Ask Steve: Millennial Position

Premillenn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, what is your view of the millennium and why do you hold it? 

Answer: Although my millennial position is not such that it eclipses my focus on the gospel and the mission of the church, I still see it as a significant issue and a determining factor to my pastoring at a church. The millennial issue is important to me because it represents how I interpret Scripture, how I approach missiology, and how I view the relationship between the church and Israel. I am a firm believer in premillennialism, which means that I believe God will return before the start of the millennium to physically rule over the earth in Jerusalem for 1,000 years before the Great White Throne Judgment and the establishment of the New Earth.

 I firmly believe that Scripture teaches premillennalism over the proposed options of amillennialism and postmillennialism for three reasons: 1). The grammatical-historical method of interpreting Scripture testifies to the reality of a 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth, 2). It makes sense when examining the simple chronological context of Revelation 20, 3). It does justice to the many Old Testament prophetic references of a future earthly kingdom that is definitely better than the current world order, but not quite as perfect as the eternal state, which speaks of an intermediate period that can only find fulfillment during the 1,000 years depicted in Revelation 20:4-10.

It is interesting to note that premillennialism is the oldest millennial view of all the millennial options, beginning from the time of the apostolic church age. This does not necessarily prove that the premillennialist doctrine is true, but it is a good indicator of its reliability since it is the position that is closest to the time of the apostles. This greatly increases the chance of a more accurate and reliable interpretation of such prophetic issues since the church fathers lived closer to the time of the apostles and had access to their teachings. Such views were prevalent amongst church fathers such as Iranaeus, Martyr, and Barnabas. It remained so until the 4th century, when amillennialism was made popular by Origen because of the popular secular trend of allegorical and Gnostic influences that were pervasive throughout the regions, as well as a growing Christianization of the Roman Empire that led to the realization that a millennial period for Israel was unnecessarily.

As I have stated, one of the reasons why I belief in premillennialism is that it is the product of faithful exegesis of the text according to a trustworthy system of hermeneutics. The grammatical-historical method (literal) of Scripture reading has been characteristic of evangelicalism since the time of the Protestant Reformation, and was one of the major characteristics of the movement. A literal understanding of Scripture and the belief that it spoke clearly is one of the defining marks of evangelicism, and what separates true Christianity from other branches or denominations that may take too much of a figurative, allegorical, or mystical approach to interpreting especially key doctrinal issues in Scripture. A big portion of evangelicalism mysteriously departs from the grammatical-historical method when it comes to “apocalyptic literature,” but the same hermeneutics should apply here as well if one believes that God communicated clearly to the original audiences in the original setting. This integrity and consistency in hermeneutical approach leads to the realization that the book of Revelation not only promotes a futuristic eschatology, but also one that demonstrates premillennialism.

The normal sense of the language in Revelation 19-21, as well as the context and chronology, also demonstrate that premillennialism makes sense. Revelation 19 speaks about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and His casting of the Beast and False Prophet into the lake of fire. Chronologically, Revelation 20 follows suit, as some information within the text shows that it is meant to be chronological and not a shifting back in time, as preterists would propose in their pliable interpretation of the text. After Christ’s second coming, an angel takes a hold of Satan and locks him in an abyss for 1,000 years (20:3). Amillennialists and postmillennialists would say that this binding of Satan has already happened when Christ conquered sin and death on the cross. In other words, the millennium is currently underway with Satan bound in the abyss, as the church is living in the millennial period in a mystical way.

However, the context of Revelation 20, as well as various Bible passages that speak about Satan’s influence in the world now, shows the amillennialist’s theory to be a far fetched proposal. The text clearly says that it was an angel who bound Satan in the abyss, not Christ Himself. The passage implies that Satan’s influence over the nations would cease, but many NT passages, as well as common day experiences, testify to the fact that Satan is still working and influencing both nations and individuals in mighty ways (2 Cor 4:4; John 12:31; 1 Pet 5:8). Therefore the text has to be speaking of something that is yet future, not only because Satan is not bound, but because Christ hasn’t returned yet to order such an angel to bind Satan.

Another reason why I believe in premillennialism is that it fulfills the OT prophecies concerning the reign of the Messiah on earth and a utopia that is clearly not speaking of eternity. Some skeptics will say that this practice is merely reading OT prophecies into Revelation 20 and thus twisting its meaning. However, one cannot jump to this conclusion so fast, since it is not an unbiblical practice to use one passage to get a better understanding of another (ex. the issue of faith and works, repentance and belief, etc). The fact is that the OT prophecies concerning the future of Israel, the judgment of the nations, and the rule of the final Davidic King have not been fulfilled to this day. One would seriously need to spiritualize or allegorize the OT prophetic passages to believe that it has already been fulfilled in some way in Jesus Christ’s first coming or in the church. However, this approach is far fetched, and it produces a new meaning for the passages, which God had a clear original meaning for the original Israelite audiences of the OT. If one is faithful to the grammatical-historical method, then he sees that the OT prophecies are still binding, are future, and that God will fulfill His covenant promises with Israel because His reputation depends on it. It is only sensible that the appropriate time for these prophecies to be fulfilled is during the time of the 7-Year Tribulation and the Millennium, which is why I believe that the millennium is still to come.

The millennium gives us hope that God is faithful to do what He says, not only for the church and His promise of salvation to them, but also His promises to ethnic Israel, though it be a long time in coming. This should cause us to rightly see a distinction between God’s plan for the church and Israel, and to even pray for the nation of Israel, that God would bring salvation to it and carry out His Old Testament promises.

Recommended Resource: Christ’s Prophetic Plans by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue