POSTMILLENNIAL BEGINNINGS

Ancient writerPMT 2016-006 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

This is my second installment on the question about the origins of postmillennialism. Many dispensationalists dismiss postmillennialism as a modern novelty. In my last article I pointed out that all eschatological development is only gradually understood over time. In this article I will show the seed beginnings of postmillennialism in antiquity.

As far as our preserved writings go, premillennialism finds slightly earlier development (especially in Irenaeus, A.D. 130-202). Yet theologian Donald G. Bloesch notes that “postmillennialism was already anticipated in the church father Eusebius of Caesarea” (A.D. 260-340) (Bloesch, Essentials of Evangelical Theology [San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1979], 2:192). Renowned historian Philip Schaff traces it back even farther, observing that Origen (A.D. 185-254) “expected that Christianity, by continual growth, would gain the dominion over the world.” (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 5th ed. [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, rep. 1910], 2:591, cp. 122. )


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A classic, thorough explanation and defense of postmillennialism (600+ pages). Complete with several chapters answering specific objections.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Two other prominent church fathers whose historical confidence appears to express a nascent postmillennialism are Athanasius (A.D. 296-372) and Augustine (A.D. 354-430). These are giants of Christian orthodoxy.

Consider just one statement from Athanasius. The gospel’s great progress is expected, according to Athanasius’ view of Scripture (Isa 11:9; Mt 28:19; Jn 6:45): “And then, from Dan to Beersheba was the Law proclaimed, and in Judea only was God known; but now, unto all the earth has gone forth their voice, and all the earth has been filled with the knowledge of God, and the disciples have made disciples of all the nations, and now is fulfilled what is written, ‘They shall be all taught of God’” (Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians 59:8). This is postmillennial in sentiment.

Turning to Augustine, Wendy Zoba notes, Augustine teaches that history “would be marked by the ever-increasing influence of the church in overturning evil in the world before the Lord’s return” (Zoba, “Future Tense” Christianity Today [October 2, 1995]: 20). This would eventually issue forth in a “future rest of the saints on earth” (Augustine, Sermon 259:2) “when the Church will be purged of all the wicked elements now mixed among its members and Christ will rule peacefully in its midst.” (Cited in Brian E. Daley, The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology [Cambridge: University Press, 1991], 133). This early incipient postmillennialism contains the most basic element of the later developed system: a confident hope in gospel victory in history prior to Christ’s return.


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An academic study of the Greek word for “baptism.” Surveys Josephus, Philo, Sirach, church fathers, 2 Maccabees, and more. Provides insights into the study of words in their contexts. Explodes the view that the Greek word demands immersion.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


We may also reference Augustine’s comments on Psalm 2. Regarding the Lord laughing at the nations (Ps 2:4) he writes: “it is to be understood of that power which he giveth to His saints, that they seeing things to come, namely, that the Name and rule of Christ is to pervade posterity and possess all nations.” At v. 7 he writes: “‘Ask of Me,’ may be referred to all this temporal dispensation, which has been instituted for mankind, namely, that the ‘nations’ should be joined to the Name of Christ, and so be redeemed from death, and possessed by God. ‘I shall give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance,’ which so possess them for their salvation, and to bear unto Thee spiritual fruit.” (Augustine in The Post-Nicene Fathers, 8:3)

Conclusion
Dispensationalists — who like to link themselves to historic premillennialism — are clearly wrong in their views of the recency of postmillennialism. Actually their
own system (created by John Nelson Darby in 1830) is the latest of the evangelical schools of eschatology.

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2 thoughts on “POSTMILLENNIAL BEGINNINGS

  1. George Kuhns January 26, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    I cannot find the first installment on “Postmillennial Beginnings.” How or where can I find it? Thank you.

  2. Kenneth Gentry January 28, 2016 at 10:41 am

    I will have to look in that! One of those Internet glitches, I suppose. Thanks.

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