Advanced Bible Studies
24. What About "Premillennialism"?
What About "Premillennialism"?
The doctrine of Millennialism and its various forms have affected and infected almost every major religion (and even politics) in America. There are basically three major millennial views:
Premillennialism – The belief that the kingdom of God involves a literal millennial reign of Christ upon earth. Then follows the Final Judgment. This doctrine includes two significant groups:
Classical or Historic Premillennialism – Teaches that there is a present and a future millennial manifestation of the kingdom of God. Thus according to Classic Premillennialism Jesus is king now and he will be king in the millennium. The millennial views of Classic or Historic Premillennialism are not usually as radical or troubling as those of Dispensationalism.
Dispensational Premillennialism – The most militant, rabid and bizarre form of the heresy. In this view the kingdom is not in existence now and all of history and religion is tied up with the Jewish Nation and the Davidic kingdom of the Old Covenant. This form of premillennialism divides history into seven “dispensations” – each a thousand years long – with the last being the millennial reign of Christ on earth. Dallas Theological Seminary is one of the most important centers of the Dispensational Premillennialist position. (This study will deal particularly with this and similar views of millennialism.)
Postmillennialism – The belief that the church is destined to conquer the world and usher in the “Golden Age of the Millennium.” (This was the majority view of Restoration preachers in the early years of Church of Christ history in America. It has now largely fallen out of favor.)
Amillennialism – The view that the kingdom of God is in existence now and is realized in the church and in salvation with no literal, earthly millennium in store for the future. In amillennialism, the thousand-year reign is considered a metaphor and spiritual symbol. (Within the churches of Christ, amillennialism [or some variation thereof] is now the predominant view.)
Along with the doctrines of Calvinism, Dispensational Premillennialism is among the most damnable heresies in all the religious world.
Major Premillennial (Dispensational) Teachings
Premillennialism: “pre” – before; “millennium” – one thousand years; “ism” – a doctrine or theory
Thus premillennialism is a doctrine or theory that Christ’s Second Coming will precede a literal one thousand year kingdom on this earth. This doctrine has at least ten major tenets:
1. Christ is not reigning now, but will reign during the one thousand year period or millennium.
The visible coming of the Lord will precede the millennium, which will be in two stages: the rapture, and the appearing of Christ, with an interval of seven years be-tween the two comings before the thousand-year reign. The rapture may take place at “any moment” and precede the great tribulation. After the rapture of the church [those saved between Pentecost and the rapture] a Jewish remnant will take the place of the church and convert both Israel and the Gentiles. During the seven years there will be the Great Tribulation followed by the “Battle of Armageddon,” ended by the third appearance of Christ and then the thousand year reign will supposedly begin. It should be noted that no two premillennialists can agree on the specific details and sequence of events in the timeline of premillennialism. Premillennialism is one of the most complicated doctrines ever invented by men!
2. Jesus will reign on this literal earth.
3. The duration of this reign will be a literal one thousand years.
4. Christ is not reigning on David’s Throne now, but will reign on his literal throne in Jerusalem in Palestine during the millennium.
5. The Jewish temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem, and temple services, sacrifices and ceremonies will be reinstituted.
Yes, you read that right! One of the dirty little “secrets” of Dispensationalism is that the Law of Moses and the Levitical sacrificial system will return during the millennial reign of the Messiah. Other millennial views do not typically believe any such thing.
6. Israel (the physical decedents of Abraham through Jacob) will be nationally converted and restored to the land of Palestine.
7. The so called “Ten Lost Tribes” of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament, will be gathered out of the nations of the world when Christ comes to establish his earthly reign.
It should be noted that several cults (including Mormonism) make a big deal out of the supposed “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.” From this they construct fanciful theories about the future kingdom.
8. Christ intended to establish his kingdom when he came to this earth the first time, but the Jews rejected Him. God then “postponed” the kingdom until a later date and established the church in its place – called the parentheses theory.
9. The righteous dead will be raised at the beginning of the millennium and the wicked will be raised at the close. There will be two resurrections, one thousand years apart.
10. We are not in the last dispensation of time or “last days” upon this earth. (But, it is believed that we are living during the “end times.”) The thousand-year reign of Christ will finalize events here on earth and then the Judgment Day will take place.
It must be recognized that there are as many “strains” of premillennialism as there are religious denominations. These ten areas are the most readily recognized points (with perhaps some minor variations) of the false doctrines of Dispensational Premillennialism which concern Christ and his kingdom.
