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Table of ContentsTable of Contents

Section I continued

Four Views of Eschatology Diagramed

1.  Postmillennial


2.  Amillennial



3.  Historic Premillennial



4.  Dispensational Premillennial



A classic Dispensationalist diagram by Clarence Larkin:



Important Terms

Eschatology: The study (Greek logos) of last things (Greek eschaton), i.e., the end of the world, the Last Judgment, the Second Coming of Christ, the resurrection of the body and, in general, anything relating to the future.

The Second Coming of Christ (also known as the Second Advent and the Return of Christ): Christ's physical return to earth, mentioned in such passages as Acts 1:11, 1 Thessalonians 4, and Hebrews 9:28.

The Millennium:  The thousand-year reign of Christ mentioned in Revelation, chapter 20.  Premillennialists ("Chiliasts") believe in a literal thousand-year reign in the future.  Amillennialists and postmillennialists believe that the thousand years is a figurative number for the entire period from Christ's first coming until His second.

Premillennialism  (Also known as Chiliasm from the Greek word for "thousand"):  The belief that the Second Coming of Christ occurs before the millennium, which is a literal 1000 years.  The resurrection of Christians occurs at the beginning of the millennium, the resurrection of the unsaved at the end of the millennium.

Postmillennialism:  The belief that the Second Coming of Christ occurs after the millennium.  There is an increase in the spread of God's rule in every area of life during the millennium (a figurative concept referring to the entire New Testament age).

Amillennialism:  The belief that the Second Coming occurs at the end of history, like postmillennialism, but there is no earthly millennium.  The millennium is purely spiritual, applying only to heaven and the Church.

Dispensationalism:  The belief that history is divided into several distinct dispensations, or ages in which God relates to mankind in a different way.  The most important distinction is between Israel's Age of Law on the one hand, and the Church's Age of Grace on the other.  Dispensationalism is pretribulationist and premillennial.  The Church Age ends and God's plan for Israel resumes when the Church is raptured at the beginning of the Tribulation.  The millennium is Israel-centered: It rules over all other nations and animal sacrifices are performed in the Temple as in the Old Testament.

The Great Tribulation:  The great judgment of God that is foretold in such passages as Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and the Book of Revelation.  The main events occur in the land of Israel.

The Last Days:  Most believe that these are the days of great evil before the Great Tribulation.  Some believe that the Last Days refers to the entire New Testament/Church period.

The Rapture:  The physical resurrection of believers, both living and dead, who will meet Christ in the air at His Second Coming.  The word "rapture" is a transliteration of the Latin translation of the word found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and translated in English as "caught up."

Futurist interpretation of the Tribulation:  The Great Tribulation is yet to come.

Preterist interpretation of the Tribulation:  The Tribulation has already occurred.

Church Historicist interpretation:  The Tribulation is experienced by the Church throughout its history.

Pretribulation (Pretrib) Rapture:  The rapture occurs before the Tribulation. (The standard Dispensational view).

Midtribulation (Midtrib) Rapture:  The rapture occurs in the middle of the Tribulation.

Posttribulation (Posttrib) Rapture:  The rapture occurs after the seven years of the Tribulation. (Historic premillennialist view).


Why is Eschatology Important?


Comprehensive Implications

Eschatology is a hardly a typical household word.  So the questions must be asked, what is it, and why is it important to study?  The word is derived from Greek, meaning "the study of last things," that is, how the world will end.  This may seem like a trivial concern on the face of it because it is an event that may not occur until long after our bones have turned to dust.  But because the end of history is a culmination of the events that lead up to it, the study of eschatology must concern itself with the entire course of history and a comprehensive philosophy of history.  One cannot understand Revelation unless he understands Genesis and everything in between.  As we will see, the subject of eschatology even has implications for the doctrine of salvation and for political philosophy.


