- by William O. Einwechter (William O. Einwechter serves as a teaching elder at Immanuel Free Reformed Church in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. He is also the vice president of the National Reform Association and the editor of The Christian Statesman.)
Postmillennialism is a doctrine that instills hope for the future. Other eschatological views will, no doubt, say that they also give a vision of hope for the future. But the future hope for premillennialism and amillennialism does not concern this present age. It looks to a future age that will be ushered in by Christ’s return. Neither view holds out hope for the triumph of Christ, His gospel, or His people in the present age. Each sees a decline for Christianity and the increase of evil and false religion as the future history of the world leading up to Christ’s return.
Postmillennialism not only looks forward in hope to the final victory of God’s people at the end of history, it also anticipates the victory of Christ and His people prior to the Second Coming. This postmillennial hope exercises a profound influence on those who hold to it and impacts the way they view life and ministry. It causes its adherents to be future-oriented — to live today in view of the future triumph for the Kingdom of God in the world.
Specific Implications of the Postmillennial Hope
1. Personal. Your eschatological view will determine how you view the world and your role as a servant of Christ. If, in this dispensation, the world and its future belong to the devil and his followers, you will view your role in the world accordingly. But if you believe that Christ has come for the specific purpose of overthrowing the works of the devil and of establishing the rule of His messianic Kingdom to the four corners of the earth (i.e., the postmillennial hope), your perspective will be radically different.
You will see every part of the world and every aspect of life as belonging to Christ by sovereign grant from the Father. You will believe that it all will one day be brought into submission to Christ. Regardless of current conditions (e.g., persecution, suffering, or lack of progress), you know your labor is not in vain in the Lord. Because His kingdom will triumph, you know that all your righteous labors contribute to the ultimate ascendancy of righteousness.
2. Family. Dispensational premillennialists and many amillennialists believe that we are the “terminal generation” (or close to it). With this dreary view, there are no future generations for which a family should plan. But postmillennialism provides the basis for a vision of multi-generational faithfulness in a family because of its view that history still has a long way to go and its belief that the Kingdom of God will grow to encompass the world. The long-term, victorious perspective of postmillennialism encourages the goal of raising up many sons and daughters and training them for the work of God’s Kingdom. The Christian family is an essential component of the Kingdom of God. It will not only share in the future victory of Christ’s Kingdom, but it will, through fruitfulness and faithfulness, contribute significantly to that victory.
3. Church. The covenant body of believers in Jesus Christ that constitutes the church must interpret the design of the Great Commission if it is faithfully to serve its risen Lord. Eschatology plays an important part in that interpretation. Postmillennialism teaches that the Great Commission calls Christians to subdue every area of life to Christ the King. Through evangelism, baptism, and teaching the whole counsel of God, the church prepares God’s people to carry out their mandate to overthrow the strongholds of the wicked and to bring every work and every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. Defective eschatologies encourage a narrow view of the Great Commission, with the focus on individual salvation and sanctification to the neglect of the wider cultural mandate.
4. Politics. Postmillennialism proclaims Christ’s mediatorial reign over all people and all institutions. It delights to inform the nations that Jesus Christ, by virtue of His exaltation to the right hand of God (Ac. 2:32-36), is “the prince of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5), “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15), and “the governor among the nations” (Ps. 22:28).
Because postmillennialists believe in the mediatorial reign of Christ, their politics are centered in the person of Christ and Biblical law. In addition, theonomic postmillennialists understand that advance in the political sphere is not based on the compromise of Biblical law, but only in the steadfast advocacy of it. They resist the temptation to sacrifice principle for the promise of some immediate gratification from a so-called “political victory” that does not promote the crown rights of their King.
Postmillennialists believe that obedience to Christ is the only appointed means for the advance of His Kingdom — even in the political sphere. Because they know that their ultimate victory is certain, they are patient and continue to advocate an explicitly Christian approach to politics even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Eschatological perspectives that deny Christ’s current reign over the nations and their rulers tend to political views and practices that are pluralistic and centered in man — his reason, his rights, and his power.
General Implications of the Postmillennial Hope
Hope is energizing. Without hope, we reconcile ourselves either to the status quo and live in grim submission to it, or plunge into despair and are overcome by it. If Christians’ eschatological hope is only in a resurrection life beyond this world, they abandon the dominion mandate and despair of any triumph of the gospel or of righteousness in the world. With no hope of a cultural transformation where the salvation of Christ reaches “far as the curse is found,” Christians become deserters from the army of Christ that has been commissioned to follow Him in the subduing of all His foes (Ps. 110). Since their hope is exclusively in a heavenly rest, they devote all their energies to prepare their own souls and the souls of others for eternity.
The postmillennial hope makes for a different Christian. Yes, the postmillennialist hopes for the resurrection and the final victory at the end of history; but he is also filled with hope for this world. Because a postmillennialist envisions a world where the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea (Is. 11:9), he is energized to labor not only for the salvation of souls but also for the transformation of all nations and all of life.
The postmillennial hope rescues eschatology from the realm of historical irrelevance. Jürgen Moltmann explains the impact of eschatological hope:
- “Eschatology was long called the ‘doctrine of last things’ or the ‘doctrine of the end.’ By these last things were meant events which will one day break upon man, history and the world at the end of time. They included the return of Christ in universal glory, the judgment of the world and the consummation of the kingdom, the general resurrection of the dead and the new creation of all things. These end events were to break into this world from somewhere beyond history, and to put an end to the history in which all things here live and move…. In actual fact, however, eschatology means the doctrine of the Christian hope, which embraces both the object hoped for and also the hope inspired by it. From first to last, and not merely in epilogue, Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving, and therefore revolutionizing and transforming the present.”1
- “Postmillennialism restores the Christian hope of triumph in history. It causes the Christian, whether in his personal life, or in the sphere of family, church, or state, to be ‘forward looking and forward moving, and therefore revolutionizing and transforming the present.’”2
1. Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 15-16.
2. Moltmann, Theology of Hope, ibid.