Tuesday, August 4, 2009

4. Postmillennialism

There are few things more clearly taught from the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ than the fact that Jesus established the Kingdom of God at His first advent. I am continually amazed at the popularity of premillennialism in the face of the repeated declarations of our Lord that He came to establish His Kingdom (See Matt. 4:17; 5:10; 6:10; 6:37; 7:11; 10:7; 11:11; 11:12; 12:25-29; 13:11ff; 13:19; 16:28; 19:14; 21:43; John. 3:3-5). Some churches have the audacity to make premillennialism a test of orthodoxy.
The serious Bible student must study these passages and conscientiously compare them to the hapax legomenon of Revelation 20. Revelation 20 is the only passage in the Bible which speaks of a 1000 year reign of Christ. That passage, however, says nothing about Christ being physically present on the earth for His millennial reign. Revelation 20 teaches that the millennium coincides with the time of Satan's binding. Jesus Himself gives us an infallible interpretation of "And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years" (Rev. 20:2). In Matt. 12:28,29 He says: "But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house."
In the context of this statement, the Pharisees were accusing Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. Jesus pointed out the reductio ad absurdum of their accusation by showing that Satan's kingdom cannot stand if Satan is divided against himself. Jesus proclaimed that Satan's kingdom is crumbling, not because Satan is divided but because the Son of Man has come and bound the strong man and is carrying off his possessions. As Jesus cast out demons, He was freeing men from Satan's bondage. When Jesus brings a sinner to Himself, He is carrying off a possession that once belonged to the strong man (the devil) by transforming that sinner from Satan's kingdom into the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:13).

Who has not seen, especially in the South, road signs and newspaper advertisements for churches which boast of being "fundamental, premillennial and pretribulational." In a more theologically astute age, the tables were turned. R.L. Dabney in his Lectures in Systematic Theology (in chapter LXX on the Resurrection) referred to preadventism (premillennialism) as "heterodox." The Westminster Confession of Faith is certainly antichilian if not overtly postmillennial (cf. WCF chapter 23; WLC question 102).

It is interesting to note that exorcism is the only miracle that Jesus performed in His earthly ministry that no Old Testament saint could perform. Old Testament saints raised the dead and fed the hungry but could not cast out demons. The reason for this is because before the advent of Jesus, this world was very much Satan's kingdom. In His earthly ministry, Jesus bound Satan and began the process of rooting out the devil's kingdom as He established the Kingdom of God. Satan is still powerful and believers must watch for him but he has been bound by the power of Christ and has no more ability to deceive the nations. Because of Christ's work of binding Satan, the power of the gospel is free to bring the nations to Christ. Christ's work of exorcism was proof of the inauguration of His kingdom. His binding of Satan is the theological foundation of the Great Commission. Citizens of Christ's Kingdom will have success in bringing the nations under the discipline of God's law precisely because Satan, who once deceived the nations, can no longer do so.

"In Revelation Twenty it is stated definitely what is meant by the binding of Satan. We are not left in doubt. Verse 3 reveals that the binding is in reference to the deceiving of the nations. Previous to the first coming of Christ, the Gentile nations were under the complete control and dominance of Satan. All nations were pagan and without true religion. But with the coming of Christ this was all to change. Nations were not to be deceived entirely. This does not mean that individuals within nations or even a great portion of them would not be deceived. But during the period of the binding of Satan the nations would not be entirely deceived as were Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia Greece and Rome. Never until that short period just before the second coming of Christ would the nations be deceived as they were before the first coming of Christ. To that end Satan was bound.
"However, some people feel that if Satan were bound he would have no influence in the world and upon individuals. That this is not the significance of the binding of Satan is seen from a study of Jude 6. There we read that the fallen angels were bound with chains. Yet that did not prevent their activity in the world. That passage declares: 'And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the great day.' The Gospels reveal the activities of these fallen angels. Therefore to be chained does not mean cessation of evil activity. Even so Satan though bound, continues his evil work. But he is definitely restrained as to the sphere of his activity. He is bound by the decree of God. He cannot deceive the nations as he did previous to the coming of Christ." J. Marcellus Kik, An Eschatology of Victory, (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publ. Co., 1971), p. 194.
It is clear from Matt. 12 and the other passages cited above that Jesus established His kingdom at His first advent. Why then, does Revelation 20 teach that the millennial kingdom will last only 1000 years when according to my interpretation, the millennial kingdom of Christ is already close to 2000 years old? In the Scriptures, the number 10 signifies quantitative perfection. The number 1000 is 10 cubed (10X10X10). Isaiah 6 teaches that God is three times holy (Isa. 6:3). When the seraphim cried out to one another that God is "holy, holy, holy" they were acknowledging God to be perfectly holy. We can deduce, therefore, that the perfect number ten, when trebled, yields a number signifying perfection. Christ's millennial kingdom (the time between the first and second advent of Christ) will last an indeterminate, but perfect, amount of time.
The next question pertains to the earthly success of this kingdom. Will the kingdom Christ established be successful in history? Will the promised Seed of Abraham really be a blessing to the nations? Will Christians experience success in carrying out Christ's commission to bring the nations under the discipline of God's law?
The answers to these questions constitute the only significant difference between the amillennial and the postmillennial positions. In reality, amillennialism is only a type of pessimistic postmillennialism. The amillennialist does not believe that the world as a whole will be discipled. They believe a few from every tribe and nation will be saved, but do not believe that the power of the gospel will result in a "golden age" in history.

