This is the last post on the 20th century. We’ll start with John F. Walvoord’s book THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST: A COMMENTARY, published in 1987.

From the Introduction, on the Authorship, Occasion, and Date:

“The opening verses of the book of the Revelation plainly claim the book was written by John, identified almost universally in the early church as the Apostle John. The apostolic authorship of the book has, nevertheless, been questioned ever since the time of Dionysius of Alexandria in the third century…Beginning with Dionysius those who object to Johannine authorship or to inclusion of the Apocalypse in the canon have tended to magnify the problems of grammar and alleged inaccuracies. Impartial scholarship has admitted  that there are expressions in the book of Revelation which do not correspond to accepted Greek usage, but this problem is not entirely confined to this book of the Bible. Conservative scholarship has insisted that infallibility in divine revelation does not necessarily exclude expressions which are not normal in other Greek literature and that such instances do not mar the perfection of the truth that is transmitted…When due allowance is made for the character of the book…there are remarkable similarities in some respects between the Fourth Gospel and the book of Revelation…

“The arguments for rejecting the apostolic authorship stem largely from the theological climate of the third century. At that time the Alexandrian School of Theology, including Dionysius, opposed the doctrine of the  millennial kingdom which is plainly taught in chapter 20 with its reference to the thousand years. An attack by them on the authorship of John tended to weaken the force of this prophecy. ]This idea certainly fits what we’ve seen from the third century. There was definitely a big attack on the millennium as described in Revelation.]”

“ Another early objection to the view that John the Apostle was the author of this book was occasioned by the fact that he never describes himself as an apostle, but rather as a ‘servant.’ Many scholars, motivated by other reasons, have advanced the theory that the John of the book of Revelation is another person…The substantiating evidence for any other author than John the Apostle, however, is almost entirely lacking…Though the book of Revelation was not commonly received by the church as canonical until the middle of the second century, it is most significant that the Johannine authorship was not questioned until the strong antichiliastic influence arose in the Alexandrian School of Theology at the end of the second century…There is really no solid evidence against accepting John the Apostle as the author, and there is much that confirms it. In fact, it may be argued that the reference to John without further identification would presume a familiarity on the part of the readers which would make name him unnecessary.”

“Most of the difficulty in the interpretation of this last book in the Scriptures has come from treating it as an ordinary piece of literature produced by a variety of human authors. With such presuppositions, the book becomes a literary monstrosity devoid of any real revelation from God…When approached as divinely inspired and to be interpreted by the phraseology and symbolism of other portions of the Bible, the depth and breadth of Revelation become immediately apparent. The book offers knowledge far beyond the investigating power of man and claims revelation not only in relation to spiritual and moral truths, as in the letters to the seven churches, but revelation extending to visions of heaven and earth and prophetic revelations of the future including the eternal state.

“…Few books of the Bible provide a more complete theology than that afforded by the book of Revelation. Because of its apocalyptic character, the emphasis of the book is eschatological in the strict sense of dealing with last things…More specifically, however, it is Christological, as the material of the book relates to the ‘revelation of Jesus Christ.’ The objective is to reveal Jesus Christ as the glorified One in contrast to the Christ of the Gospels, who was seen in humiliation and suffering. The climax of the book is the second coming of Jesus Christ. Events preceding the second coming constitute an introduction, and all events which follow constitute an epilogue. The wide range of revelation, however, deals with many subjects not specifically eschatological or Christological. In all important fields of theology, there are major contributions and, though written with the imagery and Hebraisms of the Old Testament, the revelation is definitely New Testament.”

I don’t need to add much here. Mr. Walvoord has it pretty well nailed in my opinion.

The next,  and last, author is Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. who wrote HE SHALL HAVE DOMINION: A POSTMILLENNIAL ESCHATOLOGY, originally published in 1992.

