This is a continuation on my “The End of the World” post. Follow along in this post as we explore historic premillennialism.
Back to the Beginning
A Quick Look at the History of Future Things
Historic PreMillennialism, as an eschatological view, has a long and venerable history. Considered how the Early Church Fathers viewed the end times – it is how people like Ireneaus, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Papias, and others taught how the world would end. But before we jump into what historic premillennialism means, we should note that different views have taken dominance throughout the ages. (and we will dive into each in later posts) Here is a brief rundown:
Historic PreMillennialism was the prominent view of the end times up until the Council of Nicene. It began to loose favor and its initial death blow was given by St. Augustine (358-434 A.D.) who had the great impact on the development of Catholic Church doctrine. He conceived an alternative viewpoint at the end of the fourth century – Amillennialism. This became the doctrine of the Catholic Church.
Historic PreMillennialism was suppressed, but it always had a small group of adherents through the Middle Ages. Theopedia notes:
During the Reformation, Anabaptists and Hugenots helped to revive premillennialism and it was adopted among some Puritans during the Post-Reformation era.
The greatest development and spread of premillennialism since the early church came in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s with the rise of U.S. Fundamentalism and Dispensationalism. Starting in the British Isles and spreading to America, premillennialism (in its dispensational form) has become prominent in the Evangelical faith.
The Nuts and Bolts
The Basic Tennets of Historic PreMillennialism
Below is an excerpt from Alexander Reese’s book, The Approaching Advent of Christ, in which he lays out the basic tennets of this eschatological view:
(2) This Advent, though in itself a single crisis, will be accompanied and followed by a variety of phenomena bearing upon the history of the Church, of Israel, and the world. Believers who survive till the Advent will be transfigured and translated to meet the approaching Lord, together with the saints raised and changed at the first resurrection. Immediately following this Antichrist and his allies will be slain, and Israel, the covenant people, will repent and be saved, by looking upon Him whom they pierced.
(3) Thereupon the Messianic Kingdom of prophecy, which, as the Apocalypse informs us, will last for a thousand years, will be established in power and great glory in a transfigured world. The nations will turn to God, war and oppression cease, and righteousness and peace cover the earth.
(4) At the conclusion of the kingly rule of Christ and His saints, the rest of the dead will be raised, the Last Judgement ensue, and a new and eternal world be created.
(5) No distinction was made between the Coming of our Lord, and His Appearing, Revelation, and Day, because these were all held to be synonymous, or at least related, terms, signifying always the one Advent in glory at the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom.
(6) Whilst the Coming of Christ, no matter how long the present dispensation may last, is the true and proper hope of the Church in every generation, it is nevertheless conditioned by the prior fulfillment of certain signs or events in the history of the Kingdom of God: the Gospel has first to be preached to all nations; the Apostasy and the Man of Sin be revealed, and the Great Tribulation come to pass. Then shall the Lord come.
(7) The Church of Christ will not be removed from the earth until the Advent of Christ at the very end of the present Age: the Rapture and the Appearing take place at the same crisis; hence Christians of that generation will be exposed to the final affliction under Antichrist.
The Not So Good News
The Problems with Historic PreMillennialism
OK, not that I am espousing myself to a pro or con of this position, but in the interest of being fair, here is a quick list of why people have resisted historical premillennialism in the past. (I will do this for all eschatological views):
1.) One of the logical hinge points of this view is in the literal interpretation of Scripture. This is in sharp contrast to spiritualizing or symbolizing prophecy. In order for traditional premillennialism to be correct, we must read the Scripture (i.e. Revelation) as plainly as possible and take it at face value. But is that how it is meant to be read? Even the modern commentators of Scripture have a hard time keeping things literal. Bows, horses, and insects are transformed into guns, tanks, and airplanes. The mark of the beast becomes a computer chip and locusts become attack helicopters. And let’s not even get started with what the beast from the sea with seven heads and ten horns is supposed to be. Truth be told, most Premillennialists choose some items to take literally while other things are taken symbolically.
For those that read the Bible “literally” – they are awfully picky as to which they choose to keep literal.
2.) In other portions of Scripture, It seems to teach only one resurrection – not 2 or more separated by spans of time. Note:
At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
3.) Oddly, only Revelation 20 briefly mentions a 1,000-year earthly reign of Christ. All other passages in the Old Testament that describe the idyllic Kingdom of God could just as well describe the New Heavens and Earth. So detractors warn about taking 1 Scripture that could be taken symbolically and forming an entire doctrine around it.
Tell me what your thoughts are. Do you take the prophecies literally or see a more symbolic meaning? Do you see the Bible teaching that the Rapture will happen before the Tribulation? Weigh in in the comments, on Facebook, Twitter, or Google +.