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Introduction

Eschatology is derived from the two Greek words eschatos meaning "final" or "last" and logos meaning "word." Formally, eschatology means "the study of the last things". In a broad sense, eschatology seeks to understand the relationship between the eternal decisions or decrees of God through time, which were made before time, and were revealed to us at the fullness of time in Jesus Christ. In a corporate sense, eschatology is categorized by those who are in Christ, clothed with His righteousness and obedience, and those who are in Adam, clothed in his wickedness and disobedience. Eschatology concerns itself with the judgement confirming righteousness, and the judgement condemning wickedness. When I talk about various millennial views, I am referring to: Revelation 20:1-10: 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 Page 1 of 39

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.1 There are those who interpret 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. The early church viewed the prophecy of a future reign of Christ on earth for a thousand years in a literal way. Their interpretation has been designated in theology as premillennialism, the belief that the second coming of Christ will occur before His reign on earth for one thousand years. There was no other belief in the early church until about A.D. 190. The theological school at Alexandria, Egypt, at that time began to propagate the view that the Bible should not be interpreted literally. However, this was denounced as heresy by the early church, and in general, there was a return to a literal interpretation of the Bible. This view prevailed until the third century except when dealing with prophecy, which some found to be problematic. This is when the second major belief, amillennialism, came into vogue in some theological circles. Amillennialism, espouses the belief that there will be no literal Millennium. While there are several forms of amillennialism, in general this view teaches that at the second coming of Christ the eternal state will begin. Accordingly, fulfillment of prophecies about a kingdom on earth usually are equated either with believers enjoyment of heaven following death, or with the spiritual kingdom in which Christ reigns in the hearts of believers or in the church on earth. In this view many major passages must be interpreted nonliterally. After the Reformation, third view, postmillennialism, emerged. In postmillennialism, the church will be triumphant in preaching the gospel to the whole world, and at the conclusion of this triumph Christ will return to receive the world to Himself and to begin the eternal state.

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As these three views derive from three radically different interpretations of Scripture, and as I ascribe to the plenary interpretation of scripture, I shall attempt in this paper to determine which view is the more Biblically accurate.

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Amillennialism

http://blueletterbible.org/faq/nunc.html

"amillennialism" literally means "no millennium." In some senses the what is actually meant by its followers is not entirely accurate and many who hold this position today prefer the label of "realized eschatology" for their position. Within the first two centuries in the years of our Lord (A.D. Anno Domini if you will), it is difficult to find any real evidence of any belief other than premillennialism. However, some scholars insist that Amillennialism did exist, and they may interpret the silence of some early church fathers on the subject as evidence they were amillennial. The Alexandrian school of theology developed a principle of interpreting prophecy and other portions of Scripture nonliterally in the third Century. With that stance, amillennialism established a firm hold in the church. Subsequently, the premillenial view was eventually abandoned. The leaders of the Alexandrian school, including Clement (155216) and Origen (ca. 185254), taught that the Bible is to be understood as an extended allegory. Since the Bible has many difficult passages and many supposed moral problems, they said that its meaning was to

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be found on a deeper level, in hidden allegorical teachings.2 The church as a whole discarded the Alexandrian position and in fact labeled it as a heresy. For about two hundred years church leaders in Antioch of Syria opposed the Alexandrian school and emphasized the normal, literal interpretation of Scripture. But the allegorical point of view prevailed in the interpretation of prophecy and to a large extent destroyed the premillennial element in the early church. Augustine rejected the literal interpretation of scripture seeing the prophecies about Israel as applying spiritually to the Church.3 Curiously, while Augustine denied that there was a literal Millennium, he accepted other areas of prophecy literally, such as the second coming of Christ, heaven, and hell. Why was the millennial kingdom singled out for nonliteral interpretation? one possible reason is that the millennial kingdom, according to the Bible, will have a large Jewish element. Christ will reign in Jerusalem over the nation Israel and the entire world. In a church becoming much more ecclesiastical and authoritarian, and more and more gentile, I am sure that there was a strong opposition to the idea that the Jews should have a future in prophecy, and that is the position of some amillenarians today. AUGUSTINE became the main exponent of this view in his book The City of God. This view makes no promises except that Jesus returns and brings in eternity. According to Augustine, there will be no literal reign of Christ on earth for a thousand years. Though some early followers of amillennialism said the church would rule for a literal thousand years, this view was broadened to an indefinite period of time. Amillenarians say that Revelation 20:1-6 applies to Jesus first coming, not His second coming. To follow this logic, it would be heald that Satan is bound now and that those who come to life (20:5) refer not to resurrected Tribulation martyrs but, nonliterally, to people in this age who are saved. The influence of Augustine led to the amillennial, or what Peters called an "anti-millennial" view.4 This view of no millennium became the

http://www.island-of-freedom.com/ORIGEN.HTM

Walter A. Elwell (ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1984), s.v. Views of the Millennium by Robert G. Clouse, 716. George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ as covenanted in the Old Testament and Presented in the New Testament, 3 vols. (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1884; reprint, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregal Publications, 1972), 1:527. Page 5 of 39
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official view of the Catholic Church and would be the original view of the Protestant reformers. As Peters states: They (as e.g. Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, Calvin, and Knox) occupied the Augustinian or Popish position. . . that the church, in some sense, was the Kingdom of God (preparatory to a higher stage), and that the millennial period (one thousand years) included this dispensation or gospel period (some of the millennial descriptions being applicable only to a future period either in heaven or the renewed earth), and hence was nearing its close.5 However, seeing Revelation 20:1--6 as a reference to Jesus first advent carries inherent difficulties. 1. this ignores the sequence of events in Revelation 19 and 20. Beginning in 19:11 a series of prophecies is given beginning with the Greek conjunction kai, meaning and This word occurs more than two dozen times in 19:11--20:15. It is rather obvious that the events prophesied in these verses are consecutive. The armies that will gather in Jerusalem to fight each other will then turn against Christ when He comes. Then the Beast and the False Prophet, that is, the world ruler and his assistant, will be cast into the lake of fire. After that, Satan will be bound, and then Christ will reign for one thousand years. The word kai introduces each of these events in chronological order. nothing should be clearer than the fact that Satan is now very active He is not presently bound and unable to deceive the nations. In fact the New Testament teaches just the opposite. Peter wrote, Be selfcontrolled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). The next verse states that believers should resist the devil, who is one of the causes of believers suffering throughout the world. This is certainly not a picture of Satan being bound and inactive. In view of demonic activity today and obvious satanic influence that has deceived the nations, the amillennial explanation of Revelation 20:1- 3 is not

2.

3.

