Eschatology

The Millennial Views             

Amillennialism is the position that does not hold to a future earthly millennial kingdom.  Those holding to this position believe that the millennial kingdom starts at the First Advent of Christ and ends with the Second Advent of Christ.  Most that hold to this position believe that the kingdom consists of Christ ruling and reigning in the hearts of believers here on earth.  This means that for them the Church is the kingdom.  This causes them to believe that Christ is ruling on the Davidic throne at the right hand of the Father at this moment.

The amillennial viewpoint employs a symbolic understanding of many of the prophecies in the O.T.  In regard to the “thousand years” they understand this as being a symbolic reference for an indefinite time period.  They hold to there being one general resurrection when everyone will be resurrected, and not a multiple number of resurrections of different people groups.  This viewpoint also understands the book of Revelation as a series of recapitulations of the time period from the First Advent until the Second Advent.  They do not view these events as being yet future occurrences.  This view of the book of Revelation leads them to believe that Satan is bound in the present age.  Amillennialists do not believe that there is a future for national Israel, so for them all references to Israel refer to the Church.  They believe that the Church has replaced Israel completely.  This leads them to believe that all of the material promises made to Israel in regard to land, descendants, and the earthly kingdom are all fulfilled spiritually in the Church.  In addition to this they say that the promises that God made to the nation of Israel in the O.T. were conditional, and because of their disobedience they have been cast away forever and the Church has taken their place.     

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            Postmillennialism believes that Christ will return at the end of the millennium, and the millennium will be an earthly rule by the Church.  They do not believe that the Church is the kingdom.  This viewpoint sees the Church ushering in the kingdom by the widespread preaching of the gospel.  They believe that the key to the inauguration of the kingdom is the moral conversion of the culture, making the world “Christian.”  So for postmillennialists their main mission today is to help every human institution to work according to Christian principles.  They do not believe that all humanity will be converted to Christianity, only that they are governed by and work according to Christianity’s teaching.  Only when this occurs will the Second Coming of Christ occur.  The key hope for postmillennialists is the belief that the world is getting better and not worse morally.  If things are getting worse then they are failing in their mission of helping to usher in the kingdom.  The “thousand years” is to be understood as an indefinite time period according to postmillennialists.         

            Postmillennialists interpret most prophecy in the Bible in a figurative way to obtain the deeper, true meaning of what the text is communicating.  They do not believe that a face value understanding of the text is the proper way to interpret the Bible.  As a result of this understanding they believe that the Church has replaced the nation of Israel.  Amillennialists believe that all of the promises to the nation of Israel have been fulfilled spiritually in the Church.  They also believe that the promises that God made to the nation of Israel in the O.T. were conditional, and through their disobedience they have forfeited the promises, and the Church now


receives them. 

            Premillennialism believes that Christ will return to the earth literally before He establishes a literal earthly kingdom.  Historical/Classical/Covenant Premillennialism is a view that holds to a post-tribulation rapture of the Church, and is not dispensational.  Those who hold to this view do not call for as much of a distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church. 

            Dispensational Premillennialism is the view that prophecy should be interpreted through a historical-grammatical understanding of the text.  A plain, face value understanding is the best way to understand the Bible.  This entails understanding the promises made to the nation of Israel in the O.T. in a straightforward way.  This means that the promises made to Israel will be fulfilled nationally and politically like the original audience would have understood them; the promises are unconditional which means that the Church cannot replace the nation of Israel and fulfill the promises in a spiritual way; these promises are not yet fulfilled so God will fulfill them in the future for the nation of Israel.  This distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church leads to the understanding that the Church is a new organism apart and distinct from the nation of Israel (Eph. 3).  Dispensationalists refer to the present Church age as a “temporary hiatus” from God’s plan with the nation of Israel (Matt. 13; Rom. 11).  As a result of this temporary setting aside of the nation of Israel, Jesus must return someday to fulfill the promises made to the nation of Israel.

            A grammatical-historical understanding of Revelation 19-20 establishes the reality of Christ’s return being followed by the millennial kingdom, which will be a literal thousand years long where Christ will rule and reign on earth with His people.  A plain understanding of the N.T. leads dispensationalists to believe that things in the world will get worse, and not better before the return of Christ (Matt. 13; 24; 2 Pet. 3:3-7). 


