Why James B. Jordan's Postmillennialism Requires a Local Flood
by Tim Martin
January 2, 2012
I have always enjoyed reading James B. Jordan's books and articles. That is not to say that I always agree with his perspective, but he does make you think. His 1988 book titled Through New Eyes had a major impact on me as a teen studying theology for the very first time.
Jordan is a young-earth creationist in print. His 1999 book titled Creation in Six Days lays out his views as a strong young-earth advocate. He noted in passing that he became convinced of young-earth creationism as a senior in college while reading the writings of John C. Whitcomb (CiSD, p. 25). He also explained that his views on Genesis have developed along the way as he noticed some "problems with the 'scientific creationist' approach" (CiSD, p. 26). However, Jordan has repeatedly endorsed the three pillars of modern young-earth creationism which are as follows: 1) Genesis 1 as the creation of the physical universe in 6 ordinary days, 2) biological death as a result of the fall, and 3) a global Genesis flood in the days of Noah.
Jordan has also been a stalwart defender of postmillennial eschatology over the years. This view says that human history is now living in the millennium spoken of in Revelation 20, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ will increase and grow to convert essentially the entire planet Earth to Christianity. His version of postmillennialism is partial-preterist in regard to New Testament prophecies. He views the Olivet Discourse, 2 Peter 3, and most of the book of Revelation as fulfilled in the first century with events that culminated with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Jordan's 2007 commentary on the book of Daniel, Handwriting on the Wall, lays out these views in a fairly systematic fashion.
That means Jordan assigns the Great Tribulation to our distant past and now looks forward to a glorious fulfillment of Jesus' Great Commission in history. The postmillennial hope is that all the nations on planet Earth will one day come into salvation and the knowledge of God, being made into the disciples of Jesus Christ. Postmillennialists contrast their "optimistic" view of the future with premillennialism and amillennialism. These two other forms of futurism both deny that the Great Commission of Jesus will ever be fulfilled on a worldwide scale regarding all of the nations on planet Earth.
But is postmillennialism truly an optimistic view regarding the future? Notice what happens at the end of the millennium according to Revelation 20:7-8:
Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.
Kind of looks like a bad ending, doesn't it? Postmillennialism suggests that, after near complete conversion of planet Earth to the gospel of Jesus Christ during the millennium, something goes terribly wrong just before the end. Multitudes of believers somehow apostatize from the faith. Then Satan goes out to deceive the nations that have been converted in fulfillment of the Great Commission. Apparently, Satan is somewhat successful because he gathers them together to do battle against the Church.
The devil will be loosed for a little season at the end of time, meaning his power over the nations returns to him full strength (Rev. 20:3). (Gary North, Dominion and Common Grace, p. 170)
If the end of the millennium remains in our future, and if the millennium ends with Satan's power over the nations restored, how can the postmillennialist honestly proclaim victory in history for the Church? Any victory the Church enjoys through gospel growth and discipleship is "predestined" to be temporary. According to postmillennialism, the end of the millennium looms in our future. Postmillennialism's futurist view of the conclusion of the millennium leads directly to a pessimistic view of what happens at the end of history.
Postmillennialism is simply another defeatist view of the future, for its advocates believe in the eventual defeat of the gospel at the end of the millennium. What is more, this final apostasy must be a global anti-Christ movement because the Church is now truly global. In the postmillennial "vision" God's enemies supposedly completely surround God's people at some point in our future:
They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. (Rev. 20:9)
An honest reading of the text seems to imply that the only way God's people gain victory, within the postmillennial view, is God's direct, supernatural intervention to end history. Ironically, postmillennialism's ending resembles exactly what premillennialism teaches with an additional hitch. It says that the gospel first converts the nations and then a substantial portion of the nations are lost to unbelief and apostasy. And, remarkably, postmillenialists often chide dispensationalists for teaching an impotent gospel!
Now I have no doubt that Jordan has given this quandary for
postmillennialism a great deal of thought. In fact, he addresses this
exact issue in his commentary on Daniel where he says:
The Great Tribulation was clearly something that happened in the days of the Apostolic Church... The statement "And there will be a time of distress, such as never was since there was a nation until that time" perfectly matches what Jesus said in Matthew 24:21, "And at that time there will be a Great Tribulation, such as has never occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall." This statement by Jesus makes it clear when the "time of distress" took place, and also makes it clear that nothing like it will ever happen again. There will be no "Great Tribulation" just before Jesus returns, though there will be a "small tribulation" (Revelation 20:7-10). (Jordan, Handwriting on the Wall, pp. 619-620)
Does the description at the end of the millennium in Revelation look like a "small tribulation" to you? Actually, it looks like the Great Tribulation right before the coming of Christ in A.D. 70 to me, but then, I am a preterist, not a postmillennialist.
That point aside, did you notice how Jordan insists that there is a physical comparison to be drawn from Jesus' words? If the Great Tribulation is the greatest "time of distress" ever in covenant history, then the end-of-the-millennium tribulation must be smaller in scale and scope than events in the first century leading up to A.D. 70. So maybe the end of the millennium won't be all that bad after all.
That's a nice fix by a very bright postmillennial thinker. I'll leave it up you to decide if it works or not. Makes me wonder how the Church will know when it actually takes place. Is God going to send new prophets to identify the imminent fulfillment of Revelation 20 and God's pending judgement on planet Earth? Or is this break-out of great evil so small that no one will even notice what is going on until it is "all over"?
The real question for you is this: can you see what Jordan doesn't see? Consider again what Jesus actually said:
And at that time there will be a Great Tribulation, such as has never occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. (Matt. 24:21)
Jordan says this statement is the basis for a physical comparison. Yet Jesus made his statement in regard to the past as surely as he made it in regard to the future. Jesus said that the Great Tribulation would be worse than anything that has happened since the beginning of the world!!! If Jordan is right that this statement draws a physical comparison in covenant history, then what would it mean in regard to Noah's flood?
There you have it from Jordan's own teaching regarding the Great Tribulation. Jesus saw the Great Tribulation as greater than any other event in covenant history since the beginning of the world. Since Jordan has already said that the Great Tribulation event was limited to the Roman and Jewish world, fulfilled in the first century, then Jordan has implicitly endorsed a local flood in the days of Noah. Oh, and by the way, that argument works for every preterist who assigns the Great Tribulation to the first century.
Preterism refutes a global flood.
Call it the local flood doctrine according to James B. Jordan, confirmed by the clear statement of Jesus Christ. The Great Tribulation was greater than the flood in the days of Noah.
Maybe someone should point out to Jordan how his futurist view of the end of the millennium requires a local flood in the days of Noah.