MEANING OF THE WORD: "Millennium" comes from the Latin words "mille" (thousand) and "annus" (year). It is not found
in the Bible except in its Greek form "chilia ete" (Rev. 20:2,3).
PREMILLENNIALISM: Premillennialists believe their system of interpretation is the historic faith of the New Testament,
which was held by the churches during the first three centuries of Christianity. It is based on a consistent literal, historical,
grammatical interpretation of the Scriptures, believing that God's promises to Abraham and David are unconditional, and have
had or will have a literal fulfillment. In no sense have they been abrogated by Israel or fulfilled by the church, which is
a distinct body.
Premillennialists believe that the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth will take place before He establishes
His kingdom on the earth. They believe that at the close of this age, Christ will return for His Church, meeting her in the
air, in an event called the rapture. The great majority of premillennialists believe that this will be followed by a seven
year period of tribulation on the earth, followed by the return of the Lord to earth (the Second Coming) to establish His
millennial kingdom, in fulfillment of His promises to Israel.
POSTMILLENNIALISM: This system of interpretation originated with the teachings of Daniel Whitby (1638-1726). According
to Whitby, "by the present gospel agencies" the evils of the world would be corrected so that Christ could have a "spiritual
reign" on earth for a thousand years, after which time He would come to judge the world and bring in the eternal state.
Augustus H. Strong, a 19th century American Baptist theologian wrote in his classic SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY (pp. 1010-1013)
that the binding of Satan (Rev. 20:2) is prior to the Second Advent and a time of great Christian revival when "the members
of Christ's churches become so conscious of their strength in Christ that they shall, to an extent unknown before, triumph
over the power of evil both within and without."
In THE BASIS OF THE PREMILLENNIAL FAITH (pp. 13-14), Charles C. Ryrie says, "The social gospel, however, has been
the outgrowth of this system since the idea of a world free from evil is envisioned as a result of man's efforts."
AMILLENNIALISM: In direct contrast to premillennialism is amillennialism, the view that there is no literal, earthly
millennial kingdom taught in Scripture. In his classic defense of amillennialism, PROPHECY AND THE CHURCH, Oswald T.
Allis defines this system as follows: "This is the teaching that the only visible coming of Christ to this earth which the
Church is to expect will be for judgment and will be followed by the final state. It is anti-chiliastic or amillennial, because
it rejects the doctrine that there are to be two resurrections with an interval of a thousand years . . . between them" (p.
This view had its origins in the fourth century, when Augustine, bishop of Hippo (354-430), wrote a book THE CITY OF
GOD, in which he attempted to show that the power of the church of Rome would replace the declining power of political
Rome. Augustine attempted to show that the church was the kingdom of God and should be reigning on earth during this present
In an attempt to find Scriptural support for his view, Augustine abandoned a literal interpretation of the Old Testament
promises to Israel concerning a future reign of the Messiah on earth and interpreted God's promises as being spiritually as
fulfilled in the organized church of Rome. He held that the binding of Satan took place during the earthly ministry of Christ
(Luke 10:18) and that the first resurrection is the new birth of the believer (John 5:25). Although Augustine himself held
to the thousand years as a literal time period (Rev. 20:1-6), later ammillennialists assumed that it must be a symbolic length
of time, since the return of Christ did not take place with the end of the first thousand years of the Christian era.
Sadly, Augustine's interpretation was not challenged by the Reformers such as Luther and Calvin and carried over into the
"mainline" Protestant denominations of today. As a result, the abandoning of the literal method of interpretation of the
Scriptures has been the open door by which theological liberalism and apostasy have captured these denominations.
THE HISTORICAL BASIS OF PREMILLENNIALISMTHE
ROMAN CATHOLIC AND REFORMATION CHURCHES:
Premillennialists would agree that amillennialism has been the basis for
the Roman Catholic doctrine of last things since the 4th century, when Augustine postulated that the Church is the kingdom
of God on earth or "spiritual Israel". This interpretation was, in the main, accepted by the Reformers such as Luther and
Calvin and carried over into the "mainline" Protestant denominations of today. The abandonment of the literal method of interpretation
of the Scriptures has been the open door by which theological liberalism and apostasy have captured these denominations.
