Monday, February 21, 2011

Postmillennialism: Are We There Yet??

Opening Thoughts
So last post we discussed amillennialism ( no, I am NOT recapping :)) and this post I want to turn our attention to another theory of the millennium, postmillennialism. Obviously, post here means after. So in its simplest idea, postmillennialism is the view that there will be an earthly reign of Christ for a thousand years. Now the conversation takes a bit of a turn. Now that we are discussing views that involve an actual millennium, things will get a little simpler in trying to explain some of this.

Postmillennialism In a Nutshell
"According to this view, the progress of the gospel and the growth of the church will gradually increase, so that a larger and larger proportion of the world's population will be Christians. As a result, there will be significant Christian influences on society, society will more and more function to God's standards, and gradually a 'millennial age' of peace and righteousness will occur on the earth. This 'millennium' will last for a long period of time (not necessarily a literal one thousand years), and finally, at the end of this period, Christ will return to earth, believers and unbelievers will be raised, the final judgment will occur, and there will be a new heaven and new earth. We will then enter into the eternal state." (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 1111)

To help all of us who are more visual, here is a chart:

Scriptural Basis
So what does Scripture say concerning postmillennialism? Although the term itself of course is not found in our sacred literature, there can be some interpretation that this idea might be legit.

  • The Great Commission. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 28: 18-20 that "all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to me (Jesus)", and with that authority the disciples were to go forth from that place and make more disciples until the whole world heard the gospel. That sounds like the idea of a gradual process, don't you agree?
  • The Parables of Christ. In His parables, Jesus points to stories which seem to suggest a gradual filling of the earth with the kingdom of God. Two main examples would include Matthew 13: 31-32 which describes the kingdom of God being like a mustard seed, and Matt. 13: 33 which describes the kingdom being like flour that was being leavened until it was full.
  • Those who subscribe to postmillennialism will say that the world is increasingly becoming more Christian in the sense that the gospel is thriving in countries where it is persecuted (i.e. China, India, Egypt, etc.)
The Rebuttal
Although the Great Commission does give Christ all authority in heaven and earth, it is implied by postmillennialists that the majority of the world will be Christian. I have a hard time with this implication because of this: Christ will redeem His elect, although we as the Church have no clue how many that will be. We know from Scripture that God does not wish any to perish, but for all to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4), and in this, we know that not all will be saved (Matt. 7:21-23), so where is the predominant Christian society? I know that this might seem off considering this view, but it's good for us to think about.

The other two arguments that are given above really are too vague in my opinion to be considered seriously for postmillennialism. The parables are too vague and any implication that they refer to postmillennialism is just that, an implication.

And for the assertion that the world is becoming more Christian seems a little off to me. Yes, the gospel is progressing to every nation on the earth praise Christ, but in places where the gospel has taken root, there seems to be little impact on society. Maybe I'm just being too harsh, but all you have to do is look at Europe and the United States to see that not only are they not becoming more Christian, but they seem to be seeping into secularism in every sense of the word. Europe was the birthplace of the Reformation, and today you could barely recognize it as Europe becomes entwined with every form of psychology, science and religion, not to mention Roman Catholicism. The church that Jonathan Edwards used to pastor in Massachusetts is currently being used to wed homosexual couples. These are steps backwards in society, not forwards. If postmillennialism is correct, then I feel we have an awful long wait ahead of us.

The Best Of Both Worlds?
One last note on this subject is that it is entirely possible for someone to adhere to postmillennialism as well as premillennialism. We'll hit premillennialism in the next two posts, but there are people (although I have no idea how many) who ascribe to postmillennialism but who also believe that after the world has become increasingly Christian, Jesus will set up His earthly kingdom. That's not in the realm of impossibility, but in the end it all depends how they define the term millennium. Interesting I thought.

Final Thoughts
So as a believer in Christ we are taught to look forward to His coming, as well we should. In that thought we should intercede for the nations and be witnesses for Christ in our neighborhoods, jobs, and wherever we go (Acts 1:8). So in the end this theology should enhance our view of what our great God one day will do. If four guys with PhD's can't agree on this important piece of theology, odds are we won't all agree either. At any rate, pursue the Scriptures and ask questions. There are plenty to ask, and it seems the more you ask the more confused you can get. We need Him and His Spirit to enlighten both our minds and our hearts in these issues, for they certainly are weighty indeed.



  1. Hey, another good post. I came out of it a little confused though. I thought that the post-millennial view was that Christ would literally reign on a throne on the earth for 1,000 years? Explaining it in terms of the slow advance of God's kingdom seems like an Amillennial thing to me. Hmm... off to my ESV Study Bible to do research!

  2. According to post, there is no literal thousand years of Christ's earthly reign. I had to re-look that one up, because I too got confused for a second! Rather, the millennium is that period of prolonged peace brought about by the preaching of the Gospel to all nations.

    It does seem a little amillennial to me also, and I think this is because post and amill have a lot in common. At least more than they realize. :)

  3. Hmm. This whole time, I thought I was amillennial. Now I've got to go back and figure out what I am, lol. I just figured I was AMil. based on thinking of the thousand years as a period of the advance of the Gospel.


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