Everyday Ethics

Eschatology is an ethical concern because what we ought to be doing now is determined by what future goals we ought to be trying to achieve. Our view of the future determines how we should invest our time, our money, our very lives!  As one person has observed,  "If your physician told you that you probably have only a year to live, would you apply to graduate school?  Silly question, isn't it?  Of course you wouldn't.  With a year to live, it would be foolish to begin a long-term educational program that will cost you a lot of money and use up the precious time you have remaining.  If you have read in a prophecy book that Jesus will probably return before the year 2000, would you apply to graduate school?  Not if you believed the book. Time is too short."[1]   According to one popular teacher, Hal Lindsey, Jesus will come back within a few years; therefore, "We should be living like persons who don't expect to be around much longer."[2] We should try to save a few more souls while there is still time, not try to transform a cultural.  "Why polish brass on a sinking ship?" they say.  Or as Lindsey says, "God sent us to be fishers of men, not to clean up the fish bowl."[3]  But what if Jesus does not return soon, and Christians have abandoned society?  Will not darkness and destruction have increased?  The short-term investments of Rapture-awaiting Christians will have run out.  The narrow concern of saving souls, not cultures, will have backfired.  After all, dirty fish bowls kill fish!

The Power of Vision

Whittaker Chambers, the famous defector from Communism, testified to the power of an optimistic view of history among Communists:

    I resolved to break with the Communist Party at whatever risk to my life or to myself and my family.  Yet, so strong is the hold which the insidious evil of Communism secures upon its disciples, that I could still say to someone at that time: 'I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side, but it is better to die on the losing side than to live under Communism.'"[4] 

Ironically, Communism borrowed its vision of historical victory from Christianity (see Sect. II, "How to Conquer the World").  But like Chambers, many modern Christians have more faith in the power of Satan's people to triumph in history than God's people.   Chamber's defeatist thinking immobilized him from building a viable alternative to replace Communism.   Modern Christians are immobilized by the same defeatist thinking.  They know that God is powerful enough to take a few more people to heaven, but He's not powerful enough to move in the hearts of enough people to completely transform a nation to serve Him.  Living after the break-up of the Soviet Empire, it should be easier for Christians today to see that God can triumph in history, even over such apparently formidable foes as Communism.  But Christians are still suffering from having been paralyzed by the sickness of "rapture fever."  After more than a century of believing that Russia would take over the world and start Armageddon, are Christians prepared to offer something workable in Communism's place?  Are we ready to show the world that Jesus is the answer?  The practical implications of believing in the defeat of God's people in history versus believing in victory is well expressed in a speech made by Romanian pastor Josef Ton:

    Here is what I told [my friend]: "Communism is an experiment that failed. . . .  When communism collapses, somebody has to be there to rebuild society!  I believe our job as Christian teachers is to train leaders so that they will be ready and capable to rebuild our society on a Christian basis!"


    To my surprise, here is what my friend said to me: "Josef, you are wrong.  Communism will triumph all over the world, because this is the movement of the Antichrist.  And when the communists take over the United States, they will have no restraining force left.  They will then kill all the Christians.  We have only one job to do:  alert the world and make ready to die."


    A few years later my friend was forced to leave Romania.  He came to the U.S. and settled down.  Then I was forced into exile, and I moved to the U.S. as well.  Since then, my friend has not done anything for Romania.  He simply waited for the final triumph of communism and the annihilation of Christianity.


    On the other hand, when I came here in 1981, I started a training program for Christian leaders in Romania.  We translated Christian textbooks, and smuggled them into Romania.  With our partners in the organization, The Biblical Education by Extension (BEE), we trained about 1200 people all over Romania.  Today, those people who were trained in that underground operation are the leaders in churches, in evangelical denominations, and in key Christian ministries."[5] 


Neutrality toward Eschatology is Impossible

Neutrality regarding the issue of eschatology is actually impossible.  Everybody lives their lives in terms of some view of the future.  And regardless of which of the two views above that  a Christian takes, to be concerned with merely the here and now is certainly humanistic.  As members of the Kingdom of God, we are participants in a mission that encompasses all of time, all nations, and every area of life.


A Measure of Maturity

Some Christians try to ignore the issue of eschatology and claim to be "panmillennialists," meaning that everything will pan out in the end.  They argue that believing in Jesus is the only thing that is really important, so studying what the Bible teaches on issues like eschatology is a distraction.  However, Jesus said that if we love Him, we will listen obediently to all His words (Matt 5:18, 28:19; John 14).  There are some teachings in the Bible that are more important than others (compare 1 John 2:22 with Rom. 14:2-3), but nothing God speaks is unimportant.  Eschatology is less important than acknowledging that Jesus Christ has died for our sins.  But we ought to try to understand eschatology for the simple reason that God talks about it in His Word.  If God says it, it must be important.  We are to "live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matt 4:4; cf. Deut. 29:29).   Actually, those who pride themselves in their ignorance of the Bible are showing themselves to be spiritually immature.  Our knowledge of the Bible, including its more complicated teachings, is a measure of our Christian maturity (cf. Heb. 5:11-14).