THE EARLY CHURCH FATHERS: Our view of the millennium should not be based on the antiquity of a particular teaching
or on the eminence of those who held to it. Our consideration must be based on a consistent literal, historical, grammatical
interpretation of the Scriptures. It is what God has said in His word that matters to us! Nevertheless, it is comforting to
know that the premillennial hope is clearly seen in the writings of the early church fathers.
JUSTIN MARTYR (100-165 A.D.) wrote in his DIALOGUS CUM TRYPHONE: But I and whoever are on all points right-minded
Christians know that there will be a resurrection of the dead and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built,
adorned, and enlarged as the prophets Ezekial and Isaiah and the others declare. . . And, further, a certain man with us,
named John, one of the Apostles of Christ, predicted by a revelation that was made known to him that those who believed in
our Christ would spend a thousand years in Jerusalem, and thereafter the general, or to speak briefly, the eternal resurrection
and judgment of all men would likewise take place.
IRENAEUS, BISHOP OF LYONS (120-202 A.D.) was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John. In
his treatise AGAINST HERESIES, he wrote:
But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months,
and sit in the temple at Jerusalem, and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending
this man and those who followed him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom, that
is, the rest, the hallowed seventh day; and restoring to Abraham the promised inheritance, in which kingdom the Lord declared,
that "many coming from the east and from the west should sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." The predicted blessing
therefore, belongs unquestionably to the times of the kingdom, when the righteous shall bear rule upon their rising from the
OTHER EVIDENCE: In addition to the examples cited above, a number of other writings still in existence speak to
the premillennial hope of the early church. Among these include THE DIDACHE, dated about 100 A.D., which is supposed
to be a summary of the teachings of the Apostles; TO THE CORINTHIANS, a letter written by Clement, Bishop of Rome around
96 or 97 A.D.; and the SHEPHERD OF HERMES written sometime between 140 and 150 A.D.
In recognizing this, Philip Schaff, the great church historian, himself not a premillennialist, has written:
The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm, or millennarianism, that is
the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection
and judgment. It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current
opinion of distinguished teachers. --History of the Christian Church, II, p. 614.
THE PROPHETIC BASIS FOR THE MILLENNIUM I. THE
PREMILLENNIAL VIEW OF THE DIVINE COVENANTS
Premillennialism believes God's promises will be literally fulfilled, while amillennialism try to explain them away. A
belief that God will literally fulfill all His promises to Abraham is foundational to a premillennial understanding of events
surrounding the return of Christ to earth. The original promises or covenant is given in Genesis 12:1-3, but there are three
confirmations or amplifications of it (Gen. 13:14-17; 15:1-7; and 17:1-18). Briefly, the covenant contains three promises
to Abraham: 1) a land, 2) a seed, and 3) a blessing.
A. TWO KINDS OF COVENANTS: The prophetic future for Israel is based upon five major covenants or promises God made
with Israel in the Old Testament. These fall into two categories, UNCONDITIONAL and CONDITIONAL. In an UNCONDITIONAL covenant,
the sovereign and gracious God obligates Himself to man with the formula "I WILL" to bring to pass of Himself certain blessings
upon the recipients of the promise. In a CONDITIONAL covenant, God uses the contingent formula, "IF YE WILL," to grant special
blessings to man, provided he fulfills certain conditions.
B. THE FOUNDATIONAL NATURE OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT (GEN. 12:1-3): Although the original covenant is given in Gen.
12:1-3, there are three confirmations or amplifications of it (Gen. 13:14-17; 15:1-7; and 17:1-18). Briefly, the covenant
contains three promises to Abraham: 1) a land, 2) a seed, and 3) a blessing. 1. LAND: THE PROMISE OF A NATIONAL LAND (Gen. 12:1; 13:14-15,17). This is confirmed in the PALESTINIAN COVENANT,
which gave Israel particular assurance of a final, permanent restoration to the land (Deut. 30:3-5; Ezek. 20:33-37, 42-44).
2. SEED: THE PROMISE OF NUMEROUS DESCENDENTS TO FORM A GREAT NATION (Gen. 12:2, 13:16; 17:2-6). The DAVIDIC COVENANT
has to do with the promises of a dynasty, nation, and throne (II Sam. 7:11,13,16; Jer. 33:20,21; 31:35-37).
