A DAY IS LIKE A THOUSAND YEARS

The first thing to note is that in most millennial views, the topic of the “Kingdom of God” and the Millennium and unavoidably linked. In fact, in many, if not all views, they are interchangeable terms. When one speaks of the Millennium they are speaking of the Millennial Kingdom of God

Some views will then place the promises of the Kingdom of God (Matt 13 for example) as current, actual and literally being fulfilled in the present, while an opposing view will argue those Kingdom prophecies will only find fulfillment in a future Millennial Kingdom on earth.

This brief description may appear confusing at the moment, but as we discuss further the differing views it is my hope that the reader will discover how the differing views use these term interchangeably. We will also devote a great deal of time to this subject in an upcoming chapter.

Below I have listed the four basic and primary positions:

MILLENNIAL VIEWS
Amillennialism
Postmillennialism
Classical Premillennialism
Dispensational Premillennialism

Many readers may hope at this time that some very quick bullet point type definitions would suffice and that continuing on to discussing and debating fun and exciting subjects like the Beast and 666 is just around the corner. But alas, to no avail, as things are quite as easy as they appear.

Why not?

It’s all the fault of Theological Math!

 

THEOLOGICAL MATH

Theological math is a funny thing. In Theological math 1 + 1 = 4 !

How is that possible and what do I mean by that?

Simple. In many respects the above mentioned four positions are actually just two positions. In a different respect they are actually four, and maybe even more, positions!

The reason for this confusion is that the Millennial positions contain both a “timing” element (when the millennium begins and ends along with its length) and a “nature” element (what things happen before, during and after and what exactly is the purpose and experience of the Millennium), and as a result the number of apparent positions double.

Let me try and explain. No, there is not enough time so let me sum up.

The prefix of “post” and “pre” in the above designations relate to how the adherents of the above view would argue for the timing of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Those with the prefix “pre” would argue that the return of Christ takes place BEFORE the Millennium; hence the use of the prefix “pre” which simply means before or in front of.

The prefix “post” would then designate those who believe that the return of Jesus Christ takes place AFTER the Millennium timing wise. Here both the Postmillennial and Amillennial positions are in agreement. The “a” in Amillennialism literally means “no” or “non” Millennial, but that is a misnomer as we will see.

Amillennialist believe in a Millennium, but not in a literal one thousand years, so the name was attached to this view as a critique of the view originally and does not adequately describe the position in regards to the issue of the timing of the return of Christ. In actuality, the Amillennial position is “post” Millennial in that it believes that the return of Christ takes place AFTER the Millennium.

So, how does this relate to the differences between the views and how did the one view relating to the timing of the return of Christ (Postmillennialism) become two views (Postmillennialism and Amillennialism)?

As an example for explanation, both Amillennialism and Postmillennialism argue that Christ will return AFTER the Millennium and most agree that the Millennium itself is a present day reality. All Amillennialist and many current Postmillennialist believe the Millennium began at the first advent of Christ and will continue until and conclude at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Both views in question also argue that the Millennium itself is not to be seen as a literal one thousand years, but as a figurative long period of time.

Since the term “post” is in reference to the timing of the Second Coming of Christ as in relation to the Millennium itself, both Postmillennialist and Amillennialist are “post” Millennialist as they both agree that Christ returns after (post) the Millennium.

[It should be noted here that most historical Postmillennialist believed in a “future” Millennium that would last some length of time (possibly one thousand years) but that Jesus Christ would not return until the conclusion of that time period.]

But given the above mentioned agreement between Amillennialist and most Postmillennialist, there is also a great difference between the two views as it relates to that “nature” of the Millennium. Postmillennialist argue for the idea of an increasing time of prosperity for the Church culminating in a world wide acceptance of the Gospel, while Amillennialist argue that good and evil will have equal amounts of representation throughout the Millennial time (presently), and that this Millennial time will conclude with a great apostasy of the Church and not a time of success for the Gospel.

So, given this brief description of agreement and disagreement, it should be noted that the one view relating to the timing of the Millennium is “post” Millennial, but the nature of the Kingdom discussion causes a division of views and the creation of the Amillennial position.

So, even though both agree for the most part on the timing issue, there is great disagreement on the nature of the millennium. Hence, one view becomes two.

The same could be said for the two positions attached to the prefix “pre” in relation to the Millennium. Both Classical and Dispensational Premillennialism teach that Jesus will return “before” the Millennium they differ greatly in their view of the “nature” of the kingdom. Those differences and how they differ from the Amillennial and Postmillennial positions above are also vast and there is not enough time to discuss them here, but they will be painstakingly dealt with in future Chapters.

The differences between the Classical and Dispensational views extend even beyond the “nature” issues of the two views and also include some timing aspects as well. Those will be discussed here to help the reader understand how this Theological Math is impacted.

Though both “pre” views agree that Jesus return before the initiation of the Millennium, the Dispensational view adds a “two part” Second Coming of Christ which includes a “Secret Rapture” or special resurrection of the Church some time before the initiation of the actual Millennial time period. This time interval is most commonly believed to be a seven year time period, though many also argue for a 3 ½ year interval as well. There are other rapture views as well, all of which are events that take place BEFORE the Millennium.

The first rapture view mentioned above is commonly referred to as the “Pre-Tribulation” Rapture of the Church. This tribulational time is considered to last seven years and so the Pre-Tribulation rapture is said to take place before the seven year tribulation begins. Others have argued for a “mid-Tribulation” time period of possibly 3 ½ years before the Millennium begins or a “Pre-wrath” time period that is unknown, but does precede the Second Coming of Christ and the initiation of the Millennium by some determinable period of time.

So, even though both Premillennial views believe that Jesus returns before the Millennium, there are many significant events that take place within the Dispensational framework that does not exist within the Classical Premillennial timeline. The same is true for the “nature” issues as there are vast differences between the Classical and Dispensational views. These will be outlined in more detail in the individual chapters dedicated to each view.

Below are some quick definitions for the above views for a quick reference. Please note, though, that there will be a very detailed discussion of each particular view to follow and this should only be seen as a broad definition and easy resource.

Classical Premillennialism – This is a very old view with adherents in the early Church that teaches that Christ returns before the millennium. This view has been held bt both reformed and Non-Reformed Christians throughout history. The Millennium is to last a literal one thousand years.

Dispensational Premillennialism – This is a very recent (1830’s) and novel view. Similar to Classical Premillennialism is regards to the timing issues, but adds a “pre-tribulation” Rapture of the church. This currently popular view is also known as Left Behind Theology as it is the view found in the incredibly popular Left Behind series of books. This view is not held by those in the Reformed community.

Amillennialism – This view sees the return of Christ at the end of a “figurative” millennium. The Millennium commenced at the first coming of Christ and continues presently finding it’s completion at the Second Coming of Christ.

Postmillennialism – This view is in agreement with Amillennialism in regards to timing issues, but teaches an “optimistic” view of worldwide conversion before the physical return of Christ.

The four views will each receive a more detailed description in upcoming chapters and the above descriptions should be seen as useless for only for quick reference. I would also recommend referencing the small Glossary of Theological Terms located in the back of the book.

Those detailed descriptions that follow will address more fully the differences in timing and nature of all four views as well as popular critiques of the weaknesses of each view. It should be noted that extra attention and space will be given to the Dispensational Premillennial view as its popularity warrants a more thorough descriptions, history and critique.

 

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With this post we will conclude the general overview of the four views of the Millennium. Greater discussion will follow this post on the very popular Dispensational (Left Behind) view.

AMILLENNIALISM
With that in mind let us begin our overview of the four Millennial position by describing first, Amillennialism. Each overview will deal with the same primary issues and how each view describes and interprets those issues. Items like timing, nature, kingdom, etc will be bullet pointed. I will also include a list of early Church fathers and modern Church adherents to each position. I will not detail here how these views came to their conclusions as all of that will be discussed later. This is primarily for reference.

