Postmillennialism Is The Goal
Eschatology (the study of the end times) has been a friendly debate in the Church for virtually its entire existence. For those unfamiliar with the categories, I will give the quickest explanation possible (but understand, it will be oversimplifying). Basically, in Revelation 20, John writes about a 1,000 year reign of Christ. Eschatology is often centered around the question: What is that 1,000 year reign of Christ?
The Different Views
Premillennials believe that Christ will come back and physically reign on the earth for 1,000 years before the consummation of all things. The strength of this view is that it seems to be the most literal reading of the text. The objection may be that Revelation nowhere else seems to be taken that literally.
Amillennials believe that the 1,000 years is a figurative number for “a lot of time” (see Psalm 50:10; 2 Peter 3:8),[i] and that the 1,000 year reign of Christ is metaphorical for the intermediate state in Heaven. Essentially, the millennium is right now, and Christ, and the saints who are with Him, are in the millennium right now. Therefore, at the second coming of Christ, He will bring the consummation of all things, and end the millennium. The strength of this view is that it seems to be consistent with end times passages outside of Revelation, including the depiction of the second coming as being imminent. The objection may be that Amillennialism spiritualizes God’s promises, or that it sees little-to-no fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in this life.
Postmillennials believe that the majority of the earth will be saved through the proclamation of the gospel, and that this will bring about Christians who institute righteous laws, and therefore, the earth will experience 1,000 years of relative peace.[ii] It is important to emphasize a few points of this belief for our understanding in this article. First, postmillennials believe that a majority of the earth will be saved through the Christian work of missions. Second, postmillennials believe that through the acceptance of the gospel, the obedience of the righteous demands of Christ will come also. Third, the mass obedience of individuals will naturally trickle up into our institutions and governments. These three points are essential to understanding why postmillennialism is “the goal.” The strength of this view is that it seems to take Old Testament promises very seriously, and it understands the power of God through the gospel. The objection may be that Postmillennialism undermines the fact that the normative experience of the Church is suffering, and it could be said that Postmillennials are broadening the meaning of God’s promises to a greater extent than what He intended.
This at least defines what we are talking about, but it is not my intent to argue for any view. As I said, this has been a friendly debate for virtually all of the Church’s existence. Don’t take that to mean it doesn’t matter, but my hope would be that churches aren’t split over it. As Justin Martyr, a premillennial, wrote in the second century, “There are many pure and pious Christians who do not share our opinion.”[iii] This should be our heart in approaching this topic. I, for one, am sympathetic towards all the views, but would say that I lean towards amillennialism. Again, it is not my goal to defend these views here. For more reading on them, see A Case For Historic Premillennialism by Craig Blomberg and Sung Wook Chung, Kingdom Come by Sam Storms, and Victory In Jesus by Greg Bahnsen.
Why Am I Writing This?
But if I’m not here to defend the views, and I’d even call myself an Amillennial, why am I writing an article titled “Postmillennialism Is The Goal”? Frankly, it’s because I love missions. And it’s because, through the Spirit’s working in my life, I love righteousness. And I see both magnified to the uttermost in Postmillennialism.
Lest I be understood as a hypocrite, I want to distinguish what I’m saying from a popular phrase I’ve heard said often, “Believe like a Calvinist. Preach like an Arminian.” When people say this, they are making a dichotomy that Calvinists don’t evangelize, but Arminians do. This is a false dichotomy. The sovereignty of God in salvation is precisely the confidence a Calvinist has to do missions! As the Apostle Paul said, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10 [ESV]). Calvinism is not anti-mission, and those who “believe like a Calvinist” should know better.
But eschatology is a different discussion. To explain, consider when we debate ethics. When we debate ethics, we debate how the world ought to be, not how it is. We can unequivocally state that murder is wrong without denying that murder happens all the time. See, the question of ethics is not primarily how the world is, it is how the world should be.
Eschatology is similar. When we study eschatology, we are asking the question: What does the biblical prophecy say the end of the world will be like? We are not asking how the world ought to be. A premillennial may believe the world will be rampant with sin, war, and death at the end, but they wouldn’t believe that it should be. Just as an ethicist can say the world is filled with murder, but still believe it’s wrong. Christians fully understand that, though it is God’s revealed will for humans to be righteous, humans are anything but.
An analogy is seen in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. We see the biblical prophecy in Isaiah 53 that God’s perfect and wise servant will be beaten and killed. According to the prophecy, this is how reality will be (and was). However, despite this happening for the good plan of God, it was still sin that the people killed Jesus, as we see in Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, where he says “the hands of lawless men” crucified Jesus (Acts 2:23).
The Goal Of The Gospel
Here’s the point: God has revealed Himself in the Bible so that we would be saved and preach the gospel of repentance. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” It is not the Christian’s mission to try and figure out the secret things of life – like who will be saved – it is the Christian’s mission to cling to the Scriptures and to do what they say – like preach the gospel to all people.
What this means for eschatology is that, though it is a good thing to study the Scripture and discover what God has revealed about the end times, Christians must keep their eyes on the goal. But what is the goal? “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1). Indeed, Paul’s goal in life was to “win” those who did not know Christ (see 1 Corinthians 9). He ends Romans, his great exposition of the gospel, by saying that the mystery of Christ has been made known “to bring about the obedience of faith” (Rm. 16:26).
So, when we preach to the nations, we preach, “be saved” (Rm. 10:9)! When we preach to government officials, we preach, “obey the Son” (Ps. 2:12)! If not, why proclaim the gospel at all? Why, like 1 Timothy 2 commands, prayer for our government leaders so that we can live peaceful lives? Why do any of this if our heart’s goal is not the salvation and obedience of “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rv. 5:9). So, believe whatever eschatology the Scripture convinces you of, but make the goal of your life postmillennialism.
[i] Some postmillennials also teach that the 1,000 years may be simply “a long time.” In fact, many modern postmillennials would say we are in the millennium now, and we are seeing its growth. This is exactly why post-mill and a-mill used to be within the same category and has only recently been split into categories of their own (since the views do have distinct components).
[ii] I say “relative” because there will still be sickness, and disagreements, and the need for sanctification, but the idea is that the world will be without war and generally without strife.
[iii] Justin Martyr, trans. Thomas B. Falls, Dialogue with Trypho, vol. 6, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1948), 276.