Ibid. Page 6 of 39

consistent with other biblical texts or with the churchs experience throughout history. 4. Other Scriptures bear the same idea. Peter told Ananias that Satan had influenced him to lie (Acts 5:3). And Paul referred to the power of Satan over unbelievers (26:18). A sinning Christian in Corinth was handed over to Satan for discipline (1 Cor. 5:5). Also Paul said he handed Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan (1 Tim. 1:20). Satan tempts Christians (1 Cor. 7:5), and he can gain an advantage over them (2 Cor. 2:11). In the present age Satan can transform himself into an angel (11:14), deceiving, if possible, even believers. Paul claimed, too, that he was sorely tried by a messenger of Satan (12:7). The coming of the lawless one the Antichrist, in the Great Tribulation will be in accordance with Satan (2 Thess. 2:9). In 1 Timothy 5:15, Paul referred to some as having followed Satan. Revelation 2:9 and 13 refer to Satans activity in the persecution of saints in the churches of Smyrna and Pergamum. Presently Satan seeks to lead the whole world astray (12:9), deceiving entire nations (20:3). Also he is the accuser of Christians (12:10). At the beginning of the last three and a-half years before the Second Coming, Satan will be cast from heaven into the world, no longer having freedom to accuse believers before the Lord (12:9). Still other passages describe the devil as being very active. His demons troubled many people when Jesus ministered on earth. But, as Peter reported, Jesus healed many who were under the power of the devil (Acts 10:38). Believers are exhorted not to give the devil a foothold in their lives (Eph. 4:27). Ephesians 6:11 refers to his schemes and 2 Timothy 2:26 refers to the trap of the devil. The devil in some cases has the power of death, but he will ultimately be destroyed (Heb. 2:14). In James 4:7 believers are exhorted to resist the devil and are promised that if they do, he will flee: According to Revelation 2:10 the devil cast into prison some believers in Smyrna who were standing up for Christ. In Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 the devil is called that ancient Serpent? These many Scriptures all lead to the conclusion that in this present age the devil, though limited in what he can do because of Gods power, is Page 7 of 39

5.

6.

7.

nevertheless actively opposing God and His people. In spite of all these passages, amillenarians appeal to Jesus statement to His disciples in Luke 10:18, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. This is a prophetic anticipation of what will happen at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (Rev. 12:9), or it may refer to Satans defeat at the Cross (see Col. 2:15). Whichever view is taken of Luke 10:18, it does not cancel the many passages that refer to Satans present activities. The fact that the devil will be bound after the Second Coming and before the thousand-year reign of Christ (Rev. 20:16) supports the premillennial view. Probably the most blatant violation of the normal interpretation of the Bible is found in the amillennial interpretation of Revelation 20:4--6. Amillenarians want to eliminate this direct statement about people being resurrected in the days following the Second Coming for the purpose of reigning a thousand years. So they do an extraordinary thing here and say this pictures the salvation of souls. However, those who will come to life (20:4) will be tribulation saints martyred because of their refusal to worship the image of the Beast or to receive his mark on their right hands or foreheads (13:15--16). When Christ returns, they will be resurrected and will reign with Him a thousand years. To interpret Revelation 20:4--6 in other than its literal meaning is without justification. Amillenarians who believe this also use a nonliteral interpretive approach were applied to the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, and His death and resurrection. These same theologians believe that the millennium described in Rev. 20 is merely a symbol of the church age. Although first taught by St. Augustine, the liberal theologian Geerhardus Vos6 (1862-1949), who taught the "Biblical-Theological" approach to eschatology. Some scholars, namely Friedrich H. C. Duesterdieck7 (18221906) and Theodor F. D. Kliefoth (18 101895), believed the Millennium would be fulfilled in the intermediate state. And Benjamin B. Warfield (18511921) taught similarly that the Millennium refers to the reign of saints in heaven. In addition to these variations some have advanced the view that the millennial kingdom will be fulfilled in the eternal state, the New Jerusalem. This leaves unexplained, however, how death and sin can exist in that era. As the "dispensational" movement captured the hearts and minds of

Geerhardus Vos: 2nd Coming and the Millennium, http://www.two-age.org/online_sermons/vos_lectures/vos_4.htm James E. Smith, The Fall of Babylon:A Problem in Prophetic Interpretation, pp. 3-23 Page 8 of 39
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conservative American Evangelicals, amillennialism was equated with "liberalism" or Roman Catholicism. The supposed interpreting prophecy "spiritually" or "not-literally" has lead to the rejection of amillennialism by many. In addition, amillennialism suffered greatly from the failure of Reformed and Luthern writers to defend the position against the likes of Dave Hunt, Chuck Missler and Hal Lindsey, who has labeled the position as "demonic and heretical," and the root of modern anti-Semitism.8 Leading contemporary "amill" theologians would include popular writers such as J. I. Packer, Mike Horton, the Calvin seminary professor, Anthony Hoekema, and RC Sproul. In addition, all of the Reformers, as well as the Reformed and Lutheran confessional traditions, as a whole, have been amillennial. In summary, the amillennial view makes the Millennium itself indefinite as to length and tries to find a nonliteral fulfillment either on the earth or in heaven, in the present or the future. Much more can be said about amillennialism as a method of interpretation, but the ultimate test is, What does the Bible say?

http://www.virginiawater.co.uk/christchurch/articles/hallindsey.HT M Page 9 of 39

Postmillenialism

http://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/post.html Generally speaking, postmillennialists believe that the millennium is a period of one thousand years of universal peace and righteousness in this world, which precedes the return of Jesus Christ to earth in judgement. Postmillennialists are divided as to whether or not the period of time is a literal one thousand years, and whether or not the millennial age begins abruptly or gradually. Some see the millennial age as entirely future, others argue that it may have already begun to gradually emerge. Postmillennialists also disagree as to the events that mark the beginning of the millennial age, such as the conversion of Israel (Romans 9-11), the binding of Satan (Revelation 20), and the defeat of Antichrist. The postmillennialists emphasize the present aspects of God's kingdom which will reach fruition in the future. They believe that the millennium will come through Christian preaching and teaching. Such activity will result in a more godly, peaceful, and prosperous world. The new age will not be essentially different from the present, and it will come about as more people are converted to Christ. Evil will not be totally eliminated during the millennium, but it will be reduced to a minimum as the moral and spiritual influence of Christians is increased. During the new age the church will assume greater importance and many economic, social, educational problems can be solved. This period is not necessarily limited to a thousand years because the number can be used symbolically. The Page 10 of 39

millennium closes with the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the last judgment.9 Although some elements of postmillennialism occurred earlier, Daniel Whitby (16381725) is usually considered the one who introduced postmillennialism. It became the predominant view of orthodoxy in the nineteenth century. Postmillennialism was the "dominant evangelical position"10 of the 19th century in both America and England. It was born out of an optimistic view of Christianity's growing impact on society and the legacy of Puritan theology.11 In detailing the aspects of postmillennialism, perhaps the most complete presentation was produced by the great Princeton Theologian, Charles Hodge. Hodge, whose Systematic Theology remains a standard work in America, was also highly respected in England. Postmillennialism, like amillennialism, believes in a nonliteral interpretation of prophecy. Postmillennialism has as its background the history of amillennialism, beginning in the third century, which established in some circles that prophecy cannot be interpreted literally. Postmillennialism was influenced partly by the fact that the predictions of some amillenarians that Christ would come relatively soon did not materialize. Though it is not entirely clear, it seems that Augustine (354430) believed that Christ would return in A.D. 650, and that the Millennium had already begun before Christ was born. When Christ did not return in 650, some believed He would come in the year 1000, somewhat similar to the modern-day interest in the year 2000. Postmillennialism is in one sense the historic position of the church since the days of St. Augustine. Since all amillennial Christians are also technically postmillennial in their understanding of the millennium, (though self-consciously "postmillennial" Christians

