Pre-Millennialism—the belief that Jesus Christ will return to begin the thousand-year period of righteousness;
Post-Millennialism—the belief that we are now in the Millennium (a period of unknown duration), Jesus is ruling over the earth, conditions will get better and better, Christianity will eventually be accepted throughout the world, then Jesus will return;
A-Millennialism—the belief that there is no Millennium, that the Church, founded by Jesus Christ, is the spiritual Kingdom of God, that conditions will continue to deteriorate until Jesus comes and ushers in the eternal state.
Many different views of the Millennium have been propounded since Jesus ascended to heaven. Most have assumed that their position is grounded solidly in fact, and is therefore above challenge. The most common millennialisms are Pre-Millennialism, Post-Millennialism and A-Millennialism (see definitions above).
These terms are only general classifications. Within each are wide variations.
The great question is not who holds any particular belief, or who defends it, but “what says the Lord?” or “what say the Scriptures?”—because we are talking about what will be in the future, and no one on earth has any power to know the future, much less to make it happen.
What shall we accept or reject? Let us look at each in more detail.
Premillennialists believe that the Bible teaches the living hope of the direct intervention of God into history. God will send Jesus Christ to reverse history and rescue a world that has been sinking to ever deeper depths of evil. He will bring about a state of peace and righteousness and will reign in person as king during a thousand-year period (the Millennium), after which the eternal order will begin.
The premillennialists find ample evidence in Scripture and in the contemporary world to convince them that the coming of Christ is imminent. It may occur today, or tomorrow; it certainly will occur very soon.
The premillennialists deny all possibility that the world is growing better as the Millennium approaches. They believe world conditions are worsening and will continue to worsen until the time of the end. In the meantime, they believe it is the function of the true Church to prepare people for membership in the new Kingdom.
Historians often state that this was the view of the early Christians immediately after Christ and the apostles, and into the first and second centuries. However, it soon changed, and by the time of Augustine was considered full heresy.
Variations among the premillennialists are many. Most believe in a rapture, during which Jesus takes His saints away from the earth, either temporarily or permanently. Most believe in one or two resurrections and judgments, to be followed by the establishing of the Kingdom of God on earth. the Dispensational Premillennialists divide God’s work on earth into dispensations and believe that Christ’s coming will be in two stages, the rapture and the appearing, with a considerable interval in between. After the rapture a Jewish remnant will take the place of the Church as God’s agent on earth for the conversion of Israel and the Gentiles. The Dispensationalists also believe that God still favors the Jews and that He will literally fulfill the promises made to them in the Old Testament.
(The position taken in this book is pre-millennial.)
The postmillennialists view the millennium as the golden age of the Church sometime in the future and preceding the second advent of Jesus. They believe the Kingdom is the Church founded upon earth by Christ during His earthly ministry in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. The Kingdom of God is now in full force, Jesus is now ruling and reigning over the earth (from heaven), and this kingdom is exercising a transforming inluence on world society and culture in this present age due to more and more people being converted to Christ. They believe the Kingdom will continue to develop and expand on earth by means of God’s Word, fervent prayer, and the labors of His people. The result will be unprecedented material prosperity and peace worldwide. Poverty will disappear. Disease will be checked, and crime will be virtually nonexistent. This golden age will last at least a thousand years, perhaps a hundred thousand years.
This “golden age” of spiritual prosperity will be drawn to a close by the personal, visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ, accompanied by a resurrection of all peole in one final judgment. Christ will then introduce His people into the eternal form of the Kingdom.
The postmillennialists see Psalm 110 as the core of their belief: “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” They believe this Psalm is now in full force, that Christ will remain seated in heaven until all His enemies are made His footstool.
Postmillennialists believe that the Gospel will gradually convert the majority of the world’s inhabitants. True Christians will possess political power in every nation so that there will be a genuinely Christian culture. Christ will be the victor in earth’s history. This earthly victory will be the messianic kingdom in its full splendor.
During the late eighteenth and through the mid-nineteenth centuries, Post-Millennialism was strong. However, few today believe that things will gradually get better, and this philosophy has essentially died.
A-Millennialism a belief usually credited to Augustine, has been the dominant philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church from its inception. Augustine taught that the Church was the spiritual kingdom of God upon earth, and that the Church was presently in the Millennium. He believed his veiws were in harmony with his reading of Colossians 1:13-14, where Paul spoke of being “translated into the kingdom.” He took the passages of Scripture which speak of the Church as the Israel of God and said that all men, if they are to be saved, must be in this kingdom. Amillennialists believe that Christ is now King of kings and Lord of lords, and is presently ruling over His kingdom, the church.
The amillennialists believe that when Christ comes the second time, this will be the end of the world. But Christ will not set foot on this earth again; rather we shall all be gathered together with Him in the air and taken to heaven. Paul states that at this time Christ will turn the Kingdom back to God who gave it (1 Cor. 15:20-28).
In the meantime, we should expect increasing lawlessness in the world, apostasy from the truth in the churches, the establishment of the anti-Christ over the entire world, and great tribulation for all those who fear God and keep His commandments. To such a world fully developed in sin, Christ will return.
The true victory of Christ in history is His saving of the elect church from sin. Since the church is made up of her elect members, amillennialists believe that the dominion of Christ is also His reign in the heart and mind of each of His chosen.
The victory of Christ is progressive. The perfection of it, as regards the church, the individual elect, and the creation will be realized by Jesus Christ personally at His coming. However, the perfection of His victory is not to be within history but in the end of it.