The first quote is from the Preface:

“As I write this book, modern man is witnessing remarkable world events. It has not been too many months since the Berlin Wall dividing the two Germanys fell (1989), Eastern Europe freed itself from Soviet Communist domination (1990), and East and West Germany reunited (1991). The Beirut hostage crisis has finally come to an end, after many years of frustration (1991). Within the past few weeks of my writing these words, the Soviet Union has officially vanished, having broken into twelve independent democratic republics (1992). In addition, there are remarkable revivals of Christianity in various Third World countries, as well as in the former Soviet Union. Such would suggest the best of times. Five years ago, who would have thought that these world-shaking events would occur? The bleak shadow that the Soviet Bear cast over the earth has vanished with the dawn of a new day. In many respects, these events signal the best of times for those long afflicted by Communism and the rest of us who were threatened with nuclear destruction by its existence.

“But these are also the worst of times. The Chinese Communists are still brutally repressing free speech. Not long ago, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein started (and lost) a cruel and potentially disastrous war, but he still remains in power (1992). There is fear that the turbulent Middle East will buy up the brains and weaponry of the former Soviet Union. Abortion still ranks as one of America’s leading surgical procedures and is widely practiced throughout the world. The AIDS epidemic shows no signs of abating, but rather of increasing; the same is true of the nearly incurable strain of tuberculosis that now accompanies AIDS. The federal government’s debt is enormous and growing rapidly. Though there are bright historical and social rays of hope, these are too often eclipsed by the clouds of political gloom and the smoke of cultural upheaval. 

“One day the world events listed above will be understood in terms of the all-controlling plan of God. ‘Our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases’ (Psa. 115:3). For right now we can only surmise what God might be doing and what the end result will be. But I have not written this work as a prophetic commentary on the times; I am not interested in newspaper exegesis. Christianity has been embarrassed by too many failed prophets in this century. 

“Yet I believe there is a system of biblical eschatology that has in the past and will yet again demonstrate itself a valid force in the development of world events. And that eschatology is postmillennialism. 

“For the last fifty years many Christians (wrongly) deemed postmillennialism a theologically dead issue. It held too optimistic a prospect for the future for those who lived in an era that witnessed the rise of Communism and two World Wars. But postmillennialism has begun to make headway once again as a theologically credible alternative to the more popular eschatologies of despair. And it is important to realize that its remarkable resurgence antedates the collapse of Soviet and Eastern Bloc communism. These events cannot be laid down as the psychological bases for the modern resurgence of postmillennial optimism. 

“The market for works on eschatology is ripe. Many of the best-selling Christian works in the last few years have dealt with prophecy. In this work I hope to set forth compelling reasons for a return to postmillennialism by evangelical Christians. These reasons will be shown to be pre-eminently exegetical and theological. For the Christian, exegesis and theology should provide the basis of expectation for the future, not current events.”

I’ll admit it right now: this guy just bugs me. To claim that premillennialists get their theology and exegesis from the headlines is just total gaslighting. And his idea of exegesis we will find, involves very little in the way of Bible exposition. But let’s move on.

From Chapter 1, The Significance of Eschatology:

“Does history have any meaning, purpose, or significance? Is there a unified movement in history? Is history going anywhere? These are important questions as we begin a study of biblical eschatology; the first two prepare for and the last one speaks of cosmic eschatology. After all, the issue of eschatology is ‘not just one of how to interpret Rev. 20, but one that bears on the entire philosophy of history.’

“…Although I will not flesh out a full philosophy of history, we must be at least generally aware of its significance.Basically, three approaches to history are significant to our inquiry, as presented by Reinhold Niebuhr and Arthur F. Holmes.These views are the pagan cyclical view, the Christian linear view, and the secular evolutionary view.”

