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Response to “The ‘Other Side’ of Postmillennialism”

There are a couple of misunderstandings which ought, perhaps, to be cleared up before I enter the substance of Rev. Jones’ article.

The purpose of my article was not to refute the error of postmillennialism by means of a thorough exegetical study. If Rev. Jones is interested in such a refutation, he may consult an article I wrote earlier for an Officebearers’ Conference and which was subsequently published in the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal. The purpose of this article was to demonstrate that the biblical position, sometimes called “the Amillennial position,” is not a pessimistic interpretation of Scripture, but an .eminently optimistic viewpoint for the church to take. In connection with this purpose, I was compelled to warn Gods people against the spiritual dangers involved in postmillennialism. It is my fervent hope and prayer that those who hold to postmillennialism “do not actually promote the kingdom of Antichrist”; but Herman Hoeksema was right when somewhere he warned Gods people of the spiritual danger involved. It is not inconceivable that, if the saints are looking for a glorious kingdom here on earth, they will be tempted to identify the kingdom which Antichrist establishes with the kingdom of Christ. It will be hard enough in that dreadful day to stand for the cause of Christ without putting other spiritual temptations in the way.

In no way did I suggest that the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is not manifested in this world. The kingdom of Christ is manifested in this present age in the preaching of the gospel to the ends of the earth; in the gathering of the church; in the establishment of covenant schools; in the godly and holy walk of the saints as they reveal in all their lives the sovereign rule of the grace of Christ in their hearts; in the throngs of faithful in every age who do not bow the knee to Baal, but bow instead in humble worship of King Jesus.

But this manifestation of the kingdom here in the world is in sharp antithesis to the all-pervasive rule of the powers of darkness. The saints walk here in this world as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. They are, and one can consult the apostle Peter’s first letter as proof of this, pilgrims and strangers in the earth who seek the heavenly kingdom and live in hope of its realization in the coming of the day of the Lord. In the meantime, they suffer persecution at the hands of the ungodly; but they rejoice even then in the hope of another day. To use the words of the Holy Spirit in Hebrews: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them-afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (vss. 13-16). And these were not simply old dispensational saints who did not understand that this “better country” was to be realized in this world, but they were that “cloud of witnesses” which surrounds us and encourages us to “run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:1, 2).

This great antithesis between the citizens of the kingdom in the world and the citizens of the kingdom of darkness is rooted in the great “antithesis” of the rule of Christ in the world. Christ indeed rules over all, including hell’s demons. But Rev. Jones knows too that this rule of Christ is a rule of grace in the hearts of the elect, and a rule of power in the lives of the ungodly.Psalm 2, of all the texts in Scripture, can hardly be a support for a kingdom in the world in which all the nations shall bow in humble worship to King Jesus. If the postmillennialists are right that Psalm 2 refers to an earthly kingdom, why then does the Lord laugh? Does He laugh because He has made all the nations His willing, joyful subjects? No, the Lords laughter is the laughter of derision. He has set His King upon His holy hill of Zion. The heathen rage and imagine vain things. They take counsel together against the Lord and His anointed. But the awful, bone chilling laughter of the God of heaven arid earth is because in all their raging they serve the purpose of the establishment of the kingdom of heaven. Indeed He rules them with a rod of iron; but it is nevertheless to break them, for He dashes them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

I am aware of the fact that the final question between amillennialism and postmillennialism is a question of the interpretation of prophecy. It sometimes seems to me that there is very little difference between the interpretation of prophecy used by the postmillennialists and that used by the premillennialists. However that may be, we had better get straight some basic principles of Old Testament prophetic interpretation before we apply such passages as Isaiah 9:7Psalm 2Psalm 22:27, 28Psalm 37:9-11, and others to a kingdom of Christ here on earth.

The limitations of an article in The Standard Bearermake a thorough discussion of this question impossible, although it is something that needs very much to be done.

Prophecy is part of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. In prophecy God speaks of His eternal purpose and will with respect to the salvation of His church, the triumph of the kingdom of His dear Son, and the way in which history as a whole serves His great purpose. Sometimes prophecy is predictive, sometimes not. Sometimes prophecy discusses in bold detail the ‘”day of the Lord,” sometimes it zeros in on particular circumstances in the life of the nation of Israel as the life of that nation was part and parcel of the realization of Gods purpose.

The “day of the Lord” is that great day when, in distinction from the dispensation of types and shadows, God realizes His purpose. That day began with the incarnation. It ends with the return of Christ upon the clouds of heaven to make all things new. You say: “But 2000 years have elapsed in that one day?” Peter reminds us that a day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. It is the one great day of the fulfillment of Gods unchangeable promise.

