During the history of the Christian church men have held three major views about the millennium. There are the three different interpretations of Revelation 20 and its relationship to the second coming of Christ. The premillennial interpretation states that the Second Coming of Christ will precede the millennial kingdom, the 1000 year rule of Christ, and Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit during this 1000 years. The amillennial interpretation is that the 1000 year period occurs between the first coming and the second coming, they do not believe that the millennial kingdom is an actual 1000 year period and they do not account for Satan being bound in the bottomless pit. In the amillennial view Satan would have to be bound now, since Christ has not returned. One of the main presuppositions of the amillennialist is that the kingdom of Christ is spiritual and inward not physical and/or political. The postmillennial view indicates that the Second Coming of Christ will occur after the millennial kingdom. This view also raises several questions:
1) Who reigns during the millennial kingdom if Christ has not returned.
2) The millennial kingdom contains no saints since they will return with Christ or the rapture doesn't occur until after the millennial kingdom.
3) Who has bound Satan during this time?
The postmillennial and the amillennial view share the idea that the rule of Christ started with the First Coming and continues since the ascension through the presence of the Holy Spirit. This is also the teaching of the "Dominion Now" philosophy that is being taught in some modern churches. They are trying to remove the "millennial kingdom" tag from the teaching, but they still state that as soon as the church is completely victorious, Christ will return to a world conquered by the church if He is to return at all.
The Millennium For the last century or so, different overall eschatological perspectives have usually been classified according to their viewpoint regarding the millennium.
Over the centuries, most Christians have believed that some people will finally be saved while others will be lost. They often assumed that the latter would outnumber the former. By the early third century, however, Origen (185-254) was teaching ?universalism": the doctrine that everyone would finally be saved. (Origen even included the devil in that number, although this particular addition brought the church's official condemnation.) While universalism was revived from time to time, it was never widely accepted until the nineteenth century, when liberal Protestantism emphasized the goodness of human nature and often extolled God's love to the exclusion of final judgment. In this century, although talk of divine judgment has become more acceptable, even some fairly conservative theologians, such as Karl Barth, have apparently been universalists.
Numerically speaking, opponents of universalism have more biblical texts on their side. The Old Testament abounds with annihilating judgments. (1) Jesus proclaimed negative judgments in parables (2) and many other sayings.(3) Paul often spoke of future condemnation (4) as do other New Testament writings.(5)
Universalists, however, can cite passages emphasizing God's desire that everyone be saved.(6) They also argue that the scope of salvation becomes continually wider as biblical history advances. (7) Finally, certain texts seem to directly teach universalism (8): "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" "[Jesus'] act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all."
Positions on universalism, however, are not influenced by specific biblical texts alone. One's views on the character of God and of humanity and of salvation play important roles -- sometimes in emotional ways. Universalists find negative judgment incompatible with God's overwhelming love and the dignity of the human person. Opponents of universalism feel that it seriously undercuts the urgency of the call to repentance and the firmness of God's justice and ignores too many biblical texts.
This view teaches that there will be no thousand-year reign at all, and that the New testament church inherits all the spiritual promises and prophecies of Old Testament Israel. In this view Isaiah's beautiful prophecy of the bear and the cow lying together and the lion eating straw like the ox (9) simply doesn't mean what it says at all! However, if the eleventh chapter of Isaiah cannot be taken literally, what proof do we have that the magnificent fifty-third chapter should not likewise be allegorized away?
Amillennialism is the view of last things that holds there will be no Millennium before the end of the world. Until the end there will be a parallel development of both good and evil, God's kingdom and Satan's. After the second coming of Christ at the end of the world there will be a general resurrection and general judgment of all people. In general, amillennialists and postmillennialists hold a high view of the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and some were strong proponents of the infallibility of the Scriptures.
The amillennial view is that many of the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled at the First Coming, but the postmillennial view is that the church will fulfill many of the Old Testament prophecies that remain.
The amillennialist believes that the church has replaced Israel in God's plans, and is fulfillment of these promises of God antitypical and spiritual way.
Both the amillennialist and the postmillennialist believe that Christ's kingdom was established at the ascension, Christ's reign began at Pentecost and the Holy Spirit is fulfilling the millennial kingdom requirements now.
