Our blessed hope is now considered terrorism
On 12 December 2022, four Queensland police officers attended a property for, what we are told, was a routine missing person check. The property that the police entered was occupied by three people – Gareth, Nathaniel and Stacey Train. Including the police officers and the occupiers, seven people were on that property on that fateful day. By the time the day ended, only two were alive. Gareth, Nathaniel and Stacey lay dead, as did two of the police officers. According to the official report, the police officers were shot by the Train family, as was a sixth victim, a neighbour, who heard the commotion and went to investigate. It was described as one of Australia’s darkest days.
Australia has very strict gun laws, so a violent shooting of this nature is somewhat rare. The catalyst for tightening gun ownership in Australia was an event known as the Port Arthur massacre. According to the official account, on 28 April 1996, a lone gunman killed 35 people. In just 12 days after the massacre, all Australian states and territories came together to establish a National Firearms Agreement. The Agreement restricted ownership of automatic and semi-automatic weapons and made it harder to obtain a gun licence. Central to the success of the Government’s plans was a gun buy-back scheme. It resulted in the destruction of over a million guns.
As with any crime, one of the key principles of investigation revolves around motive. Since the slaying of police officers in Australia is incredibly rare, many were keen for answers. What would compel otherwise quiet Australians to commit what many in the community considered a heinous crime? Imagine our surprise when the Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Tracy Linford fronted the media to conclude that the trio were religious extremists who subscribed to “a broad Christian fundamentalist belief system known as premillennialism”. Wait. What!? Never have I heard Premillennialism described as extremist ideology. So, for the benefit of those who are not aware of the term, let’s seek to understand the basis for this belief.
Premillennialism is the belief that Jesus Christ will return physically to the Earth in order to institute His 1,000-year reign of peace and righteousness upon the Earth in fulfilment of Scripture. This is affirmed in Revelation 20:1-6. But the coming kingdom is not only dealt with in the New Testament. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos and Zechariah all deal with promises concerning the coming kingdom. During this era the world will flourish under the rule of the Prince of Peace, basking in peace and prosperity. Although some people ascribe to the Amillennial and Postmillennial view, my firm belief is that Premillennialism is consistent with a plain reading of Scripture.
Charles C Ryrie defines the Premillennial view in this way: “The millennium is the period of a thousand years of the visible, earthly reign of the Lord Jesus Christ who, after His return from heaven, will fulfill during that period the promises contained in the Abrahamic, Davidic and new covenants to Israel, will bring the whole world to a knowledge of God and will lift the curse from the whole creation.” But to be clear, I hold a dispensational premillennial position as opposed to historic premillennialism. You see, historic premillennialists do not distinguish between Israel and the church, therefore believing that the church will endure the Tribulation Period. On the other hand, dispensational premillennialists consistently distinguish Israel from the church and for this reason we believe the church will be raptured into the Lord’s presence before the beginning of the Tribulation Period (ie the 70th week of Daniel).
Now that we have established the Biblical definition of Premillennialism, let’s continue with the statement made by the Deputy Commissioner of the Queensland Police Service. Ms Linford said this: “In its basic interpretation, there was a belief that Christ will return to the Earth…and provide peace and prosperity but it will be preceded by an era, or a period of time of tribulation, widespread destruction and suffering.” Ms Linford’s statement clearly accords with our understanding concerning the unfolding Biblical timeline. I believe that the Scriptures teach there will be a rapture of the church, followed by the rise of the Antichrist and the confirmation of the covenant of Daniel 9:27 which begins the Tribulation Period. The Tribulation Period will indeed be a time of untold horror, death, destruction and judgement. At the conclusion of the seven-year Tribulation Period, Christ will return, Satan will be bound and the millennium will begin. So, as we can see, Ms Linford’s conclusions were ultimately correct. But her assertion that Premillennialists are violent is so far off the mark that Martyn Iles of the Australian Christian Lobby forcefully responded by saying: “We’re living in clown world. In Ancient Rome, the authorities blamed Christianity for the evils of their day because they either hated it, or were totally ignorant concerning it. I guess history can repeat.”
Evidently attempting to draw a link between far-right and religious extremism with Premillennial beliefs, Josh Roose (associate professor of politics at Deakin University) said the trio would have believed the world was corrupt and fast imploding. He said, “It is a Christian belief that in effect, the world is so corrupt, so evil, so beyond repair that at some point, in the near future, we’re facing the implosion of the world effectively….an apocalyptic event and that Jesus will return to the Earth. Historically, cults and apocalyptic cults and so-on have always looked to what’s going on in the world around them and drawn upon that as evidence for the world ending.” But the most laughable statement was yet to come: “They’re poorly understood and really, there’s not a lot known about to what extent they’re present.” Here’s an idea – had the Deputy Commissioner or Mr Roose reached out to Christian leaders they could have been easily educated on the fact that not only is Premillennialism a mainstream Protestant belief, but it poses no threat to government or police because it does not espouse premediated murder or violence in any way. In fact, the irony is that the world will be so peaceful during the Millennial Reign of Christ that police will probably not even be required!
The Queensland Police Service have now painted a clear target on every sincere Christian who holds to the teaching of Premillennialism by connecting this belief to terrorism. And in an ominous tone, she said that to be on the radar of police, “you don’t have to be part of a group”. In other words, your local pastor who teaches about the blessed hope of Christ’s return may soon be watched very closely by law enforcement.