In speaking of that day, prophecy in the Old Testament was given within all the “trappings” of the dispensation of types and shadows. It was given within the context of the time in which God spoke typically and symbolically to a nation typical of the church of all ages, living in the typical land of Canaan, surrounded by typical ceremonies of the law; and, therefore, in all the typical language of that time. It is no more right to identify the kingdom of Solomon spoken of in Psalm 72 with a kingdom of Christ here upon earth than it is possible to identify the raising up of the tabernacle of David (Amos 9:11) with the rule of Christ with the Jews in Palestine and the rebuilding of the old temple—especially when the Scriptures themselves inform us that the fulfillment of Amos is in the gathering of a catholic church (seeActs 15:15-18). It is a mistake to identify the rule of Christ as described in Psalm 2 with a postmillennial kingdom when Scripture itself tells us that verse 7 was fulfilled in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead (see Acts 13:33).

It is easy to refer in passing to many passages of Scripture. But one ought really to consider their meaning. Just a glance at a few of them will show how far from any postmillennial conceptions of a kingdom they are.

Psalm 22:27, 28 appears in the context of Christ’s suffering. How beautiful that already in the Old Testament we have the assurance that Christ’s atoning sacrifice was to exalt Him in the highest heavens so that He might gather a catholic church in which “the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before him.” There is no reason in the verse itself or in the whole of its context to apply this to an earthly kingdom when all the Scriptures (including the great commission—to which Rev. Jones refers) speak of that great work of God in gathering His church from all the nations of the earth.

Psalm 37:9-11 seems hardly to be a text to which a good postmillennialist would appeal, unless the reference is to the one statement: “The meek shall inherit the earth.” But so far as I know, no one ever has disputed this point that Jesus Himself makes in His sermon of the mount. That is, in fact, why believers, though beleaguered and hard-pressed in the world, live in joyful optimism. The day is coming when they shall inherit the earth. That this earth is the renewed earth when heaven and earth are joined in one perfect kingdom of righteousness is exactly the promise ofRevelation 21:1.

That Isaiah 9:7 speaks of an increase of Christ’s government is beyond dispute. But to hang a postmillennial viewpoint on that word seems to be stretching things a bit. The LXX has (translated from the Greek): “His rule shall be great.” The German has: “Auf dass seine Herrschaft gross werde.” And this surely is the idea of the Hebrew.

And so we could continue to look at dozens of individual texts, all of which can not be interpreted as referring to an earthly kingdom of righteousness.

There are some passages in the New Testament to which Rev. Jones refers, which require a brief answer.

I am aware of the many who interpret Matthew 24 as referring only to the destruction of Jerusalem. That the Lord has this in mind is readily granted. But that the Lord speaks of His own coming at the end of the age and gives signs of that coming is His own testimony. The disciples ask: “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” The Lord does not say: “Never mind those questions; I want to discuss something else with you.” He answers their earnest questions and gives them the signs of His coming and of the end of the world. That He does so in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem is not surprising when we consider that Jerusalem’s destruction was the end of the dispensation of shadows and the dawn of the age of the realization of the promise.

Presumably the reference to the Lords parables inMatthew 13 is especially to the parables of the mustard seed and the hidden leaven. I have treated these in my book, “Mysteries of the Kingdom,” and need not repeat here what was said there.

Hebrews 13:26-29 would surely not be the kind of passage a postmillennialist would appeal to. So far as I have noticed, no postmillennialist would ever say that the kingdom of Christ to be realized here upon this earth is brought about by “the removing of those things that are shaken (which, according to vs. 26, refers to heaven and earth); nor that even this glorious kingdom to be realized here on earth is a “kingdom which cannot be moved.” Even an ardent Calvinistic postmillennialist believes, I think, that this earthly kingdom, as glorious as it is, shall be moved when Christ comes again.

Neither Ephesians 1:20-22 (I think this is the passage Rev. Jones refers to—his article has Eph. 21:20-22) nor I Corinthians 15:24, 25 refers to a postmillennial kingdom by any stretch of the imagination. Christ is exalted1 in the highest heavens over all God’s works, sovereign in all history, with “all things under his feet,” because He is “the head over all things to the church.” And I Corinthians 15:24, 25 emphatically states: “Then cometh the end!” Christ indeed rules universally and puts “down all rule and all authority and power.” He rules till He has “put all enemies under his feet.” Then He delivers up “the kingdom to God, even the Father.” Both, quite obviously, refer to Christ’s universal rule over all the wicked by which He makes them serve the purpose of the full salvation of the church in the day of His coming.

