Elements of a Biblical Eschatology, Part 3

Postmillennialism is perhaps the easiest position to describe in terms of internal variety, because there really isn’t much.  Earlier postmillennialists (I am thinking especially of many of the Puritans) believed that the millennium would begin at some future point when the gospel started to spread and prosper at a pace never seen before.  Many of them believed that the mass conversion of Israel (Romans 11) would be the event that got the millennium started.  The millennium itself would last for (perhaps) thousands of years, given the fact that it was expected to last much longer than the period prior to the millennium (which to this point is around 2,000 years).  At the end of this period (which does include one last Satanic rebellion), Christ would return to usher in the eternal state.

Postmillennialists these days tend to view it a little differently.  They identify the entire present age between the two comings of Christ as the millennium of Revelation 20.  Even though the gospel faces many challenges now, postmillennialists rightly point to the remarkable progress that has been made in terms of the spread of the gospel in the last 2,000 years. They envision that it will continue to gain momentum until it reaches worldwide dominance.  After a lengthy golden age of Christianity, Satan will lead a final rebellion that will be quickly put down, and Christ’s return will begin the eternal state. 

So that’s pretty much the main varieties you will find in regard to postmillennialism.  Some (more traditional) postmillennialists will say that the millennium is yet to begin.  Most today, however, say that we are living in it now and have been since the coming of Christ.

I should mention the liberal version of postmillennialism here as well, though I do not consider it a real Christian theology.  According to some liberal theologians such as Harry Emerson Fosdick and Shailer Matthews, the Kingdom of God will come by a gradual process of evolutionary human progress.  The visible, bodily return of Christ to this earth is denied, and most of the emphasis in the transformation of this world into the Kingdom of God comes about through social action.  Evolutionary postmillennialism holds to an optimistic view of human nature.  Humans are basically good, but they are oppressed or corrupted by bad social structures.  Once those structures are corrected, humanity will flourish and we will see the Kingdom of God gradually coming to a position of dominance.  The whole idea is basically naturalistic.  The twentieth century, especially its two world wars, the holocaust, and the later threat of nuclear disaster, for all practical purposes put this sub-Christian idea to rest.  The naive, naturalistic optimism that was rooted in an Enlightenment way of thinking has now given way to a much more chastened and pessimistic postmodernism. 

(By the way, I hope you like these short posts.  I’m thinking about permanently changing my posting style to make posts shorter and more frequent.  I think that will keep you readers coming back more often and not getting overwhelmed by posts that are too lengthy to digest at one time).   

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5 Responses to “Elements of a Biblical Eschatology, Part 3”

  1. Jason Says:

    Aaron,

    I do like the short posts. This is a good idea. I will probably read all of these in one sitting, but had you posted it all at once, I might have already stopped reading. When the material appears manageable, people are more likely to stay with it. (at least I am anyway)

    I’m enjoying this thread of posts, by the way.

  2. Andrew O'Kelley Says:

    I agree. These are like “Diet Aaron’s Post”, or the “Margarine of Aaron’s Posting”. You should come up with a slogan, such as, “Try Aaron’s New Posts: Only 1 Calorie.”

  3. fenderpooh Says:

    Or, “Aaron O’Kelley Zero.” 😉

  4. Charles Edward Miller Says:

    I would say that I could accept the conservative view of modern postmillennialism whose main representatives are Loraine Boettner and Benjamin Warfield. Even though I like the hymn “God of Glory” by Harry Emerson Fosdick, I must reject his view of postmillennialism. It was wrong.

  5. Charles Edward Miller Says:

    I do have a question, and I hope someone who knows the eschatology of Fosdick will be willing to respond. It is my understanding that Fosdick only believed in the immortality of the soul and rejected the resurrection of the body. Is that correct? I hope to receive a response. God bless.

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