Saturday, January 05, 2008

Day 12: The Christmas Millennium

Tonight is the "Twelfth Night" (as I understand it -- as I admitted on the first day of this series, my family has never observed "The 12 Days of Christmas" or paid much attention to "Epiphany," which is observed by some Christians on January 6). In this final post in a series called "The 12 Days of Liberty," we're going to see the contrast between a world of liberty -- the world inaugurated by Christ the King at the first Christmas -- and the world far too many Christians believe in, a world of nuclear annihilation and a thousand-year Christian Reich.

These Christians believe that the fulfillment of Micah's "Vine & Fig Tree" prophecy -- a prophecy which inspired America's Founding Fathers and "the American Dream" -- is impossible until Christ's Second Coming in the future.

The age when Micah's prophecy (along with others like it) comes to fruition is wrongly called "the millennium" -- in reference to a period in the Book of Revelation lasting "a thousand years." Christ is said to return before this millennium begins, hence the theory is called "pre-millennialism."

But even when Christ returns, the "millennium" of modern fundamentalists is nothing like Micah's libertarian "Vine & Fig Tree" prophecy. The televangelists' millennium is a heavy-handed top-down police state administered by Jesus on a throne in Jerusalem, with his bureaucrat-minions around the world imposing law and order on the unbelieving with a "rod of iron."

Gary North has written about Premillennialism's Faith in A Police State. That link is critical reading here. Micah's vision of the future and John Hagee's vision are very different, even though they might use the same Bible verses, such as

Revelation 1:6
and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 5:10
And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”

The question to ask on this 12th Day of Christmas is, how are Christians supposed to "reign on the earth?" How are "millennial" conditions brought about and sustained? Our answer, as you should handily guess if you've read the last 11 Days' worth of posts on this blog, is "libertarianism," "the Free Market," or "capitalism." Christians are not literally supposed to wield a "rod of iron" and impose physical punishments on the unbelievers. Our "millennium" is a non-aggressive decentralized "NAGocracy."

Most premillennial Christians have never heard of the idea I'm about to advance, so I can't fault them for not believing it. There are lots of inconsistencies and un-thought-through ideas floating around in evangelical circles today. Let's take about 5 minutes to look at a couple.

True or False: In order for Christ's millennial “thousand-year” reign of the saints as priests and kings to begin, Satan must first be cast into the Lake of Fire.

Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

False: Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire after the “thousand years.” During the “millennium” Satan’s power is arguably unrestricted except for the one thing that is actually mentioned in the text:

that he should deceive the Gentiles no more till the thousand years were finished (Rev. 20:3)

During this period, Satan is still alive and well, because believers reigning with Christ need their rods of iron to physically undo Satan's spiritual deceptions.

After the “millennium” (in which the Gentiles were no longer deceived), Satan is released from his “prison” for the purpose of raising up an army:

Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, (v. 7)

This is a "little season" of total chaos, rebellion, conflict, and global war between the forces of Christ and the forces of Satan. If we're to believe the best-selling fiction on the matter, it's a mess. So great is Satan's warfare, that Christ is unable to prevail, and He takes His cosmic football and goes home. Popular dispensational writer Dave Hunt says,

In fact, dominion – taking dominion and setting up the kingdom of Christ – is an impossibility, even for God. The millennial reign of Christ, far from being the kingdom, is actually the final proof of the incorrigible nature of the human heart, because Christ Himself can’t do it.

Here’s what Revelation says about the “thousand years.”

Revelation 20 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.

We have seen that Satan was bound by Jesus Christ at His First Coming, by His powerful ministry on earth, by His Death, Resurrection and Ascension. During the time Satan was “bound” (figuratively; not in literal chains, with a literal "seal") the gospel went out to every nation under heaven. Despite intense persecution and tribulation inflicted on Christian evangelists by the religious establishment of the day, every nation under heaven heard the Gospel. The seeds of the Empire's destruction were planted. Then Satan was “released” to organize the Gentiles (the Roman army) to battle, and to destroy Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Satan was Bound in the 1st Century

The New Testament gives powerful evidence that Satan was judged and bound by Christ during the first century. That is, his attempts to "deceive the natoins" failed, and the Gentiles were incorporated into the "household of faith," and made sons of Abraham. The New Testament, taken as a whole, was not written to foretell of a binding of Satan thousands of years after the Scriptures were written, but the Scriptures tell of events that were taking place during that generation, the generation to whom the words were written. It was something that applied to the events they were facing in the first century, something they needed to know to help them persevere through their tribulations. The authors of the words you are about to read were not writing them to imperiled Christian communities to tell them about events several thousand years in the future.

By His Power over Satan, Jesus demonstrated that the Kingdom was not “postponed” but rather “at hand.”

Matthew 12:28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

By His Power over demons, Jesus indicated that Satan was being bound.

