Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is Sacramental Millennialism an Oxymoron?

Is it possible to be a millennialist and still hold to the sacraments?
This thought occurred to me today. If you are a millennialist, you are looking for Christ to come and establish His supposed 1,000 year reign on earth. If that’s the eschatology you’re waiting for, then the eternal is not (and cannot be?) something that breaks into the here and now. For a millennialist, there is no now and not yet - there is only not yet.
But doesn’t that militate against a proper understanding of the sacraments? For in the sacraments, the not yet, the eternal, is breaking into the now through water, words, and bread and wine. We don’t have to wait for Christ to come and establish His kingdom on earth, He is doing so already!
Luther said this in the explanation to the Second Petition: How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.
And so God gives us His Spirit here and now through Holy Baptism. We hear the judgment of the last day in the words of Holy Absolution. We receive a foretaste of the feast to come in the Holy Supper. In all these ways, the not yet is now, the end is breaking into the present, and the kingdom of God is coming to us.
To me, that seems diametrically opposed to any kind of millennial understanding. Is this why it’s often so hard to talk to evangelicals of this mindset? 
More to come as I have time to think . . . but I think this is important and there is a great need for us to think about this: How to speak Lutheran to an Evangelical?

1 comment:

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Great post! I have often noted that the irony for "millennialists" is that they're so focused on their imagined eschatology that they fail to see the eschatological reality already present in Christ' Church, where He is with us always, as He promised. Thus, there's really nothing truly eschatological about this group that devotes their every last ounce of energy focusing on eschatology. Ironic indeed! :)