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WILL HE FIND FAITH?

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  April 3, 2012 — 2 Comments

Luke 18:8 is a favorite text for dispensationalists and their objection to the optimism of postmillennialism. On the surface this verse seems to contradict the hope-filled historical expectations of postmillennialism. But does it?

I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)

Regarding this verse dispensationalists House and Ice argue that: “This is ‘an inferential question to which a negative answer is expected.’ So this passage is saying that at the second coming Christ will not find, literally, ‘the faith’ upon the earth.”(1) Were this the case, postmillennialism would certainly be mistaken, for how could Christians be optimistic if the entire Christian faith is prophetically determined to disappear from the earth? Unfortunately for the pessimistic readings of this passage, this is not the case as we may see from the following observations:

First, this objection misses the point of Christ’s question. This passage is not dealing with Christianity’s future existence as such. In the context, the Lord is dealing with the matter of fervent prayer. In the Greek “faith” has a definite article before it, thus it refers to the faith already mentioned: the faith of the praying widow in Christ’s parable: “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Christ’s teaching is not touching on the question whether or not the Christian faith exists in the future, but rather: Will Christians still be persevering in prayer?

Second, this objection misconstrues the grammar in Christ’s question. We must note that the form of Christ’s question does not expect a “negative answer.” It is not a rhetorical question. The Funk-Blass-Debrunner Greek grammar notes that when an interrogative particle is used, as in Luke 18:8, “ou is employed to suggest an affirmative answer, me (meti) a negative reply.”(2) But neither of these particles occurs here. Thus, the implied answer to the question is “ambiguous,”(3) because the Greek word used here (ara) implies only “a tone of suspense or impatience in interrogation.”(4)

Third, this objection misunderstands the goal in Christ’s question. Christ appears to be focusing on his imminent coming in judgment upon Israel, not his distant second advent to end history. Christ clearly speaks of a soon vindication of his people, who cry out to him: “I tell you that He will avenge them speedily” (Luke 18:8a; cp. Rev 1:1; 6:9–10). He is urging his disciples to endure in prayer through the troublesome times coming upon them, just as he does in Matthew 24:13, which speaks of the first century generation (Matt 24:34). In fact, the preceding context of Luke 18  speaks of Jerusalem’s destruction (Luke 17:22–37).

Fourth, this objection overlooks the implication contained in Christ’s question. In the final analysis, no evangelical millennial view supposes that absolutely no faith will exist on the earth at the Lord’s return. Yet, to read the postmillennial objectors, Luke 18:8 and its supposedly negative answer, one would surmise that Christianity will be totally and absolutely dead at his return.



Footnotes

1. H. Wayne House and Thomas D. Ice, Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse? (Portland, Ore.: Multnomah, 1988), 229.

2. Blass and A. DeBrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. and ed. by Robert W. Funk (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), 226.

3. Funk, Greek Grammar, 226.

4.F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (2d. ed.: Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 127.

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

2 responses to WILL HE FIND FAITH?

  1. Don Vander Jagt April 3, 2012 at 6:30

    A most interesting read. Having recently begun to study on my own prophecy concerning our Lord’s return, and finding much of what I have been taught over the years to be erroneous, and having been dismissed out of hand by many friends and family, reading what you have written is like a breath of fresh air. One can begin to wonder if he’s lost his understanding when being rebuked time and again.
    Please accept an observation from the Scripture, considerate it, and return a word or two with your view.
    Luke 18: 8 Was actually a troublesome verse to me as a premillennialist before I began to study the Scripture for myself. It was then that this verse fell neatly into place as far as my understanding of the Scriptures is concerned. As I looked carefully at the prophecy especially in the book of Revelation, going through the seals, the trumpets, the bowls and the woes it began to dawn on me that the Scripture continued to identify believers in every case. Either outright or by implication believers are identified right up until the destruction of Babylon in Chapter 18, we read about the believers in verse four, “come out of her My people”. It is not until after His people are called out of Babylon, (I believe this is what is often called the rapture, quite clearly spelled out for us in 2nd Thes. 2) that we no longer read of believers on earth, so yes when He returns there will not be believers on earth.
    Now as I understand it it is not until after the destruction of Babylon that our Lord returns, and this is how I came to that conclusion.
    In Chapter 16 we read of the bowls of God’s wrath which I understand is initial information concerning the final judgments, notice in verse 15 we read once again “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” Then in chapter 17 almost like an intermission we get information leading up to the events of chapter 18. The way has been cleared for the next to final battle before the thousand years. In Chapter 18 the 10 wicked kings and the beast are used by God to destroy Babylon, after which according to Chapter 19 our Lord will return with His army, His Church destroying the wicked King’s and subduing the beast and his ilk preparing the way for His 1000 year reign on earth.

  2. Great article Dr. Gentry my amill pastor has thrown that one at me to. My wife just got me to new books postmillennialism made easy , and Gods law in the modern world , can’t wait to get in them .

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