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Postmillennialism: Material Prosperity During the Millennium by Loraine Boettner

By April 9, 2011Postmillennialism

The great material prosperity of which the Bible speaks as accompanying the millennial era will be, to a large extent, the natural result of the high moral and spiritual life of that time. These blessings too are from God. In numerous prophecies temporal blessings are expressly represented as following in the train of the new covenant blessings. Surely it need not be doubted that when the other characteristics of the millennial era are realized this material prosperity also shall find its place. Godliness and sober living in a real sense bring their own reward. ‘Seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,’ said Jesus (Matt. 6:33). ‘Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is,’ as well as ‘of that which is to come’ ( I Tim. 4:8). ‘The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose’ (Is. 35:1). And how appropriate is the prophetic Messianic 72nd Psalm:

‘Give the king-thy judgments, 0 God, And thy righteousness unto the king’s son. He shall judge the people with righteousness, And thy poor with justice…. He shall redeem their soul from oppression and violence; And precious will their blood be in his sight: And they shall live; and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: And men shall pray for him continually; They shall bless him all the day long. There shall be abundance of grain in the earth upon the top of the mountains; The fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon; And they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth. His name shall endure for ever; His name shall be continued as long as the sun: And men shall be blessed in him; All nations shall call him happy…. And blessed be his glorious name for ever; And let the whole earth be filled with his glory.’ (vss. 1, 2, 14- 19).

In this connection David Brown quotes a writer of his day as follows:

‘We need not have recourse to the miraculous fruitfulness of the earth which Papias feigned, in order to fulfill this prophecy (Ps. 72). Plenty is the natural consequence of the moral change which takes place in the world at the millennium. The universal righteousness of that happy period will prevent despotism in government, anarchy in the people, as well as the devastations of war, by which the earth is left uncultivated, or its produce destroyed. The religion of that period will civilize savages, and destroy among civilized nations the numerous occupations that minister to the lawless passions of men; thus directing a great multitude of the human race to the useful arts of agriculture, who had been formerly idle and a burden upon the labor of others. The love universally felt and practiced in that period will lead those who have abundance to distribute cheerfully and freely to the necessities of those who may be in need’ (The Second Advent, p. 400).

By way of background we should remember that when man was created and placed in the garden of Eden he was commanded not only to dress and keep the garden, but that he was given the broader command to ‘subdue’ the earth and to ‘have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth’ (Gen. 1:28; 2:15). That meant that he was to search out the laws of nature and learn how to use them, develop new substances, and in general make himself master of the whole creation. Certainly he is a long way behind schedule on that assignment.

In the Genesis account of the origin of sin we read that as a part of the penalty placed on man for his sin the ground was cursed (3:17,18). Thenceforth it would bring forth thorns and thistles, so that he would have a never-ending struggle to maintain his existence. The plants and animals and the forces of nature in general, which formerly were for his use and service, then came into a different relationship to him and became in a degree antagonistic to him. His previously pleasant task of dressing and keeping the garden then became ‘toil,’ irksome labor; and he must thenceforth earn his bread by the sweat of his face (3:19). And in reality is not much of the waste land condition of the earth the natural and inevitable result of man’s indolence, ignorance and generally perverted nature which has come about as a result of his fall into sin? The barren and unimproved stretches of land witness to his neglect. Proper irrigation and cultivation has made many a desert to blossom like the rose. One who has traveled through our arid southwest, particularly through New Mexico, Arizona and southern California, has had opportunity to see what great changes take place when water, fertilizer, improved plant varieties and cultivation are applied to the soil. The luxurious growths and beautiful landscapes that now are to be found in some limited areas are but a small sample of what can be done more efficiently and on a world-wide scale when man returns to the proper performance of the task that was assigned to him in Eden. A field that this year has a beautiful crop of wheat or corn may next year lie untilled, with the result that weeds and thistles take possession. Man’s proper management of the earth, the task assigned to him before the fall, will go far toward restoring a profitable plant and animal life. Remedy the sin condition in man and a marvelous transformation will take place in nature. Luther Burbank and others have done much to bring back toward their original condition many varieties of plants and fruits that in their wild and neglected state had degenerated until they were practically worthless.

