Postmillennialism

 

I was profoundly aware of two things I didn't get while I was in 

seminary. (Of course, it is the things you don't know you don't know  that will get you, but that is another topic.) One of them was  eschatology. I was determined in my early years after graduating to  close the gap doing some serious self-study into the topic.

I had one serious limitation: I didn't have a particular bias  going in. I can honestly say I was able to look at all the views in  an even-handed way. I listened carefully to the arguments made by all  sides with an open mind. It you really want to come to a conviction  about eschatology, I suggest you do the opposite: decide early what  you believe and only read people who agree with you. ;-)

Here is an overview of the major views of the end times.

Amillennialism

This was the belief held by most of my seminary professors. (I  graduated Southwestern in 1983.) Here is a description from http://en.wikipedia.org

Amillennialism (Latin:  a- "not" + mille "thousand" + annum "year") is a view in Christian eschatology named for its denial of a future,  thousand-year, physical reign of Jesus Christ on the  earth, as espoused in the premillennial and some postmillennial views of the Book of  Revelation, chapter  20. By contrast, the amillennial view holds that the number of  years in Revelation 20 is a symbolic  number, not a literal description; that the millennium has already  begun and is identical with the church age (or  more rarely, that it ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70); and that while  Christ's reign is  spiritual in nature during the millennium, at the end of the  church age, Christ will return in final judgment  and establish permanent physical reign.

Premillennialism

This is the view held by most preachers and popularized by the  LaHaye series, Left Behind. Again, from Wikipedia:

Premillennialism in Christian eschatology is the belief that Christ will  literally reign on the earth for 1,000 years at his second coming.  The doctrine is called Premillennialism because it views the current  age as prior to  Christ’s kingdom. It is distinct from the other forms of  Christian eschatology such as amillennialism  or  postmillennialism, which view the millennial rule as either  figurative and non-temporal, or as occurring prior to the second coming.  Premillennialism is largely based upon a literal interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6 in the New Testament  which describes Christ’s coming to the earth and subsequent reign at  the end of an apocalyptic period of tribulation.  It views this future age as a time of fulfillment for the prophetic  hope of God’s people as given in the Old Testament.

Postmillennialism

Postmillennialism was explained to me this way. This was the most  popular view of eschatology a hundred years ago. This hope fueled  much of the launch of the beginning of the great world missions  movement. People really did believe what the old hymn says:

We've a story to tell to the nations,

That shall turn their hearts to the right,

A story of truth and mercy,

A story of peace and light,

A story of peace and light.

For the darkness shall turn to dawning,

And the dawning to noonday bright;

And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,

The kingdom of love and light.

We've a song to be sung to the nations,

That shall lift their hearts to the Lord,

A song that shall conquer evil

And shatter the spear and sword,

And shatter the spear and sword.

For the darkness shall turn to dawning,

And the dawning to noonday bright;

And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,

The kingdom of love and light.

We've a Savior to show to the nations,

Who the path of sorrow has trod,

That all of the world’s great peoples

Might come to the truth of God,

Might come to the truth of God.

For the darkness shall turn to dawning,

And the dawning to noonday bright;

And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,

The kingdom of love and light.

Postmillennialism holds that gospel really will spread like yeast  as the Bible says. It really will grow, as Jesus taught, from a tiny  mustard side to a huge plant. The world will not become perfect, but  it will become distinctly and authentically Christian as a good  church is Christian.

You gotta love postmillennialism. Even if you don't believe it,  you have to like it:

That all of the world’s great peoples

Might come to the truth of God,

Might come to the truth of God.

Here is how Wikipedia defines postmillennialism :

In Christian eschatology, postmillennialism is an interpretation of  chapter 20 of the Book of  Revelation which sees Christ's second coming  as occurring after (Latin post-) the "Millennium",  a Golden Age  or era of Christian prosperity and dominance. The term subsumes  several similar views of the end times, and it stands in contrast to premillennialism and, to a lesser extent, amillennialism  (see Summary of Christian eschatological differences).

