By Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry Jr
Many contemporary Christians dismiss the very possibility of postmillennialism. And too often because of the newspapers. What they should be doing is reading the Scriptures. God’s word is powerful in controlling the world through his providence.
God’s word providentially upholds the Universe through the continued application of its inherent power. The God of Scripture is no deistic Creator; he intimately and personally involves himself in every aspect of his creation, actively maintaining and preserving it by his active word. The divine Christ is “upholding all things (ta panta) by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3; cf. Col 1:17; 2Pe 3:7). His word will never pass away (Mt 24:35).
God’s sovereignty has a great bearing upon this matter. The Scripture teaches that the Triune God is in total and absolute control of every eventuation in every corner of the Universe, from the smallest atomic particle to the farthest flung galaxy. God’s total, absolute, unchangeable control of all things is rooted in his predetermined plan from eternity past.1 God is not a finite being, limited to the confines of time, the succession of moments, and the competition of other forces. He is the Eternal Now, existing always in the present (Ex 3:14). “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own free will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established” (WCF 3:1).
God controls the Universe as a system and rules the “natural” phenomena on earth.2 “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Col 1:17; cf. Isa 45:7a; Heb 1:3). For the Christian “natural law” is but a convenient phrase to explain the phenomena of the Universe in terms of their orderliness. We believe in “providentially directed regularities.”3 Since the Universe is permeated by God’s very presence (1Ki 7:17; Ps 139:7–12; Jer 23:23–24), the Christian worldview holds that we live in an ultimately personal Universe (Pr 15:3; Ac 17:28; Heb 4:13). On the Christian view the Universe does not operate under its own inherent power (naturally), but under the constant direction of the ever-present God (supernaturally). What scientists call “natural law” is actually “divine providence,” as it appears in nature.
God governs the ebb and flow of history4 and determines the purpose and the end of all things.5 He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11b). The Universe and earth history exist for God’s glory and are controlled to that end. The Universe exists neither of itself nor for itself. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever” (Ro 11:36). God’s omnipotence and omniscience guarantee that the ultimate outcome of the sum total of all the historical and universal events will conform to his plan, despite man’s railings and Satan’s resistance (Ps 2:1–5; 59:8). God’s will cannot be thwarted for “our God is in the heavens; / He does whatever He pleases” (Ps 115:3). “No one can ward off His hand / Or say to Him, What hast Thou done?” (Da 4:35b).
God controls even the minute details of life.6 His plan is not just a vague sketch of history’s general course, nor a perceptive insight into future possibilities. Rather it is a detailed plan controlling its every phase. God marshals all parts of his plan in subservience to the whole. In terms of ultimate reality, neither chance nor accident nor luck exist. All things occur according to God’s plan, despite their random or fortuitous appearance from our perspective.
God’s sovereign control includes even the free acts of men.7 Man has “free moral agency.” But he cannot do just anything by an act of his will; he is limited and can only act in terms of his nature. Man is not floating about in a vacuum with nothing to “push” against; he operates within God’s all-encompassing plan. He gets his “footing” up against God’s plan. God’s controlling man, however, is not “across the board,” as our control of another would have to be. Rather it is a control that cuts across planes: God above and man below. Such a control secures man true significance (he is no automaton), while guaranteeing God’s true sovereignty (all things issue forth under the direction of his wise counsel). This is not contradiction but mystery — mystery rooted in God’s transcendence. Since we are fallen, temporal, and finite creatures, we necessarily face mystery in the perfect, eternal, and infinite being of God.
God’s control governs both the evil acts of free moral agents,8 as well as their righteous acts.9 The classic evidence of this is Peter’s statement regarding the most evil act in history: “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” (Ac 4:27–28; cp. 2:23).
Though our holy and righteous God is not implicated in sin, nevertheless, He ordains it and controls it toward a good end. God not only ordains all the events of history, he also ordains man’s free moral agency and the secondary causes associated with all events. The individual agent is always responsible for his evil action. Nevertheless, his actions are always under God’s all-controlling power. “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!” (Mk 14:21a).
Notes1. See: Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Predestination Made Easy (Draper, Vir.: ApologeticsMedia, 2009).
2. Nah 1:3–6; Isa 45:7b; Ps 29; 104:21; Job 36:32; 37:3; 28:23–27; 38:12 –39:30; Am 4:7; Mt 5:45; 6:28–30; Ac 14:17.
3. Michael Horton, Covenant and Eschatology, 78.
4. Ezr 6:22; 7:6; Ps 115:2; 135:6; Pr 21:1; Isa 44:28; 54:16; 55:11; Jer 27:5; Da 2:21; 4:17, 35; Ecc 3:1–8, 11; Ro 8:28; 13:1, 4.
5. Ps 24:1; 33:11; Pr 16:4; Isa 43:7; 46:10; Rev 4:11.
6. 1Ki 22:28, 34; Job 1:21; 2:10; 14:5; Ps 37:23; 139:16; Pr 16:33; Ecc 7:14; Isa 46:10–11; Jer 10:23; La 3:37–38; Mt 6:26; 10:29, 30; Ac 17:24–26; Ro 8:28; Eph 1:11.
7. Ge 45:5–8; Dt 2:30; Ezr 7:6; Pr. 16:1; 19:21; Jn 19:11.
8. Ge 50:20; Ex 4:21; 9:12,16; Jos 11:20; Jdg 9:23; 1Sa 2:25; 16:14; 2Sa 17:14; 24:1, 10; 1Ki 12:11, 15; 22:20–23; Mt 21:42; Lk 22:22; Jn 12:39–40; 17:12; Ac 3:18; 4:27–28; 13:27–29; Ro 9:22; 11:8; 1Pe 2:8; 2Pe 2:12; Jude 4; Rev 17:17.
9. Jn 15:5, 16; 1Co 12:6; 15:10; Eph 1:12; 2:10; Php 1:6; 2:12, 13; Heb 13:21.