1. The Church Age is the same as the Kingdom Era of the Old Testament

2. Satan is “bound” during Jesus’ first advent

3. Christ is currently reigning “spiritually” through the hearts and lives of those in the Church

4. There are occasional short-lived advances of the Gospel, but the Church will gradually lose influence

5. Many Amillennialist believe in cyclical “tribulations” throughout history

6. Christ returns at the end of the millennium to resurrect, judge and establish the eternal order.

7. The “millennium” (1000 years) is a figurative, long period of time starting at the first advent of Christ and ending at the Second Coming

Early Church Adherents Include: Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement of Rome

Modern Church Adherents Include: Berkhof, Adams, Hanko, Hoekema, Kuyper, Horton, Riddlebarger, Kline, Pink, Van Til, Calvin*The next posts will detail the three other views.

POSTMILLENIALISM
1.The Church Age is the Kingdom prophesied by the OT prophets. The “people of God” are expanded from ethnic Israel to the Church

2. Christ established His kingdom at His first advent

3. The binding of Satan has a specific purpose and accomplishes the above goal

4. The nature of the Kingdom is primarily “redemptive” rather than political

5. The power of the Gospel is transforming in nature and through it people, societies and nations are redeemed and changed

6. The “kingdom prophecies” are seen as literal

7. The Kingdom expands gradually over time leading to a time in history where the world is converted

8. Christ returns “after” His enemies are made His footstool to resurrect, judge and establish the eternal order

Early Church Adherents Include: Eusubius, Athanasius, Augustine

Modern Church Adherents Include: Bahnsen, Boettner, DeMar, Edwards, Henry, Hodge, Kik, Machen, Gentry, Murray, North, Owens, Sproul, Warfield * Calvin and Luther CLASSICAL

PREMILLENNIALISM
1. The NT Church is the initial phase of Christ’s Kingdom

2. The NT Church will win occasional victories, but will fall victim to a Great Apostasy

3. The Church will pass through a yet future Great Tribulation (Post-Tribulational)

4. Premillennialist are, by definition, futurists.

5. Christ returns at the end of the tribulation to Resurrect/Judge the elect and set up an earthly kingdom – The First Resurrection

6. Christ binds Satan at this Second Coming

7. Satan is loosed after 1000 years and is ultimately defeated by fire from Heaven

8. The Second Resurrection where the damned will be judged

9. The eternal order – New heavens and new earth

Early Church Adherents Include – Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian

Modern Church Adherents Include: Erdman, Spurgeon, RA Torry, George Eldon Ladd

DISPENSATIONAL PREMILLENNIALISM
1. Christ offered the Davidic Kingdom at His first advent, which was rejected and postponed to some future time

2. The Church was wholly unforeseen and unknown to the OT prophets

3. God has two distinctive eternal plans – one for the Church and one for ethnic Israel

4. The “Prophetic Clock” stopped ticking at Christ’s first advent

5. The Church will fail in history and need to be “raptured” so that the promises made to Israel may be fulfilled

6. Christ returns (partially) to “rapture” the Church before the Great Seven Year Tribulation

7. During the Great Tribulation Jews will be converted and the Church will have a feast in heaven

8. The temple will be rebuilt – during or previous to the tribulation – and OT Jewish ordinances will be reinstated

9. Christ returns after the Tribulation to kill the Beast and False Prophet and set up a distinctly Jewish government in Jerusalem – Animal sacrifices (that were stopped during the tribulation by the Anti-Christ) will be re-instituted

10. After 1000 years, Satan is loosed and leads a rebellion against Christ. God intervenes and destroys Satan and throws him into the fiery pit. The eternal order is established.

Early Church Adherents: NONE

Modern Church Adherents: LS Chafer, Darby, Scofield, Chuck Smith, Lindsey, Hagee, LaHaye, Missler, Ryrie, Ice, Pentecost, Walvoord


The ABC’s of Reading the Book

I remember sitting in my fifth grade Sunday School class at the Church I was raised in. The Pastor’s son was the teacher. He was a huge hulk of a man. He was impressive in stature and in confidence. I believed every word that came from his mouth and it was never questioned.

We had a pretty boring lesson one Sunday so he hurried through it and decided to open the class up for questions of all sorts. My best friend, Steve, was sitting next to me. Steve asked if the Rapture would happen within the next year because he heard so many people make that claim at the time. This was during the prophetic uproar of the mid to late 1970’s when the popularity of Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great Planet earth was at its zenith.

I knew the real reason Steve was asking the question. This was fifth grade which meant we would be allowed to go to our first Youth Camp that Summer and between the horseback riding, getting away from home and the GIRLS, we did not want to miss out on this traditional rite of passage from boyhood  to manhood!

The Pastor’s son reassured us that the rapture surely couldn’t happen within the next year because there were way too many prophetic signs relating to the Rapture that simply had not taken place yet. This included things we didn’t understand like the rebuilding of a Temple in Jerusalem and the needed election of a truly evil man as President of the United States. The newly elected President at the time was a nice, Southern Baptist man with a genial drawl in his voice whose only great sin was agreeing to an interview in Playboy magazine. He most assuredly wasn’t the embodiment of evil necessary to be labeled the Beast, Antichrist or Son of Perdition.

When questioned further as to why he believed without a shadow of a doubt that these things had to take place before the Rapture could occur, he responded with calm assurance, “Those things I mentioned are all supposed to take place before the rapture – in the FUTURE!”

Steve and I felt assured. And I most definitely was relieved…I hadn’t even held hands with Dawn yet!

INTERPRETIVE METHODS

Before continuing on to a more detailed description and analysis of the previously discussed Millennial positions it would be wise to first consider the process by which an individual reads prophetic passages in Scripture. These are the interpretive methods that guide the reader and have the single most important impact on how the reader comes to a particular conclusion regarding prophetic passages under consideration.

Just like the previously mentioned Millennial views there are also four different primary interpretive methods. These four are most notable and distinguishable when they are employed in understanding the book of Revelation. The different methods are also used when discussing other popular prophetic passages like Daniel 9 (the Seventy Weeks prophecy) and the Olivet Discourse (Matthews 24), but are most clearly determined while reading the Apocalypse.

The four Interpretive Methods are:

  1. Idealism
  2. Historicism
  3. Futurism
  4. Preterism

It is important to understand a few things about these interpretive methods before defining and discussing them in more detail. The first is that there is no one to one correlation between the interpretive methods listed above and the Millennial positions discussed in the previous chapter. By that I mean that Postmillennialist are not necessarily Preterist and Premillennialist are not necessarily Futurist. Different adherents to each Millennial position may use any number of the above interpretive methods.

I know, that would be too easy!

Though nearly all Premillennialist are futurist by definition there are many Premillennialist that are Historicists and it would be quite possible to find an Idealist that is Premillennial as well.

The same could be said for Postmillennialist as many today are Preterist, some are Idealist and most traditional or historical Postmillennialist were Historicist. Amillennialism, which is most often associated with Idealism can also find adherents that employ the Preterist, Historicist and even the Futurist (though rare) interpretive methods.

The other point worthy of discussion before proceeding is that many students of eschatology will employ a combination of the above interpretive methods within their eschatological studies. In fact, it is very rare to find a proponent of one particular view exclusively employing just one interpretive method, though one will clearly be the most dominant method.

Most Preterist also believe that some events described in Scripture are yet to take place and interpret those events accordingly, while at the same time interpreting some passages in a clearly figurative, or Idealistic manner. Most Idealist, who understand much in prophetic utterances to be understood symbolically, also teach that many events are actual historical events that have been fulfilled (Preterism) and that there are also future events yet to be fulfilled (Futurism).

