Puritan Gems

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Defense of Postmillennialism

“A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” (Psalms 110:1)

“Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:24-26)

“No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.”
(Joy To The World – 3rd Stanza)

As a preterist, I have been accused of undermining the importance of Christ’s Second Advent. I would respond to my futurist opponents that they undermine the importance of His First Advent, as the Christmas Carol above shows. O how different the future looks according to the Bible, when compared to that of our modern day “prophecy experts”. The Biblical outlook, as previously put forth, is one of Christian victory. The Dispensationalist outlook is one of defeat, at least as far as planet earth is concerned. After all, “Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth”, they say. They look forward to being snatched off of this planet before “the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit is removed with the Church to allow the onset of the 7 year period of unrestrained evil” (See The 'Great Escape' Misunderstanding). BTW: I have yet to hear a suitable explanation of how 144,000 Jews will be saved during the tribulation without the Holy Spirit. Oddly enough, these people continue to sing “Victory in Jesus”, but limit that victory to some abstract, end-of-all-things type of victory. David Chilton explains the negative impact of such a worldview on the church itself.

“For too long, Christians have been characterized by despair, defeat, and retreat. For too long, Christians have heeded the false doctrine which teaches that we are doomed to failure, that Christians cannot win –the notion that, until Jesus returns, Christians will steadily lose ground to the enemy. The future of the Church, we were told, is to be a steady slide into apostasy… Any new outbreak of war, any rise in crime statistics, any new evidence of the breakdown of the family, was often oddly viewed as progress, a step forward toward the expected goal of the total collapse of civilization, a sign that Jesus might come to rescue us at any moment. Social action projects were looked on with skepticism: it was often assumed that anyone who actually tried to improve the world must not really believe the Bible, because the Bible taught that such efforts were bound to be futile; as one famous preacher put it, “You don’t polish brass on a sinking ship… Evangelism was an invitation to join the losing side.

This was rooted in two problems. One was a false view of Spirituality. The unbiblical idea of “spirituality” is that the truly “spiritual” man is the person who is sort of “non-physical”, who doesn’t get involved in “earthly” things, who doesn’t work very much or think very hard, and who spends most of his time meditating about how he’d rather be in heaven. As long as he’s on earth, though, he has one main duty in life: Get stepped on for Jesus. The “spiritual” man, in this view, is a wimp; a loser. But at least he’s a Good Loser….The second obstacle to Christian action has been an eschatology of defeat …As a young Christian, I remember my Bible teachers informing me that they had “peeked at the last chapter (of the Bible), and the Christians win!” But that is just my point: according to certain popular brands of eschatology, victory takes place only in “the last chapter.” In time, in history, on earth, the Christians lose. The world is getting worse and worse. Antichrist is coming. The devil is running the world, and getting more and more powerful all the time. Your work for God in this world will have no lasting effect, except to save a few individuals from hell. But you’d better do it quickly, before the Tribulation hits, so that you can escape in time. Ironically, the unintentional message of this gospel is: Antichrist is coming! There is something terribly lopsided about that.
” (David Chilton – Paradise Restored, pp. 3-4).

The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that the world will be redeemed for Christ. The Great Commission will be a success, not a failure. For most of history, this was the expectation of the church. It was this expectation of victory that sparked the Revivals in England and Scotland, drove missionaries like William Carey on 15,000 mile voyages to India and other remote regions of the planet, and was the foundation of the London and Scottish Missionary Societies. (See link to Iain Murray's book below for details.)

“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,” (Daniel 2:44)

What is the nature of the kingdom of God? While all Christians expect the ultimate consummation of His kingdom at His Second Advent (2 Timothy 4:1), what about now? Dispensationalists wait for Christ to set up his kingdom on earth and reign from earthly Jerusalem for 1,000 years. (See “Millennium” under the Rapture Ready Glossary). They give Revelation 20:3-4 as their proof text. If you are a premillennialist, I challenge you. Click on the Scripture link to Revelation 20:3-4, or look at it in your own Bible. Does this passage say anything about Christ reigning ON EARTH for 1,000 years?

