A Postmillennial Introduction
The gospel will win. Perhaps I should let that concept sink in for a moment. From a certain perspective all Orthodox eschatology teaches this. So let me get specific.
I believe that the gospel will win in this way: the church will succeed in both time and space to convert the world to the preached gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the kernel of postmillennial belief. And perhaps there is the slightest chance that this is Biblical and not fictional.
Orthodox Postmillennialism does not teach the common goodness of man (liberal postmillennialism). It does not teach success through earthly, material, and military conquest. And it does not teach a dependency on the church. Instead, postmillennialism teaches that the church through the gospel, when empowered by the Holy Spirit, will bring about in time and space the reconciliation of the world that Jesus Christ purchased with His blood (Rom 11:15; 2 Cor 5:18-19). The millennium then is the “golden age” of the church. This belief shares many interpretations with the historic premillennialist*. There will in fact be a “golden age” in history (Isa 2:1-5; Psa 2). But the distinction comes in who is presiding over it. Is the ultimate cause the physical presence of Jesus Christ or the outpouring of the Holy Spirit? Postmillennialism affirms the latter is taught in the prophecy of Ezekiel (Eze 47:1-12) and the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20).
Far from being onesided, most forms of postmillennialism emphasis the realized reality of the church’s reign on earth because of the incarnation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 2:9; Rev 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). Because the church is Christ’s body this is really no different than saying that Christ is reigning. In this sense postmillennialism shares many elements of amillennialism. The millennium has already begun in the binding of Satan (Mark 3:22-27; Rev 20:2-3). For much of church history postmillennialism walked an indistinguishable path alongside amillennialism. And still today it attempts to walk the fine line between premillennialism and amillennialism.
So, postmillennial theology promotes that the church will reign in the power of the Holy Spirit and the gospel. It and He shall win the day in the name of Jesus Christ. Postmillennialism’s major theology then promotes a ground up gospel that will change the world. Though not unique in its desire to emphasis the gospel, postmillennialism believes the church has been promised victory. Our gospel sharing methods are a victory march not a survival plan.
Postmillennialism encourages a return to thinking that the poorest, least educated, and impotently non-influential converts are the basis for Christ’s kingdom. The meek and lowly will inherit the earth (Matt 5:2-11). With this in mind, the church can never presume the person in the pulpit is greater in gospel affect than the faithful in the pew. Both work together in different spheres that undergird Christ’s kingdom in obedience to the gospel (Matt 5:19). It in fact is the broken, down trodden and socially distraught that God uses to break down the wisdom of the world (1 Cor 1:18-31). It is the stay-at-home moms, desk workers, nannies, baristas, house cleaners, recently fired, janitors, college students and snot-nose children that testify to the world in their own spheres.
But households remain, in the tradition of Puritan postmillennialism, the major element to this grass roots vision. It is no coincidence that postmillennialism now provokes more interest in the realm of covenant theology. Through the spheres of the covenants the Holy Spirit will build. Starting with broken and down trodden individuals, the gospel will infiltrate homes. From the communication of faithful (not perfect) fathers and mothers children will grow in the power of the Holy Spirit and the covenant promises of the gospel (Gen 17:7). Far from marginalizing the importance of parenthood, postmillennialism promotes a Biblical basis that the home is meant to be the foundation of the gospel (Deut 6:4-9; Psa 78:1-8). This foundational gospel goes out to the world via grocery shopping, playing at the park, and attending birthday parties.
If the gospel is to win, eventually whole churches will promote this full gospel. Filled to the brim with families leading faithful God-honoring lives, our lives will match our theology. Not just a gospel that promotes justification but also a sanctification that brings the world into conflict with church. Grocery stores, parking lots, parks, and social events will provide that sharp contrast of love for God and love for the world. And it is to be expected the world will hate the church throughout this (John 15:18). But then the postmillennial promise: Christ has overcome the tribulations found in the world (John 16:33).
It is on this basis that Christ taught to baptize and disciple nations (Matt 28:19). Not merely individuals. Not merely households. Not mere churches. But entire nations. And in this way Christ will bring all His enemies under His feet (1 Cor 15:25). And the baptism of covenant babies is both an affirmation of the gospel’s power and a promise of its effectiveness in the world. In a counter-type of the flood, water through baptism will save the world and the Holy Spirit will provide the victory (Eze 47:1-12; 1 Pet 3:21).
The truth is we still “do not yet see everything in subjection to Him” (Heb 2:8). This is why postmillennialism seems like a pipe dream. But not seeing subjection should not stop us from living in the destruction of death and the devil (Heb 2:14).
What does it mean to make the gospel pertinent to the world and to families? What demands does it make upon the church? Families must become devoted to family worship and the catechizing of children. Not because it’s a system but because its faithfulness to the gospel (Eph 2:10; 6:4). In its power we’ll see houses transformed. Organically this catechizing includes loving siblings, cleaning the house God has given us, and ministering to one another. All of these things are called for in the church too. The church must come alongside families supporting this catechismal training. It must take seriously loving one another (including other churches), cleaning the house that God has given, and ministering one to another.
Finally, faithful churches doing this will promote a heightened understanding of the power of the gospel in the community. The church will expand its outreach in the form of (you guessed it) loving our unbelieving neighbors, taking care of the world God has created and ministering to the needy of the world. As the gospel reaches into the cracks of the fallen, depraved, and defeated, the firm foundation of Christ’s kingdom is laid. This is postmillennialism.
* Some forms of historical postmillennialism even see the millennium as future. August H. Strong offers one of the most unique forms of this in his systematic theology.