Sunday, January 4, 2009

Millennial Charts

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. (Revelation 20:1-3, ESV)

Revelation 20 speaks of a one thousand year period. There are several ways to classify major view of Revelation. One of the ways is identifying when the millennium of Revelation 20 occurs. I taught a series on Revelation and I put together these charts which outline the various views of the Millennium. I would love feedback on these, particularly where I am getting the information wrong.

  1. Postmillennialism. The great tribulation occurs soon after Christ's ascension into heaven. The hermeneutic is the nearness of the events. The tribulation gives way to a period of God's kingdom advancing on earth. This period is known at the millennium, which may or may not last a literal 1000 years. Here is where I can use some help from my Postmillennial friends. It seems that most Postmillennialists today are partial preterists, believing that the fulfillment of the bulk of Revelation occurred around 70 AD with the fall of Jerusalem with a "visitation" of Christ at that time in judgement -- not to be confused with the actual second coming of Christ, which is yet to happen. At the close of the millennium, some Postmillennialists believe there will be a great falling away, others do not. Christ's second coming occurs at the end of the millennium, upon which there is a general resurrection, the judgment, and then the eternal kingdom.

  2. Amillennialism. Amillennialism is really a form of Postmillennialism. The millennial age (where 1000 is symbolic of the long sovereign reign of Christ but not a literal 1000 years) begins with Christ's first advent where he binds the strong man Satan and plunders his house. With Satan being bound, gospel goes to all nations, tribes, and peoples. During the same time the tribulation, the persecution of the church, is going on. The tribulation is spoken of as a short time (time, times, and half a time -- or three and a half years) to indicate in comparison to the millennium, Satan is bound and Christ is ruling. The hermeneutic is the kingdom of God is both now (the events will come to pass quickly) and not yet. God's kingdom is advancing now but it is not consummated. It is also known as the inaugurated eschatology. This age between Christ's first coming and his second are the latter days. The saints are victorious through the ironic suffering, persevering, and martyrdom. The symbols of Revelation refer to the times throughout the church age and are not tied to one specific historical event, except those that refer to Christ's first and second coming and the establishment of the new heavens and new earth. At Christ's second coming, there is the general resurrection, the judgment, and the establishment of the eternal kingdom.

    A little before 1900, there was no distinction between Postmillennialism and Amillennialism, they were considered part of the same group. However, developments in eschatology during the 1800s started pushing the "two wings" of Postmillennialism apart so that one group in the Postmillennial camp needed to distinguish themselves from the other group. Abraham Kuyper coined the term "amillennialism" -- which is unfortunate because this view recognizes the millennium as much as the Postmillennialists do.

  3. Dispensational Premillennialism. This is the most popular form of premillennialism. Beale summarizes the essential views are (G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, Eerdmans, 1999, p. 47) as:

    • The restoration of ethnic Israel to its land.

    • The church is raptured into heaven.

    • After the rapture there is a seven year tribulation.

    • During the tribulation there is the reign of the antichrist.

    • Christ's second coming.

    • Christ's millennial reign.

    • Satan's final rebellion.

    • Christ's eternal reign with the saints in a new heaven and new earth.

  4. Historic Premillennialism. Unlike Dispensational Premillennialism, Historical Premillennialists views that the church as the true Israel. Hence there is no rapture of the church prior to Christ's second coming. Christians will pass through the final period of trial prior to Christ's second coming. Upon Christ's second coming, Christ sets up his millennial reign, followed by Satan's final rebellion, the final judgment, and the eternal reign of Christ with his saints in the new heaven and earth.

  5. Full Preterism. The preterist view has two forms. The first sees Revelation as largely a prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD (G.K. Beale, pp. 44-45). Babylon the Great is apostate Israel. Both Israel and Rome oppress the Christians. The judgment is limited to apostate Israel. Another form of preterism views Revelation is about the fall of Rome.

    In Full Preterism, the fall of Jerusalem is accompanied by Christ's second coming. The new age is setup, the New Heaven and New Earth is ushered in. Full Preterism, for me, is hard to understand because in looking at the world around me I do not see anything approaching what the Bible describes as victory over death and the new heaven and earth.

    Partial preterism views that Christ did not return with either the fall of Jerusalem or the fall of Rome. The preterist view associated with the fall of Jerusalem has several interesting issues. One is that is requires Revelation to be written prior to AD 70 (say AD 67). This form of preterism falls if Revelation is written after 70 AD, which even most conservative scholars and ancient tradition believes (such as the history passed down via Eusebius). Secondly, the symbols of Babylon the Great has not been used for Israel in other parts of scripture, and the judgment does not include all the godless nations such as Rome.

    The second form of preterism tends to be, in my opinion, more viable. The godless nations are judged with the fall of Rome. The date of Revelation is not critical (for either an early or the later traditional date of the 90s AD).


  1. I am drawn to the partial preterist view as well. Dispensational premil just has too many problems with it, although it is so popular in many churches and in the Christian book market these days. As you say, Earl, there is so much to mull around. Hence this blog.

  2. I was a Postmillennialist and Partial Preterist when I first left the "Panmillennialist" view (with a Dispensational Premillennium overtones). When I came into Reformed Theology I knew that my Dispensational tendencies in eschatology were wrong. The thing I found so satisfying about partial preterism was that it blew Dispensational Premillennialism away with a coherent view. However, the broader implications of Partial Preterism troubled me. Just as Premillennialism dealt too much in the future, Partial Preterism dealt too much in the past. I know the rallying cry for Preterism is the first audience understanding and the nearness phrases. I was bothered by the following:

    1. Extra coming of Christ. Just as the Dispensationalists had an extra invisible coming in Christ with the Rapture, so Partial Preterism had an invisible extra coming of Christ in 70 AD in the fall of Jerusalem. The next coming, from what I could see in scripture was a "all eyes can see" and loud trumpet calls that were going to be very obvious to everyone in the world.

    2. Focused too narrowly on one part of the time span. Just as Dispensational Premillennialists focused too much on a seven year period sometime in the future that had relatively little meaning during the history of the church, so Partial Preterists focused on the fall of Jerusalem. Sure, the seven churches are historical churches (but not all the known churches in the world at that time) and what John wrote them was spot on to their spiritual condition, the number seven is also symbolic of the church as a whole, so the message describes the churches condition throughout the ages in all locations around the world.

    3. The first audience's understanding is not always the benchmark for interpreting the text. Daniel and Ezekiel, for instance, as well as much of the Old Testament had aspects that the first audience were only dimly aware of. In a similar way, 2000 years of history provides insight into the interpretation of Revelation. The last days began with Christ's first coming and continues to this day. The warnings to remain steadfast in the faith are just as strong today as they were in 69 AD. As we examine the symbols of Revelation in light of history, seeing how they replay over and over, the symbols grow richer. We see the archetypes in Nero, Rome, Domitian, and even in the medieval papacy and see how they play out in Hitler, Stalin, radical Islam, and on into decadent parts of western culture. Revelation is too rich of a book to be neatly tied to the first century.

    I found Preterism to be helpful in looking at the first century seeing a descriptive example of symbols of Revelation. In that way, Partial Preterism was a school teacher to me, allowing me to break away from the Dispensational Premillennial strangle hold of my childhood. But I found more than Partial Preterism. Is discovered Revelation is bigger than the narrow time period of 67-70 AD.

  3. Earl,
    I will mull this over. Meanwhile I want to ask some other questions in a new post.


Please be very respectful when you comment. I will try to respond to all comments in a timely manner. All comments are now moderated.