Historical premillennialists place the return of Christ just before the millennium and just after a time of great apostasy and tribulation. After the millennium, Satan will be loosed and Gog and Magog will rise against the kingdom of God; this will be immediately followed by the final judgment. While similar in some respects to the dispensational variety (in that they hold to Christ’s return being previous the establishment of a thousand-year earthly reign), historical premillennialism differs in significant ways (notably in their method of interpreting Scripture).
Features and Distinctions:
- Favored method of interpretation: grammatico-historical.
- Israel and the church: The church is the fulfillment of Israel.
- Kingdom of God: present through the Spirit since Pentecost – to be experienced by sight during the millennium after Christ’s return.
- The Rapture: The saints, living and dead, shall meet the Lord in the clouds immediately preceding the millennial reign.
- The Millennium: Christ will return to institute a thousand-year reign on earth. The Millennium will see the re-establishment of temple worship and sacrifice as a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice.
- Major proponents: George Eldon Ladd, Walter Martin, John Warwick Montgomery, and Theodore Zahn.
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The historical premillennialist’s view interprets some prophecy in Scripture as having literal fulfillment while others demand a semi-symbolic fulfillment. As a case in point, the seal judgments (Revelation 6) are viewed as having fulfillment in the forces in history (rather than in future powers) by which God works out his redemptive and judicial purposes leading up to the end.
Rather than the belief of an imminent return of Christ, it is held that a number of historical events (e.g., the rise of the Beast and the False Prophet) must take place before Christ’s Second Coming. This Second Coming will be accompanied by the resurrection and rapture of the saints (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18); this will inaugurate the millennial reign of Christ. The Jewish nation, while being perfectly able to join the church in the belief of a true faith in Christ, has no distinct redemptive plan as they would in the dispensational perspective. The duration of the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:1-6) is unsure: literal or metaphorical.
- Ladd, George Eldon. A Commentary on the Revelation. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972. (ISBN:0802816843)
- Ladd, George Eldon. The Last Things: An Eschatology for Laymen. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,1982.
- Ladd, George Eldon. The Gospel of the Kingdom. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959. (ISBN: 0802812805)
- Culver, Robert Duncan. Histories &Prophecies of Daniel. Winona Lake, Indiana: BHM Books, 1980. (ISBN: 0-88469-131-4)
- Campbell, Donald K. and Townsend, Jeffrey L. A Case for Premillennialism: A New Consensus. Chicago: The Moody Press, 1992.
The postmillennialist believes that the millennium is an era (not a literal thousand years) during which Christ will reign over the earth, not from an literal and earthly throne, but through the gradual increase of the Gospel and its power to change lives. After this gradual Christianization of the world, Christ will return and immediately usher the church into their eternal state after judging the wicked. This is called postmillennialism because, by its view, Christ will return after the millennium.
Features and Distinctions:
- Favored method of interpretation: covenant-historical.
- Israel and the church: the church is the fulfillment of Israel.
- Kingdom of God: a spiritual entity experienced on earth through the Christianizing affect of the Gospel.
- The Millennium: a Golden Age previous to Christ’s second advent during which Christ will virtually rule over the whole earth through an unprecedented spread of the Gospel; the large majority of people will be Christian.
- Higher degrees of interpreting First Century events in the light of prophecy; preterism often goes hand-in-hand with postmillennialism.
- Of the several versions of postmillennial eschatology, thereconstructionist’s seems to be gaining the most popularity in the world today.
- Major proponents: Rousas J. Rushdoony, Greg L. Bahnsen, Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., David Chilton, and Gary North.
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There are several different versions of postmillennialism, but one of the views gaining the most popularity, is that of the theonomists. Generally speaking, the postmillennial theonomist viewpoint holds to a partial-preterist interpretation of Revelation and the various judgment prophecies in the Gospels, believing that the majority of those prophecies were fulfilled in 70 A.D. at the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.
The postmillennialist sees the millennial kingdom as the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that he would become “a great nation” and that “all peoples on earth would be blessed” through him (Genesis 12:2-3). This holy reign will come about via gradual conversion (rather than premillennialism’s cataclysmic Christological advent) through the spread of the Gospel — this incremental progress is drawn from many pictures found throughout Scripture (e.g., Deuteronomy 7:22 and Ezekiel 47:1-12).
Postmillennial optimism is also nurtured through many of prophetic psalmody. The Psalms often speak of all nations fearing Him, salvation being known among all nations, the ends of the earth fearing Him, et cetera (e.g., Psalms 2; 22:27; 67:2,7; 102:15;110:1). Another passage that well feeds this earthly optimism is Isaiah 2:2-3 in which the nations will stream to the righteousness of God.
