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Postmillenial interpretation of Revelation 19:11-16

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This article in it's entirety, along with bibliography can be read at this link http://www.berith.org/essays/esch/esch23.html  This article in it's entirety, just as this entire Bible study, isn't very long in it's entirety. The entire Bible study from a Postmillenialist perspective that this excerpt is but the final appendix of is available at this link http://www.berith.org/essays/esch/  This study will stop short of an entire global conquest, but not all Postmillenialists do.  Some envision the winning of the entire world to Christ.  I've given this excerpt simply because it lays things out the simplest, and the most concise of all that I've read online so far.  I hope it's clear to all how this interpretation and system of interpretation easily connects to UR as it's logical, Scriptural next step.

The book of Revelation ends with seven visions, each beginning with the words "and I saw."  The first of these visions, recorded in Revelation 19:11-16, is a classic proof text for premillennialism and therefore a good passage with which to test postmillennial exegesis. Can postmillennialism deal faithfully with what seems to many modern readers to be an unequivocally premillennial passage of Scripture?

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself.
And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
And the armies in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

Literal Interpretation?

According to the premillennial commentator John F. Walvoord, "This passage contains one of the most graphic pictures of the second coming of Christ to be found anywhere in Scripture." He further explains:

As is made clear in these prophecies Zech. 14:3-4; Mt. 24:27-31; etc., the second coming of Christ will be a glorious event which all the world will behold, both believers and unbelievers. It is compared to lightning that shines from the east to the west, in other words, illuminating the whole heaven. The second coming will be preceded by the sun being darkened and the moon not giving her light, stars falling from heaven, and other phenomena not only mentioned in Matthew 24 but vividly revealed in the Revelation. The climax to all these events will be the return of Christ himself in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory and accompanied by the saints. The final revelation of this event is found in Revelation 19.

Either Walvoord has some very strange, though not necessarily unpopular, ideas about the second coming of Christ or he is speaking of Biblical symbols as if they were literal, perhaps for the sake of rhetorical effect. He refers, for example, to stars falling. Revelation 6:13, one of the passages he has in mind, is actually more specific: "the stars of the sky fell to the earth." Walvoord comments on the paragraph that includes this remarkable prophecy, "Students of Revelation have had difficulty interpreting this passage and the tendency has been to regard these judgments as symbolic rather than real. The motive behind this interpretation has been a reluctance to accept a literal interpretation of these judgments at this time . . ."  He goes on to argue that there are "a number of reasons for preferring to take this passage in its literal meaning."  He even quotes E. W. Bullinger's assertion that, "It is impossible for us to take this as symbolical; or as other than what it literally says. The difficulties of the symbolical interpretation are insuperable, while no difficulties whatever attend the literal interpretation."

Apart from the fact that the Bible never uses the language of stars falling from the sky as literal language -- the most important difficulty for the literal interpretation -- there is the minor problem of John's actual words, "the stars of the sky fell to the earth." Just how many "stars," most of which are larger than the sun, does Walvoord think can fall to the earth without doing more damage than the poor planet can sustain? Interestingly, Walvoord's literal interpretation of this passage does not deal with the difficult phrase "fell to the earth," except in the most general terms like "disturbances in the heavens." Unfortunately for Walvoord's literalism, John's language is clear and unmistakable. John says that "stars" -- no escape can be found in hermeneutical gymnastics with the original Greek -- "fell to the earth" -- again, the Greek is clear and accurately translated.

Returning to Revelation 19, it is all the more remarkable to observe that although for Walvoord the falling of stars to the earth is literal language, Jesus riding on a white horse is a symbol. He says that John is referring to the "symbolism of a rider on a white horse drawn from the custom of conquerors riding on a white horse as a sign of victory in triumph."  Why is it more difficult to imagine Jesus riding a white horse from heaven than to imagine a multitude of giant fire-balls, each larger than the sun, falling to planet earth? Why is the "graphic picture" of Christ's second coming couched in figurative language?

Even if Walvoord's literalism could make room for the horse, other elements of this passage cause problems. Some Greek texts do not include the important -- for the literalist interpretation -- word "as" before the description of Jesus' eyes as a "flame of fire." John says that there are "many crowns" on Jesus' head. His robe is dipped in blood. And He has a sharp sword coming out of His mouth. To be brief, a literal interpretation of this passage would be grotesque beyond imagination. In the final analysis the most enthusiastic literalist regards the language here as figurative.