Charles C. Ryrie states (A) "These positions of the amillennialist is due to the different hermeneutics or interpretive principles. Premillennialists use literal or normal interpretation in all areas of biblical truth while amillennialists employ a nonliteral or spiritual principle in the area of eschatology."
Amillennialism is the view of last things that holds there will be no Millennium before the end of the world. Until the end there will be a parallel growth of both good and evil, God's kingdom and Satan's. At the second coming of Christ at the end of the world there will be a general resurrection and general judgment of all people. Amillennialists express their conviction that no historical period called the millennium does or will exist. Paradoxically, it was during late antiquity, as many church leaders were adopting a postmillennial perspective, that much popular piety ceased hoping for any historical millennium and, focusing entirely on the afterlife, became amillennial. In this general sense, amillennialism tends to be individualistic, concentrating on the heavenly destiny of each person rather than on the future of this earth. It includes much medieval mysticism.
Even modern existentialist theologians, such as Rudolf Bultmann, who regard futurist eschatology as mythological and emphasize encounter with God in the present, can be included under this general label. During the nineteenth century, however, "amillennialism" was applied increasingly to a more specific eschatology. Like postmillennialists, these amillennialists believed that Christ was already reigning with His saints. They argued that He was doing so, however, in heaven with departed Christians, and not through specific ecclesiastical or social movements. Like premillennialists, these amillennialists expected Jesus to return, to conquer His enemies and to rule over a transformed earth. His perfected rule, however, would be established immediately, and not preceded by an interim called the millennium. This specific form of amillennialism, then, is far less individualistic than the general one, and views history before Jesus' return much as does the more general, or "historic," premillennialism.
This theory says that through the preaching of the gospel the world will eventually embrace Christianity and become a universal "society of saints." At this point Christ will be invited to assume command and reign over man's peaceful planet. Loraine Boettner defines postmillennialism as:
"That view of last things which holds that the kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the Gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individuals, that the world is eventually to be Christianized, and that the return of Christ is to occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace commonly called the "millennium" . . . the second coming of Christ will be followed immediately by the general resurrections, the general judgment, and the interdicting of heaven and hell in their fullness" (B).
Thus, though postmillennialists believe in a literal thousand-year reign, their position is false, for the Bible clearly teaches that the world situation will become worse and worse prior to Christ's second coming--not better and better! (10) This position was popularized by a Unitarian minister named Daniel Whitby (1638-1726), and it flourished until the early part of the twentieth century. Then came World War I, and men began to wonder. Finally the postmillennial theory was quietly laid to rest amid Hitler's gas ovens during the Second World War! Today a postmillennialist is harder to find than a 1940 Wendell Wilkie button!
Whereas premillennialists hold that Jesus will return before the millennium, postmillennialists maintain that He will return after an earthly kingdom is established. This means, however, that the millennium will be simultaneous with an era of ordinary human history. This viewpoint was first comprehensively articulated by Augustine (354-430), who regarded the establishment of the church since about Constantine's time as the rule of Christ with His saints. Postmillennialism has often been the general perspective of Roman Catholic, Reformed, and other socially established churches. It became popular during the eighteenth and nineteenth century evangelical revivals, which emphasized social transformation. Today some socially-minded evangelicals are reviving it.
In a general sense, postmillennialism serves as a label for any eschatology which expects religious and social activity to play a large role in establishing God's kingdom. All such movements acknowledge that this kingdom is not yet fully established, for much evil still exists. They also grant that evil may sometimes gain the upper hand. Nevertheless, they hold that history and society in general have been and will be brought increasingly under Christ's rule and that the kingdom's advance is closely related to that of certain social and religious forces.
In the general sense, then, movements such as the early twentieth century "social gospel" and contemporary liberation theologies can be called postmillennial. Such theologies, however, seldom involve detailed theories as to how history will end. Many expect God to act entirely through the social forces presently at work. Accordingly, they interpret phenomena such as Jesus' return and the final resurrection as symbols rather than as historical occurrences.
In the more specific sense, postmillennialists are those, such as many reformed evangelicals of the last few centuries, who regard Jesus' return as an historical event and enter into discussion as to show how the final events will occur. They often anticipate a brief outbreak of evil before Christ comes and acknowledge that His rule after this time will be more pervasive than before. Although they insist that the church must significantly influence the socio-political sphere, they usually place evangelism at the heart of the kingdom's advance.
