Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Eschatology

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

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