The Politics of the “New Heavens, New Earth” (1913 Stone-Campbell Book)

Peter Jay Martin, following in the footsteps of his father Joseph Lemuel Martin, authored a book that surveyed Revelation. Published by the McQuiddy Company (the Gospel Advocate publisher) in 1913, it was entitled The Mystery Finished, or The New Heavens and the New Earth. Peter’s book is not as well known as his father’s (The Voice of the Seven Thunders), but it was published in Nashville and advertised in Wallace’s Bible Banner as late as the early 1940s. Both Martins read Revelation, like Alexander Campbell, in the continuous-historical tradition, that is, Revelation is a “historfy of the church of Christ from A. D. 98 to its final trimuph” (Mystery, v).

Both were postmillennialists, like Alexander Campbell. They both envisioned a triumphant church upon the earth before the second coming of Christ.When Satan is released at the end of the 1000 years and the nations gather to assault the Church, then Christ will come to defeat Satan, raise the dead and judge humanity.

But they differed on the nature of the “new heavens and new earth.” P. J. identified the new earth with the postmillennial reign of Christ through the church while J. L. believed the new earth is the new creation of God after the first earth was “gone.” J. L. was uncertain whether the new earth would be created out of the materials of the old or out of nothing, but he was convinced that the new material earth would be the eternal dwelling place of God with humanity.

P. J.’s understanding is more political than J. L.’s. The story of the emerging “new earth” is a “political” one where the “everlasting kingdom cut out of the mountain without hands shall fill the whole earth” (Mystery, 9). According to P.J., the present “political conditions” are demonic (Mystery, 174):

A government of the reich, by the rich, and for the rich, in which women and children, little children, slave in the cruelest form, for the most menial wage; exploited without voice, & forever beyond the hope of redress, because the courts of injustice are moved by the rich, and legislation, desired to control and limit exploitation, is, as was understood before the enactment of these laws, held as unconstitutional, or by injunction without law, leaves the poor wage worker in the position of an outlaw; while, in addition to receiving the lowest remuneration(!) for his labor, he is also made to pay the highest price for the poorest quality of all necessities of life.

The postmillennial kingdom of Christ–which is the new heavens and new earth– will involve a “radical change” such that there will be “no exploitation; no separation of parents and children, no foreclosing of mortgages, no sorrow nor crying” (Mystery, 179). P. J. Martin hopes for a political culture governed by the gospel as the church rather than the nations becomes “the political organization” that is “for the uplifting of the poor and needy and that stands for justice between man and man and between the rich and the poor” (Mystery, 180). In this way Christians will “posses the earth” (Mystery, 183) because in that postmillenial reign “the church has absorbed the world” (Mystery, 196).

P. J. has no confidence that the nations as political entities will serve the poor or place others first. Only people transformed by the gospel are able to serve out the self-emptying spirit that energizes the gospel itself. He writes (Mystery, 199):

…when this old world has been gospelized; ‘when every man seeks not his own, but another’s wealth;’ when men do unto others thus; every man seeking the welfare of the other man, thus fulfiling in acts, in actuality, the Golden Rule in doing unto other as you would have the other do to you, the gospel triumphant from the rivers to the ends of the earth, his will done on earth as in heaven, for which the writer ever prays in an absolute faith, then he has as lief live in Okalahoma as to go to heaven.

When the “whole world,” this world, becomes the “habitation of God” in the postmillennial kingdom, “surely [even] Oklahoma will be good enough for us” (Mystery, 215). This is the “blessed hope of a redeemed earth–’the new heaven and new earth’” (Mystery, 221).

The millennium–which precedes the second coming of Jesus–is a political embodiment of the gospel. There all the hopes of the prophets are fulfilled in the reign of Christ through the triumphant church. The gospel, in this vision, is both “political” and “religious.”



10 Responses to “The Politics of the “New Heavens, New Earth” (1913 Stone-Campbell Book)”

  1.   Randall Says:

    JMH,
    Thanks for the new post. I am curious as to whether postmils were regarded/treated better than or the same as premils during that time of controversy in the Churches of Christ. I believe that was back during the 1930s.
    Hesed,
    Randall

    • Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      Randall, as far as I know, postmillennialism had no major presence after WWI. I may be mistaken about that, but to the best of my memory that is so. There were some “continuous-historical” commentaries on Revelation (John T. Hinds in the Gospel Advocate series) but I think they were amillennialist in understanding (Hinds is). So, as far as I know, postmillennialists were not involved in the millennial controversies of the 1920s-1940s. I think WWI was death to many postmillennialists.

      •   The Itinerant Mind Says:

        “I think WWI was death to many postmillennialists.”

        As it was for a lot of optimistic ideologies on a global scale.

      •   Michael Gilroy Says:

        Thanks Mark! It is interesting to hear the history on this having been in CoC and Harding most of my young life. I’m definitely interested in the source (personal, theological and biblical?!), of what seems to be the recurring premillennialism and amillenialism common in the CoC. Is there any hermenuetical link and tendency of making everything that cannot be readily explained or defended an allegory?

        • Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

          Premillennialism (Stone) was with Stone-Campbell from the beginning as was postmillennialism (Campbell); even Scott wavered between them but was ultimately postmillennial.

          Amillennial, however, is practically 20th century and was adopted with the rise of dispensational premillennialism.

          I think the theological move was rooted in a spiritualized hermeneutic (thus, one could not read any of the OT prophecies materialistically but only spiritually–they were about the church rather than the millennium or eternal state) and a need to protect the centrality of our ecclesiology. These two points grounded amillennialism.

  2.   baltimoreguy99 Says:

    I appreciate so much your bringing this forgotten part of our history to light. I believe that the eventual over reaction in the bulk of Churches of Christ against the dispensationalism of R.H. Boll that Foy Wallace, Jr. orchestrated has biased us down to this day against an objective consideration of the very real possibility that heaven will be here on a new or renewed earth. Even Church of Christ progressives have generally disparaged anything tainted with premillenial thought although the historic premillenialism of the early centuries of the church is far different than than Darby’s invention of dispensationalism in the 19th century. Even Augustine, the father of amillenialism, believed that Christ would return to this earth and reign over the new heavens and earth on this very planet.

  3.   baltimoreguy99 Says:

    Anyone who thinks that all premillenial themes are inescapably linked to fundamentalism should read The Coming of God by Jurgen Moltmann. While Moltmann is hard to label and would probably not call himself premillenial he strongly disparages amillenialism as a usurpation by the church of the biblical vision of Christ’s coming kingdom. If we have the fullness of the promised kingdom realized now in the church why strive against poverty and injustice? But if we are awaiting the return of Christ and the consummation of his kingdom where righteousness and justice will finally be at home then we will give this present world a foretaste of that righteousness and justice even now. This linkage between our present lives and Christ’s coming kingdom is the basis of Christ’s teaching in Matthew 25.

    • Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      Thanks for your comments. There are strong historic dimensions to renewed creation theology, including the Greek Orthodox Church, leading thinkers in medieval Roman Catholicism and the Reformed tradition. In fact, much of Fundamentalism rejects renewed creation theology as too materialistic and “this-worldly.”

      •   baltimoreguy99 Says:

        That is very good to know. I have been discouraged over the years by the quick dismissal in Churches of Christ of thinking associated with historic premillenialism on the one hand and an embrace of preterism on the other hand. Hopefully that is changing.

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