Monday, January 04, 2010

MILLENNIAL VIEWS: Part 1 - Introduction/Postmillennialism

Millennial Views

             The word millennium comes from the Latin meaning “thousand years” and is found in Revelation 20:1-6.[1]  Other passages such as Acts 3:19-20 and 1 Corinthians 15:23-26 serve to support the idea of the millennium, this doctrine is only explicitly taught in the book of Revelation.[2] 
            As stated previously, eschatology is hardly a settled topic within Christian circles with debate among scholars as well as laity ongoing.  This is true even within individual denominations and within individual churches!  The importance of one’s millennial view cannot be overstated!  One’s approach to the understanding of biblical eschatology is determined in large part by the millennial view one subscribes to.  As such, a brief review of Postmillennialism, Premillennialism, and Amillennialism is in order.

Postmillennialism

            The Postmillennial view believes that Christ will return after the millennium and sees the progress of the gospel as the means producing the millennium.[3]  In this view, evil will not be totally eliminated from the world but will be reduced to a minimum as the spiritual and moral influence of Christianity grows.[4]  The millennium as mentioned in Revelation is not to be taken literally but rather will be a prolonged period where Christ, though not physically present, will reign over the earth.[5]  One key feature of the postmillennial viewpoint is the belief that conditions on earth will gradually improve rather than become worse resulting in a millennial age of peace and righteousness prior to the return of Christ.  Postmillennialism is a decidedly optimistic view of the power of the preaching of the gospel.  Evan and Coder, in their description of postmillennialism, state that postmillennialism has been discredited.[6]  Though not in terms nearly as strong, one gets a similar impression from Erickson in his conclusion to his description.[7]  Ultimately, postmillennialists hold that it is not the second coming of Christ that begins the millennium but rather follows it.[8]  Generally, postmillennialists do not believe in rapture.
            Strengths of this view include the fact that is it emotionally and psychologically comforting and is the most optimistic of the millennial views.[9]  A major weakness of this view is that events in the twentieth century such World Wars I and II caused a great many to abandon this view believing that the world is in fact not getting better but is obviously getting worse.[10]  Another is the fact that there is no clear teaching in Scripture to support this view.


                [1] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1109.
                [2] Elwell, Walter A., and Phillip Wesley Comfort. Tyndale Bible Dictionary. (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 896.
                [3] Ibid.
                [4] Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 771.
                [5] Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 1215.
                [6] Evans, William, and Maxwell S. Coder. Great Doctrines of the Bible. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998, c1974), 304.
                [7] Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 1215.  It is clear that Erickson goes to great lengths to present a balanced view of the various positions his book addresses, it is clear that he endorses a premillennial point of view.
                [8] Elwell, Walter A., and Phillip Wesley Comfort. Tyndale Bible Dictionary. (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 896.
                [9] Kendell, Easley H. Revelation, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 5.
                [10] Ibid.

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