Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Archive for the ‘Eschatology’ Category

The Key Difference Between Wesley and the Puritans Over Postmillennialism

I know that was a long title.  I tried to think of ways to make it shorter.  I could not.

I rarely dive into eschatological views.  I try to limit my blog to mainly defining and defending Arminianism as well as just writing about general Christian subjects.  The purpose of this post is not to give a scholarly understanding of the postmillennial views of John Wesley versus the Puritans.  I will leave that to others and frankly I am not that good of a writer to jump into such an issue.

Let me begin by stating that it may come as a shock to some that John Wesley was a postmillennialist.  When I was first saved, I instantly was taught a premillennial view of eschatology.  I was taught the rapture of the Church before the seven year tribulation followed by the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.  I remember I use to pray (as my father had prayed) that I would be worthy to be raptured by the Lord Jesus.  I would have dreams of Jesus coming back to rapture His Church and I would start to rise only to be dropped back on earth after flying a few feet off the ground (probably because of some sin I had committed).

My eschatology views have changed since those days.  I bounced from a pre tribulation view of the rapture to a mid tribulation view before I ended up embracing the postmillennial views of John Wesley.  I was shocked when I first learned that John Wesley was a postmillennialist.  I honestly thought only liberals were postmillennial (a view still held by some in the premillennial camp I might add).  I was unaware that most of the Reformers were either amillennial or postmillennial (Arminius was likely amillennial though not proven).  As I studied Church History, I begin to see that eschatology has long been a hotly debated subject.  Thus, I have often avoided the issue.  It seems to me that Jesus will come back and this should be our starting point.  From there we can debate the future but so long as we stay faithful to the fact that Jesus will come again (though I was told once by a lady that I would surely miss the rapture since I didn’t believe in it anymore).

The key difference between the postmillennial views of John Wesley versus the Puritans lies in their salvation doctrines.  Wesley, being a faithful Arminian, believed that Jesus died for all men and thus he believe that the doctrine of unlimited atonement was the passion for world evangelism.  Further, he believed that the kingdom of God would spread all over the world because of the doctrine of unlimited atonement.  The victory of Jesus would go forth in the power the gospel until the end would come and the Lord’s enemies would be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26).

The Puritans passion for postmillennialism was based their view of God’s sovereignty from their Calvinist perspective.  Further, the Puritans were divided over how the world would be won to Christ with some saying that it would begin with the top (leaders, authorities and nations coming to faith in Christ) while others held from the bottom (churches preaching in small towns that would spread to the nations with the gospel bringing a mighty revival).  Both the Puritans and Mr. Wesley held that God would ultimately be glorified through the preaching of the gospel to all people though the disagreed over the doctrine of unconditional election.

A great book to read on this issue is Dr. Vic Reasoner’s book The Hope of the Gospel.  In the book, Dr. Reasoner lays out a biblical and faithful Arminian eschatology based on the doctrines of biblical Arminianism.  He shows how the early Methodists were driven by a passion for the gospel for world missions based on their view of the atonement and their view of eschatology.  Our eschatological views do matter and they do effect how we live our lives.

A final note on this.  It is easy to look around at our sin-filled world and become discouraged.  Some premillennialists (and myself at one time would be included here) often do their eschatology based on what they see in the news and not in the Bible.  We can look around and see our sinful world and start to believe that surely it will get worst  before it gets better.  I am the opposite.  In fact postmillennialism is the only truly optimistic view of end times.  I hold that Jesus will win (as do the others to be fair) and in the end, the gospel will transform our world (Mark 4:30-32).  It might not happen in my lifetime but the Lord is faithful to His promises and I believe a great harvest is coming.  I long to see sinners saved by the grace of God just as He saved me by His grace.

I close by pointing back to the truth that all true Christians share and that is that Jesus is coming again.  Many are passionate for their end times views but I believe that we should have grace toward one another over these issues.  I would gladly fellowship with those who do not agree with my eschatological views.  One truth that unites us is that Jesus died for us on the cross.  This we know (1 John 5:13).  We know He will come again (Acts 1:11) though we not know the day nor the hour (Mark 13:32).  The hope for the disciple of Jesus is the resurrection from the dead that He secured for us by dying for our sins and through Him we will live (John 5:24-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  My hope is in the gospel (Hebrews 9:27-28) and not my end times views.  I pray that for you as well.