Matthew 12:29 Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.

Luke 10:18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

Luke 11:20-22 But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.

Mark 1:24 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

Revelation 12:10-12 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

Through the death (execution) and resurrection of Christ, Satan was judged.

John 12:31-33 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” [cf. Micah 4:1-2] This He said, signifying by what death He would die.

John 14:30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.

John 16:11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

In His Resurrection and Ascension, Christ was enthroned, and the power which Satan and his host formerly held over the nations was transferred to Christ.

Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Luke 10:18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

Luke 11:17-22 But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.

Colossians 2:15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

Psalm 68:18
You have ascended on high,
You have led captivity captive;
You have received gifts among men,
Even from the rebellious,
That the Lord God might dwell there.

Ephesians 4:8 Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”

Hebrews 2:14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,

1 John 3:8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

1 John 4:4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Genesis 3:15
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”

Romans 16:20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

What was the message the Scriptures brought to those to whom it was written (in the 1st century)? The message was one of hope, to continue faithfully to preach the gospel, and to be assured of victory even amidst persecution, establishing the reign of Christ and the dethronement of Emperor worship in the midst of persecution and tribulation.

Revelation 1:9 I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Premillennialists believe the "tribulation" comes before "the Kingdom." John said they were happening back then, at the same time.

The Gospel was preached to every nation under heaven:

Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached to all the nations throughout the Empire unto martyrdom, and then the end will come.

Acts 2:5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.

Colossians 1:23 the gospel which you heard, was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Colossians 1:5-6 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, and growing as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth;

Romans 16:26 but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—

Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

This proves that Satan was bound and unable to deceive the nations. The power to make all nations disciples of Christ was exercised and Satan was overcome (Matthew 28:19-20).

The New Testament also says that believers were anointed as priests and kings. Back then -- not "someday," thousands of years in the future.

Christmas means the coming of the Messiah, and when the Old Testament prophets looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, they also looked forward to a day when believers would be anointed to reign with the Messiah in His Kingdom. That messianic age began on the first Christmas.

That the saints are anointed for the task of reigning is of special significance. Anointing was the way the prophet (Isaiah 61:1), the priest (Numbers 3:3), and the king were consecrated.

Anointing was particularly the marking-out of the king. A quick glance at the occurrences of the word “anointed” in the books of Samuel makes this abundantly clear: over and over the king is called “the Lord’s anointed.”

The New Testament makes abundantly clear the fact that Christmas means the coming of the anointed Prophet (Luke 4:18), anointed Priest (Hebrews 10:21) and Christ (that is, Anointed King; Hebrews 1:8-9; Acts 4:25-27, quoting Psalm 2:2).

The anointing of the prophet, priest, and king with oil was symbolic of the bestowal of the Holy Spirit, and it was with the Spirit that Christ was anointed (Acts 10:38). If there is one verb the Scriptures associate with the Holy Spirit is it the word “pour” or “sprinkle.” When God pours out the Spirit, He pours it upon His saints, anointing them priests and kings under Christ. We have been anointed, and we are now priests and kings:

But ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all things. But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.
1 John 2:20,27

Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God.
2 Corinthians 1:21

And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father.
Revelation 1:6

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9

The amazing thing about the Old Testament prophecies of the coming reign of Christ’s and His royal priests is not just that His people would be put into a position of true authority in Christ, but that they would be seen carrying out His will. The new commonwealth in Christ (Ephesians 2:12-19; 1 Peter 2:9) is quite unlike the old nation of Israel, who continually rebelled and forsook the LORD. And it is the anointing of the Spirit which we have that enables us to keep His Law and to “walk in His paths” (Micah 4:2; Romans 8:1-4). That was the message that first Christmas: that the Babe would

give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Luke 1:79

"The Last Days"
Micah’s prophecy begins with the words, “And it will come about in the last days. . . .” The prophet Joel began one of his prophecies in the same way, and the Apostle Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declared that Joel’s prophecy was seeing its fulfillment on that great Day of Pentecost (literally "fiftieth," the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot, the 50th day after passover, when the Lamb of God was sacrificed) . What did Joel predict, and what was then happening? It was the first stage of the anointing of believers as priests and kings to reign in obedience to Christ. Acts 2 describes the day when believers

. . . were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. And they were all amazed and marvelled saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Others mocked, saying, these men are full of new wine. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my word: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose. . . . But this is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy . . . .”
Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:1-21

When Joel looked into the future and saw this great outpouring of the Spirit of God upon all peoples, he saw the miraculous anointing that inaugurated that glorious age of human history foretold by the prophets.

The prophet Ezekiel had also spoken of the triumph of The Christmas Messiah:

Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new Spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.
Ezekiel 36:25-32

It would indeed be a miraculous day when God’s people would reign with Him, rather than against Him, obeying Him from the heart, rather than rebelling, departing to the left and to the right, as Israel did so consistently. (Some have suggested that the Old Testament is one of the most "anti-semitic" books in history, because it paints such an unflattering picture of "the chosen people" as being egregiously faithless and idolatrous.)

