IS THE CHURCH CALLED TO SUFFER?

PMT 2014-094 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.Weeping

Most non–postmillennial eschatologies argue that the church is called to endure suffering throughout the entirety of history. They argue that they are optimistic, in that the church has a hope for glory, though only beyond the present era and after the return of Christ. By this maneuver they attempt to discount charges of pessimism against their position, while simultaneously seeking to undermine the postmillennial system. If this is so, no room exists in the biblical view of the church for a long era of righteousness, peace, and prosperity.

In this brief series of articles I will be responding to the very widespread argument for the suffering-church motif. To set the table, let us first note many proponents of this motif:

William Hendriksen teaches as strongly as conceivable that the gospel age “will finally result in the complete destruction of the church as a mighty and influential organization for the spread of the Gospel. For, finally every tribe and people and tongue and nation will worship antichristian government.” (Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors, 178)

Herman Ridderbos, on the basis of Matthew 10:23, notes: “Jesus is here predicting persecution to the end, although they will always have a refuge to flee to.” (Ridderbos, Coming of the Kingdom, 507)


Wall of Misconception: Separation of Church and State
(by Peter Lillback)
Examines our nation’s historic understanding of and the founding fathers intention in the
relationship of our Constitution to matters of faith, ethics, and morals,
taking into account the historical and biblical context as well as
the concept s relation to today’s culture.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Richard Gaffin vigorously states this viewpoint: “Over the interadvental period in its entirety, from beginning to end, a fundamental aspect of the church’s existence is (to be) ‘suffering with Christ’; nothing, the New Testament teaches, is more basic to its identity than that” (Gaffin in Will Barker, Theonomy, 211 (emph. mine). Gaffin calls this his “most substantial reservation” to postmillennialism (Gaffin, in Barker, Theonomy, 250).

Fowler White argues that “the forces of evil [will] gather strength, especially toward the end” (White, “Agony, Irony, and Victory,” WTJ, 167). Strimple holds that we should look for “persecution, apostasy, Antichrist . . . [as] essential elements in the New Testament picture of the last days.” (Strimple in Bock, Three Views on the Millennium, 64)

White approvingly cites G. K. Beale: “the exercise of rule in this kingdom begins and continues only as one faithfully endures tribulation.” (White, “Agony, Irony, and Victory,” 174)

Kim Riddlebarger concurs: “If the church is to suffer with Christ until his return, this undercuts the triumphalism of postmillennialism.” (Riddlebarger, Case for Amillennialism, 127)

Gaffin establishes his case on the basis of three important passages of Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:7ff.; Philippians 3:10; and Romans 8:17ff. How shall the postmillennialist respond to this biblically-rooted theological observation?


Amillennialism v. Postmillennialism Debate (DVD by Gentry and Gaffin)
Formal, public debate between Dr. Richard Gaffin (Westminster Theological Seminary) and
Kenneth Gentry at the Van Til Conference in Maryland.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


This is clearly a widespread claim. And one that seems perfectly compatible with the church’s history thus far. How can the postmillennialist respond. You will have to wait until the next article!

But since you are here, why not listen to a joke?

TOP TEN WAYS YOU KNOW YOU’RE IN A BAD CHURCH

10. The church bus has gun racks.
9. The church staff consists of Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor and Socio-pastor.
8. The Bible they use is the “Dr. Seuss Version.”
7. There’s an ATM in the lobby.
6. Choir wears leather robes.
5. Worship services are B.Y.O.S. — “Bring Your Own Snake.”
4. No cover charge, but communion is a two-drink minimum.
3. Karaoke Worship Time.
2. Ushers ask, “Smoking or Non-smoking?”
1. The only song the organist knows is “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”

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2 thoughts on “IS THE CHURCH CALLED TO SUFFER?

  1. Neal Sloan August 6, 2014 at 5:26 am

    But I want to know now :-), looking forward to tomorrow’s article.

  2. Kenneth Gentry August 6, 2014 at 9:19 am

    I will send it to you yesterday! 🙂

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