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O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Why James B. Jordan's Postmillennialism Requires a Local Flood

I have always enjoyed reading James B. Jordan's books and articles. That is not to say that I always agree with his perspective, but he does make you think. His 1988 book titled Through New Eyes had a major impact on me as a teen studying theology for the very first time.

 

Jordan is a young-earth creationist in print. His 1999 book titled Creation in Six Days lays out his views as a strong young-earth advocate. He noted in passing that he became convinced of young-earth creationism as a senior in college while reading the writings of John C. Whitcomb (CiSD, p. 25). He also explained that his views on Genesis have developed along the way as he noticed some "problems with the 'scientific creationist' approach" (CiSD, p. 26). However, Jordan has repeatedly endorsed the three pillars of modern young-earth creationism which are as follows: 1) Genesis 1 as the creation of the physical universe in 6 ordinary days, 2) biological death as a result of the fall, and 3) a global Genesis flood in the days of Noah.

 

Jordan has also been a stalwart defender of postmillennial eschatology over the years. This view says that human history is now living in the millennium spoken of in Revelation 20, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ will increase and grow to convert essentially the entire planet Earth to Christianity. His version of postmillennialism is partial-preterist in regard to New Testament prophecies. He views the Olivet Discourse, 2 Peter 3, and most of the book of Revelation as fulfilled in the first century with events that culminated with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Jordan's 2007 commentary on the book of Daniel, Handwriting on the Wall, lays out these views in a fairly systematic fashion.

 

That means Jordan assigns the Great Tribulation to our distant past and now looks forward to a glorious fulfillment of Jesus' Great Commission in history. The postmillennial hope is that all the nations on planet Earth will one day come into salvation and the knowledge of God, being made into the disciples of Jesus Christ. Postmillennialists contrast their "optimistic" view of the future with premillennialism and amillennialism. These two other forms of futurism both deny that the Great Commission of Jesus will ever be fulfilled on a worldwide scale regarding all of the nations on planet Earth.

 

But is postmillennialism truly an optimistic view regarding the future? Notice what happens at the end of the millennium according to Revelation 20:7-8:

 

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, whose number is as the sand of the sea. 

 

Kind of looks like a bad ending, doesn't it? Postmillennialism suggests that, after near complete conversion of planet Earth to the gospel of Jesus Christ during the millennium, something goes terribly wrong just before the end. Multitudes of believers somehow apostatize from the faith. Then Satan goes out to deceive the nations that have been converted in fulfillment of the Great Commission. Apparently, Satan is somewhat successful because he gathers them together to do battle against the Church.

 

Gary North, another prolific postmillennial author, explains what the text really means for the future on planet Earth:

 

The devil will be loosed for a little season at the end of time, meaning his power over the nations returns to him full strength (Rev. 20:3). (Gary North, Dominion and Common Grace, p. 170)

 

If the end of the millennium remains in our future, and if the millennium ends with Satan's power over the nations restored, how can the postmillennialist honestly proclaim victory in history for the Church? Any victory the Church enjoys through gospel growth and discipleship is "predestined" to be temporary. According to postmillennialism, the end of the millennium looms in our future. Postmillennialism's futurist view of the conclusion of the millennium leads directly to a pessimistic view of what happens at the end of history.

 

Postmillennialism is simply another defeatist view of the future, for its advocates believe in the eventual defeat of the gospel at the end of the millennium. What is more, this final apostasy must be a global anti-Christ movement because the Church is now truly global. In the postmillennial "vision" God's enemies supposedly completely surround God's people at some point in our future:

 

They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. (Rev. 20:9)

 

An honest reading of the text seems to imply that the only way God's people gain victory, within the postmillennial view, is God's direct, supernatural intervention to end history. Ironically, postmillennialism's ending resembles exactly what premillennialism teaches with an additional hitch. It says that the gospel first converts the nations and then a substantial portion of the nations are lost to unbelief and apostasy. And, remarkably, postmillenialists often chide dispensationalists for teaching an impotent gospel!

 

Now I have no doubt that Jordan has given this quandary for postmillennialism a great deal of thought. In fact, he addresses this exact issue in his commentary on Daniel where he says:

 

The Great Tribulation was clearly something that happened in the days of the Apostolic Church... The statement "And there will be a time of distress, such as never was since there was a nation until that time" perfectly matches what Jesus said in Matthew 24:21, "And at that time there will be a Great Tribulation, such as has never occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall." This statement by Jesus makes it clear when the "time of distress" took place, and also makes it clear that nothing like it will ever happen again. There will be no "Great Tribulation" just before Jesus returns, though there will be a "small tribulation" (Revelation 20:7-10). (Jordan, Handwriting on the Wall, pp. 619-620)

 

Does the description at the end of the millennium in Revelation look like a "small tribulation" to you? Actually, it looks like the Great Tribulation right before the coming of Christ in A.D. 70 to me, but then, I am a preterist, not a postmillennialist.

