Third Wayism is Dead

Third Wayism is Dead

We live in clarifying times where we are forced to choose sides. If we choose not to do decide, as Geddy Lee of Rush sings in the song Free Will, we still have made a choice.

Those who know me know I was deeply influenced by the late Tim Killer, both for his gospel teaching and apologetics. Some even know he was my wife and I’s premarital counselor at Westminster Seminary in 1987. He always seemed to lean left, as in uncritically using the phrase “social justice,” but I was shocked by who he became after Trump. Something happened to what has come to be known as “Big Eva,” or the Evangelical establishment. Basically they lost their collective minds.

This establishment is represented by what used to be respected orthodox Christianity, like Wheaton College, Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and others. Their move to the left didn’t come in the typical theological fashion as in the liberal Christianity of the early 20th century, but in response to secular political and cultural pressure. The culprit is what is known as “third wayism.”

Third Wayism and the Deceit of Moral Equivalence
Third wayism is a kind of moral equivalence between left and right, a third way, and Keller believed it. I will use a quote from a World Magazine article he wrote from early 2022 titled, “Handling a hostile culture: Assessing how the Church is responding to shifting cultural pressures”:

[T]he culture is definitely more polarized than it ever has been, and I’ve never seen the kind of conflicts in churches in the past that we see today. In virtually every church there is a smaller or larger body of Christians who have been radicalized to the Left or to the Right by extremely effective and completely immersive internet and social media loops, newsfeeds, and communities. People are bombarded 12 hours a day with pieces that present a particular political point of view, and the main way it seeks to persuade is not through argument but through outrage. People are being formed by this immersive form of public discourse—far more than they are being formed by the Church.

It is extremely disappointing that he really believed this. The phrase, “radicalized to the Left or to the Right,” is not only unjustified, but a distortion of our political and cultural moment. There is simply no comparison between the two because there is no “radical right.” It all turns on how one defines “radical,” and Keller never bothers to do that. In the summer of 2020, the truly “radical” left in the form of BLM and Antifa, with the tacit encouragement of Democrats and their media allies, rioted in cities throughout the country and the media called them “mostly peaceful protests.” There were billions of dollars of damage, and many lives lost. There is nothing comparable on the right. The so-called “insurrection” of January 6, 2021, was an FBI setup meant to demonize and silence Trump supporters and the entire MAGA movement.

Further, his point about what are in effect political feedback loops is nonsense. The secular left dominates all the organs of cultural influence, has the biggest megaphones, and their messaging cannot be escaped. They own all major media, practically all education, entertainment, and social media. People don’t have to do anything to be programmed in leftist groupthink. On the contrary, if you want alternative conservative views you have to search for them.

Andrew T. Walker had this to say about this Evangelical threading the needle:

Third-wayism in politics is a form of political Gnosticism as it assumes that there is a platonic ideal to politics that does not require engaging the kingdoms of the world as what they fundamentally are: worldly, temporal, & creational ordinances designed for proximate justice.

To think anyone can be apolitical in our day, least of all ministers of the gospel, is naïve at best, and delusional at worst. I’ve heard it said, you may not be into politics, but politics is into you, as the last several years make very clear. For the woke left, there is nothing beyond politics, which is why politics cannot be ignored or avoided. The very existence of America bearing any relationship to our founding is on the line. Politicians and ministers who don’t get the nature of the war we’re engaged in, and it is a spiritual war between good and evil, do not understand, in Jesus’ words, “the signs of the times.” As third wayism suggests, plenty of Christians don’t recognize the signs of the times in which we live.

The Curious Case of Alistair Begg
Begg, if you don’t know him, is a Scottish Born Reformed minister who has been a well-respected pastor of an Ohio church for decades. He also has a huge radio ministry, and thus wide influence among Christians. By now, many of us have heard about this curious case.

A grandmother had sent him a letter seeking pastoral counseling. She was conflicted about her transgender grandson, and an invitation to go to his transgender wedding. Begg decided to air his interaction with her on his radio program. His approach was third wayism at its finest, although prior to this moment I would never have pegged Begg as being capable of such a thing. He basically said, she should express her disagreement with the lifestyle, but by all means go, and even bring a gift. This went viral and all kinds of Evangelical “stuff” hit the fan. I am sure Begg has never come close to experiencing anything like this in all of his long years of public ministry.

