By Kenneth L. Gentry Jr
Reformed amillennialists complain of an alleged failure of postmillennialists to understand various foundational features of biblical eschatology. This failure resulting from ignorance of biblical eschatology is supposedly inherent in the postmillennial system, the system held by such competent theologians as Jonathan Edwards, Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, Albert Barnes, David Brown, Patrick Fairbairn, J. A. Alexander, J. H. Thornwell, Robert L. Dabney, William G. T. Shedd, A. A. Hodge, Augustus H. Strong, B. B. Warfield, O. T. Allis, and John Murray. The errors charged are serious, for they directly and deeply impact the very nature of the New Testament’s eschatological focus.
In Bock’s Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (1998) Prof. Robert Strimple (and many amillennialists) charges that I (and postmillennialists): (1) do not take account of the eschatological nature of the New Testament revelation, (2) distort the two age structure of biblical revelation, (3) overlook Christ’s present kingship, and (4) discount his present victory in effect since the resurrection/ascension. These are effectively different facets of the one over-arching matter, i.e., that the New Testament brings in the victorious eschaton. If these charges are true, postmillennialism is false. If.
Although these four items are really various ways of looking at the same problem, I will deal with them in a seriatim fashion, introducing each charge and immediately responding to it. By the nature of the case, however, they really form one problem. As I interact with Strimple on this problem, I will be correcting his misperceptions of postmillennialism.
According to Strimple, postmillennialism allegedly does not take account of the eschatological nature of the New Testament. In his Rebuttal, Strimple expresses his concern that if postmillennialism speaks of victory in terms of gradually developing, wide-ranging cultural conquest, then “we may fail to appreciate the eschatological nature of the kingdom as already and fully inaugurated by Christ’s resurrection and exaltation” (p. 61).
My response: I believe Strimple errs in raising this issue in the present context of our debate book:
(1) I specifically and vigorously argue for the fundamental point of the present reality of the eschatological kingdom and the arrival of the eschaton. Regarding 1 Corinthians 15, I state on page 48: “Here Paul speaks forthrightly of Christ’s present enthronement and insists he is confidently ruling.” Of 1 Corinthians 15:25 I assert: “Here the present infinitive for ‘reign’ (Gk.: basileuein) indicates he is presently reigning. 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).”
(2) In fact, postmillennialism requires the presence of the eschatological kingdom, for with it comes the Spirit and the gifts which guarantee the historical success of the unfolding victory—as I argue on pages 23–25 under the heading “God’s Blessed Provision.” The whole point of the New Testament is to show Christ has come in fulfillment of Old Testament expectation, that he has effected redemption, and that he has established the kingdom—all of these being eschatological realities. And just because this is true, postmillennialism sees a brighter day developing in history. Indeed, the new creation has come in principle in Christ (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15), actually beginning the process of ethically transforming the old creation, as I argue from Isaiah 65:17-20 in my Responses to Strimple (p. 131) and Blaising (pp. 233–36).