Been awhile since I've posted any thoughts from The City of God: this partly due to some other reading (and other time investments), and partly to a long segue by Augustine to explore the history of the two cities from Old Testament prophecy down even to the end of the world. Many of his historical observations are a bit mystical for my taste, but some of his thoughts on eschatology highlight the historical ignorance of dispensational premillennialsm. And while Augustine doesn't invest a lot of time defining his own eschatology, he does spend much of book 18 criticizing those who think they can predict the timing of the last days based on persecutions or any other metric. We might think modern teachers of biblical prophecy clever and original when they line up their numerology just so, proclaiming that the end of the world is at hand; but Augustine's lack of patience for the doomsayers and numerologists of his day shows that there's really nothing new under the sun:
I do not think persecutions were prophetically signified by what was done in Egypt, however nicely and ingeniously those who think so may have compared the two in detail, not by the prophetic Spirit, but by the conjecture of the human mind, which sometimes hits the truth, and sometimes is deceived.
We've all heard it said that the ongoing wars and rumors of wars across the globe are the harbinger of failing world powers and ultimately the end of the world... but keep in mind that Augustine was writing just after the fall of Rome. Civilization as they knew it was crumbling before their very eyes!
It is customary to ask, When shall that [the end of the final persecution] be? But this is quite unreasonable. For had it been profitable for us to know this, by whom could it better have been told than by God Himself, the Master, when the disciples questioned Him?
And just as some in our day claim to have figured out God's timeline, Augustine had to deal with the same presumptuous "scholarship" in his day.
Yet some have said that four hundred, some five hundred, others a thousand years, may be completed from the ascension of the Lord up to His final coming. But to point out how each of them supports his own opinion would take too long, and is not necessary; for indeed they use human conjectures, and bring forward nothing certain from the authority of the canonical Scriptures. But on this subject He puts aside the figures of the calculators, and orders silence, who says, "It is not for you to know the times, which the Father hath put in His own power."
Why try to use math, newsreel, or clever prophetic conjecture to make the scriptures say something they don't actually say; particularly when God has already told us that it's not for us to know?
5 years ago