- Murray, Iain H. Puritan Hope. The Banner of Truth Trust, 1996. (ISBN: 085151247X)
- Kik, J. Marcellus. Eschatology of Victory. Nutley: Presbyterian &Reformed Publishing, 1974. (ISBN: 0875523137)
- Gentry Jr., Kenneth L. He Shall Have Dominion: An Eschatology of Victory. Institute for Christian Economics, 1992 (ISBN 0930464621)
- Boettner, Loraine. Millennium. Presbyterian Reformed Publishing Company, 1992. (ISBN: 0875521134)
- Mathison, Keith A. Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope. Presbyterian &Reformed Publishing Company, 1999 (ISBN: 0875523897)
- Gentry Jr., Kenneth L. “Postmillennialism.” Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond. Ed. Darrell L. Bock. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House,1999. (ISBN 0-310-20143-8)
[ also termed nunc-millennialism or inaugurated millennialism ]
The amillennialist believes that the Kingdom of God was inaugurated at Christ’s resurrection (hence the term “inaugurated millennialism”) at which point he gained victory over both Satan and the Curse. Christ is even now reigning (hence the term “nunc-millennialism” — nunc means “now”) at the right hand of the Father over His church. After this present age has ended, Christ will return and immediately usher the church into their eternal state after judging the wicked. The term “amillennialism” is actually a misnomer for it implies that Revelation 20:1-6 is ignored; in fact, the amillennialist’s hermeneutic interprets it (and in fact, much of apocalyptic literature) non-literally.
Features and Distinctions:
- Favored method of interpretation: redemptive-historical.
- Israel and the church: The church is the eschatological fulfillment of Israel.
- Kingdom of God: a spiritual reality that all Christians partake in and that is seen presently by faith, but will be grasped by sight at the consummation.
- The Rapture: The saints, living and dead, shall meet the Lord in the clouds and immediately proceed to judge the nations with Christ and then follow Him into their eternal state.
- The Millennium: inaugurated with Christ’s resurrection. In an “already/not yet” sense, Christ already reigns over all and is already victorious over Satan.
- Higher degrees of interpreting prophecy in light of Christ’s advent, death, resurrection, and glorification.
- Relies heavily on a two-age theology.
- Major proponents: Meredith Kline, Richard Gaffin, Robert B. Strimple, Gregory K. Beale, and John Murray.
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Eschatology is the study of the eschaton; the eschaton is equated with “last things.” While other views focus on the final days of humankind on earth, amillennialism sees “the last things” as having been initiated at Christ’s resurrection and so, being applicable from the earliest days of the Christian church (cf. Acts 2:16-21; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 1:1-2; and 1 Peter 1:20). The amillennialist perspective sees the whole of God’s redemptive revelation as twofold – promise and fulfillment; it also emphasizes that a strict-literal interpretation of Old Testament is not necessarily the most accurate way of determining what the text means.
The amillennial perspective emphasizes that the coming of the Kingdom of God is a two-part event. The first portion dawned at Christ’s first advent (John the Baptist proclaimed at this time, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” — Matthew 3:2). At the cross, Christ won final victory over death and Satan. And then He ascended to reign upon the throne of David forever (Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:30-31). Now because we “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18) — because of this, the amillennialist sees the final things already accomplished, though not yet seen by sight, but by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).
An important note is the amilleniallist’s view of the church in this world: a role of suffering. The Christian will be hated by all, just as was Christ (Matthew 10:22), for a servant is not greater than his master. Seeing this as the church’s role on earth — to suffer as did Christ — the amillenialist can hold no hope for an earthly exaltation and longs for the fulfillment of the second stage of the coming of the Kingdom.
This second stage of the amillennial perspective is the final consummation of all the heavenly promises. The Christian will no longer see by faith alone, but by sight. All the shadowy things will pass away and our eternal reign with Christ will begin. The amillennialist, expecting no earthly glory for the church, places all his hope on this heavenly glory.
- Hoekema, Anthony. The Bible and the Future. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994. (ISBN: 0802808514)
- Hendrikson, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Books-, 1939. (ISBN: 0801057922)
- Beale, G.K. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999. (ISBN: 0-8028-2174-X)
- Strimple, Robert B. “Amillennialism.” Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond. Ed. Darrell L. Bock. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House,1999. (ISBN 0-310-20143-8)
- Extra Credit:
- Vos, Geerhardus. The Pauline Eschatology. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953.
- Vos, Geerhardus. Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953.
- Ridderbos, Herman. The Coming of the Kingdom. Philadelphia: Presbyterian &Reformed Publishing Company, 1962. (ISBN: 0-87552-408-7)
So what should be concluded from all of this? Before coming to a dogmatic millennial perspective, the lone fact that so many well-intentioned and intelligent Christians believe so variously when it comes to Revelation 20 must give us pause. The Book of Revelation itself is probably the most curious and oft-debated piece of the canon. This ought to place us in a position of caution when either accepting or dismissing another’s interpretation.
As with any body of Christians, there are members of the Blue Letter Bible team with differing opinions on the matter. However, in light of all the Scriptures on the subject, the Blue Letter Bible feels that the most consistent viewpoint with a literal interpretation of the Bible is dispensational premillennialism. Our ultimate advice is to go to the Bible itself (Acts 17:11). The best way in which to interpret the Word of God is to see what it has to say about itself. And if, in the final analysis, you are yet undecided, do not fear for salvation is not built or broken on Revelation 20, but on the person of Jesus Christ.
Study Resources :: Four Views on the Millennium. Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/mill.cfm