In Christian end-times theology (eschatology), postmillennialism is an
interpretation of chapter 20 of the
Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation which sees
Christ's second coming as occurring after (Latin post-) the
Golden Age in which
Christian ethics prosper. The
term subsumes several similar views of the end times, and it stands in
contrast to premillennialism and, to a lesser extent, amillennialism
(see Summary of Christian eschatological differences).
Postmillennialism holds that Jesus
Christ establishes his kingdom on
earth through his preaching and redemptive work in the first century
and that he equips his church with the gospel, empowers her by the
Spirit, and charges her with the Great Commission (Matt 28:19) to
disciple all nations.
Postmillennialism expects that eventually the
vast majority of people living will be saved. Increasing gospel
success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ's
return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will
prevail in the affairs of men and of nations. After an extensive era
of such conditions Jesus
Christ will return visibly, bodily, and
gloriously, to end history with the general resurrection and the final
judgment after which the eternal order follows.
Postmillenialism was a dominant theological belief among American
Protestants who promoted reform movements in the 19th and 20th century
such as abolitionism and the Social Gospel. Postmillennialism
has become one of the key tenets of a movement known as Christian
Reconstructionism. It has been criticized by 20th century religious
conservatives as an attempt to immanentize the eschaton.
3 Key ideas
4.1 Difference in extent
4.2 Difference in means
5 See also
8 External links
Savoy Declaration of 1658 contains one of the earliest creedal
statements of a postmillennial eschatology:
As the Lord in his care and love towards his Church, hath in his
infinite wise providence exercised it with great variety in all ages,
for the good of them that love him, and his own glory; so according to
his promise, we expect that in the latter days, antichrist being
destroyed, the Jews called, and the adversaries of the kingdom of his
dear Son broken, the churches of
Christ being enlarged, and edified
through a free and plentiful communication of light and grace, shall
enjoy in this world a more quiet, peaceable and glorious condition
than they have enjoyed.
John Jefferson Davis notes that the postmillennial outlook was
articulated by men like John Owen in the 17th century, Jonathan
Edwards in the 18th century, and
Charles Hodge in the 19th century.
Davis argues that it was the dominant view in the nineteenth century,
but was eclipsed by the other millennial positions by the end of World
War I due to the "pessimism and disillusionment engendered by wartime
George M. Fredrickson argues, "The belief that a religious revival and
the resulting improvement in human faith and morals would eventually
usher in a thousand years of peace and justice antecedent to the
Second Coming of
Christ was an impetus to the promotion of Progressive
reforms, as historians have frequently pointed out."  During the
Second Great Awakening
Second Great Awakening of the 1830s, some divines expected the
millennium to arrive in a few years. By the 1840s, however, the great
day had receded to the distant future, and post-millennialism became
the religious dimension of the broader American middle-class ideology
of steady moral and material progress.
Although some postmillennialists hold to a literal millennium of 1,000
years, other postmillennialists see the thousand years more as a
figurative term for a long period of time (similar in that respect to
amillennialism). Among those holding to a non-literal "millennium" it
is usually understood to have already begun, which implies a less
obvious and less dramatic kind of millennium than that typically
envisioned by premillennialists, as well as a more unexpected return
Postmillennialism also teaches that the forces of
Satan will gradually
be defeated by the expansion of the
Kingdom of God
Kingdom of God throughout history
up until the second coming of Christ. This belief that good will
gradually triumph over evil has led proponents of postmillennialism to
label themselves "optimillennialists" in contrast to "pessimillennial"
premillennialists and amillennialists.
Many postmillennialists also adopt some form of preterism, which holds
that many of the end times prophecies in the Bible have already been
fulfilled. Several key postmillennialists, however, did not adopt
preterism with respect to the Book of Revelation, among them B. B.
Warfield, Francis Nigel Lee, and Rousas John Rushdoony.
