Skip to main content

Postmillennialism: Statement of the Doctrine by Loraine Boettner

By April 9, 2011April 12th, 2016Postmillennialism

We have defined Postmillennialism as that view of the last things which holds that the Kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the Gospel and the saving work ok the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individuals, that the world eventually is to be Christianized, and that the return of Christ is to occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace commonly called the ‘Millennium.’ It should be added that on postmillennial principles the second coming of Christ will be followed immediately by the general resurrection, the general judgment, and the introduction of heaven and hell in their fullness.

The Millennium to which the Postmillennialist looks forward is thus a golden age of spiritual prosperity during this present dispensation, that is, during the Church age, and is to be brought about through forces now active in the world. It is an indefinitely long period of time, perhaps much longer than a literal one thousand years. The changed character of individuals will be reflected in an uplifted social, economic, political and cultural life of mankind. The world at large will then enjoy a state of righteousness such as at the present time has been seen only in relatively small and isolated groups, as for example in some family circles, some local church groups and kindred organizations.

This does not mean that there ever will be a time on this earth when every person will be a Christian, or that all sin will be abolished. But it does mean that evil in all its many forms eventually will be reduced to negligible proportions, that Christian principles will be the rule, not the exception, and that Christ will return to a truly Christianized world.

Postmillennialism further holds that the universal proclamation of the Gospel and the ultimate conversion of the large majority of men in all nations during the present dispensation was the express command and meaning and promise of the Great Commission given by Christ Himself. when He said: ‘All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’ (Matt. 28:18- 20).

We believe that the Great Commission includes not merely the formal and external announcement of the Gospel preached as a ‘witness’ to the nations, as the Premillennialists and Amillennialists hold, but the true and effectual evangelization of all the nations so that the hearts and lives of the people are transformed by it. That seems quite clear from the fact that all authority in heaven and on earth and an endless sweep of conquest has been given to Christ and through Him to His disciples specifically for that purpose. The disciples were commanded not merely to preach, but to make disciples of all the nations. It was no doubtful experiment to which they were called, but to a sure triumph. The preaching of the Gospel under the direction of the Holy Spirit and during this dispensation is, therefore, the all-sufficient means for the accomplishment of that purpose.

We must acknowledge that the Church during the past nineteen centuries has been extremely negligent in her duty, and that the crying need of our time is for her to take seriously the task assigned to her. Instead of discussions of social and economic and political problems, book reviews and entertaining platitudes from the pulpit the need is for sermons with real Gospel content, designed to change lives and to save souls. The charge of negligence applies, of course, not only to ministers, but equally to the laity. Every individual Christian is called to give his witness and to show his faith by personal testimony, or through the distribution of the printed word, or through the generous and effective use of his time and money for Christian purposes. Christ commanded the evangelization of the world. That is our task. Surely He will not, and in fact cannot, come back and say to His Church, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ until that task has been accomplished. Rev. J. Marcellus Kik has said:

‘That there is still a remnant of paganism and papalism in the world is chiefly the fault of the Church. The Word of God is just as powerful in our generation as it was during the early history of the Church. The power of the Gospel is just as strong in this century as in the days of the Reformation. These enemies could be completely vanquished if the Christians of this day and age were as vigorous, as bold, as earnest, as prayerful, and as faithful as Christians were in the first several centuries and in the time of the Reformation'(An Eschatology of Victory, p. 250).

In contrast with this, Premillennialism holds that the world is not to be converted during this dispensation, that it is, in fact, vain to hope for its conversion before the return of Christ. It holds rather that the world is growing progressively worse, that the present age is to end in a great apostasy and rebellion climaxed by the reign of the Antichrist and the battle of Armageddon, at which time Christ comes with sudden and overwhelming power to rescue His people, destroy His enemies, and establish a one thousand year earthly kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital. Many seem convinced that we now are in the last stage of the Laodicean apostasy, and that the end is very near. Premillennialism thus despairs of the power of the Gospel to Christianize the world, and asserts rather that it is to be preached only as a witness. Whereas Postmillennialism holds that Christ’s coming closes this age and that it is to be followed by the eternal state, Premillennialism holds that His coming is to be followed by another dispensation, the Millennium, or kingdom age, and that the final resurrection and judgment do not take place until one thousand years later. It has also been a standard doctrine of Premillennialism in every age that the coming of Christ is ‘near’ or ‘imminent,’ although every generation of Premillennialists from the first century until the present time has been mistaken on that point.

Premillennialism, in its dispensational form, divides the second coming of Christ into two parts: (1) the Rapture, or His coming ‘for’ His saints, at which time the righteous dead of all ages are to be raised in the ‘first resurrection,’ the righteous living translated, and both groups caught up to meet the Lord in the air; and (2) the Revelation, which occurs seven years later, at the close of the Great Tribulation, at which time Christ returns to earth ‘with’ His saints, overpowers the Antichrist, defeats and suppresses all His enemies, raises the righteous dead who have died or who have been killed during the Great Tribulation, and establishes His Kingdom on this earth. At the close of the Millennium the wicked dead are to be raised in a final resurrection, and this in turn is followed by their judgment and the introduction of the eternal state. The Millennium in which the Premillennialist believes is thus a direct and personal rule of Christ over this earth.

Amillennialism, too, differs from Postmillennialisrn in that it holds that the world is not to be Christianized before the end comes, that the world will in fact continue much as it now is, with a parallel and continuous development of both good and evil, of the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. It agrees with Postmillennialism, however, in asserting that Christ does not establish an earthly, political kingdom, and that His return will be followed by a general resurrection and general judgment. Post- and Amillennialists thus agree that the Kingdom of Christ in this world is not political and economic, but spiritual and now present in the hearts of His people and outwardly manifested in the Church.

Amillennialism, as the term implies, does not set forth a Millennium at all. Some Amillennialists apply the term to the entire Christian era between the first and second advent of Christ. Some apply it to a relatively Christian and peaceful era, such as the Church enjoyed after the bitter persecution of the first three centuries, at which time Emperor Constantine made Christianity the preferred religion of the Roman Empire. Others apply it to the intermediate state. The position of the Amillennialist does not necessarily preclude him from believing that the world may be Christianized before the end comes, but most Amillennialists have not so held. Rather they have preferred to say that there probably will not be much relative change. In support of this they cite the parable of the wheat and the tares, in which both grow together until the harvest. Historically the main thrust of Amillennialism has been much stronger against Premillennialism than against Postmillennialism, since it interprets Revelation 20 symbolically and does not believe that Christ will reign personally in an earthly kingdom.

It should be remembered, however, that while Post-, A-, and Premillennialists differ in regard to the manner and time of Christ’s return, that is, in regard to the events that are to precede or follow His return, they agree in regard to the fact that He will return personally and visibly and in great glory. Each alike looks for ‘the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13). Each acknowledges Paul’s statement that, ‘The Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God’ (I Thess. 4:16). Christ’s return is taught so clearly and so repeatedly in Scripture that there can be no question in this regard for those who accept the Bible as the word of God. They also agree that at His coming He will raise the dead, execute judgment, and eventually institute the eternal state. No one of these views has an inherent liberalizing tendency. Hence the matters on which they agree are much more important than those on which they differ. This fact should enable them to cooperate as evangelicals and to present a united front against Modernists and Liberals who more or less consistently deny the supernatural throughout the whole range of Bible truth.