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1871) was an American Reformed Theologian, ethicist, commentator on politics, and a professor at Union Theological Seminary. He was a leading public intellectual and speaker, using the resources of theology to argue for political realism. He is best remembered now as the composer of the Serenity Prayer. He argued that God’s revelation (in Revelation) is “confessional history.” He saw “the source and setting of basic Christian convictions…within a historical framework.” He focused on “revelation as personal experience.” The quotes are from the Amazon description of his book entitled THE MEANING OF REVELATION. This is a bit confounding because Wikipedia lists his theology as “Neo-orthodox,” which they expound as he “argued that to approach religion as the individualistic attempt to fulfill biblical commandments in a moralistic sense is not only an impossibility but also a demonstration of man’s original sin, which Niebuhr interpreted as self-love.” He saw “selfish self-centeredness as the root of evil,” with pride being especially dangerous. So, basically,“revelation as personal experience” is hard to fit into his Neo-Orthodox views. I’ve ordered his book, so perhaps he’ll provide an interesting addition to the verse-by-verse interpretations.

Arthur F. Holmes (1924-2011) was from England and came to the United States in 1947 after serving in the Royal Air Force in World War II. His bachelor’s and master’s degrees (from Wheaton College) were in Bible and theology, but his PhD (from Northwestern) was in philosophy, which he finished in 1957. He returned to Wheaton by 1954 and talked them into allowing him to set up a philosophy department, separate from Christian philosophy. Here’s a quote from a summary of one of his books: “Holmes provides a slogan that has come to be associated with his name in Christian circles…’all truth is God’s truth, wherever it be found.’..But the Christian need not, and should not, think of the Scriptures as the ‘exhaustive source of all truth.We can find truth through reasoning about the world, and we can be confident that the truth we find in Scriptures will not contradict the truth we find through reasoning about the world, if we’re reasoning rightly and interpreting Scripture correctly.” The problem, of course, is how to determine if either is being done “correctly.”

Back to Mr. Gentry:

Revelation. God has revealed Himself and various aspects of His will infallibly and inerrantly in His Holy Word, the Bible (John 10:35; 2 Tim. 3:16,17; 2 Pet. 1:20,21). The providential governance of history employs the causative prophetic word of the Creator. God’s eternal decree, from which His prophetic Word springs into history, is neither abstract nor random; it is concrete and rational. It is not raw force, but structured power. God’s Word gives intelligible construction to all things (Psa. 33:11; 148:5; Heb. 1:3; 11:3). The objective revelation of God in Scripture is foundational to a truly Christian eschatology.”

You can see that he cites numerous Biblical passages in this last paragraph. The problem is that he is not talking about anything postmillennial here. He is using large words and educational language to state that the Bible is God’s inerrant Word, that God created the world as He wanted it, and that He reveals Himself in Scripture and that should be the basis of eschatology. This is such a basic statement of faith that almost no Christian could disagree, and, it fits what the Bible says very well…thus he can use multiple citations.

We’ll move on to Chapter 4, Introduction to Postmillennialism. Chapter 2 outlined his purpose for writing the book…that his ideas have been misunderstood; Chapter 3 is all about how terrible the Premillennialists are. He spends a good deal of time complaining and putting other views down: it’s quite off-putting. But, on to Chapter 4:

“The dispensational error in defining non-premillennial eschatological systems is traceable to its focusing on Revelation 20, in its assumption that this passage controls those systems…The postmillennialist, however, is reluctant to begin systemic definition with one of the last and most symbolic books of the Bible. Consequently, the much debated Revelation 20 passage is, frankly, not determinative for postmillennialism. 

“An appropriate, systematic definition of postmillennialism would include a number of key elements. It should be understood, of course, that ancient church fathers who held optimistic expectations for the progress of Christianity, and who may be called ‘postmillennial,’ would not hold to a full-blown systematic postmillennialism as outlined below.”

So, “postmillennialism,” named after the “millennium,” as talked about in Revelation 20, isn’t really about the interpretation of millennialism in Revelation 20, or as he puts it: isn’t “controlled” by Revelation 20. This appears to be the bait-and-switch technique being used ad nauseam in this decade. You redefine words and ideas to mean something else and then call everyone else stupid, crazy, or racist because they didn’t know you were going to do that. And then in the next paragraph, he let’s us know that really the Early Church Fathers were postmillennial, but not “full-blown.” His implication here is that if you are “optimistic” about the future, then you must be postmillennial. Premillennials are supremely optimistic about the future: Christ is coming soon!