Difference in extent
Comparison of Christian millennial interpretations
Postmillennialists diverge on the extent of the gospel's conquest. The
majority of postmillennialists do not believe in an apostasy, and like
B. B. Warfield, believe the apostasy refers to the Jewish people's
rejection of Christianity either during the first century or possibly
until the return of
Christ at the end of the millennium. This
postmillennial perspective essentially dovetails with the thinking of
amillennial and premillennial schools of eschatology.
There is a minority of postmillennial scholars, however, who discount
the idea of a final apostasy, regarding the gospel conquest ignited by
the Great Commission to be total and absolute, such that no unsaved
individuals will remain after the Spirit has been fully poured out on
all flesh. This minority school, promoted by
B. B. Warfield
B. B. Warfield and
supported by exegetical work of H.A.W. Meyer, has started to gain
more ground, even altering the thinking of some postmillennialists
previously in the majority camp, such as Loraine Boettner and R. J.
The appeal of the minority position, apart from its obvious gambit of
taking key scriptures literally (John 12:32; Romans 11:25–26;
Hebrews 10:13; Isaiah 2:4; 9:7; etc.), was voiced by Boettner himself
after his shift in position: the majority-form of postmillennialism
lacks a capstone, which Warfield's version does not fail to provide.
Warfield also linked his views to an unusual understanding of Matthew
5:18, premised on Meyer's exegesis of the same passage, which
presupposed a global conquest of the gospel in order for the supposed
prophecy in that verse to be realized, which inexorably leads to a
literal fulfillment of the third petition of the Lord's Prayer: "Thy
will be done on earth, as it is in heaven."
John Calvin's exposition of that part of the
Lord's Prayer all but
adopts the minority postmillennial position but Calvin, and later
Charles Spurgeon, were remarkably inconsistent on eschatological
matters. Spurgeon delivered a sermon on Psalm 72 explicitly defending
the form of absolute postmillennialism held by the minority camp
today, but on other occasions he defended premillennialism. Moreover,
given the nature of Warfield's views, Warfield disdained the
millennial labels, preferring the term "eschatological universalism"
for the brand of postmillennialism now associated with his thinking.
Warfield, like those who follow in his footsteps, did not seek to
support his doctrine of cosmic eschatology from Revelation 20,
treating that passage (following Kliefoth, Duesterdieck, and
Milligan) as descriptive of the intermediate state and the
contrast between church militant and triumphant. This tactic
represented an abandonment of the Augustinian approach to the
passage, ostensibly justified by a perceived advance in taking the
Book of Revelation's parallel passages to the little season of Satan
more seriously (cf. Revelation 6:11 and 12:12).
Difference in means
Postmillennialists also diverge on the means of the gospel's conquest.
Revivalist postmillennialism is a form of the doctrine held by the
Puritans and some today that teaches that the millennium will come
about not from Christians changing society from the top down (that is,
through its political and legal institutions) but from the bottom up
at the grass roots level (that is, through changing people's hearts
Reconstructionist postmillennialism, on the other hand, sees that
along with grass roots preaching of the Gospel and explicitly
Christian education, Christians should also set about changing
society's legal and political institutions in accordance with
Biblical, and also sometimes Theonomic, ethics (see Dominion
theology). The revivalists deny that the same legal and political
rules which applied to theocratic state of
Ancient Israel should apply
directly to modern societies which are no longer directly ruled by
Israel's prophets, priests, and kings. In the United States, the most
prominent and organized forms of postmillennialism are based on
Christian Reconstructionism and hold to a reconstructionist form of
postmillennialism advanced by R.J. Rushdoony, Gary North, Kenneth
Gentry, and Greg Bahnsen.
Calvinism and Neo-Calvinism
Adventist Church of Promise
Christ (Campbell Movement)
Summary of Christian eschatological differences
^ David T. Steineker, The Greatest Commandment: Matthew 22:37
(Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2010), 132.
^ Randall M. Miller, Religion and the American Civil War (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1998), 115.
^ Douglas M. Strong, Perfectionist Politics: Abolitionism and the
Religious Tensions of American Democracy (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse
University Press, 2002), 30.
^ Savoy Declaration, 26.5.
