I. What is Premillennialism?
Will Christ return to establish His Kingdom on earth? Will there be a so-called Rapture, a thousand year reign of Christ on earth? Will Christians escape the great tribulation? Is this the long awaited end of man’s existence on earth? Everyone wants to know. Everyone is talking about it. We have recently entered a new Millennium. What will happen?
The word millennium is derived from two Latin words, mille, meaning thousand, and annum, meaning year. Therefore the literal meaning of the word millennium is a thousand years. The prefix “Pre- “designate the particular view held regarding the thousand years.
Premillennialists believe that Christ will return to earth and will literally reign over the nations from Jerusalem for precisely one thousand years. At the end of the 1,000 year reign, Satan will be released and will once again seduce people into rebellion again Christ. Satan will be defeated and the Great White Throne judgment will take place. Eternity will begin.
II. The Origins of Premillennialism
The origins of the Premillennial doctrine can be traced to John N. Darby, in England, about 1830. Premillennialism therefore, is of comparatively recent origin. The doctrine of Premillennialism became popular in the United States through the influence of the Scofield Reference Bible, published for the first time in the United States around the turn of the last century. The Scofield Reference Bible incorporated Darby’s ideas with explanatory notes and cross references on the same page of the text of the Scriptures. Darby’s ideas have become the prevailing tenets of Premillennialism in the United States today. Many people accept what they find in their Bibles as authority. The text of the Bible is authority - cross references and notes, and even chapter and verse divisions are of human origin.
The Scofield Reference Bible also taught a view of the interpretation of the Bible which has come to be known as Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism teaches that the Bible may be divided up into seven distinct periods or dispensations, in which God deals with the human race on the basis of one specific principle. This is sometimes also referred to as Radical Premillennialism. There are many different brands of Premillennialism, about 165 different varieties, each teaching something a little different about the end times. In our studies we will not consider all 165 varieties, but only the basic tenets of Premillennialism which are relatively well known in the United States.
The chief passages in the Bible to which Premillennialists appeal are: Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:1-11; 65:17-25; Ezekiel chapters 40-48; Daniel 2:42-45; 7:23-25; 9:24-27; Micah 4:1-8; Matthew 24:3-44; Acts 3:19-21; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 20:1-10. The Premillennialist makes the claim that all of the above passages look toward a future fulfillment, after the second coming of Christ.
III. BASIC TENETS OF PREMILLENNIALISM
There is, as mentioned previously, a great deal of diversity of opinion among Premillennialists about the timing of certain events (principally the rapture, and the tribulation and whether the church will endure the tribulation). However it has been characteristic of Premillennialism to teach the following:
1. The kingdom of God is not now in the world. Christ came to establish His kingdom among the Jews, but He was unexpectedly rejected, therefore He is coming again to establish His kingdom on earth.
2. The purpose for the church age (the age Premillennialists say we are presently in) is not to present the gospel to convert the world to Christianity, but rather to preach the gospel as a witness to the nations and to warn them of the judgment to come. As the gospel is preached God gathers out of all the nations His elect, His saints, into the church.
3. The world is growing worse and will continue to grow worse until Christ comes to establish His kingdom on earth.
4 Immediately preceding the second coming there is to be a period of general apostasy and wickedness.
5. The church age is nearly over. The coming of Christ is near. Most Premillennialists predict that it will occur at or near the year 2000.
6. When Christ returns the righteous dead of all ages will be raised in the first resurrection.
7. Those raised from the dead will be joined by God’s transfigured saints (living church members) and caught up in the air to meet the Lord in the air. Some Premillennialists say that this is the rapture and that it will last for 7 years, during which time there will be tribulation on earth.
8. After this period, the judgment of the righteous takes place. This judgment consists primarily in the assignment of rewards.
9. Just before, and some say during the tribulation period, the Jews are to be restored to the land of Palestine. Premillennialists insist that the Jews have never received the promises given to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-4.
10. At the mere sight of the Messiah, the Jews are to turn to Him in a national conversion and true repentance.
11. At His coming Christ destroys the Antichrist and all of his forces in the great battle of Armageddon.
12. After the battle of Armageddon Christ establishes His kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital, in which He and the resurrected and transfigured saints rule the world for a thousand years in righteousness, peace, and great prosperity.
13. During this literal thousand years the city of Jerusalem will be rebuilt, the temple will be rebuilt, the feasts and fasts and priesthood of the Old Covenant will be reinstituted, along with the sacrificial system of offerings.
14. This thousand year period of time is to be characterized by the removal of the curse from nature so that the desert will blossom with every kind of plant imaginable, and the wild and ferocious nature of all animals will be changed.
15. During this thousand years great numbers of Gentiles will turn to God.
16. Not everyone will be converted to Christ, some will remain rebellious at heart. These will not be destroyed but held in check by the rod-of-iron rule of Christ.
