Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed … (Revelation 5:5).
Old Testament prophecy regarding the Messianic Kingdom presents us with a paradox. On one hand, we know the kingdom of God began in Jesus’ day, clearly declared by Christ as he began to preach, “The kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). On the other hand, many of these prophecies speak of almost unimaginable peace, prosperity, health, long life for the people of God and a prevailing godliness throughout the world that has not yet been realized.
The postmillennial view is that we are progressively laying hold of these promises. We will not see the fulness of the glory of God until Christ’s return. However, the kingdom of God is already here in it’s fulness. The Gospel is working through the whole world, bringing untold multitudes of souls into the kingdom.
Most Christians would readily agree that the Gospel is advancing in the world in terms of the numbers of people professing faith in Christ. In fact, more people now come to Christ in the world every day than in the whole New Testament era. Further, a larger percentage of the world is Christian and this percentage has been growing ever since the age of world missions in the 1800s.
In light of that fact, what do we expect the Gospel’s effect on culture and society to be? Will the world grow darker and darker as more souls come to Christ? Or will the world see a great light dawn as the Gospel takes hold of every aspect of society?
Two Postmillennial Principles
1. The first principle in understanding the postmillennial view is that God’s promises to Israel apply to the Church today. This is the simple meaning of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
That the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Galatians 3:14).
Some spiritualize this passage saying that the covenant with the church is for salvation only, but the covenant with Israel is for the land and material blessings. According to the dispensationalist view, the material blessings for Israel will occur only during a future millennial reign after Jesus returns to the earth. Postmillennialists agree that the promise of the Spirit is a greater dimension than material blessings, however, the church is to “go and teach all nations.”
The Old Testament is rife with prophecies concerning the nations being under the Christ the Messiah. This is an important aspect of our faith. A whole book would be necessary to quote entirely the texts of the Old Testament that predict the triumph to come in Christ, how all the nations shall be His. Isaiah and Ezekiel, and most of the minor prophets, have foretellings of the kingdom age when the nations of the world will turn to Christ and obey God’s law. This means that we have a duty. Christians must occupy the whole world. The Great Commission is to make disciples of all nations with Christ as the ordained King of all creation. As we do this, great material prosperity and peace will be secured by the people of God that all nations will enjoy. Most Christians agree that eventually Christ will win, but for now Christians are on the losing side. But the impulse for victory is a God-given instinct. Victory has a strong appeal to the people of God. The promise of God tells us we have a magnificent calling because we are a people called to victory not to defeat (R.J. Rushdoony, God’s Law and Society).
Of course, the Second Coming of Jesus will be a marked time of victory, prosperity and peace in the world – in fact a new heavens and a new earth will be inaugurated when Christ returns. But just imagine for a moment that these promises speak to the current stage in which we live. If we concentrate on the image offered in the parable of the mustard seed and the leavened lump of dough, then we will understand that these trends will increase gradually and will become the normal state of affairs for a long period of time before Christ’s Second Coming.
In studying the prophecies of the Old Testament, I’ve personally become more and more convinced of the postmillennial view – the idea that this Golden Age speaks not only of an age to come, but a great victory for the people of God in this age as well. One scriptural example in particular explains my conviction.
No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed (Isaiah 65:20).
What is remarkable about this passage is not the prediction that there would be no infant mortality in the millennium, but that God’s people would live to be an old age. In the premillennial view, this implies that the resurrected saints of God, who return to earth with Christ will live side by side with mortal men, who will be born, live to a very old age and die during the millennial reign. I suspect that this passage and others like it refer not to a future millennial reign after Christ’s return, but to history before the Second Coming. It is not unlikely that in the next few generations, infant mortality will be all but wiped out and that most people will live past their one-hundredth year. There will be a literal fulfillment of this prophecy in history prior to Christ’s return.
2. The second postmillennial principle in understanding Old Testament prophecy is the regeneration of a great number of souls out of every nation in the world. The kingdom of God spreads not through a top-down rule by churches, but through evangelism resulting in a grassroots voluntary movement of the nations to serve the Lord. This obedience to Gospel will result in ever greater blessings poured out by God to enrich the whole Church, who will further evangelize and bless the nations. Even in the Old Testament, a time of great victory in the field of evangelism is prophesied.
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
The mountains shall drip with sweet wine,
And all the hills shall flow with it” (Amos 9:13).
There will not be universal redemption of all men during history, but in some nations the vast majority of people will at least outwardly profess to serve the one true God. Isaiah says that even in Egypt, being a type of the unregenerate world, five cities out of six will call upon the name of the Lord, an image of great victory.
In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear by the Lord of hosts; one will be called the City of Destruction (Isaiah 19:18).
There will be a time when the holiest of all men will be advanced to greatest positions in civil politics.
Kings shall be your foster fathers,
And their queens your nursing mothers;
They shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth,
And lick up the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord,
For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me (Isaiah 49:23).
The richest people in the world, those who have great influence, shall devote all to Christ and His Church.
And the daughter of Tyre will come with a gift;
The rich among the people will seek your favor (Psalms 45:12).
War will one day be unknown according to the Bible. There will be universal peace, love and understanding among the nations of the world, instead of confusion, wars, and bloodshed.
He shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore (Isaiah 2:4).
World peace will come through universal disarmament as weapons of warfare will be destroyed.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire (Psalms 46:9).
All nations will live together in peace.
My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation,
In secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places (Isaiah 32:18).
Strong families will be restored and there will be great love between children and their parents.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse (Malachi 4:6).
There will be a time of great economic prosperity in the Christian nations of the world.
For the seed shall be prosperous,
The vine shall give its fruit,
The ground shall give her increase,
And the heavens shall give their dew—
I will cause the remnant of this people
To possess all these (Zechariah 8:12).
Then it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it (Jeremiah 33:9).
There will be a time of great light and knowledge.
It shall come to pass in that day
That there will be no light;
The lights will diminish.
It shall be one day
Which is known to the Lord—
Neither day nor night.
But at evening time it shall happen
That it will be light (Zechariah 14:6,7).
It will be as though God will give so much light to His church, that the sun and moon will be ashamed.
Then the moon will be disgraced
And the sun ashamed;
For the Lord of hosts will reign
On Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
And before His elders, gloriously (Isaiah 24:23).
Of course, there are many more prophecies speaking of unheralded increase of the Gospel in the world prior to the Second Coming of Jesus. But it’s only when we will survey the New Testament in light of the promises of the Old that all this comes into clear focus.