Monday, February 20, 2006

Three Views of the Millenium

Pre, Post, and A - Millennialism

The millenium is found in Rev. 2o. In fact, it is the only place were it is explicitly stated. There have been primarily three different views held regarding it. These views deal with it's timing in relation to Christ's second coming and its nature, is it literal or figurative.

The three most common understandings of the millenium may sound a little different depending on who you talk with, but can be broken down into three different categories; premillennialism, postmillennialism or a-millennialism.

Today, the most predominant view is premillennialism. This view holds to the idea that Christ’s second coming will precede the millennium. According to Henry Virkler in his book Hermeneutics, premillennialists believe that “He (Christ) will descend to earth and set up a literal 1000-year earthly kingdom with its headquarters in Jerusalem” (Virkler, 201). It is important to understand that not all premillennialists agree on all the details. There are two major camps of premillennialists: traditional premillennialists and dispensational premillennialists. When it comes to the actual details of the millenium there will be a lot of disagreement on its nature and purpose, but to be a premillenialist a person must believe that Christ’s second coming will take place before the millennium (pre-millennium).

Postmillennialism, according to Virkler, “is the view that through evangelism, the world eventually will be reached for Christ. There will be a period in which the world will experience joy and peace because of its obedience to God. Christ will return to earth at the end of the millennium” (post-millennium) (201). It must be clarified that postmillennialists do not believe that everyone will be a Christian during this time, but that society as a whole will be Christian.

Amillennialism, according to Virkler, “is conceptually a form of postmillennialism. The millennium, in this theory, is symbolic and refers to the time between Christ’s first and second coming. During this time Christ rules symbolically in men’s hearts. Christ’s second coming will mark the end of the period.” Amillennialists believe the Christ will never have an earthly rule (a- or no-millennium)” (201).

The terms postmillennial and amillennial are sometimes interchangeable depending on who is defining the terms. I will use the definition provided by Virkler. The major difference between the two is that postmillennialists believe that Christianity will spread across the globe and usher in a time of peace. Amillennialists do not believe that Christianity will usher in this time of peace universally, except in the hearts of men. In the history of the Church, variant forms of these two positions have been the dominant view. Charles Hodge in his Systematic Theology explains the most basic understanding of postmillennialism: “The common doctrine of the Church stated above, is that the conversion of the world, the restoration of the Jews, and the destruction of Antichrist are to precede the second coming of Christ, which event will be attended by the general resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, the end of the world, and the consummation of the Church” (Hodge, 861). This was the view of many of the reformers and the puritans and some suggest that even though the terms were not used, the bare bones of this doctrine shows through in Augustine’s famous work City of God. Postmillennialism seems to carry the worst stigmatism because of the fact that the liberals had hijacked this doctrine early in the twentieth century and turned it into a naturalistic and modernist’s doctrine. For a while, if you were a postmillennialist you were considered to be on your way to becoming a liberal—if you were not already. Though this was an actual concern, it was based on a misrepresentation of what postmillennialist’s actually believe. In fact, the puritans were postmillennial, but not commonly considered liberal. Consequently, postmillennialism cannot automatically be linked with liberalism.

Premillennialism, being the less commonly held view, began to gain momentum about 300 years ago. This was around the time that dispensationalism came onto the scene, but it did not find its origins at this time. In fact, Charles Hodge states, “In opposition to this view (postmillennialism) the doctrine of a premillennial advent of Christ has been extensively held from the days of the Apostles to the present time.” Two world wars also led many people to reconsider the idea that the world was getting better, which helped premillennialism become the new majority view.

Doug Eaton

7 Comments:

At Monday, February 20, 2006 5:46:00 PM, Blogger Gordon Cloud said...

Doug, this was very informative. Thanks for sharing this. I tend to hold to the premillinial view, myself.

 
At Monday, February 20, 2006 6:00:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Thanks Gordon,

I am a premillenialist too. I like to call myself a Historical premillenialist, as I am leery about dispensationalism to a minor degree, but I have to admit that eschatology is one of the weakest points in my theology. What I do know is that Christ is coming back in bodily form to judge the quick and the dead. Other than that I'm not too dogmatic about it. But if anyone has any clarifying points I'm all ears.

Doug

 
At Monday, February 20, 2006 8:57:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

Is premill really the most popular? Maybe just in America?

 
At Monday, February 20, 2006 10:48:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Jonathan,

I can't say I know for sure, but it seems to be the sentiment of my professors and the books I've read on the topic that premill is the most widely held today. But you may be right maybe it is just in America.

A-mill and postmill do seem to be on the rise again though.

Doug

 
At Sunday, February 26, 2006 2:31:00 AM, Blogger Fundamentally Reformed said...

Doug,

Interesting post. My brother has a favorite quote of R.C. Sproul's he likes to use concerning eschatology: "When it comes to eschatology, I land like a butterfly with sore feet!"

I grew up as a pre-trib, premillennialist of the dispensational, dime-a-dozen variety. Recently I have come to embrace at least the basic thrust of Covenant Theology and in so doing I have many disagreements with dispensationalism. Yet after becoming a Covenant Theology proponent, I still held to premillennialism of the historic variety (which is post-trib rapture) (as John Piper among other Reformed leaders does).

But in studying the issue further, I am beginning to lean to amillennialism of some sort. I do sympathize with postmill, though. What I have found is that after leaving dispensationalism, there was no real driving need for an earthly millennium.

In your post you say the amill view does not believe Jesus will physically reign on earth. In one sense they do not, but in another they do. The future state, which follows the judgment, will be lived in a world where heaven has come down to earth--a new earth. And from this new earth and its crown city, the New Jerusalem, Jesus will reign forever.

If you are interested, you can check out this brief article on 2 Thess. 1 and Amillennialism by Vern Poythress.

God bless.

Bob Hayton
Rom. 15:5-7

 
At Sunday, February 26, 2006 8:55:00 PM, Blogger Paul M. Kingery said...

Dear Doug,

Thank you for your thoughts. I look forward to following your interesting blog. I like what you say about "living it." I agree. I have just written a new free online book on the subject of the return of Christ from the scriptures, rather than from theology. Are you interested in topics about the apocalypse, end times, the end of the world, eschatology, last days, the horsemen of the apocalypse, the beast, prophesy, prophesies, revelation, 666, bible prophesy, prophets, Canaan, Canaan's land, Land of Canaan, or the Christian future? If so you may enjoy reading " Land of Canaan." This is a free online book. The Link is http://landofcanaan.info/book.php
Let me know what you think.

Thanks,

Paul M. Kingery, PhD, MPH

 
At Thursday, May 15, 2008 6:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have been reading up on Rev 20 lately and what if
John was not talking about a literal 1000 years at all? What if the 1000 years is symbolic like so many others pictures in Rev. I mean he was writing to the church, that had been taught Christ was victorious over Satan on the cross and yet they were still being violently persecuted. i tend to believe authors like Konig who say that the thosand years is a picture of perfection. how perfectly Christ has defeated satan. he is talking about power, not time. the short while satan will be released for is also power and not time, for he is still on a short leash now,causing havoc on earth, but only under the Lordship of Christ. there is so many problems with a literal 1000 year interp. what comfort would that give the the intended resepients anyway?

 

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