Previous article in this series: January 15, 2012, p. 182.

To the postmillennial hope of the perfecting of the victory of the Messianic kingdom within history, with the exception (as of the present) of the destruction of death, Reformed amillennialism objects that Scripture and the Reformed confessions promise the perfecting of the victory of the Messianic kingdom, and the perfecting of the kingdom itself, at the second coming of Christ.

The Goal of History

The full victory of the kingdom of Christ does not occur within history, as part of the historical process, but is rather the goal of history—history’s end. History reaches this goal, under the sovereign direction of King Jesus, when the world’s last day is concluded by the day of Christ (II Thess. 2:2). On that day, and not before, by wonderful deeds of Jesus Christ Himself at His coming His kingdom will triumph perfectly.

On that day, Christ will deliver His beleaguered church from their enemies, destroying the hordes of Gog and Magog whom Satan will raise against the church when the thousand years expire and consuming the antichrist in a dramatic, personal encounter (Rev. 20:9, 10;II Thess. 2:8). Christ will raise all the elect citizens of His kingdom from the dead, or change those still living, into sinless, immortal life (I Thess. 4:16, 17I Cor. 15:51, 52). He will publicly justify and then graciously reward these citizens in the final judgment. The reward will be the inheriting of the kingdom—the everlasting Messianic reign over all the renewed creation of heaven and earth (Matt. 25:31-40, 46b).

By this same public, final judgment, He will condemn and shame all the enemies of Himself, His kingdom, and the citizens of His kingdom, banishing them from the new heaven and new earth into outer darkness (Matt. 25:31-33, 41-46Matt. 8:12).

Righteousness will dwell in the new world, only righteousness (II Pet. 3:13). There will be no unrighteousness whatever, not in word or deed and not in thought or desire. There will be no sin. The citizens of the kingdom will have been sanctified perfectly. The unrighteous will have been cast out into the God-forsaken place where there is only the suffering of the punishment of sin—the unmitigated wrath of God.

In the day of His coming, Christ will renew the creation, so that it will be the realm of His reign as Messiah, under the triune God (Rom. 8:19-22). On the basis of His redemptive death on behalf of the creation, as well as of elect humanity, Christ will deliver the creation from the curse and its effects. In the new world, there will be “no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4). Deliverance will extend to the animal world. Then, wolves and lambs will feed together, and lions will eat straw like the bullock (Is. 65:25), as before that dreadful day in which, because of man’s transgression, the curse of God fell upon the creation.

All of these wonderful things will happen at the coming of Christ—the second, bodily, public, visible coming of Christ—as all the passages referred to in support of these future events clearly teach.

And all these wonderful events will constitute the complete victory of Christ’s kingdom.

Christ’s kingdom will triumph perfectly on the day of His coming, and triumph in such a way that it will endure, triumphantly, forever.

Messiah Forever

The teaching that the Messianic kingdom ends with the close of history is a serious mistake. This teaching is important to postmillennialism because it demands that the Messianic kingdom come perfectly and reign visibly and gloriously in the world within history. The mistaken teaching is due, mainly, to a misunderstanding of I Corinthians 15:24-28.

Then cometh the end, when he [Christ] shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 

For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 

For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 

And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

The meaning of the passage is not that Jesus Christ returns on the clouds, with the angels, in order to abdicate His office as Messianic king and, thus, radically to transform His kingdom from the Messianic kingdom into a kingdom of God apart from, and independent of, the Messiah. The meaning is not that Jesus the Christ throws down His Messianic crown before the triune God, so that henceforth He wears only the crown of the Godhead with the Father and the Spirit. This is a common explanation of I Corinthians 15:24-28, especially by postmillennialists.

To propose the end of the Messianic kingdom is to propose an intolerable change of Jesus Christ Himself. If the kingdom is no longer the Messianic kingdom, Jesus Christ is no longer the Messianic king. And if He is no longer the Messianic king, He is no longer the Messiah, or Christ. This would be to annul, or revoke, or undo, the incarnation. The thought is horrid.

It is also unbiblical.

Christ is an “eternal King,” as the Reformed faith confesses in Article 27 of the Belgic Confession. This is not the kingship of the second person of the Trinity, but the kingship over the church of “Jesus Christ,” the one who washed the members of the church by His blood and who sanctifies and seals them by the Holy Ghost.

In Revelation 5, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who is also the Lamb, in the midst of the throne of God in heaven—kingship!—whose is blessing, honor, glory, and power “for ever and ever,” is not the second person of the Trinity. He is distinguished from the triune God: “Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Rev. 5:13). He is the exalted Messiah, the second person of the Trinity in human nature. And He—the Messiah—reigns—as Messiah—”for ever and ever” (Rev. 5:13). It would be exceedingly strange that a king would reign without a kingdom.