^ John Jefferson Davis,The Victory of Christ's Kingdom (Moscow, ID:
Canon Press, 1996), 21.
^ "The Coming of the Lord: The Northern Protestant Clergy and the
Civil War Crisis," Religion and the American Civil War, eds. Randall
M. Miller, et al. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1998), 115.
^ Fredrickson, "The Coming of the Lord," 115.
^ Heinrich A. W. Meyer, Commentary on the New Testament (London:
T&T Clark, 1883; repr., Winona Lake, IN: Alpha Publications,
1979), 5:447–448 on Romans 11:25–26; 3:376 on John 12:32
^ Loraine Boettner, The Millennium, revised ed. (Phillipsburg:
Presbyterian & Reformed, 1984). The purpose of the 1984 revision,
as Boettner asserted, was to reassess Warfield's view favorably.
^ Rousas John Rushdoony, Systematic Theology (Vallecito, CA: Ross
House Books, 1994), 2:880.
^ Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield, Biblical Doctrines (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1929), 197-98.
^ John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (repr., Grand
Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), 2:190.
^ Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield, The Power of God Unto Salvation
(Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1902), 88-95.
^ Oswald T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker,
1945), 5; Allis credits both Duesterdieck (1859) and Kliefoth (1874)
for this advance.
^ William Milligan, The Revelation of St. John (New York, NY:
^ Oswald T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 5, 287n; Allis states that
this gambit "has not succeeded in replacing the Augustinian view which
it so vigorously attacked."
Bahnsen, Greg L. Victory in Jesus: The Bright Hope of
Postmillennialism. Texarkana, AR: Covenant Media Press, 1999.
Bass, Ralph E., Jr. Back to the Future: A Study in the Book of
Revelation. Greenville, SC: Living Hope Press, 2004.
Bock, Darrell. Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond. Grand Rapids,
MI: Zondervan, 1999.
Boettner, Loraine. The Millennium. Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian &
Reformed, 1984. (ISBN 0-87552-113-4)
Davis, John Jefferson. The Victory of Christ's Kingdom: An
Introduction to Postmillennialism. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1996.
DeMar, Gary. Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church. Power
Springs, GA: American Vision, 1999. (ISBN 0-915815-35-4)
Fredrickson, George M. "The Coming of the Lord: The Northern
Protestant Clergy and the Civil War Crisis." Religion and the American
Civil War. Edited by Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout, and Charles
Reagan Wilson. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Gentry, Kenneth L. He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial
Eschatology. Tyler, TX: Institute For Christian Economics, 1992.
Gentry, Kenneth L. Thine is the Kingdom: A Study of the Postmillennial
Hope. Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon Foundation, 2003.
Kik, J. Marcellus. An Eschatology of Victory. Philipsburg, NJ:
Presbyterian & Reformed, 1971.
Mathison, Keith A. Postmillenialism. An Eschatology of Hope.
Philipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1999. (ISBN 0-87552-389-7)
– Good one-volume overview of Postmillennialism. Written by a
Murray, Iain. The
Puritan Hope: A Study in Revival and the
Interpretation of Prophecy. London, UK: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971.
Millennialism and Social Theory. Tyler, TX: Institute For
Christian Economics, 1990.
Sproul, R. C. The Last Days According to Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI:
Baker Books, 1998. (ISBN 0-8010-1171-X)
Francis Nigel Lee,"Always Victorious! The Earliest Church not Pre- but
Postmillennial". Promotes a postmillennial, historicist eschatology.
Gregg Strawbridge, "An Exegetical Defense Of
Postmillennialism from I
Corinthians 15:24–26". A paper presented to the 1999 Evangelical
Kenneth L. Gentry, "Postmillennialism: Wishful Thinking or Certain
Hope?". A lecture.
Greg Bahnsen, "The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism",
The Journal of Christian Reconstruction 3.2 (Winter 1976–77).
Postmillennialism and Protestantism. Writings on
postmillennialism and against preterism.
"Millennium and Millenarianism" from the Cat