Elwell, Dictionary of Evangelical Theology, s.v. "Views of the Millennium," 715. Kenneth A. Kantzer. "Our Future Hope: Eschatology and the Role of the Church." Christianity Today 31:2 (February 1987), 5. An interview article with Gleason Archer, Jack Davis, Anthony Hoekema, Alan Johnson, and John Walvoord. Iain H. Murray. The Puritan Hope: Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971, p.71. Page 11 of 39
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cannot not be "amillennial" in any sense) and since the term "amillennialism" was not coined until after the beginning of the twentieth century, it was common for Protestant theologs to speak of the contrast between "pre" and "post" millennialism, without distinguishing between "a" and "post" millennialism. Therefore, the difference between amillennial and postmillennial Christians centers upon the character and length of the millennial age. Postmillennialists see the millennial age as commencing at some point during the present age, and as a period in which the kingdom of God triumphs over the kingdoms of this world. Amillennial Christians see the millennial age as occupying the entire period of time between the first and second coming Christ. Generally speaking, amillennial Christians see the millennial age as one of both the triumph of the spiritual kingdom of God and the corresponding rise of evil in opposition. Forerunners of Daniel Whitby included Joachim of Fiore (11321202), who thought Christ would return shortly after a new age was established in 1260. Whitby, however, gave the first comprehensive presentation of postmillennialism.. Like amillenarians, he taught that Revelation 20:1-6 does not describe events following the Second Coming, but that the passage refers back to Jesus death in which He defeated Satan. The binding of Satan (Rev. 20:1-3), then, occurred at the first coming of Christ, and verse 4 refers not to the resurrection of Tribulation martyrs but to the salvation of individuals in the present age. A view held by Wesley, Edwards, Whitfield and others, postmillennialists believe that the rise of evolution and optimism, that the world due to revivals and preaching, enlightening mankind, would cause mankind and the world to get increasingly better. postmillennialism became the primary view of 19th Century because, "the great Princeton school of theology, represented by Hodge and Benjamin B. Warfield, staunchly defended this system."12 Hodge detailed postmillennial thought as follows: The common church doctrine is, first that there is to be a second personal, visible, and glorious advent of the Son of God. Secondly, that the events which are to proceeded that advent are: 1. The universal diffusion of the Gospel; or, as our Lord expresses it, the ingathering of the elect; this is the vocation of the Christian Church.

12

Erickson, Contemporary Options, 61. Page 12 of 39

2.

The conversion of the Jews, which is to be national. As their casting away was national, although a remnant was saved; so their conversion may be national although some may remain obdurate. The coming of Antichrist.

3.

Thirdly, that the events which are to attend to the second advent are: 1. 2. 3. 4. The resurrection of the dead, of the just and the unjust. The general judgment The end of the world. And, The consummation of Christ's kingdom.13

Actually, two types of postmillennialism arose. One held that the gospel would be the cause of world improvement, and the other, the view of liberals, was that the world would improve by means of social progress. According to postmillennialists, there will be universal preaching and acceptance of the Gospel, and a complete and total victory of the kingdom of God, over the forces of Satan and unbelief. Postmillennialism is an optimistic eschatology of the victory grace of God in subduing evil in the world. During this period Satan will be effectually bound by the triumph of grace. Israel be converted somewhere near the beginning of the millennial age. Postmillennialists do disagree however, about the nature and details of these events. At the end of the millennial period, Satan will be released the period of great tribulation and the apostasy described in Revelation 20 occurs, culminating in Gog and Magog and the Battle of Armageddon. Christ then returns in judgement (the "great throne judgement"), the resurrection occurs, and there is the creation of a new heaven and earth. Postmillennialism was popular among American Evangelicals in the period of unprecedented technological growth between 1870 and 1915. World War I largely served to squash the tremendous optimism

Charles Hodge. Systematic Theology. (New York, Charles Scribner & Sons, 1871; reprint Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdman's Publishing, Three Volumes, 1949), 3:792. Page 13 of 39

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regarding the growth of technology and the related optimism about the future of man, which was carried over in church in the form of an optimistic eschatology. Many Reformed theologians of this period are generally c o n si de r ed p ostm ille nnia l, inclu ding the "Old-Princetonians," Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, and B. B. Warfield. They believed that as the gospel was preached, the whole world would become Christianized. In this way the Millennium would be established before Christs return. Postmillennialism teaches that the Second Advent is the climax of history, which will be followed by a general resurrection and judgment and the beginning of the eternal state. After two World Wars in the last century, and the rise of militant Islam in this one, very few individuals follow the postmilennial view. In recent years, however, a new form of postmilennialism has arisen called dominion theology or theonomy this view believes that the Millennium will be ushered in as believers Christianize various aspects of society. Recently, postmillennialism has seen a resurgence, with the rise of Christian reconstructionism and theonomy. In addition, there is mass confusion generated by critics of postmillennialism, such as Dave Hunt and Hal Lindsey, who portray the movement as taking two quite different and confusing forms -- that of "Theonomy," and that of "Dominion Theology." Thus many Evangelicals fail to see these two forms as distinct and divergent movements. Setting out the differences between the two forms then is helpful. I. The "theonomic" form of postmillennialism was initially presented by J. Marcellus Kik, and reworked into a full--blown ethical system known as "theonomy" or "reconstructionism" by R. J. Rushdoony. The business of the church was to work to see a theocracy restored upon the earth by emphasizing the continuity of Old Testament law (civil, ceremonial and moral) with the NT. Once established, this victorious church would be the divine vehicle from which the ever advancing kingdom of God would bind Satan and subdue all evil in the world. The emphasis of theonomic postmillennialism is that it is God who exercises dominion through his church establishing His law as the law of the land. Other theologians in the postmillennial theonomic movement are, the late Greg Bahnsen, Ray Sutton and Gary North. Popular writers include Gary DeMarr, Kenneth Gentry, and Peter J. Leithart. The "dominion" form of postmillennialism is exclusively Pentecostal. This form believes the charismatic revival ("Latter Rain") is God's means of binding Satan Page 14 of 39

II.

and allowing the Spirit-lead church to reclaim material possessions and wealth, which had been surrendered to unbelief and the kingdom of Satan. Once the Church understands its role and potential for dominion, through the work of the Spirit, be able to establish the kingdom of God on earth in it fullness, thereby bringing in a millennial age. The emphasis here is that it is the believer who must learn to exercise dominion if he is to take part in the advancing kingdom. Modern Theologians that represent this point of view are: Bishop Earl Paulk, Paul Yongli Cho and perhaps Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin and Pat Robertson. The older form of postmillennialism, as practiced by Reformed theologians such as Hodge and Warfield, has little in common in emphasis with the modern theonomic approach to eschatology, which emphasizes the rise of a Theocracy, as the vehicle of dominion. IN summary, postmillennialism teaches that as the gospel is preached the whole world will become Christianized. In this way the Millennium would be established before Christs return. Postmillennialism regards the Second Advent as the end of the world, which would be followed by a general resurrection and judgment and the beginning of the eternal state. In other words, as soon as believers Christianize certain aspects of society, the Millennium will begin.