Because of the blow back, Begg decided to preach a sermon explaining himself, and instead of pulling it back even a little, decided to double, and triple down. In fact, he went so far as to accuse his critics of the most base and evil motives. It was truly shameful. Begg and others like him just don’t get “the signs of the times.” I’m going to link to three episodes of the Ezra Institute podcast that is an excellent discussion from three men who get “the signs of the times.”

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3



The Other Not So Curious Case of Foot Washing During the Super Bowl
If you watched the Super Bowl, (I didn’t; I know virtue signaling), you probably saw an ad promoted by Big Eva called, “He Gets Us.” It was, as the youngsters say nowadays, cringe. It’s hard to watch. I’m not going to say much about it here because there has been copious ink spilled elsewhere, but to the left is a video by the Contra Mundum guys that captures the feeble nature of Big Eva to disciple the culture. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Disciple the nations, Great Commission?

This is perfect example of what I’ll call Alistair Begg syndrome, trying to be winsome to a culture that hates us so our judgmentalism won’t stand in the way of the gospel. That is basically Begg’s argument in his triple down sermon. In fact, being “winsome” means standing for righteousness and God’s law, forcefully, in a culture that calls evil good, and good evil. While I’ve never been confronted with being invited to a homosexual “wedding,” I have family members who have, and I was firm in voicing my opinion that I would never go to a wedding celebrating such a thing.

Why Third Wayism is On It’s Last Legs
In the end, and as we move there, all that stands in the way of advancing God’s kingdom will be exposed for what it is. That has been happening to third wayism, and like other things being exposed in our time of Great Awakening, it is fully committed to its perversion of truth. This dynamic is most obvious in the woke, Marxist left, and the Democrat-media complex supporting it. No matter what they accomplish, or what disasters it creates, they always double down. It is just this doubling-down that has finally woken up tens of millions of people all over the world. The left no longer tries to hide it or fake it. They are in your face 24/7. Begg and Big Eva have unfortunately done this as well.

The slow demise of the left and all associated with it, including the Evangelical Establishment, began as most things in these tumultuous times have, with Donald Trump coming down the escalator at Trump Tower in June 2015 to announce his run for the presidency. He broke the left. Their reaction to him was unhinged, and only gets worse the longer he remains politically viable. It was the unhinged reaction to Trump that opened my mind to him in the first place. As much as I despised him and everything he stood for, and thinking his presidential campaign was a joke, I thought, nobody can be that bad. He had decently well-adjusted children who grew into solid adults who love and respect their dad, and narcissistic psychopaths don’t pull that off. Plus others I respected started to take his ideas seriously, so I decided I would as well.

Looking back I realize Trump was a trigger God has used to expose the lies and rot at the core of American culture, included Evangelical culture. There are men I once respected who I no longer recognize. It’s also happened to what I now call Con Inc., or the conservative establishment. In fact, one of these men, David French, recently wrote an editorial in the New York Times encouraging Nikki Halley supporters to vote for Joe Biden, which would have been shocking, but nothing David French does can now possibly shock. I once respected this man and read everything he wrote, especially in the run up to the left redefining marriage. Now he’s a leftist.

This process for me began one day in February 2016 when I got my copy of National Review in the mail. This has become known as the Never Trump Issue. The title on the cover, “Against Trump.” I read some of the pieces and it was spurious garbage. Mind you, I had been a subscriber since the early 1980s. Bill Buckley, who founded the magazine in 1955, was a hero of mine, but he was long dead. Now those who carried on the legacy went into Trump derangement lunacy. Looking back at the last red pill nine years, I’ve realized this is how it all had to happen. I call this a Great Revealing, and this revealing convinces me we are in the midst of another Great Awakening. Eyes are being opened to truth and to He who is the Truth like no time in modern history.

Until Trump most of us were living the somnambulant life, going on our merry way as if the people in charge knew what they were doing and would lead us to the promised land. This applies to establishments in literally every area of existence, from the most obvious in government, but also in medicine, food and agriculture, public health, media, entertainment, education, and even as we’re seeing, the Evangelical establishment. God used Donald J. Trump to trigger it all, proving he is infinitely wise and powerful, and is also hilarious!