 

That point aside, did you notice how Jordan insists that there is a physical comparison to be drawn from Jesus' words? If the Great Tribulation is the greatest "time of distress" ever in covenant history, then the end-of-the-millennium tribulation must be smaller in scale and scope than events in the first century leading up to A.D. 70. So maybe the end of the millennium won't be all that bad after all.

 

That's a nice fix by a very bright postmillennial thinker. I'll leave it up you to decide if it works or not. Makes me wonder how the Church will know when it actually takes place. Is God going to send new prophets to identify the imminent fulfillment of Revelation 20 and God's pending judgement on planet Earth? Or is this break-out of great evil so small that no one will even notice what is going on until it is "all over"?

 

The real question for you is this: can you see what Jordan doesn't see? Consider again what Jesus actually said:

 

And at that time there will be a Great Tribulation, such as has never occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. (Matt. 24:21)

 

Jordan says this statement is the basis for a physical comparison. Yet Jesus made his statement in regard to the past as surely as he made it in regard to the future. Jesus said that the Great Tribulation would be worse than anything that has happened since the beginning of the world!!! If Jordan is right that this statement draws a physical comparison in covenant history, then what would it mean in regard to Noah's flood?

 

There you have it from Jordan's own teaching regarding the Great Tribulation. Jesus saw the Great Tribulation as greater than any other event in covenant history since the beginning of the world. Since Jordan has already said that the Great Tribulation event was limited to the Roman and Jewish world, fulfilled in the first century, then Jordan has implicitly endorsed a local flood in the days of Noah. Oh, and by the way, that argument works for every preterist who assigns the Great Tribulation to the first century.

 

Preterism refutes a global flood.

 

Call it the local flood doctrine according to James B. Jordan, confirmed by the clear statement of Jesus Christ. The Great Tribulation was greater than the flood in the days of Noah.

 

Maybe someone should point out to Jordan how his futurist view of the end of the millennium requires a local flood in the days of Noah.

 

Tim Martin

BeyondCreationScience.com

 

Views: 1679

Comment by michael j loomis on February 2, 2012 at 12:45am
Ha ha ha...I love you all. It feels so good to be on the winning team. It's just a small amount of time until the creedologists realize that they are the emporers with new clothes. LoL. look...The creedologists are naked!!!

Seriously...Keep this stuff coming. And Tim. If you wanna join us this Friday morning again we could have a lot of fun with this.

HAIRY TICKS UNITE!!!
Comment by Micah Martin on February 2, 2012 at 1:15am

I am going to stick with Jordan... just let me get my snorkel first!

Comment by Michael Bull on February 2, 2012 at 2:27am

Hi guys - so many blatant problems with this.

Tim doesn't haven't a handle on Jordan for a start. Has Tim listened to Jordan's 204 Revelation lectures? They answer these objections.

For one thing, the Garden, Land, World structure corresponds to Word, Sacrament, Government. Israel (Land) dies for the life of the World. The Land Tribulation is worse than the final division in the World because the Land mediates the work of the Garden to the World. It was always a Veil to be torn. The only veil left untorn is the one that still keeps heaven and earth apart, and that one is Creational.

Another problem is that the "circumcision" began with Abraham and ended in AD70. AD70 doesn't correspond to the flood any more than the deluge by Babylon corresponded to the flood... as I have mentioned to you before - YEC and postmillennialism are the "Creational" bookends either side of the "Social Creation" of Israel/Church. No bookends means your book falls over - and that book is Beyond Creation Science.

CREATIONAL Covenant (World)
SOCIAL Covenant (Israel - Land)
HUMAN Covenant (Christ - Garden)
SOCIAL Covenant (Church - Heavenly Land)
CREATIONAL Covenant (World)

Cheers,
Mike 

Comment by E Harris on February 2, 2012 at 8:34am

I'm with Mike! But that is an interesting point about the end of the 1000 years, since I subscribe to Postmill.

Comment by samuel m. frost on February 2, 2012 at 3:02pm

This is not entirely accurate.  If God destoys the final rebellion of satan, that's "victory" in the Psalmist's worldview, not defeat.  All Christian eschatologies end up with ultimate cosmic victory: restoration of creation/heaven on earth.  As for "cultural victory", this would not imply the "impotence" of the Gospel.  From their perspective, Satan is leading a rebellion in culture - a Christian culture...a Global Christain culture.  This rebellion does not last very long precisely because Christianity has done all that it can do before it requires the final intervention of the visibly displayed power of God to do what we cannot do (we cannot create Jesus Utopia).