Basic Problems with (Dispensational) Premillennialism
The Abrahamic Promise
One of the most basic problems with premillennial teaching is that it perverts the promise that God made to Abraham. Premillennialism teaches that the promises God made to the Jewish Nation through Abraham were unconditional – especially those that regard the “Land Promise.” The Abrahamic Promise(s) are recorded in: Genesis 12:1-3; 12:7; 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 17:1-21; 18:17-19; 22:15-18 … Genesis 26:2-5; 24 … Genesis 28:12-15; 31:3; 32:1,24-29; 35:1,9-12. The conditional nature of the “Land Promise” is seen from these passages alone. But also notice the following passages: Deuteronomy 27:1-30:20 (cf. Deuteronomy 4:1-40; 8:19,20 … Leviticus 26:1-46 and Joshua 23:1-16. The fact is, the Old Testament clearly teaches that God fulfilled the “Land Promise” given to Israel: Joshua 1:1-6; 11:23; 21:43-45; 23:14 and II Samuel 8:3; I Kings 2:12; 4:21-25; II Chronicles 9:26; Nehemiah 9:7,8. See Exodus 23:20-33 cf. Genesis 15:12-21. However, because of the continuing sins of Israel, the Prophets show conclusively that the Nation of Israel would see the prophecies of Deuteronomy fulfilled: See Jeremiah 11:1-17; 18:1-19:15; 25:1-13; 29:1-14. (The prophet Ezekiel in particular shows that Israel “lost it” when it came to the Abrahamic Covenant: Ezekiel 10:1-22! Our Lord also taught the very same truth in Matthew 21:33-44. It was only by the grace of God that a “New Israel” would be made the heir to all the promises of God. See Romans 2:28-29 cf. Galatians 3:15-4:7 and Galatians 4:21-31.) Compare Romans 9:1-11:36. What remained of the Abrahamic Promise was to find its ultimate fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ and his kingdom: Galatians 3:1-29.
The Kingdom of Christ: Present or Future?
Old Covenant Prophecy
The Throne of David: II Samuel 7:12-16 (Psalms 89:1-52 … Psalm 2 & Psalm 110). The Throne of Solomon: I Kings 1:13,30,33,34,37,46,47,48 and I Kings 2:10-12; I Chronicles 29:23. Consider Coniah (Jeconiah): Jeremiah 22:28-30 (II Kings 24:8-17; II Chronicles 36:9-10). (Jeremiah states that no descendent of Coniah’s would ever again sit upon the throne, ruling in Judah. thus, no descendent of Coniah would ever sit on a throne and rule on this earth.) Thus, the throne of David is an integral part of any view of the kingdom of God. See Zechariah 6:9-15.
The Kingdom in Prophecy: Joel 2:28-32 ... Isaiah 2:2-4 (Micah 4:1-5) ... Daniel 2:31-45; 7:13-28 (See also Isaiah 9:1-2; 11:1-10; 35:1-10 ... Jeremiah 23:5-8; 30:1-31:40; 33:14-26 ... Ezekiel 34:23-31; 37:24-28 … Zechariah 6:12-15; etc. (Every prophet, with the exception of Jonah and Nahum – both dealt only with Nineveh – saw the kingdom of the Messiah.)
New Covenant Fulfillment
The Throne of Christ: Acts 2:29-34 … I Corinthians 15:20-28 (Acts 3:19-26) and Hebrews 1:1-13 … Hebrews 5:5-10 … Hebrews 8:8-13 … Hebrews 10:9-25. See Luke 1:32,33. See Acts 2:30-36; Revelation 3:21; Ephesians 5:5 and John 18:36 (Revelation 1:6; 5:9). Consider Hebrews 4:14 ... Hebrews 7:11-14 and Hebrews 8:4. Now, also remember, Jeremiah had prophesied that no one of the seed of Coniah (Jeconiah) would ever again be able to sit in the (literal) throne of David and rule over (literal) Judah. Well, Christ is of the seed of Jeconiah (Matthew 1:11-12). Therefore, the only plausible explanation is to admit that Christ’s reign is not on this literal earth in literal Palestine; but rather it is a spiritual reign in heaven at the right hand of God ... and that is exactly where the New Covenant places our King (Acts 2:30-36). See I Timothy 6:14-16 where Christ is called (in this present time) the “only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.” Now, why would our Savior now be a king upon his (David’s) throne without a kingdom? Think on these things. Also study Matthew 28:18 … Ephesians 1:15-23; I Peter 3:22 (Romans 5:17 [Revelation 5:10]).