But, the literal interpreter will insist, even if the language is figurative, it is speaking about the literal coming of Christ. This is simply not true. Once again, it is important to consider the actual words of the text. There is no reference to Jesus' coming to the earth or to a "parousia." The idea of the second coming is read into the passage on the basis of the theological presuppositions of the interpreter. What the text actually says is that Jesus will "judge and make war." John speaks of Jesus riding a white horse and leading a heavenly army to subdue the nations and bring them into submission to Him. This is the unmistakable "literal" content of the symbolic language. Whether Jesus conquers the nations by physical violence at the time of His second coming or by the Gospel prior to His second coming is a question that is decided by other passages of Scripture. Neither the premillennialist nor the postmillennialist can find a simple symbolic statement of his eschatology here.

Biblical Interpretation
Close attention to the language of the text and its use in other passages of Scripture suggests that John is using common Biblical figures of speech to speak not of the second coming of Christ, but of the conquest of the nations by the Gospel. It is true that because John is speaking of covenantal conquest, the language is similar to the kind of expressions we would expect in a prophecy of the final judgment of the nations at Christ's coming. Indeed, the second coming of Christ is just the climax of a long historical process. Similarity of language, however, does not mean identitical meaning. John is referring to the present period of "discipling the nations" by the Gospel. In particular three important considerations point to the covenantal spread of the Gospel: 1) the New Testament teaching about the conquest of the nations; 2) the figurative use of martial symbolism; 3) a comparison of John's language with the use of the same or similar expressions in other Scriptures.

Every Enemy Subdued

The New Testament teaches in no uncertain terms that Jesus is now, during the present age of the Gospel, subduing every enemy. He has been crowned King of kings and Lord of lords at His ascension to the right hand of God (Acts 2:34ff; 5:31; Eph. 1:18ff.; Heb. 1:3; 10:12; etc.). All authority in heaven and on earth is already His (Mt. 28:18). Furthermore, the clearest passage in the Bible on the time of the second coming of Christ includes the declaration that Jesus, who is now reigning over God's creation (Mt. 28:18), "must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet" (1 Cor. 15:25). Paul is quoting Psalm 110:1, the Psalm of the Messiah as Melchizedekian King-Priest, frequently quoted in the New Testament. Jesus' reign, including the defeat of all enemies, is the logical application of his cross: "but he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; henceforth expecting till his enemies be made the footstool of his feet" (Heb. 10:12-13). It should not be necessary to point out that "enemy" is the vocabulary of martial symbolism.

It may be necessary, however, to remind ourselves that subduing the enemy is the language of covenantal blessing. Beginning with Abraham's defeat of Chedorlaomer (Gn. 14:13ff.; cf. esp. vs. 20), God's defeating of Israel's enemies is a repeated feature of covenantal blessing. After offering up Isaac, Abraham is promised: "thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies" (Gn. 22:17). Rebekah receives the same blessing when she goes to marry Isaac (Gn. 24:60). Judah, whose descendents become the leading tribe of Israel, is given the same blessing, too (Gn. 49:8). In short, the Old Testament promise of covenantal blessing included as an essential aspect the curse on those who cursed Abraham (Gn. 12:3), which is elaborated in many passages as a promise that God will defeat Israel's enemies (cf. Ex. 15:6; 23:22; Lv. 26:7-8; Nm. 10:9, 35; Dt. 20:3-4; 23:14; 28:7; etc.).  It is natural, then, that John seeing in a vision the Messiah's covenantal victory should picture it in terms of warfare.

Martial Symbolism

No one disputes the fact that the Abrahamic covenant is the background for the New Testament Gospel (Gal. 3:6ff.). But this means that the martial language of the Abrahamic promise is brought into the New Testament also. Most importantly, it is found frequently associated with the preaching and spread of the Gospel. This will only be a surprise to those who have forgotten the typological meaning of the conquest of Canaan. In the conquest God sent His people to conquer the land of Canaan by an exceptional form of warfare (cf. Dt. 20:1-20, esp. vs. 16-18) as an application of the curse of the Abrahamic covenant -- "I will . . . curse him that curseth thee" (Gn. 12:3b). The land promised to Abraham and conquered by war was a symbol of the world promised to Christ and conquered by the Gospel. Paul alludes to the symbolism of Canaan representing the world when he says that Abraham is the covenantal "heir of the world" (Rom. 4:13). Implied in the original promise that Abraham would be the source of blessing for the world (Gn. 12:3c) was the fuller statement of the promise in Genesis 22:17-18 in which the conquest of enemies and the blessing of the world are inseparably yoked: "in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."