What Does “the gates of hell” Mean?

What Does “the gates of hell” Mean?

All my Christian life, now north of 45 years, I misunderstood the phrase “gates of hell.” What comes into your mind when you read Jesus’ resounding declaration:

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades (hell) will not prevail against it.

You’ll remember the scene from Matthew 16. Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” After they tell him what others think, he asks the most important question in the history of the world: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” And Peter gives the right answer: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replies that it is not flesh and blood that has revealed this to him, but his Father in heaven, and declares to them (and us) this immortal phrase about the gates of hell.

Catholics and Protestants disagree on what Jesus intended when he used the word rock, and specifically what this rock is. For Catholics the answer is who, Peter himself. They argue that when Jesus changed his name from Simon to Cephas, which in Aramaic means rock (the Greek translation being Peter), so the rock is Peter. We Protestants, by contrast, do not believe Christ’s church (his called out ones in Greek) would ever be built on a sinful human being. Rather, believing God’s word inscripturated in our Bibles as our ultimate authority, Sola Scripture in the Reformation phrase, we take Jesus to mean the rock is Peter’s declaration itself, that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

On the gates of hell, however, almost all Christians of whatever theological persuasion agree. Down here in this fallen world, Satan is on the offensive, and we Christians and the church are on the defensive. I know I always believed this without ever giving it a second thought. Of course Satan is on the offense and we’re on defense. I mean look around you. Isn’t it obvious? Satan clearly has the upper hand in this spiritual war on earth. Well, that depends on what our eyes see. But before I get there, last year I read a book about postmillennialism, and the author pointed out something that seems so obvious to me now that it shocks me I never thought about it, or ever heard anyone else in over four decades as a Christian mention it. And what is that?

In the ancient world gates were defensive mechanisms.

It’s that simple. Because the divine Son of God came to redeem the world from sin, and accomplished it, Satan is the one now on the defensive. As we’ll see, he is bound. We no longer have to assume he has the upper hand and he is winning. Christ won, and He is now exercising that victory through his body, the church. The problem is, it doesn’t seem we are victorious, sometimes in our personal lives, but most definitely not on a societal level. Our misunderstanding is primarily a theological one.

Christology, The Key to Understanding Eschatology
I consistently make the following point, and it will determine whether you can ever embrace postmillennialism, an eschatology of victory and hope. I’ll put it in the form of a question: Why did Jesus come to earth? I used to believe, like most Christians, that Jesus came to save my soul so that when I die I go to heaven. That was his primary mission, along with my personal holiness. We also believe because of Scripture that God so loved the world that he came to save it, but any real and substantive change in this fallen world of sin would have to wait until Jesus returns and completes redemption in a new heavens and earth. This will happen at the resurrection of the dead and the end of time as we know it. I believed our hope is primarily in the future, and not for the here and now. Sin is a force that can be incrementally defeated in our personal lives, and even somewhat further out, but on a societal level we are powerless to defeat it.

When I was younger and naïve, I thought it could “change the world.” In fact, it was not too many years ago, in 2010 to be exact, the year of my 50th birthday when I was obviously still naïve, that I read a book by sociologist James Davison Hunter called, To Change the World. I got something I wasn’t expecting, frustration; I should have taken seriously his subtitle. The dude clearly didn’t believe we could change the world. How dare he! Now I understand why, which I’ll get to shortly. Over time as I saw the world clearly not changing, or so I thought, I realized thinking I could change the world was ridiculous, a fool’s errand. I could and did, as all Christians do, push back against “the dark force,” but it was clear to me we are powerless to change the basic direction of the sinful fallenness all around us.

