PMW 2020-039 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Awhile back I was interviewed about the relationship of postmillennialism with preterism. Here is the interview. I hope it will provide some insights for you as you discuss such issues with your friends.
Interviewer: Dr. Gentry, when we speak of “schools” of interpretation or theological opinion — like “theonomists,” or “postmillennialists,” or “preterists” — there is a tendency to think of these groups in monolithic terms, as if all their proponents hew exactly to a single “party line.” In what ways, if any, does the contemporary revival of biblical postmillennialism differ from earlier versions within the Reformed tradition (e.g., Puritan postmillennialism)?
Gentry: You are correct that we need to be aware of a lack of lock-step unanimity in any millennial viewpoint, including postmillennialism. “Puritan postmillennialism” is so widely variant that for sorting through the various positions, I highly recommend reading Crawford Gribben, The Puritan Millennium: Literature & Theology 1550-1682 (Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts Press, 2000).
But in broad strokes we may distinguish between an historicist postmillennialism (held by the Puritans) as opposed to a preterist postmillennialism which is currently the more popular view. That is, the earlier Reformational forms of postmillennialism tended to interpret Revelation as a picture of all of church history, whereas the preterist view interprets it as dealing with issues directly relevant to the first centuries of the Christian church. But in the final analysis the fundamental reality of postmillennialism remains the same: the gospel will win the great majority of man before the return of Christ.
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
Interviewer: Were there any “preterists” among the older school of postmillennialism?
Gentry: Some of the historicist proponents were close to being preterists to a great degree. Westminster divine John Lightfoot (1658), though an historicist, held that Revelation 1:7 spoke of A.D. 70, and interpreted much of Revelation in this regard, though he saw it also developing later church history. Reformed preterists of the era included Westminster nominee Henry Hammond (1653), as well as Hugo Grotius (1630) and Jean LeClerc (1712).
Interviewer: R.J. Rushdoony, who contributed significantly to the revival of biblical postmillennialism in the last half of the 20th century was not a “preterist” — correct? Where did the “preterist” interpretation in contemporary postmillennialism get introduced to the stream?
Gentry: Rushdoony was an idealist. Of course, idealism can operate at the same time as preterism, if handled properly. After all, we believe that the historical statements of Scripture also establish paradigms for God’s acts among men. Contemporary reformed preterism arose with J. M. Kik in the early 1950s, was picked up by Jay Adams (The Time is at Hand, 1966), and promoted by Cornelis Vanderwaal (1978) and Greg Bahnsen (late 1970s).
Interviewer: Is there a hermeneutical or theological connection between postmillennialism and preterism or is it largely (may I say) coincidental? Are there preterist amillennials?
Gentry: Preterism is a hermeneutical tool; postmillennialism is an eschatological system. Preterism fits nicely with postmillennialism, but is not a necessary condition for it. Historically most postmillennialists were not preterists. And there are many non-postmillennial preterists, such as Jay Adams and Cornelis Vanderwaal. In fact, on Matthew 24 premillennial Puritan John Gill offers a preterist approach which I follow quite closely. Today some progressive dispensationalists are allowing for large preterist inroads into their system, for example, C. Marvin Pate and David Turner.
Interviewer: As a “preterist postmillennialist,” are you aware of any significant “in house” disagreements among those who share your same overall perspective on eschatology?
Gentry: Basically there are two competing schools of preterist interpretation (excluding the various and constantly mutating heretical hyper-preterist approaches): One school deems Revelation a picture of the Church’s struggles against two early enemies of the church: one religious, the other political, i.e., Judaic Israel and imperial Rome. The other branch sees the focus as concentrating primarily upon Israel, though noting a few places where John steps back for a broader political context and brings in Rome.
Interviewer: I understand you disagreed with Dr. Bahnsen on the interpretation of the book of Revelation.
Gentry: Dr. Bahnsen was my mentor in theology and exegesis. This was the one major area where he and I disagreed. He held the Israel and Rome view, I the Israel Only view. In fact, the last time we got together (about eight months before his death) he broached the question with me. We enjoyed about a one hour interchange on the subject. Actually, he enjoyed it; I sweated it out.
Interviewer: What did he consider to be the most significant indications that Revelation emphasizes both apostate Israel and pagan Rome?
