- Most Reformation leaders followed the amillenni-alism of St. Augustine (354-430), who interpreted the biblical millennium or kingdom of God alle-gorically. The kingdom was inaugurated by Christ's ministry, and it continues to exist alongside the worldly kingdom of Babylon; its full benefits will only be realized at some unknowable future date. However, Protestantism also contains two minority streams. Premillennialism, which suggests that the kingdom is still to come, usually in the predictable or near future, has thrived in unhappy times; postmillennialism, which suggests that history is already advancing toward an era of peace and brotherhood, has thrived in more optimistic eras.Daniel Whitby (1638-1725), a minister in the Church of England and pastor of St. Edmund's Church, Salisbury, was an early postmillennialist. He suggested that the spread of Christianity throughout the earth presaged the gradual emergence of a reign of peace and brotherhood leading to a millennial kingdom on earth.No special act of God was needed to bring this kingdom, save the influence of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers. The approach of the kingdom would be manifested in the downfall of the pope and of Islam, the return of the Jews to Palestine, the conversion of the world to Christian faith, the overcoming of evil in Christian society, and the spread of piety and holiness in people's lives.The view was popularized in the mid-18th century by leaders such as Jonathan Edwards, who saw in the Great Awakening a step to the coming kingdom. Postmillennialism gained strength over the next century, though such traumas as the French Revolution and the American Civil War sapped that strength in certain countries and decades. Postmillennialism fed off several phenomena: the great social crusades of 19th-century America to stamp out slavery, alcohol abuse, and war, and to bring women into public life; the revivalism of evangelists such as Charles G. Finney; and social experiments like the perfectionist colony at Oneida, New York. Its secular counterpart was the faith in progress that was confirmed by the rapid advance of technology.Postmillennialism found new energy in the Social Gospel movement and the vision of equality offered by socialism. While such optimism was largely wiped out by World War I in Europe, it took World War ii to destroy it in the United States.After several decades in which little was heard from postmillennial voices, a new form arose in what has been termed the Reconstructions movement, advocated by a cadre of contemporary conservative Calvinist spokespersons. Recon-structionists marry postmillennial beliefs to a program for the reconstruction of society by way of a theonomic model. Aiming for a rule by God's law (theonomy), Reconstructionists look for the Mosaic law to be enacted as the law of the land, believing that it is God's purpose to bring all nations into subjection to Christ.See also eschatology.Further reading:■ Darrell L. Bock, ed., Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1999)■ Kenneth Gentry Jr., He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology (Tyler, Tex.: Institute for Christian Economic, 1992)■ Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed Press, 1999)■ Daniel Whitby, Paraphrase and Commentary on the New Testament, With a Treatise on the True Millennium (London: William Tegg, 1899); , Six Discourses, concerning I. Election and Reprobation, II. Extent of Christ's Redemption, III. The Grace of God, IV. Liberty of the Will, V. Defectibility of the Saints, VI. Answer to Three Objections (Worcester, Mass.: Isaiah Thomas, Jr., 1801).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.