Monday, December 10, 2012

Edwards the Millennial Optimist!

I wrote a couple of posts ago about Jonathan Edwards' beliefs regarding the millennium, the thousand year reign of Christ mentioned in Revelation 20.  In my latest reading of George Marsden's Jonathan Edwards: A Life, I learned more about this topic.  Marsden refers to a work by Edwards entitled An Humble Attempt that addresses the millennium.  Marsden discusses Edwards' beliefs regarding the millennium on pages 335-336.

According to Marsden, Edwards thought that the millennium would be a time in which there would be a massive population explosion of redeemed people.  The population explosion would be due to people's health and harmony with nature and with each other, which mean that they'll live a long time and have lots of babies.  And "Virtually everyone in the millennium would be regenerate" (Marsden's words on page 335), for the millennium would be a time when Christ would draw all people unto himself, in accordance with John 12:32.  Because there would be such a population explosion of redeemed people, the saved would vastly outnumber the lost.  Edwards' ally, Joseph Bellamy, estimated that "the ratio of saved to lost would be more than 17,000 to 1" (Marsden's words on page 336).

This reminds me of a conversation that I had over a year ago with a Christian Reconstructionist, who was also a Calvinist.  This guy, unlike Edwards, was not a premillennialist, but he was postmillennial.  Whereas Edwards believed that Christ would come back and then establish a paradisaical millennium, this guy maintained that the church would convert masses of people and establish a Christian society, and then Christ would come back.  When I was complaining to him that Calvinism held that most of humanity was burning in hell, which (in my mind) did not portray God as particularly loving, his response was that he believed that there would be vastly more people in heaven than in hell.  His reason?  Because the church would convert a lot of people between now and the time that Christ comes back (which, in his eyes, would be a long time).  The guy then told me that he's an optimist!

This is interesting.  I don't think that it eliminates the problem of hell, since there are so many people burning there according to prominent strands of Christianity, but I found what this guy and Edwards said to be interesting.

But I still have nagging questions about Edwards' belief regarding the millennium.  Where do the people who live on earth during the millennium come from?  We have those who worship the Beast, which is everyone whose name is not written in the Lamb's Book of Life.  We have the resurrected saints, who rule with Christ during the thousand years.  Then there is the rest of the dead, which is not resurrected until after the millennium.  And then we have a bunch of people who come to Christ during the time of the millennium (I'm presuming), and they reproduce.  Who are these people?  I'm assuming that they're not the resurrected saints, for I doubt that the resurrected saints will be engaging in sexuality, or marrying (Mark 12:25).  So who are they?  Are they people who once worshiped the Beast?  Are they people who converted in the Great Awakening soon before the Second Coming of Christ?

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