Gentry: Given the complex nature of interpreting an entire book — especially one such as Revelation — the matter of discerning interpretive cues is both important and difficult. Some of the pro-Rome issues he presented to me were: (1) Revelation 10 (especially v. 11) seems to prepare John for a change of vision, transitioning from an Israel focus to a Roman focus. (2) The Harlot’s being seated on the seven hills (Rev. 17:9). (3) Her ruling over “kings of the earth” (Rev. 17:18). (4) Her relationship with “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” (Rev. 17:15). (5) The enormous wealth of the Harlot City (Rev. 18), especially coupled with indicators of prosperity through international trading (Rev. 18:10-19).
Interviewer: How would you respond to these issues? They seem quite compelling?
Gentry: Just briefly: (1) Revelation 10 does direct John to prophesy regarding Rome. And he does do so in Revelation 13 especially, but also in snippets here and there where the Beast appears. (2) The Harlot’s being seated on the seven hills seems to suggest her legal dependence upon Rome to get at Christ and the Christians, not her geographic position. Remember how the Jews force the hands of the Romans in the crucifixion account and in persecuting Christians in Acts.
(3) I understand “the earth” to signify “the Land,” i.e., Israel. The “kings of the earth” prophecy signifies Jerusalem’s own political resistance to Christ and Christianity. (4) The relationship to the “peoples” highlights the fact that the Diaspora spread Jews throughout Empire, allowing her to exercise her influence beyond Palestine. This universal presence of the Jews was an aggravation to non-Jews who detested the Jews for their standoffish rituals (see Philo and Suetonius).
(5) The wealth of the city points to the enormous wealth generated through the temple system by means of the head tax on Jews throughout the Empire, especially as the Temple was being refurbished since the days of Herod up until just a few years before it was destroyed. This wealth was a source of irritation to Roman writers such as Tacitus and Juvenal.
Interviewer: What are the most weighty considerations that lead you to the conclusion that John’s visions focus largely on Israel and Jerusalem?
House Divided: The Break-up of Dispensational Theology
By Greg L. Bahnsen and Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
This book demonstrates that dispensational theology has been shattered by its own defenders. They are no longer willing to defend the original system, and their drastic modifications have left it a broken shell.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Gentry: I am constrained by several key issues: (1) John insists that the events were to occur “soon” (e.g., Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:6, 10). (2) The theme of Revelation in 1:7 occurs almost immediately after the notation of nearness and seems to point to A.D. 70 as a judgment on the Jews who caused Christ’s death. (3) Revelation 1:7 is identical in sentiment and very close in form (combining Zech. 12 and Dan. 7:13) to Matthew 24:30. The Matthew verse is controlled by (a) references to the Temple’s destruction (24:2), (b) focus on Judea (24:16), and (c) the temporal indicator (24:34).
(4) Revelation is contrasting two cities: “Babylon” and the “new Jerusalem.” In fact, as Babylon falls, the new Jerusalem is established (Rev. 18; 21). That it is a “new” Jerusalem strongly suggests its opposition to the old, historical Jerusalem (cp. Gal. 4:25-26; see also: Heb. 12:18, 22). John paints Jerusalem as a “Babylon,” an enemy of God who causes her own temple’s destruction, much like Isaiah calls her “Sodom and Gomorrah” (Isa. 1). Therefore John presents God on his judicial throne (Rev. 4), presenting his divorce decree against Jerusalem (Rev. 5; cp. Jer. 3:1-8 noticing the harlot imagery, forehead, and divorce, capitally punishing her for adultery (Rev. 6-9, 16-19), then taking a new bride, the Church (Rev. 21-22).
To be continued . . . .
OLIVET IN CONTEXT: A Commentary on Matthew 21–25
I am currently researching a commentary on Matthew 21–25, the literary context of the Olivet Discourse from Matthew’s perspective. My research will demonstrate that Matthew’s presentation demands that the Olivet Discourse refer to AD 70 (Matt. 24:3–35) as an event that anticipates the Final Judgment at the Second Advent (Matt. 24:36–25:46). This will explode the myth that Jesus was a Jewish sage focusing only on Israel. The commentary will be about 250 pages in length.
If you would like to support me in my research, I invite you to consider giving a tax-deductible contribution to my research and writing ministry: GoodBirth Ministries. Your help is much appreciated!