amillenarianism. A particular interpretation of Revelation 20. The premillennialist maintains this chapter teaches a thousand-year reign of Christ after His second advent, the postmillennialist before the second advent, while the amillennialist denies such a thousand-year reign: he stresses that the Apocalypse normally treats numbers symbolically. The binding of Satan for a thousand years simply means that he is completely bound; this has been effected through the victory of Calvary. Some amillennialists hold the expression to refer to the Church's rest from spiritual conflict beyond death. Most apply it, however, to her present victory over Satan in Christ crucified and exalted. Many Reformed and Lutheran theologians hold this view, and elements of it can be traced in Augustine.
Among those who believe the Bible teaching thatis coming again, in a second coming at the end of this age, there are three views of the events which are to precede and/or follow His return.
Those holding this view believe that the world will get better and better until practically the whole world will be converted, and then for a thousand years of righteousness on earth sin will be largely vanquished. At the end of this thousand years, Christ will come again for the final judgment and the resurrection of all men, followed by the eternal kingdom of God. This view is not widely held by evangelical scholars today. The most scholarly defense of recent years is The Millennium, by Loraine Boettner (1958).
There are two main groups of those who hold to premillennialism.
Those who hold to this view believe that the world will not be converted before the Second
This second view differs from historic premillennialism in that it is said that Christ may come at any time for His saints in a rapture which is secret, followed by the great tribulation on earth. After seven years Christ will come publicly with His saints for the judgment of the sheep and the goats. The rest of the events will follow the view of historic premillennialism.
This third view is that Christ’s millennial kingdom extends from His Resurrection from the tomb to the time of His
Meanwhile, the souls of believers who have died live and reign with Christ in heaven (
Perhaps the best picture of the one great judgment is found in
Jewish beliefs about the kingdom.
The Jews of the time of Christ expected an earthly kingdom of the Messiah, much as the premillennialists expect today. Christ clearly taught, however, that after living believers die, they will neither marry (and of course not have children) nor die again, but will be like the angels in heaven (
The judgment of the sheep and the goats.
The premillennialists teach that the judgment of the sheep and the goats takes place at the beginning of the alleged earthly Millennium, but Christ taught that the living wicked at that time will be sent to eternal punishment, (
The binding of Satan.
The binding of Satan (to prevent his deceiving the nations in the interadventual period) is described in
The parable of the wheat and the tares.
The parable of the wheat and the tares (
Interpretation of OT prophecies.
One of the principal areas of difference in the interpretation concerns the prophecies in the OT. The premillennialists insist that unless the language is clearly fig., as in
a. Prophecies about restoration of Israel. This also pertains to the prophecies about the restoration of Israel and the temple worship in Jerusalem. They point to the restoration of the nation of Israel at the present time as an indication that the Second Coming and the Millennium of a thousand years of the reign of Christ in Jerusalem is in the immediate future.
The great difficulty with the view that an earthly Messianic kingdom, with Christ reigning on an earthly throne in Jerusalem, is to be established for a thousand years is that absurd conclusions must be reached from those prophecies unless they are interpreted symbolically.
b. The Ezekiel Temple prophecies. The restoration of the Temple and the whole sacrificial system is prophesied in
The epistle to the Galatians was written by Paul to prove that circumcision was no longer necessary for Gentile Christians, while this interpretation of Ezekiel would directly contradict the teaching of Galatians! This alone should be sufficient to prove that the literal interpretation of the Ezekiel prophecies is not the correct method of interpretation.
The whole problem of the interpretation of the Ezekiel Temple prophecies is cleared up if we realize that these prophecies in the last eight chapters of Ezekiel are symbolical. God wanted the prophet to teach the truth that the ideal spiritual relationship between God and man is a relationship in which everything centers around the spiritual worship of the sovereign God! Since in the OT dispensation the only way man could approach God in worship was through the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Mosaic law, the ideal worship of God at the center of all national and personal relations had to be pictured in terms of the ceremonial law of Moses. That was the only way the people could have understood the theocentric worship which God demanded of man.
Treated symbolically, these last chs. of Ezekiel have a tremendous message for Christian people of today. The worship of God must be at the center of human society (represented in Ezekiel by the city); human government (represented in Ezekiel by the prince); ecclesiastical organization (represented in Ezekiel by the priests and Levites); and at the center of the worship of individuals themselves. The sovereignty of the triune God should be the center of all life, thought, and action, both public and private. The ideal life is discussed in Ezekiel in symbolic terms of the Temple and the nation, pointing out that all the realms must be subordinated to the worship of the sovereign triune God. The sovereignty of God over all realms of life is the ideal of the earthly phase of the kingdom of God. The amillennialist believes that this is the message of these last chs. of Ezekiel, not the restoration of an earthly Jewish temple and nation with the whole Mosaic ceremonial law in a millennial kingdom in Pal. in the future.
The rod of iron rule of Christ.