Both the covenantal conquest of Canaan by military forces under Joshua and the covenantal conquest of the world through covenantal preaching under Joshua-Jesus are a fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise. This leads to the use of martial language to describe the conquest of the world by the Gospel, the fulfillment of the Canaan-conquest typology. more

Again, this article in it's entirety, along with bibliography can be read at this link http://www.berith.org/essays/esch/esch23.html  This article in it's entirety, just as this entire Bible study on Postmillenialism, isn't very long compared to several other works on this subject that have been published. The entire Bible study from a Postmillenialist perspective that this excerpt is but the final appendix of is available at this link http://www.berith.org/essays/esch/  This study will stop short of an entire global conquest, but not all Postmillenialists do.  Some envision the winning of the entire world to Christ.  I've given this excerpt simply because it lays things out the simplest, and the most concise of all that I've read online so far.

Not my article again, but I like it's conciseness on this subject.  This is from this link http://www.homesteaderlife.christianagrarian.com/postmillenialism-and-agrarianism

Postmillenialism and Agrarianism
Once upon a time a lady named Angela asked what Postmillenialism was and what it had to do with Agrarianism. A dear friend responded with these words and I thought them so very well chosen that I gave them their own page…..

Postmillenialism is the view that Jesus Christ came to earth, died, was buried, was raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father Almighty where he presently rules, and will continue to rule, until he has put all of his enemies under his feet, and that he will then turn the kingdom over to his Father …

That God has always ruled, but that his kingdom was established in a particular way on earth during the incarnation of Christ, and that its growth is like yeast in a lump of dough … it works slowly, and imperceptibly at times, but very really, and over a period of time the result is obvious …

That its growth is from small to large (like a tiny mustard seed which, when planted, grows into the largest of garden bushes, big enough for all the birds to nest in) …

That it is like a small stone which struck the kingdoms of man, and began to grow, and will continue to grow until it becomes a huge mountain that fills the entire earth …

That there are many Old Testament prophecies about the kingdom, but some of them give time indicators that place its inception at the time of Christ. For example, Daniel talks about the 4 kingdoms from his time until the establishment of the eternal kingdom (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome) and that in the days of the final of these four, the eternal kingdom will be established (Daniel 2, Daniel 7); also, 490 years from the decree that ends the Babylonian captivity and rebuilds Jerusalem until Messiah's ministry (Daniel 9) …

That the time of this establishment was confirmed by Peter (Acts 2) and that within the generation of Christ, the signs were clear that the Son of Man was ruling in the heavens as he destroyed the enemies that had crucified him and persecuted his church (Matthew 24) …

And that ever since, the kingdom has marched forward, so that now, instead of one nation (Israel) of whom a FEW were faithful (a few thousand after Pentecost), now the church covers all the earth, and about one third of the earths 6+ billion people profess to be subjects of Christ. (We are well aware that there are many false professors. Nevertheless, from a few thousand to over 2 billion who profess Christ shows a slow but steady growth in the kingdom of God.)

The name postmillenialism is relatively new (several hundred years old), but most of the concepts have been held by much of the church during many periods of history. The view came to its height among the descendants of the Protestant Reformation, particularly the Puritans and their spiritual relatives who founded America in the 1600's. My particular background is Baptist, and this view was predominant among Baptist ranks until the early 20th century. David Dockery speaks particularly of Southern Baptists:

Nineteenth century Southern Baptist theology was predominantly postmillennial. This position was held by the founders of Southern Seminary and Southwestern Seminary. This postmillennialism was the type held by the Puritans and Jonathan Edwards. They were looking for God's kingdom to come. A thoroughgoing postmillenialism undergirds the WMU theme song, "We've a Story to Tell to the Nations" In that hymn we sing, "Christ's great kingdom shall come on earth, a kingdom of love and light." Postmillenialism was the dominant position until World War I. After that, W.T. Conner and E.Y. Mullins were amillennialists, and that became the Southern Baptist position in Southern Baptist academia during the twentieth century. (http://www.baptiststart.com/print/eschatology_panel.html)

