Skip to main content

Postmillennialism: Representative Theologians by Loraine Boettner

By April 9, 2011April 12th, 2016Postmillennialism

We have said that each of the millennial views has been held by men of unquestioned sincerity and ability. Among Postmillennialists should be mentioned first of all the great Augustine, whose eminently sound interpretation of Scripture set the standard for the Church for nearly a thousand years. In later times there were Rev. David Brown, a Scotch Presbyterian minister, and a considerable number of systematic theologians, the Hodges at Princeton (Drs. Charles, Archibald A., and Caspar Waster Hodge, Jr., the latter having been the writer’s revered teacher), Dr. W. G. T. Shedd, Dr. Robert L. Dabney, Dr. Henry B. Smith, Dr, Augustus H. Strong, and Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield. Probably the most influential books from the postmillennial viewpoint have been The Second Advent, by David Brown (1848, revised 1849), which for many years was recognized as the standard work on the subject, and Dr. Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology (1871). In more recent times Dr. Warfield (died, 1921) has been recognized as the outstanding postmillennial theologian. His influence was exerted through a period of more than thirty- three years as Professor of Systematic Theology in Princeton Theological Seminary and as Editor of the Presbyterian and Reformed Review and later as one of the chief contributors to the Princeton Theological Review. A book by Dr. James H. Snowden, The Coming of the Lord (1919), has proved to be of special value. This latter book contains a strong refutation of Premillennialism, although Dr. Snowden did not distinguish clearly between Premillennialism and Dispensationalism.

The postmillennial position has been much neglected during the past third of a century, most of the discussion having centered around Premillennialism and Amillennialism. This has led some to conclude that Postmillennialism is no longer worthy of serious consideration. Alexander Reese, for instance, a Premillennialist, in his book The Approaching Advent of Christ (1937), expressed his opinion in these words: ‘Here one can but make the arbitrary statement that the postmillennial interpretation of Origen, Jerome, Augustine, and the majority of the Church theologians ever since, is now as dead as Queen Ann, and just as honorably buried.’ (p. 308.) Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer in an Introduction to Dr. Charles Feinberg’s book, Premillennialism or Amillennialism? (1936), says, ‘Postmillennialism is dead,’ a statement which he later qualifies by saying that it is dead in the sense that it offers no living voice in its own defense when the millennial question is under discussion. That, however, is not true today, and it was at least debatable at the time it was made. That such was also Dr. Feinberg’s opinion was indicated by the title of his book, and by his almost complete ignoring of Postmillennialism.

But such statements are, to say the least, premature. Since Postmillennialism has been so ably supported by outstanding theologians and ministers whose influences continue at the present time, and since it occupies such a prominent place in a number of standard theological works, it seems rather curious to find Premillennialists attempting to assign it merely an antiquarian interest. One cannot help but feel that in these cases the wish is father to the thought. Dr. Warfield, who in the opinion of the present writer is to be ranked with Augustine, Calvin, and Charles Hodge as one of the four outstanding theologians in the entire history of the Church, was a Postmillennialist, and his collected writings, reprinted in ten large volumes, continue to exert a strong influence in theological circles. Postmillennialism, like Christianity itself, has often suffered reverses. But after each such period of neglect or misunderstanding it has been re-asserted with even more power and conviction. Such no doubt will be the case after the present period of neglect has run its course. We must remember that Premillennialism too was in almost total eclipse for a thousand years, between the time of Augustine and the Reformation, and that during the Reformation period and for a long time afterward it was held by only a few small sects that were considered quite heretical. Furthermore, Amillennialism as a system was not clearly developed nor aggressively set forth until very recent times. Four recent books have been written from the postmillennial viewpoint. They are: An Eschatology of Victory (1955), by J. Marcellus Kik; Israel and the New Covenant (1954), by Roderick Campbell; Thy kingdom Come (1974), by R. J. Rushdoony; and The Puritan Hope (1971), by lain Murray (England). We believe that the true eschatological system can be set forth only on the basis of Postmillennialism, and that a careful study of Scripture will establish that fact.

Among Amillennialists we find a considerable number of able men, nearly all in recent years: Dr. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Revised Edition, 1941); Dr. Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (1930); Dr. Albertus Pieters, Studies In The Revelation of St. John (1937), and The Seed of Abraham (1950); Professor Floyd E. Hamilton, The Basis of Millennial Faith (1942); Dr. George L. Murray, Millennial Studies (1948); Dr. William H. Rutgers, Premillennialism in America (1930); Dr. Abraham Kuyper, Chiliasm or the Doctrine of Premillennialism (pamphlet); Dr. Martin J. Wyngaarden, The Future of the kingdom (1934); Dr. William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors (1939); Dr. William Masselink, Why Thousand Years?; Rev. William J. Grier, The Momentous Event (1945); and Prof. Everett I. Carver, When Jesus Comes A gain (1979). Among these the present writer has found the books by Pieters, Hamilton and Carver particularly helpful.

Outstanding writers from the viewpoint of Historic Premillennialism include: Rev. Alexander Reese, The Approaching Advent of Christ (1937); Dean Alford, The Greek Testament (1874); Dr. Nathaniel West, The Thousand Years in Both Testaments (1880); Dr. E. B. Elliott, Horae Apocalypticae (4 vols., 5th ed., 1862); Dr. H. Grattan Guinness, The Approaching End of the Age (1880); Dr. S. H. Kellogg, The Jews, or Prediction and Fulfillment (1883); Dr. Henry W. Frost, The Second Coming of Christ (1934); and Dr. George E. Ladd, Crucial Questions About the kingdom of God (1952), and The Blessed Hope (1956).

Outstanding dispensational writers include: John N. Darby, Synopsis of the Books of the Bible (5 vols.), and other writings; Dr. C. I. Scofield, The Scofield Reference Bible (1909, revised 1967); Dr. William E. Blackstone, Jesus Is Coming (1878, revised 1908); Dr. Jesse F. Silver, The Lord’s Return (1914); Rev. James M. Brookes, Maranatha (1870); Dr. James M. Gray, Prophecy and the Lord’s Return (1917); Dr. Arno C. Gaebelein, The Return of the Lord (1925); Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (1948); Dr. Charles L. Feinberg, Premillennialism or Amillennialism? (1936, enlarged 1954); Dr. John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question (1957); and Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (1958).

There are also other writers who have dealt with special aspects of the Second Coming, as for instance, Dr. Oswald T. Allis, whose valuable book, Prophecy and the Church, deals particularly with the dispensational view. Dr. Allis is an Anti-Chiliast, but is not to be classed as either a Post- or Amillennialist.