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"And the peoples will stream to it,
And many nations will come and say,
'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD
And to the House of the God of Jacob. . . .'"
HalLindsey, the architect of "Jesus Generation" gospel of escapism, has admitted that the "Vine & Fig Tree" vision of the triumph of the Gospel in human history and culture used to be the dominant perspective among Christians. But pessimism has become the order of the day, not because of any new Scriptural insights, but because -- to a "ME-generation" accustomed to instant gratification -- the world doesn't seem to be getting any better. Lindsey now defends escapist pessimism through the following caricature of Triumphalist Personalism (which he admits used to be in the majority):
There used to be a group called "postmillennialists." They believed that the Christians would root out all the evil in the world, abolish godless rulers, and convert the world through ever-increasing evangelism until they brought about the Kingdom of God through their own efforts. Then after 1000 years of the institutional church reigning on earth with peace, equality and righteousness, Christ would return and time would end. These people rejected much of the Scripture as being literal and believed in the inherent goodness of man. World War I greatly disheartened this group and World War II virtually wiped out this viewpoint. No self-respecting scholar who looks at the world conditions and the accelerating decline of Christian influence today is a "postmillennialist." (Hal Lindsey, The Late, Great Planet Earth, 1970, p. 176)
Correcting the misrepresentations given by this very misleading, unscholarly (and thus unScriptural) statement will serve well to summarize what we have seen thus far.
Lindseysays "there used to be a group called "post-millennialists." The Eschatology of Predestined Blessings is the historic position of the Church. Postmillennialism was not an "ism," but simply the orthodox expectation of Christ's dominion over the world through the Gospel.
On the other hand, since the time of the heretic Cerinthus, there has been a wiggy minority who have held to "chiliasm" (1000 year-ism), today called "Premillennialism." This view has always been on the fringes of Christianity, has often led to violent revolutions (e.g., in Munster), and only achieved popularity after being codified in the "Scofield Bible" of 1909.
Lindseyconfuses Biblical Postmillennialism with the socialism and evolutionary Secular Humanism of "the Social Gospel" movement, which was incipiently hostile to Biblical personalism. The spread of the Gospel and the outpouring of Kingdom Blessings can only take place under the Power of the Spirit. "Christians" cannot "root out all the evil in the world, abolish godless rulers, and convert the world through ever-increasing evangelism" without the aid of the Holy Spirit. The very idea that Christians can bring about "the Kingdom through their own efforts" is preposterous in the extreme. The great conversion of the nations is a work of the King; all the peoples will not stream to the Mountain of the LORD because we are very persuasive evangelists, or come up with clever slogans (John 6:44). It is Christ the King Who sends forth His Spirit and His Word in Power to change hearts and bring obedience. This is the beauty of predestination over politics.
Do "post-mils" really look forward to "1000 years of the institutional church reigning on earth?" We have already had this. It was dismal. Institutional power-grabbing is condemned by the All-Powerful King (Matthew 20:25-28). The Christmas Conspiracy includes a pattern of non-institutional government, suggested in Part Five of the series.
The Jews of Jesus' day had a knack for "literal" interpretation. King David had written in Psalm 16:8-11:
I foresaw the LORD always before my face; for He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore my heart rejoiced and my tongue exulted; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: because Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell neither wilt Thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou has made known to me the ways of life; Thou wilt fill me with joy with Thy countenance: at Thy right hand there are delights for ever.
The Psalmist had also written:
"The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; He will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne"
The Jews interpreted these and other verses very "literally." As a result, they had the view that the Christ would be a resurrected David (or his descendant). The Jews in Jesus' day were spiritual descendants of those that demanded a king in the first place (I Samuel 8)(and killed the prophets who said that they were missing the point [Matthew 23:29-36]). Not understanding why God had granted their sinful wish, they failed to see the oppressive character of the reigns of the kings which followed. The Jews of Christ's day thus supposed that the setting up "on the throne" would be a revived Jewish kingdom, in which Jews would have the political power to vengefully oppress the Gentile nations even has they had been oppressed by them; how the Jews relished the thought of the Gentiles being bound in chains (Isaiah 45:14) and confronted with the awesome power of the Jewish empire, feigning obedience just to survive (Psalm 66:3; Psalm 18:44).
But as we have seen (in the previous essay), these verses must be interpreted "Spiritually," that is, in light of the Holy Spirit, lacking in their day but more widespread in ours. The Apostle Peter, under the inSpiration of the Holy Spirit, said that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah) foretold in the Psalms, not a literal David, and that the power in Christ's Kingdom was not military power, but the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:25-36). The Holy Spirit has the power to change depraved rebels into obedient saints (Romans 8:2-4).
Why, then, do so many theologians hold to the Jewish or "literal" view of the Scriptures? In short, because they walk by sight, not by faith (II Corinthians 5:7). Why have Christians rejected the optimistic view of evangelism and embraced pessimism? Were they compelled to do so by the overpowering weight of a preponderance of Scriptural testimony? No. Says Hal Lindsey,
World War I greatly disheartened this group and World War II virtually wiped out this viewpoint.
