This is going to be a 4 Part Series concerning the Four Main Views on the Millennium Question as seen by Christians. It will be followed by a conclusion article. I almost wanted to run the conclusion article first as it is very important. But I decided you must wait until the end…get it? The end? 🙂
What Is the Millennium in Question?
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.
“Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
“When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever.” (NASB)
Why Is This Millennium in Question?
Some see this as a future earthly theocracy by which Christ will rule over the nations for a thousand years. Others see it as a time during which Christ will rule earth from heaven through the life-changing power of the Gospel. Still others look at it in another way. And the multitude of others holds a multitude of other interpretations.
One’s final interpretation of the thousand years from Revelation 20 depends more upon certain factors related to a Christian’s hermeneutic than the strict text of the ten much debated verses. There are several ways in which orthodox Christians choose to come to Scripture and depending on which of these methods is used, one’s understanding of eschatological issues — and a host of others as well — will experience changes both significant and trivial. And since one interprets Scripture primarily through the filter of his understanding of other passages in the Word, one’s millennial view does have an effect (whether great or small) on the way in which he lives his life.
Since space is limited, we are unable to treat all the current millennial views, but we do hope to give a brief, but accurate account of the main tenets of the four main existing viewpoints as well as some of the reasons — both Scriptural and interpretive — behind each view. These four main eschatological systems that we shall treat are as follows: dispensational premillennialism, historic premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism. Please realize that though these views differ significantly on the topic at hand, the Christians who disagree on these matters agree with each other on probably ninety percent of the rest of the Christian life.
Also, in coming to one’s own view, there are certain poor arguments from which one should shy away. A couple of these are arguments from history and arguments from the deeds of those who are proponents of a given view. Arguments from history, while having some use, should generally be avoided for the simple fact that not only were the eschatological (End of times) views of the early church largely undefined, but most of the Second and Third Century church fathers held to some beliefs that would today be considered odd or even unorthodox. Arguments against an idea from the “bad fruit” of that idea’s proponents, while a popular form of argumentation, should be left behind; as it happens, every view has had its embarrassing supporters who claim to act from their beliefs but represent something altogether outside of Christianity. Amillennialists are accused because Nazis misapplied some of their beliefs. Postmillennialists are judged because some over-zealous rebels in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries misused their principles. Premillennialists come under attack because both a) the majority of Christian cults take up their ideas of end-times cataclysm and b) some of those who profess premillenialism get caught up in setting dates for Christ’s return. With those cautions noted, we shall examine each of these four views individually.