I am thankful that Rev. Jones refers to our Three Forms of Unity, for in all these Forms there is not so much as a breath concerning a postmillennial kingdom. Article XXXVI of the Belgic Confession I have explained in a recent issue of The Standard Bearer. The explanation of the second petition in Q. & A. 123 exactly militates against such a postmillennial kingdom. We pray that God may rule us so by (His) word and Spirit, that we may submit ourselves more and more to (Him). We pray that the church may be preserved and increased; that the works of the devil and the world may be destroyed “until the full perfection of thy kingdom take place, wherein thou shalt be all in all. ” It seems beyond dispute that this heartfelt prayer of Gods people is answered only in the day of Christ’s coming at the end of time. Certainly “the full perfection” of Christ’s kingdom does not come until that day when Christ returns. I know of no postmillennialist who believes that this earthly kingdom of which they speak is the full perfection of Christ’s kingdom. What a beautiful prayer for the second coming of Christ this becomes!

Rev. Jones does not like my explanation of Luke 18:8 and prefers to interpret it as meaning “that when the Son of Man comes to destroy Jerusalem, He will not find faith in the land of Israel in that generation.” But this is surely reading into the text something which is not there. The words of the Lord are appended to a parable which Christ taught to encourage “men always to pray, and not to faint.” The parable is applied in verse 7. If the unjust judge avenged the widow only because “by her continual coming she wearied’ him, “Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” The elect suffer untold agony in this world at the hands of the wicked. It seems as if God does not hear their sobs, for they are not delivered. But we have the sure promise that God, though He bears long with them, will nevertheless avenge them speedily. To that is appended the rhetorical question: “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” How can this be interpreted to mean: “When Christ comes to destroy Jerusalem He will not find faith in the land of Israel in that generation”?

But there are so many more words of the Lord. How often did not the Lord have to instruct the disciples that His kingdom was heavenly when they always had their hopes set upon an earthly kingdom? And when the Pharisees demanded of Him when the kingdom of God should come, “he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20, 21). When Pilate mockingly asked the Lord concerning His kingdom as its King stood bound and helpless before him, the Lord answered: “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36).

Rev. Jones wonders, if the world is getting worse, “where was the high point from which the decline supposedly began?” The answer to that question is, of course, Paradise just before the fall. What Scripture constantly teaches is that, with the fall sin entered into the world. From that moment on, as the catholic church is being gathered, the history of the world is characterized by the organic development of sin as “all those ominous signs (of Christ’s calming) become increasingly more apparent.” That organic development of sin finally culminates in the “man of sin” (II Thessalonians 2:3-12). That is the kingdom of Antichrist.

Anyone who asserts that Calvin was a postmillennialist ought to reread his Calvin. That other reformers were postmillennialists is an assertion without proof. That some, especially among Presbyterians, were postmillennial cannot be denied. That Scripture militates against postmillennialism at every turn of the page is clear beyond doubt.

May God lead us by His Word and Spirit to wait patiently, walking as pilgrims and strangers in the earth, for the great day of the coming of our Lord.

—(Prof.) Herman Hanko

A Reformed Oasis on a Semi-Pelagian Landscape

I am a new subscriber to The Standard Bearer and would like to request a reprint of your review of the book, A Case for Arminianism: The Grace of God, The Will of Man (December 1, 1989). I just received my first issue (February 15, 1990) and am singularly impressed!

I have just read an essay by Clark Pinnock (editor of A Case for Arminianism—DJE) entitled, “The Arminian Option,” in which he has the temerity to declare that Calvinism is predominate in evangelical circles and is prejudicial to Arminianism. Would to God it were so.. . .

Your periodical is a Reformed oasis on a semi-Pelagian landscape of arid scholasticism.

I would be happy to remit the cost for the photocopy of your article or any other article germane to this issue.

Once again, my Reformed brethren, thanks for your God-exalting periodical.

Greg Fields

Hamilton, Ohio

Response

We have sent you the copy of the book review that you request. We have also sent you several articles, pamphlets, and books on the truth of salvation by sovereign grace. There is no charge.

As you suggest, evangelical Christianity today is thoroughly corrupted by Arminian free willism with all its attendant evils. The few remaining advocates of the sovereignty of grace have made their peace with the lie of free will and accept the free willists as legitimate, worthy colleagues in the work of the gospel. The Standard Bearer is determined to witness to the gospel that proclaims salvation by the mercy of God alone, and that repudiates both the gospel of salvation by man’s running and the gospel of salvation by man’s willing (Rom. 9:16).

Our desire is that all of evangelical Christianity be thoroughly Calvinistic and that Arminianism be driven from the field, that is, that evangelical Christianity be truly evangelical.

Welcome to the world of The Standard Bearer. Thank you for your encouragement. Spread the word.

—Ed.