Postmillennialism sees Christ coming to set up his kingdom after the millennium when man has adequately prepared the world through faithful preaching of the gospel message as the church is empowered by the Holy Spirit.
This eschatological view looks for a great revival in the church. Swelling numerical growth and spiritual vitality leading up to the Second Coming. Postmillennialists believe Christ will not come again until after there has been what Robert Bater of Queen’s Theological College in Kingston, Ontario, calls “a holy utopia” – a Millennium that has been achieved on Earth by human means.
Jonathan Edwards, a staunch postmillennialist of his time, believed in the gradual accomplishment of the utopian kingdom of God. The progress of the gospel message would assure the return of Christ toward the end of the twentieth century – right around the year 2000, to be exact, according to Edwards. (Guess he missed that a bit.)
Although some postmillennialists hold to a literal millennium of 1,000 years, most postmillennialists see the thousand years more as 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.
Frequently used terms for this current belief are are Christian Reconstruction, Kingdom Now Theology and Dominion Theology.
The strongest postmillennial influence in America today comes from the Chalcedon Foundation, founded in 1965 by Rousas J. Rushdoony. Rushdoony published his first book, By What Standard? in 1959 and was instrumental in the development of the homeschool movement during the 1960s.
In general, Rushdoony’s vision was for the reconstruction of society based on Christian principles. In Rushdoony’s book Institutes, he argues that Old Testament law should be applied to modern society and supported the reinstatement of the Mosaic law’s penal sanctions. Under such a system, the list of civil crimes which carried a death sentence would include homosexuality, adultery, incest, lying about one’s virginity, bestiality, witchcraft, idolatry or apostasy, public blasphemy, false prophesying, kidnapping, rape, and bearing false witness in a capital case.
Rushdoony’s work has been used by Dominion Theology advocates who attempt to implement a Christian theocracy, a government subject to Biblical law, especially the Torah, in the United States. Authority, behavioral boundaries, economics, penology and the like would all be governed by biblical principles in Rushdoony’s vision.
While I do not share the Reconstructionist end-time millenial theology, I do believe some of their moral, political and societal views deserve merit. For example, I agree the Church should take a more favorable view of God’s laws contained in the Bible. Many within the popular American Christian church denounce the laws contained in the Old Testament as the “old” covenant nailed to the cross of Christ. I agree the OT temple rites and sacrificial system of redemption was replaced with a covenant of grace grounded in the shed blood of Christ. However, Christ and his Apostles all confirm the ongoing validity of the law.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” – Matthew 5:17
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 7:12
Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. – Romans 3:31
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” – John 14:15
Christian Reconstructionists describe their view of public ethics by the term, “Theonomy” (the Law of God governs); while some of their critics tend to label them “Theocratic” (God governs). The notable differences are that “theocracy” is usually thought of as totalitarian and involving no distinction between church and state, while Reconstructionists claim that “theonomy” is broadly libertarian and maintains a distinction of sphere of authority between family, church, and state. [Michael J. McVicar. “The Libertarian Theocrats: The Long, Strange History of R.J. Rushdoony and Christian Reconstructionism.” Public Eye. Fall 2007 Vol. 22, No. 3.] For example, enforcement of moral sanctions under theonomy is done by family and church government, and sanctions for moral offenses is outside the authority of civil government (which is limited to criminal matters, courts and national defense).
The problem arises, in my opinion, as the distinction between church and state are blurred – the state is legislating in moral matters that belong to the church which has abdicated these responsibilities in society today. Recent examples include legalization of same sex marriages, the Roe vs Wade decision that legalized abortion, and the Obama health care mandates that require all American citizens to pay for this clearly immoral practice. These, and many other matters, are simply outside the authority of the state and should be left to the family and church to govern (Matt. 22:21).
At the end of the day, these matters are ultimately personal matters that each individual is accountable for. To strip the individual of their personal responsibility and shift it to the civil government is an affront to everything Biblical and a precursor to tyranny.
Major theological problems remain intact for postmillennialism, and nineteen hundred years of church history argue directly against this position. Despite a recent growing trend toward explicitly Christian politics in the larger U.S. Christian Right, postmillennialism is the least popular among Christians today: apparently deteriorating world conditions don’t square with its premises.
Kingdom Now Theology, a branch of postmillenial Dominion Theology, states that although Satan has been in control of the world since the Fall, God is looking for people who will help him take back dominion. Those who yield themselves to the authority of God’s apostles and prophets will take control of the kingdoms of this world, being defined as all social institutions, the “kingdom” of education, the “kingdom” of science, the “kingdom” of the arts, etc. [“An Examination of Kingdom Theology”. Apologetics Index. Retrieved 30 January 2011.]
Most people think things are getting worse rather than better. There is no evidence that the church, through the spread of the gospel, is purifying the world. Conversely, all one need do is look around to see that the world is polluting the church in perfect fulfillment of 2 Tim. 3:1-5, which describes the decline of the church in the last days.
I don’t believe Scripture depicts the end of the age characterized by world revival. Instead, I believe It will be the Antichrist’s ultimate hour of power, cut short not by the universal spread of the gospel but by the Day of the Lord judgment.