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CHRIST’S VICTORY IN POSTMILLENNIALISM

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  April 27, 2012 — 5 Comments

Amillennialist’s reject postmillennialism’s optimistic outlook on history. They even argue that postmillennialism allegedly discounts Christ’s present victory which has been in effect since the resurrection/ascension.

Prof. Robert Strimple’s complaint in this direction is: “But what is the nature of Christ’s present kingdom. Because Gentry has defined the victory Christ seeks in the present age in terms of ‘the vast majority of human beings’ . . . he must view Christ’s kingly reign as a failure so far—a failure for these now two thousand years since his ascension” (Strimple, in Bock, Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond [Zondervan: 1998], p. 61).

How shall I respond? I would note the following:

First, this is an absolutely erroneous implication, exposing once again the methodological problem in Strimple’s preferred line of argument. It is an example of a grossly non sequitur form of argument. He has forgotten the postmillennial definition of the kingdom: The kingdom is by divine design to enter the world “mysteriously” (Matt 13:11) growing from a “seed” to a “mature plant,” from imperceptible, fragile-appearing beginnings to obvious, world-dominating fullness.

The literary context of the Matthew’s record of the Kingdom Parables provides important insights that dispel Strimple’s charge. In the preceding context Matthew presents Christ as claiming his kingdom is powerfully present (Matt 12:28), but in the following material he shows the King rejected by his own people (Matt 13:53–58). How can this be? The Kingdom Parables explain this surprising reality. They show the divinely-ordained method of the kingdom: it begins in a “mystery” (Matt 13:11), even being intentionally hidden at first (Matt 13:13). Some of its seed does not grow and prosper (Matt 13:3-8); in fact, the first century Jews—though the Old Testament people of God—have the kingdom intentionally hidden from them (Matt 13:14-17). But in the long run the kingdom will gradually develop to a place of dominance in history (Matt 13:30–33).

Since these are Christ’s own explanations of his kingdom’s predestined expectations in history, how can its early stages be a failure because they are unlike its final stages? The kingdom rule of Christ is no more a “failure” than a seed is a “failure” because it is not a tree with edible fruit. The kingdom is not failing of its purpose any more than a baby is failing because he lacks teeth, cannot walk, cannot talk, and so forth. Both the seed and the baby are successes when they operate according to their design, a design which promotes gradually developing maturity. Of course, they become “failures” (as it were) if they mutate and die. The kingdom will not mutate and die, though. Strimple is making the same mistake the Emmaus Road disciples made when they looked too narrowly at Christ’s crucifixion (Luke 24:17–21): “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21a). They failed to see the divinely-ordained, developing big picture.

Second, actually Strimple frames his critique wrongly. He expresses his concerns about my view of “the nature of Christ’s present kingdom” (Strimple, p. 61). The question, though, is not about its nature (we both agree it is by “nature” a spiritual, redemptive kingdom), but about its expectation, that is, its historical goal. Strimple forgets the context of my definition: I provide my definition in a debate book between three particular views of the millennium (i.e., kingdom). Consequently, I frame my definition in such a way as to highlight the contrast between postmillennialism and both pre- and amillennialism. For a fuller, more basic definition the reader should consult my definition which covers three full pages in He Shall Have Dominion. Therefore, my definition is succinctly highlighting an important distinction from the other views.

And once again, Strimple’s method here can be rebutted by reductio ad absurdum. Strimple focuses on my definition presented in a debate book context, noting what he perceives as imperfections. What if we were to apply this method to Paul’s teaching on the resurrection at the second advent? What if we were to argue that the lost will not be resurrected because nowhere in Paul’s writings does he teach anything other than a resurrection of the saved? That would be Scripture in contradiction to itself, for the Lord clearly teaches the resurrection of the lost (John 5:25-29). As Paul narrowly focuses on the believer’s resurrection so I narrowly focus on the debate definition of postmillennialism.

Furthermore, the postmillennialist would argue that the kingdom has grown since the first century. It has not attained its full maturity, but it has definitely grown as predicted. After all, my definition highlights the “increasing gospel success” and its “gradually” producing its effect (Strimple, p.60). I much prefer sitting before my Gateway computer framing an eschatology debate for a large Christian publisher than sitting behind the gate in the Coliseum awaiting an agonizing death by a large carnivorous panther. Progress has been made; the kingdom is not failing.

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

5 responses to CHRIST’S VICTORY IN POSTMILLENNIALISM

  1. Great article Dr. Gentry, read the other post and like it . I guess he is not preterist , he is historicist , or some thing like that . Thank you for your post .

  2. That’s so true!! Of course progress has been made, but sadly amils and premils brothers and sisters don’t want to recognize it. Well, premils have their reason to deny this, because they expect a literal 1000 years reign of Christ in an earthly Jerusalem. But, What is the point of amils in denying the growth and expansion of the kingdom of God as a present reality if they believe as postmills do, that the kingdom of God is mainly spiritual and not physical, invisible and not visible and also they are in opposition to the the premilenialist view of the kingdom for 1000 literal years? I don’t really get what they are traying to get us into.

  3. Michael Paul Tuuri May 28, 2012 at 6:30

    The amill (and premill) position reminds me of a man who had killed his father and mother, and during his trial for murder plead for mercy because he was an orphan. The retreat of the Church into these escapist eschatologies has precipitated the ruin around us, and then these characters point to this ruin to prove their point. I can only say, “Duh.”

  4. I believe in a literal reign of Jesus Christ as we are resurrected and caught up at His return. It is obvious that there will be no rule and reign without our glorified bodies. This is why there must be a Kingdom of Kings and Priest fully glorified as our LORD is to rule and reighn with Him. So sad to see that the saints still have not matured enough nor never will because of false teachings. It is obvious that the LORD must return and change His body to incorruptible before they can really be perfect in His Kingdom.

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. May 29, 2012 at 6:30

      Kathy:
      I appreciate your reading this blog. Keep reading and studying!
      But ask yourself: “Why do I believe in a literal reign of Christ?” If you believe in a literal 1000 year reign of Christ based on your reading of Rev 20:1-6, you have some serious problems facing you:
      (1) Rev 20 appears in the most symbolic book in all of Scripture. That book presents a seven-headed beast, fire-breathing horses with scorpion tails, a woman standing on the moon, and so forth. (2) Rev 20 also expressly teaches that those who rule and reign with Christ are those who were beheaded and who did not worship the beast. What about you and me? Will we be in Christ’s reign? You certainly don’t find that in Rev 20.
      Please read my post on this subject: http://postmillennialism.com/2012/01/premillennialism-postmillennialism-and-revelation-20/

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