Ideas have consequences. This statement, which happens to be the title of a book by Richard Weaver, bears repeating in a discussion of eschatology. One of the major goals of this broadcast is to motivate Christians to work for the Christianization of culture and to do this it is necessary to help them understand the full meaning of the Great Commission and its eschatological implications. The majority of evangelical Christians limit the interpretation of the Great Commission to be spreading just the message of personal salvation, and so believe the church has no calling to nor responsibility in civic affairs. In fact, many think it would be a waste of time for Christians to be involved in politics because they’ve been taught that things are preordained to get worse and worse. And so they do nothing, and in accordance with Edmund Burke’s observation (“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”) it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and sure enough, things are getting worse and worse.
The erroneous conclusion that “things are going to get worse and worse—no matter what we do,” is derived mostly from the dispensational misinterpretation of II Timothy 3:13: “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving , and being deceived.” Notice that this verse does not say, “things shall wax worse and worse…,” but only “evil men….” Notice also that the very next verse says, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned….” In other words, if evil men wax worse and worse—do what you have learned—bring them to justice.
Ideas have consequences. Christians with a truncated understanding of the Gospel and the Great Commission have no vision. “ And “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18). We are perishing because there is no vision and no law. Organized crime is running the country and people are more concerned about whether their football team is going to lose than if they are going to lose their country.
In addressing the problem of a lack of vision, it is impossible to avoid the ‘elephant-in-the-room’ heresy—dispensationalism. One of the erroneous tenets of dispensationalism is the postponed kingdom—meaning that the advent of God’s Kingdom has been delayed for an indeterminate amount of time until Jesus’ second coming (or perhaps his third coming if you count the dispensational pre-tribulational rapture as his second). The vision referred to in Proverbs 29:18 is the Kingdom of God (a term used interchangeably with the Kingdom of Heaven)—which Jesus announced was at hand (i.e., beginning) at his first advent: Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17); But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you (Matthew 12:28). If you take away the kingdom of God (as dispensationalism does during what they call the church age) then you don’t have a vision. And if you don’t have a vision you perish. The Kingdom of God started with Jesus’ first advent—it is here now and will reach its perfection in eternity. How does it come about now in time? “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). He will “establish [His government] with judgment and with justice….” (Isaiah 9:7). Those who try to predict the timing of the millennium, whether of the pre or postmillennial persuasion, are missing this point. The kingdom of God will be perfectly established only in eternity; here in time it will only be established to the degree that we bring our every thought captive to Christ and then extend the righteousness Christ has conferred on us from ourselves to our communities, our country, and the world. That means implementing and maintaining biblical law. We are saved purely by grace and no longer keep the ceremonial laws which were in place only until Christ came, but if we are truly saved and love God we will strive to keep His moral laws to the best of our ability both in our personal lives and our country (If ye love me, keep my commandments—John 14:15); we will confess our sins daily, and “do justly…love mercy, and…walk humbly with [our] God” (Micah 6:8).
God is sovereign in all matters including personal salvation and eschatology but He generally assigns us a role and responsibility in both matters as well as in all other areas of life. To argue otherwise makes us to be nothing more than robots—contrary to the biblical teaching that we are creatures made in the image of God with the capacity to love and choose between good and evil. The supralapsarians (i.e., hyper-calvinists or hyper-predestinarians) believe individuals are predestined to either salvation or damnation and no human action will change each individual’s predetermined destiny; consequently they don’t waste much time in personal evangelism and see few new converts in their churches; the death of true religion follows with a commensurate decline in Christian culture.
On the other hand, the dispensationalists take their responsibility in soteriology seriously, do a very good job in personal evangelism, and see a good number of new converts in their churches. But sadly, the good job they do in personal evangelism is much undone by their hyper-predestinarian and truncated view of eschatology. They believe that things are predestined to get worse and worse until Christ’s second (or third?) advent and that no human action will change this course; consequently they don’t waste much time in civil affairs. As a result, many of their converts (excepting those called to personal evangelism) see no relevance of the church or faith to their lives outside of attending church as a means of assuring their personal salvation; the death of true religion follows with a commensurate decline in Christian culture.
All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:18-20). Notice that all power in heaven and on earth was given to Jesus after his resurrection. The power now does not reside with the devil but with Jesus. Notice also that we are to teach the nations to observe all things whatsoever he has commanded; this means not only the necessity of the new birth (which is purely by God’s sovereign grace) but also biblical law in our personal and civil affairs to the best of our ability—as God’s righteous standard of conduct by which Christians should live. Christ made it clear that though we are saved solely by grace, the law continues to be our standard of conduct: Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets…(Matthew 5:17). Since we don’t reach sinless perfection this side of eternity we confess our sins and then “…he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). In Bible passages that state we are not under the law the context refers to something other than our standard of conduct: we are not under the ceremonial law now because Jesus was the effectual sacrifice which animal sacrifice merely foreshadowed; we are not under the penalty of the law (eternal damnation) because Jesus paid that penalty for us; and we are not under the burden of the law because the love of God had been shed abroad in our hearts and we love God’s moral law and want to keep it even though we don’t do so perfectly here in time. We are not under the fear of the civil law because “the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless…murderers… menstealers… liars [and the like] (I Timothy 1:9-10). In keeping the law, Christians must not only refrain from wrongdoing themselves but also enforce the law and bring the lawless to justice or face God’s judgment for a sin of omission. Law and grace are not mutually exclusive as taught by dispensationalism but rather are complementary parts of God’s immutable character and being. “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31). God’s moral laws are an expression of his righteousness and holiness—“without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Every genuine Christian will agree that we shouldn’t sin (though the old man in us keeps doing it) and since “sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4), we should keep God’s moral law as best we can.
The Great Commission entails much more than just the message of personal salvation. It is about God’s kingdom and his righteousness. It is about taking every thought captive to Christ and bringing every sphere of life under his lordship: the arts and our vocations as well as civil government. It is about the progress toward the restoration of man to his position of perfect communion with his God and a re-creator of beauty for the glory of God. Every Christian is called to carry out the Great Commission—not just the evangelists and missionaries to foreign lands. Practical eschatology is summed up in Deuteronomy 28: obey and be blessed—disobey and be cursed. We can and should be optimistic because we are assured of victory and are “more than conquerors through him that loved us.” “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” The Apostle John, who saw the kingdom from the isle of Patmos, tells us that he beheld “a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war…. …and those who “make war against him…were slain….” The millennium will come in time to the degree that we seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness. And it will come in perfection and forever in the new heaven and the new earth.