PMW 2019-037 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Our Lord Jesus Christ ministered for over three years proclaiming the coming of the kingdom of God. But after initially drawing a “great multitude” of followers (Jn 6:2), John records with disappointment that “many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (Jn 6:66). In fact, toward the end of his ministry one of his own twelve disciples turned against him, literally selling him out to the authorities (Jn 13:18; Ac 1:18-19). And even his remaining faithful disciples forsook him in cowardly fear as he was on trial for his life (Mt 26:31, 56; Lk 22:31-34), locking themselves away from opponents (Jn 20:19).
With such a shaky start, what might we expect to become of the kingdom of God, which Christ initially proclaimed as near (Mk 1:15; Mt 4:17) and eventually established as present (Mt 12:28; Lk 17:20-21)? In other words, what is the outlook for the Christian faith in the historical long run? How should we answer a query such as Christ poses: “When the Son of Man comes, will he really find faith on the earth” (Lk 18:8)?
The Prophetic Hope for the Mission
Though surprising to many evangelicals today, the appropriate answer to such a question is a resounding, “Yes!” Such a rhetorical, motivational challenge fully expects a positive response. Despite the modern church’s gloomy pessimism regarding her future on earth, the Scripture paints a bright prospect for Christianity’s gradual historical advance (Is 9:7; Ez 17:22-24; 47:1-9; Mt 13:31-33; Mk 4:1-9, 26-29; 1Co 15:25-26) and glorious global conquest (Ps 22:27-31; Is 9:6-7; Mic 4:1-3; Jo 12:31-32; 1Co 15:20-25). And this before the Return of Christ – – because he presently rules from the right of God Almighty (Ac 2:33-35; Ep 1:20-22; Heb 10:12-13; 1Pe 3:22; cp. Ac 5:31; 7:55-56; Ro 8:34; 1Co 15:25-27; Co 3:1; Heb 12:2). After all, did not Christ himself unambiguously declare: “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn 3:17)? Did he not promise: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (Jo 12:32). How could he affirm such things if the future of the human race was destined to ever-deepening descent into chaos and despair, as most modern evangelicals suppose?
He Shall Have Dominion
(paperback by Kenneth Gentry)
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
Many avenues in Scripture lead to a majestic earthly destination for mankind before the Lord’s Return: Do we not read of Jehovah giving Christ “the nations for Your inheritance” (Ps 2:8)? Of Christ’s ruling from “sea to sea; and from the river to the ends of the earth” (Ps 72:8)? Of “all nations” streaming into “the house of the Lord” during (not: “after”) the “last days” (Is 2:2)? Of the knowledge of the Lord covering the earth “as the waters cover the sea” (Is 11: 9)? Of the kingdom of heaven growing to dominance like the mustard seed (Mt 13:31-32)? Of the “reconciling of the world” to God (Ro 11:15; 2Co 5:19)?
But how can this be? Hasn’t the Fall ruined all earthly hope? Not according to Scripture! In fact, the Resurrection of the Second Adam (Christ) is more powerful than the Fall of the First Adam – – for it overturns the Fall’s catastrophic results. Let us see how this is so.
The Divine Directives for the Mission
According to Scripture we may expect the gradually developing, worldwide dominance of the Christian faith in time and on earth. We may because: It is God’s revealed will in Christ. One of the easiest ways to gauge the biblical warrant for a glorious earthly future is to examine the familiar Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20). This Commission is truly great, not only in terms of its power and task but, as we shall see, its goal.
The Time of the Commission. The chronology of the Great Commission is important for appreciating its dramatic significance. Christ proclaims the Commission after his Resurrection, that is, after he conquers sin, death, and the devil (Co 2:14-15; 1Co 15:20-25; Heb 2:14-15; 1 Jo 3:8). Hence, he proclaims in the aorist tense (point action in past time): “All authority has been given to Me” (Mt 28:18). This harkens back to God’s recent grant of authority to Christ at his Resurrection (Ac 2:32-35; Eph 1:20-21; Phil 2:8-11). Previously, Jesus humbly confessed: “the Son can do nothing of Himself” (Jn 5:19, 30; 8:28). Now he speaks authoritatively, as he steps out of his state of humiliation and into his glorious exaltation.
