End Times - Postmillennialism - 4 Christian Views of the End (Part 6)
End Times – Postmillennialism – Four Christian Views of the End – (Part 6)
3) What is Postmillennialism?
a. Postmillennialism, or postmillenarianism, is an interpretation of chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation which sees Christ's second coming as occurring after (post) the "Millennium", a Golden Age in which Christian ethics prosper. The term subsumes several similar views of the end times, and it stands in contrast to premillennialism and, to a lesser extent, amillennialism.
b. Postmillennialism holds that Jesus Christ establishes his kingdom on earth through his preaching and redemptive work in the first century and that he equips his church with the gospel, empowers the church by the Spirit, and charges the church with the Great Commission (Matt 28:19) to disciple all nations. Postmillennialism expects that eventually the vast majority of people living will be saved. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ's return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions Jesus Christ will return visibly, bodily, and gloriously, to end history with the general resurrection and the final judgment after which the eternal order follows.
c. Postmillennialism was a dominant theological belief among American Protestants who promoted reform movements in the 1850s abolitionism and the Social Gospel.
d. Postmillennialism has become one of the key tenets of a movement known as Christian Reconstructionism. It has been criticized by 20th century religious conservatives as an attempt to immanentize the eschaton.
e. Sometimes called Optimillennialists as they are more optimistic than the other three views.
a. Like Dispensational premillennialism, Postmillennialism is a relatively new view on the scene. If you recall the third episode of this series (and I’d encourage you to go back to the beginning if this is the first of this that you have heard or seen) I told you that Dispensational Premillennialism began in 1830 with John Nelson Darby, this view began as nearly as we can tell in the 17th Century.
b. The Savoy Declaration of 1658 contains one of the earliest creedal statements of a postmillennial eschatology:
i. As the Lord in his care and love towards his Church, hath in his infinite wise providence exercised it with great variety in all ages, for the good of them that love him, and his own glory; so according to his promise, we expect that in the latter days, antichrist being destroyed, the Jews called, and the adversaries of the kingdom of his dear Son broken, the churches of Christ being enlarged, and edified through a free and plentiful communication of light and grace, shall enjoy in this world a more quiet, peaceable and glorious condition than they have enjoyed.
c. The postmillennial outlook was articulated by men like John Owen in the 17th century, Jonathan Edwards in the 18th century, and Charles Hodge in the 19th century. Davis argues that it was the dominant view in the nineteenth century, but was eclipsed by the other millennial positions by the end of World War I due to the "pessimism and disillusionment engendered by wartime conditions."
d. I’d argue that the pessimism of the Civil War, the Bolshevik Revolution and rise of communism, the two World Wars with the use of atomic weapons on Japan, The Korean Conflict (which was international) and the defeat or lack of victory of the US in Vietnam led to the mindset that has allowed dispensationalism to flourish while the relative peace and economic boom times of the 17th -19th centuries were crucial to the optimism of this view. Those centuries were the centuries of Christian missions establishing themselves worldwide with entire countries which had not been historically Christian becoming so. The Philippines, Mexico, most of South America became Christian under the missionary efforts of the Catholic Church. The Gospel was on the march and it appeared to be unstoppable. At that rate of adoption it wouldn’t be long until the whole world was Christian.
e. Historian George M. Fredrickson argues, “The belief that a religious revival and the resulting improvement in human faith and morals would eventually usher in a thousand years of peace and justice antecedent to the Second Coming of Christ was an impetus to the promotion of Progressive reforms, as historians have frequently pointed out."
f. During the Second Great Awakening of the 1830s, some divines expected the millennium to arrive in a few years. By the 1840s, however, the great day had receded to the distant future, and post-millennialism became the religious dimension of the broader American middle-class ideology of steady moral and material progress.