[The Kingdom in Fulfillment: Luke 1:31-33 ... Matthew 3:1-2 ... Matthew 4:17,29 (Mark 1:14-15) and (Matthew 5:17; 6:9-10; 10:7; 18:3; Luke 10:9; 12:31; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:16,18,29-30) and Matthew 16:18 ... Matthew 16:28 (Mark 9:1) ... Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8 ... Acts 2. It is imperative to realize that according to Christ, the kingdom of God was “at hand” while He was upon the earth as He preached the “gospel of the kingdom.” Throughout the Gospels these facts are recorded:
1. Christ would build “his church.”
2. His kingdom would come while some of his disciples were still alive.
3. His kingdom would come with “power.”
4. That “power” would come upon the Apostles in Jerusalem.
5. That “power” would come upon the Apostles in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came upon them.
6. All of this occurred in Acts 2, upon the first Pentecost after the death burial and resurrection of Christ.
7. Thus, it was upon this day that the church began and the kingdom of God was established, because it was upon this day the “power” came in Jerusalem upon the Apostles through the Holy Spirit.
Recall the prophecies in Joel (quoted by Peter in Acts 2 as being fulfilled), Isaiah, Daniel, and Nathan’s prophecy in II Samuel 7. Then note those New Covenant Scriptures that present the kingdom of God as a present reality: Colossians 1:13-14 (I Thessalonians 2:14); Hebrews 12:22-29; Revelation 1:6 (Revelation 5:9-10); etc. Perhaps, it is just as important to realize the “eternal importance” God places upon his church: Matthew 16:18 ... Ephesians 1:15-23 ... Ephesians 3:8-21. Also, most importantly, it is necessary to realize that the church and the kingdom are not two entirely different things; but rather, they are both describing a spiritual relationship to be found in the New Covenant of Christ: Luke 17:20-21; John 18:36 ... Romans 14:17 ... Matthew 26:52; II Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-19; I Tim. 6:12 (II Corinthians 5:7). (Consider also the fact that the Lord’s Supper is in the kingdom: Luke 22:16-18 ... I Corinthians 11:17-34. Consider also the fact that the apostles were given special authority in the kingdom: Matthew 16:18-19; 18:18-20 ... Matthew 19:23-30; Luke 22:29-30; Luke 22:29-30 ... Ephesians 2:19-22 (I Timothy 3:15); I Corinthians 12:27-28; etc.) Therefore, in government God’s church is likened to a kingdom with Christ as King. Lastly, never forget that God's kingdom in Christ is over more than just the church, it is over all – it is over everything and everyone! But, God's kingdom is most especially realized on earth in the church – the people who have fully submitted to the rule of the King and proclaim and live the gospel of the kingdom before the world. For more on the church and how it relates to the kingdom, go here and here.]
The Kingdom: A Present Reality
The Scripture simply and clearly teaches that Christ is ruling and reigning now in heaven. See Ephesians 1:15-23 and Colossians 1:9-20. And it just as definitely teaches that He cannot be either our Priest or our King on this literal earth. See Hebrews 8:4. Perhaps then, we should ask why men want to bring Christ back to this earth to rule when such is not the purpose of God; and especially when such would render our King and High Priest ineffective. (No one who holds to the doctrines of premillennialism really understands the Book of Hebrews and what it teaches regarding the differences between the Old and New Covenants. Premillennialism would take us back to the Old Covenant rather than have us realize that the New Covenant is the perfect fulfillment of the Old Covenant.) Not only is Christ ruling and reigning now but his kingdom is a present reality in the spiritual realm. Thus, Jesus has all rule in heaven above all the realms of heavenly and earthly places. Why would anyone wish to demote him and make him king of some earthly kingdom? He already owns it all and more! Remember, his kingdom is not a wordly kingdom. See John 18:36-37. Another question that needs serious consideration is this: “What is the real purpose of a supposed future and literal-physical-earthly millennial kingdom?” Is it physical and material or is it spiritual and eternal? Dear friend, consider well your answer. The truth of the matter is that Christ in establishing his kingdom – which is a present reality – fulfilled both prophecy and promise: Luke 24:25-27 ... Acts 2:32-33 ... Acts 3:12-26 ... Acts 13:26-41 (Matthew 5:17-18).