The Basis for Premillennialism

[The Concept of the Kingdom of God]

            The kingdom of God refers to: God as king; a place over which to rule; and the actual ruling by God over that place.  The Jews understood the promises of a kingdom to be a literal, material, earthly, and political kingdom.  There are different aspects to the kingdom of God which include: the universal kingdom of God which is the supernatural rule of God over all people and things throughout time; the theocratic kingdom of God is the rule of God on earth through different people and institutions (Israel as the centerpiece of this), demonstrating the universal nature of His kingdom, and also displays His sovereignty; the eschatological kingdom is the coming earthly kingdom rule of Christ for a thousand years that will fulfill the covenant and kingdom promises to the nation of Israel, which will include the millennial kingdom and the eternal state (Israel as the centerpiece of this).  The theocratic kingdom finds its fullest expression in the eschatological kingdom.

            As a result of the necessity of a literal earthly kingdom to fulfill the promises made to Israel by God there must be a distinction between Israel and the Church (not with the latter replacing the former), and there must be a literal (not spiritual) fulfillment to the nation of Israel.  This is in agreement with a premillennial understanding of the text.       

[The Biblical Covenants]

            The first covenant is the Noahic covenant (Gen. 8:15-9:17), which was made with Noah and his descendants, but carries importance for all humanity from that point on.  God promised at that point to Noah that He would not destroy humanity with a worldwide flood like that ever again, and the sign for His promise being true is a rainbow (9:12-17).  The covenant is an eternal agreement (9:9,12,16).  The covenant even included all animals (9:11,12,15-16,17).  God commands mankind to be fruitful and multiply (9:1,7), eat animals but not their blood (9:3-4), and to begin the practice of the death penalty for those who kill other men who are made in the image of God (9:5-6).  The covenant is unconditional since God Himself has promised to not to do this again, and no stipulations are placed upon mankind to prevent it from happening again. 

            The second covenant is the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:14-18; 15:1-21; 17:1-27).  God promised Abraham that He would make him a great nation (12); he would be blessed (12); have a great name (12); he would bless others (12); whoever blessed him would be blessed and whoever cursed him would be cursed (12); he was Promised Land (12:1; 15:12-21), and the covenant is eternal (17:7).  The sign of the covenant was circumcision (17:9-14).  All Abraham had to do was leave his homeland and go to the land that God would lead him to (12:1).  The covenant as a whole is unconditional, which is seen even during the time of the apostle Paul, who points out that disobedience to the law of Moses does not invalidate the promises of God in the Abrahamic covenant (Rom. 4:20-21; Gal. 3:16-18). 

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            The third covenant is the land covenant, which reaffirms the land promises that God made with Abraham and extends them to the nation of Israel when they are about to enter the Promised Land (Deut. 30:1-8).  This indicates that even if the nation of Israel is outside of the land because of disobedience that one day the nation will be restored to the land. 

            The fourth covenant is the Mosaic covenant is between God and the nation of Israel, and the sign of the covenant is the Sabbath (Ex. 31:16-17).  The evidence for this being a conditional covenant is seen in Deuteronomy 28 from the blessings and cursings, which show conditionality.  Later it is said that the conditions of the Mosaic covenant cannot cancel out the unconditional promises of the Abrahamic covenant (Gal. 3:16-18). 


            The fifth covenant is the Davidic covenant, which was made by God with David (2 Sam. 7).  The promises that are given to David are the following: a great name (7:9); rest from his enemies (7:11); a dynasty beginning with himself (7:11); and a descendant on the throne with David’s throne lasting forever (7:12-13).  David is promised a descendant on the throne forever, and his son/descendants would have a special father/son relationship with God (7:14).  In Jeremiah 33 there is a reaffirmation of the covenant with David, to put one of David’s sons on the throne in Israel.  There is warning to each individual descendant of David who sat on the throne that they as individuals must obey God, and if they did not they as individuals would forfeit the blessings of the Davidic covenant (2 Chron. 7:17-22).  But this does not undermine the unconditional nature of God’s agreement with David.  God’s covenant with David is unconditional (Ps. 89).  The location of the rule would be on earth in Jerusalem from the perspective of David and the Israelites. 

            The sixth covenant is the New Covenant, which was made with the nation of Israel (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36:16-38; Joel 2:28-32; Lk. 22; 1 Cor. 11; 2 Cor. 3; Heb. 8).  The promises that God made in the New Covenant are the following: God’s law written on their hearts; a new heart and spirit; He will be Israel and Judah’s God; all of them will know God personally; they will receive forgiveness and God will forget their sins; and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit will enable God’s people to obey.  The whole reason for believing that this will be fulfilled is wrapped up in the character of God and Him keeping His word.  Ultimately the basis becomes the cross-work of Christ (Heb. 8-10).  There is one New Covenant, which was promised to Israel, but the Church enjoys some of the blessings of the New Covenant through its relationship with Christ (who is Abraham’s seed and brings blessings to the world, Gal. 3:13-16; cf. Gen. 12:3).  The promises of the New Covenant have not been fulfilled to the nation of Israel, so they are still awaiting fulfillment, which will be in the millennial kingdom, when Christ will enable these things to happen.                                   

The Dispensations

[A definition of dispensation]

            The word itself is used in regard to someone managing or taking care of the responsibilities of a household for someone else who has entrusted it to them.  A dispensation is the distinct way that God has dealt with a certain people group at a certain point in biblical history.  This includes God governing people in different ways, which leads to there being different responsibilities placed upon mankind during that time, and this change in responsibility is indicated by God clearly revealing it.  There are also three other characteristics that seem to be a part of every dispensation which include: a set of expectations placed upon a group of people by God; this results in a failure of the group to obey the expectations of God; and this results in the judgment of God upon this group for their failure.                 

[An outline of the biblical dispensations]

1) The Dispensation of Innocence (Gen. 1:26-3:24)

            During this time God reveals to Adam and Eve that they are not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they fail, and their judgment is physical and spiritual death.  This dispensation begins with the creation of Adam (Gen. 1:26) and it ends with the judgment for their sin (3:24). 

2) The Dispensation of Conscience (Gen. 3:7-8:14)

            During this time those on the earth are to live according to their conscience now suffering from the effects of the fall.  This dispensation seems to begin with the birth of Cain (Gen. 4:1), and end with the flood (Gen. 8:14). 

3) The Dispensation of Civil Government (Gen. 8:15-11:9)

            During this time those living on the earth followed the expectations of populating the earth (9:1); eating animals but not their blood (9:2-4); and upholding capital punishment for murder (9:5-6).  This dispensation began with Noah after the flood (Gen. 8:15) and it ends with the completion of the tower of Babel incident (11:9). 

4) The Dispensation of Promise (Gen. 11:10-Ex. 18:27)

             During this time God promises to Abraham to bless him by giving him; land, descendants, and blessings (Gen. 12:1-3) God chose specifically chose Abraham and his family apart from the rest of mankind.     

5) The Dispensation of Law (Ex. 19:1-John 14:30)

            During this time God makes a bilateral agreement with the nation of Israel that they must obey His law to be able to stay in the land and be blessed by God.    

6) The Dispensation of the Church (Acts 2:1-Rev. 19:21)

            During this time God is working with mankind as a whole again, not just with Abraham, his seed, and the nation of Israel.  The Church is to live in a way that is Christ-like, worthy of the calling in Christ.  This dispensation began on the day of Pentecost, and ends with the coming of Christ to set up the millennial kingdom. 

7) The Dispensation of the Kingdom (Rev. 20:1-15)

            During this time Christ will reign for a thousand years ruling with a rod of iron and the people living in the kingdom are to conduct themselves in the way that He desires.  This period will end with a rebellion by unsaved people along with Satan, and they will be cast into the lake of fire forever.   

Dispensationalism

[The definition of dispensationalism]

            Dispensationalism is an approach to understanding the Bible that takes into account the progress of revelation, employing a grammatical-historical understanding of the text in the O.T. and in the N.T.  This leads to the acknowledgment of a distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church as being two different programs of God.  With these points in view the result is diversity within the biblical history of God’s plan that includes many aspects designed to result in His glorification.     

[The biblical and theological support for dispensationalism]

            The first support for dispensationalism is the unconditional promise of God to Abraham and his descendants that they would have the land forever from the Tigris to the Euphrates (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:14-18; 15:1-21; 17:1-27; Deut. 30:1-8 with the nation of Israel included).  The nation of Israel does not have all of the land that was promised, and the majority of the nation is still scattered throughout the world.    

            The second support for dispensationalism is the issue of the kingdom.  An earthly kingdom was unconditionally promised to David with one of his descendants sitting on his throne forever (2 Sam. 7; Ps. 89).  He was also told that he would have peace from his enemies forever, which is not the case today.  At this point in history there is not a kingdom set up with David’s descendant Jesus Christ ruling and reigning in an earthly kingdom because of the nation of Israel rejecting her Messiah (John 11b; Acts 2:22-23).  Jesus taught in Luke 19:11-27 that the start of the kingdom would be delayed.  Jesus also never corrected the apostles’ belief that the kingdom would be an earthly physical reality (Acts 1:6). 

