A criticism that I have heard about the optimistic view of eschatology (post-millennialism), the view seeking to see Christ’s kingdom built up here in on earth in time and history, is that this view somehow diminishes our hoping for and longing for the return of Christ and the final consummation of all things. Somehow believing the promises that Christ will place his enemies under his feet through the growth of his kingdom now and in the future will keep us from longing for and looking forward to the blessed return of our savior Jesus Christ. I think that this criticism is hogwash. It mistakes the post-millennial view for utopianism which is a common straw man that critics of post-millennialism like to burn.
Somehow the argument is that if one believes that Christ is building his kingdom and he is using his people to do so that his people will take their eyes off of the future hope of glory. They might think that establishing a utopia on earth is all that we need therefore there will be no need for Christ to return. They can have their paradise without Christ. I think it is fair to say that a common temptation to man is to seek to build a paradise apart from Christ but this isn’t particular to or even a part of biblical post-millennialism. It is the common temptation of all sinful men to love the world and the things of it.
But Christians are to be different. We are to seek the kingdom of God. If post-mill theology is about anything it is about seeking the kingdom of God. It is about praying “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Secondly, this critique seems to imply that by seeking to be used by God to build his kingdom and by having faith that Christ will actually use his people to accomplish this in time, we are not able to also long for and hope for Christ’s return. Again, this is the accusation of wanting paradise without Christ. This is false. Christians long to see their master face to face. We love and treasure Christ above all things. He is worthy of our praise, adoration, and love. The Kingdom cannot be complete without our King and yet we also long to see his name made much of in the earth. We long to see his gospel obeyed throughout all the ends of the earth. We long to be obedient to him.
Let me give an analogy from scripture. Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land because he had faith that God had given them that land. He had faith that they would battle and be victorious by the power of God. It was the generation before him who lacked faith that God would do what he said. They died not every seeing God’s temporal promise come true. Their lack of faith was disobedience to God and they wandered in the desert until they died. But Joshua had faith in God that he would do what he said. Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land.
Joshua 21:43 says Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the Land which he swore to give to their fathers; and having taken possession of it they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their fathers; not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.
But notice what the book of Hebrews says in chapter 4 verse 8: 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. There was still more to come for Joshua. There was still the glorious future with Christ. Joshua still had something more to hope for even though God had given him victory in Canaan. Joshua believed the promises of God all the way through to the end. There was no competition between the faith in completing the taking of the promised land and faith in eternity with Christ. Joshua’s faith that God would accomplish what he promised on earth did not deter his faith in what God would do through the coming Messiah.
This is the story of Joshua, Abraham, Moses, and David. Faith in God’s promises during their lives and faith looking forward to Christ, faith looking for the final glorious consummation of Christ. Their faith to do what God had set their hand to did not lesson their hope in Christ.
The hope that Christ is building his kingdom in time and history and that he is using his church to do so does not in any way take away from or diminish our hope in the glorious return of Christ. We long for the day when He returns. We long to see our Master. We long to see death defeated. We long to see him face to face. All the while, we also believe his promises that the gospel will be victorious on the earth. We long to see this true as well. We long to see nations and kings come to Christ. We long to see his law obeyed in the land. And we believe that he will do it. Therefore, with faith we cross the Jordan and go into the land of the giants and by the grace of God we take dominion. We live by faith in the Son of God all the way through. This faith that Christ will defeat his enemies in time and space and that He will then return to defeat death is our motivation. It lets us know that our suffering is not in vain. The deaths of martyrs are not wasted. They are precious to God and to his saints. They are some of the blocks Christ uses to build his kingdom. Our suffering is not meaningless. This life isn’t just a game we play until we get to the big leagues. In Christ, our lives, our suffering, our sacrifices matter. They matter for the here and now. They matter for the future. They matter for the kingdom.
No, the post-millennial hope is not at odds with the blessed hope of our inheritance found in Christ. No, these are not two competing hopes. We have hope that Christ will build his kingdom and we have hope that Christ will complete his kingdom. We hope all the way through all of God’s promises. That is why we don’t sit around waiting just to be rescued out of here. We have a battle we have been called to. We also don’t sit around grumbling and complaining that we would rather be back in Egypt. We have work to do. And therefore , my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.