The Historicist may read the entire Book of Revelation from the perspective that it describes events that will take place throughout the entire Church Age, but may also read the Olivet Discourse found in the first three Gospels (most notably Matthew 24) as an event from our distant past, which would be using the Preterist interpretive method.

So, like the previously discussed Millennial positions, the interpretive methods are not as cut and dry as the student might hope. The discussion, then, revolves around how and when to use the differing methods when interpreting prophetic passages.

Just as we defined the Millennial positions briefly in the previous chapter, below you will find the Interpretive Methods defined for ease of reference. These very short definitions should be viewed as complete, but only for the purpose of understanding the method enough to continue the discussion in future chapters. Also the reader should be directed to reference the Glossary of theological terms found in the back of the book.

HISTORICISM

The book of Revelation is a chronological picture of the history of the Church Age running from the first advent of Christ through the Second Coming and into the Eternal State. This is the view of most of the Protestant Reformers but it currently has the fewest number of adherents due most likely to constant revisions needed to keep the timeline going throughout Church history. This view, though, has been the most commonly held view in Church history up until the last century. Most modern Seventh Day Adventist would employ this method. This method is primarily used within the confines of the book of Revelation and is not normally employed when discussing the Olivet Discourse, Daniel 9 or other popular prophetic passages.

IDEALISM/SPIRITUALISM

The book of Revelation is seen as primarily figurative or symbolic in nature. It is interpreted as a cyclical look at the history (and future) of the Church through constant ebbs and flows of victory and defeat for the Church throughout history. The events and images used in the Apocalypse should not be considered actual historical or future events, but rather symbols or images of events that the Church encounters throughout her entire history. Like the above mentioned historicist view, the Idealistic method is most prominent within the pages of the book of Revelation and is not normally employed to interpret other prophetic passages.

FUTURISM

The book of Revelation and nearly all New Testament and much Old Testament prophetic utterances are yet to be fulfilled in time. The futurist uses this method not only within the confines of the book of Revelation, but also throughout the rest of Scripture. Many futurists (primarily Dispensationalist) also argue that many prophecies related to the first advent of Christ have been postponed until the Second Coming of Christ. These would primarily include Kingdom prophecies.

PRETERISM

The book of Revelation and nearly all New Testament prophecy is now history and has seen its primary fulfillment through events relating to the siege and destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple in 70 AD at the hands of the Roman armies. Though most will argue there are still events that have yet to be fulfilled within the pages of the book of Revelation, most, if not all of the Apocalypse and other related New Testament prophecies have been fulfilled. So, unlike Idealism and Historicism, Preterism is used as an interpretive method throughout the Scriptures. Preterist, in contrast to the Futurists, argue that the Kingdom prophecies are present realities for the Church.

It should be noted here that some Preterist are what is called “full-Preterist” and believe that all prophecy is complete and there is no literal future Second Coming of Christ. Though this view is worthy of consideration and may be mentioned in upcoming chapters, that view will not be the view in mind when the term Preterist or Preterism is used. Within these pages, the term Preterism should be seen as relating to the view that most prophetic passages have been fulfilled but that there is yet a future Second Coming of Jesus Christ, a consummation of all things, the Resurrection of the Dead, the Judgment of Christ  and the Eternal State when the Kingdom is handed over to the Father (1 Corinthians 15).

A BEASTLY INTERPRETATION

But just how does this work out in the real world of Biblical Interpretation?

Let’s consider the popular prophetic passage below taken from the book of Revelation. Albeit from the outset it is a little unfair to all positions to start in the middle of such a difficult and challenging book; our purpose here is not to exegete the passage with fine accuracy and pinpoint precision, but to reveal just how the four different views may interpret this popular passage and to show the vastly different conclusions the interpretive methods provide.

It should be noted that these interpretations below are not held by all of those who hold to a particular position, but rather they are popular and broad descriptions and positions held that will hopefully help the reader distinguish between the particular views. Not only that but the descriptions below are only “scratching the surface” on the interpretive exegesis of this passage and a more detailed exposition can be found in Steven Gregg’s wonderful book, “Revelation, Four Views: A Parallel Commentary” as well as in the follow up book to the one you are reading entitled, “An Evangelically Incorrect Guide to the Book of Revelation.”

Rev 13: 1And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. 2And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. 3One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. 4And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

HISTORICISM

The Historicist may quite possibly interpret the above passage as to represent the time of the Protestant Reformation. The Beast, which later is said to be nation located on seven hills, is the Roman Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation and the seven heads represent the different popes during that time.

This Beast is said to make war against the Saints who are believed to be the Protestant Reformers. But the Saints eventually prevail and this New Babylon of the Roman Catholic Church is defeated and destroyed. The connection to Rome is obvious and the over-powering influence of the Roman Catholic Church is undeniable at that time. This would place Revelation 13 in the 15th to 17th century timeline of events.

IDEALISM

The idealist looks at this same passage and sees and powerful image of the ever-present activity of the evil forces against the Church throughout her history. The beast is no one particular enemy the church has faced, but rather a combination of enemies as shown in the combination of beastly characters described as being combined to create this image.

This could be the Romans on the first three centuries, Islam of the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church of the 16th century and the influences of modernism, post-modernism and humanism of the present age. Rather than an actual enemy represented, the Idealist sees the constant and never ending battle against the princes and powers of the earth battling against the Bride of Christ.

FUTURISM

This popular view quite possibly sees this passage representing yet future evil nation that has set itself against the people of God during the seven year tribulation time period. The Beast is also known as the Antichrist and the nation he controls is actually the one world government that is soon to rise.

This nation in question is quite possibly a united and revived Roman Empire disguised currently as the European Common Market. This could be related to the seven heads or the ten horns of the Beast. This is said to take place in the near future and will come complete with a new monetary and economic program and a systematic persecution of the followers of God.

PRETERISM

This historic and recently increasing popular view would interpret the same passage above as being directly related to the time leading up to the destruction of the city and Temple of Jerusalem in 70 AD at the hands of the Roman Army lead by General Titus and commanded by then emperor Vespasian (Titus’ father).

The Beast is seen as a whole image as the Nation of Rome as the city on seven hills would allude to and the seven heads represent the first seven emperors of Rome. The sixth head that was reigning at the time of John’s writing was the evil tyrant Nero. Nero would be the “Beast” specifically representing the nation of Rome and was responsible for the intense persecution that the Christians (Saints) faced during the first century.

Nero was killed by the sword through his neck (head) and his resurrection is seen in the revival of the Roman Empire that was assumed to be dealt a deadly blow at his death. As the last in the line of Julius it was assumed the Nero’s death would bring in an end to the roman Empire as it was known at the time.

OK…NOW WHAT?

These four different views examine the exact text and come to four radically different conclusions. This is based solely on the presuppositionally accepted interpretive methods.

The question then becomes; how does one come to a particular interpretive method and how can one know whether that method is accurate? That is the crux of the discussion and it is the hope of this writer that over the next several chapters the methods and their strengths and weaknesses will become more evident.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Over the next several chapters we will examine in more the detail the four primary millennial positions. In that discussion we will see how different interpretive methods come into play and how both the timing and nature questions are answered by each view. We will also discuss those who held or currently hold to those positions.

Finally in the next section we will spend a great deal of time discussing the most popular view, Dispensational Premillennialism. This discussion will include its history, interpretive method and impact on the current evangelical world. The emphasis on the discussion of the view does not portend to reveal the author’s particular view, but rather, since the view is so commonly engrained in our evangelical experience that a thorough discussion and critique is necessary.


Let Your Kingdom Come

I remember my 16th birthday quite vividly. Well, actually I don’t remember anything about my 16th birthday except the royal blue FIAT Spider 850 convertible sitting in our driveway. It was mine, or it was going to be, later that afternoon after I passed my driver’s test.

