Confused UniversalismPMT 2015-061 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Many Christians wrongly believe that postmillennialism implies the ultimate salvation of all men. Riddlebarger, for instance, speaks against postmillennialism: “Although the kingdom advances throughout this age, the final eschatological victory is won by Jesus Christ himself at his second coming (1 Cor. 15:54). Not before.” And of certain negative verses he comments that they “all speak of the present spiritual kingdom as finally consummated in ‘the age to come’ but not before.” [1] Reymond believes of the postmillennial vision that “the world of mankind of necessity must be brought eventually to a state of virtual moral perfection — the major contention of postmillennialism . . . a representation of world conditions at the time of Christ’s return which amillennialists reject.”

But postmillennialism does not claim that “final” eschatological victory comes before Christ returns. We do believe that because of the kingdom’s long-term expansion “the number finally of the lost in comparison with the whole number of the saved will be very inconsiderable.”[3] And that the redeemed “shall embrace the immensely greater part of the human race.” [4] That “ultimately the vast majority of the whole mass of humanity, including all generations, will be actually redeemed by Christ.” [5]

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Nor do we expect that at any given point in history all men will be born-again Christians. Brown comments: “Have we not evidence that during that bright period the world’s subjection to the scepter of Christ will not be quite absolute?” [6] Campbell writes that the phrase “Christianized world” certainly “does not mean that every living person will then be a Christian, or that every Christian will be a perfect Christian. It does surely mean that the righteous rule and authority of Christ the King will be recognized over all the earth.” Boettner observes only that “evil in all its many forms eventually will be reduced to negligible proportions, that Christian principles will be the rule, not the exception, and that Christ will return to a truly Christianized world.”

Though clearly expecting Christ’s dominion throughout the world, Scripture nevertheless teaches that a minority of the human race will not convert to Christ. Evidence for this exists in the events associated with Christ’s return, which include a brief rebellion, as indicated in 2 Thessalonians 1:7–10 and Revelation 20:7–9. We must always expect tares in the wheat field (Mt 13:39–43).

Some suggest, and I tend to agree, that Isaiah 19:18 symbolically implies a five-to-one ratio for Christians over non-Christians at the height of the millennial glory. [9] “In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear by the LORD of hosts; one will be called the City of Destruction.” To speak the language of God’s people seems to indicate salvation. Language plays an important role in Scripture: if it is the language of God’s people, it evidences his favor (Isa 19:18; 57:19; Zep 3:9); if not, it symbolizes his curse (Dt 28:49; Ps 81:5; 114:1; Jer 5:15; Eze 3:5–6).

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The progress of redemption not only grows imperceptibly, but oftentimes sporadically. Postmillennialists deny “that this current age will be a time of steady and upward growth.” Its historical progress is often intermittent, being intermingled with eras of divine pruning (Jn 15:5–6) in anticipating the final harvest. Such pruning is certainly true with Israel of the Old Testament (Isa 6:9–13). At one point God offers to do away with Israel and establish a new people from out of Moses himself (Ex 32:10). Of course, by the new covenant era, this has long been Israel’s experience (Mt 3:9–12; Ro 11:16–24). Such pruning can leave a region, once strongly influenced by Christianity, wholly without a Christian witness — for a time. It is like seed, which is planted and grows and produces other seed (Mt 13:3–9, 23). Thus, we can expect it to grow in certain areas and perhaps even to die, but eventually it will come back because the productivity of seed involves its death and renewal (Jn 12:24; 1Co 15:36). Ultimately, God gives the increase (1Co 3:6–7) when and where he pleases (cf. Isa 55:9–11; Jn 3:8).


  1. Kim Riddlebarger, The Case for Amillennialism, 97, 99.
  2. Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology,1036.
  3. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3:879–80.
  4. B. B. Warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies, 349.
  5. Robert L. Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology, 525.
  6. David Brown, Christ’s Second Coming, 145
  7. Campbell, Israel and the New Covenant, 298.
  8. Boettner, Millennium, 14.
  9. Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, 310.

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  1. Blaine Newton May 20, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Ken, maybe you or somebody else on here can tell us where Riddlebarger gets this lousy argument, where he ascribes postmillennialists as buying into universalism. Are there maybe some fringe postmillennialists who have held this view in the past? It just strikes me as a really bizarre and unwarranted conclusion for him to come to in trying to build a case for his amil view and a complete non-sequitur in relation to the orthodox postmillennial view of kingdom growth and advance.

  2. Kenneth Gentry May 20, 2015 at 11:20 am

    I have found a lot of problems in Riddlebarger. I believe he is largely preaching to the Amill congregation, and is not being careful with presenting postmillennialism. Perhaps some day I can do a running critique on his The Case for Amillennialism book.

  3. guy cooksey May 20, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Hi Ken: we are all doing well. There has been some controversy with our regional college as it recently let go a few faculty and amidst that controversy, the president then resigned. Our regional College is Northwest Nazarene University (NNU). A very liberal college that I will not send my kids to. Most of the profs are liberals–espousing open theology, old earth evolution and the historical unreliability of the Bible. One prof in particular is very controversial, Dr. Tom Oord. We are seeing some of the fruit of his error in our young pastors coming out of NNU. They are telling their youth that the Bible cannot be trusted. I can’t even imagine what my congregation would do to me if I said that from the pulpit. Yet,this errant prof can tell 1822 year olds this and be applauded. What is your take on all of this? so many of our young people are leaving the church; is this the reason why?

  4. David Paulk May 21, 2015 at 9:46 am

    A running critique on Riddlebarger’s book would be great. I agree with you that since he is preaching/teaching/writing to those who accept his view point, he tends to make less than careful comments about Postmillennialism. I think John MacArthur does that as well from his Premillennial viewpoint. To be honest, I have let my guard down and made hyperbolic comments about other positions when I am around those I know agree with my Partial-Preterist, Postmillennial position. But most of the time I do this as a tongue in cheek sort of of a joke.

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