As stated in the previous post, I think I am becoming a postmillennialist.
This is a big thing for someone like me who, being brought up in the Brethren Church, only 7 years ago was some sort of dispensational premillennialist. Moving to amillennialism was paradigm-shifting enough and yet, I think, set me on a trajectory that seems now to be heading towards postmillennialism (many of the reasons that persuaded or confirmed me in becoming an ‘a’, when combined with a biblical expectation of gospel progress, more readily fit with being a ‘postie’ - e.g. the Church as the New Israel, the importance and transformation of this creation, the present reign of Christ from heaven through the gospel). In particular, looking at Mark 4, Daniel 2, Psalm 2 & 110 with fresh eyes has been illuminating.
However, last night we had a bible study on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. On the interpretation given during the study, this passage is a ‘problem text' for postmillennialism. Knowing that no doubt postmillennialists have thought about these verses before, and come up with some answers, I thought I’d throw the problems/questions out into the blogosphere and see what comes back (not that somehow the answers given will 'settle' the whole question for me - the point is to aid ongoing thinking and discussion).
1. Several features of the text seem to contain an expectation of the imminent return of Christ. In particular 4:15, 5:4-10.
2. Whilst 1. could be a problem for an ‘a’ position too, it could be argued that it can be more readily reconciled with a position which says ‘Christ could return at any time, all that has to happen is for the kingdom to stretch into all nations’ than with a position which says ‘Christ will return after his kingdom has dominated the globe'.
3. This seems especially to be the case for those verses in 5 where Paul seems to be using the return of Christ like a thief as an incentive to faithful gospel living for the Thessalonian church (would this make sense if Paul believed there really was no way the resurrection day would come during their lifetime? Yes, this gives us problems in an ‘a’ position too in some respects, but the problems ‘seem’ bigger for a ‘postie’).
4. If these verses in 5 refer to Jesus’ ‘coming’ in AD70 (which surely is a possibility), has Paul presumably changed subject from the end of 4? Why the sudden change in subject? Or would a postie position somehow commit us to seeing the the events described in 4:13-18 as about AD70 too (which seems more difficult to my mind)?
5. Similarly, if these verses in 5. refer to Jesus’ coming in AD70 to judge Jerusalem, why does this have the implications it does for the Thessalonians (such that they wouldn't want to be caught unawares by that coming?)? Surely it makes more ‘natural’ (warning, exegetical presumption about the natural reading of this text) sense for the coming in 5:2 to be the day when the Thessalonians will escape wrath and obtain salvation?
NB. I'm already thoroughly unconvinced by the premillennial/'rapture'/dispensational reading(s) of this text that I've heard, so we don't need to go there.