Three hours later she was mine, all mine. Except of course when the head gasket had it’s monthly blowing and when the tank reached empty. She was good for getting me to and from work, school and Church.

Ah, sweet freedom!

At that time I was also experiencing the freedom of making some choices regarding Church as well. I decided to use my new wheels to visit Youth Groups at other Churches in the area. It wasn’t that I had anything against the Youth group of the Church I was raised in, I just wanted to meet new people…(read girls!)

I knew all the girls at my Youth Group pretty well, and, unfortunately for me, they knew me as well! So being raised a Baptist I thought it might be a good time to look around and see what other churches had to offer. Assemblies of God. Calvary Chapel. Quaker. Four Square. I was an equal opportunity Church hopper.

I stumbled across a Presbyterian Church in my neighborhood and decided to visit a Church with a strong historical perspective and deeply entrenched theological underpinnings.

Ok…her name was Keri!

Anyway, since I was raised in a non-liturgical Church with no predetermined rituals or printed liturgy (we had a bulletin) I was quite surprised to experience a Church service where certain aspects of the service were done over and over, every week.

Along with the recitation of the Apostles Creed this Presbyterian Church also sang the Lord’s Prayer every week. I knew it by heart so there was no trouble that it wasn’t sung from a hymnal, projector orand printed insert in the bulletin. But one thing I did note was that the words from that passage of Scripture began to be ingrained in my heart and mind.

But they, in some way, did not make sense given my passion for Dispensational eschatology and the views that went along with that view. What in the world did Jesus mean when He prayed…

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…on Earth AS it is in HEAVEN”

                                                                                                  

As we launch into our discussion of the Millennial positions in more detail it is important to flesh out an idea that was introduced in a previous chapter. The concept in question is the interchangeable use of the term Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God and the Millennial Kingdom. Often the term is simplified as simply “the Kingdom.”

This interchangeable usage causes quite a bit confusion as when a particular speaker, author, theologian or prophecy expert uses the term, the Kingdom; the audience will quite often pour their own, preconceived definition into the usage. The presupposed definition will then cause more confusion than enlightenment.

Before directly discussing the controversy and differences among adherents of the different Millennial positions and their view on the “kingdom” it should be dealt with first the proposition made, primarily by Dispensationalist, that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are two different and distinct kingdoms.

Dispensationalists, primarily traditional Dispensationalist like CI Scofield and Lewis Sperry Chafer, argue that the Kingdom of God is the rule of God over everything in the universe and is a demonstration of His utter and complete sovereignty. The Kingdom of Heaven, on the other hand, is the institution of the Kingdom of God on earth through the initiation of the Kingdom through Israel of the Old Testament.

This Kingdom of Heaven (earthly rule of God through His administrators) was offered to Israel by John the Baptist (Matt 3:1,2) and Jesus (Matt 4:17) in the first century. This offer was rejected and, according to Dispensationalism, was postponed until the Millennium, or thousand year reign of Christ. This time is when the original Davidic Kingdom promise will be fulfilled.

Davidic Kingdom promise? Really? Can this be anymore confusing?

Well, in an attempt to simplify let’s consider the Davidic promise and how it relates to our discussion at hand. First let us consider the initial promise given to David that one would sit upon his throne.

Psalm 132:11 The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.

So here the patriarch David is given a promise that one who would come from his lineage would sit upon his throne. This appears to be more than simply stating that one of David’s actual, biological sons would be king of Israel. This has more of a prophetic tone and is confirmed later by the prophet Isaiah in the 9th Chapter of Isaiah.

Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Because this passage was not literally fulfilled in the way many modern prophetic experts expected that fulfillment to take place, we are taught by Dispensationalism that the Davidic Kingdom promise which would usher in and maintain the Kingdom of Heaven, is postponed until the Millennial Kingdom which, it is argued, will be a very “Jewish” kingdom, complete with a rebuilt temple, ceremonial sacrifices and a reinstitution of Old Testament theocratic law. This is when, we are told, Jesus will literally and physically reign on Earth as King, thus fulfilling the promise made to David. This means that the Kingdom of Heaven is a Jewish Kingdom that will find it’s fulfillment in the Millennium.

This leads to two areas that must be dealt with, at least on a cursory level, before we can continue our discussion on Millennial positions. This is to help the reader better understand the problems with the above position despite its apparent very logical explanation. The first is the use of the terms Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God and their usage within the Gospels. The second area that must be dealt with is how the New Testament writers view this David Kingdom promise.

Here I must state without equivocation that there are two rules for all interpretive difficulties that we must always follow. The first is the we must allow Scripture to interpret Scripture and second, that we must interpret the Old Testament through the brighter lens of the New Testament.

The first problem arises when the proponent attempts to argue that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are two different things. The Biblical case is simply lacking and is only presupposed and promoted to help alleviate other issues related to this view. If the proponent can show there are differences then they can make the claims appear more logical and Biblical.

But what is the Biblical usage of these two terms?

JUST THE FACTS MAAM!

The term, Kingdom of Heaven, is actually exclusive to the book of Matthew. Because of Matthew’s very “Jewish” nature it is assumed that the usage then must be related to this Jewish Kingdom where the Old Testament promises of a Kingdom find utter and complete fulfillment. The other Gospels use the term Kingdom of God which causes the same interpreters to assume it is referencing a different Kingdom. But let us consider the Biblical record.

First, it should be noted that Matthew also uses the term, Kingdom of God. Not only that, but within a single context Matthew uses BOTH terms and uses them interchangeably.

Matt 19:23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Note how Matthew easily uses both terms interchangeably with no confusion, no change and no clarification. There is no qualifying that these two identical terms mean something completely different.

And remember how the term Kingdom of Heaven is supposed to relate to the coming Jewish-like kingdom of the Millennium? This would mean that the Kingdom should exclusively be for the Jews and cannot and should not be transferable. It could be postponed as the Dispensationalist claim, but it should not be able to be seen as transferred to anyone else.

Conversely, if the above is not true, the Kingdom of Heaven itself is not postponed; it is not exclusively for the descendants of Abraham; and there is then no separation between the Church and Israel.

With the above in mind and taking into consideration that Matthew uses the terms interchangeably, let us consider another passage from Matthew’s gospel.

Matt 21: 33“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

 35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

 38“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

 40“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

 41“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

 42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
” ‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone[h];
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’[i]?

 43“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”[j]

 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them.

So, here we have the Kingdom of God as being related to the earthly kingdom that was promised to the Jews. Matthew does not use the term Kingdom of Heaven as he does in similar passages to describe that Kingdom, but rather the term Kingdom of God. Matthew then notes that Jesus told the Pharisees that this promised Kingdom (Heaven/God) was to be taken from the Jews and given to another people (the Church) who would complete the work.

And to confirm there was no confusion regarding how this was to be understood, Matthew then claims that the Pharisees themselves actually understood that Jesus was taking this promised Kingdom away from them and giving that Kingdom to another people.

To make the point even clearer let us consider a few parallel passages in which Matthew uses the term Kingdom of Heaven the other Gospel writers use the term Kingdom of God. This should undoubtedly show that Biblically speaking these terms are interchangeable.

Matt 11: 11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.

Luke 7: 28I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

Matt 13:  11He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.

Mark 4: 11He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables

Matt 13: 24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field

Mark 4:  26He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.

There are many more instances like the ones shown above (compare Matthew 13:31 with Mark 4:30 and Luke 13:18; Matthew 13:33 with Luke 13:20; Matthew 18:3 with Mark 10:14 and Luke 18:16; and Matthew 22:2 with Luke 13:29)  where the Gospel writers clearly have no problem interchanging the two terms. The reader then must follow the rule of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture and see that there is no need to separate the terms and that one cannot continue to claim that they reference two different ideas.