A revolution has occurred in transportation, communications, home furnishings, etc., within our own lifetime. Our modes of travel and transportation have changed more within the last 150 years than in the preceding 2,000. George Washington, using the horse-drawn stagecoach which was the best means available in his day, traveled in much the same manner as did the ancient Persians and Egyptians. The automobile, hard-surface highways, electrical power for lighting and other household uses, the airplane, radio, television, etc., are all comparatively new. And now the new sciences of atomic and solar energy with the prospect for extremely cheap power, and the whole new field of electronics, in which we have as yet hardly more than scratched the surface, give great promise for the future. A leading industrialist recently said: ‘America is about to enter a new golden age of prosperity which will hinge upon the harnessing of the atom, and the advent of the electronic age.’ One new discovery follows another, and we see more and more clearly the tremendous potentials that are available for good, potentials that through all these many centuries have remained largely unused.

Knowledge has become very widespread. Schools, even for advanced study, have been made available for all classes of people, and books, magazines, newspapers, libraries, scientific laboratories, etc., make available for all of our people vast stores of knowledge that only two or three generations ago was confined almost exclusively to favored, limited groups.

In the administration of justice great progress has been made as Christian principles have gained wider acceptance. British and American justice today is world-renowned for its meticulous consideration for the rights of the accused and of prisoners. But this is a comparatively recent development. Even in England, generally regarded as the most enlightened of the European nations, as late as the nineteenth century prisoners convicted of comparatively minor offenses were often given long prison terms or even death. A recent book, The Old Bailey And Its Trials, by Bernard O’Donnell (1951), gives a history of one of the most famous law courts, and tells a shocking story of professional witnesses and bribed juries being used to secure convictions, and of executions before drunken hysterical throngs. Conditions among the prisoners were revolting. Sanitation was almost unknown, disease ran rampant among prison inmates. Tortures such as flogging and pressing were used to extract confessions. Prisoners convicted of slandering royalty might have their hands cut off. The vicious practice of fees charged inmates by jailkeepers whereby prisoners had to pay to be supplied with water, a bed and other necessities, was not stopped until the nineteenth century. There were half-hearted attempts at reform from time to time, but it took parliamentary action during the Victorian period to establish the justice and fairness which prevails today.

Similarly, the progress that already has been made in the fields of health and sanitation have raised the human life span in the United States from 32 years in 1750 until now it is just short of 70 years. Modern surgery and medicine have developed largely within the past 100 years. Medical practice has been changed from a mystic and superstitious procedure to an advanced science. The so-called ‘miracle drugs,’ including the sulphas, cortisone and antibiotics, date back only about 20 years, the sulphas having been discovered in 1935. It is not unreasonable to assume that with the continued advance of science, and particularly with the better modes of living that come with moral and spiritual advance, man’s life span shall be extended considerably more. Isaiah seems to indicate great longevity for the righteous,– the sinner dying at the age of one hundred years will be accursed, and so unnatural will his death be that it will be looked upon as the death of a child: ‘There shall no more thence be an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die ‘a hundred years old, and the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed’ (65:20). Only recently Dr. Robert A. Davidson, Department of General Practice at the University of Tennessee medical college, declared to a group of doctors that, ‘Doctors of the future will spend most of their time maintaining health rather than restoring it. To live to be 115 or 120 will be expected. To live to be 140 will be desired.’ He added that science estimates the metabolic potential of the human body as it now is at 140 years (The Kansas City Times, Oct. 21, 1955).

But no matter how marvelous this material prosperity may become, it will ever remain but the by-product of the moral and spiritual prosperity that already to some extent characterizes the partially Christianized nations. It is abundantly clear that these blessings do not originate under pagan religions. Many nations that are the victims of those religions have lain in their poverty and ignorance and moral degradation for centuries or even for thousands of years while making practically no progress. The progress that has already occurred, originating largely in the Protestant nations of western Europe and in the United States, has been achieved in connection with only a limited amount of progress toward the Millennium. What marvels must lie ahead when nations the world over are Christian — when the Millennium becomes a reality!

Thus Postmillennialism holds that Christianity is to become the controlling and transforming influence not only in the moral and spiritual life of some individuals, but also in the entire social, economic and cultural life of the nations. There is no reason why this change should not take place over the entire earth, with pagan religions and false philosophies giving place to the true, and the earth being restored in considerable measure to that high purpose of righteousness and holiness for which it was created.

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