I have already shown what the Premillennial interpretation of the 1,000 years does to the doctrine of the resurrection, particularly to Jesus’ words in John 5:28-29 and John 6:39-44. You can also throw in 1 Corinthians 15:24, which has the resurrection taking place at “the end”. There are several other issues to look at as well. First, the premillennial view demands that Christ must once again abdicate his heavenly throne at the Father’s right hand in order to reign on earth for 1,000 years, and then finally destroy all of His enemies at the end of that reign (Revelation 20:7-10). However, Psalm 110:1 is clear that He will remain at the father’s “right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” Second, one of the results of the First Resurrection is that those who participate in it are priests and kings with Christ, a blessing John has already affirmed to be a present reality (Revelation 1:6). Jesus has already ascended to the throne of David (Acts 2:25-36), and we have been “resurrected” out of our “trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) as Christ “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6). There is no reason to believe that He will ever again sit in a temple made by human hands (assuming that the temple will ever be rebuilt, and that is a big assumption). As we can see from the prophecy in Daniel, Christ’s everlasting kingdom was to be set up during the Roman Empire. (Kenneth Gentry has a good article on "The Meaning of the Millennium"). We have the words of the New Testament to confirm this.

"…the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:7; Matthew 10:7).

“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28)

“Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28)

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” (Colossians 1:13)

As we can see, Christ kingdom, His Church, is on earth now. Jesus said to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world." (John 18:36). The text does not say, as some foolishly teach, that Christ's Kingdom is irrelevant to the world; rather, it affirms that the Kingdom is not derived from earth: He was speaking of the source of His authority, not the place of His legitimate reign. For He also tells Pilate, the earthly governor, that “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). His kingdom is not of this world but it is in this world and over it.

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14)

Contrary to the Premillennial view, the kingdom will not be consummated by some cataclysmic eschatological event, but will gradually overtake the world, like leaven (Matthew 13:33). It will not be by military might, but by the everlasting gospel.

“As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” (Daniel 2:34-35)

Christ has built His church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18), neither in this age, nor the next.

“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.” (Psalms 22:27-28).

"For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)

Postmillennialists believe that there will be a time when Judaists reject their false religion in favor of Christ (not in any “tribulation period”, but in the church age). This, in turn, will result in even great blessings for the gentiles. Whether or not the “millennium” speaks of this current age or of that “golden age” is open for debate. The puritans of the past, however, were almost exclusively postmillennial. The future conversion of the Jewish people to Christ is the main event that separates Amillennialist Preterist and the Poastmillennial Preterist. The main passage in support of this is Romans 11:24-32.

“For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob"; "and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins." As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” (Romans 11:24-32)

The unity of Jews and Gentiles during a future golden age is found not only in Romans, but in several other passages as well. On this point, Romans 11 agrees with many Old Testament Prophecies.

“Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.” (Isaiah 26:19).

Richard Sibbes writes, “The Jews are not yet come in under Christ’s banner; but God, that hath persuaded Japhet to come into the tents of Shem, will persuade Shem to come into the tents of Japhet, (Genesis 9:27). The “fullness of the Gentiles is not yet come in (Romans 11:25), but Christ, that hath the ‘utmost parts of the earth given him for his possession’, (Psalm 2:8), will gather all the sheep his Father hath given him into one fold, that there may be one sheepfold and one shepherd, (John 10:16).”

There is debate on whether or not these Old Testament prophecies refer to the Hebrew nation or the church. Most postmillennialists would hold to the former, whereas Amillennialists would hold to the latter. I am inclined to agree with the Amillennialist on this point (we’ll examine the Church and Israel in the next post). However, there is little doubt in my mind that Romans 11 clearly refers to Israel after the flesh, and it will take a good exegetical argument from this passage to convince me otherwise.

For More information, See:

The Puritan Hope by Iain Murray
Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope by Keith Mathison
As the Waters Cover the Sea by J. A. De Jong

1 comment:

wakawakwaka said...

dispensationalists say life is getting worse and worse, but i would say other wise! violencrime is at a 40 year low, teen pregancy is at a 70 year low, abortion is at a 40 year low, drug abuse is also at an all time low!Despite what you see on the news, we are living in the most peaceful time of human history! and no, earthquakes are not increasing, dispite what hal lindsey is saying!
Post-millenialism certianly has a wonderful future