What Hunter, and I at the time, didn’t have was the theological categories to believe we could in fact change the world. Which brings me back to the question of why Jesus came to earth, and the topic of Christology, or the doctrine of the person of Christ, his being and mission. Did he come so we could go to heaven when we die, and work on personal holiness while putting up with the tragedy of this fallen world? I would suggest it’s far more than this, and much grander in its implications. It isn’t for nothing that God’s promises to Abraham and the Patriarchs are to the nations and not just individuals. When we learn from Scripture that Christ came to save the world, that says something about who he is as Savior and Redeemer. He came, as we’re told, to reconcile to himself all things, not just some things. Paul tells us this in Colossians 1:

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 

All of this is mediated through individuals, then families, then communities, then nations. This reconciliation touches all things human beings do, and while the ultimate fulfillment will happen at his second advent, it started at his first. He specifically said he came to bring the kingdom of God or heaven to earth. As he was fully God and fully man, he had absolute authority over his creation. He indicated this during his earthly ministry in his power over his creation in healing and nature, but fully brought its reality through his resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God to the position of ultimate authority in the universe. It is in these last days that he is exercising this authority through his people, his church, his body. We see how this is done in a parable of how this spiritual power is lived out among Christians every day.

The Binding the Strong Man
Jesus and the Pharisees had a problematic relationship. Jesus always seemed to be picking fights with them because their conceptions of Judaism were diametrically opposed to his. This wouldn’t become fully apparent until Jesus rose from the dead, and his followers learned the entire Old Testament and history of Israel were about him, their Messiah as God himself come in human flesh to save them from their sins. As I argue in Uninvented, first century Jews do not make up a Messiah like Jesus because he was completely unexpected. As I call him in the book, the conundrum that was Jesus. Nobody expected a divine, healing Messiah. In fact, one of the few Old Testament prophets who did miracles, Elijah, was supposed to introduce the Messiah (Malachi 4) who would conquer their enemies, specifically the Romans. But all Jesus seemed to do was heal people and preach, then get himself killed.

Which brings us to the parable of the binding of the strong man. I didn’t realize the episode in which Jesus tells it had far more to do with his kingdom rule than just casting out demons during his ministry. The kingdom of God or heaven is a debated topic in eschatology. When John was introducing Jesus’ ministry to the Jews, he declared:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near! (Matt. 3)

Matthew then quotes Isaiah saying John was one crying out in the wilderness to make way for the Lord. Nobody could conceive the Messiah being Yahweh himself, Israel’s God. In other words, the bringing of the Kingdom wouldn’t be just a messenger for Yahweh, as everyone thought, but the eternal Creator God Himself personally bringing his kingdom reign and influence into the fallen earth. John was saying, literally, everything was about to change. Jesus in Matthew 4 after having endured the temptations in the desert of the then current king, Satan, echoed the Baptist:

17 From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!”

Both say, “come near,” because the kingdom won’t arrive until Jesus completes his mission and is seated at the right hand of God after his ascension. He isn’t until he sends his Holy Spirit at Pentecost that the King through his church, his body, will reign and destroy the works of the devil. When Christ completed his mission, Satan was no longer king of this world; he lost his authority to call the shots over the nations. Remember, prior to the gospel there was only one tiny obscure nation in the world that worshiped the true God, and even they were slaves to Roman power. After Christ the nations as nations could now be discipled.

The reason this could happen is that Satan was bound and his power limited by the authority Christ had been given because of the success of his mission. We read of this binding in the Synoptic gospels. In Matthew 12, Jesus had been casting out demons, and the Pharisees said it was because of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that he was able to do this. He basically says it would be absurd for Satan to drive out Satan because a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Then he tells them:

28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

And then addresses the strong man:

29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Satan is the strong man, and he has now been bound because the kingdom of God has come. Since the resurrection, ascension, and Pentecost, we are in the plundering phase of history. John tells us as much in Revelation 20 when he says:

He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

Those who are amillennial and postmillennial believe the thousand years is not a literal number of years, as premillennialists do, but the period of time known as the last days, the period between Jesus’ first and second coming. It is the time, as Jesus taught us to pray that the kingdom of God would come and His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Do We Live by Faith or by Sight?
For most of my Christian life when it came to how I interpreted life in this fallen world, I lived by sight. It sure seemed like Satan wasn’t bound at all. Yet Scripture told me he was. So I had to decide, was I going to believe God or my lyin’ eyes. Going back to the gates of hell, if I believe God, then Satan’s kingdom is the kingdom on the defensive. Prior to embracing postmillennialism that was impossible for me to believe. In fact, it never even occurred to me! What’s so exciting about my new optimistic eschatology is that it is rooted in reality. We’re in a war! A spiritual war to be exact, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12.  But the context of the war is Ephesians 1:18-23, and Christ having all authority over every power that exists in the spiritual and material realms, in this life as well as the life to come.

