As Doug Wilson explains: “the gospel will continue to grow and flourish throughout the world, more and more individuals will be converted, the nations will stream to Christ, and the Great Commission will finally be successfully completed. The earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. When that happens, generation after generation will love and serve the Lord faithfully. And then the end will come” (Heaven Misplaced, 10).
(4) At what point, then, does the “millennium” begin? Postmillennialists differ in their response to this question. Some say the millennium covers the entire inter-advent age (i.e., the whole period of time between Christ’s first and second comings), whereas others conceive of the present age as in some sense blending or merging into the millennium. In other words, some
(5) This ever-increasing success of the gospel will bring in its wake a reduction (although not a total elimination) of the influence and presence of sin. Righteousness, peace, and prosperity will flourish. Thus, writes Bahnsen, “over the long range the world will experience a period of extraordinary righteousness and prosperity as the church triumphs in the preaching of the gospel and
(6) The gospel will also sustain a positive influence in every sphere of society: the economic, political, and cultural life of mankind will be vastly improved. The Church will witness nothing less than “the worldwide dominion of Christ and his elect, the re-establishment of Christian
(7) At the end of the present age, that is, after the kingdom has spread visibly and powerfully throughout the world but just before Christ returns, there will be a brief time of increased Satanic activity and apostasy (see Rev. 20:7-10). This final rebellion will be crushed by the glorious return of Jesus Christ to the earth, at which time there will immediately follow the general resurrection, final judgment, and eternal state. “In short, postmillennialism is set apart from the other two schools of thought [premillennialism and amillennialism] by its essential optimism for the kingdom in the present age” (Bahnsen, 66). It should also be mentioned that many
(8) The central distinguishing feature of postmillennialism which sets it apart from both amillennialism and postmillennialism is its belief in the success of the great commission in the present age. Simply put, the nations will be
“The optimistic confidence that the world nations will become disciples of Christ, that the church will grow to fill the earth, and that Christianity will become the dominant principle rather than the exception to the rule distinguishes postmillennialism from the other viewpoints. All and only postmillennialists believe this, and only the refutation of that confidence can undermine this school of eschatological interpretation. In the final analysis, what is characteristic of postmillennialism is not a uniform answer to any one particular exegetical question . . ., but rather a commitment to the gospel as the power of God which, in the agency of the Holy Spirit, shall convert the vast majority of the world to Christ and bring widespread obedience to His kingdom rule. This confidence will, from person to person, be biblically supported in various ways . . . . The postmillennialist is in this day marked out by his belief that the commission and resources are with the kingdom of Christ to accomplish the discipling of the nations to Jesus Christ prior to His second advent; whatever historical decline is seen in the missionary enterprise of the church and its task of edifying or sanctifying the nations in the word of truth must be attributed, not to anything inherent in the present course of human history, but to the unfaithfulness of the church” (68).
(10) Among the many misconceptions about postmillennialism, I briefly mention the following. First, postmillennialism has been mistakenly linked and often identified with belief in the inherent goodness of man. This has occurred despite the fact that the vast majority of postmillennialists today (and perhaps even in the past) are Calvinists. The result is that postmillennialists have been unjustifiably charged with failing to take seriously the biblical pessimism regarding humanity’s efforts apart from the sustaining power of divine grace and, as a result, have been accused of saying that the kingdom of God would be ushered in by human effort alone, independently of the Holy Spirit.
Second, is the fact that postmillennialism has been mistakenly identified with the notion of evolutionary optimism and other secular notions of historical progress. But the kingdom of God in evangelical postmillennialism is not the product of natural laws of improvement in an ever-upward evolutionary progression, but rather the fruit of the supernatural energy and operation of the Holy Spirit, primarily through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Third, postmillennialism has been mistakenly identified with theological liberalism and the so-called “social gospel”. Thus the kingdom it espoused came to be perceived as some sort of secular utopia that replaced the return of Jesus as the true hope of the church.
Fourth, there is the false charge that postmillennialism teaches salvific universalism. Whereas postmillennialists do indeed look forward to a day in which vast numbers shall turn to faith in Jesus Christ, at no time do they expect that all will be converted or that sin will be entirely eliminated prior to the eternal state. Evangelical postmillennialists believe no less fervently than premillennialists and amillennialists in the doctrine of hell and the irreversible damnation of those who die without Christ.
Fifth, postmillennialists have been accused of being naïve and unrealistic. Appeal is often made to extra-biblical events and historically catastrophic occurrences such as World War I, World War II, the nuclear arms buildup, and the ever-disintegrating moral fabric of Western society, and in our day, especially, the rise of radical Islam and international terrorism. To the minds of many, such facts discredit postmillennialism and confirm the more pessimistic philosophy of history espoused by premillennialism. A number of postmillennialists have labeled this approach to prophecy (and rightly so) as “newspaper exegesis” in which current events (i.e., the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and USA Today) are studied to determine the future rather than the Bible itself. Needless to say, the decisive factor is not discernible trends in our world or the condition of mankind in general but rather whether or not the Bible, God’s inspired Word, foresees the worldwide triumph of the gospel.
Sixth, and finally, postmillennialists have been mistakenly represented as believing that once the tide turns for good, so to speak, all that remains is a progressive increase of righteousness and peace and the utter absence of evil in the world. But all evangelical postmillennialists believe that there yet remains one final outbreak of evil of undetermined length preceding the second coming of Christ. Satan will be released from the restrictions placed upon him (Rev. 20:1-3) and will foment a global rebellion against Christ and his Church (Rev. 20:7-10). There will likely be a final attempt to persecute and oppress the church on the part of those who participate in this last-gasp effort of the Enemy, but it will be to no avail. Christ will prevail.
This article was written by Sam Storms and originally appeared on his blog. Find it here.