Jail BiblePMW 2033-054 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

I am continuing a postmillennial response to the evangelical claim that the church is called to suffer in history. If so, this would undermine the postmillennial hope. Postmillennial victory cannot be true if the church is always to suffer.

Now we must note:

Persecution is serious external oppression

As we reflect on this point in the debate we must bear in mind a vitally important matter: The only kind of suffering that contradicts post-millennialism is suffering rooted in dangerous external threats and oppression (especially when designed to suppress or punish the Christian faith). The New Testament era Christians are indeed a suffering people, enduring “threats and murder” (Ac 9:1–2), capital punishment (Ac 7:59; 12:1–2), and imprisonments and beatings (2Co 11:23–25), while being made a “public spectacle” and having their “property seized” (Heb 10:32–34). And were these conditions to continue until the end, postmillennialism could not be true.

If amillennialists claim the church is under persecutional suffering here in America, then we effectively discount the grievous nature of our early forefathers’ persecution, while exaggerating our own trials. [1] Reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563) quickly shows us how much better our condition is today. And since the end has not yet come, what if our (imperfect but welcome) advantageous conditions here in America were to spread throughout all the world? We know from our experience that Christianity can exist in a large-scale, long-lasting external peace from persecutional suffering.

Covenantal Theonomy
(by Ken Gentry)
A defense of theonomic ethics against a leading Reformed critic
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com

Persecution does not always prevail

Remembering the form of persecution highlighted above, I am always surprised to hear amillennialists overstate their case when arguing that we as disciples of Christ “cannot expect anything other than oppression and persecution” (Strimple in Bock, Three Views on the Millennium, 63). Moule well notes what we all know from history: “No attentive observer can doubt that many and many a loving and humble disciple, called to lead a quiet life before the Lord in the ‘sequestered vale,’ ‘serves his generation’ with faithful diligence, and passes at last to rest, encountering scarcely one perceptible collision on the way” (Moule, Studies in II Timothy, 117).

The conditions in which Strimple himself lives contradict his bold claim. Is Strimple suffering in a way proving his point? Were his circum-stances as Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary that bad? Is his retirement really not what he had hoped it would be? If persecutional suffering is the “fundamental aspect of the church’s existence” of which nothing “is more basic to its identity,” then those of us living in America should not be identified with Christ as members of his church (Gaffin in Barker and Godfrey, Theonomy, 210–11). Where are we in America being imprisoned for our faith, being torturously beaten for our convictions, and being persecuted to death?

Formal, public debate between Dr. Richard Gaffin (Westminster Theological Seminary) and Kenneth Gentry at the Van Til Conference in Maryland. Each debater opens with a 40 minute positive presentation and then engage in cross-examination. (Over 2 1/2 hours)
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com

Truly then, the persecution the church has experienced in history does not undercut the postmillennial hope. But there is more, and I will continue responding to the suffering church argument in my next blog. Until then, you will have to remain a suffering Christian.


1. My statement must not be construed to mean that the American condition illustrates the height of the postmillennial glory, as if our condition were all that marvelous. Nor should it suggest my blindness to the genuine suffering of Christians in many places in the world still today, especially in Islamic countries. Nowhere does postmillennialism claim that by the year 2014 the full gospel glory will be won. Until history ends postmillennialism cannot be disproved on an analysis of world conditions. In fact, most postmillennialists would agree with Warfield that “the church of the twentieth century [is] still the primitive church,” a church in its infancy. Benjamin B. Warfield, “Are They Few That be Saved?, in Warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies, 347.

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3 thoughts on “WHAT IS “SUFFERING”?

  1. Fred V. Squillante July 14, 2022 at 9:21 am

    The evangelical claim that the church is called to suffer is due to its errant eschatology. I would say most evangelicals are premillennial, primarily due to dispensationalism, whether they realize that or not. From Harry Ironside, a noted dispensationalist, “But we know that the only hope of this poor world is the return of the true King. Matters will never be put right down here until they are put right by judgment. The preaching of the gospel is never going to establish the kingdom, nor did God intend that it should. The gospel is not God’s way of bringing in the kingdom and converting the world. This will be brought about only by judgment!” That is pretty outrageous. The gospel is precisely what establishes God’s kingdom. How could Ironside miss that?

    But he was not finished as he continues, “And while we shrink from the awful thought of what is coming upon this poor scene, yet we realize it is the only way to the blessing creation is groaning for; and so we cry, ‘Come, Lord Jesus,’ for we know He is the only hope for its deliverance” (Lectures on Daniel the Prophet, pp. 121-122). That’s pathetic if you ask me. Ironsides’ “Come, Lord Jesus” is the rallying cry for defeatist Christians who believe we are to look up in anticipation of Jesus cracking the sky to rapture us out in a glorious rescue mission, supposedly.

    Jesus said the world hates us and would persecute us because it first hated and persecuted Him (John 15:18-20). For that reason, we need not look for it – it will find us. Unfortunately, there is a mentality among many Christians that we are to meekly go as sheep to the slaughter. That may be the case in the end, but we are called to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. We are also to proclaim the gospel boldly, not stand idly by and allow the God-haters to steamroll us.

  2. Alvin Plummer July 14, 2022 at 7:32 pm

    Reality rears her calming head!

    Even in Secularist Europe, “persecution” is far more like distasteful discrimination — i.e. no anti-abortion Christians in the medical professions, by law — then actual imprisonment or death… as was true as recently as the 1980s in Eastern Europe.

    Evil remains. But the fangs get dulled, and the hate gets boring and old.

    The future does not belong to Satan and his people.
    It belongs to Jesus Christ, and his people!

  3. B Jay July 27, 2022 at 7:13 am

    Preterist interpretation as well as history and present circumstances that you call on for your argument in this article make for a pretty solid case. Even the present turmoil and unrest across our world is mostly political in nature putting religious persecution in the back seat.

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