17. During this literal thousand years Satan is to be bound and cast into hell (or the pit) and kept away from the earth.
18. At the end of the literal thousand years Satan will be released from his pit (loosed) for a short time. There will be a violent outbreak of wickedness and rebellion which all but overwhelms the saints and the holy city of Jerusalem.
19. After this the forces of wickedness are to be destroyed by fire which is cast down upon them from heaven.
20. There is now a second resurrection in which the wicked dead of all ages are judged and sent to hell along with Satan and his angels.
21. Eternity begins with a new heaven and a new earth (for the redeemed) and hell for the wicked.
IV. WHAT DO THE SCRIPTURES SAY?
(a Biblical consideration of each point of Premillennialism listed above)
1. Christ’s kingdom is in existence, on earth, today.
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son
I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
1 Cor. 15:24-28
24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.
25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.
26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
27 For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him.
28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
2 Thess. 1:5
This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.
Paul spoke as though the kingdom was in existence in his day (Col. 1:13, 2 Thess. 1:5), John believed that he was in the kingdom (Rev. 1:9), and 1 Cor. 15:24-28 clearly reveals that at the end (the second coming) the kingdom is turned over to God.
The Premillennial concept totally misunderstands the nature of the kingdom. Jesus said:
My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.
The nature of the kingdom is spiritual. The Jews of Jesus day expected a material kingdom (Cf. Matt. 11:1-6), just as the Premillennialists expect today. The Jews of the first century were wrong, and the Premillennialists of the 21th century are wrong about the nature of the kingdom.
2. At Christ’s coming all the dead will be raised. The Scriptures do not teach multiple resurrections.
All the Father has given Christ will be raised at the last day - John 6:39
All that have eternal life will be raised at the last day - John 6:40
All that come to Christ will be raised up at the last day - John 6:44
Those who have eternal life will be raised up at the last day - John 6:54
Lazarus will be raised at the last day - John 11:24
The wicked will be judged on the last day - John 12:48
28 Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice,
29 and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
2 Tim. 4:1
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom
31 "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.
32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;
33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
There is to be one last day, as the term implies. There will be no secret resurrection of the righteous. All are judged on the last day. The rejected will be judged at the last day, the saints will be raised at the last day, and the sinner will be raised at the last day (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; Matt. 25:31-33). The Premillennial theory teaches that there will be three resurrections! One at His secret appearing, one at His return to earth and one at the end of the thousand year reign. The Bible speaks of one resurrection (John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15.)
3. What about Revelation chapter 20?
Premillennialism teaches that Revelation 20:1-7 includes the fact of the thousand year reign, the place of the reign, the ruler of the period, establishes that there will be a second coming of Christ to establish the thousand year reign on earth and then the final resurrection and judgment.
Read Revelation 20:1-7 for yourself.
Note that Revelation 20:
Does not mention the second coming of Christ.
Does not mention a reign on earth.
Does not mention a bodily resurrection.
Does not mention Christ on earth or the nature of the reign.
Does not mention the throne of David.
Does not mention Jerusalem or Palestine.
If we are to take Revelation literally, as the Premillennial doctrine requires, then we must face the following consequences regarding who is going to be in heaven for eternity:
Only those who have been beheaded on earth - Rev. 20:4
The number is limited to 144,000 - Rev. 15:1
They are all male - Rev. 15:4
They were all celibate - Rev. 15:4
They had never told a lie - Rev. 15:5
These are the inescapable conclusions if you require a literal interpretation of Revelation.
4. Christians Reign With Christ NOW!
Christians are a kingdom of priests now - Revelation 5:10, 1 Peter 2:9
Christians reign in life through righteousness - Romans 5:17, 12:1f; Col. 3:1f
Christians reign with the apostles - 1 Corinthians 4:8
Christians reign by enduring - 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:10-11
Christians reign by overcoming - Revelation 3:21
V. Consequences of Premillennialism
1. Denies that Christ is now reigning - 1 Cor. 15:23-26; Acts 2:32f; Heb. 1:5,8,16
2. Denies that we are in the last days - Hebrews 1:1f; Acts 2:16-17
3. Denies Christians the right to the Lord’s Supper - Luke 22:29-30
4. Alternates between Judaism and Christianity - Heb. 8:5-7; 9:6-10; 7:12-19; 13:10-13
5. Demotes Christ from His throne in Heaven to the earth, His footstool - Heb. 1:3-13; Acts 7:49
6. Belittles the church - Eph. 3:8-11, 1:22-23
7. Minimizes the gospel - 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 1:16; 16:25-26; Mark 16:15
8. Denies a simultaneous resurrection – John 5:28-29
9. Makes the first coming of Christ a failure - Gal. 4:4-5; John 17:1-14
10. Makes God false to His promises - Mark 1:14-15
11. Denies the preeminence of Christ - Col. 1:18f; 1:13-14.
12. Makes the kingdom political - John 18:36