Four Different Views Compared

Basically there are four different views that Christians have taken concerning eschatology.[6]  Postmillennialism, amillennialism, historic premillennialism, and Dispensational premillennialism.  Although I will explain all four views, my focus will be on two:  Postmillennialism and Dispensational premillennialism.  The characteristic that distinguishes postmillennialism from the other three is its vision of progressive victory of the Kingdom of God before Christ's return.  The characteristic that sets Dispensationalism off from the other three is a radical dichotomy between Israel and law on the one hand, and the Church and grace on the other.





Historic premil.

Dispen. premil.

Great Commission fulfilled before 2nd Coming





Any earthly optimism for God's kingdom





Literal 1000-year millennium





Christ returns after the millennium





Christ returns before the millennium





Saints rapture premil, unsaved resurrect after millen.





Pretribulation rapture





Radical law/grace, Israel/Church dichotomy






Many Christians have only heard the Dispensational view taught in their church, which makes the other views sound somewhat heretical.  Some important points need to be remembered here however:

          Which of the four views of the end times one holds has never been a test of orthodoxy.

          The only things concerning eschatology that all Christians agree on are:
               a) A physical return of Christ
               b) A bodily resurrection
               c) A Last Judgment

          None of the historic church creeds speak of the Millennium or the Great Tribulation.[7]

          Dispensationalism is the only view many know, but it never existed until about 1830, when invented by the Irvingites and John Nelson Darby, a Plymouth Brethren.[8]  There is no clear evidence of premillennial beliefs of any type among the earliest church fathers.  Historic (Classic) premillennialism had a minority of advocates in the early church beginning from Justin Martyr (A.D. 150) until the 300's.  St. Augustine's extremely influential book The City of God (A.D. 422) was amil or postmil.  Premillennialism  was not heard from again until twelve centuries later when advocated by revolutionary Anabaptists.  Luther and Calvin both opposed the Anabaptist's chiliast views.[9] 

There are considerable differences between historic premillennialism and Dispensational premillennialism.  For example, the early church father Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-165), a premillennialist and Gentile, wrote of Christianity: "Even we, who have been quarried out from the bowels of Christ, are the true Israelitic race."[10]  This is a clear denial of the Israel/Church dichotomy so important to Dispensationalism.


More on Dispensationalism

According to Webster's:
Dispensation, n.:  a system by which anything is administered; or in theology, the ordering of events under divine authority.

From the Greek, according to Strong's:
oikonomia; administration (of a household or estate); spec. a (religious) "economy" :  dispensation, stewardship.

Places where word is used in the Bible (King James Version):

1 Cor. 9:17 ___________________________________________________________________________

Eph. 1:10 ____________________________________________________________________________

Eph. 3:2 _____________________________________________________________________________

Col. 1:25 ____________________________________________________________________________


Adherents to all four views of eschatology recognize changes of dispensation in God's dealing with men, like the change in the sacrificial system from the Old to the New Covenant.  However, "Dispensationalism" draws much sharper lines of distinction between dispensations than the others.  Covenantal theology is the contrast of Dispensational theology.  As one Dispensationalist says, "the more one moves in the continuity direction, the more covenantal he becomes; and the more he moves in the discontinuity direction, the more dispensational he becomes."[11]


Distinctives of Dispensationalism:

a) Sharp distinction between Israel and the Church, Age of Law/ Age of Grace.

b) Pre-tribulation rapture of the Church.

c) Jewish political rule as in the Old Testament will occur in the Millennium.

d) Mystery form of the Church in the Old Testament  (no prophecies of Church in OT).

e) Hermeneutic literalism.

