it is a misrepresentation to say that postmillennialists believe things are
always getting better. They will be the
first to affirm that God brings judgement in the midst of history on evil
societies that arise. Judgement plays a
prominent role in the postmillennialist understanding of how Christ's kingdom advances. Gary North says, "What
this world needs today is a really big plague, if such a plague would bring men face to face
impotence in the face of God's
judgments in history. An economic
collapse would not be a bad thing, either. . . ." As Isaiah 26:9 says, "When
thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn
righteousness." God allows great evil to erupt from time to
time in order to weed it out and have the people learn righteousness. Blessing and judgment are both tools used by
God to gradually move history toward greater righteousness. The fact that this century has suffered two
world wars means that we have got a lot to learn and a long way to go before
the millennial blessings will be fully realized.
Santayana has said, the one thing we learn from history is that we do not learn
from history. Likewise, Proverbs says
that as a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly (26:11; 2
Peter 2:22). But God's grace has redeemed us from
foolishness (Prov. 1:7). That which He
has begun in us, He will carry to completion until the day of Christ Jesus
(Phil. 1:6). The Church will learn to
get its act together, eventually.
statement that postmillennialism died out after W.W.II is not even true. A look at the publication dates on several of
the books in the endnotes show that prominent theologians were defending
postmillennialism during this period of history. Since the 1980's postmillennialism has
experienced a significant revival among Christians, both professional
theologians and laity, as a look at the endnotes will also reveal.
Does not postmillennialism require belief in the inherent goodness of
nature is evil. Man cannot bring the
kingdom in; only God can.
A: This question shows a real ignorance about
postmillennial writings by orthodox Christians.
Most of them have been Calvinists (Calvin himself should probably be
included as a postmillennialist). Calvinists believe in the total depravity of
man. The heart of man certainly is
corrupt, but Jesus gives us a new heart.
It's up to
Jesus to decide how many new hearts He gives and when. The calling of God is irrevocable (Rom.
11:29), and He has determined to bring regeneration on a world-wide scale
in the future, with unimaginable blessings (11:15,25-26). Never will the earth be completely
sinless nor a time when every single
person on earth is saved before Christ returns. There will always be some swamps that will
not receive the living water (Eze. 47:11).
There will always be some tares among the wheat, but it is a wheat
field, not a tare field (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43 ).
who pose this question apparently confuse orthodox postmillennialism with the
humanistic Social Gospel Movement. The
humanist Social Gospel says that man without God brings Paradise on earth. Postmils say that the world is transformed by
God's power working in and through His
redeemed people. The humanist Social
Gospel is based on naturalistic evolution.
Postmillennialism is based on the literal Genesis account of creation
(see Sect. II, "From Dominion Mandate of Creation to the Great Commission").
Q: How can the
postmillennialist say that such a large number of people will be saved when
Jesus said, "Enter by
the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to
destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small and the gate is narrow
that leads to life, and few are those who find it"
A: There are many verses in the Bible that speak
of the Kingdom of God being wide, deep and growing to cover the whole earth
(Isaiah 2:2-3; 9:7; 11:9; 25:6-7; 56:1; 66:18; Daniel 2:35,44;
7:14,18,27; Matthew 8:11; 13:31-33; 28:19; Revelation 11:15). Let me ask, what does the premillennialist do
with these verses? The premil says that
verses about 'wide' and `deep'
and `earth filling' aren't applicable until after the Great
Tribulation, during the Millennium (The amil just ignores these verses). The postmillennialist says the same
thing! The only difference is that the
premil. says that the Great Tribulation is something to look forward to, while
the postmil says it already happened at the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Jesus said that the road was narrow for his
wicked generation, but He also said a time would come when things would be
considerably different: "But
I say to you that many will come from the east and the west and take their
places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of
heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom
[the Jews who reject Christ] will be thrown outside, into the darkness where
there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"
(Matt. 8: 11-12). And Paul
says, the rejection of the Jews is the "reconciliation of the world" (Rom. 11:15). But the rejection of the Jews is not
permanent: ". . . a
partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has
come in [not every single Gentile will be saved, but the Gentile nations will have become explicitly Christian]; and
thus all Israel will be saved"
(Rom. 11:25-26). And even compared
to Gentile nations throughout the world becoming Christian, the salvation of
the Jewish nation will be like "life from the dead" (Rom. 11:15).
Jesus actually says that "many
are the ones"
entering through the wide gate to destruction, and "few
are the ones finding"
the narrow way. He speaks in the present
tense, therefore these words can't
be said to always apply in the future.
