DISCLAIMER: I do not recommend the author of this article, Andrew Sandlin, as I believe some of his teaching today is somewhat troubling. However, I believe this article is helpful to see the different kinds of postmillennialists that there have been and are today. --Josh Brisby
by P. Andrew Sandlin
While we postmillennialists do not suspend our victorious view of the future on an interpretation of Revelation 20, we all believe that the reign of Christ mentioned there will precede His Second Coming. In other words, we do not believe that Christ must be physically present in order to reign over the earth (Acts 2:25-36). We believe there will be an age of Gospel Victory before the Second Advent. We surely do not believe that man can “bring in the kingdom,” nor that every individual will be saved or that all sin will be eradicated. We do believe, however, that there will be a massive number of conversions (Rom. 11:13-25) and pervasive obedience to God’s Word (Is. 42:1-4) before Christ returns (1 Cor. 15:22-28).
There are, however, at least three principal varieties of postmillennialism as it relates to the interpretation of the book of Revelation.
First, there are the preterist postmillennialists. Following men like Jay Adams*1, Gary DeMar, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., and Keith Mathison, they believe that most (not all) of the book of Revelation was fulfilled before or in or by the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70, and that many (not all) of the prophecies in the New Testament point to this time. The heretical variant of this view, “hyper-preterism” or “false preterism” (which preterists repudiate), teaches that all prophecies were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70. Clearly, this is not an orthodox Christian position, and orthodox preterists repudiate it. The cogent feature of preterist postmillennialism is its taking seriously the immediate context of the writer of Revelation (John) and the textual clues indicating the nearness of its fulfillment. Those heavily leaning toward a strict “grammatical-historical” interpretation will tend to find preterism attractive, and it is safe to say that most postmillennialists these days are preterists.
Historicist postmillennialists*2, like Francis Nigel Lee and Val Finnell, believe that the book of Revelation is essentially a description of the interadvental age (the time between Christ’s first and second comings). Its vision specifies not just the first 40 years after Christ’s ascension, but the entire period between Christ’s first and second comings. Historicists all hold that the Beast of Revelation (and, usually, the antichrist in the Thessalonians) is the Roman Catholic Church, or more accurately, the papacy. This position has going for it the fact that all of the Protestant Reformers held it. It is the historic Protestant interpretation, and postmillennialists with a firm allegiance to the Reformation era are usually drawn to it.
Finally, there is idealist postmillennialism. This was the position of R. J. Rushdoony, and it is my position.*3 It holds that the strange individuals and creatures and events of Revelation refer primarily to types of people or institutions throughout church history, with no single, specific referent. For instance, the Beast of Revelation 13 is any tyrannical state, and the false prophet any religious system aligned with and supporting that state.
The great advantage of this position is that it renders Revelation a living book, not merely for “application,” but with immediate meaning to events of the present day. Further, it seems an apt interpretation for apocalyptic literature. This view will appeal to postmillennialists who crave an immediate, relevant interpretation of Revelation.
My view is that each of these positions has exegetical points to commend it, and those interpretative issues that unite postmillennialists are much greater than those that divides them.
So, the next time somebody tells you he’s postmillennial, you may want to inquire, “What flavor?”
*1. Either Sandlin is unaware of this, or he worded this poorly, because Jay Adams is a preteristic amillennialist, not postmillennialist.
*2. Historicism was the view of the Reformers and the London Confession and Westminster Confession, as well as that of the Puritans.
*3. This is my position as well. --Josh Brisby