[Consider: (1) The Threefold Purpose of Prophecy: (a) To prepare the world for the coming Messiah and his kingdom: Acts 26:22-23 (Romans 15:4); (b) To prepare the world for the spiritual nature of the teachings of the Messiah and his kingdom: I Peter 2:9-12 (Matthew 13:1-23; Luke 8:4-15); (c) To bear witness to the truths of the Messiah and his kingdom: John 5:36-40. (2) The True Interpretation of Prophecy: I Corinthians 2:6-13 (Revelation + Inspiration). (3) The True Sphere of Prophecy: Hebrews 1:1-4 ... We are “in the last days” (I Peter 1:20 ... Acts 2:16-17 (I Corinthians 10:11). See Old Testament Prophecies: Genesis 49:1; Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 4:30; 8:16; 31:29; Isaiah 2:2; Jeremiah 23:20; 30:24; 48:47; 49:39; Ezekiel 38:16; Daniel 2:28; 8:23; 10:14; Hosea 3:5; Micah 4:1.) These “last days” will culminate in “the last day”: John 6:39,40,44,54; 11:24; 12:48; (Matthew 24:35-25:46 ... Compare II Peter 1:5-11); etc.]
Revelation 20 and Premillennialism
Does Revelation 20:1-6 teach a millennial reign of Christ upon this earth? Most everyone seems to believe that this passage (the only one that says anything about the millennium) teaches the doctrines of premillennialism. But, a closer examination of this favorite “proof text” will reveal that the doctrine of premillennialism – especially in its Dispensational forms – is false.
Revelation 20:1-6: Literal or Figurative?
In a book full of symbols and signs – in a highly symbolic “revelation” (which is the very nature of all apocalyptic literature) – how can we, and why should we make some things literal and others figurative? Consistency demands that we either take Revelation all literally or all figuratively. Revelation 1:1-3 gives us the basis for interpreting the Apocalypse. Within the first three verses of Revelation we are told that this book is apocalyptic and that its message is “signified” (Gk. semaino) which means that the Revelation is a book of highly figurative signs and symbols and must be interpreted accordingly. Not only is this fact outstanding but also within the prologue and epilogue of this marvelous work (Revelation 1:1-3:22 and Revelation 22:6-21) we find numerous statements such as: “the things which must shortly come to pass”; “for the time is at hand”; etc. All of these statements point to the fact that for the First Century reader, the events symbolized in the Apocalypse were in the very near future.
Revelation 20:1-6 is the only place in the entire Bible that mentions “a thousand years” (with the exception of II Peter 3:8). Thus, it is the only place that one can go to “prove” some kind of millennial reign of Christ. But, the premillennialist must prove that the “thousand years” mentioned in Revelation 20 is literal. Remember, Revelation 20 is one of the most important and one of the most crucial texts in the premillennial program. If the “thousand years” is literal, what about the “key,” “abyss,” “chain,” “dragon,” “beast,” etc.? Why do some make certain terms literal and others figurative in the main drama of Revelation?
Revelation 20:1-6: A Wholly Inadequate Proof Text For Premillennialism
Below are listed some things that are just not mentioned or taught in Revelation 20:1-6:
• Christ on this literal earth
• Christ actually reigning on this earth
• The reigning of beheaded saints on this earth
• The bodily resurrection
• The second coming of Christ
• The literal throne of David
• The city of Jerusalem in Palestine
• The Jews as a physical nation of people
The truth of the matter is, Revelation 20:1-6 does not even mention or include you and me. This passage is talking about martyrs who died for the cause of Christ in the early centuries of the church’s existence.
Premillennialism assumes that all of these things and more are included in Revelation 20 when they just simply are not there. We must interpret Revelation by the Bible and not the Bible by Revelation. One of the most basic rules of interpretation is to allow the plain and simple passages to explain those that are more difficult. Also, we need to recognize that our interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6, as well as the entire book, must be in perfect harmony with all of Word of God. If our interpretation of Revelation contradicts basic principles of God’s Word, as well as the teachings of Christ regarding his very kingdom; then how can our interpretation of the Apocalypse be correct? Consider very carefully II Timothy 2:15 (I Peter 3:15). See: Revelation 22:18-19. Compare I Corinthians 4:6; I Peter 4:11; Colossians 3:17.
Summary and Conclusion
The doctrines of Premillennialism and especially Dispensational Premillennialism are without any Biblical authority and are therefore unscriptural and heretical. Remember II John 1:7-11! They deny the Lordship of Christ and the existence of his kingdom. Ultimately, millennialism diminishes the importance of the New Covenant. And, so much premillennial teaching makes the church that belongs to Christ of little significance in God’s eternal purpose and plan. Dear reader, why don't you just accept Jesus as Lord-King now! Why don't you just accept the plain and simple truth of the Bible and reject the contradictory and convoluted teachings of the doctrines of men. Few systems are as complicated and as corrupt as Dispensational Premillennial Theology. To God be the glory for his kingdom is now and forever, and his kingdom is over all! Have you accepted the kingdom rule of Christ in your life?