Four guiding beliefs behind the Dispensational understanding of Israel and the Church:

1.      Because Israel rejected "The Kingdom Offer" of Christ as an earthly, military king, Christ then set out to die on the cross to establish the Church as an alternative program.[12]

2.      The Church Age is a "parenthesis" in God's main plan, which will resume upon Christ's secret return at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (70th week of Daniel).[13]

3.      Because the Church and Israel are two radically different programs in God's plan, the Church must be removed from the earth before the Great Tribulation.[14]

4.      Because the Church was not a part of God's original plan, there are no prophecies that speak of the Church in the Old Testament.  The Church is a 'mystery.'[15]


The above beliefs are the main biblical justifications that Dispensationalists have for their belief in a pre-tribulation rapture. There is no verse in the Bible that explicitly teaches a pre-trib rapture. [16]  Rather, it is an implication drawn from very questionable theological assumptions.  Dispensationalists appeal to 1 Thess. 5:9 ("God did not appoint us to wrath but salvation") in support of the rapture of the church prior to the Great Tribulation. But this probably refers to eternal wrath, because John says he is a "brother and partner in the tribulation" (Rev. 1:9).  And if, as the preterist view teaches, the rapture occurs at the end of history (Rev. 20:7-15) and the Tribulation occurs in the first century (Matt. 16:28, 24:34), then the rapture is not pre-trib.  Even if this verse is referring to the Tribulation, Christ said that the way to escape the wrath was to run away from Jerusalem when the Roman armies approached (see Section III, "Flee to the Mountains"), not be raptured out of this world (see "God's Kingdom Not In This World?").


From the Tribulation to Eternity:

Dispensationalists have worked out a very detailed view of what will take place in the Tribulation.  They know exactly which twentieth-century (now twenty-first) nation will attack Israel and when. Here is an over-view of their scenario:

Traditionally, Dispensationalists have taught that there are no signs which will warn the Church of rapture. [17]   The coming of Christ to rapture the Church is imminent - it could occur at any moment at any point in history.  This is based on the idea that when the Church Age began, the prophecy clock stopped, because the Church is a mystery and detour in God's plan for Israel.  The fulfillment of prophecy can only begin again when the Church is removed from the earth.  However, in the past several years Dispensationalists have become obsessed with date-setting based on "the signs of the times."  This is a denial of imminency in the traditional sense, but on the new view, Christ's return is imminent for our generation.  We are "The Terminal Generation."[18] (Actually, even the earlier Dispensationalists contradicted their imminence doctrine by teaching that the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 represents seven stages of church history, terminating in the Laodicean lukewarm church.)

The return of Christ at the beginning of the Tribulation in order to rapture the Church is a secret coming (1 Thes. 4:16-17); it is not the Second Coming.  The Second Coming occurs at the end of the Tribulation (Matt. 24:29-31; 2 Thes. 2:8).

When the Church is raptured, the New Testament power of the Holy Spirit is also removed from the earth.  The removal of Christians and the Holy Spirit allows the Antichrist to take control of the world (2 Thes. 2:6-7; Rev. 13).  The first three and half years will be a false peace, in which all the world will worship the Antichrist.  Then the Antichrist leads various nations to destroy Israel, climaxing in the Battle of Armageddon.  Two-thirds of the Jews are killed (Zech. 13:8).  But during this time the Holy Spirit is active enough to save the souls of 144,000 Jews (Rev. 7:4-8). 

Seven years after His secret return for the Church, Jesus returns with the Church to destroy the Antichrist.  The surviving Jews believe in Jesus when they see Him descend from heaven (Matt. 23:39; Rom. 11:26).  Believers who were martyred in the Tribulation and Old Testament saints are resurrected.  At the Judgment Seat of Christ (Matt. 25), those who are still alive on earth after the Tribulation are judged.  Unbelievers are cast into hell.  Believing Jews and Gentiles enter into the earthly Millennial kingdom in their natural, unresurrected bodies; they will marry, give birth, and die, but live longer-than-normal lives (Isa. 65:17-25).

In the Millennial Kingdom, the resurrected saints will live in the heavenly Jerusalem, a city that will visibly float above the earth.  The popular Dispensational view is that Jesus will sit on a physical throne in earthly Jerusalem as the heir to David's throne (Psalm 89:3-4, 132:11; Isa. 9:7; Luke 1:32; Acts 2:30).  But the Old Testament also promises that "My servant  David will be king over them" (Ezek. 37:24; cf. Jer. 30:9).  Those who take these verses literally rather than the first set of verses believe that the historic David will be resurrected to reign in earthly Jerusalem.  On this view, Christ will reign in the heavenly Jerusalem with the other resurrected saints.  (The throne prophecies seem to be an insurmountable problem for the hyper-literal hermeneutic of Dispensationalism - see Sect. II, "Who Owns the Earthly Throne?").

