In the previous post, I gave some reasons as to why I did not agree with the premillennial view and some of the noticeable flaws within the theory that have come to my attention (to read more about premillennialism, click here). It is important to address that many of my friends, mentors, and colleagues hold to this view as well as the majority of Evangelicals. It is very common to find Christians who believe in the tribulation that lasts for seven years, the literal reign of Christ over a period of a millennium, and who believe that Revelation 4-22 is foretelling the future.
Astonishingly, this wasn’t the case a few hundred years ago in the majority of Europe and colonial America. In fact, during the nineteenth century a large number of Evangelicals were associated with postmillennialism. Now, very rarely can a Christian meet a fellow believer who holds to the postmillennial view.
Because very few Christians, especially Evangelical Christians, consider themselves postmillennialists it is very rare for the common follower of Christ to be knowledgeable concerning this view. Another reason why there is very little concern regarding postmillennialism is because of the lack of interest one may have in exploring an opposing eschatological view. However, it is important to address this view as it does hold some merit when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture. What I am trying to say is that postmillennialists are very knowledgeable on the book of Revelation, Matthew 24, and the context of God’s covenant of salvation in both the Old and New Testament. Some of the things I believe postmillennialists get right are as follows:
1) Non-Literal View of the Millennial Reign
To quote the previous post, the literal interpretation of the millennial reign is not only confusing to the ordinary mind, but it also “doesn’t fit the structure that was given in the scriptures”. Basic understanding of Scripture, as well as advanced studies will lead to the conclusion that the 1000 years mentioned in Revelation 20 is not a literal figure, but rather a symbolic number representing a large quantity. This is a crucial part of postmillennialism.
I used to think that postmillennialists believe that the reign is still 1000 years, only it is a literal reign that takes place before the coming of Christ. Thankfully, historic postmillennialists such as Augustine of Hippo and modern postmillennialists such as Doug Wilson stress that the reign is not literally for a thousand years, but it is still before Christ.
They are not wrong on the view that the reign of Christ’s Kingdom is before the establishment of the new heaven and earth, just as Jesus went about the towns of Israel proclaiming in Mark 1:15 (ESV), “The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.” Also, Christ promised to be with us to the end of the age as we continue to spread the gospel; this proves that the Kingdom is set up before Christ’s second coming, and that Christ reigns with the believers in this present age.
2) Interpretation of Matthew 24
One thing that I couldn’t understand about the view of dispensationalism was how one could believe that despite Christ directly answering the disciples, dispensationalists still believed that Christ wasn’t speaking to them, but exclusively to the future believers. Postmillennialists make it abundantly clear that Matthew 24 should be understood as a passage that was meant for all believers throughout the age.
Matthew 24 is taught through a preterist view in postmillennialism, which means that what Christ foretold was largely fulfilled before the completion of the canon of Scripture. I have to admit that it wouldn’t make sense for Christ to predict the destruction of the temple, and then for the rest of the time to talk about something that would not even apply to the disciples. Rather, I agree to an extent with postmillennialists that Jesus was trying to speak on God’s judgment of Israel, the perseverance of the saints, and the danger of living without grace.
3) Their Passion for Evangelism
Most of my friends who believe in postmillennialism are not only intensely dedicated to biblical theology, but they are also passionate about the preaching of the gospel. This group of believers really want to proclaim the gospel to all people of all nations, so that Christ would be glorified. They have a strong, selfless desire to evangelize to almost everyone they know, and they demand good morals from politicians, CEOs, celebrities, etc.
They are determined and optimistic about the future, and they are so unashamed of the gospel that at times I feel like they can put Jehovah’s Witnesses’ reputations of being the ultimate missionaries to rest. I remember when learning how to evangelize, a youth pastor advised me, “Don’t preach Calvinism or no one will want to be Christian.” When it comes to the postmillennialists that I know, nothing other than the gospel told in Scripture will be preached (no matter how offensive it may seem to others).
As clearly seen, postmillennialists are remarkable people (and yes the premillennialists are also exceptional; my pastor/teacher is a premillennialist). From the naked eye it would seem that postmillennialism is the correct view, and for a while I considered postmillennialism. A lot of my favorite theologians and clergymen such as Jonathan Edwards, Augustine of Hippo, and B.B. Warfield strongly believed in this eschatological view, but more studying of it will reveal some of the inconsistencies with the view. Three major problems I had with the eschatological perspective were as follows:
1) Persecution & Suffering Will Cease
A graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, Philip Leineweber, called postmillennialism an “optimistic ignorance” in his last blog post, and it is very true. From the postmillennialist perspective, persecution will one day cease as Christian influence will one day dominate the culture. According to the notion, the sign of the end times and the nearness of Christ’s coming is made known when persecution goes down along with suffering. This idea couldn’t be further from what the Bible teaches us.
When it comes to the matter, I not only believe that persecution will last till Christ’s return, but I also believe that persecution is a sign of true faith. In 2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV) Paul says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” In John 15:19 (ESV) Christ makes it clear why persecution goes on, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” As long as the elect of God are present in this world, the only thing to expect is persecution from the world, and we shouldn’t expect it to go away before He returns.
2) Extreme Preterism
While I agree that most of Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation has been fulfilled, some postmillennialists take it to another degree. It can get to the point where certain passages that speak of the future are ignored. For example, in Revelation 13, it is made evident that the Church will be persecuted during Christ’s return. However, many postmillennialists interpret that chapter as a message that was talking about the persecution in the past pertaining to the apostles.
I also have to admit that there are bits of Matthew 24 that are not yet fulfilled, as well as the book of Revelation that convinces me that having an extreme view of preterism can deviate from the Scriptures’ intentions, especially when it’s clear in the context provided that the text references something pertaining to the future and not the past. There were literal prophecies in the Old Testament that related to the coming of Jesus, so we can’t deny the possibility that there are New Testament scriptures that foreshadow future events.
3) Emphasis on “Christianization”
This is perhaps the biggest reason why people don’t want to associate themselves with postmillennialism. The idea that Christians must change culture with the hopes that one day there will be an international agreement on Christian morality is not only far-fetched, but it also sounds very similar to the eschatology of Islam: influence the world with religion so that the great prophet may return. “Christianization” is not the goal of any believer as it says in Ephesians 6:12 (ESV), “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
This fight is not about taking over the nations or even trying to take back dominion from Satan. Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 28:18 that He won authority over everything, including earth, on the cross. That means the emphasis is not on what is physical, but on what is spiritual. Our fight is for the gospel, not so that we could influence the coming of Christ, but so that we might glorify Christ. I agree that we should preach the gospel to all nations, tribes, and people, but we must have the understanding that it will be impossible to try and defeat dark powers so that we can usher Christ’s return.
After taking biblical consideration, both postmillennialism and premillennialism can be invalidated. It is truly saddening to me as this view is really amazing, but it is neither practical nor scriptural. Persecution will continue, suffering will always be present, and God still has some things to fulfill that He promised would come to pass in the Bible.
Unsurprisingly, the popularity of postmillennialism among evangelicals decreased in the twentieth century as two world wars, an economic crash, and the lack of Christian influence in politics made it abundantly clear that postmillennialism is not a practical eschatological perspective. A great number of those who were postmillennial ran to historic premillennialism, despite knowing that there was not enough evidence for a literal 1000-year reign. As for the other group that abandoned postmillennial eschatology, they ran to a view that I believe is not only the most rational, but also the most logical, practical, and scriptural.
Soli Deo Gloria.