Millennialism: Pre-Messianic Christianity

For hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus the Jewish people waited, some patiently, some not so patiently, for the coming of the Messiah. The prophets foretold of the power that he would wield as he restored Israel to its proper place at the head of all nations. Those that had subjugated and persecuted God’s chosen people would be dealt with in a swift and decisive fashion.

battle_of_armageddon_2_ls.jpg

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him and his place of rest will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea.

He will raise a banner for the nations
and gather the exiles of Israel;
he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
from the four quarters of the earth.

Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish,
and Judah’s enemies will be cut off;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim.

They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west;
together they will plunder the people to the east.
They will lay hands on Edom and Moab,
and the Ammonites will be subject to them.

The LORD will dry up
the gulf of the Egyptian sea;
with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand
over the Euphrates River. [
He will break it up into seven streams
so that men can cross over in sandals.

There will be a highway for the remnant of his people
that is left from Assyria,
as there was for Israel
when they came up from Egypt.

Isaiah 11: 10-16

John the Baptist prepared those who would listen for the imminent appearance of the Messiah. He also warned them that upon his arrival they should be prepared for judgment followed by harsh punishments and great rewards. He singled out the religious ruling class for particular admonishment, as he saw them as being unfair in their treatment of God’s people.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Matthew 3:7-10

checking the books

This righteous anger and outspokenness on John’s part led many to wonder if perhaps he was the Messiah. John was quick to correct their mis-perceptions, letting them know that the one that followed him was not to be trifled with. His talk of the One Lord coming to reward the faithful and wreak vengeance on the sinful was music to the ears of the poor and wounded Jews, who had suffered for so long under the domination of so many foreign and pagan lords.

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

John 3: 15-17

John publicly identifies Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah who has come to save his people. Yet Jesus looks and acts quite unlike what the Jews had come to expect. John himself doubts Jesus’ authority;

When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” Matt 11:2-6

compassionate jesus

Jesus does not respond with a clear yes or no, instead describing the nature of the ‘true’ Messiah as contrasted with that of prophecy. Not long after this, as described in Matthew 16, Jesus asks the apostles who they think he is;

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus is obviously pleased with their response, particularly Peter’s. He indicates that Peter realized his divine nature through revelation, not by what any man had said. The inference here is that it was commendable that Peter had made up his own mind about Jesus instead of relying upon the current wisdom obout what the Messiah would be like.

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

And then he does something strange. He tells the apostles to keep his authority secret.

Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

Many have suggested that Jesus did not feel the time was right to announce his true identity. Perhaps instead he knew that his message was in most ways contradictory to what the people expected of the Messiah.

He follows this up with a mysterious prediction that very soon he will return in divine glory to fulfill the prophecies. He even stresses that it will be within the lifetime of some of his listeners.

“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

There has been plenty of controversy as to what Jesus actually meant here. His literal second coming obviously did not take place in the first or second centuries. Two millennia later it still has not occurred and various self proclaimed prophets have read the signs and announced that the time was at hand. This is in spite of the fact that, although he tells us what signs would presage the event, he also says that no one could predict this time with any accuracy.revelation

From Thomas Darby to Charles Taze Russel, Hal Lindsey to Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye many Christians have become excited about the prospect of the End Times and Armageddon. As plain as the meanings of the apocalyptic scriptures are to these people, many others do not see them in quite the same light. Anticipation of the Messiah’s coming as warrior King at the command of legions of angels as they assist him in battle against the forces of evil is something that the millennial Christian has in common with conservative Judaism.

Jesus’ pacifistic teachings were hard to swallow for a people who had waited so long for justice to be served. They could not accept this ‘weak’ way as The Way to salvation, a Way that enables the follower to experience peace and joy even when oppressed and persecuted. Some objected because they had so much to lose if they risked following this ‘messiah’. Many more, envious and bitter with those who had been ‘blessed’ with more than they had, relished the idea of violent retribution. This Jesus of Nazareth did not meet their expectations of the Messiah and he was soundly dealt with.

attacking_gladiator.jpg

The same branches of Christianity that seem to have the most difficulty with Jesus’ simple yet ‘soft’ message of love, sacrifice and grace are also those who are most inclined to take the apocalyptic scriptures literally. To zealously look forward to an exacting final judgment followed by the harsh and brutal punishment of most of the world’s people may be preventing much of the Church from effectively serving the Kingdom. Is Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, or not? Has he come to free us from bondage by showing us his Way? Or will we continue to wait for someone who more closely feeds our ‘righteous’ hunger for vengeance and retribution? It was while nailed to the cross that he said, “It is finished.”

off the cross

 

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  1. #1 by Ambrosia de Milano on October 13, 2007 - 8:06 pm

    No stranger to metaphor? Hmm.

    C. B., I like it better when you ahem, bite a little. This forgive me tactic bodes not well on your persona.

    How about, “If I were given to forgiveness I would ask you to forgive me.”

    Some things are obvious–

    1. The Kingdom has not come, because if this is as good as things get, phew.

    2. Christians ought not to presume what Jews of the first century AD thought, except where their words are recorded.

    3. I wish Christians would get off of this “Saved/Lost” Oxymoron thinking.

    Ambrosia

  2. #2 by Christian on October 13, 2007 - 11:15 pm

    Ambrosia, I wish you would be more succinct. “Saved/lost” oxymoron thinking – what do you mean? Put it in simple terms for us simpletons.
    Your idiosyncracies tend to confuse (me, at least). Oh, wait a minute – you want me to be less sensitive.