The postmillennialist believes that the church by preaching the gospel will win the hearts of man and change the Biblically predicted outcome of history. The amillennialist and the postmillennialist both believe that the millennium started with the First Coming and it is not necessarily a literal 1000 years. Both postmillennialist and amillennialist believe in the authority and inspiration of the Bible and take it literally except in the cases of eschatological passages.
Premillennialists hold that Jesus will return before He establishes a millennial kingdom on this earth. This return will be necessary because forces hostile to God will be governing the world, and Christ must conquer them before He can rule. Towards the end of the millennium evil will again arise, and it will have to be defeated once more before God's cosmic rule is perfected. Until the fourth century, the early church was generally premillennial. This perspective, which placed the church in sharp conflict with the Roman Empire, declined rapidly after Constantine made Christianity the Empire's favored religion. In subsequent centuries premillennialism was often held by radical groups at odds with state-supported religion. Those who hold the general expectation that Jesus will return before establishing an earthly millennium are called "historic premillennialists."
Premillennialism's more specific form is qualified by the adjective "dispensational." Dispensational premillennialism acquired its specific shape during the ministry of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), founder of the Plymouth Brethren. It has remained popular among many American fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. Dispensationalism contrasts God's way of working in at least two historical "dispensations": those of Israel and of the church. See Dispensation. Under the Israelite dispensation, God sought to establish an earthly, national kingdom centered in Palestine and governed by social and cultic laws. When Jesus came, He presented Himself as the King of this kingdom. According to dispensationalists, however, the Israelite, or "kingdom," dispensation did not end when the Jewish nation rejected Him. Dispensationalists claim to interpret all biblical prophecy literally. They argue that many prophecies regarding Israel -- such as the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple, the rule of a Davidic king over a universal, earthly realm of peace -- have not yet been fulfilled.
Therefore, these prophecies will be fulfilled, and the kingdom dispensation will be completed, in a time still future. Ever since Israel's rejection of Jesus, however, God has worked through the dispensation of the church. Instead of being primarily concerned with one nation, God now calls all peoples. Instead of establishing a geographical kingdom, God gathers them into the church. Instead of being deeply concerned with the socio-political affairs, God's work in the Church Age focuses chiefly on spiritual matters. This dispensation, however, will cease at a particular point. When Jesus returns to gather His church, (11) He will rapture it out of the world, and the kingdom dispensation will be reactivated. It will climax when, after several years of tribulation, Jesus returns with the church to center His millennial rule in Israel.
This view teaches that Christ will return just prior to the millennium and will personally rule during this glorious thousand-year reign. This position alone is the scriptural one, and is the oldest of these three views. From the apostolic period on, the premillennial position was held by the early church fathers.
a. Theologians who held it during the first century A.D.
(1) Clement of Rome--40 to 100
b. Theologians who held it during the second century A.D.
(1) Justin Martyr--100-168
c. Theologians who held it during the third century A.D.
Beginning in the fourth century, however, the Roman Catholic Church began to grow and premillennialism began to wither, for Rome viewed herself as God's instrument to usher in the promised kingdom of glory. For centuries the precious doctrine of premillennialism was lost except to a few groups.
People claim the Bible describes five major final events: Jesus' return, defeat of evil, resurrection, judgment, and renewal of the cosmos. Postmillennialists and amillennialists expect them to occur more or less together and to be preceded by a troubled time called the Great Tribulation (12) during which the Antichrist will rule. They also anticipate a large-scale conversion of Jews before the end. Historic premillennialists also expect Israelite conversion and the Great Tribulation to occur before Christ's return. However, they divide each of the other four final events into two phases.
(1) At Jesus' return: Antichrist will be defeated, and Satan will be bound (though not wholly destroyed); then "the just" alone shall rise from their graves; they will be judged and rewarded for their good works; and the millennial kingdom will be established.
(2) Then, after the millennium: Satan and all evil will be destroyed; then the "unjust" will rise; they will be judged for their evil works; and the new heavens and new earth will descend.
