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POSTMILLENNIALISM, PSALM 2, AND “THE NATIONS”

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  1 Comment

An important postmillennial text is Psalm 2. Psalm 2:8 states:

Ask of Me, and  I will surely give  the  nations as Your inheritance, / And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.

Amillennialists often object to postmillennialism’s use of this verse. They complain that postmillennialists apply the terms ‘nations’ and ‘earth’ in a way that Jesus and the apostles never intended: as political entities. The amillennialist argues that the NT teaches that Christ’s making the nations and the earth his footstool simply refers to the salvation of scattered Gentiles from every tribe tongue and nation, not Christ’s influence on political structures, etc.

How shall the postmillennialist respond?

First, we must be careful not to throw out all literalism just because dispensationalism wrongly uses it. Literalism may be abused, to be sure. But many verses must be interpreted literally. So charging postmillennialism as a simplistic, naive, dispensational-like eschatology is simply name-calling. I

Second, I don’t see the problem with using Psalm 2:8 as evidence of postmillennialism. That is, I don’t understand what the issue of “political entities”/ “political structures” has anything to do with the amillennial/postmillennial debate here. Even setting aside the idea that particular political entities are in view here, the fact remains that the psalm declares that Christ will make “the nations” (whatever they are) and “the very ends of the earth” his possession. He is not speaking merely of scattered converts here-and-there from out of the nations. Rather he seems clearly to be speaking of vast influence over all the nations and even to the very ends of the earth. The psalm appears to be speaking of some sort of global dominance.

Third, nevertheless, I would note that David does call upon the kings and judges of the earth to do homage to the Son (Psa 2:10-12). It seems he goes to great lengths to speak of not only people in general but even their political rulers and judges.

Fourth, besides all of this, reducing the significance of Psalm 2 would not affect the broader argument for postmillennialism. Postmillennialism is not a “one text” eschatological system (as premillennialism tends to be with Rev 20).

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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.

One response to POSTMILLENNIALISM, PSALM 2, AND “THE NATIONS”

  1. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. February 22, 2012 at 6:30

    You make a good devil! Ha! I would admit upfront that the already/not yet paradigm could apply here. But I don’t believe it does. I am afraid that it often used as a magic wand to banish postmillennialists from eschatological debates. But here is why I don’t believe that will trip up the postmillennial interpretation. (Keep in mind: postmillennialism is not built on nor dependent upon this text.)

    According to the psalm all that the enthroned Messiah need do is “ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession” (v 8). The Lord promises his Messiah the “nations” (not just one nation, Israel) and “the ends of the earth” (not just one region, Palestine) as his permanent ‘possession” (v 8). Though they will resist him (vv 2:1–3), he will break them in his dominion (v 9).

    So the question arises: Did the Messiah ask of the Father “the nations as his inheritance”? Surely he did. Otherwise, why would he say “If I am lifted up I will draw all men to myself”? “The kingdom will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruit thereof”? “The Son of Man was not sent into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him should be saved”? All of these concepts fit perfectly with the great commission where he claims all authority, promises to be with his people to the end, and commands them to disciple all the nations.

    Remarkably, this securing of “the nations” in Psalm 2 is the very task the Messiah assigns to his followers in the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19a). He will rule over them with his rod and dash in pieces those who refuse to submit (Ps 2:9). This he does through his mighty word and under his controlling providence (Heb 1:3, 8–13; e.g., Mt 21:43–44). Because of this ultimate hope, the raging nations receive warning: “Therefore, you kings, be wise; / be warned, you rulers of the earth. / Serve the LORD with fear / and rejoice with trembling. / Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, / for his wrath can flare up in a moment. / Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Ps 2:10–12).

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