            The third support of dispensationalism is the mystery of the N.T. Church.  The O.T. never gives any indication of the Gentiles being one body with the Jews, and having equal standing before God (Eph. 3).  Paul says that the Church and all of the implications of it were not made known in previous generations (3:5).  Paul also says that the reason for the Church is to make the unsaved Jews jealous so that they might repent (Rom. 11:11-14).  The present Church age is a “temporary hiatus” from God’s plan with the nation of Israel (Matt. 13; Rom. 11).  As a result of this temporary setting aside of the nation of Israel, Jesus must return someday to fulfill the promises previously made to the nation of Israel. 

            The issue of the New Covenant is also a support for dispensationalism because the covenant was promised to Israel and Judah (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36:16-38; Joel 2:28-32).  There promises of this covenant have not been fulfilled to the nation as a whole, so there must still be future national fulfillment of these promises in the millennial kingdom.   

            The doctrine of salvation is also a support for dispensationalism because there is some diversity in regard to the content of faith of the different biblical characters as a result of progressive revelation.  Clearly the O.T. saints did not have as complete of a knowledge of the Messiah as a N.T. saint would.  Abraham, Moses, David were all justified by faith, but in their case they trusted the promises/revelation of God that they were given at the time.  They did not know as much as a N.T. saint would.  The point is that the content of revelation that they were responsible to trust by faith differed as revelation was given progressively. 

The Rapture of the Church

Various views

[Pretribulational rapture]

            This is the view that the rapture of the Church will occur before the seven years of tribulation, and that the whole Church will be raptured (1 Thess. 4:13-18).  This conclusion is determined by the reality that the full seven years of the tribulation are God’s wrath (Rev. 6:15-17), and Jesus rescues us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:9-10; 5:9-10); the rapture passage of the dead in Christ and those alive at His coming being caught up with Christ in the heavens (1 Thess. 4:13-18); and that the content of the tribulation period is meant to judge the nations (Isa. 2; Matt. 25) and the nation of Israel for its rejection of the Messiah (Rom. 11:28; Rev. 1:7).  The other evidence is from Revelation 3:10 where Jesus promises to keep the believers from the “hour of testing” which will come upon the whole earth (the only event being global enough, would be the seven years of tribulation).       

[Mid-tribulational rapture]

            This view holds that the rapture of the Church will occur halfway through the tribulation at about the time of the abomination of desolation, and the flight of Israel into the wilderness.  They believe that at this midpoint is when the wrath of God begins to occur with the first half of the tribulation was man’s wrath. 

[Pre-wrath rapture]

            This view holds that the Church will not be raptured until about ¾ of the way through the seven years of tribulation, and this is based upon the idea that the first ¾ of the tribulation is not really the wrath of God.  This viewpoint thinks that the first half of the tribulation is the wrath of mankind through the antichrist (like mid-tribulation position); 2/3 of the way through is the wrath of Satan; and then when the seven trumpet judgments come, that is the wrath of God.   

[Post-tribulational rapture]

            This view believes that the rapture of the Church will occur at the end of the tribulation.  They believe that as Christ appears in the air the Church will be raptured and then touch down with Him as He defeats His enemies at Armageddon.  For them there is a one phase Second Coming of Christ. 

[Partial rapture]

            This is the view that not all Church saints will be raptured at the beginning of the tribulation period, only some will be taken.  Only those who are “watchful” or “spiritually ready/mature” will be raptured.  This leads to there being multiple raptures until all the Church saints are taken.  Their biblical evidence for this view is the “watchful” language throughout the N.T. 

[The Biblical Position]

            The biblical position is the pretribulational rapture view.  This is the only outcome that one can arrive at when taking into account the following:  1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-18; 5:1-9; the promise of Revelation 3:10 to believers; a grammatical-historical interpretation of Scripture; Daniel 9:24-27; and the mystery of the N.T. Church (Eph 3; Matt. 23). 

