An Evaluation of Christian Reconstructionism
Christian Reconstructionism (the teaching of which has been examined in survey fashion in Christian Reconstructionism and Interpretations and Beliefs) has some commendable features. For example, it has done excellent work in evaluating the devastating effects of secular humanism upon modern culture and education. In addition, its initial, primary leaders have been very sound concerning the person, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ and the fact that He is the central figure of history. Further, Reconstructionism is to be respected for its attempt to develop a consistent biblical philosophy of history.
Although Reconstructionism has commendable features, it also has problems. This article will focus on several of those problems.
The Reconstructionist View of History and Eschatology
Reconstructionism rejects the premillennial view of history and eschatology and advocates the postmillennial view. Premillennialism teaches that Christ will return bodily to earth in His Second Coming before the Millennium. By contrast, Reconstructionism asserts that Christ will not return bodily to earth in His Second Coming until after the Millennium has been fully developed on earth by the Church.
Premillennialism teaches that Christ will bind Satan and remove him and his rule from the earth at the time of His Second Coming in the future. By contrast, Reconstructionism asserts that Christ bound Satan and his demons in the past through His death, resurrection, and ascension, and that, therefore, they lost their stranglehold on the world in conjunction with His First Coming.
Premillennialism teaches that after His Second Coming Christ will establish the literal, earthly, political, Millennial Kingdom of God and will be physically present to rule this earth for a thousand years. Thus, the Millennial Kingdom of God has not yet been established, and this present earth will last for another thousand years after the Second Coming of Christ. By contrast, Reconstructionism asserts that through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension Christ established the Kingdom of God on earth in a definitive way, and the Church now has the responsibility of fully developing that Kingdom by progressively expanding its rule over the entire earth. Once the Church has fully developed the Kingdom of God, Christ will return bodily to earth in His Second Coming on the last day of this earth’s history. Immediately after the Second Coming this earth will be destroyed. Thus, the Kingdom of God has been established already in conjunction with the First Coming of Christ; the present age is the Kingdom age; the Kingdom of God rule is administered without Christ being physically present on earth; and the Millennium will be present before, not after, the Second Coming.
Reconstructionism’s postmillennial view of history and eschatology has several problems. First, in contrast with that view, the Bible consistently portrays the Millennial Kingdom of God as being established and present after, not before, the Second Coming of Christ. For example, Joel 3 presents the following scenario: The nations of the world gather together in one location to make war (vv. 9–11); the Lord comes to judge the nations (vv. 12–14); there are great cosmic disturbances in conjunction with His coming (v. 15); the Lord takes up authoritative residence in Jerusalem (vv. 16–17); and the blessings of the Millennial Kingdom begin (vv. 18–21).
Zechariah 14 presents the same order. The nations of the world gather together to fight against Jerusalem (vv. 1–2); the Lord comes to judge the nations (vv. 3–5, 12–15); there are great cosmic disturbances in conjunction with His coming (v. 6); the Lord takes over the rule of the entire earth (v. 9); and the blessings of the Millennial Kingdom begin (vv. 8, 10–11, 16–21).
The Book of the Revelation agrees with Joel 3 and Zechariah 14. The nations of the world gather together to battle at Armageddon (Rev. 16:12–16); the Lord comes to judge the nations (19:11–21); and Christ rules the world for the thousand-year Millennial Kingdom (20:4–6).
Premillennialism is in harmony with this consistent biblical pattern of eschatology. The postmillennial view of Reconstructionism conflicts with this biblical pattern.
Second, Reconstructionism teaches that the Kingdom of God will be fully developed on the earth by the Church during this present age while Christ is physically absent and that, therefore, the Millennium will be present before the Second Coming of Christ. By contrast, the Apostle Peter indicated that the Millennium (“the times of refreshing” and “the times of restitution of all things”) will not be established until Christ is physically present on earth again after His present session in Heaven (Acts 3:19–21). Peter thereby placed the Millennium after the Second Coming of Christ.
Third, Reconstructionism believes that the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth and its development into the Millennium take place while Israel is in rebellion against God. By contrast, Peter taught that Israel must repent of its rebellion in order for the Millennial Kingdom to come (Acts 3:19–21). Peter’s teaching was in harmony with Zechariah 12–14, which indicated that Israel will repent while the nations are gathered together to war against Jerusalem (12:2–9) and when the Jews see Christ returning in His Second Coming (12:10–14) to judge the nations (12:9; 14:2–5, 12–15), take over the rule of the whole earth (14:9), and establish the blessings of the Millennial Kingdom (14:8, 16–21).
