Postmil - steady growth but thief in night?

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nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
How do Postmils (and "Optimistic" Amils) reconcile the passages that say the kingdom of God grows steadily and slowly throughout the whole earth until the day when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord...and the passages about being watchful because the Lord could return at any moment like a thief in the night? From the postmil perspective, if we see there is still a lot of work to be done in the world until the nations come to Christ, how can the postmil still believe that the Lord could suddenly come as a thief in the night?
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Watchfulness for the Lord's coming does not mean that we must believe that He might come in His glory today, and that the world might end today.

A number of New Testament passages show this.

Watchfulness means that we are spiritually and morally ready.

Anyway, for the majority of people who live in the interadventual period, the Lord comes in His momentous providence of death. If we're not ready for death, we don't get a second opportunity between death and the Eschaton. So if we die than death is the end of the world for us. Our destiny cannot be altered after Christ comes in death.

And Christ hasn't told us when He is going to come for us in death.

Christ's Second Advent partakes of the "already.....not yet". For most individuals it is at death - already. For the last generation it is at the Eschaton - not yet.
 

nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
And Christ hasn't told us when He is going to come for us in death.

Richard, so is it your understanding that Christ's analogy of the "thief in the night" in Matthew 24 is referring to the moment when each of us dies? In other words, that we do not know the time when our deaths will be, so we should always be watchful?
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Yes.

But there is also an explicit NT passage that says that Christ doesn't come like a thief in the night for believers anyway.

But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.(I Thess 5:4-6, ESV)
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
I share the question posed in the OP, and would welcome further input by convinced post-mills.

Also, the Larger Catechism clearly connects the events in Matt. 24 with the "end of time"

Q. 88. What shall immediately follow after the resurrection?
A. Immediately after the resurrection shall follow the general and final judgment of angels and men; the day and hour whereof no man knoweth, that all may watch and pray, and be ever ready for the coming of the Lord. [scripture proof for bolded portion, Matt. 24:36, 42, 44]
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
the day and hour whereof no man knoweth, that all may watch and pray, and be ever ready for the coming of the Lord. [scripture proof for bolded portion, Matt. 24:36, 42, 44]

Death puts a seal on what your destiny will be in the intermediate state, and at the Eschaton, when Christ will return to Earth.

Although the Apostle wasn't in a position to tell the Thessalonians when Christ's Parousia would be, he was able to tell them and us when it wouldn't be:

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.............. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? (II Thess 2:3 and 5, ESV).

The very end of the world wouldn't be before certain things had happened.

All those who have died since Christ's first advent, if they weren't ready then, they won't be ready at the Eschaton. It's important to be ready for Christ in whatever manner He comes for us, and for all but the last generation, that will be when we die.

In watching and waiting for the Lord, it is not of its essence that we must have a belief that the world could or might end today.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
That is certainly making the Catechism say more than was intended.

OK, I'll rephrase.

The Larger Catechism connects (even directly borrows) the terminology "the day and hour whereof no man knoweth" used in Matthew 24 with the resurrection of mens' bodies and the final judgment, which in common parlance is frequently associated with the "Second Coming " or "the end time".
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The Larger Catechism connects (even directly borrows) the terminology "the day and hour whereof no man knoweth" used in Matthew 24 with the resurrection of mens' bodies and the final judgment, which in common parlance is frequently associated with the "Second Coming " or "the end time".

Well stated! This connection of the second coming with the final judgment is problematic for a premillennialist, but I don't see how it would affect the idea of progress within history. Larger Catechism answer 191 at the very least recognises that the church ought to be praying for a specific kind of progress.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
In line with what was asked in the OP, my bottom-line question for post-mills is this: Is it appropriate, or perhaps even more to the point, realistic for Christians to believe/hope that Christ could return bodily to earth at "any moment"? Why, or why not?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
In line with what was asked in the OP, my bottom-line question for post-mills is this: Is it appropriate, or perhaps even more to the point, realistic for Christians to believe/hope that Christ could return bodily to earth at "any moment"? Why, or why not?