Dispensational premillennialists further subdivide this scheme. They distinguish two phases in Jesus' return. In the first, He will rapture the church. The Tribulation and Israel's conversion will follow (although in some versions, the rapture will occur in the middle of or even after the Tribulation). Then Jesus will return to defeat Antichrist, bind Satan, and establish a Judeo-centric millennial kingdom. From then on, events will proceed much like those of historic premillennialism. The resurrection, however, must now occur in three phases: at the rapture, all who have died in Christ to that time will be raised; at Jesus' second return, those martyred during the Tribulation will rise; finally, after the millennium, the "unjust" will be resurrected. Judgment, too, will proceed somewhat differently: "the just" who join the rapture will be rewarded then, while those raised at Jesus' second return will be rewarded only after the millennium, when "the unjust" are raised and judged.
The Last Judgment While traditional eschatological discussion has been preoccupied with millennial issues for over a century, several other doctrines have received attention through much longer periods of history. Many ordinary Christians and theologians have been concerned not with exactly when the last judgment will occur, but with how many will be judged favorably, and with how the condemned will be punished.
The dispensational premillennialist view is more prophecy oriented because they are looking for the fulfillment of prophecy and the Second Coming of Christ. The amillennialist and the postmillennialist are not expecting the return of Christ. The dispensational premillennialist is also expecting the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel and the start of Daniel's Seventieth week.
The dispensational premillennialist expects the complete fulfillment of all biblical prophecies. The starting of the fulfillment of these prophecies can be seen in the headlines of the daily newspapers.
However the postmillennialist also expects a more complete fulfillment of prophecy than we have witnessed so far.
The dispensationalist premillennialist believes that the Christ will come for the believers, the rapture, before the final tribulation starts at the end of the church era.
The traditional premillennialist believes that the rapture occurs at the Second Coming of Christ and therefore the church must go through the tribulation of Daniel's Seventieth week. The premillennialist (both) groups believe that the church will fail to convert the people of the earth and that when Christ comes he will face an apostate world. The dispensationalist premillennial view, because of their belief in the literal fulfillment of the prophecies concerning Israel.
Figure 200 shows the relationship between the different views.
Figure 200 -- End Time Viewpoints
The historic Pre-Millennial View placed the rapture at the end of the Tribulation and an immediate return with Christ to start the Millennial Kingdom. This viewpoint makes the Church believers go through the Great Tribulation which contradicts Revelation 3:10.
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Revelation 3:10.
The Amillennial View states that the church age will continue until Christ returns and institutes a New Heaven and Earth. This viewpoint does not allow for a millennial kingdom and ignores Revelation 20 which specifies a Millennial Reign of Christ.
The Post-Millennial view is that the Church will take the earth into the golden age of perfection and then Chirst will return and create a New Heaven and Earth. The Millennial kingdom is now with Christ ruling in our hearts. This viewpoint also ignores numerous Scripture verses.
My view is essentially dispensational premillennial with some alterations. I believe the events will follow the order given in Figure 139 the Rapture Sequence.
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(1) Exodus 14:23-28 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, And took off their chariot wheels, that they drove them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians. And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
Joshua 7:24-26 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Aerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after thy had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.
Jeremiah 51:39-40 In their heat I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the Lord. I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, like rams with he goats.Return
(2) Matthew 13.Return
(3) Matthew 5:29-30 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Matthew 11:21-24 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
Matthew 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?Return
(4) Romans 2:5-9 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thy self wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile.
II Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.
But why dost thou judge
thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy
brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.I Thessalonians 1:10.Return
(5) II Peter 3:7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
Jude 14-15 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
Revelation 20:11-15 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it: and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.Return
(6) I Timothy 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
II Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.Return
(7) .Romans 5:15 But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.Return
(8) I Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
Romans 5:18-19 RSV Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous.
Ephesians 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all thins in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.
Colossians 1:20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be thins in earth, or things in heaven.
I Timothy 4:10 For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is he Savior of all men, specially of those that believe.
I John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.Return
(9) Isaiah 11:7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox,.Return
(10) I Timothy 4:1-2 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
2 Timothy 4:1-4 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.Return
(11) I Thessalonians 4:13-17 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by he word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.Return
(12) Mark 13:19 For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.Return
(A) Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology, Victor Books, 1981, 446.Return
(B) Loraine Boettner, The Millennium, Nutley, J.J.:, 1957, 14. Return