I believe Jesus had a very optimistic view of the success of the Kingdom He established. He bound Satan. The Evil One can no longer deceive the nations as he did before Jesus came, for "the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." The gospel of Jesus Christ is a powerful double-edged sword. As He gave the Great Commission, Jesus said that all authority in heaven and earth had been given to Him and He promised to be with His people always (Mt.28:18-20).
The victory of Christ's kingdom can be clearly seen in His three parables of the kingdom found in Matt. 13. The parable of the wheat and the tares is instructive: "The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field." Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like a wheat field. Even though there are also tares in the field at harvest time, it must be remembered that it is a wheat field, not a tare field. Those who hold to various brands of "pessimillennialism" seem to teach that the Kingdom is a tare field with a few wheat stalks scattered here and there.
Matt. 13:30-31 records the parable of the mustard seed: "The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed..." Jesus goes on to make His point that although the mustard seed is tiny, it grows into a very large bush. The Church of Jesus Christ started out small — 11 frightened men. Now there are millions of Christians all over the world. The Kingdom will grow larger still, as God's people are faithful to water and fertilize it and as God is pleased to pour out His Spirit upon His Church giving the increase.
Finally, in verse 33, Jesus said that the kingdom is like leaven. The kingdom is not like dough adulterated by evil leaven, it is like leaven. Leaven gradually permeates the whole lump of dough. What could Jesus be teaching except that the Kingdom will gradually penetrate the whole world?
Still not convinced? My favorite proof text for an optimistic view of history is a well known scripture verse. Although well known, few seem to understand it's significance. This verse is Matthew 16:18, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The context is Peter's confession of Jesus as Messiah. Jesus says that He will build His church on that truth. Jesus also says that the gates of Hell will not prevail against that Church as it stands upon that foundation.

Many Christians are so conditioned to a pessimistic view of history that they automatically reverse that passage to read "Hell will not prevail against the gates of the Church." That's not what it says, folks! The Church is not to withdraw within her walls and take pride in the fact that she can withstand the continuing siege of the forces of darkness until Jesus comes back and raptures her out of her predicament. No! Christ is commanding His church to get out and take the offensive and storm the gates of Hell and knock over the devil's strongholds. Christians therefore have a duty to take their principles to the marketplace and make inroads in the world for the kingdom of Jesus Christ. He has promised that the gates of Hell are no match for His loyal troops.
I leave you with one more teaching from the lips of our Lord, proving that Jesus taught the success of His gospel in bringing the whole world under the discipline of God's law. In Matt. 22:44 Jesus quotes Ps. 110:1, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.'" One clear fact of the New Testament is that Jesus went to the right hand of the Father at His ascension. (Heb. 1:3). Jesus will stay there until all His enemies are under His feet. There will be no rapture of a defeated Church. Jesus will come for His bride only after He has destroyed the enemies of God through His bride, the Church.
Sorry Hal, Satan may be alive for now, but he is not well on planet earth. He is being crushed by the power of God under the feet of the Church (Rom. 16:20).


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