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DOES SIN UNDERMINE POSTMILLENNIALISM?

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  April 14, 2014 — 1 Comment
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The theological doctrine of the depravity of man is frequently urged against the prospect of postmillennial kingdom victory. How can we hope for the worldwide peace and righteousness since man is fallen and depraved?

The Non-postmillennial Objection

In J. Dwight Pentecost’s assessment of the deficiencies of postmillennialism, his fourth objection is along these lines. He speaks of “the new trend toward realism in theology and philosophy, seen in neo-orthodoxy, which admits man is a sinner, and can not bring about the new age anticipated by postmillennialism.” As I mention in the previous chapter, Hal Lindsey asserts that postmillennialism believes in “the inherent goodness of man.”

Herman Hanko, a strong Calvinist, is convinced that “from the fall on, the world develops the sin of our first parents. This development continues throughout history. . . . More and more that kingdom of darkness comes to manifestation as time progresses.” Indeed, in his view postmillennialism “is a mirage, therefore, a false hope, because it fails to reckon properly with the fact of sin” and “cannot take sin as seriously as do the Scriptures.”


Perilous Times: A Study in Eschatological Evil (by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.)
Technical studies on Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, the great tribulation,
Paul’s Man of Sin, and John’s Revelation
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


The Postmillennial Response

How may the postmillennialist respond? In the first place we should note that despite the presence of sin, sinners do nevertheless convert to Christ. We must remember that each and every convert to Christ was at one time a totally depraved sinner. And yet we have hundreds of millions of Christians in the world today. Salvation comes by the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation. How can we deny the gospel’s power that has already saved millions of depraved sinners? What God can do for one sinner he can do for another. This is evident in the apostolic era (Ac 2:41; 4:4), as well as in biblical prophecy (Isa 2:3–4; Psa 86:9; Rev 5:9; 7:9).

A fatal objection to postmillennialism cannot arise from the power of sin. After all, the power of God to save greatly overshadows the power of sin to destroy. Indeed, “with God all things are possible” (Lk 18:27). In the ultimate analysis, the issue is not the power of sin, but the power of God. Throughout the present work I show that the Bible teaches that it is God’s will to bring redemption gradually to the whole world as a system through the proclamation of Christ’s gospel while building his church.

In one sense though it is true that the postmillennialist overlooks the depravity of man. He overlooks it — that is, looks over and beyond it — to see the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We see the glorious power of Christ’s resurrection overwhelming the destructive power of Adam’s fall. We need to consider the strength of grace in comparison to the power of sin. The Christian should ask himself: “Have I ever seen a lost man become saved?” The answer is: Yes. This being the case, it is evident that grace is stronger than sin. The Christian should then ask a follow up question: “Does the Bible teach that a saved man can lose his salvation?” Here the answer is: No. In both cases, we see the superior power of God’s grace over man’s sin. As postmillennialist scholar David Brown once put it: “Souls that have felt the Saviour’s grace know right well its matchless power. After their own conversion, they can never doubt its converting efficacy on any scale that may be required.”

In the preceding chapter I interact with Lindsey’s complaint that postmillennialists “rejected much of the Scripture as being literal and believed in the inherent goodness of man.” Responding again to Lindsey, I would note that postmillennialists do not believe in the inherent goodness of man, but Lindsey most definitely believes in the inherent weakness of the gospel. He believes that man’s sin successfully resists the gospel even to the end of history. Jonah also had a concern regarding the power of the gospel: he feared its power to save wicked, powerful Nineveh (Jon 1:2–3, 10; 3:2; 4:1–4).

Gary North notes the irony of the complaint that I am considering here. Anti-postmillennialists

believe that a postmillennial revival is inherently impossible because of the power of rebellious autonomous men. They have great faith in man — autonomous, unsaved man. He can thwart the plan of God. Autonomous man says “no” to God, and God supposedly chooses never to overcome this “no.” So, it is in fact the critic of postmillennialism who has faith in autonomous man. He believes that unsaved mankind has such enormous power to do evil that God cannot or will not overcome evil in history by the Spirit-empowered gospel.

Though the “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9), the postmillennialist firmly believes that “God is greater than our heart” (1Jn 3:20). We are confident that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1Jn 4:4). After Christ’s resurrection the church receives the Spirit’s outpouring (Jn 7:39; Ac 2:33). And God promises that historical power is “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zec 4:6).

We must emphasize this point: We may not convincingly argue for any optimistic expectation for mankind’s future on a secular base. This glorious postmillennial prospect is not in any way, shape, or form rooted in any humanistic effort. We cannot have a high estimation of man’s future based on man in himself, for “the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Ro 8:7–8). When left to himself man’s world is corrupted and destroyed — a classic illustration being in the days of Noah (Ge 6:5). But God refuses to leave man to himself.

But neither does the hope for the man’s progress under the gospel relate to the Christian’s self-generated strength, wisdom, or cleverness. Left to our own efforts, we Christians too quickly learn that “apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Were our future outlook rooted in the unaided power even of redeemed man, all would be hopeless. But our hope is in the resurrected Christ. “The labor is ours; the subduing is His.”

Amillennialist Bernard Woudenberg’s complaint against postmillennialism is woefully ill-conceived: “It is like the children of Israel rushing in to take the land of Canaan, but without Moses at their head (Numbers 14:40–45). Christ alone holds the right to rule, and he does (Ephesians 1:19–22), and we are never more than simply servants of His.” As Wou-denberg notes in his self-vitiating argument, Christ does rule! Therefore, postmillennialists humbly bow themselves before him and seek to employ his Law-word under his headship. Would Woudenberg dismiss authoritative church leadership? Is eldership a usurpation of the authority of Christ who is the Head of his church? How, then, can he dismiss the prospect of Christian leadership in the world, as if it implies a usurpation of Christ’s authority?


Predestination Made Easy (by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.)
A thoroughly biblical, extremely practical, and impressively clear presentation of
the doctrine of absolute predestination
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com

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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 DOES SIN UNDERMINE POSTMILLENNIALISM?

  1. Tim McNamara April 14, 2014 at 6:30

    Great Article Mr. Gentry. I have become conviced of the postmil position and I can see how the other views dampen the christian walk. they do seem to have a spirit of defeatism. Most christians today are obsessed with things like the New World Order, the one world religion, the illuminati and so on. Your article and another one i read from American Vision speaks perfectly to this. We are to preach the gospel, “to be instant in season, out of season”. (2 Timothy 4:2). We will run into hostility “but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” (1 Cor. 1:27). And as far as these things like the New World Order, these types of things have always been around and always crumble like the walls of Jerusalem in the book of Nehemiah. It’s time for christians to say to themselves “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: For I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” (Ps. 43:4) “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” “Therefore will not we fear, thought the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the sea”. (Ps. 46:1-2). Therefore ” The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee ; and shall say, Destroy them.” (Deut. 33:27). Thank you and God Bless.
    Tim Mc.

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