Now, in regards to how the New Testament writers view and interpret the Davidic Kingdom promises, it must be noted that there is no plain teaching in Scripture anywhere that denotes a postponing of the Kingdom promises on any account, whether the term in Heaven, God or Davidic Kingdom.

Let’s first consider how the Old Testament prophets taught when the Kingdom would be initiated. Again remember that Scripture does not allow for the postponing of the Kingdom and any attempt to infer and interject a postponement of sorts is based on the necessity of a particular system of interpretation, not based on any clear Biblical revelation.

First, let us consider the promise of the birth of Christ found in the pages of the book of Isaiah. This popular Christmas passage gives clear indication as to the initiating time of the Kingdom. You will also note that this same promise regarding the initiating of the Kingdom (timing) is also related to the Davidic Kingdom.

Isa 9:6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders
.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, [b] Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

Note how the prophecy states that this Kingdom begins at the birth of the Child. It doesn’t state that He will be born and then, when He comes again a second time, then the government related to David’s throne will be established. Also note the prophecy states that His government will have no end. Premillennialist, especially Dispensationalist, limit the reign of Christ to a one thousand year time limit. This passage cannot account for this idea as they argue for a limitless, or eternal kingdom with no end!

One other passage worth considering at this time would be the famous image of a statue found in Daniel 2. King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream in which he saw a statue representing four different kingdoms in history. He is confused by this dream and Daniel, the Israelite, is the only one who can interpret this dream.

Dan 2:  31 “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

Those four kingdoms in question are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. Rome, though apparently strong, is actually quite weak because of its internal divisions that are found in the image of the toes. At the time of the fourth kingdom (Rome) a final kingdom represented by rock not cut with hands destroys the fourth kingdom, and with it all the kingdoms of the world.

What is this Kingdom called?

Dan 2: 44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever

It is the Kingdom of the God of Heaven.

Again, there is no Biblical warrant to create a postponement of this kingdom as it clearly shows it is a kingdom that is birthed at the time of the fourth kingdom, which is Rome.

Now that we see the Old Testament idea that the Kingdom is birthed at the first coming of Christ, what are we to do with the idea that it appears Jesus did not sit on the throne of David, thus not fulfilling that part of the Kingdom known as the Davidic promise.

Here the help of the New Testament writers will hopefully make this clear. In fact, the answer comes through the words of the first great sermon of the Church by the Apostle Peter in the second chapter of the book of Acts.

Acts 2:   29“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.

Peter here is referencing the previously discussed Davidic Kingdom promise that from his own body would come one who would sit on his throne as ruler of his kingdom. But what Peter says next should hopefully cause one to reconsider any possibility of awaiting a future Davidic Kingdom.

Acts 2:  31Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet
.”

Peter plainly argues that the promise given to David is found in the resurrection, ascension and enthronement of Jesus Christ at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Those points are in bold above and should be made clear. The throne by which Jesus rules and reigns as King and fulfills the Davidic Kingdom promise made by God to David is located in Heaven and He sits until all of His enemies are destroyed.

Daniel addresses this as well and Jesus confirms it in the Gospel. First, Daniel describes the ascension of Jesus UP into heaven after His death and resurrection and clearly points to the timing of when and where Jesus receives His kingdom.

Dan 7:  13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Note that Daniel states that Jesus received His kingdom at His ascension. At that point He received all authority, glory and power. And that same kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom (Isa 9 and Dan 2) that will never be destroyed. Also note that the “location” of His ruling and reigning is in Heaven at the right hand of the Father. He does need to return physically to earth to set up His kingdom!

It is this promise that Jesus reserves for Himself during His confrontation with the High Priest in Matthew 26.

Matt 26:  64“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Despite the fact that many readers assume Jesus is referencing the Second Coming of Christ, it is clear within the context that simply cannot be the case.

Several points here worthy of consideration. First is that Jesus states that the High Priest would see this event. This event is His enthronement at the right hand of the Father. His coming on the clouds is one of “ascending” not descending as Jesus here is quoting from the previously discussed passage in Daniel 7. We know this both by the use of the term Son of Man coming on the clouds of Heaven, which was an “ascending” movement and by the reaction of the High Priest himself.

At this point the High Priest rips his robe and declares that Jesus must die because He had declared Himself to be the Son of Man of Daniel 7 which the Jewish rulers knew was the Messiah and prophesied King of the Davidic promise.

So, this all to say the following:

  • There is no Biblical warrant for separating the terms Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven.
  • There is no Biblical warrant for inserting a postponement of the Kingdom as Scripture shows it was initiated at Jesus first coming with His coronation taking place at His ascension.
  • The Davidic Kingdom finds fulfillment in the first century death, resurrection and enthronement of Christ in the Heavenlies.

Ironically the Dispensationalist appears to make the exact same mistake that the first century Jews were accused of doing. They were awaiting a physical, military, warrior-like Messiah that would arrive and make His throne in the Holy City and rule over them. The Dispensationalist postpones that “type” of Kingdom into the future even though there is no Biblical case to be made for the view.

Also, there is a plethora of Scripture that point to the fact that the type of Kingdom expected by the Jews was not the kind of Kingdom the Lord had in mind. Jesus states the Kingdom is not of eating and drinking; not of military might; and not of this world.

So, what do we make of these Kingdom promises and in what way is the Kingdom a present reality if, in fact, it is not postponed to a literal Millennium in the near future?

It’s important to study and see how the New Testament writers and Jesus’ own words deal with this troubling and difficult topic. First we must note the “very soon” expectation of the Kingdom’s arrival.

Mark 1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.“

The mark passage above is not alone in announcing a very near arrival of the Kingdom during Jesus’ initial ministry.

  • ·  Matthew 3:2
    and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
  • ·  Matthew 4:17
    From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
  • ·  Matthew 10:7
    As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’
  • ·  Mark 1:15
    “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
  • ·  Luke 10:9
    Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is nearyou.’
  • ·  Luke 10:11
    ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.
  • ·  Luke 21:31
    Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

But the Scriptures do not stop with simply a proclamation of a near approaching Kingdom, but actually argue for the present reality of that Kingdom at the time when Jesus walked the earth in the first century. Note Jesus’ own words in Matthew’s gospel.

Matt 12:28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you…

Here Jesus had just cast out a demon. The Jewish leaders claimed He did so through the power of Satan. Jesus not only rebuked them for this claim but also claimed to have bound Satan in order to accomplish His work (v. 29). Jesus argues, then, that one proof of the Kingdom coming and literal presence would be the casting out of demons through the Spirit of God; an action He had just completed!

Not only that, but Jesus elsewhere argued that not only would the Kingdom appear, but that it would do so with great power and before the death of the Apostles. This is to show that it was not just a glimpse of the Kingdom, but the Kingdom arriving in power that took place in the first century.

Mark 9:1 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.

Jesus makes a bold proclamation here promising that there were those standing in His midst that would not die before the Kingdom arrived, and arrived in power! This present reality is both an earthly and heavenly reality. This is something members of the true Church currently participate in at salvation.

Col 1: 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son

Paul here is not arguing that one day Christ would receive a Kingdom and that one day He would allow us participate in that Kingdom. It was a present reality in Paul’s day for those believers just as much as it is for believers today! We are transferred into Jesus’ present Kingdom (Dan 7), not promised to be present in some future one.

The book of Revelation declares this present reality as well in chapter five within the vision of the seven sealed scroll. Jesus is presented the scroll of seven seals and the multitudes around Him worship Him and declare that those for whom He died were then present within His kingdom. That was and continues to be a present reality.

Rev 5: 9And they sang a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”

This present reality cannot and should not be overlooked. Even if one tries to futurize the Revelation passage above it should be noted that the events in question and referenced are well before the Premillennial Millennium is instituted and their reign neither is nor postponed as it states He has made them (past or present tense) a Kingdom.