I do say with John, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

Why Arminians Should Read “The Hope of the Gospel”

I don’t write much about eschatological issues here.  It is not my cup of tea.  It’s not that I don’t hold to a position on end times, it’s simply that I don’t use this blog to get my views out.  Part of this reason is that my views have changed over the years.  For example, when I first started blogging back in 2007, I was a premillennialist.  I even taught a Bible study once called, “Seven Reasons Why I Believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture.”  My views since have changed drastically on these issues.

Dr. Vic Reasoner was once such brother who I read from and who helped to change my views.  His commentary on Revelation was from a partial preterist viewpoint and then his book, The Hope of the Gospel, explored the early Methodist views on eschatology.  When I first was saved, I began to read John Wesley and was struck by his never mentioning the rapture.  I assumed that all Christians believed in the rapture of the church.  I was struck by Wesley’s lack of emphasis on it being the last days.  I assumed Christians had always held that we are living in the last days.  But Reasoner shows that the early hope of the Methodists was the gospel itself.  In fact, it was the gospel that drove them to embrace postmillennialism.  Their Arminianism informed them that they believed in an unlimited atonement and this doctrine set them out to preach the gospel to all nations.  It was their belief in unlimited atonement that pushed them to embrace postmillennialism.

Now I know that some Arminians still hold to both premillennialism and to amillennialism.  I am aware that disciples can disagree over these issues and still serve the Lord tougher, still enjoy fellowship, still worship the King, etc.  This is not an issue of unity nor am I trying to stir up the pot by pointing readers to read Reasoner’s book.  I do believe he makes a strong case both for postmillennialism and how Arminians should embrace this view.  I highly recommend the book and encourage you to study it out (even if you don’t agree with postmillennialism).  For Arminians, the history of Arminianism is strong in Reasoner’s book.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/09/2014 at 11:00 AM

Where Was Arminius on Eschatology?

Unlike John Calvin, Arminius did not leave behind massive amounts of writings.  Much of what we know about Arminius comes to us from those who knew him and wrote about him after his death.  We have his letters which make up his Works.  I have read Arminius’ Works and they are both public and private debates he had with theologians of his day over the issues that would become Arminianism versus Calvinism.

One aspect we know little about with both John Calvin and Arminius is their eschatological views.  The Puritans were clearly postmillennialists and they found their views in the works of Calvin.  Iain Murray, in his book The Puritan Hope, documents how the Puritans passion for the gospel and for Christian living was based in large part because of their postmillennial views.

Arminians, like Calvinists, are not set on one eschatological viewpoint.  There is room in the body of Christ for various views.  The only view that all of us should reject is either a full preterist view that teaches that Christ has already returned or fixing dates (see the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Harold Camping for such a view).  We know that Jesus will come back (Acts 1:11; Hebrews 9:28) but we know not when.  There is room in the Church for various views on this issue and I am not fixed on one though I would align myself with partial preterism and toward a postmillennial viewpoint.

But where was Arminius on this issue?  I think the best we can guess is that he was postmillennial.  This seems to be the view of Calvin and the Reformers.  John Wesley was clearly postmillennial.  Postmillennialism was the dominant view at the time of the Reformation and even into the late 1800’s, it was the most common view.  I remember when I first was reading John Wesley and I was, at that time, a premillennialist.  I was shocked to see that Wesley was a postmillennialist.  I thought the view was only held by liberals who believed that mankind would usher in the millennial kingdom but was shocked to learn that not just Wesley but many others held to postmillennialism.

Dr. Vic Reasoner wrote an excellent book on this issue that he called The Hope of the Gospel.  His passion was to present a Wesleyan understanding of eschatology.  He goes back and shows how the early Methodists passion for revival and for world evangelism was based on their postmillennial views.  They believed that the preaching of the gospel would usher in the millennial kingdom.  They took serious the great commission because they believed Jesus, as King, was establishing His kingdom (Hebrews 12:28).  They believed that Acts 1:8 promised them the power of the Spirit to accomplish this mission and that the gospel would tear down the strongholds of Satan (Romans 1:16-17).  As Reasoner wrote, “They took Psalm 110:1 as they anchor.”

I am not here to persuade you on this issue.  Again, I know that Arminians and Calvinists alike disagree over this issue.  I know many godly Arminians who are premillennialists.  I know Calvinists who are as well.  I know some amillennialists brothers as well.  On this side of eternity, we see through a glass rather dimly.  I do know Jesus will return but I don’t know when.  Neither does anyone else (Matthew 24:36).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/24/2014 at 9:27 PM

Watch Out For Antichrist or Antichrists?

