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V-E Day and the End of the World

May 7, 2010

Sixty-five years ago the world celebrated Victory in Europe Day. On May 8, 1945, the official surrender of Germany was accepted by the Allies, and war in Europe was over. (It would take another three months before Japan finally surrendered.) Thus ended a six-year war which cost around 60 million deaths.

May 8, 1945 witnessed dancing in the streets in numerous European cities, and celebrations around the world. It marked the end of the world’s most bloody conflict, and put a stop to Hitler’s nefarious plans. In many ways V-E Day had begun a year earlier, when D-Day was launched in June 6, 1944. This was the beginning of the end of Hitler’s murderous regime as the Allies sought to retake land held by the Nazis.

The rapturous celebration which took place 65 years ago offers a powerful image of what will occur at the end of this present evil age. The Christian take on human history is that this long period of enemy occupation will not go on forever, but one day Satan will be routed and King Jesus will again take his rightful place on planet earth. This will be the real V-E Day: Victory on Earth Day.

ve day 3If the second coming of Christ to earth to finally and fully defeat the works of darkness can be likened to V-E day 1945, then his first coming and his work at Calvary can be likened to D-Day, 1944. When Jesus came the first time he assured the world that the works of the enemy were being undone, and one day his ugly influence would be no more. It was the beginning of the end of the dark kingdom as Jesus offered his life a sacrifice for our sins 2,000 years ago.

And just as the Allied soldiers were retaking lost territory and reclaiming land from the enemy between the two famous Days, so too believers are repossessing the land between these two advents. Jesus had the victory at Calvary, but we are his foot soldiers performing the mopping up operations. We are his soldiers, reclaiming territory taken by the enemy.

There are many important theological truths contained in all this powerful imagery. It was Oscar Cullmann in his book Christ and Time (1950) that first made this now famous analogy from World War II. He sought to present a picture of biblical eschatology that made sense of the two advents of Christ. He argued that the cross and resurrection are to D-Day what the end of history is to VE-Day.

We are living between two key moments in history. The old age remains but the new age has been inaugurated at the cross. Thus we live between the times, and are dwelling in two ages. The old age remains, but has been dealt a death blow. However, the final consummation of the new age still awaits us.

Theologians speak about the “already, and not yet”. Already the new age has dawned, because of Christ’s first coming, but the new age is not yet complete. We await the second coming before we see all things put under His feet. Victory is assured because of Calvary, but final triumph will not come until Christ’s Parousia.

This helps to explain a lot of mysteries in the Christian life. If Jesus had the victory 2,000 years ago, why don’t we always see victory now in this life? Why is there still sin, sickness, suffering and death? The concept of “living between the ages” explains much of this.

Many New Testament scholars and commentators have spoken to this theme. N.T Wright for example puts it this way: “The early church held on firmly to both sides of the apparent paradox: the end had happened; the end was yet to come. Paul writes from prison about his present suffering at the hands of persecutors and also about the triumphant victory that Jesus won on the cross over the principalities and powers. This is utterly characteristic. Both sides must be given the same stress.”

J.I. Packer, writing in relation to the “wretched man” of Romans 7, expresses it this way: “All the thinking of the New Testament writers, Paul’s as much as any, moves within the frame of ‘inaugurated eschatology’ – that is, it involves recognition that through the Spirit Christians enjoy the firstfruits, foretaste, initial installment, and dawning enjoyment of the life of the new aeon, the kingdom era of redeemed existence, while the old aeon, the era of existence spoiled by sin, continues, and the fullness of the new aeon remains future. The two ages overlap, and Christians are anchored in both, so that language proper to both is appropriate, indeed necessary, for describing their condition theologically.”

This understanding of the “already, and not yet” helps us guard against two unbiblical extremes: undue despair (pessimism) and undue optimism (triumphalism). There certainly is victory in Christ, so we can see real success and triumph. But we still live in a fallen world, awaiting the final consummation of all things, so we will also see setbacks, disappointments and losses.