Fourth, Reconstructionism asserts that Christ bound Satan and his demons in the past through His death, resurrection, and ascension and that, therefore, they lost their stranglehold on the world in conjunction with His First Coming. By contrast, Scriptures written after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ declared that Satan is “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4); that “the whole world lies in the evil one” (literal translation of 1 Jn. 5:19); that the Christian’s “adversary, the devil, like a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8); and that Satan will be bound in conjunction with the Second Coming of Christ, when He returns to judge the nations and rule the world (Rev. 19:11–20:7). The fact that the Scriptures declared these things to be true even after the ascension of Christ indicates that Satan was not bound and did not lose his stranglehold on the world in conjunction with the Lord’s First Coming.
Fifth, Reconstructionism claims that before the Second Coming of Christ, world conditions will gradually improve. In addition, it believes that when the Lord returns, He will find the world dominated by the Christian message and the vast majority of mankind converted to true Christianity. By contrast, the Scriptures indicate that when Christ returns in His Second Coming, He will find the world in a chaotic condition of warfare (Joel 3; Zech. 12–14; Rev. 16:12–16) and the rulers and nations of the earth in a blasphemous state of rebellion against God’s rule (Ps. 2:1–3; Rev. 16:9, 11, 21; 19:11–19), and He will pour out God’s wrath upon this seething mass of humanity at that time (Ps. 2:5, 9–12; Joel 3:12–16; Zech. 12:3–4, 9; 14:3, 12–15; Rev. 19:11–21).
In addition, Jesus declared that His Second Coming will take place “immediately after” the world’s unprecedented time of trouble (Mt. 24:21, 29–30), not after the world’s unprecedented time of blessing. Jesus also taught that just as the majority of people in the world in Noah’s day and the majority of people in Sodom in Lot’s day were unsaved and, therefore, were destroyed by God’s wrathful judgment, so will it be at Christ’s Second Coming (Lk. 17:26–30). Concerning this teaching Geldenhuys writes, “From this it appears that at His second advent the vast majority of people will live in unbelief, but that there is nevertheless also going to be a faithful remnant that will persevere to the end.”1
Sixth, Reconstructionism teaches that, in fulfillment of Daniel 7:13–14, Christ received the Kingdom of God from the Father when He ascended with the clouds to Heaven and sat down on the throne of God at His right hand. This means, therefore, that the present age is the Kingdom age. Consistency requires this view to equate the throne of God in Heaven with the throne of David, which throne was promised to the Messiah when He would rule over the Kingdom of God (Isa. 9:6–7; Lk. 1:31–33).
By contrast, several biblical factors indicate that the throne of God in Heaven cannot be equated with the throne of David. First, it is a fact of history that several of David’s descendants have sat upon his throne, but only one descendant of David ever sits on God’s throne in Heaven. That descendant is Jesus (Ps. 110:1; Heb. 8:1; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22).
Second, David’s throne was not established until his lifetime. By contrast, since God has always ruled over His creation, His throne in Heaven was established long before David’s throne (Ps. 93:1–2).
Third, since God’s throne in Heaven was established long before David’s throne, and since God’s throne was established forever (Lam. 5:19), it was unnecessary for God to promise to establish David’s throne forever (2 Sam. 7:16) if they are the same throne.
Fourth, in Revelation 3:21 Jesus drew a clear distinction between His throne and the throne of God in Heaven where He presently sits with His Father. Jesus said, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Since it is the throne of David that God has promised to give to Jesus (Lk. 1:31–32), Jesus’ throne must be David’s throne. Since Jesus drew a distinction between His throne and God’s throne in Heaven, David’s throne and God’s throne must not be the same.
Fifth, God’s declaration to His Son, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Ps. 45:6–7; Heb. 1:8), indicates that God recognizes Jesus’ throne to be distinct from God’s throne in Heaven.
Sixth, it is a fact of history that David’s throne was on the earth, not in Heaven. David and his descendants who sat on his throne exercised an earthly ruling authority. Never did they exercise ruling authority in or from Heaven. By contrast, the Bible declares that God’s throne is in Heaven (Ps. 11:4; 103:19).