The rank structure in the Millennial kingdom, according to J. Dwight Pentecost,[19] will be Jesus at the top in the floating city (Psalm 2), then the resurrected David in the earthly Jerusalem (although Dispensationalists say at other times that all the Old Testament saints are supposed to live in the floating city).  Under David will be the twelve apostles (Luke 22:29-30).  Under them will be various resurrected Old Testament and New Testament saints (Luke 19:15-27).  Next come the mortal earthly Jews, who rule over all the Gentile nations (Isa. 2:2-4).  By sharing in the Millennium, the Church also shares in the blessings of the Millennium.  Thus while Israel and the Church are supposed to be kept strictly separate and the Millennium is supposed to be for Israel's preeminence and blessing according to Dispensationalism, the two are very mixed in the Millennium.  (The Millennium is supposed to be the fulfillment of what Jesus had planned to do at His first coming.  But did Jesus really intend to rule from a floating city with resurrected Old Testament saints, Church saints, and martyred Tribulation saints at His first coming?  Can such an idea be found in the Old Testament, which supposedly knows nothing of the New Testament Church?)

Satan is bound with a literal chain at the beginning of the Millennium so that the Holy Spirit empowered saints gradually advance Christ's kingdom until all nations serve Him.  From the time the Church descends from heaven with Christ to kill the Antichrist, the theocratic bureaucracy will be kicking heads for Jesus for a thousand years.  As Dispensationalists understand strict adherence to Old Testament law, the slightest offense against King Jesus will warrant the penalty of death.  Even Old Testament ceremonial law will be reinstated.  Literal animal sacrifices in a literal rebuilt temple (as described in Ezekiel 40ff.) will be offered in place of the New Covenant's Lord's Supper.

After the thousand years are over (Rev. 20:7-9), Satan is released from his chains, and with Gog and Magog, deceives the nations into attacking the earthly Jerusalem (apparently this is not  the literal(!) Gog and Magog of Eze. 38:2, which Dispensationalists say are Russia and Moscow, who attack Israel in the Great Tribulation a thousand and three and half years before this time).  Fire will come down from heaven and destroy them.  The unsaved dead are then resurrected and judged at the Great White Throne Judgment.   They are cast into the Lake of Fire with Satan.  Believers pass into the New Heaven and New Earth.  (Since only the unsaved are resurrected at the end of the Millennium, how the earthly, mortal believers pass into the eternal state is unexplained.)


Blessings of First or Second Coming?

The kingdom and blessings that postmillennialists say were established at Christ's first coming, Dispensationalists postpone until the Second Coming.  Both believe Christ's millennial kingdom to be characterized by:

1.      Gradual advance of Christ's reign to the ends of the earth.  (Neither one believes the following blessings are fully manifest at once at the beginning.  As Christ's reign gradually advances, the blessings gradually advance with it.)

2.      Righteousness, obedience, holiness, and truth.

3.      The fulness of the Holy Spirit.

4.      Peace, joy, glory, and comfort.

5.      Wise judgment, knowledge, and instruction.

6.      Freedom from the curse on the earth, sickness, and pre-mature death.

7.      Free enterprise labor, economic prosperity, and high population.  (Yes, they go together, environmentalists.)     

8.      Justice and freedom from oppression.


Left Behind?  Rejoice!

The Dispensational teaching of a secret, pre-tribulation rapture of only believers has recently been popularized by Tim LaHaye in the Left Behind series of books as well as a movie by the same name.[20]   One of the passages often cited to prove this view is in Jesus' most lengthy discourse on the Great Tribulation, Matthew 24.   In verses 39-41 Jesus says that "One will be taken, and the other left."   Dispensationalists claim that "taken" means the rapture of believers to be with Christ in heaven during the Great Tribulation. To be "left behind" on earth means that one is unsaved.

However, the context shows that Jesus meant something entirely different.  He compares the event to the days of Noah: "They did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be" (v. 39; cf. Luke 17:27-28).   The one "taken" is in the judgment of death on sinners, as in Noah's flood, not rapture. This is also indicated in verses 27 and 28 in which Christ's coming is connected with the corpses that are found wherever the eagles gather (Roman armies).  The one "left" is left living after the Roman soldiers have swept through the area.  That's the one you want to be!  See Sect. III, "'Taken' = killed, not raptured" for a fuller understanding of this passage and its context, and see Sect. III, "The Resurrection Question" on resurrection.



