PMT 2015-027 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Pessimistic eschatologies often use Titus 2:13 as evidence that postmillennialism wrongly directs the Christian’s hope regarding the future as it promotes true revival and cultural renewal. Here Paul states that he is “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” Non-postmillennialists see postmillennialists as taking their focus off of the second advent.
Yet postmillennialists recognizes that Paul urges believers to see the second advent as their “blessed hope.” In Romans 8:22–25 he mentions that we groan in this fallen world “waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved.” This eager expectation looks to our resurrection at the end of history.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:9–10 he commends the Thessalonians regarding “how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
In 1 Peter 1:3 the Apostle speaks of our “living hope” in obtaining “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled” which will “be revealed in the last time,” so that we “may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In 2 Peter 3:11–13 he states that we are “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” because “according to His promise we are looking for a new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” See also Hebrews 9:28 and James 5:7.
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(ed. by Ken Gentry)
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Consider the following charges against the postmillennialist outlook:
Craig Blaising responds to my presentation of postmillennialism: “Scripture repeatedly tells us that our hope is to be fully set on Christ’s coming.” (Blaising in D. Bock, Three Views on the Millennium, 75)
Cornelis Venema agrees: “The fifth and final objection to be urged against golden-age Postmillennialism is that it alters the focus of the believer’s hope for the future.” (Venema, Promise of the Future, 355)
Robert Strimple agrees, citing Venema against me (Strimple in Bock, Three Views on the Millennium, 66.). He vigorously asserts with italics that “the New Testament everywhere makes clear that the focus of the believer’s hope is to be the second coming of Christ.” (Strimple in Bock, Three Views on the Millennium, 65)
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Donald Bloesch claims postmillennialism is deficient in that it “tends to lose sight of the two-sidedness of the millennial hope — hope within history and hope beyond history” (Bloesch, Last Things, 103)
Postmillennialist Iain Murray recognizes this recurring complaint:
“Probably the most common contemporary prejudice among orthodox Christians against the view of prophecy advocated in the preceding pages arises from the belief that it misdirects the true hope of the Church. That hope, it is said, is nothing less than the second advent of Christ, together with the ushering in of an eternal kingdom — it is not a temporal hope relative to the prospects of this world” (Murray, The Puritan Hope, 209)
How shall we respond to this form of objection? Is it a proper charge against postmillennialism?
First, the charge is unfounded
I would point out that the second advent is, in fact, the postmillennialist’s ultimate hope. What postmil-lennialist downplays the second advent of our Lord, which brings with it the resurrection of the body and our eternal glory? I challenge our critics to present documentary evidence in this direction from the writings of postmillennialists. I have never seen a postmillennial author dismiss the second coming of Christ as inconsequential. This objection is based on (false) implications drawn from postmillennial presentations, not from presentations themselves.
Wall of Misconception: Separation of Church and State
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Indeed, all postmillennialists would agree with Iain Murray that “the privileges brought by Christ to the believer at death and at his Coming rightly represent the latter as the culminating glory. It is incomparably the blessed hope” (Murray, The Puritan Hope, 215). He continues:
“However bright, comparatively, the world may become when the Church reaches her fullest development in history, the Advent of Christ will ever remain the pole-star of faith and hope. For earth, however blessed, will never begin to equal heaven. As Bengel points out, even in that future time when there shall be ‘an overflowing fulness of the Spirit,’ Christians will still be in conflict with indwelling sin, they will still face temptation and meet with death” (Murray, The Puritan Hope, 217—18).
Murray even titles a chapter in his postmillennial work: “Christ’s Second Coming: The Best Hope” (Murray, The Puritan Hope, ch. 10).
Second, this objection is confused
Christianity does not have just one hope. Indeed, our faith offers hope at every level of life. The postmillennial hope regarding the historically unfolding future is one of those levels. Though again: our ultimate hope is the “blessed hope” of the second advent, which ushers us into our perfect eternal state. What greater hope can there be?
But is hoping for a better future for the church and our families misguided or ill-conceived? Was Abraham wrong to “hope against hope” for offspring (Ro 4:18)? Was Isaiah wrong for hoping for earthly justice and better days for Israel (Isa 59:9, 11)? In Thine Is the Kingdom I state regarding this sort of objection: “we do not prefer earthly dominion over consummational glory.”1 But we do hope for earthly dominion for the church.
I will continue my reply to non-postmillennial scholars in the next blog posting. But I believe that the observations already made are sufficient to dismantle the objection.
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