It was the will and desire of the Editorial Staff of theStandard Bearer that the writer of the rubric “From Holy Writ” devote a bit of study and energy to the exegesis which is offered by current writers, who are the leading proponents of the Postmillennial position in the doctrine of the “last things.” It was with some reluctance and fear that we took this assignment upon us, whereas we did not feel very competent in this field of endeavor. We have now given the issues involved a rather careful and prayerful study and feel that we can make a small contribution in this field of Scripture-study. Although we shall be critical of the Postmillennial position, we shall not be negative in these articles, analyzing and criticizing ad infinitum the position of certain writers, but we shall, with God’s help and the petitioned guidance of His Spirit, try to teach in a constructive and thetical way what the Scriptures teach concerning the aspect of eschatology which touches upon the differences between the Amillennial and the Postmillennial position. In this way we can in one stroke deal critically in the healthy sense with both positions. We will, therefore, remain true as much as possible to the format of this rubric known as “From Holy Writ.” And thus we now begin to write, looking to the LORD for guidance of the Spirit and the light of His perspicuous Word.
The reason why the Editorial Staff suggested that I write on this subject and carefully study the “proof-texts” of the current Postmillennial proponents is that our readers of the Standard Bearer may become a bit more enlightened as to the positive teaching of Scripture on Eschatology in general, and concerning the question whether the. Amillennial position which we maintain is the correct and Biblical one—the one which we must keep as our confession at all costs, in days when there blow upon God’s heritage winds of error, such as the higher critical school concerning the infallibility of Scripture, the denial of double predestination and limited atonement, and when there is much that parades as being Reformed and in the Reformed tradition, which certainly must be branded as being heretical. We have in this connection but to think of the ecumenicity that would supplant the true catholicity of the church. In view of these troublesome times, when we see a resurgence of a teaching concerning the “universalism of the church on earth” which is not in accord with the Scriptural teaching, the Staff of the Standard Bearer elected me to attempt to write some constructive articles in which God’s people will hear the Scriptures speak.
Now this is really some rather bold pretense it would seem; truly anyone who takes the pen in hand to teach others must be sure that he is himself teaching the truth, and that he will not be a workman who will be put to shame before the face of the Lord. We shall, therefore, need to study Scripture painstakingly, comparing Scripture with Scripture, interpreting the less clear passages in the light of the more clear Passages! Thus we need not start with a wrong prejudgment, positing a mere position, and then attempt, rightly or wrongly, by many quotations to establish the mere plausibility of our position. A plausible explanation of the text often seems at first sight and first hearing to be correct and the proper meaning. It often looks fair, reasonable, and even valuable. But a second look and closer study often shows that a plausible explanation is untenable in light of the rest of the clear teaching of Scripture!
Our task is to examine the position of the Postmillennial teaching in the light of Holy Writ. That is our task from the very nature of this rubric which we have been editing these many years. We will not try to show what the. Confessions teach in this regard, for these latter say very little of this question. The Confessions, we are sure, stand foursquare on the Amillennial position. Thus the Heidelberg Catechism in Question 52 speaks of Christ’s return to judge the “quick and the dead.” But it says nothing of the position of Postmillennialism. Question 54 speaks of the gathering of the Holy catholic church, but it has merely a reference to the gathering of the Church by the Son of God out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life. This is clearly the position of Amillennialism. Leading and representative writers of the Postmillennial position speak rather of the saving of the “human race” itself here on earth,, so that at the end of time prior to Christ’s return the entire world will be Christianized, and after this Christ shall return in His final glory to judge the living and the dead.
We do best to let the spokesmen of Postmillennialism themselves tell us what they understand by Postmillennial teaching of the Bible.
We quote first of all from Dr; Loraine Boettner’s The Millennium, page 4, where we read, “Postmillennialism is that view of the last things which holds the Kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the Gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit, that the world will eventually be Christianized, and that the return of Christ will occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and: peace commonly called theMillennium” (we underscore, G.L.).
Dr. Boettner believes and avows that the Postmillennialism which he espouses must be carefully distinguished from what he calls “pseudo Postmillennialism.” The latter he calls “that optimistic but false view of human betterment and progress, held by the Modernists and Liberals, which teaches that the Kingdom of God on earth will be achieved through anatural process by which mankind is improved and social institutions will be reformed and brought to a higher level of culture and efficiency.”