John saw a "great
redeemed so large that "no
one could count" (Rev.
is good reason to believe that at when the number of souls are counted in
heaven and hell at the Final Judgment, two-thirds of those who ever lived
will be in heaven and one-third in hell.
The Bible says that the first-born gets a double inheritance, so
that if there are two sons, the first-born gets two-thirds and the
younger gets one-third (Deut. 21:17).
If the oldest son was unfaithful to the covenant, however, the younger
son would receive the inheritance of the first-born. This exception almost becomes the rule in
Scripture: Isaac inherited over Ishmael; Jacob inherited over Esau; Joseph over
his brothers. Lucifer was the supreme
angel before his fall (Ezekial 28:14), and when he fell one-third of the
angels fell with him (Rev. 12:4), leaving two-thirds for the faithful
arch-angel, Michael. Adam was the
first man and the "the son
of God" (Luke
3:38). He fell; but Jesus, the Son of
God, the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45,47) was perfectly faithful to His Father;
therefore two-thirds of humanity should become members of the redeemed
race, as Christ's
inheritance, and only one-third remain part of the fallen, Adamic
death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the
likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the
many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the one Man, Jesus
Christ, abound to the many" (Rom.
all the Bible's
references to time are to be adjusted according to 2 Peter 3:8, than that could
mean one of two things. It could mean
that each time a period of time is mentioned in the Bible, the days are to be
multiplied by one thousand years. This
should be obviously absurd, but even if true, it does not help the
Dispensationalist put the events of Revelation two thousand years in the
future. If "the
time is near" means
three or more days from the time John wrote Revelation, then the events will
not occur until at least A.D. 3000!
2 Peter 3:8 might be interpreted to mean that no mention of time in the Bible
can be trusted to be accurate. This
would make the Bible an ahistorical document, which commits the heresy of
gnosticism and neo-orthodoxy. Indeed,
many who want to deny the inspiration and accuracy of Scripture use 2 Peter 3:8
to deny the reliability of the Genesis account of creation and the historical
accuracy of everything else in the Bible.
Some Objections to Authorship of Revelation During Nero's Reign Answered
Was there Nero worship?
writes, “When the motive of the Apocalypse is thus found in the pressure upon
the Christian conscience exerted by Domitian’s emphasis of the imperial cultus,
especially as that was felt in Asia Minor, any earlier date for the book
becomes almost impossible.” The Revelation of St. John the Divine.
But Nero was
depicted as Apollo on Roman coins.
After a year
in Greece where the Greeks deified him as “Zeus, Our Liberator,” the historian
Dio Cassius records the scene of Nero’s return to Rome as he entered the palace
and Apollo’s temple:
The city was all decked with garlands, was ablaze with lights
and reeking with incense, and the whole population, the senators themselves
most of all, kept shouting in chorus,
“Hail, Olympian Victor! Hail,
Pythian Victor! Augustus! Augustus!
Hail to Nero, our Hercules! Hail
to Nero, our Apollo! The only Victor of
the Grand Tour, the only one from the beginning of time! Augustus!
Augustus! O, Divine Voice! Blessed are they that hear thee.” Roman
book written mostly after A.D. 80 called the Sibylline Oracles, says “the evil
of Nero has the same three dimensions as the evil of Rome: he is morally evil, he was responsible for
the destruction of Jerusalem, since the Jewish war began in his reign, and he
claimed to be God.”
to no longer offer sacrifices to Nero was a major impetus for the Roman war
against Israel. Josephus wrote:
And this was the true beginning of our war with the
Romans: for they rejected the sacrifice
of Caesar on this account: and when many
of the high priests and principal men besought them not to omit the sacrifice,
which it was customary for them to offer for their princes, they would not be
prevailed upon. Wars, 2:10:4
writes about the decision to stop offering sacrifices to Caesar in the temple,
that “its termination in the summer of A.D. 66 was tantamount to official
renunciation of his authority.” New
Testament History (1969), p. 139.
Testament scholar John A.T. Robinson writes that “while the evidence from the
imperial cultus does not rule out a Domitianic dating, it does not establish it
either.” Redating the New Testament, p. 236.
Does the persecution accord more with
Domitian than Nero?