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Dispensational Premillennialism

http://blueletterbible.org/faq/dispre.html Premillennialism, as the prefix indicates, states that Christ will return to the earth personally and visibly, before the beginning of the millennium. Since about 1830 there have been two main branches of premillennial interpretation; Dispensational Premillennialism and Historic Premillennialism. Remembering that all Dispensationalists are Premillennial, but not all Premillennialists are Dispensational.14 Dispensational premillennialists believe that Christ will return before a seven-year period of intense tribulation to take His church, both the living and the dead into heaven. After this period of fulfillment of divine wrath, He shall then return to rule from a holy city (i.e., the New Jerusalem) over the earthly nations for one thousand years. After these thousand years, Satan, who was bound up during Christ's earthly reign, will be loosed to deceive the nations, gather an army of the deceived, and take up to battle against the Lord. This battle will end in both the judgment of the wicked and Satan and the entrance into the eternal state of glory by the righteous. This view is called premillennialism because it places the return of Christ before the millennium and it is called dispensational because it is founded in the doctrines of dispensationalism. The first mention of dispensational premillennialism, was found in the writings of the Plymouth Brethren. Several of their key leaders included John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) and William Kelly

Charles R. Ryrie. Dispensationalism Today. (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1965), 44. Page 16 of 39

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(1821-1906).15 Although premillennialism was taught since the second century,16 the system of dispensationalism did not begin until the time of John Nelson Darby (18OO - 1882).17 This system teaches that there is an absolute distinction between Israel and the church as two separate peoples of God. Darby, trained as a lawyer, served in this profession for a short time before entering the Anglican church where he served as a deacon and eventually elevated to the priesthood where he served as curate in County Wicklow. Darby's ministry was used to the advance of the church there and under his ministry, "Roman Catholics were passing over to Protestantism many hundreds in the week."18 Disillusioned by the worldliness and lack of piety he felt should exemplify a New Testament church, he left Anglicanism and began to associate with the newly emerging Brethren Movement. Under the leadership of Darby and others the Plymouth or Christian Brethren began to grow rapidly.19 Darby developed a system of biblical interpretation and historical development which became known as Dispensationalism. According to Hoffecker this system:

15

A great deal is currently being made of what has become known as "Progressive Dispensationalism" and several books have recently appeared on this subject. The key books include: Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock (ed.'s), (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1992.); The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, by Robert L. Saucy (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1993); and Progressive Dispensationalism: An Up-to-Date Handbook of Contemporary Dispensational Thought, by Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock (Wheaton, Illinois: BridgePoint Books, a division of Victor Books, 1993).
16

D. H. Kromminga, The Millennium and the Church, Chapters

3- 7 Clarence B. Bass, Backgrounds to Dispensationalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans:1960), pp. 7, 64-99; cf. Ladd, The Blessed Hope, pp. 40-41. Larry V. Crutchfield, The Origins of Dispensationalism: The Darby Factor. (Lanham, Maryland: The University Press of America, 1991), 4. H. A. Ironside, A Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1985. Page 17 of 39
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. . .broke not only from previous millenarian teaching but from all of church history by asserting that Christ's second coming would occur in two stages. The first, an invisible "secret rapture" of true believers, could happen at any moment, ending the great "parenthesis" or church age which began when the Jews rejected Christ. Then literal fulfillment would resume Old Testament prophecy concerning Israel, which had been suspended, and fulfillment of prophecy in Revelation would begin the great tribulation. Christ's return would be completed when he established a literal thousand-year kingdom of God on earth, manifest in a restored Israel.20 While there is some dispute as to the origins of Dispensationalism21 E. Schuyler English states: While some trace the roots of dispensational concepts to the patristic period most theologians credit J. N. Darby, a Plymouth Brethren scholar, with the first systematizing dispensationalist theology in the middle of the 19th century.22 Darby is often difficult to interpret, mainly because of a rather abstruse writing style. During his own lifetime he was often misunderstood and in modern times Cruthfield states, "only the most intrepid of scholars deliberately choose to tackle Darby's works."23 Spurgeon himself commented on this when he stated regarding Darby's commentary on the Psalms, "If the author would write in plain English his readers would probably discover that there is nothing

Elwell, Dictionary of Evangelical Theology, s.v. John Nelson Darby by William A. Hoffecker, 293.
21

20

Ryrie states: There is no question that the Plymouth Brethren, or which John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) was a leader, had much to do with the systematizing and promoting of dispensationalism. But neither Darby nor the Brethren originated the concepts involved in the system. (Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, 74.) E. Schuyler English, "E. Schuyler English Looks at Dispensationalism." Christian Life 17 (September 1956): 24.
23 22

Crutchfield, Origins of Dispensationalism, 8. Page 18 of 39

very valuable in his remarks."24 However, in his Lectures on the Second Coming, Darby states his position clearly: Here then we have the details of it. The Lord hath declared that He will come and receive us unto Himself; and now the apostle, by the revelation given unto him, explains, how it will be. He will come to call us to meet the Lord in the air. . .What we are called to expect is not to die we may die, and a blessed thing it is to die but what we are to look for, as is expressed in the 5th of 2nd Corinthians, "Not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life." That Christ's power over death may be fully shown, He takes to Himself mortal men, whether alive or dead; if alive, He changes them into glory without dying; if they are dead, He raises them13 In his scheme Darby taught clearly that there was a clear and distinct difference between Israel, for whom the seven year Tribulation and the Millennial kingdom were designed for,14 and the Church, whom would be removed by means of the rapture and "always with the Lord." Commenting on Darby's view of the millennium, Crutchfield states: According to Darby, while the rapture primarily involves the hopes and destiny of the church, the millennial reign of Christ focuses predominantly upon the nation Israel and here hopes. There were two principles operative in the history of the Jewish people. On the one hand, unconditional promises had been made to Abraham (Gen. 12), and repeated to Isaac (Gen.26:3,4) and Jacob (Gen. 35:10,12) On the other hand, Israel had received promises under the condition of obedience (the giving of the Law at Sinai), and in this, failed miserably. Israel's failure, however, did not abrogate the unconditional covenantal promises made to Abraham some four hundred years before, for they rest solely upon the faithfulness of God. While the unconditional promises to Abraham included both earthly and spiritual elements, prominent among them the an absolute gift of the country.15

24

Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries, 84

John Nelson Darby. Lectures on the Second Coming (London: Paternoster Press, 1904), 47.
14

