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POSTMILLENNIALISM AND THE PRIMACY OF THE GOSPEL

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by Jeffery J. Ventrella, J.D.

This two-part series addresses a vital, yet often overlooked topic — the ethics of eschatology. Stated simply, the pertinent question posed is this: If theonomic postmillennialism is true, and it certainly is, then what differences, here and now, should this conviction make in the lives of Christians and their churches? What should be the practice of a professing post-millennialist?

The answer to this question is multi-faceted. At least five ethical implications flow from postmillennial convictions. Theonomic postmillennialism, rightly conceived and practiced, demands that one:

• Promote the Primacy of the Gospel
• Demonstrate Evangelistic and Missiological Zeal
• Cultivate Christendomic Consciousness
• Practice Courageous, Strategic, and Principled Cultural Engagement; and
• Habituate Humility

Promoting the Primacy of the Gospel

Paul addressed the church at Corinth with a focused singularity of purpose: “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). The foundation for Paul’s instruction, exhortation, and admonition to these believers was the cross, the gospel of Christ. It is in this context that Paul could then present a victorious eschatology to these Christians: “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (15:25). Does a connection exist between these pronouncements, that is, the cross, and eschatological victory? Most certainly.

Paul expressed confidence eschatologically precisely because he held the gospel as primary. This is because he rightly acknowledged that the gospel is transformational in the nature of the case — indeed, the gospel of Christ “is the power of God to salvation…” (Rom. 1:16). Therefore, according to Scripture, societal transformation must, by definition, be a consequence, not a cause. The cause of transformation is the gospel, not political or familial reconstruction.

While it is certainly true that theonomic postmillennialism has been maligned and even slandered as being some form of the “social gospel” or humanistic “Jewish dreams,” it is also quite true that the expositors and defenders of optimistic eschatology have ardently underscored the gospel’s predominance in advancing God’s postmillennial victory. Indeed, the gospel’s predominance in postmillennial eschatology has been set forth with utter and unmistakable clarity. Ken Gentry has written:

That theonomists speak of God’s kingdom as a civilization does not mean that they do not see this civilization as grounded in spiritual regeneration.

This era of dominion will produce the worldwide transformation of society through the preaching of the gospel and individuals’ widespread positive response to the message of redemption, a continuity of dominion.

This is not accomplished by political imposition, but spiritual transformation.

Postmillennialists believe that evangelism is the absolute precondition to worldwide, postmillennial, theocratic success…Thus, postmillennialism seeks the Christianization of the world by the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Evangelism has priority in Christianization.

Greg Bahnsen adds his testimony to the centrality of the gospel:

Postmillennialism maintains that the victorious advance of Christ’s kingdom in this world will take place in terms of the present peaceful and spiritual power of the gospel…/

Postmillennialism believes in the gradual growth and success of the kingdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Church’s preaching of the gospel.

As these excerpts make plain, to hold postmillennial convictions necessitates that the gospel occupies preeminence. And, just as plainly, these excerpts make plain that those who would malign postmillennialism either are uninformed or willfully refuse to accurately characterize the position.

Nevertheless, it is one thing to accurately profess postmillennialism; it is quite another to practice it, that is, to function in terms of its implications. To rightly practice postmillennialism requires that one promote the primacy of the gospel. The gospel is not to be treated as a “spare tire,” to help you out when your life goes flat, only to be returned to the trunk once you get your flat fixed.

Changing the metaphor, the gospel is not simply the door to a new home, something quickly forgotten as one proceeds to the living room or the bedroom. Rather, the gospel is life itself and it is something that needs to be preached to oneself, even (especially) after one is converted.

Far too often, those holding theonomic and postmillennial convictions have expended time and effort on society’s transformation, but have neglected the cause and foundation for that transformation — the gospel. They have focused on the desired effect, rather than cultivating the necessary cause.

It is no coincidence that John Owen, the craftsman of the explicitly postmillennial Savoy Declaration, rightly warned: “He who has small thoughts of sin never has had great thoughts of God.” The gospel matters. Only a great God can transform a fallen society, a society overrun with sinful men. Yet, the Lord has chosen to do just that — by the gospel. The gospel must therefore be primary.

The Lord, in this day, has graciously rekindled the vision and hope of optimistic eschatology. This generation’s postmillennialists must therefore grasp the heart of that eschatology, the transformational gospel of Christ. It is the power of God, and accordingly, by God’s grace, to be serious about theonomic postmillennialism, one must promote the primacy of the gospel. Absent that emphasis, priority, and passion, one is not a true postmillennialist in any sense; rather, he is simply a vain moralistic pretender.

(This will continue in the next article.)

 

 

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