The description given by the prophet Jeremiah began the same way, and was also fulfilled by Christ according to the writer to the Hebrews:

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the LORD; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
Jeremiah 31:31-34, in Hebrews 8:8-12

In the Old Testament it was difficult to imagine God getting anything accomplished through His people; with this remarkable change in the hearts of the saints, it is easier to understand how the Messiah would exercise His Kingship through the people of God and carry out all that the prophets foretold. Now the people of God can be entrusted with the Kingly rule of Christ, as spoken of by the Prophets:

He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.
Psalm 47:3; cf. Psalm 118:10, Isaiah 14:2

For the LORD taketh pleasure in His people: He will beautify the meek with salvation. Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute this judgment written; this honor have all His saints. Praise ye the LORD!
Psalm 149:4-9; cf. Isaiah. 11:1-5

Armed with the two-edged sword of the LORD, which is the Scriptures (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12 -- not a literal sword), we who are saints are called to administer the Kingly reign of Christ, calling all people and all nations to repentance from socialist violence, even as King Jesus executes His judgments through us, by His powerful Word (Isaiah 11:4; Isaiah 49:2; Hosea 6:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 19:15).

Armed with the Scriptures and the Spirit, we exercise the prophetic role of Christ, in denouncing the institutionalized selfishness which characterizes the empires -- the outposts -- of the old world order. We must help its victims overcome their oppression, just as Christ was sent to do:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me; because the LORD hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, To give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified.
Isaiah 61:1-3; cf. Luke 4:18-22

The dominion of sin and death has been put to an end. Living in fear of Satan’s minions and being in bondage to their televised lies and half-truths, waiting mournfully for the death of the cosmic Saddam, living in a spiritual and cultural underground, waiting for a rapturous rescue from the terminated reign of a now-disarmed dictator, can finally come to an end. Christ is King, and as His ambassadors we spread this Good News to those who are crippled by disinformation from the Old World Order. Armed with the two-edged sword of the LORD, we extend Christ’s reign by preaching the good news of reconciliation to God, until all His enemies have become His friends (1 Corinthians 15:25; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; John 15:14) even as Christ put down all those enemies of His who opposed His work that first Christmas.

The Word of God is clear: “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” In fact, violence is repudiated by the saints, employed against them by the pagans, and backfires to destroy Christ’s enemies.

Our fight against islamic extremism and jihadism is the same fight the Apostles fought, and they fought without military bases in Iraq and 130 other nations. False religions are a spiritual problem, not a military problem

Our fight against drugs does not require the DEA, the BATF, the FBI, or SWAT teams. Drug addiction is a spiritual problem, not a military problem.

The State's "war on poverty" is being fought with the wrong weapons. The poverty of the ancient world was caused by their kings and empires. It was caused by spiritual darkness. Poverty has been all but eliminated in America thanks to the idea of "liberty under God," not thanks to compulsory taxation and fraudulent "social security" ponzi schemes. Charity and welfare are concerns of the "church," not the "state."

In one area of human action and social order after another, violence and the initiation of force have been proven to be inadequate (at best) and counter-productive ways to deal with social and personal problems. The Prince of Peace has shown us that the "way of peace" works. If libertarianism isn't true, then Christmas isn't true.

I hope in these "12 Days of Liberty" you've come to see the Bible in an entirely different way, different from the way you hear about it in best-selling prophecy fiction and quite unlike what you hear from the televangelists. In the 2,008 years since that first Christmas, we have never been lacking in kooky cults and weird ideas about the Bible. True enough, the Bible was not written by dull, secular bureaucrats, but by farmers, tax collectors, doctors, kings, and converted Jews who saw the answer to oppressive empires that had dominated human history to that point, and erupted in enthusiasm and passionate literary expressions. If those authors and the people they wrote about in their day could travel through time and visit us today, and see the wealth and peace that hundreds of millions of human beings enjoy today, they would drop to their knees in utter astonishment and gratitude to God for what the Christmas King has done in history. We are not very grateful for the truly remarkable changes that have taken place as "liberty under God" has replaced tyranny under man.

That was the promise of the prophets, and the message of Christmas. It has been remarkably fulfilled, and yet the work of dominion still remains to be done. Life would be boring without a challenge.

Each generation is tempted to detour off Christ's "way of peace" and return to ancient Rome, where an elite few ruled over the enslaved masses. This desire for control over others has to be put to death.

Thanks for joining me in this unique observance of "the 12 Days of Christmas." I hope you won't forget about Christmas during the coming year. Don't reduce its public promises to a sentimental or commercial season at the end of the year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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