is the belief that Christ will return after the millennium. Thus, the name " post" (after)
millennial (1000). All
postmillennialists believe that the current age is the kingdom, while some
believe that the millennial phase of the kingdom is present and others hold
that it is yet future when the world has been Christianized. Postmillennialists also believe the
Church is the agent through which this return to Eden will be mediated by Christ
the King from heaven. Most
postmillennialist have stressed the preaching of the gospel, resulting in a
conversion of most of mankind as the means for Christianization. However, the more recent
Reconstructionist version adds to evangelism obedience and faithfulness to
biblical law as a condition for victory.
Some postmillennialist believe that the conversion of the world will be
a very slow and gradual process, taking perhaps thousands of years more. On the other hand, others believe that
conversion could happen within a short period of time (about 10 years) as the
result of a great revival.
Systematic postmillennialism was the last of the three major
eschatologies to develop. It was
first taught within the church in the seventeenth century.
postmillennialist Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. gives the following seven
characteristics of evangelical postmillennialism:
postmillennialism "understands the Messianic kingdom to have been founded
upon the earth during the earthly ministry and through the redemptive labors of
the Lord Jesus Christ. . . . the Church becomes the transformed Israel."
"the fundamental nature of that kingdom is essentially redemptive and
spiritual . . . Christ rules His kingdom spiritually in and through His people
in the world (representation), as well as by His universal providence."
• Third, Christ's
"kingdom will exercise a transformational socio-cultural influence in
history. This will occur as more
and more people are converted to Christ."
"postmillennialism, thus, expects the gradual, developmental expansion of
the kingdom of Christ in time and on earth. . . . Christ's personal presence on
earth is not needed for the expansion of His kingdom."
"postmillennialism confidently anticipates a time in earth history
(continuous with the present) in which the very gospel already operative in the
world will have won the victory throughout the earth in fulfillment of the
Great Commission. . . . During that time the overwhelming majority of men and
nations will be Christianized, righteousness will abound, wars will cease, and
prosperity and safety will flourish."
• Sixth, there are
"two types of postmillennialism today: pietistic and theonomic postmillennialism. . . . Pietistic
postmillennialism . . . denies that the postmillennial advance of the kingdom
involves the total transformation of culture through the application of
biblical law. Theonomic
postmillennialism affirms this."
"possibly 'we can look forward to a great 'golden age' of spiritual
prosperity continuing for centuries, or even for millenniums, . . .' After this . . . earth history will be
drawn to a close by the personal, visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ (accompanied
by a literal resurrection and a general judgment) to introduce His . . .
consummative and eternal form of the kingdom."
Liberals and Conservatives
While many of the
basic elements of postmillennialism remain the same, distinction should be made
between liberals who promote a postmillennialism through humanism (i.e., the
social gospel of the past) and evangelical postmillennialism that promote
progress through the church's preaching of the gospel and application of Mosaic
Law. Both adhere to a gospel
combined with social change as the agency of change and progress. Thus, in a sense, evangelical
postmillennialists believe that many nineteenth century postmills went astray
by adopting humanistic liberalism, instead they should have relied upon a more
traditional, conservative approach.
rise and development of postmillennialism has been the object of some dispute,
partly because of some similarities between it and amillennialism. Amillennialism and postmillennialism,
for example, would have Gentry's point one, two, and four in common. Thus, because of points of similarity,
some have confused amillennialism and postmillennialism. Because of these similarities, it may
be difficult at times to clearly distinguish postmillennialism and
amillennialism in history. It is
the differences that are significant, in spite of similarities. Both are clearly anti-premillennial.
It is generally
thought that Daniel Whitby (1638-1725) developed systematic postmillennialism,
as a clearly distinct form of millenarianism. This does not mean that elements of systematic
postmillennialism did not exist prior to Whitby, for they clearly did. However, it seems best to understand
the maturity of postmillennialism into a distinct system as post-Reformational
and in a sense an optimistic form of amillennialism. Thus, postmillennialism's development is dependent upon
Only a handful of
partisan polemicists would attempt to argue that postmillennialism has a
post-apostolic presence. " All seem
to agree that postmillennialism is quite foreign to the apostolic church. There is no trace of anything in the
church which could be classified as postmillennialism in the first two or three
The rise of
figurative interpretation and Augustine's millennial interadvent theory began
to lay a foundation for the later development of postmillennialism. Augustine "held that the age
between the first and second advents is the millennium of which the Scriptures
speak and that the second advent would occur at the end of the millennium. This is definitely a postmillennial
viewpoint as it places the second advent after the millennium." However, it is also at the same time an
amillennial viewpoint. Augustine
and his eschatology is best classified as amillennial because he lacked the
optimism required for a true postmillennial viewpoint, regardless of whatever
similarities they may have in common.
development that contributed to the development of systematic postmillennialism
is the rise of Christendom and the merger of church and state with
Constantine's declaration that Christianity was the new religion of the Roman
Empire (a.d. 313). Before Constantine it is estimated that
only eight to ten per cent of the Empire was Christian. However, as the fourth century neared
its end, virtually all identified themselves as Christian. This development lead to a form of
victory and optimism about the spread of Christianity and its ability to
overcome even a hostile state, like the previously evil Roman Empire. However, such optimism was tempered
with the lost to Christendom of North Africa in the fifth century and the rise
of militant Islam a few centuries later.