Back to the quote:

“First, postmillennialism is that system of eschatology which holds the Messianic kingdom was founded upon the earth during the earthly ministry and through the redemptive labors of the Lord Jesus Christ. This establishment of the ‘kingdom of heaven’ was in fulfillment of Old Testament prophetic expectation…In postmillennialism, the Church becomes the fulfilled/transformed Israel, being called ‘the Israel of God’ (Gal. 6:16).”

15For in Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.  16And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:15-16; KJV)

While this quote looks like it means what Mr. Gentry says it means, it does not. Paul is saying that we who believe in Christ become a people of God. That does not mean that we replace the Jewish people in his covenants. We are the bride of Christ, we are people of God, we are not replacing Israel. For a good, concise explanation of this, go to: icej.org/understand-israel/biblical-teachings/the-challenge-of-replacement-theology/

Onward with explaining postmillennialism:

“Second, the fundamental nature of that kingdom is essentially redemptive and spiritual rather than political and corporeal. Although it has implications for the political realm, postmillennialism is not essentially political, offering a kingdom in competition with geopolitical nations for governmental rule. Christ rules His kingdom spiritually in and through His people in the world (representation), as well as by His universal providence.”

We’re back to Revelation 20 again, which describes Christ ruling all the people on the earth, physically not ‘spiritually’…and that sounds rather political to me. Mr. Gentry is implying here that we are already in the Millennium, with Christ reigning from Heaven rather than on earth (and, of course, with satan bound in the pit…).

Next point:

“Third, because of the intrinsic power and design of Christ’s redemption, His kingdom will exercise a transformational sociocultural influence in history. This will occur as more and more people are converted to Christ, not by a minority revolt and seizure of political power. ‘[T]he essential distinctive of postmillennialism is its scripturally derived, sure expectation of gospel prosperity for the church during the present age.’” 

I would say yes, Christ’s redemption has exercised a transformational effect on the world. And no, it did not happen as a “minority revolt and seizure of political power.” The last sentence is a problem though: “‘[T]he essential distinctive of postmillennialism is its scripturally derived, sure expectation of gospel prosperity for the church during the present age.’” He offers no quotes from the Bible to back this up, he is just quoting another contemporary author. The only scriptural quotes I’ve ever seen for the prosperity of the church have been taken out of context. The main promise for the church was persecution, not scads of money and power.

And the next point:

“Fourth, postmillennialism, thus, expects the gradual, developmental expansion of the kingdom of Christ in time and on earth…Christ’s personal presence on earth is not needed for the expansion of His kingdom. All of this kingdom expansion will be directed and blessed by the ever-present Christ, Who is now enthroned as King at the right hand of God, ruling and reigning over the earth.”

The implications of this are that Jesus will never reign on earth, and that the church (which one?) will have greater influence and prosperity as it builds the kingdom of Christ. Yet, we see just the opposite: the churches are being destroyed, ignored, and made apostate. Christians undergo more and more persecution around the world. And while the ‘church’ did expand for some time in both size and influence: as it became more secure, it became increasingly apostate. The church has always been stronger during times and in places of persecution. So, how completely can the church transform society when, as soon as it is safe, it is corrupted?

Yet another point:

“Fifth, postmillennialism confidently anticipates a time in earth history (continuous with the present) in which the very gospel already operative in the world will win the victory throughout the earth in fulfillment of the Great Commission…During that time the overwhelming majority of men and nations will be Christianized, righteousness will abound, wars will cease, and prosperity and safety will flourish…’It will be characterized by great temporal prosperity.’”

