimistic Premillennialism — Jesus will come back to begin his millenial reign. In the meantime, this world will go to pot. So just share the gospel, bunker down, and save as many as you can.

  • Gospel expectation: (-) pessimistic (or neutral?)
  • Cultural expectation: (-) pessimistic.

Optimistic Postmillennialism — Jesus will return after the millenium. The millenium will be a golden era in which Christ’s reign is manifest in a world that gets more and more righteous because Satan is bound. So share the gospel, and get busy making the culture and world more righteous.

  • Gospel expectation: (+) optimistic.
  • Cultural expectation: (+) optimistic.

// You can see this play out in discussions about how much effort Christians should put into changing culture vs evangelism.

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