3. BLESSING: THE PROMISE OF REDEMPTION, NATIONAL AND UNIVERSAL (Gen. 12:3; 22:18; Gal. 3:16). The NEW COVENANT has
particularly to do with Israel's spiritual blessing and redemption (Jer. 31:31-40; Heb. 8:6-13, etc.). C.
THE UNCONDITIONAL NATURE OF THESE COVENANTS:
The four covenants mentioned above are easily recognizable as being UNCONDITIONAL,
because of the formula "I WILL" found or expressed in them as follows: (1) Abrahamic (Gen. 12:1-3) seven times; (2) Palestinian
(Deut. 30:1-10) twelve times; (3) Davidic (II Sam. 7:10-16) seven times; (4) New (Jer. 31:31-40) seven times.
The Mosaic Covenant, in contrast is CONDITIONAL, with the formula "IF YE WILL" being expressed or implied numerous times
in Exodus 19:5 and Deut. 28:1-68.
D. THE ETERNAL NATURE OF THESE COVENANTS: Lincoln observes:
All of Israel's covenants are called ETERNAL except the Mosaic covenant which is declared to be temporal, i.e. it was to
continue only until the coming of the promised Seed. For this detail see as follows: (1) The Abrahamic Covenant is called
"eternal" in Genesis 17:7,13,19; I Chron. 16:17; Psalm 105:10; (2) The Palestinian Covenant is called "eternal" in Ezekial
16:60; (3) The Davidic Covenant is called "eternal" in II Samuel 23:5; Isaiah 55:3; and Ezekial 37:25; and (4) The New Covenant
is called "eternal" in Isaiah 24:5; 61:8; Jer. 32:40; 50:5; and Heb. 13:20. --Charles Fred Lincoln, THE COVENANTS, p. 181.
E. THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN "INSTITUTING" AND "MAINTAINING" A COVENANT. 1. ANALOGY FROM SALVATION: Although the plan of salvation has been designed by the sovereign God and is all of
grace, it contains the element of human responsibility, wherein no individual is actually saved without exercising personal
faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8,9), calling upon Him for salvation (Rom. 10:13). However, while there is also a responsibility
for the believer to walk in a manner "well pleasing" to the Lord, it is the Lord who enables the believer to do so (Heb. 13:21)
and keeps him from "falling" (Jude 24).
2. THE ELEMENT OF OBEDIENCE IN AN "UNCONDITIONAL" COVENANT: It is true that God's institution of the Abrahamic covenant
depended upon Abraham's act of obedience in leaving the land (Gen. 12:1,2); however, once this act was accomplished, God instituted
an irrevocable, unconditional programme.
In spite of Abraham's subsequent disobedience on several occasions, the covenant was reconfirmed to him and to Isaac and
his seed (Gen. 17:19), and to Jacob and his seed (Gen. 28:13-15), without any conditions for its maintenance.
It is interesting to note that the New covenant (including the promise that Israel would never cease to be a nation), which,
in reality, issues from the Abrahamic covenant, was confirmed to Israel at a time when the nation was experiencing judgment
due to apostasy (Jer. 31:31-36).
II. THE AMILLENNIAL VIEW OF THE DIVINE COVENANTS
A. TWO POSITIONS CONCERNING THE NATION ISRAEL
1. SPIRITUALIZATION OF THE PROMISES: One group of amillennialists hold that God NEVER made any promises to Israel
as a nation. Their position is expressed by Pieters, who says:
God never made any promises to any race at all, as a race. All the promises were to the continuing covenanted community,
without regard to its racial constituents or to the personal ancestry of the individuals in it. Hence no proof that those
whom the world now calls "the Jews" are descended from Abraham, if it could be supplied (which it can not), would be of any
avail to prove that they are entitled to the fulfillment of any divine promise whatsoever. These promises were made to a covenanted
group called "The Seed of Abraham," and to that community they must be fulfilled. --Albertus Pieters, THE SEED OF ABRAHAM,
2. REJECTION OF THE NATION: Another group of amillennialists hold that because of Israel's rejection of the Messiah,
Israel, as a nation, has been rejected by God, and Israel's promises have been transferred to the church, so that no spiritual
Israel will ever exist apart from the present one found in the church.
a. The key passage of Scripture used to support this view is Mt. 21:43, "Therefore I say unto you, The kingdom of God
shall be taken away from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." The problem with this interpretation
is that it fails to distinguish between Matthew's usage of the term "kingdom of heaven" to refer to the millennial kingdom
(Mt. 3:2; 4:17) or the sphere of professing "Christendom" (Mt. 13:24-30), and the term "kingdom of God" as the sphere of genuine
faith (Mt. 6:33) and of God's absolute rule (Mt. 12:28; 21:31).
b. It is true that God judged the nation, as a nation, in 70 A.D. by the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of the Jewish
state, but Matthew 21:43 has its fulfillment in the "spiritual blindness" which has come upon the Jews "until the fullness
of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom. 11:25). Paul specifically refutes the concept that God has cast away the Jews as a people
or nation, detailing his arguments in the entire eleventh chapter of Romans, but summarizing his understanding with the words,
"God forbid" (Gk. ME GENOITO), lit. "May it never happen!" (Rom. 11:1). B. THE CHURCH
IS "SPIRITUAL ISRAEL"
1. Is the church ever identified with "true" or "spiritual" Israel? Two passage amillennialists like to use to prove
that it is are Romans 9:6, "For they are not all Israel, who are of Israel;" and Galatians 6:15,16, "For in Christ Jesus neither
circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace
be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God."
2. Concerning Romans 9:6, Ryrie has noted:
...properly interpreted, this passage supports the fact that Gentile Christians are never intended in the designation
ISRAEL. In brief, it means that being an Israelite by natural birth does not assure one of the life and favour promised the
true Israelite who approaches God by faith. The contrast, then, is not between those who inherit Abraham's promises and those
who do not, but rather it is between the promises which belong to Israel according to the flesh, and those which belong to
the Israelite who enters them by faith . . . Both groups still remain genuine Israelites, but the distinction is made with
regard to their attitude toward Christ. Believing Israelites come into all the blessings of the Church in this age, while
unbelieving Israelites do not . . . --Charles C. Ryrie, THE BASIS OF THE PREMILLENNIAL FAITH, pp. 67-683. Concerning
Gal. 6:15,16, the amillennialist sees the "and" (Gk. KAI) in the phrase "and upon the Israel of God" as having an explicative
force, and therefore the phrase is to be translated "even the Israel of God," the conclusion being that all who are a "new
creature" in Christ are the "Israel of God", i.e. the church is "spiritual Israel". However, supporting the normal translation
"and", Ellicott, the Greek scholar says:
Still, as it is doubtful whether KAI is ever used by St. Paul in so marked and explicative force as must be assigned .
. .and as it seems still more doubtful whether Christians generally could be called "the Israel of God" . . . the simple copulative
("and") seems most probable . . . St. Paul includes all in his blessing, of whatever stock and kindred; and then, with his
thoughts turning (as they ever did) to his o? brethren after the flesh (Rom. 9:3), he pauses to specify those who were once
Israelites according to the flesh (I Cor. 10:18), but now are the Israel of God . . . true spiritual children of Abraham.
--ST. PAUL'S EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS, P. 139. C. NEW TESTAMENT PASSAGES WHICH DISTINGUISH
BETWEEN ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH
1. In words written AFTER the beginning of the Church at Pentecost, Paul shows that Israel still existed as a distinct
entity in contrast to the Gentiles or the Church, which was composed of both Jews and Gentiles. He says, "Give no offense,
neither to the Jews, nor to the Greeks (Gentiles), nor to the church of God" (I Cor. 10:32).
2. He further shows that the Church has not displaced Israel as the recipient of God's promises in the Old Testament saying:
For I wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren my KINSMEN ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, who are Israelites;
to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and
the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom, AS CONCERNING THE FLESH, Christ came, . . . --Romans 9:3-5 III.
IS THERE ANY SENSE IN THAT THE CHURCH IS THE "SEED OF ABRAHAM"?
While the church is not "spiritual Israel," the Bible does refer to the spiritual seed of Abraham who are not natural Israelites,
but rather Gentiles who have come to put their faith in a trust in God's provision of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.
These individuals were included in God's promise to Abraham that "in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed"
(Gen. 12: 3).
A. ALL BELIEVING GENTILES SHARE IN THE "BLESSING" ASPECT OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT THROUGH FAITH.
Walvoord clearly summarizes three ways in which one may be a child of Abraham:
"There are, then, three different senses in which one can be a child of Abraham. First, there is the natural lineage,
or natural seed. This is limited largely to the descendents of Jacob in the twelve tribes. To them God promises to be their
God. To them was given the law. To them was given the land of Israel in the Old Testament. With them God dealt in a special
"Second, there is the spiritual lineage within the natural. These are the Israelites who believed in God, who kept the
law, and who met the conditions for present enjoyment of the blessings of the covenant. Those who ultimately possess the land
in the future millennium will also be of spiritual Israel.
"Third, there is the spiritual seed of Abraham who are not natural Israelites. Here is where the promise to "all the families
of the earth" comes in. This is the express application of this phrase in Galatians 3:6-9 . . . in other words, the children
of Abraham (spiritually) who come from the heathen or Gentiles fulfill that aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant which dealt with
Gentiles in the first place, not the promises pertaining to Israel. The only sense in which Gentiles can be Abraham's seed
in the Galatians context is to be "in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:38). It follows: "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's
seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:29). They are Abraham's seed in the spiritual sense only and heirs according
to the promise given "to all the families of the earth." B. THE CHURCH HAS A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
TO THE MILLENNIAL ASPECTS OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT BY ITS BEING "IN CHRIST".
1. In commenting on Galatians 3:16, Peters has said:
"Now (Gal. 3:16) to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, 'And to seeds' as of many, but as of one,
'And to thy seed,' which is Christ." If language has any definite meaning, then, without doubt we have here the simple declaration
that when God promised "Unto thy seed will I give this land," He meant that the land of Canaan should BE INHERITED BY A SINGLE
PERSON--preeminently THE SEED--descended from Abraham, even Jesus Christ. --G. N. H. Peters, THE THEOCRATIC KINGDOM,
2. "In Christ", the Church participates with Him in all He does. While it is to fulfill His covenant promises to believing
Israel that God, through Christ, establishes the literal, earthly millennial kingdom, it is the Church's position "in Christ"
which allows her to rule and reign with him in that kingdom (II Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:6).
If we believe that God literally fulfilled part of His promises or covenant with Abraham, we must believe that those
promises which remain unfilled will yet be literally fulfilled in the future. God has blessed Abraham with seed. He has
made of him a great nation for Abraham became the progenitor or the Hebrew people. In Abraham also, all families of the earth
are blessed through Jesus Christ, who is of the seed of Abraham, according to the flesh.
One part of God's covenant with Abraham remains yet unfulfilled. Abraham's people have not yet inherited all of the land
which God showed to Abraham. In Gen. 15:18-21, the boundaries of the land are given, including the land "from the river of
Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates," and the territories of those peoples also listed in the passage. Even at
the zenith of Israel's power under David and Solomon, not all this land was actually possessed by Israel, although much of
it did come under tribute.
When Abraham was ninety nine years old, the Lord once again confirmed His covenant with Abraham. In Gen. 17:8, the Lord
promised this land to Abraham for an "everlasting possession," yet Israel has so far given up its land three times. Israel
gave up the land when Jacob and his sons followed Joseph into Egypt. Again Israel gave up its land after the conquest of the
northern kingdom by Assyria in 722 B.C., and the conquest of the southern kingdom by Babylon in 586 B.C.. Then, finally, Israel
left its land in the great dispersion of the Jews after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Although this century has witnessed the return of a great number of Jews to Palestine and the establishment of the modern
state of Israel in 1948, there is no guarantee that the Jews will not once again have to vacate their land in the not too
distant future. However, in Jeremiah 31:36, God gives a solemn pledge that Israel shall continue as a nation as long as the
sun, moon, and stars continue. There, the context (Jer 31:31-37) is dealing with a yet future time when the Lord will put
His law in the inward parts of His people Israel, and write it on their hearts and all shall know Him (Jer. 31:33-34). A comparison
with Isaiah 11:1-12 indicates that this is the time when the Messiah sets up His earthly kingdom.
God's promise to Abraham and his descendents concerning a land, yet awaits fulfillment, but it will be fulfilled when Christ
returns to set up His kingdom on earth to rule and reign for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4). Then God will completely fulfill
His promises to Abraham to the letter, and this thought should encourage us to trust the Lord even more, for if we can be
sure God will keep His promises to Abraham, we may be sure He will keeps His promises to us. Our God cannot lie! All His promises
are true and will be fulfilled (2 Cor. 1:20).
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