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UNDERSTANDING POSTMILLENNIALISM PROPERLY

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  April 18, 2012 — 5 Comments

As the heat of the eschatological debate intensifies, too often the light from it diminishes. Postmillennialism is the easiest eschatological position to misunderstand in our era and therefore inadvertently to misrepresent. Consequently, we must remind our brothers in the debate of postmillennialism’s actual claims. I would caution non-postmillennialists regarding three faulty assumptions that they must avoid when responding to our eschatological system. And though few competent theologians would intentionally apply these conditions to postmillennialism, I fear that these sometimes lurk unrecognized in the subconscious.

1. Postmillennialism and Universalism

Postmillennialism neither teaches nor implies universalism. Postmillennialists do not argue that at some point in temporal history each and every individual then living will be saved. Consequently, even at the very height of the postmillennial advance, unbelievers will remain among us, though in a minority status—some as false converts to the faith, others as openly unrepentant resisters. Jesus clearly teaches this in his Parable of the Tares among the Wheat (Matt 13:30), just before declaring the enormous victory of the faith in all the world (Matt 13:31-33). This is a part of the “mysteries of the kingdom” (Matt 13:11): the glorious kingdom of God does not overwhelm the world catastrophically (but grows gradually like a mustard plant and penetrates little-by-little as does leaven) and it will not conquer the world absolutely (but grows to a majoritarian dominance like wheat in the field).

2. Postmillennialism and Perfectionism

Postmillennialism neither teaches nor implies perfectionism. Postmillennialists do not argue that at some point in temporal history Christians then living will be perfected. Despite the worldwide victory of the Christian faith, Christians will remain sinners—sanctified sinners, of course, but redeemed vessels of mercy suffering the complications of indwelling sin. Just as no current evangelical church is perfect, neither will an evangelical world be perfect. But if the majority of the human race were conducting themselves as the average church-going, born-again Christian of today, the world would certainly be a different and much better place—despite this lack of perfection.

3. Postmillennialism and Satisfactionism

Postmillennialism neither teaches nor implies satisfactionism. Postmillennialists do not argue that Christ’s people should prefer temporal, earthly conquest through gospel dominion over eternal, heavenly victory in consummational glory. Any believer with even a modicum of spiritual sanctification and biblical understanding must recognize the surpassing glory that awaits him in the resurrected estate. Then—and only then—will we see God face-to-face, experience the transformation of our bodies from mortality to immortality, enjoy freedom from temptation and sin, live forever in blessed circumstances, and be reunited with our saved loved ones. The glory of Christian dominion in the earth pales in comparison to the glory of resurrection majesty in the new earth.

In addition to these three clarifications, postmillennialists endure dissenters reminding us of present world conditions as evidence against our expectations. Consequently, we must insist that our eschatological system be properly defined: nowhere in the definition of postmillennialism do we declare that by the year 2002 we will witness the glorious blessings of worldwide gospel conquest. Until the moment the Lord returns postmillennialism cannot be disproved by evidences from cultural decline and social chaos in the world. Who knows how long God will take to effect the glorious transformation? Just as Christians should not doubt the second coming of Christ because it has not occurred yet (2 Pet 3:4), neither should evangelicals discount the cultural dominion of Christ because it is not full now. All our system requires is that the world be Christianized before the Lord returns—and we do not know when that will be (Matt 24:36; Acts 1:7).

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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.

5 responses to UNDERSTANDING POSTMILLENNIALISM PROPERLY

  1. Hi Dr. Gentry,

    just wondering what were your thoughts on the New Heaven and the New Earth? Are we living on them now or are they future events? I hear postmills quote Isaiah 65 often, but what about 2 Peter 3:12-13?

    Thanks for your input!

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. May 11, 2012 at 6:30

      Good question. I will post a few articles developing the concept of the new heaven and new earth.

    • You never really quote the scripture in context but pretext. The Bible is very explicit about a 1000 year reign given by John the Revelator. He has the clearest description of end-times and was given the last trump explanation of the return of Christ Jesus.

      • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. May 29, 2012 at 6:30

        Kathy: Apparently you have only read the one article I have written which provides a basic statement about postmillennialism. I have written hundreds of articles and dozens of books on the subject — and have spoken at scores of conferences to thousands of Christians about the matter. I have used hundreds of Scripture references to support my conclusions. Keep reading!

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