Although some postmillennialists hold  to a literal millennium of 1,000 years, most postmillennialists see  the thousand years more as a figurative term for a long period of  time (similar in that respect to amillennialism).  Among those holding to a non-literal "millennium" it is usually  understood to have already begun, which implies a less obvious and  less dramatic kind of millennium than that typically envisioned by premillennialists, as well as a more unexpected return of  Christ.

Postmillennialism also teaches that the  forces of Satan  will gradually be defeated by the expansion of the Kingdom of God  throughout history up until the second coming  of Christ. This  belief that good will gradually triumph over evil has led proponents  of postmillennialism to label themselves "optimillennialists" in  contrast to "pessimillennial" premillennialists and amillennialists.

Many postmillennialists also adopt some form of preterism,  which holds that many of the end times prophecies in the Bible have  already been fulfilled.

Then, the explanation I got in seminary turned a corner.  "Postmillennialism was the dominant eschatology 100 years ago and  fueled much of the energy of the early world missions movement.  Then, two world wars and a depression came along and pretty much  snuffed out that belief."

That never made a lot of sense to me. It never made any sense that  a couple of world wars and a depression would change our theology.

From what I can tell, Postmillennialism is making a modest  comeback in out times, but that is not actually what i wrote all  this to say.

Oh, and by the way, the progress of the gospel is moving along  quite nicely. See http://www.missionfrontiers.org/newslinks/statewe.htm

I never did come to a firm belief in my eschatology, but I have  come to one firm belief related to eschatology.

The pessimism that often accompanies some eschatology is both  unbiblical and damaging. I sense a mood from a lot of believers that  suggest, "No, our church is not growing, but, what can we expect? We  are living the last days. The Bible says that scoffers will come and  that is certainly true today. Things are just going to get worse and  worse and we just need to hunker down and hold on till the end."

Whatever your eschatology, we need to be people of great faith  and confidence.

Dawson Trotman said it this way: http://www.navpress.com/EPubs/DisplayArticle/1/1.61.4.html

What is the need of the hour? That  depends on the person who is thinking about it.

For a beggar with a tin cup, it's a  dime. For a woman being taken to the hospital, it's a doctor.

But what is it in Christian work? I  started to list the things we often feel are the need—those things  which, if supplied, would end our troubles.

Some say, "If I just had a larger  staff." Many a minister would like to have an assistant, and many a  mission would like to have more missionaries.

Others say, "We don't need more  workers, but better facilities. If we just had more office space and  more buildings and a bigger base of operation, then we could do the  job."

In some parts of the world they say  it's better communications we lack, or better transportation, or  better health care, or literature.

Many feel the need is an open door into  some closed country. But the Bible says, "My God shall supply all  your needs." If we need an open door, why doesn't God open it—"he  that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth"?

Some say, "If we just had more time,"  or "If I just weren't so old, if I were only young again." People  have said to me, "Daws, if I had known when I was twenty years old  what I know now, I could have done a hundred times more for the  Lord. Why didn't I?"

Often the biggest need seems to be  money. Money is the answer to a larger staff, more facilities,  better communications and transportation and literature. "If we just  had more money."

An Army of Soldiers

What is the need of the hour? I don't  believe it is any of these. I am convinced that the God of the  universe is in control, and He will supply all these needs in His  own way and in His own time, all else being right.

The need of the hour is an army of  soldiers dedicated to Jesus Christ, who believe that He is God, that  He can fulfill every promise He ever made, and that nothing is too  hard for Him. This is the only way we can accomplish what is on  God's heart—getting the gospel to every creature.

Whatever your eschatology, I trust you will embrace this belief:  God is God and he can fulfill every promise He ever made. God, give  us an army like that.

I am not absolutely sure it is true, but I sure love the  sentiment of the old hymn:

For the darkness shall turn to dawning,

And the dawning to noonday bright;

And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,

The kingdom of love and light.