We will not stop here to criticize this distinction of Dr. Boettner, but we believe that he is sincerely presenting what he believes to be the difference, the rather radical difference between the Postmillennialism which he teaches and that which is the teaching concerning the coming of the Kingdom of God as held by Modernists and Liberals. Our task is thus made easier for us, for now we can concentrate on the question whether the Postmillennialism, which view such men as Dr. Boettner, Dr. Kik, and others teach, is in accordance with the teaching of Scripture itself. Perhaps we shall then be in a position to see whether what Dr. Boettner calls the true view is principally different from the position of the liberals, even though they arrive there by different roads, to wit, the one by the innate goodness of man and the other by the power of the Gospel in the betterment of a society, which is constituted of Christians.
Clearly our task is an exegetical one. We will need to weigh the exegesis and Scripture-quoting of the Postmillennialists of the past and present and see whether their teaching, which they elicit from these texts, is really in accord with the teaching of Holy Writ. Should this be found to be the case, then the Amillennial teaching concerning the coming of God’s Kingdom in, the world will not be in accordance with the teaching of the Bible. Both cannot very well be true, it would seem. The Bible will have our every thought subject to Christ (II Cor. 10:4). The weapons of our warfare, also in this regard, are not to be carnal human reasonings, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, and “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” This means, first of all, that our own minds must be in subjection to the Scriptures. We must by no means try to foist our own opinion upon the Scriptures, either by direct teaching or by implication. We must, therefore, pursue the study of the Scriptures by sound exegesis. This means that we do more than merely quote a great number of Scripture passages. We must give exegesis; clearly and concisely and relevantly.
THE PATTERN OF SOUND DOCTRINE
To speak of a “pattern of sound doctrine” is not of our own invention. The Bible speaks of such a “‘form” or “pattern” of sound doctrine. The Bible has many books, both in the Old and New Testaments. When we look for the central pattern and message of the first five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch, we are-sure that we must see that the subject is none other than. Jesus Christ, the crucified one. Thus Jesus instructs the recalcitrant Jews of His duty, when He says, “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:45-47). It is quite clear from the Greek that Jesus is the subject. When the Greeks wrote a book, or a treatise, it was “concerning” something that they wrote. That was expressed by the preposition peri, i.e., concerning. And so, blazoned above the first five books of the Bible as well as all the other Old Testament Scriptures, is “Concerning Jesus Christ, God’s Son.” Such is the pattern of the sound words of God in the Old Testament Scriptures. We, therefore, do not invent a certain “form” of sound teaching and of rules of interpretation. Scripture does this itself.
It is a remarkable thing that Paul speaks of such a “form” of sound teaching. We find the form of sounddoctrine in the Bible. We find such a form on many doctrinal points too. Paul speaks of such a “form” in connection with the teaching of justification and sanctification in Romans 6:17. In very beautiful language he refers to the teaching of the Christian’s sanctification as a teaching which the Romans from “the heart have obeyed as a form of doctrine delivered you.” Fact is, that in the original Greek the verb says that the believers “were delivered”‘ (paredotheete) to a form of doctrine. This is very strong and beautiful. Concerning this phrase Dr. John Murray writes, “we might have expected the apostle to say that this form of teaching had been delivered, but, instead, he says that they were delivered to it—they were handed over to the gospel pattern. This indicates that their devotion to the gospel was one of total commitment and that this commitment is not one of their option but is that to which they are subjected. This again underlines theobjectivity (we underscore) of the pattern as well as our passivity in being committed to it, an objectivity and passivity which in no way militate against the wholehearted voluntariness of the result, namely, the commitment of obedience from the heart” (The Epistle To The Romans, 232, Vol. I).
Thus we believe we must look for such a Scriptural pattern also in the matter of explaining the texts which are quoted by the proponents of the Postmillennial position. We must not follow the slanted bias, which we believe to observe in the writings of current enthusiasts for the Postmillennial position. We must seek to stand on solid ground in our interpretation of Scripture and find the Scriptural, Biblico-Hermeneutical pattern.