REFORMATION POSTMILLENNIALISM

PMW 2019-098 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

As Theologian Donald Bloesch notes, “postmillennialism experienced an upsurge in the middle ages,” as illustrated in the writings of Joachim of Fiore (A.D. 1145-1202) and others. But a more fully developed postmillennialism enjoys its greatest growth and influence in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, especially under Puritan and reformed influence in England and America.

Rodney Peterson writes that “this perspective had undergone changes, particularly since Thomas Brightman (1562-1607).” Brightman, who died in 1607, is one of the fathers of Presbyterianism in England. His postmillennial views are set forth in detail in his book A Revelation of the Revelation, which was published posthumously in 1609 and quickly established itself as one of the most widely translated works of the day. In fact, some church historians consider this work the “most important and influential English revision of the Reformed, Augustinian concept of the millennium.” Thus, Brightman stands as the modern systematizer (not creator) of postmillennialism.

Bloesch lists subsequent “guiding lights” from “the heyday of postmillennialism”: Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), John Owen (1616-1683), Philip Spener (1635-1705), Daniel Whitby (1638-1726), Isaac Watts (1674-1748), the Wesley brothers (1700s), and Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). To this list we could add John Calvin (1509-1564) as an incipient postmillennialist.

In his Prefatory Address to King Francis I of France, Calvin writes: “Our doctrine must tower unvanquished above all the glory and above all the might of the world, for it is not of us, but of the living God and his Christ whom the Father has appointed King to ‘rule from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the ends of the earth. . . .’ And he is so to rule as to smite the whole earth with its iron and brazen strength, with its gold and silver brilliance, shattering it with the rod of his mouth as an earthen vessel, just as the prophets have prophesied concerning the magnificence of his reign.”
The Greatness of the Great Commission


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


Calvin is a forerunner to the flowering of the postmillennialism of the reformers Martin Bucer (1491-1551) and Theodore Beza (1519-1605). Following in their train but with greater clarity still are the Puritans William Perkins (1558-1602), William Gouge (1575-1653), Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), John Cotton (1585-1652), Thomas Goodwin (1600-1679), George Gillespie (1613-1649), John Owen (1616-1683), Elnathan Parr (d. 1632), Thomas Brooks (d. 1662), John Howe (d. 1678), James Renwick (d. 1688), Matthew Henry (1662-1714), and others.

The Puritan form of postmillennialism generally holds not only to a future glory for the church, but that the millennial era proper will not begin until the conversion of the Jews and will flower rather quickly thereafter, prevailing over the earth for a literal thousand years. A purified church and a righteous state governed by God’s Law arises under this intensified effusion of the Spirit. This culminates eventually in the eschatological complex of events surrounding the glorious Second Advent. Many of the Puritans also hold that the Jews would return to their land during this time.

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3 thoughts on “REFORMATION POSTMILLENNIALISM

  1. Chris Hume December 3, 2019 at 8:18 am

    Thanks for the post, Dr. Gentry!

  2. Jason Elliott December 3, 2019 at 10:23 am

    Thank you for the good information here! Perhaps you have an article on this to which you can refer me, but what is your view on “national Israel” and postmillennialism? The NT declares to pay no heed to genealogies and that there is neither Jew nor Greek, etc. In light of these facts vis-a-vis Romans 11 will there be an ethnic revival, an assurance that all the elect (individuals who make up the entire church/all Israel) will be saved, or something else? Keep up the good work and scholarship, Dr. Gentry!

  3. Kenneth Gentry December 3, 2019 at 10:56 am

    I deal with this rather thoroughly a conference lecture series: http://www.kennethgentry.com/israel-in-the-bible-and-history-9-mp3-downloads/

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