These biblical factors force one to conclude that, while Jesus sits on the right hand of God’s throne in Heaven during this present age, He is not sitting on David’s throne. Since Jesus is not sitting on David’s throne during this present age, and since He was promised to sit on David’s throne when He would rule over the Kingdom of God (Isa. 9:6–7; Lk. 1:31–32), then the following things can be concluded: The present age is not the Kingdom age, which is to be present when Jesus sits on David’s throne; and when Jesus ascended with the clouds to Heaven, He did not receive from the Father the Kingdom that He is to receive when He sits on David’s throne.
Seventh, some Reconstructionists claim that orthodox Christianity has always been postmillennial, or at least mainly postmillennial, in its eschatology, and that premillennialism is not a Christian doctrine but an unorthodox teaching. By contrast, numerous historians declare that premillennialism (initially called chiliasm) was the first major millennial view of the Church and the predominant view of orthodox believers from the first to the third centuries. For example, Edward Gibbon (1737–1794), the noted English historian who wrote The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, stated that chiliasm
was carefully inculcated by a succession of fathers from Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, who conversed with the immediate disciples of the apostle, down to Lactantius, who was preceptor to the son of Constantine. Though it might not be universally received, it appears to have been the reigning sentiment of the orthodox believers.2
Philip Schaff, prominent German Reformed theologian and Church historian during the 19th century, stated the following concerning the early Church (100–325 A.D.):
The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm, or millennarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment. It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius.3
Adolph Harnack, Lutheran theologian of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and recognized authority on ante-Nicene Church history (100–325 A.D.), wrote the following concerning chiliasm: “Indeed it appears so early that it might be questioned whether it ought not to be regarded as an essential part of the Christian religion.”4 Harnack asserted that Justin Martyr, a prominent early Christian writer (100–165 A.D.), “speaks of chiliasm as a necessary part of complete orthodoxy.”5 Harnack made this significant observation:
That a philosopher like Justin, with a bias towards an Hellenic construction of the Christian religion, should nevertheless have accepted its chiliastic elements as the strongest proof that these enthusiastic expectations were inseparably bound up with the Christian faith down to the middle of the 2nd century.6
Will Durant, the 20th-century historian who produced the multi-volume set entitled The Story of Civilization, stated, “The apostles were apparently unanimous in believing that Christ would soon return to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.”7 Again he wrote, “One faith united the scattered congregations: that Christ was the son of God, that he would return to establish His kingdom on earth.”8
The fact that premillennialism was the first major millennial view of the Church and the predominant view of orthodox Christians from the first to the third centuries is evident through a study of early Christian literature, much of which was written by key Church leaders such as Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Lactantius. In their writings all of these leaders clearly expressed their premillennial view of eschatology.9 Irenaeus, whose teacher, Polycarp, had been taught by the Apostle John, indicated that John claimed to have received his premillennial teaching from Christ.10
Some Reconstructionists assert that premillennialism developed as the result of the influence of paganism on Christianity. By contrast, a study of Church history indicates that premillennialism was rejected by major branches of organized Christendom as the result of the influence of pagan, Greek, mystical philosophy upon the thinking of some influential Church leaders, such as Origen and others in Alexandria, Egypt, beginning in the third century A.D. Origen and his associates tried to integrate Greek philosophy with Christian doctrine. This attempted integration led to the development of the new Alexandrian theology, which rejected the premillennial belief. Harnack wrote, “It was the Alexandrian theology that superseded them; that is to say, Neo-Platonic mysticism triumphed over the early Christian hope of the future.”11 Again he stated that “mysticism” played a significant role in giving “the death-blow to chiliasm in the Greek Church.”12
This article has focused on several problems related to the Reconstructionist view of history and eschatology. The next article in this series will examine problems related to other areas of Reconstructionism.
- Norval Geldenhuys, “Commentary of the Gospel of Luke, “ in The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. By F. F. Bruce (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1951), 449.
- Edward Gibbon, History of Christianity (New York, NY: Peter Eckler Publishing Company, 1916), 141-42.
- Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973), 614.
- Adolph Harnack, “Millennium,” The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Ninth Edition (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883), XVI, 314.
- Ibid., XVI, 316.
- Will Durant, Caesar and Christ (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1944), 575.
- Ibid., 603.
- For a sampling of these early premillennial writings, see Renald E. Showers, There Really Is a Difference! (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 1990), 119-26.
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V, chap. 33, section 3 in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. By Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Buffalo, NY: The Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1885), I, 562-63.
- Harnack, “Millennium,” XVI, 316.