As in any war, people have different roles, privates, sergeants, Lieutenants, generals; there is also army, navy, Airforce, marines; there are victories, there are defeats. As in any war there are strategies and tactics. But one thing is certain: the superior force is primarily on the offensive, and the weaker on the defensive. Over time it becomes apparent which is which. Sometimes the grunts just have to trust the generals even when it looks really bad. The superior force will always win in the end, and we as followers of the King of the universe are the superior force! We win, and not just in the end, at Christ’s second coming, but here, now. We are part of the King’s army establishing his rule on earth, daily assaulting the gates of hell with the fruit of the Spirit against which the gates of hell don’t have a chance.




The Civilizational Implications of The Fruit of the Spirit vs. The Acts of the Flesh

The Civilizational Implications of The Fruit of the Spirit vs. The Acts of the Flesh

One of the great contributions, of many, of the Apostle Paul to Christian Western civilization is laying out in Galatians 5 the juxtaposition between those who live by the Spirit and those who live by the flesh. Paul calls it the fruit of the Spirit and the acts of the flesh. The reason I extend the comparison to a civilizational level is because the consequences of these two kind of lives go well beyond the merely personal; nothing we do is merely personal or interpersonal. The modern libertarian mindset is tragically mistaken because it makes personal choice a sacred right as if our choices only affected us, or at most a few people around us—they do not.

Paul uses a word in this context that is also tragically misunderstood, freedom. Because of the poison of secularism, people intuitively think of freedom as “doing whatever we want.” No, that’s not freedom, that’s slavery! Here is what Paul says freedom is actually for: 

13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.

Salvation from sin allows us to no longer be curved in on ourselves so we are now free to fulfill the law in serving others. Just think about Paul’s assertion about the entire law being fulfilled in that one command. Even as I’m thinking and trying to write about it at this moment, I’m mesmerized by the implications. Everything I do in relation to God is done in relation to loving other human beings. We are fundamentally relational because the Triune God, our Creator is. And just as John says He is love, so we are called to love. 

This has massive societal implications most Christians today are unfortunately unaware of or ignore. Because of two isms, Pietism and secularism, we have a bifurcated sense of reality. That word simply means to cause to divide into two branches or parts. Because of those isms, in our minds those parts are isolated, the branches don’t touch. One is our personal life and all that entails, and the other is “out there,” public life and all that entails. We tend to think the former has no bearing on the latter, when in fact the relationship is unavoidable and symbiotic; each depends on and influences the other, personal affects societal, societal affects personal. 

Because of the first Great Awakening and the profound influence of Calvinism in that era, America’s founding generation understood freedom as responsibility. Liberty would never be an excuse for license, or doing whatever we want. True freedom is the ability to do what we ought, to fulfill our responsibility to others. In this sense, Jesus says losing our life means we will find it.

The Implications of Two Ways of Life
We might think there are infinite shades of gray in how people choose to live, but that’s not the case. Certain ways of acting cause harmony, and other ways cause chaos. The line between those two is actually very thin. Let’s look at how Paul describes these two kinds of life: 

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 

Over the years when I would read this passage I would think how lefties and liberals despise Christianity, but what is it about the fruit of the Spirit they have a problem with? Imagine a society in which everyone exhibited such fruit. What’s not to like? In fact, as you can see from Paul’s statement about law, the fruit of the Spirit is the foundation of political liberty. The more self-governing a people are, the less need there is for law. Where the acts of the flesh reign, law is required to keep some semblance of peace. As we can see all around us, the further we get away from being a Christian nation, the further we get away from peace. The big cities in blue states make the case.