Comment by samuel m. frost on February 2, 2012 at 3:24pm

Jeff, Mike B., correct.  Genesis 1-11 is "The beginning of the Nations", with the Flood being Judgment on the Nations and the Tower of Babel being the Scattering of the Nations (the outworking of Man wanting to be "like God" - which started in Gen 3).  The exile of the nations (their scattering, much like the microcosmic scattering of Israel - who wanted to be like God - and who was supposed to be like God in terms of conformity to the Law of God) is remedied by the covenant with Abram: "blessing to all the nations".  What "nations"?  The Genesis 10 and 11 "nations".  Thus, what we have, then, is the bottleneck effect: Nations<---Israel---->Nations.  The Nations were fallen.  Israel is called to bring about the "Seed" to heal the nations and "bring salvation to the people of the nations" (Isaiah).  But, this failed precisely because Israel was itself "of the nations" and under the same condemnation of the nations, which was derived from Adam and his commandment breaking (Israel's commandment breaking only served to illustrate the commandment breaking of all mankind, since by Adam, all mankind were under his transgression, even though they did not break any known revealed Law of God - Romans 5.13).  The Gospel opens up the end of the bottle to the nations once again, and instead of scattering the nations, God is now gathering them together according to his divine calling provided by the Light of Israel: Jesus Christ.  Thus, temporary Israel (OC Israel) has been reborn into NC Israel: all who call upon the Name of the LORD

 

It is interesting that in Gen 4.26b we read, "At that time men began to call upon the name of the LORD."  This is the first such mention.  It is prior to the formation of Israel.  And, it would be the characteristic of post-OC Israel, when after the salvation of God had arrived, "all who call upon the name of the LORD" would once again be the norm (Romans 10.13, which is quoting Joel 2.32, which marks the inauguration of the salvation of the nations that would continue not only up to the end of Israel's OC age, but right through the "ages to come").  Bookends indeed....

Comment by Brian Maxwell on February 4, 2012 at 1:01pm

So what "world" (κόσμου) is Jesus referring to in Matt 24:21 ? If you say the world created in Gen 1, then Tim's argument is sound, as the "global" flood judgment in Genesis would certainly have been a much grander event than the AD70 judgment, making Jesus' statement somewhat peculiar in Matt 24:21.  At this point, the global flood advocate would have to argue that Jesus spoke of a separate "world", one created after the Genesis flood (possibly one that started with Abe or Moses).  However, if Jesus speaks of the world created in Gen 1, then it strongly implies a local flood.  The Great Tribulation would be a greater event than even the flood event.  But even the Great Tribulation event was confined to the land of Israel.  Preterism (even postmillenial partial preterism) refutes a global flood.

Comment by Sharon Nichols on February 4, 2012 at 11:22pm

"Postmillennialists contrast their "optimistic" view of the future with premillennialism and amillennialism. These two other forms of futurism both deny that the Great Commission of Jesus will ever be fulfilled on a worldwide scale regarding all of the nations on planet Earth."

 

There is another view to consider. 

 

Rev 20:9

And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, ___but fire came down from heaven and consumed them___,

 

Even though the armies of Satan came down in an ___attempt___ to destroy the saints, they didn't get anywhere because "fire came down from heaven and destroyed them."  It doesn't say this evil was allowed to destroy them or bother them in any way but only hat there is a period of time where satan is released and "appears" to deceive the nations but ultimately doesn't succeed.

 

Sharon

Comment by Michael Bull on February 5, 2012 at 5:04am

Good comment Brian

From Adam to Abe, the cosmos was the cosmos (perhaps even until Moses). The Tabernacle became a substitute or representative of the cosmos. When Israel sinned, God tore apart the model, the representative. Cosmic language was used to describe it.

Then Jesus took it a step further, and became the representative, the "model." The entire world was judged in Him.

As anyone knows who grew up in the 70s and 80s, it's always cheaper to blow up a model.

But after AD70, any cosmic language is again cosmic. The "Land and Sea" are again the actual land and sea.

This can certainly apply to the Church, I guess, being seated in heavenly places, etc. (although I think the OT saints actually are enthroned there), but this "representative" concept means the use of cosmic language was not simply poetic, and it means that the Creation and Restoration of the physical order are also a part of God's Covenant work.

Jordan's Revelation lectures are excellent concerning Rev 20's parallels with the book of Esther (and the predictions of the events in Esther in Ezek 38-9). Check em out!

Comment by Doug Wilkinson on February 5, 2012 at 4:15pm

Sharon,

Ezekiel's version of the end of the Millennium goes into more detail than the one in Revelation.  Gog/Magog are trying to attack the long regathered Israel (including Gentiles) who are now living at rest, at peace, and with prosperity.  Their thought is to loot them.  God sets the situation up to prove that he is the one in charge and that he is the God of Israel.  In Ezekiel's greater detail, Gog/Magog is destroyed by a combination of disease, natural disasters, civil war, and fire from heaven. 

Doug

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