SIN AND THE POSTMILLENNIAL HOPE (1)

PMT 2014-092 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.Solar eclipse

Many opponents of postmillennialism reject the hope-filled outlook because of their strong convictions regarding the power of sin. Like me, they are committed to Calvinistic doctrine regarding man’s total depravity. Total depravity teaches that man is a fallen sinner and depraved in every aspect of being. How can we have any hope for a better world governed by sinful men?

In dispensationalist J. Dwight Pentecost’s assessment of the deficiencies of postmillennialism, his fourth objection is along these lines. He speaks of “the new trend toward realism in theology and philosophy, seen in neo-orthodoxy, which admits man is a sinner, and can not bring about the new age anticipated by postmillennialism” (Pentecost, Things to Come, 387). Prophetic populist Hal Lindsey asserts that postmillennialism believes in “the inherent goodness of man” (Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth, 176).

Herman Hanko, a strong Calvinist, is convinced that “from the fall on, the world develops the sin of our first parents. This development continues throughout history. . . . More and more that kingdom of darkness comes to manifestation as time progresses” (Hanko, “An Exegetical Refutation of Postmillennialism,” Protestant Reformed Theological Journal [11:2] 25). Indeed, in his view postmillennialism “is a mirage, therefore, a false hope, because it fails to reckon properly with the fact of sin” and “cannot take sin as seriously as do the Scriptures” (Hanko, “The Illusory Hope of Postmillennialism,” Reformed Witness, 159).

How can the postmillennialist get around such objections? Especially Calvinist postmillennialists, like me? I will answer this question in two articles.


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In the first place I would point that despite the presence of sin, sinners do nevertheless convert to Christ. We must remember that each and every convert to Christ was at one time a totally depraved sinner. Is this not the case? Has it not always been the case?

And yet we have hundreds of millions of Christians in the world today. Salvation comes by the gospel which is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom 1:16). How can we deny the gospel’s power that has already saved millions of depraved sinners? What God can do for one sinner he can do for another. This is evident in the apostolic era (Ac 2:41; 4:4), as well as in biblical prophecy (Isa 2:3–4; Psa 86:9; Rev 5:9; 7:9).

A fatal objection to postmillennialism cannot arise from the power of sin. After all, the power of God to save greatly overshadows the power of sin to destroy. Indeed, “with God all things are possible” (Lk 18:27). In the ultimate analysis, the issue is not the power of sin, but the power of God. As I point out in the PostmillennialismToday blog, and as all postmillennialists argue, It is God’s will to bring redemption gradually to the whole world as a system through the proclamation of Christ’s gospel while building his church.

But in one sense though it is true that the postmillennialist overlooks the depravity of man. He overlooks it — that is, looks over and beyond it — to see the resurrection of Jesus Christ. David Chilton challenges us: “Like Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee, [despairing evangelicals] looked at ‘nature’ rather than at the Lord Jesus Christ; like the Israelites on the border of Canaan, they looked at the ‘giants in the land’ instead of trusting the infallible promises of God; they were filled with fear, and took flight” (Chilton, Paradise Restored, 232).


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We see the glorious power of Christ’s resurrection overwhelming the destructive power of Adam’s fall. We need to consider the strength of grace in comparison to the power of sin. The Christian should ask himself: “Have I ever seen a lost man become saved?” The answer is: Yes. This being the case, it is evident that grace is stronger than sin. The Christian should then ask a follow up question: “Does the Bible teach that a saved man can lose his salvation?” Here the answer is: No. In both cases, we see the superior power of God’s grace over man’s sin. As postmillennialist scholar David Brown once put it: “Souls that have felt the Saviour’s grace know right well its matchless power. After their own conversion, they can never doubt its converting efficacy on any scale that may be required” (Brown, Christ’s Second Coming, 302–303).

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5 thoughts on “SIN AND THE POSTMILLENNIAL HOPE (1)

  1. Paul Ott October 26, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    It is a good point about the power of God’s grace throughout history.

    On a side note, I am not sure why so many believe the answer to the question “Does the Bible teach that a saved man can lose his salvation?” to be No. It seems that everywhere I look in New Testament there are warnings to disciples and to churches. These warnings generally follow the formula of: be careful, be steadfast, refrain from evil; or bad things will happen–even after salvation: See Jude 1:3. Why should they contend earnestly? See Jude 1:5. It is plainly written in 1 Corinthians 10, Hebrews 3, and many other places.