These implications are why America’s founders believed the American experiment would have been impossible without Christianity and the Bible. We could quote them all day long to prove that, but John Adams, not an orthodox Christian, is a good example. One of his more famous quotations makes this clear:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

This was affirmed by Congress six months before the Constitution was passed in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. In Article 3 it states:

Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

The Founders believed it was the Christian religion and Christian morality of a providentially ordaining God that made the American experiment possible. They knew the “acts of the flesh” would destroy it, and they were right.

Why America Must be a Christian Nation
Because of Pietism and secularism, Christians look at this passage and only see the implications for themselves and those they know personally, family and friends. Since World War II it’s gotten so bad that many Christians mock the very idea of a Christian nation; they’ll often use the supposed epithet, Christian nationalism. But what, dear reader, is the option? If a nation isn’t Christian what is it? I’ll tell you: it’s a pagan nation. We might call America (and Western countries in general) “secular,” but that is just another word for pagan. Since the progressive movement got under way in America in the early 20th century, the illusion grew that a secular society would mean freedom from the conflict religion creates in a society. America was supposedly going to be a pluralistic nirvana where all faiths and worldviews would be equal and have a seat at the secular public table. Secularism, however, is also a faith, and it refuses to allow Christianity any say in the public square. When Christians try, secularists scream, separation of church and state!  

This is evidence that there are in fact only two societal realities. We learn this from God’s call of Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

Then the Lord promises to bless him, and through him all the nations of the earth. This is how God started to make a people for Himself, a people set apart from the pagan nations. For the next 2,000 years God slowly built an alternative culture and view of reality to paganism, and in Christ that was fulfilled. Now God’s promise to Abram to bless the nations through His people to the entire earth would begin, taking His God-Heaven life and spreading through the entire earth. How does this happen and what does it look like?

When the fall happened in Genesis 3, God told the serpent:

15 I will put hostility between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.

This told us life in a fallen world would be hostility between two forces, one represented by the serpent, paganism, the other represented by the seed of the woman, Jesus. There is no in between; we are on one side or the other. The serpent could do some damage, as we’ve seen for thousands of years, but the seed of the woman has the upper hand because he will strike the serpent’s head. In a word, God was promising victory to His people in the battle for reality in a fallen world. Unfortunately, most Christians don’t believe that because they live by sight and not faith in God’s promised victory, one reiterated throughout both Testaments.

On a practical level this looks like the fruit of the Spirit, and government exists to create the environment where that fruit can flourish. We call that liberty and justice. This requires government to be limited but also strong with very specific tasks toward public justice and peace. It very much looks like the United States of America as founded. This doesn’t mean other forms of government cannot fulfill these tasks, but only as Christ is acknowledged as King and ultimate authority can that happen. 

Isaiah 2, Fruit of the Spirit, and Christ’s Body
This chapter is a Messianic declaration of the victory God promised to Adam and Eve in the garden. It starts thus:

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.

Not too long ago I saw this as a prophecy of the consummated heavens and earth when Christ returns in his glory at the resurrection to judge the living and the dead, but that is not accurate. Rather, this is a declaration of the power of the gospel to transform not only people but nations. We are in the last days which started when Jesus rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and sent His Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Clearly this mountain Isaiah speaks of is metaphorical, and the temple is not a literal temple (the temple that did exist was destroyed in 70 AD); Jesus is the temple. God through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit by His word now teaches us his ways that we might “walk in his paths.” In other words, that we might exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

Zion and Jerusalem are also metaphors; God’s law mediated through the gospel will go out from his eternal throne to the entire earth. Verse 4, however, is a problem for many Christians because they can’t see this happening in our fallen world because there are still disputes and wars. Isaiah is clearly saying, though, that judgment between nations and disputes of many people will still exist, meaning this prophecy is for the fallen world now after the Messiah came and accomplished redemption. We learn here that these are the implications of the gospel on an international level between nations. Unfortunately, because of those isms I mentioned above, most Christians can’t conceive Christianity could be applicable to anything beyond our personal lives. God begs to differ.

Let’s ask some questions. Why does war and conflict exist? Sin. And what did the gospel come to remedy? Sin. And how does the gospel do that? Through people, specifically Christian people who have been redeemed and live in obedience to God reflecting the fruit of the Spirit. If you look back at that passage in Genesis 3, the seed is Christ, and we are his body, his church, striking the serpent’s head. It isn’t we ourselves who claim victory over the devil and his works, the “acts of the flesh,” but Christ working through us as his body on earth.