The Tribulation            The Tribulation will begin when the peace treaty has been signed between the antichrist and the nation of Israel for seven years (Dan. 9:24-27).  The seven seal judgments will be opened and those judgments will come upon the earth (Rev. 5-8:1), following these judgments are the seven trumpet judgments (Rev. 8:2-11:19).  The abomination of desolation will occur with the antichrist setting himself up in the temple as God and people will worship him (Dan. 8:9-14; Matt. 24:15-20; 2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:4, 8).  At this time the nation of Israel will flee into the wilderness and God will protect her until the end of the tribulation (Rev. 12:13-17).  The antichrist will attack the saints and will be able to kill them (Dan. 7:21, 25; Rev. 13:7).  God will then pour out six of the seven bowl judgments (Rev. 16:1-2).  Then the armies of the world begin to gather to Armageddon (Rev. 16:13-16).  At this point God pours out the seven bowl judgment and Babylon is destroyed (Rev. 16:17-18:24).  Revelation then discusses the marriage supper of the Lamb and His bride the Church (7-10).  Then comes the victory of Christ over the armies of the world, the antichrist, and his false prophet (Rev. 14:20; 19:11-19).  After this the false prophet and the antichrist are thrown alive into the lake of fire (19:20). The Millennium

[How it will begin]

            Satan is bound for a thousand years while Christ rules and reigns for a thousand years on earth in Jerusalem (20:1-3).  The Old Testament saints will be resurrected along with the tribulation martyrs, and they will rule and reign with Christ (Dan. 12:1-3; Rev. 20:4,6).  The Church saints who returned with Christ will be in their glorified bodies during the tribulation.  There must be a coronation to receive Christ as the true heir to the Davidic throne (Ezek. 37:24-28; Dan. 7:13-14; Zech. 14:9; Lk. 1:32-33; Rev. 11:15).    

[General description]

            The millennial kingdom will be a time of peace and prosperity on the earth (Isa. 2:1-4; 65:20-25; Amos 9:11-15; Mic. 4:1-3).  This is a literal earthly rule for a literal thousand years (Rev. 20:4, 6).  Jesus will rule with a rod of iron during this time (Rev. 19:15; cf. 2:27; Ps. 2:9).  The believers that lived through the tribulation will begin to populate the millennial kingdom and this will populate the kingdom with unsaved people (Isa. 65:20)  

[Closing events]

            The closing events of the millennium are the release of Satan who will then gather up an army of unsaved people to gather to fight against the Lord Jesus and the army is destroyed with fire from heaven, and Satan is thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:7-10; cf. Ezek. 38:2; 39:1).  At that time is the great white throne judgment where every unsaved person is resurrected and they stand before Christ to receive their judgment, and are then cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).  After this God makes the new heaven and earth which has no sea (Rev. 21:1; 2 Pet. 3:10-13).  The new Jerusalem descends from heaven, and the triune God dwells with His people forever in new Jerusalem which has no temple, sun, or moon because God fulfills all of those things (Rev. 21:3-5, 10-22:25).  The curse on the creation will be removed forever (Rev. 22:3; cf. Rom. 8:20-25).  God’s people will reign with Him forever (Rev. 22:5). 

General Eschatology

[Death and the intermediate state]

            Death is the separation of the soul from the body.  For a believer when he dies he is immediately ushered into the presence of the Lord in heaven (Lk. 16:22; 23:40-43; 2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:21-23).  The place of the unbeliever is in hades until the time of the great white throne judgment (Lk. 16:22-28; Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).      

[The various resurrections]

            The first resurrection will be at the time when the Church is raptured before the tribulation period (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-52).  All Church saints dead and alive will be a part of this resurrection.  The second resurrection that will occur will be at the end of the tribulation period when the O.T. saints and the tribulation martyrs are resurrected (Dan. 12:1-3; Rev. 20:4,6).  Then the last resurrection is when the unsaved are resurrected at the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:11-15).  

[The various judgments]

            The first judgment is when each believer stands before God to give an answer for how they have lived during their life (Rom. 14:10-12; 1 Cor. 3:12-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Eph. 6:8; Heb. 4:12-13).  The second judgment is seen at the end of the tribulation period, which is what Jesus referred to as the “sheep and goat judgment” (Matt. 25:31-46).  This is the separation of the saved and the unsaved at the end of the tribulation period.  The third judgment is the judgment of all of the unsaved people throughout all time at the end of the millennial kingdom, which is called the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).  

[The eternal state]

            The eternal state for the unsaved person is the in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).  They have already received back their resurrected bodies, and they will consciously spend eternity in the fire that burns forever in that place of torment (Matt. 25:41).  The eternal state for a believer is in his glorified body (Rom. 8:20-25; 1 Cor. 15:36-58) in new Jerusalem in the presence of the triune God for all eternity praising God, serving Him, ruling and reigning with Him forever (Heb. 2:8; Rev. 20:4, 6; 21:3-7; 22:1-5), and the curse is removed (Rev. 22:5). 

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