by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
For those new to this site and unacquainted with postmillennialism, I would like to provide a brief definition of modern, Reformed postmillennialism (which differs somewhat from the older Puritan form of postmillenialism). I would define it as follows:
Postmillennialism holds that the Lord Jesus Christ establishes his kingdom on earth through his preaching and redemptive work in the first century and that he equips his Church with the gospel, empowers her by the Spirit, and charges her with the Great Commission to disciple all nations. Postmillennialism expects that eventually the vast majority of men living will be saved. 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 men and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions the Lord will return visibly, bodily, and gloriously, to end history with the general resurrection and the final judgment after which the eternal order follows.
With this working definition before us, I will expand on some of its key elements and implications.
First, postmillennialism holds that the Lord Jesus Christ founds his Messianic kingdom on the earth during his earthly ministry and through his redemptive labors. His establishing the “kingdom of heaven” fulfills Old Testament prophetic expectations regarding the coming kingdom. The kingdom which Christ preaches and presents is not something other than that expected by the Old Testament saints. In postmillennialism the church is the fulfilled/transformed Israel and is even called “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16).
Second, the kingdom’s fundamental nature is essentially redemptive and spiritual, rather than political and corporeal. Although it has implications for the political realm, postmillennialism is not political, offering a kingdom in competition with geo-political nations for governmental rule. Christ rules his kingdom spiritually in and through his people in the world, as well as by his universal providence.
Third, because of the intrinsic power and design of Christ’s redemption, his kingdom will exercise a transformational socio-cultural influence in history. This will occur as more and more people convert to Christ, not by a minority revolt and seizure of political power in history nor by the catastrophic imposition of Christ at his second advent from outside of history. As Rushdoony notes: “The key to remedying the [world] situation is not revolution, nor any kind of resistance that works to subvert law and order. . . . The key is regeneration, propagation of the gospel, and the conversion of men and nations to God’s law-word.” This is because “evil men cannot produce a good society. The key to social renewal is individual regeneration.” (R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 113, 122).
Fourth, postmillennialism, therefore, expects the gradual, developmental expansion of Christ’s kingdom in time and on earth before the Lord returns to end history. This will proceed by a full-orbed ministry of the Word, fervent and believing prayer, and the consecrated labors of Christ’s Spirit-filled people. The ever-present Christ is directing kingdom growth from his throne in heaven, where he sits at God’s right hand.
Fifth, postmillennialism confidently anticipates a time in earth history (continuous with the present) in which the very gospel already operating will win the victory throughout the earth, fulfilling the Great Commission. “The thing that distinguishes the biblical postmillennialist, then, from amillennialists and premillennialists is his belief that the Scripture teaches the success of the great commission in this age of the church” (Greg L. Bahnsen, Victory in Jesus, 74). The overwhelming majority of men and nations will be Christianized, righteousness will abound, wars will cease, and prosperity and safety will flourish. “It will be marked by the universal reception of the true religion, and unlimited subjection to the sceptre of Christ.” “It shall be a time of universal peace.” “It will be characterised by great temporal prosperity” (David Brown, Christ’s Second Coming, 399, 401)
Sixth, “we can look forward to a great ‘golden age’ of spiritual prosperity continuing for centuries, or even for millenniums, during which time Christianity shall be triumphant over all the earth” (Lorraine Boettner, The Millennium, 29). After this extended period of gospel prosperity, earth history will draw to a close by the personal, visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ (accompanied by a literal resurrection and a general judgment) to introduce his blood-bought people into the consummative and eternal form of the kingdom. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.
For more information
For more introductory information on postmillennialism, see the following blog articles (using my blog’s SEARCH feature, you can search for the article numbers):
“What is Postmillennialism?” PT 2013-001
“Early Postmillennialism” PT 2013-002
For a helpful, introduction to postmillennialism, see my: Postmillennialism Made Easy.
For a thorough presentation, explanation, and defense of postmillennialism, see my: He Shall Have Dominion.
For less information on postmillennialism, look on the milled edge of an American dime. There is very little there about postmillennialism. Unless you interpret the peaks and valleys of the milled edge as representing the up and down progress of Christianity through history. Although there are only 118 ridges on the milled edge of the dime which numeric value possesses no symbolic meaning. But I digress.