By Kenneth L. Gentry Jr
According to amillennial objectors, postmillennialism allegedly overlooks Christ’s present kingship. Prof. Robert Strimple quotes my definition of postmillennialism which observes that “increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of people and of nations.” He responds by asserting: “Christ is King now! He is not waiting to begin exercising his dominion at some future day” (in Bock, Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond [Zondervan: 1998], p. 60).
How shall the postmillennialist respond? Is this a damaging observation?
(1) Where do I even vaguely imply otherwise? I clearly assert Christ’s present kingship. For instance, note the following statement from my lead essay:
• “Since the resurrection/ascension Christ has been installed as the King (Rom. 1:4), ruling from God’s right hand . . . . The Great Commission speaks of Christ’s being ‘given’ all authority — apparently at his resurrection” (Strimple, pp. 34–35).
• “He is formally enthroned as king following his resurrection/ascension (Acts 2:30ff). From then on we hear of his being in a royal position at ‘the right hand of God.’ Because of this, first century Christians proclaim him king (Acts 5:31; 17:7; Rev. 1:5) with regal dignity, authority, and power (Eph. 1:22; Phil. 2:9). Since that time Christ translates us into his kingdom at our conversion (Col. 1:12,13; 4:11; 1 Thess. 2:12), organizes us as a kingdom (Rev. 1:6; 9; 1 Pet. 2:9), and mystically seats us with Him in rulership (Eph. 1:3; 2:6; Col. 3:1; 1 Cor. 3:21-22)” (Strimple, p. 38).
• “The resurrection, then, followed shortly by the ascension, establishes Christ as the King possessing ‘all authority.’ Acts 2:30-31 agrees that the resurrection of Christ is to kingly authority” (Strimple, p. 45).
• “Christ is now actively ‘the ruler over the kings of the earth’ and ‘has made us to be a kingdom of priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power for ever and ever’ (Rev. 1:5-6). Here in 1 Corinthians 15:25 we learn that he must continue to reign, he must continue to put his enemies under his feet” (Strimple, p. 50).
(2) In fact, postmillennialism absolutely requires Christ’s present kingship beginning with his resurrection/ascension. After all, his kingdom is destined to enjoy growth over time because of his kingly rule. And that is why I myself cite Ephesians 1:20ff on two occasions in my essay (Strimple, pp. 25, 46).
(3) Strimple’s form of argument can be turned against him by employing a reductio ad absurdum. Consider the following: Strimple reflects on my definition of postmillennialism which calls for the growth of gospel influence in the world. Then he responds to that definition by claiming “Christ is king now”—as if my mention of growing gospel conquest suggested otherwise.
Now what if I were to employ Strimple’s interpretive method on Scripture itself? Note the following reductio: On page 60 Strimple points out the teaching of Paul in Ephesians 1:22. That text, which he cites, reads as follows: God “put [past tense] all things in subjection under His feet, and gave [past tense] Him as head over all things” (Eph 1:22). Thus, Strimple argues, “He is not waiting to begin exercising his dominion at some future day” (p. 60). Sounds great. But now the reductio. Scripture also teaches just as clearly that Christ is waiting for his enemies to be subjected:
• “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:25).
• “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him” (Heb. 2:8).
• He is “waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet” (Heb. 10:13).
Now which is it? Have Christ’s enemies already been subjected so that Christ is now ruling as king over them? Or is Christ waiting until all of his enemies are made his footstool? Using Strimple’s argument based on a partial reading of Scripture, we would be left with a contradiction in Scripture itself. The answer to “Which is it?” must be: “Both.” Legally Christ has already subdued his enemies (as per Strimple—and postmillennialism); historically, Christ is now putting his enemies under his feet (as per postmillennialism). This involves no contradiction, just differing perspectives—perspectives well exhibited in the postmillennial scheme. Consequently, I write with both perspectives in mind: “Christ is presently ruling until his rule subdues all of his enemies—in time and on earth” (p. 50).