Millenialism in Britain
Fred C. Melton
The millennial spirit is quite a real problem in England today. Apart from our own brethren, I do believe that every other single group in this country embraces the millennial theory in one or more of its varied forms.
Every time a promising contact is made and points of agreement are gradually expanded-lo and behold-they begin energetically to affirm the second coming of Christ for the purpose of establishing His kingdom on earth. It has been my sad and unfortunate experience to find that one who has been indoctrinated in this false theory is not easily dissuaded from those beliefs.
A close study of Revelation 20 reveals that there is, in fact, no millennium at all. The millennial theory is simply a materialistic manifestation of spiritual truths. Blackstone, a pre-millennialist leader of a generation ago, rightly observed that "pre-millennial Christians hold much in common with the Jews." That is, they both expect the Messiah to set up a physical kingdom on earth and reject the Lord's own teachings concerning the spiritual nature of His kingdom.
The pre-millennialist expects the kingdom to be set up after Christ's return to Jerusalem, while a varied form of the theory (called post-millennialism by Blackstone) correctly suggests that the church is the kingdom but misrepresents it as a civil kingdom intended to embrace the entire world. The common bond between these two theories is materialism. It is but a short span from one to the other and they are often confused in the mind of the millennialist.
The Catholic church has through the years been the principal advocate of the so-called "post-millennial" theory. For example, when Augustine met and "converted" Ethelbert, the Saxon king of Kent in 597 A.D., all the King's subjects followed his example and became "Christians." Kent (England) was then called a "Christian" nation. Again, a nation of people would be conquered by the sword and forced to become "Christians." This is what the Catholic church has in mind when it talks about the conversion of the world to the kingdom of Christ.
The views of the reformers were little improved for they consistently sought to establish religio-civil states such as Calvin's Geneva, Zwingle in Zurich, Knox in Scotland and Cromwell and the Puritans in England. Thus, the foundations of millennialism have been well-formed in England for many centuries.
Building, as it were, upon the doctrinal foundations of their fathers, modern millennialists in Britain have centered their speculations upon the European Common Market alliance as being a prophetic "sign of the times" "heralding the coming of Christ. The Common Market is a mutual trading federation of nine European countries governed by specific laws first formulated by the "treaty of Rome" in 1957. According to the millennials, the Common Market is made up of the same countries that constituted the old Roman Empire. In actual fact, the market nowhere near occupies the same territory nor the same government structure as did ancient Rome, but this does not dampen the spirits of the speculators. Of course, the presence of the state of Israel in Palestine has for many years been the keynote of their endless propaganda campaign throughout the English religious community. Modern millennialists are forever busy sowing their doctrine of the material reign of Christ into well prepared ground and are able to popularize their doctrines by making application of every current political development from the Six Day War to Northern Ireland. No one seems to notice that such "signs of the times" have not revealed Christ's imminent return for over 2,000 years now.
British Israelism or the idea that Britain is God's modern Israel is practically a dead force in England today. This school of thought found its greatest expression during the Victorian era while the Empire was in full swing. Since the decline of the Empire, the British people in general have assumed an open-minded, almost repentant attitude by accepting the world community concept that all men may believe what they want to and still remain God's children.,
The churches of Christ, therefore, remain the only voice in Britain today calling for a complete return to New Testament Christianity urging men everywhere to obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and be added to His spiritual kingdom, the church, then be received into eternal heavenly habitations when Jesus returns to receive His own.
Truth Magazine, XVIII:40, p. 12