I recently read a beautiful example of Christ’s body working in The Voice of the Martyrs magazine. A North Korean defector to South Korea was staying at a resettlement center and was encouraged to explore different religions. He went to meet people, and eventually went to a Christian worship service. In his words:

At first I just went to the church because I was lonely, but through the serving and love of the Christian people, then I became curious about the Jesus they believed in. As I learned more about Jesus, then I met Jesus.

That is how it works! How God’s kingdom spreads on earth and permeates the nations. In due course not only will there be an absence of war, but the instruments of war will be transformed into instruments of peace and production for flourishing in God’s created order. Prior to Christ and the gospel, the nations such as they were only knew one value: the will to power. The stronger survived, the weaker were conquered in a never ending cycle of war and conquest. That slowly changed with the coming of Christendom, but much of the world rejected Christianity and suffered for it. The 20th century is evidence of that. We have a long way to go as we continue to fight the fall and pray and work for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.


Paul Ends Romans with a Postmillennial Exhortation

Paul Ends Romans with a Postmillennial Exhortation

It had been quite a while since I read through Romans, and whenever that was, I was most definitely not a postmillennialist. For much of my Christian life I was a “pan-millennialist,” because eschatology all seemed like worthless speculation and the Bible was all too confusing about it. I concluded it will all pan out in the end, so why bother. Then in 2014 I was presented with an in depth biblical case for amillennialism, or so it seemed, and I embraced it. Then in August of 2022 something completely unexpected happened; I embraced postmillennialism. Unexpected as in earthquake unexpected; you find it hard to believe the earth is moving under your feet, but you can see it and feel it. My “conversion” to postmillennialism was like that.

Other than knowing absolutely nothing about it, I had never had any kind of coherent presentation of exactly what it means. When I finally did, and it was not something I was looking for, I was shocked that it seemed to make biblical sense. What most impressed me was that the case being made for it was primarily exegetical, meaning coming out of the text of Scripture. It wasn’t relying on speculation of any kind. The other thing that impressed me, and quickly won me over, was that unlike the other two options, a-mill and pre-mill, it was an optimistic eschatology, an eschatology of hope for the here and now, not just for the eternal by and by, the next life. Christ came to push back the fall, as the Christmas hymn says, as far as the curse is found. That means the blessings promised to us by God through Abraham, are not just for our personal or interpersonal lives, but for our lives lived in community, including the communities of cities and counties and states and nations, wherever the curse of sin rears its ugly head.

The Gospel to the Nations
For our discussion, we can view the gospel primarily two ways. The way most Christians view it is solely or mostly in personal terms; it’s about going to heaven when we die, and personal holiness on earth. At best its influence extends to our closest interpersonal relationships. By contrast, the way postmillennialists view the gospel is that the personal effects are like ripples in a glass still lake; once the gospel rock hits the surface of our lives, it transforms everything we touch, literally; ripples that never end. The gospel’s purpose in the world is fundamentally transformational. This transformation happens the instant we are saved, brought from spiritual death to glorious spiritual life in Christ. The veil is lifted, and like the man born blind Jesus healed in John 9, we cry out, “I was blind but now I see!” Think of it like gospel glasses we put on and everything comes into focus. And when I say everything I mean every single thing. We go from secular blindness thinking we’re lucky dirt, to a God drenched reality where each molecule is His, every tree and rock, every apple and egg, every word, thought, and idea, all brought captive “to make it obedient to Christ.”     

This means that when God told Abram nations would be blessed through him, he meant it. Here are some of those declarations. In Genesis 12 God tells Abram that he will bless him and that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him. The Hebrew word used for peoples means clan, an ancient way to say nation. In Genesis 18 as the Lord is considering destroying Sodom he again mentions blessing:

17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Here a different word is used meaning nation or people. This passage in Genesis 22 is especially powerful. After God tested Abraham with Isaac and he passed the test by trusting the Lord in obedience, the Lord says:

16 “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Here the blessing is again to Abraham. His descendants will literally be innumerable, but it isn’t just the numbers that are important, but what these people do and where they do it.