Floris' rise to prominence in the twelfth century certainly was a watershed
event in the development of eschatology.
He not only laid the foundation for the historicist interpretation of
prophetic literature, but his optimism is seen by some as contributing to the
development of postmillennialism.
Whether or not he can be classified as a clear postmillennialist,
he certainly contributed to an optimistic view of history. E. Randolph Daniel notes,
the twelfth century was
optimistic about history and the future.
The Gregorian reformers certainly believed that they could dramatically
reform and purify the Church on earth.
Joachim, who was clearly Gregorian in his sympathies, believed that
history was evolving toward the status of the Holy Spirit . . . when the Church
would enjoy a historical era of peace and spiritual attainment that would far
surpass anything achieved in the past.
helped prepare the way for the later development of postmillennialism, it is
best not to classify him as a millennialist.
Joachim's third status has often been described as chiliastic or
millennial, which implies that it constitutes a new beginning, the emergence of
a spiritual church that would replace the corrupt clerical church. Certainly the millennium as depicted in
Apocalypse 20 is a new beginning, but Joachim's status of the Holy Spirit is
not millennial in this sense. . . . Joachim's thinking is evolutionary, not
revolutionary. He was a reformer,
not a millennialist.
prepare the way for postmillennialism by contributing an idea of optimism that
was to be continuous with the course of the present age. His belief that it was to be an age of
the Holy Spirit was often adopted by later postmillennialists.
sprang out of an attitude of pessimism and despair. Marjorie Reeves notes, "E. L. Tuveson has argued that
the classical attitude of Protestant reformers towards history was one of
pessimism: all things must
decline; decay is the essential fact of history." Robin Barnes says, "in the eyes of
many Lutherans in the late sixteenth century, the entire social order appeared
to be falling apart."
while not reaching the depths of Luther's despair, cannot be claimed for
postmillennialism as some have done.
just because he utters statements of optimism. Such statements need to be optimism within the context of a
postmillennial creed. Calvin also
made pessimistic statements:
" There is no reason, therefore, why any person should expect the
conversion of the world, for at length- when it will be too late, and will yield
them no advantage."  Nevertheless, " despite Calvin's Augustinian
avoidance of historically oriented eschatology, the hint of progressivism in
his thought left the way open for the frank meliorism and chiliasm of many
later Calvinist thinkers." 
It would be left
to the post-Reformation era for developments to spring forth into what can
rightly be called postmillennialism.
Joachim's idea of progress was recast into a "new interpretation of
the Apocalypse and of the eschatological pattern which looked forward to some
great transforming event rather than to inevitable decay." Postmillennialism came into flower in
the 1600's as the "idea of novelty rather than return is seen in the
excited references to all the new manifestations of the age- the new lands, the
new learning, the new books, the new missionaries." This was aided by the gains of
Protestantism over Catholicism in Europe as the new continued to gain over the
postmillennialism of the seventeenth century consisted mainly of those who
believed in the success of the preaching of the gospel and correspondingly the
conversion of the Jews. The later
belief was one held in common with premillennialism. Yet, even though there were a few prominent
postmillennialists in the seventeenth century, the position exploded into
popularity as a result of Whitby's "new interpretation" of Revelation
20 at the dawn of the eighteenth century.
reconstructionist postmillennialists usually bristle at the reminder of
Whitby's key role in postmillennial history. Their defensiveness likely stems from the fact that Whitby
was a less than orthodox Unitarian.
Nevertheless, it was as result of the efforts of Whitby who provided
exegetical and theological definition for postmillennialism that the position
began to gain ground and become the dominate eschatology in Europe and
eventually North America before its decline. Walvoord note the following concerning Whitby:
He was a liberal and a
freethinker, untrammeled by traditions or previous conceptions of the
church. His views on the
millennium would probably have never been perpetuated if they had not been so
well keyed to the thinking of the times.
The rising tide of intellectual freedom, science, and philosophy,
coupled with humanism, had enlarged the concept of human progress and painted a
bright picture of the future.
Whitby's view of a coming golden age for the church was just what people
wanted to hear. It fitted the
thinking of the times. It is not
strange that theologians scrambling for readjustment in a changing world should
find in Whitby just the key they needed.
