PMT 2016-052 by Keith Mathison (Ligonier)
I once heard someone define the millennium as a thousand-year period of time during which Christians fight over the proper interpretation of the book of Revelation. While amusing, that definition is obviously incorrect. Christians have been fighting over the proper interpretation of the book of Revelation for two thousand years. In all seriousness, however, all of the fighting has led some Christians to adopt despairingly a position they call panmillennialism (we don’t know which view of the millennium is correct, but we know it will all pan out in the end).
The word millennium refers to the “thousand years” mentioned in Revelation 20. Because this chapter is found in one of the most difficult books of the New Testament, its proper interpretation is disputed. As a result, there are four main views of the millennium held within the church today: historic premillennialism, dispensational premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism.
The prefixes pre- and post- before the word millennium have to do with the timing of the second coming of Christ in relationship to the millennium itself. The term premillennialism refers to the belief that the Second Coming will occur before the millennium. The term postmillennialism refers to the belief that the second coming will occur after the millennium. Strictly speaking, amillennialism is a version of postmillennialism in this sense because amillennialists believe Christ’s second coming will occur after the millennium. There are other differences that distinguish amillennialists from postmillennialists. An understanding of what proponents of each of these views have taught historically provides a helpful context for current discussions of Revelation 20.
Historic premillennialism teaches that at the end of the present age, there will be the great tribulation followed by the second coming of Christ. At Christ’s coming, the Antichrist will be judged, the righteous will be resurrected, Satan will be bound, and Christ will establish His reign on earth, which will last for a thousand years and be a time of unprecedented blessing for the church. At the end of the millennium, Satan will be released and he will instigate a rebellion, which will be quickly crushed. The unrighteous will at this point be raised for judgment, after which the eternal state will begin.
When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyperpreterism
(ed. by Keith Mathison)
A reformed response to the aberrant HyperPreterist theolgy.
Gentry’s chapter critiques HyperPreterism from an historical and creedal perspective.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Historic premillennialism has had its proponents in the church from at least the second century AD onward. It was taught, for example, by Irenaeus (140- 203) and Justin Martyr (100-165), and may have been taught in the late first century by Papias (80-155). Some within the Reformed tradition, such as James Montgomery Boice, have taught this view. The most notable proponent of historic premillennialism in the twentieth century was George Eldon Ladd, whose commentary on the book of Revelation argues strongly for this position.
Dispensational premillennialism offers the most complex chronology of the end times. According to dispensationalism, the current church age will end with the rapture of the church, which, along with the appearance of the Antichrist, marks the beginning of the seven-year great tribulation on earth. The tribulation will end with the battle of Armageddon, in the midst of which Christ will return to destroy His enemies. The nations will then be gathered for judgment. Those who supported Israel will enter into Christ’s millennial kingdom, and the rest will be cast into Hades to await the last judgment. Christ will sit on the throne of David and rule the world from Jerusalem. Israel will be given the place of honor among the nations again. The temple will have been rebuilt and the temple sacrifices will be reinstituted as memorial sacrifices. At the end of the millennium, Satan will be released and lead unbelievers in rebellion against Christ and the New Jerusalem. The rebellion will be crushed by fire from heaven, and Satan will be cast into the lake of fire. The wicked will be brought before the Great White Throne, judged, and cast into the lake of fire, and at this point the eternal state will commence.
Great Tribulation: Past or Future?
(Thomas Ice v. Ken Gentry)
Debate book on the nature and timing of the great tribulation. Both sides thoroughly cover the evidence they deem necessary, then interact with each other.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
The dispensationalist version of premillennialism originated in the nineteenth century within the Brethren Movement. Its distinctives first appear in the writings of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882). Dispensational premillennialism caught on rapidly in the United States through the Bible Conference Movement. It was popularized by C.I. Scofield in the notes to his reference Bible and was systematized by Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary and the author of an eight-volume dispensational systematic theology text. In the twentieth century, this view was taught on a more scholarly level by men such as John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, and J. Dwight Pentecost, and it was popularized by authors such as Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye.
Postmillennialism teaches that the “thousand years” of Revelation 20 occur prior to the second coming of Christ. Until recently, most postmillennialists taught that the millennium would be the last thousand years of the present age. Today, many postmillennialists teach that the millennial age is the entire period of time between Christ’s first and second advents. As we will see, this means that contemporary versions of postmillennialism are very close in many ways to contemporary amillennialism. The main difference between the two is not so much the timing of the millennium as the nature of the millennium. In general, postmillennialism teaches that in the present age, the Holy Spirit will draw unprecedented multitudes to Christ through the faithful preaching of the gospel. Among the multitudes who will be converted are the ethnic Israelites who have thus far rejected the Messiah. At the end of the present age, Christ will return, there will be a general resurrection of the just and the unjust, and the final judgment will take place.
Postmillennialism was widely held among the Puritans. It was also the dominant view among Reformed theologians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was taught, for example, by men such as Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, James Henley Thornwell, A.A. Hodge, and B.B. Warfield. Because liberals adopted a humanistic version of this eschatology, postmillennialism suffered a decline in the twentieth century, but it has seen a resurgence in the last twenty to thirty years. Books supporting this view have been published by men such as Loraine Boettner, J. Marcellus Kik, Kenneth Gentry, John Jefferson Davis, and myself.
Amillennialism . . .
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