PMW 2022-086 by Ken Gentry
I have had a couple of folks send me messages expressing confusion about my promoting Richard Gaffin’s book In the Fullness of Time. In that book Gaffin provides excellent exegetical arguments for “this age” referring to the old creation in its fallenness and “the age to come” referring to the new creation in its righteousness. He argues that we are now in an overlap of the two ages, where fallenness continues but new creation realities are spiritually operating in the redeemed. For some reason some folks think that because Gaffin is an amillennialist (whom I debate publicly in 2003), his view of the New Testament structure of redemptive history is contrary to postmillennialism.
I am flabbergasted by this anti-postmillennial claim since I was taught both postmillennialism and the two-age structure of history by postmillennial scholar Greg L. Bahnsen. I learned both from him when I took his “History and Eschatology” course at Reformed Theological Seminary in 1976. Bahnsen used Geerhardus Vos (though an amillennialist! — like Van Til, Bahnsen’s mentor) and John Murray (a postmillennialist, see his commentary on Rom. 11; though I do not follow Murray’s exposition of the Olivet Discourse) to set up the two-age structure of history. This concept places Christ as the turning point in redemptive history, rather than placing the destruction of the temple as that turning point.
I suspect that these folks probably do not understand (and probably haven’t studied!) the two-age structure. There is nothing in it that compels one to amillennialism or that undermines postmillennialism. What it does do, however, is undermine hyperpreterism and its denial of the future Second Advent and the future resurrection of the dead. By not understanding the two-age structure of redemptive history, hyperpreterists think that because we now enjoy our resurrection spiritually in conversion, there is no future resurrection physically at the Second Coming. Their confusion brings heresy into their theology. In fact, for hyperpreterists, preterism is not simply an exegetical tool that helps explain some passages, but a whole theology that governs all of Scripture.
The Book of Revelation Made Easy
(by Ken Gentry)
Helpful introduction to Revelation presenting keys for interpreting. Also provides studies of basic issues in Revelation’s story-line.|
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Sadly, opposition to the two-age structure of history usually involves a difficulty in holding to a future, bodily resurrection of the dead. If you know someone who rejects the two-age structure, ask them if they believe in a future, bodily resurrection of the dead at the end of history. You will hear a lot of stuttering.
The two-age structure of history is compatible with postmillennialism and is even held by postmillennialists (such as myself!). In a previous posting, I highlighted postmillennialist John Murray’s 1954 presentation “Structural Strands in New Testament Eschatology” (found reprinted at Kerux 6:3, December 1991). He clearly and persuasively argues for the two-age structure. I also showed that Rushdoony and Kik (just two samples of postmillennialists) held that “the end of the age” mentioned in Matthew 24:3 spoke of the end of history, not the end of the Jewish “age” (a favorite misconception of hyperpreterism).
Now I will present a paragraph (a long one, to be sure!) from Greg Bahnsen, which is found in his book Victory in Jesus (pp.131–32).
“From the fact that ‘this world’ is interchangeable with ‘this age’ (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:20ff; 2:16; 3:19), we infer that the phrase ‘this age’ can also be understood as referring to an ethical or spiritual realm, rather than exclusively to a set period of time. From the perspective of New Testament theology, the ‘age to come’ has broken in on ‘this age’; those who are saved now enjoy the presence of the future age. With the first advent of Christ, God’s ordained moment has arrived (Gal. 4:4), the kingdom has drawn near (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7; Mark 1:15; Luke 10:9, 11), the great jubilee has arrived (uke 4:!6–21), the good news of the kingdom has come into effect (Luke 16:16; Matt. 11:2–15), the Old Testament promise has been realized (Rom. 1:2; 16:25–26), the messianic marriage supper has approached (Mark 2:18–22). With the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, the ‘last days’ of Joel’s prophecy have arrived, and God’s Anointed is declared to be permanently enthroned in David’s kingdom (Acts 2); this Spirit is our down payment (‘earnest’) on the future inheritance (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14) and the first-fruits of the resurrection order (Rom. 8:23; cf. Col. 1:18). The kingdom of God and coming age have been installed. After a long period of anticipation, God has now spoken to us by His Son ‘at the end of these days’ (Heb. 1:2). Christ has been manifest ‘at the end of the ages’ (Heb. 9:26), ‘in the last times’ (I Pet. 1:20). Consequently, ‘the ends of the ages has arrived’ (1 Cor. 10:11). The eschatological age has already begun, which means that ‘this age’ and ‘the age to come’ are coexistent during the present era. God’s kingdom of salvation is already experienced by some, but rejected by others. The ‘coming age’ and ‘this age’ live side by side for a time. The redemptive work of Christ has delivered us from the power of darkness (Col. 1:13), that is, from this present evil age (Gal. 1:4). Being ‘in Christ’ (in contrast to being ‘in the evil one,’ 1 John 5:19) means that the ‘new creation’ has dawned, making the old things new (2 Cor. 5:17; cf. 6:2). Therefore, it is now possible for men to ‘taste the power of the coming age’ (Heb. 6:5). Two orders (old creation and new creation, spiritual death and regeneration, damnation and salvation) are presently operative, and the Bible expresses this fact by teaching that ‘this age’ and ‘the coming age’ are currently contemporaneous.”
I would also reference postmillennialist Keith Mathison (author of the excellent book, Postmillennialism) who employs the two-age structure. In his book From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology, just to cite a few samples, consider the following:
Mathison speaks often of the “age to come” as already present since the redemptive work of Christ was completed in AD 30. He approvingly cites G. E. Ladd: “The events of the eschatological consummation are not merely detached events lying in the future about which Paul speculates. They are rather redemptive events that have already begun to unfold within history. The blessings of the Age to Come no longer lie exclusively in the future; they have become objects of present experience. The death of Christ is an eschatological event. Because of Christ’s death, the justified person stands already on the age-to-come side of the eschatological judgment, acquitted of all guilt.” (From Age to Age, p. 495)
On the next page, Mathison presents (amillennialist) Vos’ two-age diagram. This shows the present historical world is “this age” whereas the heavenly eternal order is the “age to come,” while since the first century coming of Christ, we live in the overlap period between the two ages. Thus, we now partake of both elements, i.e., fallenness and redemption. We now have one foot in “this age” and one in “the age to come.” As Mathison puts it on p. 451: “The life of the age to come is available now, but it will be received in fullness only at the resurrection on the last day.”
Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond
(ed. by Darrell Bock)
Presents three views on the millennium: progressive dispensationalist, amillennialist, and reconstructionist postmillennialist viewpoints. Includes separate responses to each view. Ken Gentry provides the postmillennial contribution.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Those who mistakenly believe the two-age structure of redemptive history undermines postmillennialism do not understand either the two-age construct or even postmillennialism itself. It is ironic that some hyperpreterists claim to be “postmillennial.” But since “post” millennial speaks of Christ coming after the expiration of the millennium, they cannot be “postmillennial,” for they neither believe Christ is returning nor that history will end.