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Postmillennialism: The Millennium Not A Perfect or Sinless State by Loraine Boettner

By April 9, 2011Postmillennialism

There seems to be a general impression that when we speak of a Millennium we mean a time when the world will be sinless or practically so. We do believe that a time is coming when the people of the world in general will be Christians, a time when Satan will no longer be able to ‘deceive the nations’ (Rev. 20;3). But we do not believe that the Kingdom in this world, even in its millennial fullness and power, will be a perfect or sinless state. Nor do we believe that every person will be a Christian. Yet it is not uncommon to find pre- and amillennial writers inferring or declaring that such are the tenets of Postmillennialism, and using such terms as ‘ideal perfection,’ ‘a perfect world,’ ‘convert every individual,’ and ‘sinless perfection,’ to describe the postmillennial position. No representative Postmillennialist teaches those things. Certainly such was not the teachings of Hodge, Dabney, Shedd, Strong, Snowden, or Warfield. Nor is it the teaching of Scripture.

Sinless perfection belongs only to the heavenly life. As long as the person remains in this world, even though he is a truly born again Christian, remnants of the old nature still cling to him, and he falls victim to some extent to such things as selfish desires, envy, jealousy, impatience, etc. All of us still have occasion to say with Paul, ‘The good which I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I practice’ (Rom. 7:19). Sanctification is a process which is not complete until death. As long as the present world continues all those born into it are born members of a fallen, sinful race. They can be brought to a state of saving knowledge of God and be turned to a righteous life only through the regenerating and sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Some experience regeneration in early childhood, others in middle life or old age, and some never experience it at all. There will always remain problems to vex the saints. In a Christian environment temptations do become much more limited in scope and intensity, but they are never completely eliminated. The wheat and the tares continue to grow together until the harvest, which is the end of the world.

What a tremendous difference there would be in this world if the rank and file of the people were Christians, and if Christian standards were the generally accepted rule in our social, economic, educational and political life! Progress would be incredibly more rapid and permanent, poverty and disease would be largely eliminated, economic and political rivalry would be reduced to a minimum, and the accomplishments of a prolonged era of peace would be preserved instead of being destroyed by periodic wars as has so often been the case up to the present time.

The Millennium is, in fact, simply the full development of the Kingdom of grace as if comes to fruition in this world. This Kingdom begins very small, but it grows and eventually it dominates the whole earth.

In some Old Testament prophecies God’s future Kingdom is described under the symbolism of a mountain. In these we have set before us the triumph of the now existing Church as it becomes prominent and influential in all phases of human life. No new weapons are needed for the conquest of the world, nor is there any change of dispensations. Says David Brown, ‘The Church is already all that she needs to be. She is complete in her living and ever-present Head, having ‘all power in heaven and in earth’ at her command, and getting it too at the destined periods, when ‘the time to favor her is come, even the set time” (The Second Advent, p. 342).

Snowden expresses his idea of what the Millennium is in the following words: ‘The world is yet young. Humanity is in its infancy. The centuries stretch out before it in vast vistas. There is before it a prospect of hope and splendid opportunism. The future is rosy with morning light…. Truth shall be taken from the scaffold, and wrong driven from the throne. More and more shall He whose right it is reign and the will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven. This will be the millennium. The visions of the Hebrew prophets of the Messianic kingdom shall be fulfilled in their true spiritual and glorious meaning… As we gird ourselves for the work of life we may look forward to the time when in the truest sense the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever, Kings of kings, and Lord of lords’ (The Coming of the Lord, p. 275).

What then will the Millennium be like? In Acts 9:31 we read that after the bloody persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, had been transformed into a warm-hearted Christian, ‘The church throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, being edified; and, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, was multiplied.’ Such rest and its blessed consequences will be one of the chief features of the Millennium. Up until the present time we have seen such rest only within limited circles and over short periods of time. But during the Millennium such a state will exist throughout the Church and over the whole world. ‘What, then, is the difference between the present and the millennial state?’ asks David Brown. ‘Just the difference,’ he answers, ‘between plucking more brands out of the fire than now — between a less and a greater number of converted and holy persons. That is all’ (p. 393).

There will be no difference in principle between the teaching and preaching of the Gospel then and now. The difference will be in the extent to which it will become effective in the lives of the people. As Christianity is triumphant now in some family groups and local communities, so it will be then over the entire world. The Millennium, therefore, does not mean an entirely new and different state of things on this earth, but rather the elimination of the great majority of the evil influences that still are so prominent throughout the world, and a correspondingly higher moral and spiritual tone in the lives of the people. Thus, figuratively, the wolf and the lamb shall lie down together,– things formerly antagonistic and hateful to each other will work together in one harmonious purpose. The desert will blossom as the rose — literally, as economic and scientific conditions lead to the development of natural resources and generally prosperous conditions over the world, and figuratively, as moral and spiritual conditions are improved. Poverty and ignorance will be largely eliminated. Health and education will be the general rule, and wealth will be vastly more abundant and more widely distributed. In general, then, the Millennium will not involve any change in the nature of Christianity, but only its much wider extension. There will be no elements in it that are not now present on a smaller scale. Then it will be said, ‘The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever.’ In the words of David Brown:

‘When the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom, under the whole heaven, is given to the people of the saints of the Most High; when Christ’s dominion is from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth; when men are blessed in Him, and all nations call Him blessed; when they have beaten their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks — nation not lifting up sword against nation, and none learning war any more: — then, of course, all the earth will be at rest and be still, save in the unwearied activities of well-doing. But even then, as the flesh will lust against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, so salvation in every case will then be as much a triumph of grace over nature as now’ (p. 397).

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