5) Key Ideas
a. Although some postmillennialists hold to a literal millennium of 1,000 years, other postmillennialists see the thousand years more as a figurative term for a long period of time (similar in that respect to amillennialism). Among those holding to a non-literal "millennium" it is usually understood to have already begun, which implies a less obvious and less dramatic kind of millennium than that typically envisioned by premillennialists, as well as a more unexpected return of Christ.
b. Postmillennialism also teaches that the forces of Satan will gradually be defeated by the expansion of the Kingdom of God throughout history up until the second coming of Christ. This belief that good will gradually triumph over evil has led proponents of postmillennialism to label themselves "optimillennialists" in contrast to "pessimillennial" premillennialists and amillennialists.
c. Many postmillennialists also adopt some form of preterism, which holds that many of the end times prophecies in the Bible have already been fulfilled. Several key postmillennialists, however, did not adopt preterism with respect to the Book of Revelation, among them B. B. Warfield and Francis Nigel Lee.
d. Other postmillennialists hold the idealist position of Revelation. The book titled “An A-to-Z Guide to Biblical Prophecy and the End Times” defines Idealism as "A symbolic description of the ongoing battle between God and evil."
6) Difference in extent:
a. Postmillennialists diverge on the extent of the gospel's conquest. The majority of postmillennialists do believe in an apostasy, and like B. B. Warfield, believe the apostasy refers to the Jewish people's rejection of Christianity either during the first century or possibly until the return of Christ at the end of the millennium. This postmillennial perspective essentially dovetails with the thinking of amillennial and premillennial schools of eschatology.
b. There is a minority of postmillennial scholars, however, who discount the idea of a final apostasy, regarding the gospel conquest ignited by the Great Commission to be total and absolute, such that no unsaved individuals will remain after the Spirit has been fully poured out on all flesh.
7) Difference in how this happens:
a. Postmillennialists also diverge on the means of the gospel's conquest. Revivalist postmillennialism is a form of the doctrine held by the Puritans and some today that teaches that the millennium will come about not from Christians changing society from the top down (that is, through its political and legal institutions) but from the bottom up at the grass roots level (that is, through changing people's hearts and minds).
b. Reconstructionist postmillennialism, on the other hand, sees that along with grass roots preaching of the Gospel and explicitly Christian education, Christians should also set about changing society's legal and political institutions in accordance with Biblical, and also sometimes Theonomic, ethics (see Dominion theology). The revivalists deny that the same legal and political rules which applied to theocratic state of Ancient Israel should apply directly to modern societies which are no longer directly ruled by Israel's prophets, priests, and kings. In the United States, the most prominent and organized forms of postmillennialism are based on Christian Reconstructionism and hold to a reconstructionist form of postmillennialism.
c. The reconstructionist would argue that every society is built on its understanding of the highest authority. In western democracies that is the Demos, the people as the highest authority. The Theonomists would say that they believe that as soon as we install and “win” in the highest offices in the land that then the ethos of the peoples decisions will shift to an ethos of following the Biblical models of government to the benefit of all. At some level this set of ideas was behind movements like the moral majority and is seeing a resurgence currently through organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom who are the people behind the recent overturning of Roe vs Wade and some of the anti-trans legislation.
d. Christian Reconstruction is also known as Dominion Theology, the idea that Christians are the right rulers of the world and an attempt to bring that about is necessary.
8) The Case for Postmillennialism
a. Current State of the Church:
i. The church is under attack from every side today. Much of the world and it’s governments are actively trying to stamp out Christianity. Those who aren’t hostile to the church are basically apathetic and the church itself has become infected with a wokeness. While in the 15th-19th centuries and even the beginning of the 20th century, the church played a strongly influential role in society, today that influence is greatly reduced and even marginalized.
ii. The laws of God have been replaced by the laws of men and even the Christian has stopped looking to the Messiah and is now looking to the messianic state and the political process for salvation. Much of the church has ceased it’s call for holy living and repentance and replaced it with a model of cheap grace and easy-believism. The enemies of the church are celebrating and there is a rise of the New Atheism.
iii. Given the state of affairs, how can the postmillennialist remain optimistic of the ultimate victory over society of Christian thinking.
iv. The dispensationalists tell us that we are witnessing the inevitable "failure of Christianity" and that the "church age" will end in apostasy in the church and the triumph of evil in the world with the rise of the Antichrist and the tribulation.
v. John Walvoord (former president of DTS) states that in this "age of grace. . . things are going to get worse and worse. There will be more oppression, more injustice, more persecution, more immorality as the age wears on."2
vi. In terms of the future prospects of the church before the end of the age, dispensationalists say that things will actually get worse than they are now.
