PMT 2015-038 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

From time to time I receive a question regarding the difference between preterism and postmillennialism. Some folks are confused as to whether they contradict each other or whether they are speaking of the same thing. Let me briefly distinguish the two theological concepts.

The word “preterist” is the transliteration of a Latin word that means “passed by.” The orthodox preterist sees certain passages as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70, though many evangelicals understand these to be speaking of the second coming of Christ at the end of history.

The second coming and the AD 70 judgment of Christ on Jerusalem are often spoken of with similar language. This is because they are theologically related concepts. The AD 70 holocaust is a microcosmic picture of the final day of history when Christ returns in judgment. That is, AD 70 is small, historical picture or advanced sample of what the final judgment will be like.The Olivet Discourse Made Easy

Olivet Discourse Made Easy (by Ken Gentry)

Verse-by-verse analysis of Christ’s teaching on Jerusalem’s destruction in Matt 24. Show the great tribulation is past, having occurred in AD 70.

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Preterism has nothing necessarily to do with postmillennialism. There are preterist postmillennialists and there are historicist postmillennialists. Both are true forms of postmillennialism. There are also preterist amillennialists. Thus preterism does not commit one to any particular eschatological system.

Preterism is more of a hermeneutic tool than a theology. That is, it helps us understand certain passages without committing us to any particular eschatology.

Postmillennialism is a theological position on “the last things” that are to occur toward the end of history, an eschatological school of thought. Postmillennialism is an optimistic eschatological system that believes that Christ’s kingdom is currently present in history and will gradually win a dominant sway over men and nations as the gospel makes fuller progress in the world.

Postmillennialism holds to a single final coming of Christ (no separate rapture), a general resurrection of the saved and the lost simultaneously, and a general judgment of the saved and the lost in one setting.Postmillennialism Made Easy

Postmillennialism Made Easy (by Ken Gentry)

Basic introduction to postmillennialism. Presents the essence of the postmillennial argument and answers the leading objections. And all in a succinct, introductory fashion.

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Thus, postmillennialism looks for the growing influence of the gospel in history before the end comes. After a long time of dominance, Christ will return to resurrect and judge all men and end history while establishing the eternal, consummate order.

Thus, preterism and postmillennialism are altogether different concepts. Preterism is basically a hermeneutic, whereas postmillennialism is a theological system. They may occur simultaneously in one’s worldview, or they may be found in differing systems of thought.

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  1. Alan Kleber Rocha, Rev. April 14, 2020 at 7:39 am

    Permission to translate

  2. Kenneth Gentry April 14, 2020 at 7:44 am

    Feel free to do so. Thank you.

  3. Joshua K. Stevens April 14, 2020 at 2:51 pm

    Hi Dr. Gentry,

    I’ve heard some preachers identify themselves as “Optimistic Amillennialists” (Voddie Baucham was one). I’m guessing that what this means is that they are optimistic about the progress of the gospel in the world, while not necessarily seeing an earthly manifestation of “the millennium.” Thanks to your influence, as well as the influence of R. C. Sproul, and Doug Wilson, I have come to identify as a Postmillennialist, being very optimistic about the success of the Great Commission in this world (It’s funny–although I’m a Baptist, I’m getting my eschatology from Presbyterians). As far as the interpretation of Revelation 20 goes, I don’t think that I would interpret that differently than an Amillennialist:

    I take the binding of Satan to keep him from continuing to deceive the Gentiles as happening at the cross, the millennial reign of Christ as referring to his present session at God’s right hand, the “first resurrection” as referring to a believer’s “spiritual resurrection” (being quickened from spiritual death) and his co-reign with Christ in the intermediate state, and the loosing of Satan to deceive the Gentiles once more, as well as the “Gog and Magog” battle mentioned by John, as some kind of brief final rebellion of the nations lead by Satan immediately prior to the Second Coming. With the Second comes the general resurrection, the last judgment, and the eternal state (the consummate new heavens and new earth). The binding of Satan which took place at Jesus’ first coming then restrains Satan from keeping the Gentiles in spiritual darkness, thus enabling the triumph of the Great Commission on earth.

    I guess I’m wondering what the difference is between postmillennialism and “optimistic amillennialism,” if any. I don’t want to misrepresent postmillennialists in any way, and so I’m wondering what to call myself.

    Also, although Partial-Preterism and Postmillennialism are two distinct ideas, for me, one idea lead to the other. When I became convinced that “Daniel’s 70th week” terminated with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD–that Revelation was written prior to 70 AD, being primarily a vivid picture of God pouring out covenant curses upon Israel for rejecting the New Covenant, then that freed me up from always having this impending threat of global apocalypse hanging overhead. It opened the door for me seeing the optimistic visions of the Prophets and the Psalms as being fulfilled in this present age before Jesus returns, rather than relegating them to a future millennial kingdom after Jesus returns.

    Now I had already abandoned Premillennialism before interacting with your writings (due to serious problems with that system), but was unsettled on what to do with the Prophets and the optimistic Psalms. Postmillennialism solved this problem for me.

    Thank you for your work. Still eagerly anticipating your commentary on Revelation!

  4. Kenneth Gentry April 14, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    Perhaps this statement from page 31 of He Shall Have Dominion might help: Dr. Cornelis Venema calls himself an “optimistic amillennialist.” He argues in The Promise of the Future (p.239) that “amillennialists ordinarily reject the postmillennialist conviction that the millennium will be a period marked by universal peace, the pervasive influence and dominion of biblical principles in all aspects of life, and the subjection of the vast majority of the nations and peoples to Christ’s lordship. Amillennialists believe that the biblical descriptions of the inter-advental period suggests that the world’s opposition to Christ and the gospel will endure, even becoming more intense as the present period of history draws to a close.” He writes that “I do not believe in inevitable progress toward a much better world in this dispensation” and God’s “church has no right to take an optimistic, triumphalistic attitude.”

    Thus, an “optimistic amillennialist” does not have as gloomy an outlook on history as a dispensationalist. Nor does he believe that Christianity will always be losing in history. He believes we may expect remarkable victories from time-to-time.

  5. Joshua K. Stevens April 14, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks for your reply. I haven’t finished He Shall Have Dominion, but I remember that quote now. Based on what I see in the Prophets and the Psalms (and the whole Bible really), I would strongly disagree with Dr. Venema’s statement, “the church has no right to take an optimistic, triumphalistic attitude.”

    For instance, Isaiah has a “triumphalistic attitude” when he says:

    1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. 2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. 4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. (Isaiah 42:1-4)

    David has a “triumphalistic attitude” when he says:

    1 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 2 The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. (Psalms 110:1-2)

    Jesus has a “triumphalistic attitude” when he says:

    18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

    Paul has a “triumphalistic attitude” when he says:

    25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:25-26)

    So I think I have a right to be optimistic and triumphalistic if everyone in the Bible is. I guess that means I’m not an “optimistic amillennialist,” but a postmillennialist. Thanks for clearing that up!

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