13

Ibid., 159-88 Crutchfield, Origins of Dispensationalism, 192. Page 19 of 39

15

Dispensational premillennialism share with historic premillennialism the belief that Christ will reign on earth for a thousand years after his return. There are, however, many far-reaching differences between these two varieties of premillennialism: 1. The literal interpretation of prophecy. Herman Hoyt, a contemporary dispensationalist, sets forth this principle in the following words:

This principle clearly stated is that of taking the Scriptures in their literal and normal sense, understanding that this applies to the entire Bible. This means that the historical content of the Bible is to be taken literally; the doctrinal material is also to be interpreted in this way; the moral and spiritual information likewise follows this pattern; and the prophetic material is also to be understood in this way. This does not mean that there is not figurative language used in the Bible. But it does mean that where such language is employed, it is an application of the literal method to interpret the passage in that way. Any other method of interpretation partially, if not completely, robs Gods people of the message which was intended for them.16 2. The fundamental and abiding distinction between Israel and the church. The following quotations from well-known dispensational theologians will illustrate the point:

The dispensationalist believes that throughout the ages God is pursuing two distinct purposes: one related to the earth with earthly people and earthly objectives involved, which is Judaism; while the other is related to heaven with heavenly people and heavenly objectives involved, which is Christianity....17 Of prime importance to the premillennial interpretation of Scripture is the distinction provided in the New Testament between Gods present purpose for the church and His purpose for the nation Israel. Individuals who are descendants of Jacob in this present age have equal

16

Dispensational Premillennialism, in Clouse, op. cit., pp. 66-

67. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Dispensationalism (Dallas: Seminary Press, 1936), p. 107. Page 20 of 39
17

privilege with Gentiles in putting their trust in Christ and forming the body of Christ the church. The New Testament as well as the Old, however, makes clear that the nation Israel as such has its promises fulfilled ultimately in the future reign of Christ over them.... The present age, according to premillennial interpretation, is the fulfillment of Gods plan and purpose, revealed in the New Testament, to call out a people from Jew and Gentile alike to form a new body of saints. It is only when this purpose is completed that God can bring to pass the tragic judgments which precede the millennial reign of Christ and inaugurate the righteousness and peace which characterize the millennial kingdom.18 Dispensationalists divide Gods dealings with humanity into a number of distinct dispensations. The New Scofield Bible distinguishes seven such dispensations: Innocence, Conscience or Moral Responsibility, Human Government, Promise, Law, the Church, and the Kingdom. A dispensation is defined as a period of time during which man is tested in respect to his obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.19 Although god manifests Himself in different ways in different dispensations, theses are not different ways of salvation. During each of them [the dispensations] man is reconciled to God in only one way, i.e. by Gods grace through the work of Christ that was accomplished on the cross and vindicated in his resurrection.20 The dispensation of the Kingdom is the millennial reign of Christ, which will occur after his return. The Old Testament contains many promises that God will establish an earthly kingdom involving the people of Israel that, his ancient covenant people in a future time, Though the Abrahamic covenant, that Abrahams physical descendants would be given the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession. In the Davidic covenant the promise was given that one of Davids descendants (namely, the coming Messiah) would sit forever upon Davids throne, ruling over the people of Israel. The new covenant predicted in Jeremiah 31:3134, though including certain features which are already being fulfilled for believers in the present Church Age, is essentially a covenant for Israel, which will not be completely fulfilled until the time of the coming millennium. Many passages in the Psalms and prophets (e.g., Ps. 72:1-20; Isa. 2:1-4; 11:1-9, 11-16; 65:18-25; Jer. 23:5-6; Amos 9:11-15; Mic.4:1-4; Zech. 14:1-9, 16-21) predict that the people of Israel will at some future time once again be brought

18

Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, pp. vii-viii The New Scofield Bible, p. 3, n. 3. Ibid. Page 21 of 39

19

20

together in the land of Canaan. Israel will enjoy a time of prosperity and blessing, have a special place of privilege above other nations, and will live under perfect rule of their Messiah, the descendant of David, Jesus Christ. Since none of these have yet come into being, the Dispensationalists believe that Christ will bring them to be during the millennium. During His earthly ministry, Christ offered the kingdom of heaven to the Jews of his day. This kingdom was to be an earthly rule over Israel, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies; entrance into the kingdom, moreover, would require repentance for sin, faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and a willingness to adopt the high standard of morality taught, for example, in the Sermon on the Mount. The Jews at that time, however, rejected the kingdom. The final establishment of this kingdom, therefore, was now postponed until the time of the millennium. In the meantime, Christ introduced the mystery form of the kingdoma form described in such parables as those of the Sower and the Tares in Matthew 13. An exponent of this view, E. Schuyler English, puts it this way: The kingdom in mystery is Christendom, that portion of the world where the name of Christ is professed. It is the visible church, composed of unbelievers as well as believers, that constitutes the kingdom of heaven in mystery. It will continue till the end of the age, when Christ will return to the earth to reign as King.21 Since the kingdom in its final or real form had been rejected by the Jews, Christ now proceeded to establish the church. The purpose of the church is to gather believers, primarily Gentiles but inclusive of Jews, as the body of Christ a gathering or calling out which will not be completed until Christ comes again for the rapture. Though the Davidic kingdom was predicted in the Old Testament, the church was not. The church therefore constitutes a kind of parenthesis in the plan of God, interrupting Gods predicted program for Israel. . . . The present age [the Church Age] is a parenthesis or a time period not predicted by the Old Testament and therefore not fulfilling or advancing the program of events revealed in the Old Testament foreview.22 Christs return, as we saw above,23 will occur in two stages or phases. The first phase will be the so-called rapture, which can occur at any moment. Here an important difference between pretribulational dispensational premillennialism and historic premillennialism emerges; whereas the latter looks for certain signs of the times to be fulfilled before Christ returns, the former expects these signs to be fulfilled after the first phase of the
21

A Companion to the New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 97. Walvoord, Kingdom, p. 231. Walvoord, Kingdom, P. 164-165. Page 22 of 39

22

23

return has occurred. Pretribulational dispensationalists, in other words, believe in the so-called imminent or any-moment coming of Christ.24 At the time of the rapture Christ does not come all the way down to the earth, but only part of the way. Now the resurrection of all true believers, exclusive of Old Testament saints, takes place. After this resurrection believers who are still alivebelieving Jews as well as believing Gentilesshall suddenly be transformed and glorified. Now the rapture of all of Gods people occurs; risen believers and transformed believers are caught up in the clouds to meet the descending Lord in the air. This body of believers, called the church, now goes up to heaven with Christ to celebrate with him for seven years the marriage feast of the Lamb. The seven-year period which follows is a fulfillment of the seventieth week of Daniels prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27). Dispensationalists hold that though the sixty-ninth week of this prophecy was fulfilled at the time of Christs first coming, the prophecy about the seventieth week (v. 27) will not be fulfilled until after the rapture. During this seven-year period, while the church remains in heaven, a number of events will occur on earth: 1. 2. 3. 4. the tribulation predicted in Daniel 9:27 now begins, the latter half of which is the so-called great tribulation; the antichrist now begins his cruel reigna reign which culminates in his demanding to be worshiped as God; terrible judgments now fall on the inhabitants of the earth; during this time the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preacheda gospel having as its central content the establishment of the coming Davidic kingdom, but including the message of the cross and the need for faith and repentance; at this time a remnant of Israel will turn to Jesus as the Messiahthe 144,000 sealed Israelites of Revelation 7:3-8; Through the witness of these 144,000 an innumerable multitude of Gentiles will also be brought to salvation (Rev. 7:9);
24

5.