vii. Dispensationalists teach that in history and before the Second Coming, "kingdom power" is withheld from the church, and therefore, the church is "at the mercy of the powers of this world."3 Hence, the church will not overcome its enemies; rather its enemies will persecute and nearly crush the church4 (only a tattered remnant will be rescued by Jesus at the rapture).
viii. Postmillennialists believe that the dispensationalists are simply wrong and don’t understand the actual teaching of Scripture on this matter. The church will ultimately triumph as the only possible fulfillment of prophecy.
b. Old Testament Predictions of Triumph
i. The earthly triumph of the church is based on the New Testament teaching that the church is the new Israel, or "the Israel of God"
1. Gal. 6:16 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.
2. Paul affirms that believers in Jesus Christ are the true seed of Abraham
a. Gal. 3:16-17 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God [e]in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.
b. Gal 3:26-29 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
3. Elect Jews and Gentiles are one body in Christ, the Old Testament covenantal distinctions between them have been removed in the church
a. Eph. 2:11-13 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
b. Eph 3:7 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel
4. The New Testament church is the heir of the promises given to Israel
a. Eph 2:19-22 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God
5. The new covenant promises given to Israel are fulfilled in the church
a. Jer. 31:34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
b. Heb 10:12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.
6. Jesus Christ himself declared that the kingdom of God would be taken from Israel and given to the church
a. Mt 21:43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.
7. As the new Israel of God, the church is designated by the same terminology that was used of Israel in the Old Testament
a. 1 Pet. 2:9-10 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
b. Gal. 3:29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
ii. Therefore, the Old Testament texts that predict the triumph of Israel, Zion, or Judah must be applied to the church, i.e., they predict the triumph of the New Testament church.
1. Genesis 22:17 ". . . and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies."
a. Abraham is promised 3 things:
i. Multiplied seed as of the stars of heaven, so the church as heir will grow fantastically.
ii. His seed will possess the gates of his enemies, the victorious church.
iii. His seed will bless all of the earth through the dominance of the church
iv. The specific object to be possessed in this prediction is the gate of their enemies. The word "gate" is filled with significance in the Old Testament. The gate was important for war, commerce, and civil government. In war, if one could penetrate the gates of a city, his victory was virtually assured; control of the gates determined the outcome of the conflict. In commerce, those who controlled the gates determined who could and who could not enter the city to do business. In civil government, the gate was the place where the elders and rulers of the people would sit to hold court and carry out the other aspects of civil ruling.
v. Therefore, to "possess the gate" of your enemy is to conquer him and take control of his city, commerce, and civil government.
vi. Genesis 22:17 is thus a powerful prediction of the complete triumph of Christ and his church (the seed of Abraham) over all its enemies.
vii. Therefore all nations will be conquered by the gospel of Christ and be discipled in the Christian Faith.
viii. Believers in Jesus Christ will dispossess the enemies of God and control the "gate" in all nations.
2. Psalm 110. This Messianic psalm is a declaration of the victorious reign of Christ. This psalm of David predicts the complete triumph of the exalted Christ and his people over the enemies of God. The psalm contains 3 sections:
a. Psalm 110:1 The Messiah's exaltation and promised victorious reign
The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
b. Psalm 110:2-4 the Messiah's dominion, people, and priesthood
The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.
Rule in the midst of Your enemies!
3 Your people shall be volunteers
In the day of Your power;
In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
You have the dew of Your youth.
4 The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”
c. Psalm 110:5-7 the Messiah's victorious warfare
The Lord is at Your right hand;
He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath.
6 He shall judge among the nations,
He shall fill the places with dead bodies,
He shall execute the heads of many countries.
7 He shall drink of the brook by the wayside;
Therefore He shall lift up the head.
d. Each section emphasizes Christ's power and his conquest of all who oppose his reign from the Father's right hand.