The Authority of the Commission. The opening words of the Commission triumphantly declare his universal authority. To those few followers who remain with him (Mt 28:16), Jesus boldly announces: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28:18). And this despite his recent cruel and shameful treatment, resulting in his ignoble death. Despite the cowardice of his followers, the core members of his kingdom. Despite the might of Rome and the resistance of Israel, the political and religious contexts of his labors. Christ here truly speaks as the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rv 17:14; 19:16).
Greatness of the Great Commission (by Ken Gentry)
An insightful analysis of the full implications of the great commission. Impacts postmillennialism as well as the whole Christian worldview.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Our Lord’s claim of “all authority in heaven and on earth” is distributive. That is, he exercises authority in every realm: personal, familial, and ecclesiastical, as well as social, cultural, educational, legal, political, and any other area of human endeavor. This is the ultimate foundation for the bold task and its glorious expectation. Christ has universal authority to command and compel.
But what task does the Lord entrust to his servants? What goal does he set before them? What is our mission as Christians in this sinful, fallen world?
The Goal of the Commission. We quickly learn the expected outcome of the Commission, the anticipated goal of our calling in the world. The Lord commissions his people to nothing short of world conquest by means of the gospel of his saving love and sanctifying grace: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20a).
We must note that our Lord Jesus Christ, clothed with “all authority,” commands his followers to “make disciples of all the nations.” He does not send us to pluck individual brands here and there from the fire (though we must preach the gospel to individuals). Nor does he leave us in the world merely to “be witnesses” against all opposition (though we certainly must witness all along the way to our goal). Rather he commissions us actually to bring “all the nations” of the world under his discipleship. And this process of subduing the nations comes “not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums,” but with spirit-blessed gospel preaching and faithful biblical instruction, for the “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation” (Ro 1:16; 1Co 1:18; 2Co 6:7; 1Th 1:5).
The Commission proceeds to its goal, therefore, through the power of Spirit induced conversion: we are to disciple and to baptize all nations of the world. Baptism is the sign and seal of entry into the kingdom of God (Acts 8:12); we baptize disciples “into” (Gk: eis) the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). Baptism is administered in the context of humble worship, not oppressive war.
The baptizing and discipling of men and nations results in ethical living according to the pattern of Scripture. Consequently, Christ commissions us to teach “them [i.e., all the baptized nations of the world] to observe all things that I have commanded you.” Conversion is the foundational starting-point for Christian discipleship, not the end-all. We must teach converts to live according to the authoritative instruction of him who is Lord.
Thus, the Great Commission directs us to seek the conversion of all nations by the gospel, to baptize them in the name of the Triune God, and to disciple them according to all the teaching of Christ. Certainly this is a Great Commission.
The Assistance for the Commission. Our Great Commission is surely not a hopeless commission, an ideal goal never actually expected. After all, it is securely established on the basis of “all authority in heaven and on earth.” What can thwart such authority? Not only so, but Christ promises: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20b). Who can resist his powerful presence?
We are assigned, then, this glorious task on the basis of universal authority and with the promise of assistance by the universal king. Indeed, the Lord’s Prayer engages us to pray for that which the Lord’s Commission charges us to do: Did he not teach us to pray: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10)? Are we to pray for that which is hopeless? Is the Great Commission really a “Mission: Impossible”?
Your Hope in God’s World (Kenneth Gentry)
5 DVDs; 5 lectures
This series of lectures presents the theological and exegetical argument for the postmillennial hope in our fallen world. The last lecture answers the major practical, theological, and exegetical objections to postmillennialism. An excellent series for both introducing and refreshing one’s understanding of postmillennialism.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
The Ultimate Fulfillment of the Mission
A proper analysis of the Great Commission helps us answer the rhetorical question: “When the Son of Man comes, will he really find faith on the earth”? Unless he has laid before us a hopeless task far beyond our capacity and really outside his own will, we must believe that when the Son of Man comes he will find faith on the earth. And not just scattered enclaves of faith, but in fact a world-wide faith towering above all others (Is 2:2; Ez 17:22; Mt 13:32).
This is why John sees Christ as the “propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1Jo 2:2). He looks proleptically down the corridors of time to a world ultimately overwhelmed with the saving love of Christ, a world-system (Gk., kosmos) operating on the basis of Christian principle founded on redemption.
Just as Christ’s Great Commission roots this world-conquering hope in his resurrection, so does Paul. He does so not only in Philippians 2:6-11 and Romans 11:11-15, but especially in 1 Corinthians 15:20-25: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (NIV).
Christ will not return until “after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.” Indeed, he must continue to “reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” Ours is a “Mission: Possible.”