Revelation being written around A.D. 95, during the reign of Emperor Domitian,
claim that the mention of imperial persecution against Christians fits better
with the reign of Domitian than the reign of Nero. However, several late-advocates admit that the
evidence for Christian persecution under Domitian is questionable. David H. van Daalen writes that we “have no
evidence that there was any persecution under Domitian.” A Guide
to the Revelation, WEF Study Guide 20 (1986), p. 3.
however, considerable evidence persecution under Nero. Early church father Tertullian wrote that “At
Rome Nero was the first who stained with blood the rising faith.” Scorpion’s
historian Tacitus writes:
So, to dispel the report, [Nero] substituted as the guilty
persons and inflicted unheard-of punishments on those who, detested for their
abominable crimes, were vulgarly called Christians. . . . And their death was
aggravated with mockeries, insomuch that, wrapped in the hides of wild beasts,
they were torn to pieces by dogs, or fastened to crosses to be set on fire,
that when the darkness fell they might be burned to illuminate the night. . . .
Whence it came about that, though the victims were guilty and deserved the most
exemplary punishment, a sense of pity was aroused by the feeling that they were
sacrificed not on the altar of public interest, but to satisfy the cruelty of
one man. Annals, 15:44
persecution of Christians was not limited to the city of Rome. Christian apologist Paulus Orosius (c. A.D.
385-418) writes: "For [Nero] was the first at Rome to torture and inflict
the penalty of death upon Christians, and he ordered them through out all the
provinces to be afflicted with like persecution. . . .” Paulus Orosius, The Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, book 7, chap. 7,
trans. P. J. Deferrari; in The Fathers of
the Church, vol. 50 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press,
1964), pp. 298-299.
Would John have been banished under
the view that John wrote Revelation during the reign of Domitian claim that
Domitian banished criminals, but Nero did not.
The early church father Tertullian says about John’s banishment,
But if thou art near to Italy, thou hast Rome, where we also
have an authority close at hand. What an happy Church is that! on which the
Apostles poured out all their doctrine, with their blood: where Peter had a
like Passion with the Lord; where Paul hath for his crown the same death with
John; where the Apostle John was plunged into boiling oil, and suffered
nothing, and was afterwards banished to an island. Tertullian, Exclusion of Heretics, 36.
does not name the Caesar who reigned when these things happened, but the fact
that John was plunged into boiling oil points to Nero, because Nero ordered
Christians to be covered in a flammable material before they would be lit as
torches for his parties.
Herbert B. Workman, in his classic study, Persecution
in the Early Church, draws the following conclusions from the Tertullianic
evidence: "St. John's banishment to Patmos was itself a result of the
great persecution of Nero. Hard labour for life in the mines and quarries of
certain islands, especially Sardinia, formed one of the commonest punishments
for Christians." Herbert B.
Workman, Persecution in the Early Church (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
 1980), pp. 18.
Could Laodicea be described as
wealthy in the years prior to A.D. 70?
Late-date advocates have argued that Laodicea could not have
been described as rich the few years before A.D. 70 because it had suffered an
earthquake in A.D. 60 that destroyed much of the city. But Laodicea was actually so rich from the
textile industry there that it was no great financial burden for its residents
to rebuild the city after the earthquake.
The Roman historian Tacitus wrote:
See also the Holman Bible Dictionary: http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T3759
Would a church at Smyrna exist prior
to A.D. 70?
According to Polycarp (ca. 69 to 155 AD) the church at Smyrna was not
founded until after the death of Paul, so it could not have been born any
earlier than around 64-67AD. There is no way that it could have reached the
stage of being a representative church for the letters to the seven churches if
Revelation were written before 70 AD.
Polycarp wrote to the Philippian church says:
But who of us are
ignorant of the judgment of the Lord ? "Do we not know that the saints
shall judge the world?," as Paul teaches. But I have neither seen nor
heard of any such thing among you, in the midst of whom the blessed Paul
laboured, and who are commended in the beginning of his Epistle. For he boasts
of you in all those Churches which alone then knew the Lord; but we [of Smyrna]
had not yet known Him. (THE EPISTLE OF
POLYCARP TO THE PHILIPPIANS, Ch. XI)
So Polycarp is saying that when Paul wrote his letter to the
Philippians, the people of Smyrna did not yet know the Lord. Scholars say that Paul wrote Philippians sometime
between A.D. 53 and A.D. 63. Even with the
latter date, it’s possible that a church was established in Smyrna in Paul’s
lifetime, but after he wrote Philippians, which could have been before A.D. 70
and before John wrote his Revelation.
Acts 19:10 says that all the
province of Asia heard of the gospel through Paul. Smyrna is in that area, and the church may
have been established shortly after that as a result of Paul’s preaching.
