In the previous article we wrote about modern postmillennialism, an integral part of the Christian Reconstructionist movement. This type of postmillennialism is very different from the older postmillennialism of the Puritans and far more dangerous. Our difficulties with this type of postmillennialism are the subject of this article.
First, then, this type of postmillennialism devalues the preaching of the gospel. Action in politics and economics, etc., is at least equally important as the gospel for the coming of the kingdom. So, too, the victory of the kingdom is not so much in the salvation of men through the gospel, as in Christians taking dominion over the whole of society.
Second, this postmillennialism also devalues and trivializes the church. Believing that the kingdom is something beyond and greater than the church, the church is no longer viewed as the chief object, next to Christ Himself, of the Christians affection (Ps. 122:6; Eph. 1:17-23). Nor is the gathering and preservation of the church the main goal of the Christians life and work (Ps. 122:9; Col. 1:21-29). For many, the church is only a training ground for Christian involvement in politics, economics and other areas of social life.
This trivializing of the church leads: (1) to a great disinterest in matters of church government, worship, and doctrine; and (2) to a kind of ecumenicalism a willingness to join with those whose teaching may be completely unbiblical. After all, the main thing is not the church, but the kingdom, something beyond and greater than the church.
Those who hold to this form of postmillennialism, therefore, often accuse the church of failing in her calling from very early on in her history, for though the church has faithfully preached the gospel and sought the salvation of sinners, she has not taken dominion over all of society. In this, they say, she has failed miserably.
Third, this type of postmillennialism undermines a faithful Christian witness. With its emphasis on the necessity of political action and involvement in various areas of social endeavor, the witness of the ordinary Christian as he lives his life honestly and faithfully in his own God-given place is undervalued. The most important thing is not being a good witness, even in digging ditches, in order to be used by God for the salvation of others, but to be involved politically and in other ways.
Fourth, this type of postmillennialism represents in many cases a new type of legalism with its emphasis on the law. Those who expect the kingdom to be realized by the bringing of all men under the dominion of law, really think that the law will do what the gospel fails to do. They forget the weakness of the law (Rom. 8:3).
Finally, this type of postmillennialism, with its emphasis on a millennial kingdom that will have its primary realization in this world, tends to become a religion that minds earthly things (Phil. 3:19). This one finds among the adherents of this view denials of the resurrection of the body, of heaven as a real place and as the final home of believers, even of the ascension of Christ to heaven, which is, of course, the guarantee of all the believers heavenly hopes. Rev. Ronald Hanko
Without any specific question, a reader asks that I work out two passages from the prophecy of Jeremiah. It is well to quote the two passages first of all.
Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock Jer. 31:10.
Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: and I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. For thus saith the Lord; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them Jer. 32:37-42.
I have discussed this passage in two previous issues. The reader is urged to go back to these two issues and read what I already wrote about this important and beautiful part of Gods Word.
I concentrated, in previous articles, on the fact that God was speaking here, through Jeremiah, to His people in Judah, just prior to the captivity. The promise of a return, therefore, was to Judah first of all.
But the question must still be answered: Does this passage have any new dispensational reference? May we apply it to the church of the new dispensation as well as to Judah in the old dispensation?
There are those who would answer: No! They make a distinction between the nation of Israel as the kingdom people and the people of God in the new dispensation that is the church. They limit the promises of the OT to the kingdom people, and refuse to apply them to the church. They are the pre-mils, and the result of their work is an OT for the Jew and a NT for the Gentile.
We do not want to chop up Scripture in this way. This passage clearly applies, as I intimated in the last article, to the new dispensation as well as to Judah. There are several indications of this in the passage itself.
1) Already in 31:2, this word of Jeremiah is addressed to the nations and to the isles afar off. Now it is true that part of the reason why God wants all the nations to know what He is about to do for His people is to show them that He is faithful to His covenant and that He does not forget what He has promised to Abraham. The nations must also know that God takes care of Israel. They, after all, mocked when Judah went into captivity.
But another reason why all the nations must know this faithfulness of God is because they will participate in these blessings when Japheth comes to dwell in the tents of Shem. These promises are for them.