John Stott puts it this way: “Many Christians choose one or other of these positions, or oscillate unsteadily between them. Some are triumphalists, who see only the decisive victory of Jesus Christ and overlook the apostolic warnings against the powers of darkness. Others are defeatists, who see only the fearsome malice of the devil and overlook the victory over him which Christ has already won. The tension is part of the Christian dilemma between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’. . . . An overemphasis on the ‘already’ leads to triumphalism, the claim of perfection – either moral (sinlessness) or physical (complete health) – which belongs only to the consummated kingdom, the ‘not yet’. An overemphasis on the ‘not yet’ leads to defeatism, an acquiescence in continuing evil which is incompatible with the ‘already’ of Christ’s.”

Consider a practical issue in this regard – divine healing. Why is it that some people get healed and some don’t? Why is healing, like everything else, only partial, incomplete and temporary? Lazarus, who was raised from the dead, presumably died again. We all grow old and we all die. Was this not meant to be dealt with at Calvary?

The “living between the ages” framework helps us to make sense of all this and get some balance. Yes death was conquered at the cross, but as long as we live between the ages, we will still be subject to physical death. So too, we will have our share of suffering, sickness and adversity.

As Ken Blue explains, “The ministry of healing, like all other aspects of Christian ministry and experience, is partial, provisional and ambiguous. . . . We see the now-and-not-yet nature of the kingdom not just through our ministries but also in our personal experience of salvation. . . . Freedom from sin and sickness is eschatological – that is, it comes finally and fully only with the eschaton, the end of time that comes with the return of Jesus Christ. Full freedom will only come with our resurrection.”

Of course to say all of this is not to deny that God wants to act mightily on behalf of his people. All of this is not to deny the miraculous nor to deny the Spirit’s empowerment in believer’s lives. If over-emphasising the ‘now’ is a danger of the health and wealth gospel, over-emphasising the ‘not yet’ is a danger of much non-charismatic Christianity. Too much powerless Christianity seems to be the norm today. Thus we owe the health and wealth gospellers some credit for a revitalised interest in faith and the Spirit’s work in our lives. A balance, in other words, is what is needed. Thus we need to avoid both an under-realised and an over-realised eschatology.

As Gordon Fee puts it, on the one side, there is “a strong tendency to leave God’s people to ‘slug it out in the trenches’ more or less on their own, with some lip service paid to the Spirit but with little of the Pauline experience of the Spirit as the empowering presence of God. On the other side lie some equally strong tendencies toward triumphalism, especially in a culture like late-twentieth America, where pain of any kind is rejected as a form of evil and where suffering is to be avoided at all costs. . . . The result on this side is something of an ‘over-realized’ eschatological perspective, with an unPauline view of the Spirit as present in power which negates weakness in the present as something dishonoring to God.”

One day Victory on Earth will happen when Christ returns. All true followers of Jesus eagerly await that day and look forward to the final consummation of all things, as the enemy is finally put down and Jesus takes up his rightful rule on planet earth. There will be plenty of dancing on the streets when that occurs.

But in the meantime a war is still waging, and we are all called to do our part – as Christ’s foot soldiers – to reclaim enemy territory for Christ and His Kingdom. We are all in a war, and there is no time for sitting on the fence or opting out of the battle. We will get wounded along the way, and have many scars. Many casualties will occur.

But Calvary is our guarantee of the final victory. The first coming of Christ was D-Day for planet earth. Perhaps soon, it will be V-E Day. Let us continue to fight while the battle is raging. Too much is at stake to seek to stay on the sidelines. We fight with the certain knowledge that victory is assured, and one day there will be genuine peace in our time.