Not a study of the Scriptures, but a short-sighted interpretation of history (as printed in The New York Times). Isn't this the perspective of
scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His Coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation
2 Peter 3:3-4
These people don't believe the Scriptures, they look at the world around them, and faithlessly declare the Scriptures to be in error. Lindsey seems to be saying "'No self-respecting scholar who looks at the world conditions and the accelerating decline of Christian influence today' will see the coming prosperity of the Gospel through eyes of faith," and we must agree with him. People who believe the glorious promises of the Law and the Prophets as fulfilled in Christ (II Corinthians 1:20) are people who ignore TIME Magazine and the world's trends and walk by faith, not by sight (cf. Romans 3:4).
Again, there is incredible irony here:
The architects of World War I and World War II promised "better living through chemistry," i.e., that science will bring about the Golden Age.
Lindsey and 60 million middle-class premillennialists deny the inevitability of the Golden Age of conspiratorial triumph, and their preachers denounce those of us who believe in The Christmas Conspiracy as not being "spiritual" because we are trying to bring about heaven on earth. But Lindsey and his followers still live in slavish obedience to the Secular Humanistic lifestyle, in silent homage to the scientists and socialist planners of Empire. Radical Christianity will bring about the "millennium," but only for those (increasing numbers) who will be willing to live it, i.e., in opposition to the scientists, generals, professors, TV anchormen, movie stars, and other preachers of the new "gospel."
Lindsey says, "No self-respecting scholar who looks at the world conditions and the accelerating decline of Christian influence today is a 'postmillennialist.'"
David Chilton counters: Once upon a time, a courtier must have assured a nervous Pharaoh with these words: "No self-respecting scholar who looks at world conditions and the accelerating decline of Hebrew influence agrees with Moses." After all, Egypt was the most powerful nation in the world. What chance did poor Hebrew slaves have against the mighty Empire?
Consider a few other periods of time; did it look like things were going to go God's way?:
Hal Lindsey and his group of self-respecting scholars have taken their eyes off God's predestination and God's Law-Word and focused their attention on the selfish materialism of human Empire. And, to put it bluntly, this is the antithesis of Faith.
(1)In speaking of this time, Peter Maurin speaks of "Irish Culture," a time preceding the "Age of Reason." This "Irish Culture" also existed in Africa, under bishops like Augustine of Hippo. Perhaps we should speak of "Ethiopian culture" as a time when Christianity supplanted Roman Law, and decentralized Christian communitarianism was taking root. Modern secular elitists -- enthusiasts of Roman Law and top-down Caesarism -- speak of this Age of Faith as "the Dark Ages," and the modern rise of totalitarianism as a "Renaissance" of Pagan Rome.
In speaking of this Age, we might better call the vision a "prototype" of the "Vine & Fig Tree" vision as we have articulated it, even as our vision will be considered a "prototype" of the vision which will become dominant in 500 years.
(2) The view that the Second Coming is not imminent, but will occur after ("post") the Kingdom sees the prosperity spoken of it by the Prophets ("millennium").
(3) There was once a movement called the "Catholic Worker" which articulated a kind of "personalism." Unfortunately, after World War II the Catholic Worker, founded in 1933, has been infected by Secularism, Humanism, and socialism. Now it sometimes advocates government programs rather than personal responsibility. Vine & Fig Tree was organized to propagate The Christmas Conspiracy.
(4) And if they try to do so, they will probably violate the Law authored by the Spirit. "Root-out" and "abolish" are not verbs to be found in "The Great Commission" (Matthew 28:18-20). Admittedly, these activities were attempted by Protestant Reformers and Puritans who were infected by Roman Law concepts. "Convert" is something only the Spirit can do, which the Reformers were adamant about, hence their opposition to the Inquisition.
(5) The irony here is that Calvinistic postmillennarians have always denied this, affirming the necessity of the Work of God's Grace for conversion. They sometimes put too much confidence in the civil magistrate as a "tool" or "instrument" through which God might work, but their societies stand in stark contrast to the "millennium" imagined by Hal Lindsey, which pictures Jesus Himself ruling with a physical rod, beating utterly unconverted non-Christians into submission before His throne in Jerusalem (at the re-built temple). Peace and justice is the decentralized, personalist "fruit of the Spirit," not the State.
(6) and "mega-trends"
(7) Conservative ("revisionist") scholarship, which opposes the "liberalism" of Wilson and Roosevelt, has documented that this "liberalism" very calculatedly and deliberately moved America into war, as a means of centralizing power and buttressing the structure of corporate and political wage-slavery, indebtedness and interest-paying.
(8) the white-coats of university, government, and corporate laboratories, laying the foundations of military-industrialism, which the media and corporations will disperse throughout the economy through consumerism and pop materialism regulated by a web of bureaucracies and financed through debt, interest, and debased currencies
(9) For an example of this, the kind of "apostate Humanism" Lindsey opposes, see Matthew 6:10.
(10) The Patriarchal vision of Vine & Fig Tree
Go to Appendix: A Scripture Checklist of Conspiratorial Success
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Vine & Fig Tree