3. This psalm is crucial for understanding the fact that the kingdom of Jesus Christ will triumph in history before the return of Christ. The text establishes:
a. Jesus will not leave his place at the Father's right hand in heaven until after all his enemies have become his footstool
b. Since Jesus was exalted to the Father's right hand at the time of his ascension
i. Acts 2:34-35 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ’
ii. Heb. 1:13 But to which of the angels has He ever said:
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”
c. He will not return until the time of the resurrection at the last day when the last enemy, death, will be destroyed
i. 1 Cor. 15:23-26 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
d. Therefore, the "day of thy power" (v. 2) when Jesus goes forth to rule and conquer in the midst of his enemies (v. 3) is the inter-advent period. The kingdom of Jesus will triumph and all nations will submit to his reign during this age.
e. The return of Jesus marks the end of his mediatory reign and the promises of dominion given to Christ in the prophetic Scriptures are fulfilled before his Second Coming.
f. The church is specifically identified with Christ and his victory in verse Psalm 110:3 Your people shall be volunteers
In the day of Your power;
i. Revelation 19:11-21 is the fulfillment of Psalm 110 is presented to John in a vision of Jesus Christ, going forth to conquer his enemies Jesus will not be alone in the conflict, but that he has an army of loyal followers. This army is the church.
1. Rev 19:14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.
ii. Jesus will be served by a host of willing followers who go with him into battle.
1. Rev 19:19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army
4. Isaiah also predicts the triumph of the church
a. Isaiah 2:2 "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it"
i. The "mountain of the Lord's house" is a reference to Zion. In the Old Testament, Zion was often used in a figurative way to refer to God's throne, kingdom, or people.
ii. Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn
iii. Furthermore, the text says that "all nations shall flow" unto Zion to be taught the law of God so that they will be able to walk in God's "ways." This is a glorious picture of the nations coming to the church to be taught the word of God! It foretells the conversion of the nations to the Christian Faith. Because of the conversion of the nations to the worship and service of Jesus Christ, wars shall cease from the earth.
iv. All the details of Isaiah 2:2-4 must be fulfilled in and through the New Testament church in this present age.
b. Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
c. New Testament Predictions of Triumph
i. The New Testament not only establishes that the church is the Israel of God and the heir of the Old Testament promises concerning the ascendancy of the covenant people of God over all their enemies. The New Testament also directly predicts the triumph of the church. Besides the texts that set forth in general terms the invincible nature of the church, there is also explicit teaching concerning the victory of Christ's kingdom and people.
1. The Great Commission
a. Mt 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen
b. Will Christ's will be fulfilled? Most certainly, for all authority is given to him in heaven and earth so that he might conquer his enemies and bring all nations under his rule as in Psalm 2 and 110
c. Since Christ has all authority in heaven and earth and the church goes forth in his name and with his power, who or what can stop the church from fulfilling its task?
d. Christ specifically promises the church his presence to the end of the age so that the church can be assured that it can and will fulfill its divine mission.
e. The Great Commission is the declaration of the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth as to what he intends to accomplish through his church in this age.
f. The Great Commission is a great prediction of the triumph of the church through the power of the risen Christ.
2. The parables of the leaven and the mustard seed both indicate that the kingdom of Christ will have a small beginning, but that it shall grow to encompass all the earth and all nations.
a. Matthew 13:31-32 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
b. Matthew 13:33 Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three [c]measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
c. The church, through Christ's power, operates unceasingly through history to leaven the world growing like a mustard seed
ii. Romans 11 outlines the great purpose of God concerning ethnic Israel and the nations during the New Testament era.
1. Rom. 11:7 What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
2. Romans 11:25-27 25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own [f]opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”
3. Romans 11:13-15 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
iii. John 12:32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
iv. Hebrews 10:13 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.
v. Matthew 5:18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one [b]jot or one [c]tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
a. The testimony of the word of God is clear concerning the future triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ and his church.
b. It is hard to believe that such a glorious future awaits the church.
c. Many teach that the best days of the church are behind us that and all that we can expect is the increase of evil and the triumph of wickedness as the age progress.
d. The Scripture declares that the best days for the church lie in the future; in fact, a most glorious future awaits the followers of Christ!
e. Some have given up, and look only for Christ to rescue them from the present mess (and failure of the church) by the rapture.
f. The church will triumph in his name over all the enemies of truth and righteousness.