Not Just Testifying but Transforming
This is a critical point in the never ending debate about eschatology. In the a-mill and pre-mill understanding, the Great Commission (Matt. 28) is focused on individuals, and ignores the nations part, but the gospel is transformational of everything it touches, including nations. The following quotations are from Lorraine Boettner’s book, Millennialism. The first is about this transformational character of the gospel:

The changed character of individuals will be reflected in an uplifted social, economic, political, and cultural life of mankind.

My response is, how can it not! Unfortunately, most Christians retreat behind a Pietism that doesn’t see the purpose of the gospel as transformational of all things. It isn’t so much that secularism took over the once Christian West, as it was Christians surrendered it to them.

The other is about Jesus using the word “disciples” in the Great Commission:

Christ Himself assures us He is present and is even now with us in our work . . . To reduce this great commission to the premillenarian program to preach the gospel as a witness to a world that is to grow worse and worse until it plunges into its doom in destruction is to emasculate the gospel of Christ and wither it into pitiful impotency. This is to send the gospel out into the world as a futile thing, foreordained to failure from the start. No, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and Jesus Christ, marching in the greatness of his strength, sends us on no empty errand of uttering a message that will die away in the air on an unheeding and hostile world, gathering only a few out of its innumerable multitudes and consigning the fast majority to destruction, but He sends us to “make disciples of all nations” and thereby win the world itself.

I don’t see how you read that paragraph and not become postmillennial on the spot! It gives me chills.

The last thing I will address before I get to Paul’s post-mill passage, is Ephesians 2 and Revelation 5 about Christians reigning with Christ. In Ephesians, Paul is speaking about our God making us alive in Christ “when we were dead in transgressions.” Then he blows our minds with this:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Do you know where Christ is seated this very moment? At the right hand of the Father, as Paul says in chapter 1, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be named, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” This is happening in the present age! Now, today, at this moment. The reason Jesus could give us the Great Commission was because “All authority in heaven and on earth” had been given to him, therefore, he says go. And we can tie together the Ephesians passage about where we are seated, and what we are doing there, with this passage in Revelation 5:

And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
    and with your blood you purchased for God
    people from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
    and they will reign on the earth.”

We are saved to reign on earth, not in heaven! We are reigning with Christ on this fallen earth to bring the kingdom of heaven to overcome the works and the wiles of the devil.

The Gospel: The Obedience of Faith
Which brings me to Paul’s declaration in the final words of Romans and how we do this:

 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Our gospel job is not only to preach personal salvation to the nations, but to preach and teach Christ as Lord and king not only over our own lives and the lives of our families, but over the nations. The objective of every Christian is to bring “all nations” to “the obedience of faith.” This was Jesus’ command in the Great Commission:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The command is specifically given to what we now consider nations, not merely to individuals, but to individuals in every position in society and culture. The obedience of faith means taking seriously what Jesus said about obeying “everything” he commanded them, whether that applies to business, economics, law, governing, family life, art, architecture, science, all aspects of culture; it is complete all encompassing.

What happened in what we used to call Christendom was the disaster of Pietism, a 17th century German Lutheran movement that turned Christianity from a centrifugal movement, something that moves away from a central point or axis, to a centripetal one, a force that brings things toward the center. Over time, through the First and Second Great Awakening in the 18th and 19th centuries, to fundamentalism in the 20th, secularism took over Western culture because Christians narrowed the focus of Christianity to going to heaven when we die and personal holiness. What that did was completely enervate the gospel for any kind of cultural influence, and we are now living with the consequences. That must change if we are to bring ourselves and the nations “to the obedience of faith.”

That means we begin to learn about Christianity as a profoundly powerful centrifugal force. Fortunately, we live in incredibly exciting times because there is a revival not just of postmillennialism, but of Christians whatever their eschatology realizing that their faith applies to all of life, including politics and culture. The beauty and power of postmillennialism, though, is that it gives us the theological framework for optimism, or in the title of a book I’m currently reading, it is “An Eschatology of Victory.” Christ did not become a man, suffer and die and rise again, then ascend to the right hand of God to lose! We can count on his words in our prayers and actions, that His kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.