PMW 2022-099 by B. B. Warfield
This article (under the shorter title “The Gospel and the Second Coming”) is from volume 1 of The Selected Shorter Writings of B. B. Warfield. It gives Warfield’s brief argument for postmillennialism. It also shows that this theological giant back in the early 1900s recognized the two-age structure of redemptive history (“this age” and “the coming age”). This is significant in that some current-day writers wrongly believe is an amillennial construct, despite being held by Greg Bahnsen, Keith Mathison, me (!) and others. Though I do not agree with ever angle he presents within, here is Warfield’s insightful article.
The Gospel, Second Coming & “This Age”
The term “millennium” has entered Christian speech under the influence of the twentieth chapter of the book of Revelation. From that passage, imperfectly understood, there has also been derived the idea that is connected with this term. We say, from that passage imperfectly understood. For the book of Revelation is a symbolic book; that is to say, what it describes it describes not directly but indirectly, through the medium of symbols. To take its description literally is therefore to substitute the symbol for the reality. That is what is done when the opening verses of the twentieth chapter are read as if they predicted a period of long duration in the earthly history of the Church, in which Satan is to deceive the nations no more and the resurrected martyrs are to live and reign with Christ.
What is meant to be conveyed to us by this beautiful description of the holy peace of Christ’s saints is probably not prophetic knowledge of an episode in the earthly history of the Church, but a deeper sense of the bliss of Christ’s people “safe penned in Paradise.” It is what is called “the intermediate state, “in other words, which is here symbolically depicted. The seer wishes us to bear in mind the whole Church of Christ as it exists during these long years before the blessed hope of the consummated Kingdom is realized. There is the Church struggling here below — the “militant Church” we may call it; the triumphing Church he would rather teach us to call it — or the essence of his presentation is not that there is continual strife here to be endured, but that there is continuous victory here to be won.
The picture of this conquering Church is given us in the nineteenth chapter. But there is also the Church waiting there above, but not waiting merely, but living and reigning with Christ, free from all strife and safe from all assaults of the evil one. This is depicted for us in the opening verses of the twentieth chapter. Not the one only, but both together — the Church militant and the Church expectant — constitute Christ; and not the one alone but both together pass unscathed through the great trial (the latter part of chapter 20) to inherit the new heaven and new earth (chapter 21). John is here only saying in symbols what Paul says in more direct language when he tells us that, whether we wake or sleep, we shall all live together with our Lord Jesus Christ in that great day when death is swallowed up in victory (1 Thess. 4:15; 5:10; 1 Cor. 15:39 ff.).
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
The Millennial Camps
Pre-millennial, Post-millennial, are therefore unfortunate terms, embodying, and so perpetuating, a misapprehension of the bearing of an important passage of Scripture. They are not, however, on that account meaningless, and the antithesis of the view which they express is neither imaginary nor unimportant. The Scriptures do promise to the Church a “golden age,” when the conflict with the forces of evil in which it is engaged has passed into victory; and it is far from a matter of indifference how this “golden age” stands related to the second coming of our Lord. Infelicitous as the names “pre-millennialism” and “post-millennialism” are, they stand for a divergence of view on this important point which has far-reaching consequences.
According to the one view, the second coming of the Lord is the productive cause of the “golden age” of the Church. According to the other, the “golden age” of the Church is the adorning of the bride for her husband and is the preparation for his coming. Otherwise expressed, according to the one view, the mission of the Church, endowed for its work by the manifold gifts of the Spirit, is not to convert the world to Christ, but only to bear witness to the redemptive will of God, not meanwhile to be exerted in its full power, but to wait for its real triumph for a future dispensation in which it operates by means of different instrumentalities. While according to the other view, precisely what the risen Lord, who has been made head over all things for his Church, is doing through these years that stretch between his First and Second Comings, is conquering the world to himself; and the world is to be nothing less than a converted world.
The mere statement of the antithesis suggests its resolution. For surely it is the burden of the New Testament that Jesus Christ, the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, has been sent by the Father into the world not to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him (1 John 2:2; John 3:17). That is to say, this is his definite mission, not to judge but to save, and he has come to be the Savior of nothing less than the world (1 John 4:14); and in fulfillment of this mission he has sent those whom the Father gave him into the world, even as the Father sent him into the world (John 17:18). As is his wont?
The Harrowing of Hell (by Jay Rogers)
This postmillennial book examines the power of the Gospel, not only to overcome all opposition, but to rise far above the powers of hell. The term “Harrowing of Hell” refers to idea that Christ descended into Hell, as stated in the Apostles’ Creed.
For more Christian educational materials: www.KennethGentry.com
Paul puts the whole matter in a nutshell. What has been given to us who are charged with preaching the gospel is, he tells us, distinctively the ministry of reconciliation, and it is the ministry of reconciliation for the specific reason that God was reconciling the world with himself in Christ (2 Cor. 5:19). Every word here must be taken in its full meaning. The ministry that Paul exercised, and which everyone who follows him in proclaiming the gospel exercises with him, is distinctively the ministry of reconciliation. It has as its object, and is itself the proper means of, that actual reconciliation of the whole world.
The Acceptable Time
That its full point may be given to this great declaration, we should go on to observe that Paul proceeds at once to proclaim that therefore because it is this ministry of reconciliation that has been committed to us the period of the preaching of the gospel is “the acceptable time” and “the day of salvation” predicted by the prophets. His meaning, when he cries, “Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation,” is not, as it has sometimes been strangely misunderstood, that the day in which we may find acceptance with God is swiftly passing by, but rather that now at length that promised day of salvation has fully come. Now, this time of the preaching of the gospel of reconciliation is by way of eminence the day of salvation. It is not a time in which only a few, here and there, may be saved, while the harvest is delayed. It is the very harvest time itself in which the field is being reaped. And the field is the world.
The implication of a declaration like this is, of course, that God’s saving activities have now reached their culmination; there is nothing beyond this. This implication is present throughout the whole New Testament. It pervades, for example, the Epistle to the Hebrews, the burden of which is that in this dispensation the climax of God’s redemptive work has been attained, and there is nothing to be hoped for after it. In his Son and in the salvation provided in his Son God has done his ultimate. This note is already struck in the initial verses of the epistle and swells thence onward. Accordingly, these days of the Son and his word are explicitly designated “the end of these days” (Heb. 1:2), a phraseology running through the New Testament in the various forms of “the end times” (1 Pet. 1:20), “the last days” (Acts 2:17; 2 Tim. 3:1; James 5:3; 2 Pet. 3:3), “the last time” (Jude 18), “ the last hour” (1 John 2:1 8).
These “last days” may themselves terminate in a more pointedly “last day” (John 6:39; 11:24) or “last time” (1 Pet. 1:5) — the very last of the last — but just because they are the last they cannot be succeeded by any day or any time or season whatever. They close what is called “this world’ or “this age” and are followed only by “the world or age to come,” which is what we commonly call “eternity.” In the face of this stated designation of the period of our Lord’s first coming (Heb. 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:20) and of the outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 2:17) as the last, it will be hard to maintain that there remains another and different earthly dispensation to be lived through before the end comes. And the difficulty is further increased when we observe that The Second Coming of the Lord (Matt. 24:3–6; cf. 1 Cor. 15:24) is identified with this “end” (cf. Matt. 24:6–14; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9; 1 Cor. 15:24.
To be continued (unless the Rapture occurs in which case I will withdraw all my theories).
Leave a Reply