6.

Midtribulationists, who hold that the church will be raptured in the middle of the tribulation, and posttribulationists, who affirm that the church will be raptured at the end of the tribulation, do not accept the any-moment coming theory, since they look for certain signs to be fulfilled before the rapture occurs. Page 23 of 39

7.

the kings of the earth and the armies of the beast and the false prophet now gather together to attack the people of God in the Battle of Armageddon.

At the end of the seven-year period Christ will return in glory, accompanied by the church. At this time he will come all the way down to earth and will destroy his enemies, thus ending the Battle of Armageddon. By this time the nation of Israel will have been brought back together into Palestine. When Christ returns, the vast majority of Israelites then living will turn to Christ in faith and be saved, in fulfillment of Old and New Testament predictions. The devil will now be bound, cast into the abyss, and sealed there for a thousand yearsthe time period is understood in a strictly literal way. Saints who died during the seven-year tribulation which has just ended are now raised from the dead (Rev. 20:4); the resurrection of Old Testament saints also occurs at this time. These resurrected saints, however, will not enter the millennial kingdom which is about to be established; they will join the risen and translated saints who constitute the raptured church in heaven. Now follows the judgment of living Gentiles, recorded in Matthew 25:31-46. This judgment concerns not nations but individuals. The test of this judgment will be how individual Gentiles treated Christs brethren whether brethren according to the flesh (i.e. Jews) or brethren according to the Spirit (i.e. saved people)during the tribulation.25 The sheepthose who pass the testwill be left on earth to enter the millennial kingdom. The goatsthose who fail to pass the testwill be cast into everlasting fire. Next follows the judgment upon Israel, mentioned in Ezekiel 20:3338. The rebels among the Israelites will be put to death at this time and will not be permitted to enjoy the blessings of the millennium. Those Israelites who have turned to the Lord, however, will enter the millennial reign and will enjoy its blessings. Christ now begins his millennial reign. He ascends a throne in Jerusalem and rules over a kingdom which is primarily Jewish, though Gentiles also share its blessings. the Jews, however, are exalted above the Gentiles. At the beginning of the millennium Christ rules over those who have survived the judgment of the Gentiles and the judgment of Israel just described. Those who are members of the millennial kingdom, therefore, are not resurrected believers, but believers who were still living when Christ returned for the second phase of his Second Coming. It should also be noted that at the beginning of the millennium no unregenerate people are living on the earth. The millennial reign of Christ fulfills the promises made to Israel in the Old Testament: The earthly purpose of Israel of which dispensationalists speak concerns the national promise which will be
25

English, op. cit., p. 150. Page 24 of 39

fulfilled by Jews during the millennium as they live on the earth in unresurrected bodies. The earthly future for Israel does not concern Israelites who die before the millennium is set up.26 those who enter the millennial kingdom will be normal human beings. They will marry and reproduce, and most of them will die. The millennium will be a time of prosperity, marvelous productivity, and peace. It will be a golden age such as the world has never seen before. The earth will be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea. Worship in the millennium will center around a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, to which all nations will go to offer praise to God. Animal sacrifices will once again be offered at the temple. These sacrifices, however, will not be propitiatory offerings, but memorial offerings, in remembrance of Christs death for us. What will be the relation of resurrected saints to the millennial earth? Resurrected saints will be living in the new, heavenly Jerusalem which is described in Revelation 21:1-22:5. During the millennial reign this heavenly Jerusalem will be in the air above the earth, shedding its light upon the earth. Resurrected saints will play some part in the millennial reign, since they will participate with Christ in certain judgments (cf. Matt. 19:28; I Cor. 6:2; and Rev. 20:6). It would appear that resurrected saints are able to descend from the New Jerusalem to the earth in order to engage in these judgments. These judging activities, however, seem to be limited to a few specific functions, and the primary activity of the resurrected saints will be in the new and heavenly city.27 Though at the beginning of the millennium only regenerate people are living on the earth, the children born to these people during the millennium will in time far outnumber their parents. Many of these children will be converted and become true believers. Those who turn out to be rebellious against the Lord will be kept in check by Christ and, if necessary, put to death. Those who merely profess the Christian faith but are not true believers will be gathered together by Satan at the end of the millennium (after he has been loosed from his prison) for a final attack against the camp of the saints. This final revolt, however, will be totally crushed by Christ, Gods enemies will be destroyed, and Satan will be cast into the lake of fire. Before the millennium ends, all believers who died during the millennium will be raised. After the millennium has ended, all the unbelieving dead will be raised and will be judged before the great white throne. Since their

26

Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, p. 146.

Walvoord, Kingdom, p. 329. On the role of the heavenly Jerusalem during the millennium see also Pentecost, Things to Come, pp. 563-80. Page 25 of 39

27

names have not been written in the book of life, they will all be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death. The final state will now be ushered in. God will now create a new heaven and a new earth, from which all sin and imperfection will have been removed. The heavenly Jerusalem, the dwelling place of resurrected saints, will now descend to this new earth, where God and his people will dwell together in perfect bliss forever. Though the people of God on the new earth will be one, there will remain a distinction throughout all eternity between redeemed Jews and redeemed Gentiles. The relation between the fulfillment of Gods promises to the nation of Israel during the millennium and the final destiny of saved individual Israelites is indicated in the following quotation: ...The Old Testament held forth a national hope, which will be realized fully in the millennial age. The individual Old Testament saints hope of an eternal city will be realized through resurrection in the heavenly Jerusalem, where, without losing distinction or identity, Israel will join wit the resurrected and translated of the church age to share in the glory His [Christs] reign forever.28

28

Pentecost, Things to Come, P. 546. Page 26 of 39

Historical Premillennialism
The "Historic" Premillennial position is easily seen in the early church fathers.29 It was formerly known as "Chiliasm," after the Greek word

http://blueletterbible.org/faq/hispre.html for 1,000. Virtually all historians acknowledge that a premillennial faith was the dominant eschatological belief in the church from "the apostolic age until the time of Augustine."30 Nathaniel West (18261906), writing on "The History of the Premillennial Doctrine" (which Dr. Wilbur Smith called, "the most important history of the premillennial doctrine that exists in the literature of that generation."31) stated this:

29

J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco, California; Harper & Row, 1959), 464-89. Kelly demonstrates that the premillennial position was the apostolic position and immediate post-apostolic age and "about the middle of the second century Christian eschatology enters upon a new, rather more mature phase. The general pattern, indeed, remains unaltered, all the key ideas which form part of it being accepted without question" (494).
30