When Revelation 22:3 promises that “the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in [the new creation]” forever, the royal Lamb is not the second person of the Trinity, but the Messiah—the crucified and risen Jesus.

That Christ must reign “till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (I Cor. 15:25) does not imply that when He has conquered the last enemy—death—He will reign no longer. Rather, the meaning is that destroying all His enemies is the goal of His reign. This goal He will certainly accomplish. When He accomplishes this goal, Christ will deliver up the kingdom to God in the sense that He will present the kingdom to the triune God as the perfected kingdom in which God is all in all (I Cor. 15:24, 28). The great servant of God will report, and demonstrate, that He has completed His mission. Having overcome, indeed swallowed up in victory, the last enemy of the Messianic kingdom, which has always been the kingdom of God, the Prince will bow the knee to His Father, on whose behalf He has battled hard to attain this perfect victory, and solemnly declare that the kingdom is God’s. Christ will dedicate the perfected kingdom to God.

On that momentous occasion, Jesus will not cease being the Messianic king and, therefore, the Messiah. The passage itself makes this plain. Verse 28 states that “then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him.” There will be an everlasting subjection of “the Son” to the triune God. To this everlastingly subjected Son, all things—the kingdom of God in all the new creation—are everlastingly subjected. The Son is obviously Jesus the Messiah, for the second person of the Trinity, being Himself God, cannot be subject to God. Everlastingly, Jesus the Messiah will reign over the kingdom of God, under God and for God. Accordingly, the kingdom of God in the new creation will forever be the Messianic kingdom, governed by the man who was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin Mary.

Jesus is an everlasting king. This was the Davidic promise. “He [the coming Messiah] shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever” (II Sam. 7:13). This promise God will keep in the everlasting kingship of David’s great son, Jesus. “The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32, 33). II Peter 1:11 affirms the “everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

The perfecting of the victory of the Messianic kingdom and, by it, the perfection of the kingdom, which the Bible promises and foretells as the goal of history, at the coming of Christ, postmillennialism foolishly findswithin history, during the millennium, prior to the coming of Christ.

Kingdom Glory for Some or for All?

It is unavoidable, therefore, that postmillennialists hope for the millennium with the hope that the Bible fixes on the second coming of Christ. Carried away by the glories of the “golden age” of the millennium, as he fancies it, Wilhelmus à Brakel exclaims, “Oh! What a glorious time that shall be!” He cries out, longingly, “Who shall then be alive?”1

Brakel’s question points out yet another grave error of postmillennialism. Most of the saints will miss out on the victory of the kingdom of Christ, its glories, and its bliss. Abraham will miss out. David will miss out. Isaiah will miss out. Paul will miss out. Luther will miss out. Calvin will miss out. My parents will miss out. Old as I am, with no earthly victory of the kingdom of Christ in sight at the beginning of the twenty-first century, I will miss out.

All the postmillennialists themselves who have already died will miss out: Brakel, Edwards, Warfield, and the others.

Only those elect humans who are alive at the time that Christ’s kingdom conquers, as postmillennialism counts conquest, will enjoy the “golden age” of the kingdom of Christ.

What a disappointment to the majority of the citizens of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, that is, the members of the church. They lived the kingdom life, fought the kingdom battles, suffered the kingdom reproach and persecution—some unto death—all, in the hope of the kingdom bliss and glory. And they all miss out!

What a sorry discrimination among the citizens by the king himself! Messianic struggle and suffering for all; the supreme Messianic blessedness and glory for some only. In the words of Romans 8:17, according to postmillennialism’s doctrine of the perfecting of the victory of the Messianic kingdom, all suffer with Christ, but only some will be glorified together with Him.

Yes, and what a wicked contradiction of the gracious promise of the gospel to every citizen of the kingdom of Christ without exception! We all shall “reign with him” (Rev. 20:6). Jesus, who is “prince of the kings of the earth,” has made all His people “kings and priests” (Rev. 1:5, 6). To everyone who overcomes and keeps Christ’s works, that is, to every elect, Christ “will…give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron” (Rev. 2:26, 27). Christ promises to everyone who overcomes that he or she will sit with Christ in his throne (Rev. 3:21).

The Heidelberg Catechism, in one stroke, both demolishes the postmillennial doctrine that the perfecting of the victory of the Messianic kingdom is within history and exposes the postmillennial error that only a few Christians will share in the glorious reign of Christ over all the world. The Reformed creed puts in the mouth of every Christian the confession of his or her sure hope: “afterwards [that is, after ‘this life’ I will] reign with Him [Christ] over all creatures” (Q&A 32).

… to be continued.