Post-Millennialism And The Promise Of “Victory”

Nothing has been more characteristic of current post-millennialism than its emphasis on the kingship of the ascended Christ; nothing fires the Postmil vision more than that reality. Yet it is just this reality that post-millennialism affectively compromises and, in part, even denies. Postmils especially will no doubt find this last statement startling, maybe even outrageous, so let me explain.

Nothing is more distinctive to the postmil vision than its expectation of promised “victory” for the church, a future “golden age,” before Christ’s return. That golden era is variously conceived; in its reconstructionist versions, for example, it is to be a period of global supremacy and control by Christians in every area of life. But all postmil constructions—past and present, and all of them marked (as postmil) in distinction from other eschatological viewpoints—have in common that the millennial “gold”/”victory” (1) is expected before Christ’s return and (2) up to the present time in the church’s history, apart from occasional anticipations, has remained entirely in the future.

Here, then, is where a problem—from the vantage point of New Testament teaching, a fundamental structural difficulty—begins to emerge. Emphasis on the golden era as being entirely future leaves the unmistakable impression that the church’s present (and past) is something other than golden and that, so far in its history, the church has been less than victorious. This impression is only reinforced when, typically in my experience, the anticipated glorious future is pictured just by contrasting it with what is alleged to be the churches presently dismal state (the angle of vision seldom seems to include much beyond the church scene in the United States!), usually with the added suggestion that those who do not embrace the postmil vision are “defeatists” and contribute at least to perpetuating the sad and unpromising status quo.

The New Testament, however, will not tolerate such a construction. If anything is basic (and I’m inclined to say, clear) in its eschatology, it is that the eschatological kingship of Christ begins already at his first coming culminating at his resurrection and ascension. “God has placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” (Eph 1:22; cf. v. 20).

…In other terms, for the New Testament, the entire interadventual period, not just a closing episode, is the “golden age” of the church; that period and what transpires in it, as a whole, embodies the churches millennial “success” and ” victory.”

Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.| “Theonomy and Eschatology: Reflections On Postmillennialism” in William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey, ed. Theonomy: A Reformed Critique (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 202–03. (HT: Chris Gordon)


    Post authored by:

  • Heidelblog
    Author Image

    The Heidelblog has been in publication since 2007. It is devoted to recovering the Reformed confession and to helping others discover Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

    More by Heidelblog ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!

One comment

  1. I flirted with Post Mill a few years ago as my theology has been maturing (at least I hope it is). But I just couldn’t get over the fact that in some respect history isn’t linear. History seems to go through cycles looking for the supposed golden age only to revert back to the filth that we’re seeing in society today.

    Has it always been there? Have their been better times than others? Perhaps.

    But I rest on this. That Christ has and will accomplish what he has set out to do….build a kingdom of priests. Therefore, I’m optimistic…..Amill.

Comments are closed.