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Postmillennialism: Clearing Up Misunderstandings

Before proceeding further with the interpretive keys to unlock the exciting, yet often neglected truth about Christ’s victorious kingdom, we first need to clear up some common misunderstandings and misconceptions concerning the position of postmillennialism.

Here we will briefly define “what postmillennialism is not.”

Postmillennialism is not …

1. (Postmillennialism is not) Evolutionary Optimism – or secular progress through man’s efforts.

It should always be remembered that this optimistic eschatology was articulated in the early centuries by Athanasius and Augustine and later emerged in full force with the Puritan movement. This was of course long before Charles Darwin proposed his Theory of Evolution.

2. (Postmillennialism is not) The Social Gospel – or any form of liberalism that would compromise or abandon the Gospel of salvation.

Ironically, the social gospel of the liberal churches in the 1800s is what caused conservatives to begin to abandon the emphasis on the Reformation of society in the first place. This full-orbed proclamation the Gospel that would make disciples of all nations in all spheres of society was soon replaced by a pietistic message of personal salvation only. However, as it will be shown, some of the most notable postmillennialists of the 19th century were conservative evangelicals such as Charles and A.A. Hodge, Robert L. Dabney and Benjamin Warfield.

3. (Postmillennialism is not) Universalism – or the doctrine that all will eventually be saved.

Although postmillennialism is optimistic, forecasting unprecedented growth of both the Kingdom of God and the total number of people truly converted to Christ, its proponents recognize that there will always be a reprobate element in the world. At no time in history prior to the Lord’s return will all sin be eliminated nor will all be saved. That being said, postmillennialists do look forward to a day when Christianity will be the world’s most dominant religion and the most influential moral and intellectual force in human society the world over.

4. (Postmillennialism is not) Manifest Destiny – or the idea that the United States is God’s chosen “redeemer nation” above all others.

Although America’s founding by Christians of all denominations was striking and unprecedented, and although the Great Awakenings of the past have marked the United States as having a great Christian heritage, we should never forget that just as God judged Israel for her disobedience and harlotry, and raised up the Gentile nations to provoke Israel to jealousy (Romans 10:19) – America has no special place in this sense. In fact, it is possible that God could bring an unprecedented revival in the United States or we could see colossal judgment. But if so, God will certainly raise up other nations, perhaps in the third world, to be the beacons of light that will fulfill the Great Commission.

5. (Postmillennialism is not) Kingdom Now Theology – or the doctrine that the church through its own initiative must work to “usher in the kingdom.”

It is Jesus’ finished work on the cross that brought the kingdom of God on earth 2000 years ago, it has nothing to do with man’s works. Although the church is destined to reign and rule with Christ as His Bride, the call to make disciples of the nations is a call to a patient gradualism. In other words, we should not expect a cataclysmic revival or a new generation of latter day Apostles to suddenly usher in the Second Coming of Jesus. Rather it is the role of the church to take the role of humble service. The kingdom of God is not an earthly kingdom to be brought into power by political domination. As Chris Ortiz aptly stated:

Dominion remains one of the most misconstrued terms in Christendom; and the confusion is found both within and without the ranks of the “dominionists.” Both paranoid secularists and power-hungry Protestants mishandle the concept of dominion to their own setback. The over-suspicious secularist is inspiring anxiety amongst his ill-informed constituency by grossly exaggerating the so-called theocratic threat. At the same time, the politically inebriated Protestant is blinded to the threat of statism due to his indoctrination in American exceptionalism and his misinterpretation of godly rule – a rule that has more to do with service than control (Chris Ortiz, Chalcedon Blog).

6. (Postmillennialism is not) The doctrine of Hymanaeism – or any heresy that would deny the bodily return of Christ as a real historical event.

This heresy is named for the first century heretic, Hymanaeus, who is named in Paul’s writings as one of those “who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past” (1 Tim. 2:17,18). Hymanaeus and Philetus made the error of denying the physical nature of resurrection and the bodily return of Jesus. Postmillennialists as orthodox Christians teach that Christ will come again to judge the earth after which time He will live and reign with the saints forever. We should never diminish the blessed hope in the second coming of our Lord. At the same time we recognize that this hope in already within us, as the scripture says, “Christ in us, the hope of glory.”

“God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).

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