The causes for the demise of postmillenialism in the past century are surely many, but the basic pattern was: pride, followed by despair. As liberalism made inroads during the nineteenth century (German theologians who threw the Bible out and adopted naturalism instead), people began to see the kingdom of God as the accomplishment of mankind getting better and better (progress, evolution, etc.) rather than the accomplishment of God building his work on the earth. Human pride exalted human ability. Then came World War I, in which the dream of human utopia was shattered. Out of this despair, the very notion that God would build his kingdom came under fire, and men began to believe that good and evil would be essentially equal on earth (amillenialism), or that evil would predominate (dispensational premillenialism) until the physical presence of Jesus changed that. However, as one climbs to the peak of a mountain, every step is not upward. There are many downward steps, but the climb is still up overall. In the same way, in the growth of God's kingdom, not every period is upward. In the Western world (due, I must say, to our apostasy), we are in a dramatic downward swing. But God has revived his church in worse times! And his kingdom is still moving forward. His word is clear that it was established at Christ's incarnation, and that it will continue to grow steadily until the end, until the knowledge of the LORD shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Downward spirals will be replaced by repentance and restoration, and new (and higher) heights. Ultimately, God will put all his enemies under his feet (Psalm 110, the Old Testament passage most quoted in the New Testament), and he will do that through his church (Romans 16:20, Revelation 2:26-27) — that is, what is described of Jesus is specifically attributed to his church in these passages.

What does that have to do with agrarianism? First, agrarianism can mean 1000 things. Scott, Tom (Rural Missourian), Herrick (Deliberate Agrarian) mean Biblical agrarianism, or Christian agrarianism when they say agrarianism. It simply means to steward the land according to the law of God. Since the root of economics and wealth is the land, and what our labor draws forth from the land, this means simply that all economics are to be subject to the law that God has set forth. This has everything to do with postmillenialism, because it is as God grants repentance to his church, and they begin to live faithfully according to the law he has given (by which it is obvious that they are born of Him, love Him, love the brethren; and His law, BTW, is not grievous - 1 John 5:1-3) that the kingdom begins to reverse from the valley, and moves on an upward path again. And, by that same repentance, and the patient obedience which issues forth therefrom, economic revitalization happens .. that is through faithful, obedient stewarding of the land. The current pagan economic system promises great wealth and material possession immediately (or yesterday) through debt. Biblical agrarianism requires patience, but guarantees a bigger return in the end (multi-generational thinking). It is the same patience that sees the slow, but very real, growth of the kingdom of God over the centuries. I guess that is why sometimes people hold to both. They are two facets of the same coin, really.

As far as the Law comments in the last paragraph, those are obviously references to theonomy.  Whereas many people have the heevie jeevies over the idea of "Law," that's no reason to toss the article over those isolated statements.  Just simply read it as "New Testament law of love."


--- Quote from: Taffy on August 20, 2008, 08:40:35 PM ---hey Martin...im going to have to look up these terms\definitions as to what a POST millenialist is :dontknow:....That may give a better understanding of what your saying... :icon_flower:
--- End quote ---
Postmillenialism: Though the millenium may be future, it's not preceded by the coming of Christ, as in the premillenial Hal Lindsey type of view.  In Postmillenialism, Jesus comes back after the millenium to bring the resurrection, New heavens and New Earth.  This millenial view is the view that after the devil is bound that the Church through the preaching of the Gospel will convert and disciple the nations.  It's often spoken of, by it's adherents, as the Golden Age of the Church 'cause it'll be a time of unprecidented prosperity for the Church. 

It's begun by a massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit (i.e. the two-edged sword protruding from the mouth of Christ in Revelation 19 as Christ and the armies of heaven are advancing in that spiritual vision).  Of the three millenial views, including premillenialism and amillenialism, Postmillenialism to me reconciles the most easily with UR.  In different ways and for different reasons both premillenialism and amillenialism have elements of fatalism inherent in their theology, whereas Postmillenialism is the most upbeat and optimistic about the Holy Spirit's power being released to change absolutely anything and everything. 

B.B. Warfield, a Princeton professor in the 19th century, who was a Calvinist and didn't believe in UR didn't like the millenial tag and preferred to call this "eschatological universalism."  He's thought to have gone way too far by other Calvinists who hold to the Postmillenial position in that Warfield believed that when the Holy Spirit was poured out that there wouldn't remain a single unbeliever on the planet.  Other Postmillenialists just believe that the vast majority of people on earth will come to Christ during the millenium.  I'm not sure if it's still that way, but from the days of Jonathan Edwards to at least Warfield, Postmillenialism was the official eschatological position of Princeton's School of Divinity. 

I was a total premillenialist, pre-trib rapture, 7yr trib believer until 2006 when in the fall I started preaching about the coming of Christ after the millenium at the few speaking engagements that I had that fall.  I had never heard of the view before.  Anyway, it was so shocking to me that I kept saying that with such exuberance and conviction that it lead to reading the book of Revelation in 2007 over and over and over again from the Concordant Literal New Testament and from Scarlett's New Testament.  And I looked up the book of Revelation at wikipedia and within a link or two of that I found their page on Postmillenialism and finally knew what to call the position. 

