Opponents of postmillennialism often point to Jesus’ Parable of the Tares as biblical evidence against postmillennialism. But this serves as evidence that opponents of postmillennialism are often wrong. Let me explain.
Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.”
In his treatment of this Parable of the Tares, dispensationalist Walvoord states that “the parable does not support the postmillennial idea that the Gospel will be triumphant and bring in a golden age.”(1) He sees this as evidence that the Church’s growth will be matched by the growth of Satan’s kingdom, thus discounting the postmillennial hope of Christian dominance.
First, the basic definitional problem involved. Frequently, non-postmillennialists seem to imply that postmillennialism expects an “each-and-every” salvific universalism. With that false perception critics press this passage as evidence that Christianity will never gain the upper hand in the world, even until the very end brought about at the resurrection. But postmillennialism teaches that despite the enormous worldwide success of the gospel, we will always have a mixture of the unrighteous and the righteous. Gospel success will never totally root out either sin or sinners in history — not even during the kingdom’s highest development in the future. We never expect global universalism to prevail before Christ’s return.
Second, the basic interpretive problem involved. This parable portrays the entire world as God’s field, where he desires to plant wheat: he “sowed good seed in his field” (Matt 13:24) and “the field is the world” (Matt 13:38). God expends the effort in order to create a field of wheat (the righteous, Matt 13:38a) in all the world. An enemy (the devil, Matt 13:39) intervenes and sows tares (the wicked, Matt 13:38b) — surely not with equal success, particularly in light of the parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven (Matt 13:31–33). The parable’s point is that tares will be found among the predominant wheat: the tares are the intruders, not the wheat. The Son of Man returns to a wheat field, not a tare field. The tares must be left alone for the sake of the wheat.
1. John F. Walvoord, Prophecy Knowledge Handbook (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor, 1990), 373.