Many of these issues will be addressed and re-addressed throughout the pages of this book as the theme of the present reign of Christ is unavoidable when studying the topic of eschatology.

This, though, should not disturb the reader, but rather should uplift and encourage the reader. This is a glorious reality that must not be overlooked. His Church – His Bride – is a wonderful present Kingdom reality! He reigns through His people in His kingdom and fulfills the promise of His own prayer…

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…on EARTH as it is in HEAVEN!”


Amillennialism

In my late teens and early 20’s I started a small speaking ministry on modern culture with an emphasis on music. I would travel around the area speaking to Youth groups and parents about music, movies and the pitfalls of modern culture and its impact in Youth Group students.

On one occasion I had been invited by a rather large Lutheran church to speak to their Youth Group. I was friends with the Youth Pastor and he afforded me the luxury of introducing his students to much of the Christian Rock that was popular at the time by playing snippets of the music. One of the most popular bands at the time was called DeGarmo and Key. As it so happens much of DeGarmo and Key’s lyrics centered on a soon approaching tribulation and the soon expected Rapture of the Church.

This was quite a common topic of Contemporary Christian music in its early Jesus Music days with Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill and the Calvary Chapel influenced bands like Love Song and Mustard Seed Faith. Not much changed lyrically throughout the 1980’s as many musicians made the Rapture of the Church a primary lyrical topic.

After playing some snippets from several different artist including DeGarmo and Key and others I saw a noticeable shift in posture and attentiveness, not of the students in the Youth group, but in my Youth Pastor friend.

After the conclusion of the presentation I went to his office to see if there was a problem with the music I was playing. I had feared maybe the rock was too aggressive or loud for a Sunday Morning Sunday School class. But that wasn’t the issue at all. In fact he was just more frustrated with the content of nearly every song being about the Rapture and a soon to appear Antichrist, full and complete with his own numerical system of 666.

“Why would that bother you,” I asked him, “It’s all throughout the Bible, right?”

“Actually, Dave,” he responded, “I don’t think it’s there at all. Plus, we’re Lutheran, remember. We never talk about the Rapture…we’re Amillennial!”

 

Over the next several chapters we will begin a more in depth study on the four previously discussed Millennial positions throughout Church History. As was stated in the Introduction of this book, much of what is discussed is not original information but a pooling of the best and the brightest Christian thinkers and theologians from all eschatological positions. So, it should be noted that much of what you’re about to read comes from to very exceptional sources that I highly recommend.

The first is Dr. Kenneth Gentry and his classic work on Postmillennialism entitled, He Shall Have Dominion. His concise and well laid out chapters introducing the Millennial positions had a strong influence on the layout and presentation of the following chapters. Dr. Gentry’s listing of early Church adherents is also included and is expanded by other research.

Also, I would overwhelmingly recommend Steven Gregg’s wonderful commentary on the book of Revelation entitled, Revelation, Four Views: A Parallel Commentary.  Gregg’s work was an invaluable resource for clearly and succinctly presenting the differing views of the Millennial and Interpretive Methods in a parallel format allowing the reader to judge the positions as they are presented side by side.

It is important here to note that there will be very limited exegesis of Scripture to propose or defend particular systems in the following few chapters as that is not the purpose of these chapters; rather the purpose is to present the views in broad and acceptable terms to make the definitions easier for the reader to grasp. The minutia of the positions is best left to the books that are dedicated to the subjects in which the proponents can give the detailed exegetical arguments for their positions.

The positions outlined below and in the following chapters are broad and hopefully acceptable positions that the majority of those holding the position would find agreeable.

There will be a brief critique of the positions following each description, but these will not be detailed by any sense. This is not a debate book! The purpose is to present the ideas here and allow the reader to see the value or flaws located within each view. The critiques will be broad-based arguments leveled against each position in history. There are more than enough books that the reader can find presenting, defending and critiquing all of the views below.

The one exception, as noted a few times previously, will be the extended discussion of the Dispensational Premillennial system. As noted previously that is because of the overwhelming popularity of the system and its impact on modern evangelicalism as a whole.

 

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Of the four Millennial position the most difficult to distinguish by its name alone is Amillennialism. The prefix “a” in Amillennialism denotes a “no” or “non” association with a Millennium. What that means is simply that Amillennialism means No-Millennium.

Unfortunately this is a misnomer as the definition can and does lead many, especially critics, to accuse the Amillennialist as denying a millennium at all. The facts could not be further from the truth and the straw man argument against the position based on the baseless claim really should cease, even though I have no real hope that it will.

The name itself was not given to the view by the adherents, but rather by the detractors of the view. This creates a negative connotation that is undeserved. A more acceptable or accurate name would be nunc-millennialism (which mean “now” millennialism) or “realized” millennium. This more accurately describes the position as we shall see in the following description.

The name given to the position stems from the view’s rejection of the Premillennial position that Jesus will have a literal and physical reign on earth for one thousand years. Amillennialism rejects both the idea of a physical reign on Earth at anytime in the future and that the Millennium lasts a literal 1,000 years.

But the view does teach a Millennium!

The Millennium is defined a greatly different terms than most might be familiar with, but it is a Millennium all the same. Like was discussed in the previous chapters the issues lie in the “nature” of the Millennium and the Kingdom of God and how it relates to the Millennium. Rather than teaching that the “Kingdom” was postponed like is found in Dispensational Premillennialism, Amillennialism believes the Millennium is a present day reality and will find it’s conclusion at the return of Jesus Christ.

So, in the timing sense, the Amillennialist agrees with the Postmillennialist that Jesus Christ physically returns and resurrects His people at the end of the Millennium. This would be, timing wise, “post” millennial. We will deal with the beginning point of the Millennium for the differing options within Postmillennialism in the chapter dedicated to that view as many Postmillennialist are in agreement with the Amillennial position while others are not in agreement.. What is important here is to note that Amillennialist and Postmillennialist are in agreement when it comes to the conclusion of the Millennium in the sense of timing.

Amillennialist argue that the Millennium began at the first advent of Christ and will conclude at His second advent. The entire Church Age should be defined as the Millennium. It is a long period of time and the reign of Christ is Spiritual through His people the Church in the present age.

The bullet point outline of Amillennialism listed below will have some agreement with the Postmillennial position that will follow when it comes to the timing issues, but the issues regarding the nature of the Kingdom (Millennium) is where the reader will note the greatest disagreement.

I do want to note very early on that although the Amillennial name may be a rather recent development, but the ideas presented below are by no means novel or recent. As early as Justin Martyr in the second century it was noted the differing Millennial positions within the Church and were considered acceptable and orthodox. In Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew he writes:

“I and many others are of this opinion [premillennialism], and [believe] that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise.”

So, as early as the post-Apostolic age there is writings that note that differing positions were promoted, defended and accepted. That would mean logically that the position itself had to have been around long enough to garner such general acceptance, even amongst its detractors.

Amillennialist most often employ the previously discussed “Idealist” interpretive method interpretation though many would also be considered Preterist.

AMILLENNIALISM OUTLINED

1. The Millennium is the same as the Kingdom of God as prophesied in the Old Testament and announced in the New Testament. This has been discussed previously and shows agreement with nearly all adherents of the four.

2. The binding of Satan that initiates the Millennium in Revelation chapter 20 takes place during Jesus’ earthly ministry both through the “binding of the Strongman” in Matthew 12 and through the defeat of Satan at the cross by which he is “driven out,” an event of which Jesus foretells in John 12.

3. The Millennium is of a long, indeterminable length of time the stretches from the first advent of Christ and is consummated at His second advent. The numerical term, 1,000, should be seen as figurative as it is often and nearly exclusively the case throughout the rest of scripture.