I was completely surprised 'cause I'd never run across it before in any of the theological dictionaries that I'd read through before and it hadn't come up in any other books that I'd read.  I was like...."well...I guess I'm an Absolute Postmillenialist."  This is the link to the wikipedia page on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmillennialism

To me, premillenialism and amillenialism tend to "proof text" rather than simply take the Scriptures in their setting in Scripture.  Amillenialism was the belief of St. Augustine and it corresponded to his doctrine of election and that the Church would always be this real small force in the world acheiving very little.  Premillenialism, according to several papers that I've read, seems to have come into the Church from Zoarastrianism.  It's a persian doctrine that corresponds with and compliments their version of ET. 

My one apprehension about Postmillenialist teachers that I've seen thus far is that they'll tend to be overly zealous about preterism to the exclusion of any futurist teachings about anything, and they'll try to treat the doctrine as inseparable from theonomy which is a belief in imposing Mosaic law on the culture.  I personally believe that Postmillenialism should be looked at separately, for clarity reasons and also to bring more people into embracing it without prematurely getting them into theories about societal law. 

Because of how Postmillenialism has been married by some teachers with preterism, as though it were inseparable, then they've muddied the waters to where a lot of theologians even can't tell the difference between Postmillenialism and Amillenialism and they'll erroneously say that Postmillenialism is just Optimistic Amillenialism.  I personally do believe in a future millenium that we're starting to teeter on the edges of.  But when preterism is carried to an extreme by a teacher to the exclusion of even mentioning that some hold to partial preterism and views about future applications of Bible prophecy, then the implication is created that Postmillenialists simply view the millenium as the period of time between Christ's first and second coming, which is erroneous.  That's Amillenialism and not Postmillenialism. 

But when you eliminate the future, where's this Golden Age of Gospel Evangelism and Discipleship supposed to come in if you're trying to blend "realized eschatology" with Postmillenialism?  I personally believe that they're incompatible, although some people will try to force the two views together in an unhealthy way.  Postmillenialism is the view of the progress of the Church from Church-militant to Church-triumphant and a very definite view of a glorious future that we're walking into where the Kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ because the Great Commission is being fulfilled.  This differs from the Premillenial view that says that Christ is going to come back and do all that He told us to do with winning, judging, and discipling the nations.

I need to remember to add these: "?" to my questions :laughing7:

Genuinely worth reading, if it takes you a whole week to get through all 95 short points.  They're generally short, but it is 95 of them!

The Ninety-Five Theses Against Dispensationalism

The above 95 thesis that's written against Dispensationalism is an absolute must read.


Martin and ALL...I hope this ties into this discussion somewhere.  If not, I had thought of starting a new thread for it.  If need be, just bump it where it belongs.

Sometimes I like a simple, step-by-step outline in my head that I can then plug other thoughts into and around.  Almost everyone I know believes what I'm about to put down, and I hear statements related to it in one way or another when I'm around my family and other "church" folks...and this is what I've been taught for many years. 

As you Martin, I've really been looking at more of an at least partial preterist POV (Matthew 24 for instance being fulfilled in 70 AD), and I know WilliH you have some thoughts about NOW vs. futurism, etc.

So again, SIMPLE, straightforward outlines would be appreciated...here's the "mainstream" view as I interpret it and understand it...somebody please provide some other thoughts and OUTLINES AS YOU UNDERSTAND SCRIPTURE.
According to mainstream, starting right now, headed toward....

1.  The "End Times", things getting worse and worse, "great falling away".
2.  The "rapture"
3.  7 year tribulation, revival of Temple Worship, AntiChrist, etc. (2nd 3.5 year period much worse than first 3.5 years)
4.  Jesus physically returns with saints who are already in heaven!? and does battle somehow with Satan's armies (Armageddon)
5.  Satan defeated, unsaved thrown into hell
6.  Jesus reigns ON EARTH 1,000 years (reigning over who/what, if saved in heaven, unsaved in hell?)
7.  Satan released, does battle again (against who/what?)
8.  Satan defeated again
9.  Saved (back?) to heaven, unsaved to hell, "forever".

Somewhere in there, there's a mark of the beast, 2 witnesses seen on CNN, Jesus physically stands on Mt. Olive and ALL eyes see him, there's a resurrection or 2, and a judgment or 2 in which a literal Book of Life is read and eveyone's sins announced....Within this belief system that mainstream has, besides the basic accuracy-to-scripture aspect, seems to me there are things that don't fit, i.e., back and forth to and from heaven, how many resurrections, re-establishment of Temple Worship... :mshock: 

Thanks, James.


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