2) The many promises which God makes to Israel upon their restoration are clearly promises bound up with salvation granted also to the Gentiles. God will give them one heart, one way so that they may fear God. God will rejoice over them to do them good, and put His fear in their hearts. God will see to it that they shall not depart from Him again. All these promises apply to the whole church in both the old and the new dispensations.
3) The description of the covenant in 32:38 (They shall be my people, and I will be their God) is exactly the same covenantal promise as is given to Gods people in the new dispensation (II Cor. 6:16) and has its perfect fulfillment at the end of time (Rev. 21:3). One great covenant typically fulfilled at the time of the return from captivity, fulfilled in principle in the new dispensation, perfectly realized at Christs coming.
4) The covenant is said in this passage to be everlasting. This is the language God uses in 32:40: I will make an everlasting covenant with them . It is obvious that something everlasting is not something that belongs only to the old dispensation and ceases to exist with the dawn of the new.
Always God maintains His covenant with His people. They sin against Him. They break His covenant by their sin. They transgress His holy ordinances. But God remains faithful and maintains His cause that the riches of His sovereign grace may be manifested.
God preserves His people. He chastises them to purify them and correct them. He causes them to pass through judgment. But His love never wavers. All is for their salvation. And finally He takes them into the heavenly Canaan forever, without sin, He is their God and they are His people. Prof. Herman Hanko
One of our readers writes as follows: I dont like people in the church I attend praying for me, since if you ask for prayer, they lay hands on you and I worry in case I get a transferring of Spirit from them. Is there anything in the Bible about this?
Apart from the question of laying on of hands, we would suggest that any church a person attends where he or she is afraid of the Spirit that works in the other members, is not a suitable church to be attending. Though I doubt very much that there is any possibility of a transferring of the Spirit by the laying on of hands in such a case, the thought of having the Spirit that works on the other members of the church ought to be a joy, not an occasion of fear to believers.
As far as the laying on of hands is concerned, we believe that such behavior as in the case described is both inappropriate and unbiblical. Perhaps our correspondent realizes this and for this reason is afraid of what might happen as a result of it. Unbiblical behavior never brings Gods blessing.
Scripture does, of course, speak of laying on of hands. However, this is something that was done only when church office-bearers were being ordained (Acts 6:6; 9:17; 13:3; I Tim. 4:14; 5:22; II Tim 1:6) and when, in apostolic times, apostolic gifts were being conferred (Acts 8:17-18; 19:6; 28:8).
In the former case, the laying on of hands, as Acts 13:3 and I Timothy 4:14 show, was done by other ordained men and symbolized the gift of the Holy Spirit Who would assist and bless the man called to be an elder or deacon or pastor or missionary in Christs church. It had nothing to do, as such, with prayer, but was rather a testimony to the presence and grace of the Holy Spirit. It was very much similar to the ceremony of anointing with oil that was used so often in the Old Testament.
The laying on of hands, therefore, is still appropriate in the church, but only when men are being ordained to office. But it ought to be done then according to the pattern laid down in Scripture, that is, by other ordained men, particularly those described in Scripture as the Presbytery, that is, the elders. There are no examples in Scripture of ordinary believers laying hands on others for any reason.
In the second case, the laying on of hands was done only by the Apostles, and conferred special and miraculous gifts, gifts that are called in II Corinthians 12:12, the signs of the Apostles. We have written in more detail on this subject (please write and ask for these issues if you do not have them), and are convinced that these gifts belonged to the time of the Apostles and ended with the death of the Apostles. There is, therefore no occasion for this kind of laying on of hands today.
We believe, too, that the office of Apostle was unique in the church, and that there are no such men around today. The qualifications for Apostleship simply cannot be met today, for qualifications included that a man had seen the risen Lord and been personally appointed by Him. Since there are no Apostles, there are not qualified to lay hands on others in order to give the special gifts of the Spirit, though many claim to be able to do so.
The sad thing about all this is that the majority of those who identify themselves as Christians are not even interested in learning what the Bible says on such matters. They are determined to go their own way, while claiming to serve and honor God. Rev. Ronald Hanko