THE GOSPEL, SECOND COMING & ‘THIS AGE’ (2)

PMW 2022-100 by B. B. Warfield

Gentry note:
This is the second part of Warfield’s helpful article on postmillennialism.

Warfield continues:

The Great Commission
Let us turn, however, to the Great Commission itself (Matt. 28:19, 20). From it surely we may learn the precise nature of the mission that has been committed to the Church of our age. The task laid upon it, we note, is that of “discipling all the nations,” and the means by which this discipling is to be accomplished is described as baptism and instruction — obviously just the ordinary means by which the Church is extended through the ministry of the gospel. The full point of the matter comes out, however, only in the accompanying promise: “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

The promise, of course, must correspond with the command. The Lord would not encourage his followers to fulfill his command to disciple all nations, by promising to be continuously with them (“all the days”) while time lasts (“even unto the end of the world”), unless the process of discipling the nations here commanded was itself to continue unbrokenly to this end. Of course, everything depends on the meaning of the phrase, “unto the end of the world.” But that is not doubtful.


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Our Lord employs it twice elsewhere in his explanations of the parables of the tares and the drawn net (Matt. 13:39, 40, 49). In the former he declares that “the harvest is the end of the world,” and explains that to mean that, as, “the tares are gathered up and burned with the fire; so shall it be in the end of the world; the Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” In the latter he explains that in the end of the world” the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the righteous, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.” “The end of the world” here is clearly the last judgment and the consummation of the kingdom.

The phrase is used again by our Lord’s disciples when they inquired of him; “What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?” (Matt. 24:3). Here the Second Coming of our Lord and the end of the world are treated as a single event an identification in which our Lord acquiesces when, with obvious back reference to it, he speaks (vv. 6, 14) of the time of “the end” as of what he has yet to explain to them in response to their question.”The end of the world”then is, as Alford explains it, “the completion of the state of time” after which “time shall be no more.” So long as time endures, so long the commission of the Church to disciple the nations by baptism and instruction continues in force.

It cannot be said, indeed, that the mere command to the Church to disciple all nations carries with it as a necessary implication that, before time ceases, all the nations shall have been actually discipled. This much, however, is certainly included in the command:That the goal set before the Church in its evangelistic work, the object for which it is to labor, and the end by the accomplishment of which alone its task may be fulfilled, is “the discipling of all nations.” Under this commission the Church cannot set itself a lighter task or content itself with a lesser achievement. Least of all can it take refuge in the prediction of our Lord (Matt. 24:14; cf. Luke 24:47) that “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations” before “the end” comes, as if nothing more could be asked of it but to bear an unavailing testimony to Christ before all nations.

Duty is not to be determined by predictions but by commands, and the command is not to preach the gospel as a testimony unto the nations, but, by means of the gospel, to disciple all nations. The appeal would, in any case, be meaningless. It is not said in the prediction that the testimony shall be unavailing. It is simply predicted that the gospel shall be faithfully preached in all the world before the end. From it we may learn that this much at least shall be accomplished, and there is nothing in it to forbid either the hope or the assurance that much more will be accomplished.

And elsewhere we are given firm ground for both the hope and the assurance. Even in the Great Commission, the promise annexed, “And lo, I am with you,” surely implies something more than that the power of the Lord will sustain his followers in the trials and disappointments of the heavy task laid upon them. There certainly throbs through it an intimation that because he is always with them in their work, they shall meet with some measure of success in it. What this measure of success shall be, we are told elsewhere. There is the parable of the mustard seed, intimating that small as it was in its beginning, the Kingdom of Heaven is to grow into a great tree in the branches of which all the birds of heaven shall lodge. And there is the parable of the leaven, which declares that though it was at the first but a speck of leaven, apparently lost in three whole measures of meal, yet by its power at last shall “all be leavened” (Matt. 13:31–33). And there is Paul’s clear, didactic statement that “the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in; and so all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:25, 26), importing nothing less than a worldwide salvation.

