PMT 2015-052 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
One of the greatest postmillennial teachers was the person who made the postmillennial hope possible: our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord. Though postmillennialism seems to some Christians to depend mostly on the Old Testament, Jesus himself has much to say to encourage us to hope for the conversion of the world.
And this was the case even as his ministry opened.
The Kingdom Announced
Christ is introduced to Israel and the world through the ministry of John Baptist, who was prophesied in the Old Testament to be Messiah’s forerunner (Isa 40:3; Matt 3:3). John prepares the way for him by preaching: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2). Jesus picks up this theme in Mark 1:14–15:
And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.”
I will note three crucial aspects of this declaration.
First, Christ declares “the time” has arrived. What is “the time” to which he refers? It surely refers to the prophetically anticipated time, the time of the coming of David’s greater Son to establish his kingdom, for he immediately adds: “the kingdom of God is at hand.” After all, the Father sends Christ into the world in “the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4; Eph 1:10), to initiate the “favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:16–21). This time is “the acceptable time,” “the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). It is the very day righteous men and angels in the old covenant long desired to see (Matt 13:17; Luke 2:28–30; 10:24; John 8:56; Heb 11:13, 39–40; 2 Pet 1:10–11).
Second, Christ declares that the time “is fulfilled.” He does not say “the time may be fulfilled — if you will receive the promise.” Rather he forthrightly declares that the God-ordained time is fulfilled. Because of this Paul can later call this “the now time” (2 Cor 6:2; cf. Rom 3:21–26; Eph 3:10; 2 Tim 1:9–10). Though John and Jesus announce that the time is fulfilled, Jerusalem does not recognize the coming of “the time” (Luke 19:44; cf. Matt 23:37).
Third, Christ declares that since “the time is fulfilled,” therefore “the kingdom of God is at hand.” That is, because the God-ordained time is now fulfilled, the kingdom of God is finally right at hand. The coming of the kingdom does not await some distantly future return of Christ. During his first coming, at the very opening of his ministry, Jesus preaches that “the kingdom of God is at hand.”
The kingdom’s early new covenant revelation, then, declares its nearness in time, not its potential nearness, and certainly not its distance. Consequently, Jesus promises that some of his hearers would live to see the kingdom’s acting in great power in history: “There are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste of death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (Mark 9:1). Thus, not only is his kingdom present in his ministry, but some of his disciples will live long enough actually to see its exhibition in power. This exhibition would not be immediately, for some of his disciples would die first. Yet this must occur within the lifetimes of others, for “some” standing there would witness it. This apparently refers to the dramatic A.D. 70 destruction of the temple and the removal of the Old Testament worship system (cf. Heb 8:13; 12:25–28). This occurs as a direct result of Jesus’ prophecies (John 4:21–23; Matt 21:33–46; 22:1–7; 23:31–34:34).
Christ’s Kingdom Established
Because “the time” is “fulfilled” and the “kingdom of God” is “at hand,” we should expect its appearing in the Gospel record — and in fact it does appear therein. Perhaps one of the clearest Gospel proofs of the presence of the kingdom is Matthew 12:28: “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” Since Jesus does cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom has come. The very fact that Christ invades Satan’s kingdom and takes away possessions (demoniacs, Matt 12:25–29) proves that the kingdom comes during his ministry.
In Luke 17:20–21 we read another announcement of the kingdom’s presence:
Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
Notice that Christ answers the Pharisees’ specific question regarding “when” the kingdom should come. He answers them by using the present tense, informing them that the kingdom is present now. It is not awaiting a future, visible, Armageddon-introduced manifestation; it exists spiritually now and among them. Hence, even during his ministry men are entering into it: “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since then the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it” (Luke 16:16).
During his trial under Pilate, the Lord speaks directly of his kingship and kingdom:
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Pilate therefore said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:36 –37a; see also: Matt 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3).
Here Jesus defines his kingdom as something other-worldly, rather than a political kingdom. His kingdom differs from Caesar’s political kingdom — and it differs from the dispensationalist’s political conception of the Messianic kingdom. And as such, his kingdom is already present: He speaks of “my kingdom” (John 18:36a). He claims to have his own “servants” (even though they do not fight with sword to defend Him, John 18:36b). He even clearly states “I am a king” (John 18:37a). And, as we might expect, given our study of Mark 1:14–15, he states that he has come into the world for the purpose of being king (John 18:37b).
The Climax of the Book of Revelation (Rev 19-22)
Six lectures on six DVDs that introduce Revelation as a whole,
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Christ himself states that he was establishing his Messianic kingdom during his first coming. This is precisely the position of postmillennialism, though this contradicts the position of dispensationalism.