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“DIFFICULT TIMES” FOR POSTMILLENNIALISM?

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  Leave a comment
Tough times

Postmillennialism is most often criticized from historical and pragmatic perspectives. However, the most telling charges against it should be biblical problems. After all, we are dealing with the question of what the Bible says about the future, not with what we can surmise about it.

Second Tim 3:1 is one of those passages that some deem to be destructive of the postmillennial hope. There Paul writes: “realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.”

Amillennialist Kim Riddlebarger sees this passage as a problem for those who hold the prospect of a victorious church: “Throughout the last days, some will distort the gospel to tickle itching ears and gather followers to themselves.” He continues in response to postmillennialism: “Paul warned us that this lamentable state of affairs is an inevitability for Christ’s church.”

Dispensationalists agree. Wayne House and Thomas Ice argue that “the Bible speaks of things progressing from ‘bad to worse,’ of men ‘deceiving and being deceived’ (2 Timothy 3:13), we look out at our world and see how bad things really are.” John Walvoord concurs: “With the progress of the present age, in spite of the dissemination of the truth and the availability of Scripture, the world undoubtedly will continue to follow the sinful description which the Apostle Paul gave here.” Warren Wiersbe agrees: “Passages like 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 3 paint a dark picture of the last days.”


Introduction to Postmillennialism
by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Southern California Center for Christian Studies seminar.
Lecture presentations and some classroom interaction.
Very helpful definition, presentation, and defense of postmillennialism.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Such interpretations of this passage, however, are exegetically flawed and anti-contextual. Nothing taught in these verses is contra-postmillennial. Note the following observations.

First, Paul’s original focus. He is dealing with a particular historical matter in the first century. He is speaking of things that Timothy will be facing and enduring (2Ti 3:10, 14). He is not prophesying about the constant, long-term, unyielding prospects for all of history. Likewise, when Paul writes to the church at Corinth complaining that “it is actually reported that there is immorality among you” (1Co 5:1), we should not lift it from its context as a universal principle applying to all churches. He is writing specifically to them.

Second, Paul’s actual point. The text does not demand unrelentingly bad times lie before the church in all of history. And though difficult “times” (chairoi) will come during the last days (the period between the first and second advents, see ch. 13), this does not demand a pessimistic position. The Greek term Paul employs here is kairoi, which indicates “seasons.” It is the logical error of quantification to read this reference to (some) “seasons” of difficulty as if it said all seasons will be difficult. The “diffi-cult times” (kairoi chalepoi) are “qualitatively complexioned and specifically appointed seasons.” Postmillennialists are well aware of the “seasons” of perilous times that beset the church under the Roman Empire and at other times.

Third, Paul’s misunderstood nature. This passage does not teach historical decline accelerating in history. Citing 2 Timothy 3:13 in the debate leaves the unwarranted impression that things shall irrevocably become worse and worse in history. But the verse actually says: “evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Paul is speaking of specific evil men becoming ethically worse, not more and more evil men becoming increasingly dominant. He is speaking of their progressive personal degeneration, i.e., the progressive anti-sanctification of evil men. Paul says absolutely nothing about a predestined increase in the number and power of such evil men.

Fourth, Paul’s postmillennial balance. He balances his teaching with a note of optimism. As a good postmillennialist, Paul clearly informs Timothy that these evil men (cf. 2Ti 3:1) “will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all” (2Ti 3:9). Since God places limits on those evil-doers, Paul speaks as a man who expects victory. How different from the widespread, pessimistic conception of the progressive, limitless power of evil in our day. Paul’s conceives of the ultimate, long term impotence of evil in history.


Dispensationalism (by Keith L. Mathison)
An important critical evaluation of dispensationalism from a Reformed perspective
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com

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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.

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