    Would you prefer Novacaine or laughing gas? Trying to get you to the point is like pulling teeth. Spit it out, man!

    And I think that this is God’s Kingdom. It’s just a little rough, needs some work, maybe clean out a drain or two, open a window.

  3. #3 by Ambrosia de Milano on October 14, 2007 - 7:43 pm

    What I mean is some divide the world into two distinct camps–Saved and Lost. I don’t like the description of the condition of a person. How about Converted to Right-Wing evangelicalism and not converted.

    All of the saved/lost thing sounds like ordering a burger at Roy Rogers. With or without.

    Brosia

  4. #4 by Christian on October 14, 2007 - 9:29 pm

    Well, I am not one that does this, anymore. Don’t get me wrong – some people are obviously lost. The saved part is not so obvious. The answer obviously lies with Jesus. Is the answer available to other people as well?

    I like CS Lewis analogy (I think it was Lewis, maybe it was McLaren) , the circle with Jesus at the center. Different letters are on the board, some inside the circle, some outside. The circle delineates Christianity from the rest of the world. On the face of it the letters inside the circle are ‘saved’, those outside are ‘unsaved’. But when you add arrows to indicate in what direction each letter is going you see that some outside the circle are heading right towards Christ, some inside are heading away and quite a few are just circling like satellites.

    This line that we have drawn to help us see who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ may need to be erased.

  5. #5 by lovewillbringustogether on October 14, 2007 - 11:10 pm

    You guys seem to me to be circling in on IT quite nicely ( and playing more nicely too – where is Reuben? we need to spice things up a bit! heheeheehehehh!)

    No analogy is perfect Big C, they are just meant to let you see one side of a picture – hopefully a different one to the one you usually look ‘at’.

    Hence i agree with your propellor analogy every bit as much ( perhaps more) as the pendulum; and the circle – perfect! ( for an analogy that is)

    Polar coordinates have a place of origin and a distance and direction from that origin to be ‘unique’.

    No need to erase the line though – just see it for what it really is – an ‘arbitrary’ set of points that some imbue with more power than it requires.

    I use the term arbitrary under advisement* I do not mean to deny certain ‘truths’.

    ‘Bro – many humans can only see the world ( or it helps them – they think) to see the world in terms of black and white. Others know the world is an infinite number of shades of grey. Still others see the world as being full of colour. It is up to all of us to see things from the others point of view fully, not just our own before we condemn them. True? You don’t have to like what someone else thinks but you do need to respect it ( or them) before they will begin to be able to see things your way.

  6. #6 by Jason on October 16, 2007 - 7:48 am

    Hiya,

    Ah yes, those terms are so complicated. signs, signs, everywhere are signs…

    Like Paul in 1 Corinthians 1. Who does he think he is?

  7. #7 by 1poet4man on October 16, 2007 - 11:48 pm

    Hey Christian –

    You are awesome – you almost make want to be like you…a Christian – but to do it here, it seems I would have to sharpen my erudition…

    Poetman

  8. #8 by DeWayne Benson on April 3, 2012 - 1:49 am

    The Millennium was chosen as translation of the Greek ‘Chilioi’ for the Catholic Volgate in 382AD, however the Greek has both a literal and symbolic (or figurative meaning). This Chilioi is found singularly and alone a total of eight (8) times in the entire New Testament, six (6) of these eight times in Revelation-20, the remaining two (2) times in llPeter 3:8 (a day like a thousand… a thousand likened to a day)

    The Millennium or Chilioi further is found twice describing two seperate events in Rev-20, within different time frames regardless, evident as a single and related period of ‘events’. Revelation-20 after this Millennium or Chilioi ends, continues with related and significant events needed to understand total context.

    Isaiah 28:1-15 speaks of the later Ephraim rulers over Jerusalem, and today many still await a political Messiah that will make them ‘rulers’ over others, the closest scripture to this is the god released from the abyss, for a short time.

    God wanted a people, He chose a people in covenant of faith, about the nations described by trees growing along the river of living water whose leaves heal the nations, this validated in Ps 10:16 The Lord is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land.

  9. #9 by DeWayne Benson on April 3, 2012 - 2:06 am

    Saved/Lost is judgment in the last of days only the Lord will make, those He foresaw (saw their life choice), He predestined, this is not something to accept or reject, it is a truth for everyone.

    But this does bring up the misuse of scripture ‘do not judge or you will be judged’, this again is saved/lost judgment. Many immature are unaware the mature Christian (perhaps renewed of mind a starter), are commanded to judge, this judgment in all things. This is worth studying from Gods (spiritually discerned) word to understand.
    (http://rtpricetag.home.comcast.net/~rtpricetag/Judging.html)

  10. #10 by DeWayne Benson on February 27, 2013 - 7:40 pm

    As far as the redeemed and unredeemed (saved/unsaved), this appears answered within each persons lifetime, verse saying that as God ‘forsees’ our lifetime, of those He foresees He ‘predestines’.
    It is certain there comes a time as described in Rev 10:13 “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. if anyone is to be killed by the sword, by the sword he will be killed.”
    I believe this explains saved/unsaved during this lifetime.

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