The Timing of the Lord’s Return

Let us look for a moment at another line of representations. What do the Scriptures teach us of the time of our Lord’s return? Those men in white apparel who stood by the disciples as they gazed into the heavens into which their master had disappeared assured them that he would come again, but said nothing of when he would do so (Acts 1:10; cf. 7). But Peter who witnessed this scene informs us in his very first sermon, the great Pentecostal discourse, that Jesus, having, unlike David, ascended into heaven, has there taken his seat on the throne of the universe, at the right hand of God, and that he will remain in heaven upon his throne until all his enemies have been made the footstool of his feet (Acts 2:35; cf. Heb. 10:12, 13; 1 Cor. 15:25). All conflict, then, will be over, the conquest of the world will be complete, before Jesus returns to earth. He does not come in order to conquer the world to himself; he comes because the world has already been conquered to himself. In quite similar fashion this same Peter in his very next sermon (Acts 3:21) defines the time of our Lord’s return as at the end of the world. “The heavens must receive him,” he tells us, “until the time of the restoration of all things.” The allusion is to the re-creation of the heavens and the earth, the “regeneration” that our Lord himself identifies with the last judgment (Matt. 19:28).


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Accordingly this same Peter, when men began to fret because the Lord — in their opinion — unduly delayed his coming, intimates that, though the mills of God may seem to grind slowly, they grind exceedingly surely (2 Pet. 3:4–8) and reaffirms that here will certainly come in its own good time that day of the Lord “in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10). This, according to him, is the coming of the Lord; and this is the consummation of all things. Where is there place for a subsequent earthly dispensation?

So we might pass from representation to representation until well nigh the whole substance of the New Testament was reviewed. Enough has doubtless been said to show that the assumption that the dispensation in which we live is an indecisive one, and that the Lord waits to conquer the world to himself until after he returns to earth, employing then new and more effective methods then he has set at work in our own time, is scarcely in harmony with the New Testament point of view. According to the New Testament, this time in which we live is precisely the time in which our Lord is conquering the world to himself; and it is the completion of his redemptive work, so sets the time for his return to earth to consummate his Kingdom and establish it in its eternal form.



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8 thoughts on “THE GOSPEL, SECOND COMING & ‘THIS AGE’ (2)

  1. Nigel Wilson January 3, 2023 at 11:32 am

    I notice from the the Great Commission passage (Matt. 28:19, 20), that it is given specifically to the 11 Apostles, and that no others are mentioned as being present. If end of the age means the church age, does this then mean as our Episcopal brothers often assert, that the Apostolic office is intended to continue until the end of the (church) age and that successor Apostle/Bishops continue to have prime authority and responsibility which is then delegated to the lower offices under their authority and oversight ?

  2. Kenneth Gentry January 3, 2023 at 12:47 pm

    The apostles serve also as representatives of the revelation of God that continues in authority forever.

  3. Parker January 5, 2023 at 12:48 pm

    What is the amillennial view of 1 Corinthians 15?

    And how do we know that the authority being destroyed in that verse is earthly power, not just spiritual?

  4. Kenneth Gentry January 5, 2023 at 4:31 pm

    Amills see vv. 24-25 as occurring at the moment Christ returns.

    The authority includes earthly power in that: (1) Paul says “all authority” and (2) that which lies behind earthly authority is ultimately spiritual, either God’s will or Satan’s.

  5. Parker January 5, 2023 at 4:37 pm

    My translations says “when he destroys all authority and power”. Is “after” he destroys all authority and power a more accurate translations and if it is, how so?
    And what would be good texts that refute amillennialism. I understand they spiritualized a lot but are there texts that they cannot get around?

  6. Parker January 5, 2023 at 6:16 pm

    And why can these enemies not be put under Jesus’s feet at the second coming? I understand that premillennialism is refuted by this passage but it seems that amillennialism is not refuted if Jesus destroys his enemies at his second coming.

  7. Kenneth Gentry January 6, 2023 at 6:29 pm

    They will finally and ultimately be put under his feet at the Second Coming. But the text in 1 Corinthians 15 shows the progressive nature of the subjection of his enemies. It is not a matter of IF Jesus destroys his enemies. All eschatologies — including dispensationalism say that. But what does Scripture say about the gradual progression of his victory in history, is the question.

  8. Kenneth Gentry January 6, 2023 at 6:35 pm

    The text can, and I believe “should,” be translated “after.” I have the full argument for that in my He Shall Have Dominion.

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