4. The nature of the Millennial Kingdom is one in which Jesus reigns from heaven through His Church, both in the hearts and in the minds of those members of His body. There will be occasional short lived advances of the Gospel in history, but the Church will experience an apostasy near the end.

5. Many Amillennialist believe in cyclical “tribulations” throughout history, but also many argue that there will be one final, great Tribulation in which the world is tested and the Church struggles and, as mentioned above, apostatizes. But throughout history both good and evil will grow simultaneously until the end of the age (Matt 13).

6. Christ returns at the end of the Millennium. This Second Coming will happen simultaneously with the General Resurrection, General Judgment and the establishment of the Eternal State. (For further study on this point note the chapter in this booked called “Wanna Sound Really Smart?”

The view has had a long and storied history with great and orthodox support throughout the ages.

Early Church Adherents Include: Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement of Rome, St. Origen

Modern Church Adherents Include: Berkhof, Adams, Hanko, Hoekema, Kuyper, Horton, Riddlebarger, Kline, Pink, Van Til, Calvin

 

EVERYONE’S A CRITIC

The most popular critique of Amillennialism, coming primarily from Premillennialist, is the more “figurative” and “spiritualized” reading of the prophetic and Kingdom text. This is most notable in the book of Revelation where many Amillennialist employ the Idealistic or Spiritualist Interpretative method.

Postmillennialist criticize the Amillennialist for their seemingly pessimistic view of the Church and her future history and the futurizing of the Tribulation and the events surrounding the end of the Millennial Age.

This view is also criticized for its difficulty in addressing the apparently two different resurrections in Revelation chapter 20. This will be answered in future chapters but is worth noting here as a main concern among Premillennial critics.


Postmillennialism

I was working for a Christian record company as a traveling sales person. The sales force would get together several times a year to go over sales strategies, receive information on the new releases and pretty much just hang out and discuss music, movies, sports and theology.

Over a several month period I had become friends with a phone sales representative named David who seemed to know everything about theology. I found out later that his father was a truly brilliant thinker, theologian, author and apologist. His father’s work would become the single most important influence in my theological journey.

But several months before I met his father and had begun my spiritual and theological journey to the positions I now hold, I was sitting in the back seat of his car while he drove me and several other reps to a team meeting.

The conversation quickly turned to theology and that night’s discussion was the topic of eschatology. Everyone took their turns expressing their particular viewpoint, which was pretty much a unanimous expression of the popular Premillennial, Pre-Tribulation, Left Behind Rapture view. All except for David.

When David finally interjected he simply said, “I’m post…just not in the way you’re thinking.”

“Post?” I thought.

“You’re really Post-Trib?” Someone in the car finally asked.

“Uh, no…” David responded. “I’m Postmillennial!”

 

As was with the discussion on Amillennialism, the current chapter on Postmillennial will contain a bullet point breakdown of the key elements that separates this view from the other Millennial positions. There will be some crossover between the Amillennial and Postmillennial position in relation to the Interpretive Methods used and the timing of certain aspects.

As was mentioned in the chapter on Amillennialism, both the Amillennial and Postmillennial position share one very important element; the belief that the return of Jesus Christ takes place at the end of the Millennium. This is where the term receives its identifying name. But it should also be noted that the Postmillennial position has two distinctly different views as to regarding the beginning of the Millennium.

Most traditional Postmillennialist believes the Millennium is a yet future event. These Postmillennialist argue that the Millennium will be “golden age” for the Church in which the Gospel will have conquered the nations, the Great Commission having been literally fulfilled, and the world will remain “Christianized” throughout a one thousand year time period. Those who would adhere to this view of the initiation of the Millennium would include the Puritans and, most notable, the great preacher and evangelist, Jonathan Edwards.

The traditional view would be somewhat similar to the Classical Premillennial view of the Millennium (next chapter) except that they do not believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will be physically present during this golden age for the Church. This view, though, also believes in the current Kingdom presence but in a more fulfilled and complete Kingdom presence during the Millennial time.

Most modern adherents to the Postmillennial position would find general agreement with the Amillennial position in terms of the initiation of the Millennium. Like the Amillennial position, the current position under consideration believes that the Millennium is the Church Age, which is also in turn, the Kingdom of God.

The Millennium begins, it is argued, at the first coming of Christ and will be consummated at the Second Coming of Christ. Please see the previous chapter for a more detailed understating of this position including a discussion on the binding of Satan found in Revelation chapter 20.

The primary interpretive method of most traditional Postmillennialist was the Historicist method, though a majority of current Postmillennialist would be Preterist or Idealist.

It should be noted that for the most part the outline below of key components of the Postmillennial position is that of the view in which the timeline of the Millennium itself began at the first advent of Christ. Some special notation will be given to show the different opinions between the traditional and more contemporary Postmillennial positions.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

 

POSTMILLENIALISM OUTLINED

1. The present Church Age is the Kingdom Age prophesied by the Old Testament Prophets. The “people of God” are expanded from ethnic Israel to include the Church. Traditional Postmillennialist would agree with this statement except for seeing the initiation of the Millennium as a yet future event.

2. Christ established His Kingdom at His first advent through the binding of Satan and His victory of the works of the Devil at the cross. Traditional postmillennialist would agree though the kingdom will find a greater fulfillment and purpose during the Millennium.

3. The binding of Satan has the specific purpose of limiting Satan’s influence on the spread of the Gospel and accomplishes the above stated goal of initiating the Kingdom.

4. Postmillennialism believes in a literal, physical expansion of the Kingdom of God in all facets of life. The nature of the Kingdom is primarily “redemptive” rather than political, though politics will be impacted as the nations are won for Christ.

5. The power of the Gospel is transforming in nature and through it people, societies and nations are redeemed and changed. This includes an impact on the arts, education, politics and morality of specific societies.

6. The “kingdom prophecies” (i.e. Matthew 13) are seen as literal and will find a physical as well as spiritual fulfillment in time and history.

7. The Kingdom expands gradually over time leading to a time in history where the world is converted by the Gospel. Though some in the Postmillennial camp have argued for a top-down, militaristic view of Kingdom victory, most Biblical Postmillennialist believe in a bottom-up victory of the Kingdom where societies and cultures are impacted through the Gospel and the changing of lives rather than the hostile changing of public and societal policies.

8. Satan will be loosed from his binding and is allowed a very short season in which to rise up an army (spiritual actions not militaristic) of apostates to wage war against the Church in spiritual and ideological ways.

9. Christ returns “after” His enemies are made His footstool. The return is a simultaneous event with the General Resurrection, General Judgment, and establishes the Eternal Order as proposed in 1 Corinthians 15.

Like the Amillennial position the Postmillennial position was widely held in both the ancient Church and the modern Church as well. Though many adherents did not have a detailed, systematized position those listed below are those that believed in the conquering of the nation through the Gospel before the return of Jesus Christ.

Early Church Adherents Include: Eusubius, Athanasius, Augustine

Modern Church Adherents Include: Bahnsen, Boettner, DeMar, Edwards, Henry, Hodge, Kik, Machen, Gentry, Murray, North, Owens, Sproul, Warfield * Calvin and Luther

One final note; both John Calvin and Martin Luther could as easily be listed amongst those on the Amillennial list as they appeared to at one time or another in their ministry to be attached to both views. The same could be said for Spurgeon as well as his many sermons on the present victory of the church in time leans to a Postmillennial position, though he also proclaimed a traditional, Classical Premillennial position as well.

 

EVERYONE IS A CRITC

Most critics of the position argue against the over-optimistic view of the Church and her victory over the nation in history. This appears to contradict the Scriptures that show the Church will be hated and persecuted throughout history. This view also appears to contradict the idea of a future apostasy of the Church expected by a future tribulation time.

