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POSTMILLENNIALISM AND WATCHFULNESS

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  2 Comments

Because of postmillennialism’s long-term expectations, many evangelicals complain that this eschatology undermines the spirit of watchfulness enjoined upon Christ’s Church. After all, by the very nature of the case postmillennialism denies the “imminent” return of Christ. For instance, best-selling dispensationalist author Dave Hunt laments postmillennialism because, in it “there is an increasing antagonism against eagerly watching and waiting for Christ’s return, which surely was the attitude of the early church.” Many see this denial of the imminency of Christ’s return as destroying a spur to sanctification. But consider:

1. Such an objection is based on a flawed understanding of holiness

Denying imminency does not forfeit a spur to holiness. Surely sanctification is not encouraged by believing a falsehood, that Christ may return in one’s own lifetime. Those who argue for an “any moment” view of the return of Christ as a major spur for holy living ultimately root sanctification in erroneous expectations! After all, Christ was not to return in the first 2000 years of Christian history, despite the many who expected him to do so. Is sanctification encouraged by error?

2. Such an objection overlooks a more immediate reality 

Furthermore, imminence should be a far less significant spur to holiness than the realization that we could die this very minute. We are statistically more certain that we will die in a relatively short time (Ps 90:4–6, 10; 1 Pe 1:24) than we are that Christ will return today. This has proven true for 2000 years. Jesus even used this reality in many of his parables, such as the Parable of the Rich Barn Owner. In that parable the rich man built bigger barns to store his wealth, only to suddenly die in losing it.

3. Such an objection forgets the ultimate reality

Every Christian knows that he lives constantly under the moment-by-moment scrutiny of Almighty God. We cannot escape his presence during any moment of life, for “there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb 4:13). The absolute theological certainty of our absolute present openness to the Lord ought to move us to serve him more faithfully, even more so than the prospect that he may possibly return today (which has been wrong for 2000 years).

 

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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.

2 responses to POSTMILLENNIALISM AND WATCHFULNESS

  1. Beloved let us not start with a presupposed system (especially eschatological) and go about justifying it by scripture. Rather let us exegete the full counsel of God’s word, which clearly teaches that God is sovereign and can do (come) whatever He wills whenever He wants. Harold Camping thought he knew the exact day; neo-potmillennialarian preterists think they know for sure that it won’t be for many days (centuries?) hence.
    Scripture says: “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:37-44).
    I realize some may preterize that (I don’t think Dr. Gentry does), but even acknowledging the Lord’s coming in judgment against Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as prophesied in Matthew 24:1-34 and other passages, scripture clearly teaches the imminence of Christ’s FINAL return (cf 1 & 2 Thessalonians, etc.). Acts 1:11, everyone agrees, states that He WILL come back, BODILY. So if that is certain and no one knows the day, then it is imminent, not to be confused with immediate. Even the hardest core preterists who are still not “hyper” do not preterize Acts:1:11.
    I agree and appreciate the postmillennial position over and against dispensationalism, and the read-the-daily-newspaper prophecy school of interpretation as popularized by the “Left Behind” mentality is being exposed for the error that it is by the grace of God. But let us not overreact to that so as to be lulled out of a watchful state of expectation of our blessed hope!
    Brothers I beseech you, do not take away the glory of our Lord coming to save the world by replacing it with the idea that He will come only to a saved world, or by teaching that every reference in scripture to His coming besides Acts 1;11, or even to the new heavens and earth, refers to A.D. 70.
    The last enemy to be destroyed is death, which will happen When He comes, not before. Maranatha!

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. February 15, 2012 at 6:30

      But before death is destroyed, before Christ returns: “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” (1 Cor 15:24).

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