Wednesday, January 06, 2010

MILLENNIAL VIEWS: Part 3 - Premillennialism


Distinctly different from both the amillennial and postmillennial views, Premillennialism teaches that Christ will return physically, visibly in power to reign over the earth for approximately a thousand years.[1] From the point of view of the premillennialist then, the millennium is seen as still to come sometime in the future. Further, Premillennialism also teaches that the visions in the book of Revelation must be interpreted sequentially and that this sequence of events demands that the millennial reign of Christ be understood as a real and future event following Christ’s return.[2]
Lewis Sperry Chafer points out that during the millennium, Christ will judge perfectly and immediately (Isa. 11:1-16). Chafer further states that we should remember that the millennial reign is not the new earth which God will later create (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1).[3] It should be noted that Chafer was a leading proponent of Dispensationalism and Dispensational Premillennialism that will be discussed in detail later.
While there are divisions of the previous millennial views mentioned here, there are two forms that Premillennialism most often takes that requires a brief explanation of each for this discussion; Classic or Historic Premillennialism and Pretribulational Premillennialism.

Classic or Historic Premillennialism

According to Classic Premillennialism, also known as Historic Premillennialism, the church age will continue until some point in the future. As this age draws to a close, a period of great tribulation and suffering will occur finally ending with the return of Christ to establish his millennial kingdom.[4] This is a physical return of Christ in his resurrected body where he will personally reign over the earth. Of note with this view is that Christ’s return is after the tribulation period. Those dead in Christ will be raised from the dead and their bodies will be reunited with their spirits. Next, believers living during the Second Coming will be caught up and return to the earth with Christ and the resurrected.[5] Many, but not all, of the unbelievers living on the earth during this time will turn to Christ and be saved.
At the beginning of this period, Satan will be bound and thrown into a pit:
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while” (Rev. 20:1-3, ESV).

In Classic Premillennialism, a distinction between the church and Israel is not maintained as it is in Pretribulational Premillennialism. As such, Classic Premillennialists believe that the church will go through the Tribulation.[6] Further, though the church is on the earth during the Tribulation, it will not be forced to endure the wrath of God; from this perspective, God’s wrath is clearly reserved for unbelievers.[7] How this will occur is one of the points in the debate.
Strengths of this view include the fact that it is the view held by the early church during the first four centuries, the book of Revelation is taken literally, and it sees the final culmination of Christ’s kingdom as fulfilled by Christians.[8] A weakness of this view is the fact that this is a rather complicated view that is not clearly presented in any single passage of Scripture.[9]

Pretribulational Premillennialism

Another variation of Premillennialism, also known as Dispensational Premillennialism, holds to a literal interpretation of Scripture. Though similar to the Classic view, there is one very important difference. Using the following Scripture verse as primary support for their belief, this view believes that Christ will come before the Tribulation and secretly take believers out of the world:
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thes. 4:16-17, NASB).

While appropriate to make brief mention of the Pretribulational Premillennial view here, a fuller discussion will follow in the Differing Views of the Rapture section of this autograph. Strengths of this view include that this is the most attractive view emotionally and psychologically and this is the most literal approach to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies concerning Israel. Weaknesses include the complexity of this view and the fact that it is the most recent of the views discussed originating in the 1800’s with Darby.[10]

[1] Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 1214.
[2] Elwell, Walter A., and Phillip Wesley Comfort. Tyndale Bible Dictionary. (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 896.
[3] Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology, Vols. 7 & 8. (Grand Rapids: Kregal Publications, 1948, 1976), 238.
[4] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1111-12.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Enns, Paul P. The Moody Handbook of Theology. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1997), 387.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Kendell, Easley H. Revelation, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 6.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid, 7.


Mike Jenkins said...

Good stuff Chris! I'm enjoying your work!!!


Chris Sanchez said...

Thanks Mike! I am really enjoying these blogs and hope others do as well. Lots of fun getting feedback from folks!