“The expression 'the seven churches' seems to imply that this constituted the whole number, and hence affords one of the most striking incidental proofs of an early date. . . Those who contend for the later date, when
there must have been a greater number of churches than even in the region
designated by the apostle, fail to give any sufficient reason for his
mentioning no more. That they mystically
or symbolically represent others is surely not such a reason.” James M. McDonald, Life and Writing of St. John, p. 154.
What writings outside the Bible show
about the beliefs of the early church:
Only the Bible determines doctrine: “I am shocked at the number of people who
want to fashion their theology around the early Church Fathers. One can find in their confusing writings the
full spectrum of views from baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, and other
heretical teachings. The Church Fathers do not determine
doctrine! A sound study of the Word
of God determines our doctrine.” Mal
Couch, president of Tyndale Theological Seminary (dispensational); quoted in The Early Church and the End of the
World, p. 3. Remember, Paul warned that soon
after his departure, wolves would come into the church spreading false
doctrine. So we cannot assume that what
the early church fathers taught was pure doctrine.
don’t know very much about what the early church fathers said. “Most of what the Church Fathers wrote
remains untranslated – 218 Latin and 166 Geek volumes – therefore, we cannot be
dogmatic in asserting what the early Church Fathers believed.” Ibid, p. 40.
few examples of Christians who taught a return of Christ before the millennium
denied key tenets of modern Dispensationalism.
Patrick Alan Boyd summarizes his survey of premillenial teachings in
early Christian writings: “1) the
writers /writings surveyed did not generally adopt a consistently applied
literal interpretation; 2) they did not generally distinguish between the
Church and Israel; 3) there is no evidence that they generally held to a
dispensational view of revealed history; 4) although Papias and Justin Martyr
did believe in a Millennial Kingdom, the 1,000 years is the only basic
similarity with the modern system (in fact, they and dispensational
premillennialism radically differ on the basis for the Millennium; 5) they had no concept of
immanency or a pretribulational rapture of the Church. . . .” Ibid., pp. 41-42.
Was Preterism unknown in the early
preterism in early Christian writings:
The Great Tribulation that Jesus predicted:
the brother of Jesus, known as James the Just, as told by Hegesippus around
A.D. 170 at http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/hegesippus.html:
aforesaid scribes and Pharisees accordingly set James on the summit of the
temple, and cried aloud to him, and said: "O just one, whom we are all
bound to obey, forasmuch as the people is in error, and follows Jesus the
crucified, do thou tell us what is the door of Jesus, the crucified." And
he answered with a loud voice: "Why ask ye me concerning Jesus the Son of
man? He Himself sitteth in heaven, at the right hand of the Great Power, and
shall come on the clouds of heaven."
when many were fully convinced by these words, and offered praise for
the testimony of James, and said, "Hosanna to the son of David," then
again the said Pharisees and scribes said to one another, "We have not
done well in procuring this testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him
down, that they may be afraid, and not believe him." And they cried aloud,
and said: "Oh! oh! the just man himself is in error." Thus they
fulfilled the Scripture written in Isaiah: "Let us away with the just man,
because he is troublesome to us: therefore shall they eat the fruit of their
doings." So they went up and threw down the just man, and said to one
another: "Let us stone James the Just." And they began to stone him:
for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned, and kneeled down, and said:
"I beseech Thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them; for they know not what
they do.” . . . .
shortly after Vespasian besieged Judaea, taking them captive.
on Daniel, Clement of Alexandria said in the second century: “The half of the week Nero held sway, and in
the holy city Jerusalem placed the abomination; and in the half of the week he
was taken away, and Otho, and Galba, and Vitellius. And Vespasian rose to the
supreme power, and destroyed Jerusalem, and desolated the holy place. And
that such are the facts of the case is clear to him that is able to understand,
as the prophet said." The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1
says that the Great Tribulation that Jesus predicted “took place in this manner
in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, in accordance with the prophecies
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who by divine power saw them beforehand as
if they were already present, and wept and mourned according to the statement
of the holy evangelists.” Eusebius Pamphilus, “Predictions of Christ,” 93. Early Church, p. 75. Vespasian’s reign began in A.D. 69.