I regard the Larger Catechism as teaching an "any moment" readiness, not an "any moment" second advent. The belief in an "any moment" second advent is not biblical. Neither amillennials nor postmillennials accept it, as far as I am aware.
 

nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
I regard the Larger Catechism as teaching an "any moment" readiness, not an "any moment" second advent.

Rev Winzer, could you explain this distinction you're making? I'm still a little confused. Is your understanding that we should live every "moment" as if he will return but all the while knowing his second advent won't be happening "any moment"?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Is your understanding that we should live every "moment" as if he will return but all the while knowing his second advent won't be happening "any moment"?

No; there are specific parables given for the purpose of preparing Christ's disciples for a delay. There are also numerous instructions which are of a similar nature to Jeremiah's teaching that the exiles should willingly set up their homes in a strange land. One thinks of the household codes in the epistles, and of the apostle's warning to believers to work. The New Testament gives believers every reason to participate fully in society and its lawful cultural pursuits. At the same time it also teaches that these pursuits are to be carried on with a perpetual preparedness for the bridegroom and with a view to the consummation of all things in Him. In summary, To be so heavenly minded as to be of mostly earthly good.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
In line with what was asked in the OP, my bottom-line question for post-mills is this: Is it appropriate, or perhaps even more to the point, realistic for Christians to believe/hope that Christ could return bodily to earth at "any moment"? Why, or why not?

I regard the Larger Catechism as teaching an "any moment" readiness, not an "any moment" second advent. The belief in an "any moment" second advent is not biblical. Neither amillennials nor postmillennials accept it, as far as I am aware.

This is a little off topic since the OP asks for postmil input. But I would add that historic premillennials have, as far as I am aware, rejected the "any moment" second advent as well. Many of them that have denounced dispensationalism have made that one of their main thrusts.

To quote one writer: "Older premillennialism taught that certain signs must precede the Second Advent; Dispensationalism teaches that no sign precedes the "rapture-stage" of the Second Advent, which may occur 'at any moment.'"
 

surnamelevi

Puritan Board Freshman
It can be reconciled very well from an orthodox preterist perspective. Peter Leithart has written a commentary of 2 Peter "The Promise of His Appearing", which contains a "thief in the night" passage.
 

nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
The very end of the world wouldn't be before certain things had happened. All those who have died since Christ's first advent, if they weren't ready then, they won't be ready at the Eschaton. It's important to be ready for Christ in whatever manner He comes for us, and for all but the last generation, that will be when we die. In watching and waiting for the Lord, it is not of its essence that we must have a belief that the world could or might end today.

So if I am understanding correctly, will one aspect of every-Christian-being-always-prepared-for-the-Lord's-coming involve being each of us being always prepared/ready to meet the Lord at our deaths? Because some may hypothetically say, "Well, it's still a long way off until the nations of the world bow before the Lord and worship...so I don't need to be prepared for his coming." But in all reality, their death may come that day and then the their days on earth would be over and they would meet the Lord then...and then stand in judgment at that day. (Also, I'm assuming the Hebrews passage about death and then judgment refers to the judgment that will come on the final day...that after death, a person will then expect the judgment...but am I right in thinking that?)

So I think I understand the "preparedness" aspect. I'm just wanting to make sure that my understanding of that is in agreement with our preparedness for the Lord's coming as a thief.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Nathan
my understanding of that is in agreement with our preparedness for the Lord's coming as a thief.

Well it's already been established that the Lord doesn't come as a thief for those who are prepared i.e. for believers.

But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (I Thess 5:4-6, ESV)

He comes for true believers as a Saviour for His People, as the Bridegroom for His Bride, as one to be embraced, not as a thief.

He comes for unbelievers or false professors of the faith as a thief:

Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. (Rev 3:3)

As regards timing, clearly the Apostle, to take one example, didn't believe it was necessary for the Thessalonians in order to be prepared for Christ's coming, to either be living in the last generation, or to believe that the Eschaton might or could happen that day:

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction (II Thess 2;3)

So it is not essential for the preparedness of any believer to believe that the World could end today.

But it is true that if we're not ready, Christ will come for us like a thief, either in the momentous personal eschatalogical providence of death, or if we are of the last generation, in the momentous general eschatalogical providence of the Parousia and the Eschaton.
 
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