It was attractive to all kinds of theology. It provided for the conservative a seemingly more workable
principle of interpreting the Scripture. . . . Man's increasing knowledge of
the world and scientific improvements which were coming could fit into this
picture. On the other hand, the
concept was pleasing to the liberal and skeptic. If they did not believe the prophets, at least they believed
that man was now able to improve himself and his environment. They, too, believed a golden age was
dominance in Europe and America among both conservatives and liberals,
postmillennialism began a decline into near extinction. Fallout from the French Revolution in
Europe dealt a severe blow to postmillennial optimism. Later, in the States, postmillennial
decline awaited the turn of the century and was dealt a near-fatal blow by WWI
and WWII and identification with the Social Gospel and Liberalism. Only in the 1970's has postmillennialism
began to reassert itself, primarily through the reconstructionist
movement. While postmillennialism
has made some gains in recent years, it is still a minor position in the
overall field of eschatology.
Objections to Postmillennialism
problem with postmillennialism is the fact that the Bible just does not teach
it. Where is a specific passage
that teaches the postmillennial concept?
Not a passage that they think it their best, from which they attempt to
develop a postmillennial theology.
I am asking for a passage that teaches the idea of
postmillennialism. It is nowhere
to be found in the Bible. Lack of
specific biblical support is fatal to postmillennialism for any Bible believing
Christian. This explains why their
normal presentation approach is to first attack premillennialism and then
present broad theological concepts that one must adopt as a framework with
which on needs to approach biblical texts.
postmillennialism failure to match up with Scripture is its lack of a
consistent hermeneutic. At key
points, postmillennialism must abandon the literal hermeneutic of the
historical, grammatical, and contextual approach for some degree of
Nowhere does the
New Testament teach that the kingdom of God was brought into existence at
Christ' s first coming. The New
Testament does say that the kingdom was " near" during Christ' s ministry, but it
stops short of saying that it arrived during Christ' s first coming. Furthermore, while personal redemption
is certainly an essential key to the kingdom, that fact should not be used to
negate equally clear teachings concerning the physical nature of this kingdom.
postmillennial idea of progress is not found in any particular text of the
Bible. Rather, it appears to be an
idea brought to the pages of Scripture.
Postmillennialism is inconsistent with the biblical fact that the
cataclysmic return of Christ brings in the kingdom (Rev. 19-20), not the
preaching of the gospel and gradual human progress. Gospel preaching in the current age is for the purpose of gathering
out the elect for the future kingdom.
An increase in the number of Christian converts has not resulted in a
transformational socio-cultural influence. Too often there has been cultural regression. Such thinking, by postmillennialists,
falls far short of the Old Testament description of the actual conditions of
confuses Israel and the church.
The postmillennial view requires the church to take over the fulfillment
of promises made to national Israel so that they may posit a present
kingdom. Modern postmillennialism
needs to posit replacement theology or supersessionism as a key plank in its
theology. Thus, it denies that the
modern state of Israel could have any place in God' s future prophetic
plan. Postmillennialism is
anti-Zionist. The New Testament
nowhere teaches that Israel has been replaced by the church. Paul says to these things, " God has not
rejected His people [Israel], has He?
May it never be!" (Rom. 11:1)
The church is certainly a partaken in the Abrahamic promises, but not a
taker over of Israel' s promises.
While it is true
that the Bible predicts an increasing spread of the proclamation of the gospel
in the current age, this does not support the notion of postmillennial
progress. All millennial positions- pre,
post, and amillennialism- believe in a global preaching and spread of the gospel
during the current age. In
addition, the Bible speaks frequently in catastrophic and interventionist
language of Christ's return to earth as the cause of millennial
conditions. Specific statements of
gradualism are lacking in the Bible.
Postmillennialism also denies the New Testament teaching that Christ
could return at any-moment, known as imminency. The Great Commission is being fulfilled, not by exercising a
certain level of response to the gospel, but when the church is preaching the
gospel and making disciples throughout all the nations. This is occurring in our own day.
pietistic to theonomic will not make postmillennial sudden more effective in
history. In fact, at least
pietistic postmillennialism was much more evangelistic than is the current
brand of theonomic postmillennialism.
If the church were looking to theonomic postmillennialism to show the
way in the area of evangelism, then it would become extinct within a
If a viewpoint
truly represents Scripture then it is not too much to ask it to be able to
correspond to history.
Postmillennialism teaches that this current age will be a time of steady
and upward growth. However, this
is impossible to defend from history.
While the gospel frequently expands to new territories, at the same time
so many areas where the gospel has dominated society and culture there has been
regression and relapse, not progress.
It appears that wherever Christianity has come to dominate the culture,
and has lost that dominance, it has never been revived as a significant
force. This is not progress it is
regression. At this point in time,
history supports the premillennial notion of the global spread of the gospel,
while at the same time the church becomes increasingly apostate.
fails to account for the fact that if there is going to be a fulfillment of
millennial conditions predicted in the Bible, it is going to be only as a result
of a revolutionary intervention of Jesus Christ at His second coming in order
to introduce new factors which are discontinuous with the present age. It will require the personal presence
of Jesus Christ Himself to role back the curse and to rule with a rod of
iron. Only the premillennial model
provides the changes necessary to implement a millennial golden age.
is taught nowhere in the Bible.
The postmillennial model of historical expectations is also
failing. It is therefore, more
than reasonable to conclude that postmillennialism is a deviant and unbiblical