American Postmillennialism

Postmillennialism is the belief that humans, by revamping society by means of taking over the world with Christianity, will usher in the Kingdom of God.

After this Golden Age ushered in by God’s people, Christ will return (hence “Post” millennium–Christ returns after the Golden Age we establish).

This used to be a standard view of many people, and was particularly popular in America in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

Jonathan Edwards, one of America’s most famous theologians, was a postmillennialist. When he looked upon the results of the Great Awakening, he said:

‘Tis not unlikely that this work of God’s Spirit, that is so extraordinary and wonderful, is the dawning, or at least a prelude, of that glorious work of God, so often foretold in Scripture…. And there are many things that make it probable that this work will begin in America.

The Great Awakenings felt like the start of something big. It also fed into the notion that America was the shining city on a hill, leading the world to the coming of the Lord.

The Millennium, for postmillennialists, is not necessarily 1,000 years. When Revelation 20 mentions 1,000 years 7 times, 1,000 years merely represents an age.

In order to believe Postmillennialism you have to interpret the Scriptures symbolically, or spiritually, or at least not literally. This is true whether you are dealing with the 1,000 years of Revelation 20 or the prophecies about judgment in Revelation before then, or prophecies concerning the regathering of Israel, etc.

You also have to believe in the power of humanity to reform the world and that the church will win in the end. A little too ambitiously optimistic for this guy!

It was a heady time in America when Postmillennialism was popular. The Enlightenment filled humans with grandiose ideas of their potential. America was optimistic and two Great Awakenings swept the land. Christianity was large and in charge. The Battle Hymn of the Republic is pretty much a Postmillennial rally song.

A funny thing happened on the way to the humanly ushered in Millennium: the world wide scope of evil on display in the 20th Century. Pretty hard to come out of two world wars, depression, sexual revolutions, and whatnot and conclude we were making progress toward a Golden Age of Christian Victory.

Very few people are postmillennialists today. But I imagine it will come back if we have a sustained period of peace.

In fact, the modern Social Gospel movement borrows much postmillennial thought.

It is my contention, that when the Church concentrates of societal reform, they will lose their identity and purpose. The Church does not exist for the world. The Church exists for the edification of believers so they can be edified and built up to love their neighbor.

It’s easy to blur that line, or put the cart before the horse on that one, or replace “neighbor,” which is a person, with “society,” which is an unidentifiable mass of people. Regardless of how well the Church does in their mission, I guarantee you human endeavor will not bring Christ back.

Postmillennialism is basically Humanism with a Christian veneer. I suggest not falling for it, or its modern manifestation: the Social Gospel.

7 thoughts on “American Postmillennialism”

  1. Very few people are postmillennialists today

    I understand that a lot of the more popular Pentecostal/charismatic (Dominionist) teachers lean to a more postmillennial view.

    And a one time Calvinist friend who insisted he was an amillennialist, when questioned, revealed his theology was in fact postmillennial. He believed the whole church age was the millennium.

    The first impression I had was that the bible said very little about period that we call “the millennium” – just a couple of short but vague references towards the end of Revelation; but over time, as I read the OT prophets, I found more an more details could be found about that period, after Jesus’ return, when He reigns on earth for 1000 years.

  2. OH yea, Postmillennialists are out there. I run into one every once in a while. I think, when you include the OT prophecies about the regathering of Israel in the Promised Land, there is a pretty solid case made that there is a time coming on this earth when this will happen. Revelation 20 is the only spot with the 1,000 year thing, but it does say it like 7 times! If a person tries to take the simplest meaning of words in the Bible, there has to be a time for an earthly kingdom that is real, not just “the church age,” but one that fulfills the many prophecies of the OT.

  3. Jeff, a few years ago I came across remarks by a former believer who had become an atheist. His stated reason for the change was there were too many unfulfilled prophecies about Israel in the OT.
    If an actual 1000 year reign of Jesus, from a restored Israel, is removed from the equation that atheist would have a valid point. But he couldn’t see that those prophecies will be fulfilled in that future 1000 year reign.

  4. The atheist has a better understanding and higher view than many Christians who don’t think there will be a restored Israel. If there is not, then God is a liar and yeah, the only option would be to conclude He’s not trustworthy, or worthy to be believed. I do not understand the Christians who deny a restored Israel when there are so many passages talking about it. If all those promises are not real, then what confidence should we have the the Gospel promises are real?

  5. >You also have to believe…that the church will win in the end.
    The church WILL win in the end. The same way Jesus won, by crucifixion.

  6. The Church, the Body of Christ, will indeed win in the end. Not by self effort but by the return of Jesus Christ who will put all enemies under His feet.

  7. Don’t underestimate the victory gained by Jesus Christ on the cross. It unveiled Satan’s character, and cast great light on God’s character. “God forbid that [we] should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” On the cross, Jesus “spoiled principalities and powers, [and] made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”

    Satan rules over people by deception, by misrepresentation of God. So he deceives them into joining in his rebellion.

    It is exceptionally easy even for professing Christians to fall into this trap, by accepting long-standing, yet false views of God’s character, by portraying Him as a man. Because of our dependence on fleshly power, we tend to view God’s “last resort” as an outpouring of divine power, of over-bearing force.

    The Jews of Christ’s time expected the Messiah to come and tread down their enemies (the Romans) with physical force. They were terribly wrong, not just as to the time, but as to the character of God.

    If we, as Christians, are expecting the same kind of victory as the Jews were expecting, then we will be sorely, and fatally disappointed.

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