Charles C. Ryrie. The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers Inc., 1953), 17-35. See also Clouse, The Meaning of the Millennium, 7; and Erickson, Contemporary Options in Eschatology, 94.
31

Nathaniel West. The Thousand Year Reign of Christ (New York: Scribner & Sons, 1889; reprint, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregal Publications, 1993, foreword by Wilbur Smith), ix. Page 27 of 39

History has no consensus more unanimous for any doctrine than is the consensus of the Apostolic Fathers for the pre-millennial advent of Christ.32 In distinction from Dispensational Premillennialism, this view has become known as "Historic Premillennialism" or "Covenantal Premillennialism" and denies the essential Jewish nature of the millennium. The essential chronology between the Dispensational and Historic schools is the same (with the exception of the timing of the rapture, which in the historical scheme is post-tribulational). However, the nature of the millennium is completely different. As Ryrie states: The covenant premillennialism holds to the concept of the covenant of grace and the central soteriological purpose of God. He retains the idea of the kingdom, though he finds little support for it in the Old Testament prophecies since he generally assigns them to the church. The kingdom in his view is markedly different from that which is taught by the dispensationalist since it loses much of its Jewish character to the slighting of the Old Testament promises concerning the kingdom.33 George Eldon Ladd, a prominent contemporary spokesman for the "historic" school, states the issue clearly: Here is the basic watershed between dispensational and nondispensational theology. Dispensationalism forms its eschatology by a literal interpretation of the Old Testament and then fits the New Testament into it. A nondispensational eschatology forms its theology from the explicit teachings of the New Testament. It confesses that it cannot be sure how the Old Testament prophecies of the end are to be fulfilled, for A. the first coming of Christ was accomplished in terms not foreseen by a literal interpretation of the Old Testament, and there are unavoidable indications that the Old Testament promises to Israel are fulfilled in the Christian Church. . . While the New Testament clearly affirms the salvation of literal Israel, it does not

B.

Nathaniel West (ed.) Premillennial Essays of the Prophetic Conference held in the Church of the Holy Trinity, New York City (Chicago, Illinois: Fleming H. Revell Publishers, 1879; reprint, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Klock and Klock Christian Publishers, 1981), 332.
33

32

Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, 44. Page 28 of 39

give any details about the day of salvation. This, however, must be said: Israel's salvation must occur in the same terms as Gentile salvation, by faith in Jesus as their crucified Messiah. As we have pointed out, New Testament exegesis (Hebrews 8) makes it difficult to believe that Old Testament prophecies about the "millennial temple" will be fulfilled literally. They are to be fulfilled in the New Covenant established in the blood of Jesus. It may well be that Israel's conversion will take place in connection with the millennium. It may be that in the millennium, for the first time in human history, we will witness a truly Christian nation.34 According to historic premillennialism, a number of events must happen before Christ returns: the evangelization of the nations, the great tribulation, the great apostasy or rebellion, and the appearance of a personal antichrist. The church must go through this final tribulation. The Second Coming of Christ will not be a twostage event, but a single occurrence. When Christ comes again, believers who have died will be raised, believers who are still living will be transformed and glorified, and then both groups will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air.35 After this meeting in the air, believers will accompany the descending Christ to earth. After Christ has descended to earth, the antichrist is slain and his oppressive reign is brought to an end. Either at this time or before, the vast majority of the Jews then living repent of their sins, believe in Christ as their Messiah, and are saved; this conversion of the Jewish people will be a source of untold blessing for the world. Christ now sets up his millennial kingdoma kingdom which will last approximately a thousand years. Jesus now rules visibly over the entire world, but his redeemed people reign with him. The redeemed include both Jews and Gentiles. Though the Jews have for the most part been converted recently, after the ingathering of the Gentiles, they do not comprise a separate group, since there is only one people of God. Those who reign with Christ during the millennium include both believers who have recently been raised from the dead and believers who were still living when Christ returned. The unbelieving nations which are still on the earth at this time are kept in check and ruled over by Christ with a rod of iron. The millennium is not to be confused with the final state, for sin and death still exist. Evil, however, will be greatly restrained, and George Eldon Ladd, "Historic Premillennialism" in The Meaning of the Millennium. Robert G. Clouse (ed.), (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1977), 27-28. Historic premillennialists, therefore, believe in a posttribulational rapture Page 29 of 39
35 34

righteousness will prevail on the earth as it never did before. This is to be a time of social, political, and economic justice, and of great peace and prosperity. Even nature will reflect the blessedness of this age, since the earth will be unusually productive and the desert will blossom as the rose. Near the end of the millennium, however, Satan, who was bound during this period, will be loosed and will go out to deceive the nations once again. He will gather the rebellious nations together for the Battle of Gog and Magog, and lead them in an attack upon the camp of the saints. Satan will, however, be consumed by fire from heaven and then cast into the lake of fire. After the millennium has ended, there follows the resurrection of unbelievers who have died. Now occurs the judgment before the great white throne at which all men, both believers and unbelievers, will be judged. Those whose names are found written in the book of life will enter into eternal life, whereas those whose names are not found in that book will be thrown into the lake of fire. After this the final state is ushered in: unbelievers spend eternity in hell, while Gods redeemed people live forever on a new earth which has been purged of all evil. What Scripture proof is offered by historic premillennialists for the teaching that there will be an earthly millennial reign after Christ returns? According to George Eldon Ladd, the only place where the Bible speaks of such an earthly millennial reign is Revelation 20:16.2636 He finds a description of the Second Coming of Christ in Revelation 19, and understands Revelation 20 as describing events which follow the Second Coming. The first three verses of Revelation 20, Ladd maintains, describe the binding of Satan during the millennium which follows Christs return.37 Revelation 20:4 depicts the reigning of risen believers with Christ on earth during the millennium. Ladd believes that the Greek word ezesan, (they lived, or came to life), found in verses 4 and 5, means raised from the dead in a physical way.38 He finds in verse 4 a description of the physical resurrection of believers at the beginning of the millennium (later called the first resurrection), and in verse 5 a description of the physical resurrection of unbelievers at the end of the millennium. Ladd accounts for the fact that teaching about this earthly millennial reign is found only in this chapter on the basis of his understanding of progressive revelation.
36 37

Clouse, op. cit., p. 32.

Commentary on Revelation, pp. 262-63. Ladd does not think that the thousand years should be understood with strict literalness (p. 262).
38

Clouse, op. cit., pp. 35-38. Page 30 of 39

Ladd finds further support for this teaching in I Corinthians 15:2326, although this passage does not provide conclusive proof for an earthly millennium.39 Appeal is made particularly to verses 23 and 24: But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then (epeita) at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then (eita) comes the end (telos), when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father... . Paul here pictures, according to Ladd, the triumph of Christs kingdom as being accomplished in three stages. The first stage is Christs resurrection. The second stage occurs at the parousia, when believers are raised. Then comes the end, when Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father; this is the third stage. Since there is a significant interval between the first stage and the second, it seems not unlikely that there will also be a significant interval between the second stage and the third. Ladd affirms that the words then (eita) and end (telos) leave room for an unidentified interval of time between the Second Coming and the end, when Christ completes the subjugation of his enemies.40 This interval would be the millennium. I have found many good points among Ladds positions, and have delineated them as follows: 1. God does not have two separate peoples with distinct destinies (namely, Jews and Gentiles, or Israel and the church) but only one people. the kingdom of God is both present and future. already at the present time the church is enjoying eschatological blessings. the signs of the times have been present from the time of Christs first coming but will assume an intensified form before his Second Coming. the Second Coming of Christ is not a two-phase occurrence but a single event. Ladd rejects many dispensational eschatological teachings. his premillennialism, therefore, as well as that of historic premillennialists generally,3 should be sharply distinguished from dispensational premillennialism.

