WHAT IS POSTMILLENNIALISM?

PMT 2013-001 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

DefiningThis is the first post for PostmillennialismToday.com. As I mention on my Welcome page postmillennialism is widely misunderstood and subject to radical misconceptions. Consequently, we must begin at the beginning: we must define what postmillennialism is.

For one to understand any system he must have a proper definition of it. Perhaps more than any of the other evangelical millennial options, postmillennialism has endured much abuse by mis-definition. Indeed, it is the easiest eschatological position to misunderstand in our era and therefore inadvertently to misrepresent. Consequently, we must remind all parties to the debate of this system’s actual claims.

Erroneus Preconceptions
Before I provide a careful, working definition of the system, 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 of too many critics.

First, postmillennialism neither teaches nor implies universalism. Postmillennialism does not claim that at some point in temporal history each and every individual then living will be saved. Even at the very height of the advance of the gospel in history, unbelievers will remain among us, though in a minority status. Some of these will be false converts to the faith, others openly unrepentant resisters to it. 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).

Second, 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.

Third, 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 perfect and permanent 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.


For more Christian educational materials, visit my web store: KennethGentry.com


Common Objection
In addition to these three clarifications, postmillennialists endure dissenters reminding us of present sinful world conditions as evidence against our expectations. We must insist that our eschatological system be properly understood: nowhere in the definition of postmillennialism do we declare that by the year 2011 (for instance) 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).

Succinct Definition
So then, how should we define postmillennialism? My definition of postmillennialism reads as follows:

Postmillennialism is that eschatological system arising from Scripture that expects the proclaiming of the Spirit-blessed gospel of Jesus Christ to win the vast majority of human beings to salvation in the present age. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of people and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions the Lord will return visibly, bodily, and in great glory, ending history with the general resurrection and the great judgment of all humankind.

Hence, our system is post-millennial in that the Lord’s glorious return will occur after an era of “millennial” conditions. The postmillennialist confidently proclaims in a unique way that history is “His story.

This is only a brief definition, but it is important to have this definition as our starting point. The fullness of the postmillennial system will be fleshed out as we study postmillennialism together on this blog!


For a fuller definition and defense of postmillennialism, see my 600+ page He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology. It is available at my webstore KennethGentry.com.

For more Christian educational materials, visit my web store: KennethGentry.com


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11 thoughts on “WHAT IS POSTMILLENNIALISM?

  1. Jay Culotta September 16, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    Excellent introduction Ken. I learned some new things myself and feel I can more easily explain our positions and our optimism.

    I look forward to future posts.

  2. Tim Roof September 16, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Thanks for this first post and congratulations. I look forward to learning more and discussing these matters with you and how they fit into your overall view of the book of Revelation and ‘Before Jerusalem Fell,’ as they pertain to preterism.

  3. Richard Gagnon September 16, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Hello there.
    I think the first error of postmillenialism is in the in the very first point
    where Brother Ken gives us what post-mil is not. He said:
    “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).”

    I put a great emphasis on two things. First, “Jesus clearly
    teaches this (that is postmillenialism) in his Parabole of the Tares
    among the Wheat…”
    and“…just before
    declaring the enormous victory of the faith in all the world (Matt.
    13:31-33).”

    Here are the errors. First, in these verses, Jesus did not teach post-mil
    (any more than pre-mil or a-mil). What Jesus was saying is that the kingdom
    of God will grow at a very large scale throughout history since he was speaking
    about it at its “inceptive stage”, so to speak. Second, in the other part of
    the verse, Jesus never declared the enormous victory of the faith in all the
    world as meaning what postmillenialists want us to believe. There are
    only two truths in the words of Jesus here (vv. 31-33). In the first part (vv.
    31-32), Jesus is talking about the impressive growth of the
    gospel
    (a premil or amil would agree with that too). There are more
    Christians today than there were in the time of Jesus. Everybody agree
    with it?
    In the second part (v. 33), Jesus is talking about the
    time it takes to see it growing
    (“till the whole was
    leavened.”
    )
    It refers here to the notion of time (“till”). Any
    school of eschatology would agree with it. But there is one thing that these
    verses do not show. They say nothing about
    postmillenialism. Sorry, but it is the reality. We must not read the text
    through the lens of one’s theological position. It is a simple rule of
    hermeneutics. I love you anyway Ken.

  4. Kenneth Gentry September 17, 2013 at 6:07 am

    Thanks for your response, Richard. Unfortunately, you do exactly what I warn against regarding postmillennialism: you misread what I as a postmillennialist say.

    Note that in my article I am responding to false conceptions of postmillennialism. In the point you focus on, I am showing that some people believe postmillennialism implies universalism. I write: “postmillennialism does not claim that at some point in temporal history each and every individual then living will be saved. Even at the very height of the advance of the gospel in history, unbelievers will remain among us, though in a minority status.” Then I draw my conclusion about this: “Jesus clearly teaches this in his Parable of the Tares among the Wheat.” My “this” statement is not referring to postmillennialism, but to postmillennialism’s denial of universalism. Please re-read the paragraph. Thus, I am saying that Jesus teaches in the Parable of the Tares that there will always be unbelievers (tares) in the world.

    But I do believe postmillennialism is taught in the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven. I do believe, as you yourself admit, that Jesus is teaching that “the kingdom of God will grow at a very large scale throughout history.” That is precisely the prediction of the postmillennial system, and, in fact, it is the main point of postmillennialism. Neither premillennialism nor amillennialism systemically anticipate a large growth for the faith in history. They may recognize the historical fact, but their systems do not suggest such a conclusion. In fact, both of them look to the eventual decline and collapse of Christianity in the world! And that perspective is certainly not anticipated in the kingdom parables.

    You say Jesus is talking about “only two truths” here: (1) “the impressive growth of the gospel” and (2) “the time it takes to see it growing.” But these two truths are precisely what postmillennialists expect! We believe that the gospel will enjoy “impressive growth” over time. You yourself even cite a portion of the leaven parable that expressly says: “till the whole was leavened.” You emphasize the temporal statement (“till”), which is fine. Postmills do the same. But notice what is to transpire during this period of time: we believe “the whole” (world) will be as leavened by the gospel, just as three bushels of wheat are wholly affected by leaven.

    In later blogs I will study these parables — these parables that only teach impressive growth.

  5. mitchellpersaud September 18, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Like.

  6. Justin September 24, 2013 at 8:04 am

    Will follow your site. Thanks!

  7. Charles Roberts September 26, 2013 at 5:53 am

    I feel like a better person already!

  8. Kenneth Gentry September 26, 2013 at 5:55 am

    And you probably are!

  9. ajmacdonaldjr September 26, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Nice new blog :) I will be following your writings and giving this matter much thought. I’ve been a postmillennialist for many years and only recently began rethinking the End Time, which seems, to me, to hinge upon the fullness of the Gentiles coming in, and it’s looking as though this may be happening now. Since the leaven of the gospel has permeated the nations of the world, and is now being rejected by these nations, God could be bringing the times of the Gentiles to an end.

  10. Brian September 26, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Dr. Gentry, the word ‘postmillennialism’ in the title has been misspelled.

    Also, would you say the “vast majority” notion in your definition of postmillennialism means that at least 50% of persons will be saved through the gospel in the present age?
    I don’t think the Bible lets us know beforehand that quantitative lower bound (e.g. >= 50%), but I do hope this lower bound is true/satisfied (and, I see nothing in Scripture that puts an apriori maximum bound of < 50% that would prohibit postmilleniallism, making amillennialism certain during these figurative 1000 years while Satan is figuratively bound with a chain). For this reason of present quantitative opaqueness, I consider myself neither amillennial nor postmillennial despite my hope that this lower bound (or even a greater one) is fulfilled.

  11. Kenneth Gentry September 26, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    The conversion rate will be enough to call this a saved “world” (John 3:17), a reconciled “world” (2 Cor 5:19), which doesn’t seem to be a simple majority. Calvin suggests that Isaiah 19:18 may indicate the ratio of believers to unbelievers: “In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will be speaking the language of Canaan and swearing allegiance to the LORD of hosts; one will be called the City of Destruction.”

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