Berkhof: Objections To Postmillennialism

Objections to Postmillennialism. There are some very serious objections to the Postmillennial theory.

a. The fundamental idea of the doctrine, that the whole world will gradually be won for Christ, that the life of all nations will in course of time be transformed by the gospel, that righteousness and peace will reign supreme, and that the blessings of the Spirit will be poured out in richer abundance than before, so that the Church will experience a season of unexampled prosperity just before the coming of the Lord,—is not in harmony with the picture of the end of the ages found in Scripture. The Bible teaches indeed that the gospel will spread throughout the world and will exercise a beneficent influence, but does not lead us to expect the conversion of the world, either in this or in a coming age. It stresses the fact that the time immediately preceding the end will be a time of great apostasy, of tribulation and persecution, a time when the faith of many will wax cold, and when they who are loyal to Christ will be subjected to bitter sufferings, and will in some cases even seal their confession with their blood, Matt. 24:6–14, 21, 22; Luke 18:8; 21:25–28; 2 Thess. 2:3–12; 2 Tim. 3:1–6; Rev. 13. Postmillennialists, of course, cannot very well ignore entirely what is said about the apostasy and the tribulation that will mark the end of history, but they minimize it and represent it as predicting an apostasy and a tribulation on a small scale, which will not affect the main course of the religious life. Their expectation of a glorious condition of the Church in the end, is based on passages which contain a figurative description, either of the gospel dispensation as a whole, or of the perfect bliss of the external Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

b. The related idea, that the present age will not end in a great cataclysmic change, but will pass almost imperceptibly into the coming age, is equally un-Scriptural. The Bible teaches us very explicitly that a catastrophe, a special intervention of God, will bring the rule of Satan on earth to an end, and will usher in the Kingdom that cannot be shaken, Matt. 24:29–31, 35–44; Heb. 12:26, 27; 2 Pet. 3:10–13. There will be a crisis, a change so great that it can be called “the regeneration,” Matt. 19:28. No more than believers are progressively sanctified in this life until they are practically ready to pass, without much more change, into heaven, will the world gradually be purified and thus made ready to enter upon the next stage. Just as believers must still undergo a great change at death, so must the world suffer a tremendous change when the end comes. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, Rev. 21:1.

Louis Berkhof | Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1942), 718



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  1. Dr. Clark,
    I have a question about the prolific use of the Passive voice in Matthew 24: 6-14.
    There are nine verbs in the Passive Voice in these nine verses. The first an imperative: ‘Alarmed’. What is the meaning of an imperative verb in the Passive Voice.

    Following this verb there are six indicatives in the Passive Voice, etc.
    Are these prophetic? Does the passive voice indicate actions of the Holy Spirit?
    Or is the Passive indicating an unknown source?

    • Matthew 24:6-14

      And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

      “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.


      The distinction is between being and doing.

      We have to remember the context of the Olivet discourse. The disciples have asked him what are the signs of the end?

      We also have to remember the nature of prophetic discourse. This is where most interpretations fail. Some interpretations, most notably the so-called “full preterist” assign the entire discourse to the destruction of Jerusalem in a D 70. They typically do this in order to make any future fulfillment go away because it does not fit with their eschatology. There is another approach, the futurist, which sees everything in the Olivet discourse as being fulfilled in the distant future.

      As I understand it, however, it has reference to the near term (the destruction of Jerusalem) and the distant future.

      Which is which is not always easy to tell in the nature of prophetic discourse. Where it easy to interpret there would be fewer arguments.

      Vv.6-8 refer to a general characteristic of the time between the ascension of Christ and his return.

      Verse seven seems particularly important here: the end is not yet.

      Ditto for verse eight: these things are just the beginning. People sometimes overlook these clear markers.

      Verse nine Seems to envision the period just before the return of Christ. It is not unusual for the distant future and the near future to be collapsed together in prophetic discourse. The illustration that is most often used is that of mountains. When driving into the mountains what seems like one turns into two as we get closer. So it is with prophetic discourse.

      Verse 14 seems particularly important here since it seems to envision a universal proclamation of the gospel. That is happening now and will happen until Christ returns.

      The perspective shifts back To the near future in verse 15, when the scene turns to the destruction of Jerusalem.

      The passive verbs are indicators of a state of being rather than something we are to do. he is just describing the way things will be.

  2. Thank you for exegeting this passage and for clarifying the passive voice as ‘being’. It seems there is a contrast between those possessed by evil (v9 hate, v10 will fall away, v11 will arise, v12 will be increased and will grow cold.) Verses 9-12 are like a storm raging at sea.

    And quietly in V13, the one who endures (aorist, active, participle, singular, nominative) to the end will be saved (future, passive, indicative, third person, singular).

    Does Paul use the passive voice in the same way regarding the evil of people in Romans 1: 24, 26, 28, whom God ‘gave up’. Does the passive voice also indicate ‘being evil’.

    • I have thought about this passage as a warning that we shouldn’t expect to know when Christ will come. He will come as a thief in the night, when we don’t expect it. Perhaps these changes in language are an indication of past, present, and future in which there seem to be changes, but they are actually just repetitions of the same old evils that keep manifesting themselves because of the depravity mankind. It reminds me of a threshing floor. All these repeating tribulations are used by God to separate the chaff from the wheat, to prove God’s elect, who keep the faith because God works in them, so they persevere to the end. When the harvest is complete, Christ will return, and then there will be a cataclysmic change.

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