2. 3. 4.

5. 6.

39

He says of the I Corinthians passage, There is, however, one passage in Paul which may refer to an interim kingdom if not a millennium (ibid., p. 38).
40

Ibid., pp. 38-39. See also The Gospel of the Kingdom, pp. 42Page 31 of 39

45.

While problems exist over the interpretation of such passages as Revelation 20:1-6 and 1 Corinthians 15:23-24, the main problem with this view is the idea that the souls of those who have died, having enjoyed the glory of the intermediate state, are now brought back to this earth and to an existence characterized by opposition and tribulation. Furthermore, the idea of glorified believers (those who remain alive at Christs coming) continuing to live in this world is difficult to contemplate. But, by far and away the most problematic idea is the thought that Christ has to return and live in this world. To cite A. A. Hoekema: "Why should he after his return in glory still have to rule his enemies with a rod of iron, and still have to crush a final rebellion against him at the close of the millennium? Was not Christs battling against his enemies completed during his state of humiliation? Did he not during that time win the final, decisive victory over evil, sin, death, and Satan? Does not the Bible teach that Christ is coming back in the fullness of his glory to usher in, an interim period of qualified peace and blessing, but the final state of unqualified perfection41

41

A. A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 185 Page 32 of 39

Conclusion
The distinguished historian Jaroslav Pelikan wrote: "Various observers have suggested that the nervous laugh is an infallible key to the deepest anxieties of any society. By that index, not merely death but all the major themes of eschatology ... must be reckoned as unfinished business for many.42 There have been times in my life when I was confused enough to turn to some of Pelikan's nervous humor. I discovered persons of two other persuasions: 1. 2. pro-millennialists, who were for the millennium whenever it might happen, and pan-millennialists, who were sure it would all pan out all right in the end, the philosophy to which I have ascribed.

In an attempt to summarize what I have stated within this paper, and come to some conclusions, which I hope will most closely match scripture, and please my Lord and Savior.

Amillennialism
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. 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. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Melody of Theology [Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press] 1988, pp. 74-75. Page 33 of 39
42

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).

Postmillennialism
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. 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).

Dispensational Premillennialism
Dispensational premillennialists hold that Christ will come before a seven-year period of intense tribulation to take His church (living and dead) into heaven. After this period of fulfillment of divine wrath, He shall then return to rule from a holy city (i.e., the New Jerusalem) over the earthly nations for one thousand years. After these thousand years, Satan, who was bound up during Christ's earthly reign, will be loosed to deceive the nations, gather an army of the deceived, and take up to battle against the Lord. This battle Page 34 of 39

will end in both the judgment of the wicked and Satan and the entrance into the eternal state of glory by the righteous. This view is called premillenialism because it places the return of Christ before the millennium and it is called dispensational because it is founded in the doctrines of dispensationalism. A strictly literal hermaneutic is foundational to the dispensational premillenialist viewpoint. Interpreting Scripture in this manner will in fact demand such perspectives unique to dispensationalism as: * * * * an earthly kingdom of God from which Christ will reign a future redemptive plan for national Israel a seven year period of great tribulation the rejection of prophetic idiom

Dispensational premillennialism holds that a seven-year tribulation (forseen in Daniel 9:27) will precede a thousand-year period (Revelation 20:1-6) during which time, Christ will reign on the throne of David (Luke 1:32). Immediately previous to the time of great tribulation, all the dead saints will rise from their graves and all the living members of the church shall be caught up with them to meet Christ in the clouds (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17); this is known as "the rapture." During this time of tribulation, there will be three-and-a-half years of world peace under an AntiChrist figure (Daniel 7:8; Revelation 13:1-8) who will establish a world-church (Revelation 17:1-15), followed by three-and-a-half years of greater suffering (Revelation 6-18). At the end of this period, Christ will return (Matthew 24:27-31; Revelation 19:11-21), judge the world (Ezekiel 20:33-38; Matthew 25:31; Jude 14-15), bind Satan for one thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3), and raise the Old Testament and tribulation saints from the dead (Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:4). At this time, the millennial reign will begin and Christ will reign politically over the earth at this time from His capital in Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3). Throughout His reign, there will be no war (Isaiah 2:4) and even the natures of animals will dwell in harmony (Isaiah 11:6-9). At the end of this era of peace, Satan will be released and instigate a colossal (but futile) rebellion against God (Revelation 20:7-9). After this fated battle, Satan and the wicked are cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10), while the righteous proceed into their eternal state in the realm of the new heaven and the new earth Revelation 21:1ff). 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 Page 35 of 39

Historical Premillennialism

previous the establishment of a thousand-year earthly reign), historical premillennialism differs in significant ways (notably in their method of interpreting Scripture). 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. 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 me pause. The Book of Revelation itself is probably the most curious and oft-debated piece of the Bible. This makes me cautious as I explore the various beliefs. However, I feel that the most consistent viewpoint with a literal interpretation of the Bible is dispensational premillennialism. My 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, anyone is confused about all this theology, they must not fear, for salvation is not built or broken on Revelation 20, but on the person of Jesus Christ.

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English, E. Schuyler. A Companion to the New Schofield Reference Bible. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972. Erickson, Millard J. Contemporary Options in Eschatology: A Study of the Millennium. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1977). Hoekema, Anthony A. The Bible and the Future. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1982). Ironside, H. A. A Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1985). Kantzer, Kenneth A. "Our Future Hope: Eschatology and the Role of the Church." Christianity Today 31:2 (February 1987), 5. An interview article with Gleason Archer, Jack Davis, Anthony Hoekema, Alan Johnson, and John Walvoord. Kelly, J. N. D. Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco, California: Harper & Row. 1959). Kik, Marcellus J. An Eschatology of Victory. (Nutley: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1974). Kromminga, D. H. The Millennium. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948. Ladd, George E. A Commentary on the Revelation. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1987). Ladd, George E. The Gospel of the Kingdom. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1981). Culvers, Robert D. Daniel and the Latter Days (Chicago: The Moody Press, 1977). Ladd, George E. The Last Things. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1982). Ladd, George E. The Presence of the Future. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1981). Lewis, Arthur. The Dark Side of the Millennium. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980). Murray, Iain H. The Puritan Hope: Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy. (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971). Payne J. Barton. Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980). Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Melody of Theology (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press] 1988). [Cambridge.

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