One of the cardinal features of the premillennial system of interpretation is that when Christ comes and establishes a millennial kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem, He will “rule over the nations with a rod of iron.” It teaches that during the alleged Millennium the nations will be composed of rebellious people who will be kept from making war on each other by the stern, forceful iron rod rule of the reigning Christ. This idea is derived from the KJV tr. of
In the Revelation passages the Gr. word is poimaino, which may be tr. “act the part of a shepherd with a rod of iron.” The OT shepherd in Pal. had two rods: a shepherd’s crook to guide the sheep, and an iron-studded club for the protection of the sheep from wild animals. Shepherding the sheep would thus be killing the enemies of the sheep with the rod of iron.
Instead of the shepherd using the rod of iron to make the sheep obey him, he would use the rod of iron to protect them from the wild animals. What these passages mean, then, is that when Christ comes again He will destroy all our enemies “with the rod of iron.” There is, therefore, no indication that any wicked people will be left on earth after His Second Coming. If there were a millennium after His Second Coming, there would be no wicked people for Satan to gather at the end of that age to make war on the saints (Christians).
The interpretation of
The principal NT basis for the belief in a thousand year millennial reign of Christ on earth after His Second Coming is in the premillennial interpretation of
a. The logical outline of Revelation. The most logical outline of the Revelation would divide the book into seven sections which picture the present age in symbolic language. But instead of being successive sections, each of the seven sections seems to be describing the present age from different aspects, the seven all dealing with the same time period, the period from the Resurrection of Christ to the final judgment. The last period actually goes beyond the present age into the eternal age, though beginning at the first coming. The reason the has always seemed so difficult to interpret is that Christians have failed to notice two things: (1) that the whole book is symbolic, and (2) that each section covers the same time period, namely from the first coming of Christ to the end of time.
b. The seventh section of the Revelation. From this point of view, then, the seventh section covers the whole present age. It begins with a symbolic picture of the binding of Satan. Satan is a spirit and could not be bound by a literal chain of iron or brass or any other metal. It clearly must refer to the limitation of the power of Satan in some way. That way is described in
c. The \"souls\" of
d. The \"first\" resurrection (
e. The \"loosing\" of Satan (
At about the same time the general resurrection of the bodies of all men will take place; the righteous will be raptured and their bodies will be made like the glorified body of Christ. The wicked unbelievers will all be sent into eternal punishment, while the believers in Christ and all God’s elect of all history will enter eternal life in the eternal kingdom of God, which will be established in the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells.
It is hardly necessary to discuss at any length postmillennialism, as it is not accepted widely among evangelical circles today. The statistics of the proportion of Christians to non-Christians in the world today is certainly discouraging to those who think the world is getting better and better all the time. The world population is increasing far faster than the evangelization of the world is increasing. Even though some people claim that society is being permeated with Christian ideals, that in no way means that the people of the world are becoming Christians.
In his book, Postmillennialism, Dr. Loraine Boettner states: “Of a total world population of about two and one-half billion there are approximately 800,000,000 Christians.” Obviously he is including all who claim the name of “Christian.” Were his figures to be accepted, the fact remains that the population of the non-Christian world is increasing at a much faster rate than is the population of Christians. To point to such facts as Dr. Boettner quotes as an argument that the world is getting better and better and will ultimately end in an earthly millennium is to be unrealistic, to say the least. Most of the OT prophecies, such as
D. Brown, The Second Advent (1849); C. Hodge,Vol. iii, (1871), 771-868; H. G. Guinness, The Approaching End of the Age (1880); N. West, The in Both Testaments (1880); W. E. Blackstone, Jesus Is Coming (1908); I. M. Haldeman, The Signs of the Times (1913); J. F. Silver, The Lord’s Return (1914); A. Reese, The Approaching Advent of Christ (1917); J. M. Gray, Prophecy and the Lord’s Return (1917); Scofield Reference Bible, Revised (1917); J. H. Snowden, The Coming of the Lord (1919); A. C. Gaebelein; The Return of the Lord (1925); P. Mauro, The Gospel of the Kingdom (1928); B. B. Warfield, “The Millennium and the Apocalypse,” reprinted in Biblical Doctrines (1929); W. Masselink, Why Thousand Years? (1930); W. H. Rutgers, Premillennialism in America (1930); M. J. Wyngaarden, The Future of the Kingdom (1934); H. W. Frost, The Second Coming of Christ (1934); A. Pieters, Studies in the Revelation of St. John (1937); H. A. Ironside, The Lamp of Prophecy (1940); T. Graebner, The War in the Light of Prophecy (1941); F. E. Hamilton, The Basis of Millennial Faith (1942); P. Mauro, and the Great Tribulation (1944); W. J. Grier, The Momentous Event (1945); O. T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church (1945); G. L. Murray, Millennial Studies (1948); H. Kromminga, The Millennium (1948); A. Pieters, The Seed of Abraham (1950); L. S. Chafer, Systematic Theology (1951); L. Berkhof, The Second Coming of Christ (1953); C. L. Feinberg, Premillennialism or Amillennialism (1954); G. E. Ladd, The Blessed Hope (1956); J. F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question (1957); L. Boettner, Postmillennialism (1958); J. F. Walvoord, Israel in Prophecy (1962).