Note: The purpose of this post is not to debate the issue related to whether there will be a future leader named by many as “the Antichrist.”  I know many godly people believe this to be true.  I respect their view while I do not hold to that view.  The purpose here is not to elaborate upon the debate over the antichrist as a person.  I am simply wanting to make a point that deception is current.

The word “antichrist” appears only in 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3 and 2 John 7.  In fact, the antichrist is not even called “the antichrist.”  Notice 1 John 2:18:

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

Notice that John doesn’t say, “the Antichrist” but antichrist.  It lacks the definite article to be translated “the antichrist.”  1 John 4:3 goes even further about antichrist:

And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

Notice that John says that antichrist is already in the world!  That is 2000 years ago and John says that antichrist is now in the world.

2 John 7 tells us who the antichrist is:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

These antichrists then were people who were heretics.  They were false teachers (1 John 2:19).  They claimed to be preaching the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42) but they did not abide in their teachings (2 John 9-11).  They forsook the faithful teachings of the apostles (Jude 3-4).

Many in our day want us to be careful to avoid “the Antichrist” but I believe we should avoid antichrists.  The world, since the dawn of the Church, has been full of false teachers.  Jesus warned His disciples in Matthew 24:4-5 that many would come in His name.  His warning is not for a far off generation but those to whom He was speaking to (Matthew 24:34).  Even among His own apostles, Jesus was warning them to know that false teachers and false christs would come (antichrists).  These antichrists would come in the power of Satan to deceive many (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

I pray that our heart would be careful to search all things.  No teacher is above error.  I enjoy listening to various Bible teachers and reading their works but we must test all things by the Word of God.  Scripture must be the final authority for it alone is the inerrant and infallible truth of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  The Word of God is the truth of God (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17).  Jesus told us to abide in His Word (John 8:31-32) and His Word keeps us saved (James 1:21).  The Word of God protects us from doctrinal error (1 Timothy 4:16) and from sin (Psalm 119:11).  The Word of God cuts us and exposes us before God (Hebrews 4:12-13).  The Word of God convicts us of sin and reveals to us the path of righteousness.  How vital for us to love the Word of God and to abide in its truth!

As we abide in the Word, the Word keeps us focused on the Lord Jesus.  We hear His voice (John 10:27).  Scripture is the voice of God.  The Bible should be how we question all things.  I don’t care if the teaching comes from your favorite trusted theologian.  Turn to the Word of God to test their teachings.  Don’t accept blindly what a teacher tells you.  Turn to the Word of God to make sure they are faithful to the Word of God.  Don’t be deceived by a teacher who quotes a lot of Bible verses without also opening the Word of God to make sure what the teacher is saying is faithful to the Word of God.  Acts 17:11 tells us that the Bereans examined Paul’s teachings by Scripture to make sure what he was saying was true.  The Bible calls them “noble-minded” for this.

Instead of looking for “the Antichrist,” we should be looking for antichrists.  Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29-30 that wolves would arise from among them to deceive the church.  These antichrists among us are whom we should be careful to avoid.

My advice: abide in the Word.  This is the only sure guard to keep us from falling.  We can know truth from error by learning and hiding the Word of God in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15-16).  The Word of God alone is able to protect us from antichrists and I am thankful to God for His holy Word.

More Thoughts on Isaiah 9:10

One major point I think that The Harbinger fails to recognize is that Israel was a theocracy set up by God and ancient Israel had a covenant relationship with God.  This is not so with the United States (nor with modern Israel).  The United States, despite the claims of Cahn, is not a theocracy.  The United States is a republic.  This means that the President of the United States is not a prophet of God nor is he a king chosen by God’s choosing (as with David).  The United States is a republic full of people who are true disciples, agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics, etc.  It is a divided nation full of sin but not a nation in covenant relationship with God as with ancient Israel.

Cahn, in his book and especially in his documentary video, over and over again claims that Israel and the United States are similar and nearly the same.  Isaiah 9:10 then applies not just to ancient Israel but to the United States as well.  He goes on to claim that God’s judgment of Israel in the rest of Isaiah 9 is also for the United States.