[1624 words]

10 Responses to V-E Day and the End of the World

  • Thanks Bill
    The scholars you have quoted are those who have helped me a lot to get a better understanding of scripture.
    The balanced view you have espoused needs to be preached clearly among the Lord’s people, so that they/we can live and pray more effectively. The pie in the sky when we die needs to give place to present day living and praying in preparation for the new heaven’s and earth.
    Wilfred Parmenter

  • Many thanks Wilfred.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill

    I am not sure what others think of Molotov Mitchell but this video is certainly relevant to your article;

    http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=146721

    Damien Spillane

  • Thanks Bill, yet again. We are truly called to live a Pilgrim’s Progress!
    John McCarthy

  • Thanks for this article, Bill. It is always good to be reminded of the errors of defeatism and triumphalism.
    Damien Spillane’s link was interesting. I clicked and saw Molotov Mitchell. My comment is that we have not been told by Jesus to fight for the planet. We have been told to believe in God and to obey Jesus/God. Some are called to confront massive evil. We have all been called to obey God. Whether or not the rapture will occur is not known. Pointers to it as a possibility are the provision of Noah’s ark for believers and God’s saving of the Israelites from the plagues He sent to Pharoah and Egypt. This does not mean that Christians should aim to avoid trouble. But it is socialists/communists who put exactly the same burden on everyone. God doesn’t do that. He calls different people for different tasks and acts of service. He calls everyone to honour Him in all they do.
    Angela Parham

  • Dear Bill I lived through the days of the eclipse of Nazi world dominance to the freedom after the second world war. it is a striking illustration of emancipation after gruesome sacrifice. Calvary to our Lord rising again.
    You have unearthed a major deficiency in our understanding of the eternal Word. Soon the rapture of our Lord Jesus will secretly raise past saints from the grave and catch away the living ones to meet the Bridegroom in the air. Smog over Iceland, earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, plus tsunami in our region are preparatory. Our preaching whispers these mighty events. The trumpet is silent.
    Russia re-exerts its eminence, courting Turkey and Iran.
    UK is spiritually sterile, (hung parliament), while European nations are economically and spiritually sterile.
    USA president, denying its glorious constitutional heritage, while our beloved nation denies the freedom of which we boasted. Christ Jesus,come quickly. Come!
    Churches do not hear the Revelation opened, so its marvelous contents are ignorantly with held.
    Seven years of tribulation, with Antichrist usurping power and reigning in Jerusalem: the Lord of glory gloriously defeating the powers of darkness at Armageddon; and Christ reigning for 1000 years from His throne at Jerusalem. Disowned today, then the new heavens and earth will descend from heaven.
    Bill we threw dispensational teaching out over 50 years; yet we are passing through the embryological days preceding the birth of these events.
    Sir, will you please advise us of the great scholarly teachers of these precious, timely truths. Our hearts will burn within us, while He talks with us, and opens the Scriptures.
    Harrold Steward

  • C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, chapter 10:

    “Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realise what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else–something it never entered your head to conceive — comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realised it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last for ever. We must take it or leave it.”

    Yes, I believe Molotov Mitchell was right to quote “on earth as it is in heaven” and that plea for God’s name to be hallowed, His will and kingdom to come are for now. We are mandated also to set the prisoners free and fight oppression in all its forms. Now.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Wilfred Parmenter, yes this view needs to be preached clearly. Bill, thanks for the way you unpacked this ‘view’.
    Stan Fishley

  • Thanks Bill for such a balanced article. Certainly more healing occurs when Christians believe it and seek it. But healing is not automatic and it’s cruel to tell a person that he/she hasn’t enough faith.

    Are you familiar with the book “Power Healing” by John Wimber? In Appendix B he summarises the healings of Jesus in the 4 Gospels. It seems that in only 7 cases the person’s faith was a factor, 13 times it was the faith of others, 6 times through the preaching of Jesus and 20 times through Jesus speaking the word out of sheer compassion. (There is some overlapping here.)

    Graham Lawn

  • So proud to attend, listen and witness to your debate the other night. I truly hope that I am one of the lucky souls that will be standing behind you in the queue on that narrow road to Heaven, as I am certain that you will be “right up the front!”
    Jane Byrne

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