            Many good Christians have held and do hold the other three views; however, I am going to defend the postmillennial position mainly because of two things that I think the Bible is very clear about:

a) Victory of the Church. (e.g. Matt. 16:18; 28:18-20; Eph.1:20-21; Eph. 2:6; Luke 10:17-18; 1 John 3:8; 4:4; 5:4-5; Phil. 4:13; 2 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 3:20; Rom. 5:17,20; 8:31-32, 37).

b) Preterist interpretation of the Great Tribulation.  Jesus said the Tribulation would occur by A.D. 70 (Matt. 24:34). 

The preterist view is not essential to a defense of postmillennialism.  Some postmillennialists have taught the Church Historicist view. [21] But placing most of the pessimistic passages, which speak of wide-spread rebellion against God in the past, certainly helps the postmillennialist make the case that the gospel will have world-wide success.

What distinguishes postmillennialism from all other views is its optimism concerning the success of the gospel in the Church Age. [22]   Will there be universal peace, prosperity, and spiritual revival?  Will the Church carry out the Great Commission? Will all nations serve the Lord Jesus? (Not every individual, but every nation as a whole.) Will the gospel prevail?  Yes! says the postmillennialist.  The Holy Spirit has that power.  The gospel has that power.  God is willing.  He has promised, and His promises cannot fail.

The postmillennial view of last things begins with Genesis. The first Adam was commanded to rule over the earth under God, but he lost this dominion because of his sin.  The Last Adam, Jesus, came the first time  to restore dominion to those who submit to God.  Thus, according to postmillennialism, Christ established His kingdom at his first coming.  He triumphed over Satan, ascended into heaven at the right hand of Power, above all rule and authority in heaven and on earth, and sent His Spirit to empower His Church to disciple the nations.  The unbelieving among the Jews and the Roman government were great hindrances to the early church, but Jesus destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70, ending forever the Old Testament ceremonial system.  The Roman Empire was eventually defeated as well.  Christ continues to rule over the nations, gradually advancing His kingdom to the ends of the earth.  His enemies are either destroyed or converted by the gospel.

The goal is not merely to witness to all nations or preach to all nations, but to disciple all nations.  Neither is the goal merely to disciple individuals within the nations.  The "nations" (Greek: ethnos - Matt. 28:19) refers to the entire culture.  It begins with individual hearts, but encompasses all of life: economic systems, family structures, and political structures.  Culture is religion externalized.  God rules over all of life.  The kingdom of God is not concerned with just the spiritual or just the material; it is a reign of the spiritual over the material.  Christ's physical resurrection and ascension into the heavenly realm was the first-fruits of the restoration of all creation (Rom. 8:19-22).   The cultivated garden at the beginning of history (Gen. 2:15) becomes a dazzling city by the end (Rev. 21).  The gospel brings historical progress in culture.  God's servants are to build a Christian civilization in conjunction with preparing their souls for heaven.

When the vast majority of the nations have been converted to Christ, there will be a great revival among the Jews, which will bring blessings like the world has never seen (Rom. 11:12,15).  After  a long, unforetold length of time of obedience to Christ and blessing, Satan will be allowed to deceive the nations one last, short time (Rev. 20:3, 7-10).  Satan's people will launch a suicidal attack on God's people. But before they can do any damage, they are destroyed by Christ.  Christ then returns bodily.  The unrighteous are resurrected and sent to the lake of fire and brimstone for all eternity.  The righteous are resurrected and received into the consummate new heavens and new earth.



Amillennialism is similar to postmillennialism in that Christ returns at the end of the Millennium and resurrects the dead, both saved and unsaved.  Unlike postmillennialism, the Millennium is a reign of souls in heaven, and maybe a spiritual reign of the church.  But the church does not save a great number of souls or gain great influence in institutions outside the church.  In their pessimism they are like premillennialists, but without any earthly hope (in a millennium after Christ's return).

In regard to rules of interpretation, amils are like Dispensationalists in spiritualizing all prophecies concerning the New Testament church, and thereby denying earthly, material fulfillment of the church's success and blessings.  But unlike Dispensationalists, who refer all Old Testament prophecy to the Millennium after the Church Age, amils refer all Old Testament prophecies to the New Testament church.