We can do it! We can do it all! Aren’t we terrific? We didn’t really need Christ at all. Just give us the message and we can carry the whole thing out. I know, I know…he said earlier that Christ was “ever present.” But what about all the wars fought between Christian nations when each one was sure that Christ was on their side? Which side was He really on? The winner’s side? And then there is the idea that because a nation is “Christianized” that “righteousness will abound”: Christians are not perfect. We may have the righteousness of Christ before God, but we are very imperfect with each other here on earth.

I also want to repeat here, Mr Gentry uses a lot of quotes, I left one in the last quote I pulled, but very rarely does he quote the Bible…he just claims scriptural authority.

We would move on to the 6th point, but he skipped number 6, so on to number 7:

…Seventh, possibly ‘we can look forward to a great “golden age” of spiritual prosperity continuing for centuries, or even for millenniums, during which time Christianity shall be triumphant over all the earth.’After this extended period of gospel prosperity, earth history will draw to a close by the personal, visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ (accompanied by a literal resurrection and a general judgment) to introduce His blood-bought people into the consummative and eternal form of the kingdom. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

To sum this up: once we’ve spread the Gospel far and wide, we will all be happy, wealthy, and wise, live a long time (maybe millennia) in this state, and then Jesus will return, after we’ve fixed the place up. Again, no Bible references to bolster this position.

Mr. Gentry goes on to attempt to dispute books that say that the Early Church Fathers were premillennial until Clement in the third century. He does not quote from very manyof the Early Church Fathers, and when he does, he cherry picks the hints that maybe someone else is believing something else. For instance, he quotes Eusebius (~325) talking about Papias (60-100) spreading premillennialism: “But it was due to him that so many [not “all”!] of the Church Fathers after him adopted a like opinion, urging in their own support the antiquity of the man.” He had to add the “not ‘all’!” lest we miss it, and he was unable to tell us what the ‘others’ believed, or even who they were. And, this quote is from the 4th century, long after Papias actually lived. No one doubts the spread of ‘other’ ideas by the 4th century.

Most of the time Mr. Gentry prefers to use general quotes from other books that disagree. And sometimes he messes it up. Here’s an example:

[George] Peters’ mistakes were powerfully analyzed and conclusively rebutted in a 1977 Dallas Theological Seminary master’s thesis by (then) dispensationalist Alan Patrick Boyd. According to Boyd, he ‘originally undertook the thesis to bolster the {dispensational} system by patristic research, but the evidence of the original sources simply disallowed this.’ He ends up lamenting that ‘this writer believes that the Church rapidly fell from New Testament truth, and this is very evident in the realm of eschatology. Only in modern times has New Testament eschatological truth been recovered.’ As a consequence of his research, Boyd urges his fellow dispensationalists to ‘avoid reliance on men like Geo. N. H. Peters … whose historical conclusions regarding premillennialism . . . in the early church have been proven to be largely in error.’” 

As you can see, his refutation of Mr. Peters book is done by using someone else’s ideas. And never does he present positive proof of what he is trying to prove…he just works to tear down the idea he doesn’t like. But did you catch: “this writer believes that the Church rapidly fell from New Testament truth”? This is the mess-up, because part of that “New Testament truth” was premillennialism. 

Mr. Gentry himself states that Mr. Boyd was a dispensationalist at the time he wrote this (and dispensationalism has nothing to do with how a person interprets the Millennium). And as a presumably premillennial dispensationalist, if he read the Early Church Fathers, he would despair of the New Testament teaching of that time. Not for the reasons Mr. Gentry implies, but because premillennial dispensationalism is based on the New Testament teaching, and seeing that teaching getting so corrupted so early is very discouraging. However, there was definitely a nascent premillennialism in patristic times. It may not have been exactly as Mr. Boyd wanted to see it, but it was there…even a non-PhD candidate like me could see that.

That’s enough for today. We should be looking at the 21st century books of Adrian Rogers, John McArthur, and Greg Laurie next time. And after the second post on the 21st century we will start the verse-by-verse study! 

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