PMT 2017-006 Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
This is the third in a series of studies on the “millennium” from Rev. 20 and how postmillennialists understand it, especially over against amillennialists.
Prophecy and the Postmillennial Hope
The Old Testament is, of course, full of eschatological pronouncements. Israel was blessed with many writing prophets who have left us a record of their inspired insights into the future. I could profitably survey a number of the Messianic Psalms.
For instance, I could highlight Psalm 2, taking special note of the promise: “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, / And the very ends of the earth as Your possession” (Psa 2:8). Did Jesus ask for the nations from the father? Yes, he did as we see in his Great Commission: “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’” (Matt 28:18–29).
Or I could focus on Psalm 22, the great psalm presenting us with the crucifixion of Christ. In that Psalm we hear the promise that results from the death of Christ: “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, / And all the families of the nations will worship before You” (Psa 22:27).
Amillennialism v. Postmillennialism Debate
(DVD by Gentry and Gaffin)
Formal, public debate between Dr. Richard Gaffin (Westminster Theological Seminary)
and Kenneth Gentry at the Van Til Conference in Maryland.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Or I could turn to the most quoted and alluded to Old Testament verse in the New Testament. Psalm 110:1 declares: “The LORD says to my Lord: / ‘Sit at My right hand / Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’” At his ascension Jesus was seated at the right hand of God until his enemies are defeated.
But due to space constraints, I will briefly analyze one important Isaianic prophecy:
“Now it will come about that In the last days / The mountain of the house of the LORD / Will be established as the chief of the mountains, / And will be raised above the hills; / And all the nations will stream to it. / And many peoples will come and say, / ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, / To the house of the God of Jacob; / That He may teach us concerning His ways / And that we may walk in His paths. / For the law will go forth from Zion / And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. / And He will judge between the nations, / And will render decisions for many peoples; / And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. / Nation will not lift up sword against nation, / And never again will they learn war.” (Isa 2:2–4)
Isaiah’s Prophetic Time Frame
It is very important that we discern when Isaiah expects his prophecy to be fulfilled. It opens with these important words: “Now it will come about that / In the last days. . . .” But what are “the last days”? And when do they occur? We find the answer to our questions in the New Testament, the infallible interpreter of the Old Testament.
I believe that Scripture teaches that the “last days” begin in Christ’s earthly ministry in the first century and will continue until the “last day” resurrection” (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54) at the end of history (hence, it is the “last” day). We see evidence that the last days cover the full expanse of the current gospel age in several places in the New Testament. I will mention just three.
Peter explains the Pentecostal phenomena by declaring that they signal the coming of the last days: “this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘and it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour forth of my Spirit on all mankind’” (2:16–17a).
Paul looks back to Israel in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt and writes to the first-century Corinthian Christians: “these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor 10:11).
The writer of Hebrews follows suit when he comments on Jesus’ earthly ministry: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb 1:1–2a). He is setting the current new covenant era over against the former days that lead up to them. And he defines the present as “the last days.”
Thus, I believe that we have been in the last days since Jesus’ first-century ministry and that we will continue living in the last days until the resurrection at “the last day” (John 6:39; 11:24). So now I would point out that Isaiah declares that his prophecy will occur “in the last days” (Isa 2:2a). That is, during the progress of the period known as “the last days.” This will not occur after the last days — in a new era millennium or the eternal state — but in the last days before they end of our current age.
Isaiah’s Prophetic Expectation
This great prophecy expects something glorious to occur during the period of the last days, in the Christian era: “Now it will come about that In the last days / The mountain of the house of the LORD / Will be established as the chief of the mountains, / And will be raised above the hills” (Isa 2:2a-b).
Introduction to Postmillennial Eschatology (10 mp3 lectures)
Southern California Center for Christian Studies seminar.
Lecture presentations and some classroom interaction.
Very helpful definition, presentation, and defense of postmillennialism.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Before commenting on exactly what this expects, I would note up front that the prophecy is strongly emphasizing something. In the Hebrew the word for “established” here is kûn which is a strong term that indicates firmness. Syntactically it appears in the first position for emphasis. The statement effectively reads: “established firmly will be the mountain off the house of the Lord.”
Then Isaiah adds as a consequence of its firm establishment that “all the nations will stream to it. / And many peoples will come and say, / ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, / To the house of the God of Jacob; / That He may teach us concerning His ways / And that we may walk in His paths. / For the law will go forth from Zion / And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isa 2:2d–3).
But now the question arises: What will be established? To what is he referring when he mentions “the mountain of the ho use of the Lord,” “Zion,” and “Jerusalem”?
The “house of the Lord” refers to the temple of God. It is the place where Israel found the special presence of God. That which gives the “house” its significance is the indwelling presence of God’s Shekinah glory.
But when we read the New Testament (which initiates the “last days”) we discover the house of the Lord (the temple) becomes the body of Christ (the church). Because the final blood-letting is in Christ, redemptive-history no longer requires a temple for sacrifices (Heb 10:10). Thus, in Ephesians 2:21–22 we read: “in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” 1 Peter 2:5a agrees: “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house.” We see this imagery elsewhere, as well (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16).
That this exalted “house of the Lord” is the body of Christ, the church, is also confirmed in two other images Isaiah employs: Zion and Jerusalem. To the first-century Jewish Christians who are being tempted with returning to Judaism, the writer of Hebrews states: “you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb 12:22). What is more, like Isaiah’s firmly established mountain, Hebrews continues encouraging these Jewish converts: “therefore, since we receive [i.e., “are currently receiving,” paralambonontes, pres. act. ptcp.] a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude” (Heb 12:28). In other words, these central realities in the old covenant have now been transformed into spiritual realities that are accessed in Christ. And they partake of the same unshakeable quality to which Isaiah’s prophecy points.
Postmillennialism believes that Christ’s church (in all that it involves) will be exalted and become the chief influence in the world during the course of the last days.
Isaiah’s Prophetic Method
Postmillennialism also differs from premillennialism’s catastrophism in bringing in the full-blown kingdom all at once by miraculous divine intrusion (the visible return of Christ). Rather we discern in Isaiah 2 (and elsewhere) that the kingdom will ascend to dominance by evangelistic endeavor.
Isaiah relates the method of prophetic victory: “many peoples will come and say, / ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, / To the house of the God of Jacob’” (Isa 2:3b). This speaks of gospel victory among the nations, that is, of evangelistic success. Then following upon this evangelistic flow to the mountain of the Lord, we read of their being discipled: “that He may teach us concerning His ways / And that we may walk in His paths” (Isa 2:3c). All of this reflects the success of Christ’s Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt 28:19–20a).
Isaiah’s Prophetic Result
Following upon the exaltation of the mountain of the house of the Lord (the Christian church) by the twin processes of evangelism and discipleship, we discover a glorious result:
“the law will go forth from Zion / And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. / And He will judge between the nations, / And will render decisions for many peoples; / And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. / Nation will not lift up sword against nation, / And never again will they learn war” (Isa 2:3d–4).
This is the postmillennial hope: proclamation of the gospel, conversions to its message, discipleship in its truths, and all leading to a transformed socio-political order rejoicing in international peace. And again: all of this is to transpire “in the last days.” Not after them. We are in the kingdom now. In fact, most in the audience of the Criswell Theological Review are non-Jews who have been swept into the kingdom of God by evangelistic methods. The kingdom has grown and it will continue to grow until the full, global victory is won.
In my next article I will continue this series with a study of Christ and the postmillennial hope.