Puritan Gems

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Postmillennialism vs. Amillennialism Part III

The Extent of the Kingdom

"The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!" (Psalms 110:2)

What is the nature of Christ’s Kingdom, and what does it exist for? In looking over the works of prominent Amillennial authors, one common theme resonates. Christ’s kingdom is “other-worldly”, and is not the age of the triumphant church. Consider this quote from Walter Chantry:

“ . . . the kingdom of God is preoccupied with eternal and spiritual realities. It has to do with a presently invisible world. Its focal point is the inward man . . . The gospel of the Kingdom completely absorbs men in the eternal rather than the temporal . . . The gospel of the kingdom absorbs men in the spiritual rather than the material” (Walter Chantry - God’s Righteous Kingdom (1980). pp. 15, 19).

R. Scott Clark writes,

“There are forms of partial preterism, however, which often go hand-in-glove with triumphalist postmillennialism and theonomic ethics and Christian Reconstructionism that has to make the messiness of a semi-realized biblical eschatology go away in order to facilitate their program of cultural transformation and their own version of an earthly glory age….Both the preterist/postmil/reconstructionist glory age and the dispensational premil glory age are manifestations of what Luther called the “theology of glory.” The confessional Protestants, however, at least in the 16th century, taught a theology of the cross. It’s true that in the early 17th century forms of chiliasm became disturbingly popular in Reformed circles. We can be thankful today that we are neither saddled with some of the old views of science (geocentrism etc), politics (theocracy), or eschatology (chiliasm). Scripture teaches no future earthly golden age.” (The Heidelblog – Dismantling the Rapture).

John Seay adds,

“Christ's Kingdom during this age is not of this world, but is a spiritual Kingdom” (Is Postmillennialism Taught In the Bible?)

Amillennialist Kim Riddleberger agrees, and points to the area of contention concerning political activism:

“No political pep rally and no amount of political activism will ever "bring about the kingdom" on this earth. This is a bad example of an over-realized eschatology and an all too secularized understanding of the kingdom. Didn't Jesus say something about his kingdom being "not of this world?" (From The Kingdom on Earth? Now? Obama Thinks So . . .)

Of course, no orthodox postmillennialist would suggest that God’s Kingdom will be realized by political activism. But does that excuse Christians for being lackadaisical concerning politics, as many would have us do? Does the Word of the Living God not have clear instructions for civil rulers? What about being salt and light? Truly, an over-emphasis on being “other-worldly” makes modern Christianity “no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.” (Matthew 5:13).

Christ’s statement regarding His kingdom being “not of this world” relates to the source of authority, not the extent of His reign. Christ taught His disciples to pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). After His resurrection, Christ claimed “all authority”, not just in Heaven, but on Earth as well (Matthew 28:18). It is this authority that is the basis for the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), not just convert individuals. Christ’s reign in all-encompassing, not just “other-worldly”, but "on earth" as well (and that includes the earth's politics).

Jay Rogers offers this critique of “Optimistic Amillennialism”.
“Postmillennialism stresses that there will be a Golden Age of Christianity in time and history prior to Christ’s return. Postmillennialism is sometimes called optimistic amillennialism for this reason. In reality, an amillennialist who is optimistic about the end-times is a postmillennialist.”

Based on the quotes from prominent Amillenialist above, I would have to agree. Romans 11, which we shall examine soon, would probably be the dividing point.

The Nature of the Kingdom

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)

Like Premillennialists, Amillennialists view the culmination of the Kingdom to be ushered in by some cataclysmic event. Amlllennialist Professor David writes,
“Unlike postmillennialism, which has a gradual or evolutionary aspect to it, amillennialists proclaim the biggest discontinuity of all the millennial views. The present church age, is the Kingdom of God. Satan is already bound although not completely powerless (hence the paucity of demonic possession?). Throughout this age, a diminished (but strengthening) kingdom of evil will coexist with the kingdom of god. Both will be replaced virtually instantly with the eternal dispensation.” (Lesson 8: Amillennialism: A Golden Age Beyond Time (part 1))

Those who await this “virtually instant” replacement of both kingdoms usually confuse passages that refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and apply them to the Second Advent. According to Scripture, however, the kingdom was established during Christ's First Advent, and will continue to grow like leaven until it fills the whole world.

“He put another parable before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." He told them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened."” (Matthew 13:31-33)

"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...And in the days of those (Roman Emperors) 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 2:35-44)

The spread of Christ’s Kingdom through the Preaching of the Gospel will have global impact before the end of the age, “on earth as it is in Heaven”, as the list of Scriptures in the previous post suggests.

“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)

Postmillennialism is not universalism

A common objection to postmillennialism is based on the flawed belief that postmillennialism removes the tares from the kingdom before the end of the age. This is not true. Biblical postmillennialists agree with Amillennialists that “Evil and good co-exist together during this age before Christ's second coming”. David Chilton explains:

“Biblical postmillennialism is not an absolute universalism; nor does it teach that at some future point in history absolutely everyone living will be converted. Ezekiel's prophecy of the River of Life suggests that some out lying areas of the world — the "swamps" and "marshes" — will not be healed, but will be "given over to salt," remaining unrenewed by the living waters (Ezek. 47:11).” (David Chilton – The Days Of Vengeance, p. 519)

It seems that postmillennialism is superior to Amillennialism when it comes to the fulfillment of earthly promises concerning the Kingdom of God, and the ultimate fulfillment of the Great Commission in this “church age”.


Vagabond Recon777 said...

I'm not sure if Postmillenialism is "superior", it is just the best interpretation of fairly easy scriptures if one read's the whole Bible! If amillenialism or premil fit better they would be "superior".

Puritan Lad said...

Agreed. I'll rephrase that as "Biblically Superior".