Also, like the Amillennial view mentioned previously, there are difficulties in addressing the two different resurrections mentioned in Revelation Chapter 20.


Classical Premillennialism

There have been only a few passions in my life that have reached the level of obsession. They are Theology, Christian Music, the University of Southern California football Trojans and the Los Angeles, Anaheim, California Angels. The latter was my first obsession as my father was a police officer for the city of Anaheim and would take me to games as a young child when he worked at the stadium earning overtime pay.

While working for the Christian record company throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s I discovered a way to combine two of my great passions. When I discovered a certain player from the Angels was a Christian I would drop off a box of music for the player with my business card. Without fail I would receive a call within a day or two from the player thanking me for the gift as they travel long distances and having music to listen to was a great pleasure. Some players used the music to try and minister to other ballplayers on the team as well.

One other advantage is that I was able to garner some friendships with many of the players and they would, on occasion, offer me tickets to games at home and even on the road to the cities I would travel to. The tickets were always in the team’s “family section” and I got to know several of the wives and girlfriends of the players as well. I soon was known as “the Christian Music guy.”

One such player was a perennial All Star that the Angels had recently acquired during free agency. He was known for his very public stand for God and even wrote the words “Jesus Loves You” on his batting glove and would then wave to the camera.

I met him in foul territory on Opening Day and mentioned that I appreciated the “batting glove” incident. He came over and we began a friendship that lasted his tenure on the Angels. During that time I was invited to attend a few “players only” Bible Studies that he was leading. One of those studies was a warning about a soon coming collapse of the world’s economic system and the rise of an Antichrist that would lead the world out of that chaos and become the world’s dictator.

I was all on board!

Until he said that Christians would need to begin saving cash and hording supplies like food, water and natural gas to survive the upcoming seven year tribulation. Jesus was not going to return until after the Great Tribulations and Christians must be able to survive and thrive during this horrific season.

When someone at the study questioned him about the Rapture he responded, “There’s no such thing as the Rapture. That’s a new fantasy that was created in the 1800’s. The Church has always believed that Christ would return before the Millennium, but never believed in that Pre-Tribulation Rapture thing…that Dispensationalism. Don’t confuse what I’m talking about with that view.”

“I’m a Classical Premillennialist!”

Now that we have completed our discussion of the two positions that espouse a “post” Millennial return of Jesus Christ (Amillennialism and Postmillennialism) we will now turn our attention to the Millennial positions that teach that Jesus will return physically and literally “before” the Millennium. These two positions are classified as Premillennialism.

The most popular Premillennial view is the commonly held Dispensational Premillennial view. This view is relatively new in the historical framework of ideas with a creation date in the early 1800’s. This is the view that will be dealt with in future chapters and will garner the majority of our attention.

The other Premillennial position is the historic position of Premillennialism which we will call Classical Premillennialism. This view can trace its history back to the first century and was easily the most popular view in the first few centuries of Church history. This most likely stemmed from the continuing presence and influence of the Jewish belief of a Golden Age of Messianic rule prior to the creation of the Eternal State at that time.

The list of early Church adherents to the view is rather lengthy, but it should also be noted that there was no consensus even amongst the like-minded adherents as to the details of the Millennial period. Many simply expected something similar to the description of the New Heavens and the New Earth prophesied in Isaiah 65 and 66.

The recent rise in popularity of the Dispensational model of Premillennialism has caused the Classical view to diminish in its overall popularity. There is also quite a bit of confusion between the two Premillennial views amongst the average evangelical which adds to the difficulty in completely understanding and differentiating between the two.

The most popular and ardent adherents to the Classical Premillennial view today would include many Reformed Baptist in the line of Charles Spurgeon and those attached to the Seventh Day Adventist church; though it should be noted that many great thinkers and theologians today are Classical Premillennialist including popular eschatological author Dr. George Eldon Ladd.

The Classical Premillennial view though ancient in its origins lost a great amount of influence throughout the Middle Ages as the influence of Augustinian Amillennialism became the norm of eschatological ideology. This remained throughout the time of the Reformation where the influence of Postmillennial optimism also took root within the Protestant Reformers.

Though losing its primary influence on the Church as a whole, the Classical Premillennial thought never disappeared and has still maintained a very strong and loyal number of adherents. The primary interpretive method of most Classical Premillennialist is either a Futurist or Historicist view. Throughout Church history the Historicist view is most closely associated with the Classical Premillennial position.

Classical Premillennialist that embraces the Historicist interpretive method view the book of Revelation as chronological. They would argue that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is seen in the 19th chapter of Revelation in which Jesus goes to battle while riding on a white horse. This would be followed by the resurrection of chapter 20. This Historicist, chronological exposition leads naturally to a Premillennial understanding.

It is my hope with the description below to not only fairly present the Classical Premillennial view, but to show the differences between that view and the Dispensational model, though similarities will persist. Being able to grasp the differences will most assuredly help the reader work through the potential confusion that may lie ahead. So, there will be notes below within several bullet points in which the Classical position will be expressed and juxtaposed against the Dispensational model.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

CLASSICAL PREMILLENNIALISM

1. The New Testament is church is the “initial phase” of the Kingdom of God as expressed in history. It will not reach fulfillment and reveal its physical attributes until the physical, literal Millennial reign of Christ on Earth.

2. The New Testament Church will win occasional victories throughout history, but will fall victim to a Great Apostasy and lose influence as the world passes into a future Great Tribulation.

3. The Church will go through a yet future Great Tribulation lasting a debated time ranging from a couple years to seven years. Classical Premillennialism is Post-Tribulational in that the Rapture or resurrection of the Church is “after” the tribulation. This is set against the Dispensational model which is primarily Pre-Tribulational in that the Rapture of the Church is “before” the Tribulation.

4. Premillennialist are, by definition, futurists as they set Tribulational events from prophetic passages into the future. Historically, most Classical Premillennialist used the Historicist method of prophetic interpretation which means they believe that many events found in the book of Revelation are historical events, but much lies in our current future.

5. Jesus Christ returns at the end of the tribulation to Resurrect and Judge the elect and set up an earthly kingdom. This is called the “first” resurrection of Revelation chapter 20:1-6. It should be understood that there is no special placement for the Jewish nation of Israel, nor a return to a theocratic Jewish state that accompanies the Dispensation model.

6. Christ binds Satan at this Second Coming and this event is what initiates the actual Millennium as the binding of Satan removes his evil influences and allows for a more glorious earthly experience.

7. Satan is loosed after 1000 years and rises up an army against the people and city of God. This is seen by most to be a literal, militaristic setting that many claim is the Battle of Armageddon (see a later chapter for more details on this). Jesus is relegated to defensive actions until the Father sends fire from heaven down to destroy Satan’s final attack.

8. The Second Resurrection follows the consuming fire where the damned will be judged for all eternity.

9. At this point the Eternal order is established and the prophetic promise of a New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21) is fulfilled.

Early Church Adherents Include – Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian

Modern Church Adherents Include: Erdman, Spurgeon, RA Torry, George Eldon Ladd

EVERYONE’S A CRITIC

Critics argue the view has difficulty overcoming the time text determinations of the prophetic passages that allude to the actions being soon, near, at hand and within the generation of the original audience.

Other critics complain the two resurrections are not warranted and it is derived from a misunderstanding of the terminology of the two resurrections in Revelation 20. These critics point to other passages in which there is apparently only one resurrection of both the elect and the damned (John 5) as well as only one single time for judgment (Matthew 25). This view also appears to deny the idea that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father until His enemies are made His footstool (Psalm 110)

One last criticism to consider will be dealt with in detail in the Chapter called “The Second Humiliation of Christ.” This chapter will detail the issues surrounding the timing and the nature of the loosening of Satan and the actions that follow. There is not enough time or space to adequately deal with this proposition in this brief summary chapter.