I have probably already lost many of you by using the word “millennialist.” Let me define it quick: a post-millennialist is someone who holds that the millennial kingdom (“a thousand years”) spoken of in Revelation 20 is a period of time that happens on the earth in which the gospel will spread so thoroughly and deeply in culture to create a golden age in which Christian ethics prosper.
I don’t agree with this view, and without getting too much into eschatology (i.e. the study of end times), I want to briefly argue that many evangelical Christians are functional (i.e. practical) post-millennialists. By this, I mean that they often expect the gospel to so transform the culture that when they do not notice tangible change, they become depressed or even doubt if the word of God is advancing at all.
Here’s an example: some (not all!) evangelicals often complain that we (or probably the “institutional church”) are the reason there is poverty, hunger, war, HIV/AIDS, homelessness, and a host of other tragedies in the world. They think that if the church just did more, we could root out these evil things in the culture and then God’s kingdom would really come on earth.
But Jesus reminds us that we will “always have the poor” with us (Matt. 26:11). He also says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In this life the faithful to Christ “will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). This does not sound like a golden age. Only at Jesus second coming will he “wipe away every tear from [our] eyes” because only then “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore” (Rev. 21:4). Why then? Because at that moment, and only at that moment, will “the former things [the things of this age] have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
We will never solve the world’s problems. We will never eliminate hunger and war. We will never eradicate cancer or HIV. But that doesn’t mean we throw up our arms in defeat. Gospel proclamation takes center stage, but generosity, social concern, and action also reflect the character of God and are evidence of a changed heart through the gospel. Indeed, all efforts that reflect God’s character and done for his glory paint a picture to the world of what the new creation will be like.
Let us be reminded that the kingdom of God, ultimately, is not about activity to “make the world a better place.” It is about a King. As a friend tweeted earlier today, “The story of what God is doing in the world is not about you. (It’s about Jesus.) But it is for you. And it involves you.” So do not be discouraged when it seems that Christians do not make as big of a difference in the world as you think we should make. We have already overcome. “And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4b-5).
Have you ever wanted to laugh so hard in front of others but you held back because you were afraid of what they’d think of you? I’m ashamed to say I have.
I’m not talking about laughing at somebody in a trite way to embarrass or expose them. I’m not talking about laughing at crude or vulgar humor that is “out of place” (Eph. 5:4). I’m talking about genuine, clean, witty, endearing humor that draws out joyful, sloppy, fall-off-the-couch, tear-filled, pee-your-pants laughter. We need more of that among God’s people because, honestly, we are often quite boring. I wonder if, in fact, some of us have been sedated.
Jesus presented a picture of what kingdom living is like in the Beatitudes. He said, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” I believe in the new heavens and new earth, we will laugh. We will laugh well. After all, the kingdom of heaven is a party with the best wine, according to Jesus’ first miracle (John 2:1-12). But not only the best wine; I believe we will also have the best humor. Pure humor. Humor as God intended it to be. Alongside this will be the best laughter. Pure laughter.
Some may argue that in this life we should laugh much. After all, the world is going to hell quickly and Jesus said, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25). And does it not say in James, “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” (4:6)? I would argue that we must hold these passages in tension with the countless passages that talk about joy in God (e.g. Ps. 16:11; Phil. 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16). This kind of joy makes you happy and brings laughter. Laughter is not learned. It is a gift purchased for us by Jesus. No one taught my four-month-old daughter to smile and giggle; she giggles because it is in her, because that is one expression of the image of God. There is a tension, of course, but we must remember Paul’s admonition to hold everything in tension while we are in the “already, not yet”:
This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).
Paul teaches us to keep eternity at the forefront of our minds. Nothing here is permanent. Because of that, there will always be sorrow and joy: on the same days, in the same hour, possibly at the same time.
Pure laughter is something I want to pursue. It says something about the humility of a person who can laugh in the way I described above. Few can do it. I can in the company of my wife and a few close friends. But it should not be that way. When I hear something that merits sloppy laughter, yet I hold it in, I am essentially saying, “I am too good for you. I am too reserved. Too strong. I will not laugh.” This exposes my pride, my self-inflation, that I am better than other people. It exposes the fact that I cannot let down my guard for even a moment to tear up and say, “Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom, because you are making me laugh so hard.” Sadly, holding back extravagant laughter communicates to other that my image and reputation are more important than delight in humor.
Every time you or I experience a pure laugh, we are taking a step toward humility and we are getting an oh so faint picture of what the kingdom will be like when it is finally consummated at Christ’s return. If the kingdom of heaven is like a party with the best wine (that’s what John 2:1-12 is pointing toward), you can bet there will be hearty laughter. It would be wise to start practicing now.
Part 2 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.
I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
The kingdom of God is about one Man, namely, Jesus. In our meditation yesterday, I wrote, “Jesus is bringing [the disciples] in [to the kingdom], not so that they can be the king, but so that they can be a part of Jesus’ kingdom. We, by grace, get to be participants. It’s all about Jesus. Not me.”
In Luke 22, when Jesus is standing before the council, he implicitly refers back to this passage in Daniel by calling himself the Son of Man. When Jesus says, “From now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Lk. 22:69), he means that he is going to reign over his kingdom — the kingdom that God the Father, the Ancient of Days, has given him.
Jesus will not reign as a weak, feeble, doormat king. No. He will reign in power. The first time he came, he was abused and mistreated and murdered. Now he reigns with the Father after completing his work on earth (see Heb. 1:3). When he returns the second time, it will not be in meekness nor to save, but to judge and establish his throne upon the earth (see Rev. 19-21).
Daniel tells us that the son of Man — Jesus Christ, the God-man — has been given “dominion and glory and a kingdom.” His dominion is everlasting, and his kingdom will not be destroyed. His kingdom will reach every kind of people with every kind of language in every kind of place. Jesus purchased this kingdom, these people who serve him, by dying on the cross on Good Friday and raising from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Lord God Almighty, I praise you for giving your Son dominion, glory, and a kingdom — a kingdom of people he purchased with his own flesh and blood. Remind me daily that I am a part of this kingdom by grace and no merit of my own.