Although all Evangelicals agree on the final results of Christ’s return, there is disagreement over three important details concerning future events: the nature of the millennium, the sequence of Christ’s return, and the proper way to interpret prophecy.
And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.
Throughout the history of the church there have been four major views on the time and nature of the millennium.
1. There is no future millennium yet to come. The expression “thousand years” is simply a figure of speech for a long period of time. Christ’s reign in the millennium is not a bodily reign here on earth but rather the heavenly reign.
The number one thousand is used figuratively in Scripture and in first century Greek.
2. Revelation 20 describes the present church age in which Satan’s influence over the nations has been greatly reduced so that the gospel can be preached.
Those who are referred to in the text as reigning with Christ are Christians who have died and are already reigning with Him in heaven.
3. The present church age will continue until the time of Christ’s return. There will then be a resurrection of both believers and unbelievers and the final judgment.
This view has a long history. Augustine was one of its major proponents (although some dispute that claim—it is not easy to reconstruct the views of historical figures).
It is sometimes called Historic Premillennialism to distinguish it from the third view.
1. The present church age will continue until a time of great tribulation and suffering comes on the earth.
The tribulation in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 does not refer to the fall of Jerusalem but to the end of the world.
2. After the tribulation Christ will return to earth to establish a literal one thousand-year kingdom. Believers will be raised from the dead (with glorified bodies) and will reign with Christ on earth. Many unbelievers will turn to Christ and be saved during this time.
3. Satan will be bound and have no influence on the earth during the millennium. But after the thousand years, he will be loosed and initiate a battle against Christ. But he will be defeated. There will then be a fi-nal judgment and believers will enter into the eternal state.
This views dates back as far as Justin Martyr in the second century.
Dispensational Premillennialists believe all the ideas of the above view, but add several more. This is the view of the Left Behind series and most of the fanatical people making crazy predic-tions about the end of time.
Please refer to the document Appendix G: Dispensationalism vs. Covenant Theology for more understanding on the differences between this view and Historical Premillennialism.
1. Christ will return before the tribulation and millennium to secretly take believers out of the world.
This is referred to as the Rapture or Secret Rapture.
There are different views here. Some hold to a pre-tribulation Rapture, others to a mid-tribulation Rapture, and still others to a post-tribulation Rapture.
2. There will be a great tribulation on the earth for seven years ruled by the Antichrist. During this time, all the Jews will be saved.
3. After seven years, Christ will return with his saints to reign on the earth for one thousand years.
4. Satan will be bound and have no influence on the earth during the millennium. But after the thousand years, he will be loosed and initiate a battle against Christ. But he will be defeated. There will then be a fi-nal judgment and believers will enter into the eternal state.
“Postmillennialism holds that the Kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the Gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individuals, that the world eventually is to be Christianized, and that the return of Christ is to occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace.” (Lorraine Boettner, The Millennium, p. 14
1. We are in the millennium now—the period in between the first and second coming of Christ.
Although some postmillennialists believe that the millennium is a future period of create gospel expansion into all of life and culture.
2. The progress of the gospel will gradually increase and encompass a larger proportion of the world’s popu-lation. There will be significant Christian influences on society, society will more and more function ac-cording to God’s standards.
“The thing that distinguishes the biblical postmillennialist, then, from Amillennialism and Premillennialism is his belief that Scripture teaches the success of the great commission in this age of the church.
3. Christ will return after the millennium. Then the dead will be raised, the final judgment will occur, and there will be a new heaven and new earth.
4. Postmillennialism is optimistic about the power of the gospel to change lives.
The fundamental question is: what has more power, sin or the resurrection?
5. There are several misconceptions of Postmillennialism.
- Postmillennialism has been mistakenly linked with belief in the inherent goodness of man.
This has occurred despite the fact that the vast majority of postmillennialists of today (and per-haps even in the past) are Calvinists. The result is that postmillennialism has been perceived as teaching that the kingdom of God would be ushered in by human effort alone, independently of the Holy Spirit. Even a scholar as astute as Kenneth Kantzer has recently fallen prey to this er-ror. In his concluding observations to the debate in the Christianity Today Institute, he writes: “The greatest weakness of postmillennialism is its failure to take seriously the biblical pessimism regarding man’s efforts apart from God.”
Postmillennialists affirm “the biblical optimism regarding man’s efforts through God.”
- Postmillennialism has been mistakenly identified with theological liberalism and the “social gospel.”
Thus the kingdom it espoused came to be perceived as some sort of secular utopia that re-placed the return of Jesus as the true hope of the church.
Hope for this earth that is inspired by belief in the power of the Holy Spirit fulfilling the redemp-tive purposes of God through His church must never be confused with a hope inspired by belief in the power of human legislation, education and moral reform. Not all Christians, though, have been able to distinguish between the two.
“In their zeal to stand against the liberal tide, large numbers of Christians threw the baby out with the bath. In disdain for the evolutionary social gospel, sincere believers were led to reject Christian social concern for an exclusively internal or other-worldly religion, and to substitute for the earlier belief in a progressive triumph of Christ’s kingdom in the world, a new, pessimis-tic catastrophism with respect to the course of history.” (Greg Bahnsen)
NOTE: Content taken from Paul Barker’s Eschatology Primer