PMT 2014-149 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
This is my second article given to considering the Alpha & Omega Ministries’ webcast by Dr. James White. In that webcast White critiqued my understanding of 2 Timothy 3. I posted a PMT article analyzing 2 Tim 3:1, which some see as undercutting the postmillennial position (PMT 2014-029). That verse warns: “Realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.”
Please see my preceding article for a proper orientation to my current PostmillennialismToday series. In this article I will make one final introductory note before beginning my actual response in the next article.
Introducing My Challenger
Dr. White is a Reformed theologian for whom I have great respect, and for which the contemporary evangelical church should be thankful. This is especially true among Reformed Christians. He is a tireless apologist for the conservative, evangelical Christian faith.
White is committed to amillennialism. And toward the end of his presentation, at minute-marker 41:35, he states: “I would say that amillennialism is the default Reformed position, at least historically.” He may well be correct. Today. Though he admits that this is not relevant to the exegetical discussion before us. And he is definitely correct on this point.
He opened his discussion by noting that he does not talk about eschatology often, except for the basics: the return of Christ, the resurrection, hell, and such. He said he avoided it for two reasons, but he only stated one. I think. This portion of his presentation was somewhat confusing.
His avoidance of eschatological discussion appears to be that he burned-out on the detailed, over-confident, gargantuan prophetic program of his dispensational younger years. I know the feeling. God has so many peoples! So many programs! So many dispensations! So many resurrections! So many judgments! So many prophecy experts! So many. . . well, you get the point: dispensationalist is one complicated theological construct.
Amillennialism v. Postmillennialism Debate (DVD by Gentry and Gaffin)
Formal, public debate between Dr. Richard Gaffin (Westminster Theological Seminary)
and Kenneth Gentry at the Van Til Conference in Maryland.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
White explained that he was raised a dispensationalist, and was an avid reader of Hal Lindsey, J. D. Pentecost, and others. Me, too! (I actually have a copy of The Late Great Planet Earth in the original Greek.) He noted that he became amillennial because of his interest in its more consistent interpretive methodology and its much simpler program involving a two-age structure of redemptive history, and including a “now-not-yet” unfolding of that history. Me, too. Except that these factors moved me in the opposite direction: to postmillennialism.
Then he expressed a particular frustration with the way prophecy discussion transpires in our contemporary environment. He lamented that some folks focus too much on eschatological programs, detailed specifics, and contemporary predictions. I agree here, as well. He noted that the NT certainly deals with eschatology, but that it avoids detailed chronologies such as have been created within dispensationalism. Once again, I agree with him. I told you that amillennialism and postmillennialism were similar!
Sharing His Frustration
This problem of excessive, meticulous detail, however, dominates the dispensational movement, not the postmillennial discussions. They are constantly fueling Rapture-expectations and Antichrist-identifications by using various means to promote their Secret Rapture-Great Tribulation-Antichrist-Armageddon-followed-by-Millennium message.
And dispensationalists do this constantly through the relentless production and tireless marketing of prophetic books; audio books; novels; novellas; graphic novels; mini-books; short stories; essays; magazines; editorials; articles; papers; fact sheets; charts; graphs; tables; diagrams; reports; reviews; plaques; bulletins; webcasts; blogsites; radio broadcasts; televangelist programs; cable shows; satellite transmissions; Israel travelogs; short-program videos; medium-program videos; long-program videos; movies; CDs; DVDs; sermons; conferences; seminars; Bible studies; Sunday school programs; In-Case-of-Rapture sticky memo pads; A-Little-Book-Which-Was-Open comic books; Locusts-Upon-the-Earth coloring books; The-Great-Supper-of-God cookbooks; Great-and-Marvelous-Are-Your-Works poetry collections; Sing-A-New-Song chorus books; Rapture-Verse-Memory-cards (both print and Braille versions — Navy signal-flag versions are being prepared and will soon be released); Ask-Me-About-the-Rapture bumper stickers; R-U-RDY license plates; individually cut, self-adhesive Mark-of-the-Beast stickers; Favorite-Revelation-Verses bookmarks; I’ll-Fly-Away Coffee Mugs; Left-Behind insulated travel mugs; A-Quart-of-Wheat-for-a-Denarius measuring cups; Write-in-a-Book-What-You-See writing pens and mechanical pencils; Merchants-of-the-Earth money clips; Sun-Shining-In-Its-Strength sun visors; He-Is-Coming-Soon ball caps (with plastic window cut-aways in the bill for upward viewing without neck strain); I-Am-Not-the-Beast-Because-I-Only-Have-One-Head headbands; Crashing-Pilotless-Plane posters; In-Case-of-Rapture greeting cards; Pictures-of-each-of-the-144,000-Jews pocket cards; Rapture-Countdown calendars; This-Time-It’s-For-Sure-Rapture Party Supplies; pre-printed Revelation-Message balloons; Heads-of-Lions-Tails-of-Locust tatoos; One-Way-Signal Praying Hands; Down-Up-Arrow Charms; Jesus-Is-Coming-Soon Stress Relievers (in the shape of a dove); Tim-LaHaye-Rolls-Royce key rings; Left Behind refrigerator magnets; Book-of-Life journals and jotters; Great-Tribulation playing cards; 1948-and-1967-Israel-Map puzzles; Write-on-a-Napkin-What-You-See imprinted dinner napkins; Marriage-Supper-of-the-Lamb engraved tableware; Whole-Text-of-Revelation printed table covers; fire-and-hail-resistant decorative denim Bible covers; Four-Living-Creatures 1/16 scale plastic model kits (with decals giving Revelation verse location); Battle-of-Armageddon action model figures (with removable heads); Caught-Up-Into-Heaven tote bags; Blessed-Is-He-Who-Reads stamps; Rapture-Promise cards (in sixteen different languages); Play Station Great-War-of-God video games (Gog-and-Magog versions are on the way); Hide-Bibles-in-the-Desert-for-Great-Tribulation-Jews board games; Favorite-Prophecies printed jelly beans; There-Was-a-Great-Earthquake 12 member cubic frame building supplies; Burning-Tree garden flags; Trample-Under-Foot door mats; All-the-Colors-in-the-Book-of-Revelation Christmas ornaments (available in Hanukkah versions); Four-Horsemen stuffed toys; Sent-and-Communicated mailbox covers; Color-of-Fire-and-Hyacinth-and-Brimstone stained glass frames; glue; WWJR (Who Would Jesus Rapture) bracelets; Armaggedon-Tomorrow? tee-shirts; 10-Horn-Beast-Hats; Antichrist Turbans; Caught-Up-to-God Rapture fashion wear; paper clips; The-Sky-Was-Split-Apart umbrellas; He-Carried-Me-Away-in-the-Spirit luggage and travel gear; Hide-Us-From-the-Wrath-of-the-Lamb scarves; Adorned-as-a-Husband neckties; Fire-from-Heaven cozy fleece blankets; She-Gave-Birth-to-a-Male-Child baby bibs; Kiss-the-Anticook Aprons; Clothed-in-a-Robe embroidered hoodies; Great-Tribulation hard hat stickers; American flag/Israeli flag lapel pins; Washed-in-the-Blood all-natural stain remover; I-Love-Netanyahu-and-You-Should-Too shirt buttons; Clothed-in-White-Linen coat badges; imprinted New-Name-Written-on-a-Stone faith stones; Fire-Breathing-Prophet breath mints; Hidden-Manna crunchy cereal, Bottomless-Pit snack bars; Smoke-of-a-Great Furnace coffee filters; Seven-Trumpets music supplies; and a few thousand other such products.
There you go! If Dr. White can have fun on his webcast, I can have fun on my blogsite. I suspect White and I could have some fun fellowship together. Unfortunately, he lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Too far away, and too hot in the day. The last time I was there was in the mid 1990s. I was speaking at a Bible conference on postmillennialism. I remember mentioning the excessive heat to a church member there. He replied: “But it’s a dry heat.” I pointed out that the same could be said about the heat in Hell. I haven’t been invited back since. Though I hope that is not why.
Eschatological Themes: Postmillennialism and Preterism (7 CDs)
These lectures cover themes important for understanding the relationship of preterism and postmillennialism. The issues covered are not only important but fascinating as you come to realize better and better that the looming of AD 70 had an enormous influence on the New Testament.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Dismissing His Minor Objection
As a reminder, White makes the following three complaints against my presentation: (1) Hermeneutically, I limit Paul’s concern in 2 Timothy 3 to his day only. (2) Theologically, I cannot account for Paul’s normative statement in 2 Timothy 3:12. (3) Historically, the wholesale decline in the European nations of the Reformation undercuts the postmillennial hope.
