Most dispensationalists are quite confused regarding the origins of postmillennialism. They are as confused over who started postmilllennialism and when it started as they are over who the Antichrist is and when the Rapture is expected.
Hal Lindsey as confidently declares its modern origins as he does the latest date of the Rapture: “There is no evidence of the distinctive teachings of Postmillennialism earlier than the seventeenth century.” Charles Baker states: “Its advocates admit that it was first taught in the seventeenth century.” Many wrongly assume that we may trace postmillennialism back only as far as Daniel Whitby in 1703. L. S Chafer alleged that Whitby was “the originator of what is known as postmillennialism.” Mal Couch puts in the Bible notes of the Prophecy Study Bible: “This view was first propagated by Daniel Whitby (AD 1638–1726), a Unitarian.”
And this was Thomas Ice’s original view:
Daniel Whitby first put forth his view in a popular work entitled Paraphrase and Commentary on the New Testament (1703). It was at the end of this work that he first set forth what he calls in his own words ‘A New Hypothesis’ on the millennial reign of Christ. Thus, the system called postmillennialism was born in the early 1700s as a hypothesis. Whitby and his modern followers present their arguments and explanations based upon unproved assumptions — assumptions resulting in a hypothesis rather than something which is the fruit of the study of Scripture or even the voice of the church.
Fortunately Ice has come to recognize his error, for in a later work he acknowledges regarding the Whitby argument: “this does not mean that elements of systematic postmillennialism did not exist prior to Whitby, for they clearly did.”
But Whitby was not the founder of postmillennialism — even of its more systematic, modern expression. Rodney Peterson writes that prior to Whitby “this perspective had undergone changes, particularly since Thomas Brightman (1562–1607).” Amillennialist Venema agrees. Brightman, who died in 1607, was one of the fathers of Presbyterianism in England. He sets forth his postmillennial views in detail in his book, A Revelation of the Revelation.
In fact, many consider Brightman’s work the “most important and influential English revision of the Reformed, Augustinian concept of the millennium,” “one of the most influential of the Puritan expositors of Revelation.” This was a century before Whitby’s 1703 article. Ball categorically denies Whitby’s foundational role. Whitby was simply not the “founder” of postmillennialism; he was a modern systematizer. He was helpful in “popularizing” postmillennialism because he present postmillennialism’s “most influential formulation” to date.
The next time a dispensationalist drops the name of Whitby in a conversation about the origins of postmillennialism, you have my permission to give them an Indian wrist burn.