It’s the End of the World As We Know It – Intro to Views
I was 16 years old, sitting in the first couple pews of the Baptist church I was raised in the day I learned two new words. I was a mini-expert in the field of eschatology, or so I assumed. I had read every tract on the rapture my church had it’s in foyer, I had read Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great, Planet Earth and had even started designing my own detailed timeline of prophetic events like the ones found in many popular prophecy books and video tapes. I even convinced my parents to buy me a copy of the movie, “A Thief In the Night” on video tape.
I was proudly continuing my life as a teenage dispensationalist despite having no idea what that meant. As mentioned earlier, my view was simply the view I had been raised in, consumed by and exclusively taught. It wasn’t as though I had researched the differing positions and come to my conclusions through comparative analysis and Biblical “blood, sweat and tears” study.
In fact, those two new words mentioned above came as quite a shock.
I had just started working at a local Christian Bookstore and decided to use my first check to buy myself a new leather bound, grown up Bible. It was made with real, black leather and smelled and felt great. It was a Theological Bible and had study notes like many other Bibles but also included a glossary of theological terms in back between the concordance and the detailed maps.
I did not get far in the letter “A” words before the word Amillennialism appeared.
Amillennialism? What’s that?
The definition did me no good as it only mentioned that is was view in contrast to Premillennialism (whew, I knew that one) and Postmillennialism (uh oh, what was that?).
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
At this point I am hoping that the reader has agreed that there is at least some value in the study of the topic of eschatology. You have made it past the first chapter and now we begin a discussion of the actual topics within the world of eschatology.
As stated in the Introduction it is my assumption that many reading this book have either a limited view or understanding on the topic at hand or is only familiar with one particular view and is most likely predisposed to that view and knows little or nothing about the other views in question.
Over all the years of teaching Sunday School on this subject I have reached two very important conclusions that have impacted my teaching more than anything else. The first is that I never assume that everyone or even anyone in the class knows anything about the subject I am teaching. Secondly, I never assume that everyone or even anyone agrees with my particular view on the subject.
It is with these two basic presuppositions in mind that we will begin an initial discussion on what is known as the two primary views of eschatology. Those two views are related to the timing of the return of Christ in relation to the Millennium. Those two views are labeled Postmillennialism and Premillennialism.
Ah, but if it was only that easy. There are actually four views of the Millennium with the two timing views having two subsets of those views that expand the Millennial positions to the total of four.
To simplify the matter the reader must first get an elementary understanding on these different approaches and how those differing approaches impact the students overall understanding of the subject of eschatology.
Not simplified enough yet? Didn’t think so. So first, let’s quickly examine how the different timing views impact the Millennial positions and then we can discuss what makes the views different outside of simply the timing issue.
But first a we must present a very brief introduction to the timing interpretive methods and their impact on the Millennial positions. These four views will be discussed in much greater detail in later chapters. The four timing methods of reading prophetic passages are as follows:
- FUTURISM – Most, if not all, prophetic events are yet in the future
- PRETERISM – Most, if not all, prophetic events are related to our distant past
- HISTORICISM – Prophetic events run from the time of Christ to our future. This is most notable in the book of Revelation
- IDEALISM – Prophetic events may be actual or symbolic and are to be used to explain the eternal struggle between good and evil and God’s eventual victory in history
All of the above timing methods will be discussed in greater detail in future chapters as our main area of interest here is the four basic views as it related to the popular eschatological subject known as the Millennium.
The Millennium is simply defined as a time of one thousand years. This, as we will see, may refer to an actual, literal one thousand years, or to simply an indeterminable long period of time. Ones Millennial view will impact how one views the length of the millennium as either a literal thousand years or an unknown period of time.
The Millennium itself, despite being one of the most divisive topics in Church history is quite limited in its Scriptural discussion as it is exclusive to six verses in the 20th Chapter of the book of Revelation.
Rev 20: 1Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
4Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
The above is the totality in Biblical discussion of this immensely troubling and controversial topic. Very few other topics have caused such great furor and misunderstanding throughout Church history with such limited Biblical data. The discussion and debate has raged for some two thousand years and I hold to no false fantasy or hope that my writing here will dissuade many a reader from maintaining their current view.
My true hope is to accurately describe all the views without falling into the straw man attack trap that far too often plagues authors in this realm of study and that the reader will find themselves more educated on the subject than before they began reading this book.
One last note before beginning our discussion of the millennial views. Though each view does directly address the issue of the Millennium, the implications on all other eschatological subjects is directly tied to a particular view. In other words, how one views the topics of the Great Tribulation, the Rapture, the Antichrist and a host of other subjects will tie directly to where one lands in the Millennial landscape discussion. With that in mind we will begin our discussion on the differing views of the millennium.
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