Some amillennialists are preterists in regard to the Great Tribulation.  Others believe in the Church Historicist view that the Tribulation lasts throughout church history.  Still others are Idealists, believing that Revelation does not refer to particular events in history but to the struggle of the church throughout history.  Amillennialists are also divided about whether Christ's coming is imminent (could occur at any point in history), or if signs will precede it, like the rise of the Antichrist.

The "Optimistic Amillennialist": There are some Christians who refer to themselves by this term.  There are no books that I know of that explicitly defend this view.  As far as I can tell, they want to be more optimistic about the success of Christianity than the standard  amillennialist, but not as "utopian" as the postmillennialist view of a complete transformation of society in terms of explicitly Biblical law. 

My take on this amorphous view is that, if you are going to be optimistic about the future historical success of Christianity, why not be as optimistic as the Bible is?  If the Bible says that all nations are going learn to submit to God's law with the result that war will end (Isa. 2:2-4), why believe that society will be transformed to any less degree than that?


Historic Premillennialism

Historic premillennialists believe in a post-tribulation rapture prior to a literal thousand year reign of Christ.  Like Dispensationalists, they believe that all the righteous are resurrected before the Millennium and the unrighteous at the end.  Dispensationalists try to link their theology historically with historic premils, but historic premils make the following arguments against Dispensationalism:[23]

1.                  Historic novelty - Many of the teachings of Dispensationalists, like the radical Israel/Church dichotomy and Temple sacrifices in the Millennium, are unheard of in Christian theology until about 1830.  Yet most Dispensationalists have never heard that Bible-believing have ever had any other view.  The recent origin of Dispensationalism does not prove that it is wrong, but neither should Dispensationalists ignore the counsel of previous generations of Christians.

2.                  Denial of imminency of Christ's return - this follows from the denial of Dispensationalists radical Israel/Church dichotomy and the belief that Scripture teaches that the Church will be on earth during the Tribulation.

3.                  Denial of the mystery form of the Church - The Church is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.

4.                  Promise of tribulation of the Church - Thus the Church will not be raptured before the Great Tribulation.

5.                  Past fulfillment of the 70th week of Daniel - The middle of the 70th week was the crucifixion of Christ, not the war of Armageddon during the Great Tribulation.

6.                  There is only one resurrection of the saints - not a resurrection of the Church before the Tribulation and another one for the Jews at the end of the Tribulation.

7.                  Wheat are resurrected after the tares are destroyed - Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43.      


Two Other Rapture Views

Mid-Tribulation Rapture

According to this view, the rapture will occur in the middle of the seven year tribulation period.  The arguments for this are as follows:

  •                   The denial of the imminent return of Christ
  •                   The promise of tribulation for the Church - Luke 23:27-31; Matt. 24:9-11; Mark 13:9-13; John 15:18-19; John 16:1-2, 33; Rev. 1:9.
  •                   The denial of the Church as a mystery
  •                   The seals and trumpets of Revelation - The seals and trumpets of the first part of Revelation are not judgments from God.  The judgments do not begin until the second half of the book.
  •                   Rapture in Revelation 11 - The two witnesses represent the dead and the living at the rapture; the cloud represents the Lord's presence; the voice and trumpet are the shout and trumpet of 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
  •                   The identity of the last trumpet - The seventh trumpet of Rev. 11:15 is the same trumpet as in 1 Cor. 15:52 and 1 Thes. 4:16.
  •                   The duration of the tribulation period - According to Dan. 9:27, Matt. 24:8,21, and Rev. 11-19, the last half of the seven year period is the period of great tribulation, when God brings great judgement.  The first three and half years are simply the "beginning of sorrows."


The Partial Rapture Theory

According to this view, only those Christians who are faithfully waiting for the Lord's return at the beginning of the Tribulation will be raptured then.  The unfaithful Christians must wait until the end of the Tribulation to meet the Lord in the clouds.  This view is based on Luke 21:36, Matt. 24:41-42, Heb. 9:28, Phil. 3:11, 1 Cor. 15:23, 2 Tim. 4:8, 1 Thess. 1:10 and 4:13-18 with 1 Cor. 15:51-52.  


The Postmillennial Response:  The postmillennialist  takes sides with the above views against Dispensationalism in some areas like the promise of tribulation for the Church and the denial of imminency and of the mystery form of the Church.  But the preterist postmillennialist also denies an assumption of all these views:  that the Tribulation and the rapture are anywhere close in time to one another.  The Tribulation occurred around A.D. 70 and the rapture occurs at the end of history. 



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Section I continued