    Just as God did save Israel from Egypt, He destroyed them before they entered the Promised Land. This is the perfect metaphor for our own spiritual lives, and is said as such in some of those passages I referenced above. We are saved from the bondage of sin by God’s grace, and called to be the loving, obedient bride. If not, we will be destroyed and not inherent the kingdom.

  2. Kenneth Gentry October 28, 2015 at 11:31 am

    We believe such because we believe there are numerous verses that teach it. And because it fits with the theological implications of God’s sovereignty.

    The verses you point to speak of PROFESSED believers. We must recognize that not all who PROFESS Christ are actually POSSESSED by Christ. Jesus turns away a crowd who claim to believe in John 8, declaring that they really were of their father, the devil. We cannot know with absolute certainty (like Jesus) who is regenerate and who is not.

    In addition, oftentimes such verses are actually warnings used by God to encourage those who profess Christ to continue on. Too much easy-believism would have men settle comfortably in a false conversion.

  3. Paul Ott October 29, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    I know you’re busy. I appreciate the reply.

    I’m having trouble seeing “professed” but not “possessed” in these verses. For example, 1 Corinthians 10 seems to be saying they were every bit as complete as anyone else:

    “1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.”

    And the following verses don’t really talk about professing versus possession. At least I can’t see it. It sounds like it is placing an impetus upon the reader to act a certain way, or not act a certain way. Why? “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased”

    Can you help me to understand how to read this chapter another way?

    I have a similar problem with Jude. It sounds like when talking to people of their “common salvation” he is “appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith”. If there is a common salvation, what is the point of bringing up the destruction during the exodus, fallen angels, and the rest? I suppose he could be talking about God separating the professed from the possessed, but the theme I see is that he is speaking of a consistent punishment independent of previous position with God. Why? “ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Could turning grace into licentiousness be a danger of those within the “common salvation”?

    Hebrews 3 has some similarly hard verses. “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.” How can such a thing be? Fall away? “For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,” That “if” is incredibly challenging. Is there a period between the beginning of being possessed until the end? All the examples in the surrounding verses appear to point to a long period of time, possibly even an entire lifetime.

    I don’t view it as a challenge to God’s sovereignty. Is it not similar to what happened during the exodus, when some were denied entry to the promised land? What does scripture say about why God did not allow them? Did not God choose to rescue them regardless of their sin, showing them unmerited grace? Then when they were disobedient in the wilderness He chose to destroy them? If that does not challenge His sovereignty, how does the view that after being saved from sin (salvation) we must “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life”?

  4. Kenneth Gentry October 30, 2015 at 9:44 am

    I believe that the Israelites with whom God was not pleased were not truly faithful, regenerate people. In fact, I believe that is precisely the reason Paul uses that example: to warn against false belief. 1 Cor 10:12: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” It is true that Paul is dealing with moral conduct, but moral conduct is an indicator of spiritual commitment. For instance, in 1 John 2:19 John warns against those who were formerly associated with the church and deemed to be legitimate members, but who eventually show themselves to be false professors: “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.

    In Jude he specifically warns in v 4: “certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

    You ask the right question regarding Heb 3: “How can such a thing be? Fall away?” The answer is: the church has false professors within, it has tares masquerading as wheat. This is why we read of Jesus (whose insight into the hearts of men was infallibly perfect) in John 2:23ff “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men.” Surely Jesus would not refuse to entrust himself to true believers. Theirs was a profession of the truth without true possession of the truth.

    In John 8:31-32 we see Jesus’ direct affirmation of this problem: “Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.'” And just a few verses later he condemns these “believers”:

    John 8:42-44: “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.'”

    For more information, see my book: Lord of the Saved: Getting to the Heart of the Lordship Debate.

  5. Paul Ott December 30, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Today I was reminded of this discussion and came back to re-read your comments.

    I think there is a lot of agreement. I do believe there are tares and wheat, and that there can be those who are false believers, who profess but are not possessed of Christ.

    But I can’t shake the notion that it is also possible for hearts to go astray. For hearts to fall away. Not just people from congregations, but also hearts from God.

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