(d. 254) made a habit of interpreting the Bible allegorically, but mentions
others who interpreted “this generation” in the Olivet Discourse
literally: “And certain uninstructed
persons refer the words to the destruction of Jerusalem, and think that they
were said about that generation which was in the time of Christ and saw His
passion, that it was not going to pass away before the destruction of that
city.” Commentary on Matthew. On
Chysostom commented on Matt. 24:14, And
then the end shall come: “And in fit
season did Jerusalem fall, namely, after the Gospel had been preached
throughout the world; as it follows, And
then shall the consummation come, i.e. the end of Jerusalem.” Homily
75 on Matthew.
great early church theologian Augustine said, “Thus, Luke made clear what could
have been uncertain, that what was said of the abomination of desolation
referred to the siege of Jerusalem, not to the end of the world.” (p.87 – Epistle 199 to Hesychius, 29. FC 30:379)
Concerning the “Son of Man coming on the clouds” in Matt. 24:30,
And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud,
with great power and majesty. As I see it, this
could be taken in two ways: one, that He
will come in the Church as in a cloud, as He continues to come now according to
His word: Hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the
power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven; and He comes with great
power and majesty because His greater power and majesty will appear in the
saints to whom He will give great power, so that they may not be overcome by
such persecution. The other way in which
He will come will be in His body in which He sits at the right hand of the
Father, in which, also, He died and rose again and ascended into heaven, as it
is written in the Acts of the Apostles: And when he had said these things, a cloud
received him and he was taken up from their sight. And because the angels said thereupon: He
shall so come as you have seen him going away, we have reason to believe
that He will come not only in the same Body but also in a cloud, since He will so come as He went
away, and a cloud received Him as He went. (Letter 199,
41. FC 30:389.)
In his book The City of God, St. Augustine says that
Nero is the Man of Sin of 2 Thess. 2 and the Beast of Rev. 13:
Some think that the Apostle
Paul referred to the Roman empire, and that he was unwilling to use language
more explicit, lest he should incur the calumnious charge of wishing ill to the
empire which it was hoped would be eternal; so that in saying, ‘For the mystery
of iniquity doth already work,’ he alluded to Nero, whose deeds already seemed
to be as the deeds of Antichrist. And
hence some suppose that he shall rise again and be Antichrist. Others, again,
suppose that he is not even dead, but that he was concealed that he might be
supposed to have been killed, and that he now lives in concealment in the vigor
of that same age which he had reached when he was believed to have perished,
and will live until he is revealed in his own time and restored to his kingdom.
But I wonder that men can be so audacious in their conjectures. (City
of God, 20:19)
The last part refers to the Nero Redivivus legend that is
mentioned by several other Christian writers in this era as being a common
belief. It is based on the statement in
Revelation 13:3 that “One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal
wound, but the fatal wound had been healed.”
Our view is that the wound to the Beast in Revelation refers to the Roman
government stabilizing itself after the death of Nero, but the legend still
shows a tradition of identifying the Beast of Revelation with Nero.
Also see for quotes: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/gladiators/nero.html
advocates of Revelation’s composition often cite Irenaeus (A.D. 130-202) to prove that it was
written during the reign of Domitian. Guthrie
writes that Irenaeus "is quite specific that the Apocalypse 'was seen no
such long time ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign
of Domitian.’" Donald Guthrie, New
Testament Introduction, 3rd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1970),
p. 956. Irenaeus wrote this about A.D.
180 to 190, and he is the earliest known authority designating a date for the
writing or Revelation. Also, Irenaeus
knew Polycarp, who knew the Apostle John.
seemingly strong evidence has some serious problems. First, even though Irenaeus was two
generations removed from the apostles, he is known to make erroneous historical
claims about that era. He claims, for
example, that Christ was over fifty years old before his crucifixion.
more important than that is that Irenaeus’s statement is very ambiguous. The full statement is as follows:
We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively
as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be
distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him
who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since,
but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign. Ante
Nicene Fathers, 1:559-560.
is what Irenaeus is referring to when he says that "that was seen" (eůńNčç)?
Late-date advocates assume that he is saying that John saw the
Revelation toward the end of Domitian’s reign.
Or does “that” refer to “him who beheld the apocalyptic vision” – John? Many scholars have concluded the latter, and
it makes more sense. The book of
Revelation has the same information about the “antichrist” no matter when it
was written. Rather, Irenaeus is saying
that, since John was seen not very long ago, if it was necessary for Christians
in the second century to know who the antichrist was, John could have explained
that to people who would still be alive near Irenaeus’s day.
support for this latter interpretation is that in another place Irenaeus says
that the number of the antichrist is found in all the “ancient copies” of
Revelation. (Nicene and Post-Nicene
Fathers, 1:222). It would be
somewhat inconsistent for Irenaeus to call copies of the Revelation “ancient”
and also say that Revelation was written “almost in our day.”