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POSTMILLENNIALISM AND EVANGELISM

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  January 24, 2012 — 1 Comment

by Jefferey Ventrella, J.D.

This is part 2 of a two-part series on Practicing Postmillennialism.

Demonstrating Evangelistic and Missiological Zeal

Theonomic postmillennialism also demands that one demonstrate evangelistic and missiological zeal as well. God’s Word confidently describes the Lord’s expanding reign:

His name shall endure forever; His name shall continue as long as the sun. And men shall be blessed in Him; All nations shall call Him blessed. Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, Who only does wondrous things! And blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory, Amen and Amen. (Psa. 72:17-19)

Sadly, in Reformed circles, many confess evangelism’s necessity, but too few function in terms of that reality. An ethical gap exists between declaration and demonstration. James condemns such hypocrisy: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jms. 1:22).

Reformed Christians must ponder just how it is that the whole earth will be filled with God’s glory and just how all nations shall call Him blessed. Are these phrases just nice sounding shibboleths? If not, then what conduct, here and now, is the Lord pleased to use in order to transform these proclamations into reality?

As Calvinists, Reformed Christians certainly know the academic answer to these questions: God uses “secondary causes” for effectuating His decree . But again, from an ethical standpoint, demonstration must accompany declaration. It is humbling to see just how impoverished Reformed missiology, indeed “evangelical missiology” is today.

On a global scale, consider the following data: Of these 12 nations — Singapore, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, and Brazil — only one of them, Singapore, sends more than one missionary per Christian congregation. The cumulative average ratio of missionaries per congregation for these 12 nations is a deplorable 0.12. Within these 12 countries, thousands of congregations exist. And yet, a covenantal and tangible commitment by the local churches to support live personally known missionaries is decidedly lacking. Reformed congregations do not fare any better.

Money follows ministry. If a congregation’s (or denomination’s) heart burns with missiological zeal, then funding to effectuate that zeal will not be lacking. As someone once quipped, “God’s work, done God’s way, will never lack God’s funding.”

It is the Reformed faith — “Christianity come into its own,” as B. B. Warfield styled it — that provides the potent doctrinal foundation that both motivates and sustains missiological efforts. On paper, therefore, the Reformed churches should take the lead in evangelism and missions. At times in the past it has been so (cf. Iain Murray’s The Puritan Hope). Sadly, today they do not. Why?

One reason the gospel is not promiscuously and zealously proclaimed stems from a potent heart problem – the fear of man. “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe” (Prov. 29:25, ESV). We raise alleged theological objections to aggressive evangelistic efforts, but too often these are mere excuses for fearful inaction. Are we more interested in “Reformedness” than being faithful?

The reality is, however, as Calvinist Ernest Reisinger declared: “The church that does not evangelize will fossilize, that is, dry up and become useless to Christ and the world.” Evangelism and missiological efforts are not somehow antithetical to a robust Calvinism. In reality the opposite is true. And, this is especially the case when Calvinism melds with an optimistic eschatology.

The vitality of the Reformed faith instills great confidence in missiological efforts. The doctrines of grace ascribe to God the certainty of salvation: “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48, ASV). Reformed doctrine teaches rightly that evangelistic and missiological efforts cannot fail of success. Enter postmillennial eschatology.

The Bible teaches that not only does God elect, effectively call, regenerate, etc., individuals whom He has appointed unto life, but also that He has purposed and willed, according to His good pleasure, to call many multitudes into His Kingdom. Indeed, the prophet avers without hesitation or qualification: “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). Consequently, the doctrines of grace also provide the certainty of kingdom expansion. Appropriately then, Christ is the “Savior [soter] of the world” (1 John 4:14).

This eschatological certainty should fuel evangelistic and missiological zeal. Most self-conscious postmillennialists would concur with this conclusion, but the ethical questions remain: Is this confession being demonstrated in one’s life? Does one practice what one professes?

Here are a few simple, but effective fog-clearing diagnostic questions:

  • Do your family devotions contain not only instruction regarding, but also a passion, for the lost?
  • Do your prayers beckon the Lord to open doors for His Word among the unconverted, or is evangelism directed predominantly to “converting” the non-Reformed?
  • Does your mind automatically conceive of missions as being an impersonal excursion to the African subcontinent while your own neighbors have never heard the gospel from your own lips?
  • Does your checkbook reflect not only commitment, but also sacrifice, for the gospel’s spread?
  • Do you routinely disparage the outreach efforts of other members of Christ’s body merely because their theological acumen fails to meet your own private convictions or preconceived preferences?
  • Do your mission efforts embrace the antithesis or do you spend your efforts seeking to convert fellow covenant-keepers?

Postmillennial convictions taken to heart embrace evangelism and discipleship with gusto. If the gospel is not primary and if one does not burn with a passion for converting and disciplining the nations, his optimistic eschatological confession is suspect in the final analysis. Frankly, such a confession would be nothing more than sound and fury, signifying nothing. To paraphrase James, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to believe in missions but has no deeds? If one of you says of the lost millions, ‘The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord,’ but does nothing individually about reaching him with the gospel, what good is it?” (cf. James 2:14,16).

Eschatology matters, and it matters on a personal ethical level. May God kindle a raging fire for evangelical and missiological zeal in His Church, especially among those who embrace the Scripture’s optimistic eschatology. Anything less would be, in a word, antinomian.

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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 AND EVANGELISM

  1. Our family “adopted” several grad student couples from a Muslim nation. My two youngest children spent five years getting to know these sharp and charming young people, and they continue to pray for “our Turkish friends” to this day.

    Soviet communism fell almost overnight. If God discredited Islam tomorrow, would we be ready for the opportunities that would open up? Getting to know one Muslim nation, studying its language, befriending students from that part of the world, is a very doable task for a home-school family.

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