The first two objections are his main, most crucial points. They are his key concerns regarding my position that I presented in my original article. These concerns lead him to reject my analysis, as well as my whole eschatological position. The other one is secondary, though it is significant enough for him to bring it up (and is often heard as an objection to postmillennialism).
I will deal with White’s minor complaint first. I do this for two reasons: (1) It is not as crucial, and may be disposed of rather quickly and easily. (2) The two main objections are more dramatic, and so rhetorically I want to pull my reader along on a journey through the material. (Don’t you feel the excitement growing?) But now for his secondary complaint:
The decline of Christianity in Reformation Europe is certainly a painful reality for all Christians, especially Reformed ones (as Dr. White and I are). And even more so for postmillennial Christians. God mightily blessed and greatly enlivened the true church through the pouring out of his Spirit in effecting the Reformation in Europe. Consequently, the large-scale loss of Europe to a meaningful, biblical Christianity is a heart-breaking matter. But is it prophetically significant? That is the question.
At the 29:20 mark in his webcast, White expresses his agreement with Riddlebarger, whom I quote in my article. Riddlebarger wrote: “Throughout the last days, some will distort the gospel to tickle itching ears and gather followers to themselves.” In this context White calls his listener to look at Europe, the home of the Reformation. He urges us to consider the lamentable decline of Christianity in those lands where the Reformation occurred. They are spiritually defunct.
But this complaint exposes a fundamental misunderstanding of postmillennialism. This misconstrues postmillennialism at two points. First, postmillennialism does not hold that each year will show a greater progress of the gospel than the year before. Christianity’s forward march is incremental. And it proceeds with fits-and-starts — much like the individual’s up and down progress in sanctification.
Second, by the very nature of the case postmillennialism cannot be discounted by an historical observation of this kind. After all, the definition of postmillennialism is that Christianity will have won a world-dominating victory throughout the earth before Christ returns. It does not claim that this will be the case by 2014. Until Christ returns, postmillennialism cannot be discounted on the basis of current or recent historical circumstances. We do not know how much longer the Lord will delay his coming. It could be thousands of years longer.
We could just as easily reject the basic, orthodox doctrine of Christ’s second coming on the basis of the fact he has not yet returned. After all, we read in 2 Pet 3:3–4 that we will hear such complaints: “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’” Though the “last days” begin in the first century — as White agrees and Scripture teaches (Acts 2:16ff; 1 Cor 10:11; Heb 1:1–2) —, they are continuing even still today. In fact, they will continue through to the very “last day” at the resurrection — as White also agrees (John 6:39, 44, 54; 11:24).
So then, during this age we will hear complaints that the Lord is not returning. But Peter answers just such an objection. And he does so in a way that suggests Christ’s coming lies off in the distant future, perhaps thousands of years away: “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:8–9).
Yogi Berra apparently was a postmillennialist. He presented us with his theological maxim: “It ain’t over til its over.” Or maybe he was talking about baseball. I am not sure. But baseball is a biblical sport, and is the first sport mentioned in all of the Bible. After all, the foundational book of Scripture, Genesis, opens with: “In the big inning” (Gen 1:1). You can’t argue with facts.
Getting to Work
At the 11:24 minute-mark in his one hour webcast, White finally mentions my article. But then it is not until 28:40 that he actually begins engaging the issues. But how can I complain? Here I am two articles into my own reply, and I have only barely begun to engage his argument! The casual nature of the presentation of his eschatological program (which is much simpler than dispensationalism’s complex, intricate, complicated, labyrinthine, convoluted, difficile, arduous, confusing, onerous, elaborate, laborious, and tangled structure) requires, however, that I impose some order on his loose presentation.
So now without (too much) further ado: in my next article I will begin presenting and replying to his key observations. I will seek to discuss the matter in a little more structured manner. Of course, in writing articles one can do that more easily than in free, conversational discussion.
But this reminds me of a joke before I free up your time: Two lazy farmers were sitting on the front porch one afternoon. The first one said: “I saw you a holdin’ a pig up to the apple tree yestidy. What was you a’doin?” The second replied, “Aw, I was just lettin’ ‘im eat some apples.” The first one expressed surprise: “Isn’t that a terrible waste of time?” The second justified his activity, saying: “Ah, what’s time to a pig?”
See you next time! Lord willing and the Antichrist doesn’t arise.