Yet there are so many problems with such a view.  Again, the United States has never been led by the Church.  The United States has not been established by God’s covenant with our founding fathers whom He brought out of bondage to this land that He chose.  The United States was established by men who, for the most part, were theistic rationalists.  They claimed belief in God (or a god) in their speeches and writings but they were not true Christians.  George Washington, the first US President, attended church during his presidency but only during his presidency and once out of office, he did not attend church again.  Ben Franklin, John Adams, etc. were theistic rationalists who believed in the power of the human mind that they believed came from God but they denied the God of the Bible.  Adams even wrote a tract on the Bible in which he attacked it as the pure Word of God.

Furthermore, has God established any covenant with any other nations but Israel?  The biblical answer is simple: no.  I don’t doubt that many nations in the West were once “Christian” nations in that their foundations were often based on Christian values and Scripture but none have been pure nations.  Even the Puritans showed us that they were too human.  The New Testament is clear on this issue.  Galatians 3:26-29 reads:

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Who is the Israel of God today?  I believe it is His covenant people that are now in covenant with Him through His Son.  Galatians 6:16 reads:

And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

Adam Clarke noted about Galatians 6:16:

The true Christians, called here the Israel of God, to distinguish them from Israel according to the flesh.

John Calvin is better here on Galatians 6:16:

This is an indirect ridicule of the vain boasting of the false apostles, who vaunted of being the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh. There are two classes who bear this name, a pretended Israel, which appears to be so in the sight of men, — and the Israel of God. Circumcision was a disguise before men, but regeneration is a truth before God. In a word, he gives the appellation of the Israel of God to those whom he formerly denominated the children of Abraham by faith, (Galatians 3:29,) and thus includes all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, who were united into one church. On the contrary, the name and lineage are the sole boast of Israel according to the flesh; and this led the apostle to argue in the Epistle to the Romans, that “they are not all Israel which are of Israel, neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children.” (Romans 9:6, 7.)

The people of God today are those who repent, those are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus (John 1:12-13).  The Jews rejected the Messiah as a people group and they suffered the judgment of God for that (Matthew 23:37-39) but individuals (including Jews) have been saved through faith in the Lord Jesus (Romans 10:1-4; 11:1-6).  The new people of God are those in Christ Jesus.  Those in Christ Jesus are the elect of God.  Paul does warn us, however, to be careful and to fear God lest we become like the Israelites of old (Romans 11:20-22).

Today the Lord is saving sinners who are British, Chinese, Japanese, Canadians, Americans, Russians, etc.  He is saving people through His Son (Matthew 28:19-20).  His gospel will shake the nations (Psalm 110:1).  His truth will go forth.  God does not have a covenant relationship with modern Israel or England or with the United States but He does have a covenant relationship with individuals in those nations who repent and look to Jesus Christ alone to save them (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-13).  Jesus has made peace between Jew and Gentile through His vicarious death on the cross (Ephesians 2:11-22).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/13/2014 at 1:49 PM

Short Thoughts on Isaiah 9:10 and The Harbinger

A friend of mine gave me the book The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn to read a while back.  Another friend recently gave me a documentary done by Cahn on Isaiah 9:10.  The irony is that the book claims to be a fictional book while the documentary claims to be real.  Both are fiction to me.  Let me explain why.

Let’s first read Isaiah 9:10:

“The bricks have fallen,
but we will build with dressed stones;
the sycamores have been cut down,
but we will put cedars in their place.”

Cahn believes that hidden in this text is the 9-11 attacks on the United States.  His documentary seeks to prove this theory while his book is a fictional account of a rabbi discovering the 9-11 attacks hidden in the text.

Gary DeMar points out that the American dollar also has a hidden clue in it about the 9-11 attacks.  If folded just right, the American dollar bill shows the planes hitting the buildings.  But that is beside the point.  I put that in here to say that conspiracy theories always find things in odd places.

In regard to Isaiah 9:10, first notice that the buildings that fell were made from brick.  The twin towers were not made from brick.  I have stood on them myself and know that they were made from steel.  Secondly, the new tower that now stands in the place of the World Trade Centers is also made from steel and not brick.  Thirdly, Isaiah 9:10 does not say that the trees would be destroyed by buildings falling on them but by being cut down.  Lastly (and most important), Isaiah 9:8 is clear that this prophetic word is to Jacob (Israel).  Nothing in this text suggests otherwise that the Lord is speaking to the United States or England or any other nation other than the children of Jacob.

I’m still confused how people can get wrapped up in such poor exegesis of Isaiah 9:10 and be both excited and worried about end times events.  I find my end time hope in Psalm 110:1 not in Isaiah 9:10.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/12/2014 at 12:58 PM

%d bloggers like this: