Survey Studies in Reformed Theology
Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies
Eschatology: Lesson 1 – An Overview of Special Eschatology
by Pastor Bob Burridge ©1996, 2006, 2013
A Plan for the Study of Eschatology
Principles for the Study of Eschatology
The Main Events of God’s Plan
The Millennial Views
Dividing Up a Complex Topic
The future has always been a fascinating thing to study. It seems that God has created in us a natural concern for what’s going to happen. As we would expect God has also provided information in his word to satisfy this need to the degree that it is healthy for us. In our fallen estate we tend to want more information than God has given. This has led to an enormous amount of confusion about what’s going to take place in the future. We need to find satisfaction in the simplicity of God’s revealed truth.
We generally divide the question into two separate studies. First there is general eschatology (Westminster Confession 32). This is the study of what happens to us individually when we die physically, and what our future life will be like either in the presence of God in heaven or separated from him in eternal damnation in hell. Then there is the study of special eschatology (Westminster Confession 33). This is the study of the events that conclude the history of the world as we know it prior to the great day of judgment.
In this lesson we provide an over-view of special eschatology. This introductory chapter is to dispel some of the confusion and set some boundaries of expectation before we look at the details given in God’s word.
God has promised that his sovereign rule over all things will become more visible as time progresses and will reach it’s highest point of development in the last moments of the society of humans who will still be living on this earth when the order of things we experience in our daily lives will pass away forever. He has also promised that the final elimination of evil will take place in a judgment that is yet to come. How and when this will take place has been a fascinating study among believers who look forward to these events with personal interest.
Disagreements about the details make us dig deeply into God’s word to learn more about his promises and warnings. Our goal in studying the promises of God’s kingdom and of the end times is not to satisfy our curiosity. It’s not to win arguments against those with different configurations than ours. It is to subject our understanding to what God has revealed so that our hope is based upon a sound foundation, and that we might live vigilantly in these present days of confusion before the final establishment of the eternal state when all things will be brought to completion for the glory of God.
God is always King over all the universe. His sovereign reign has never been disrupted, but it has not always been fully perceived by the eyes of men. When we speak of his Kingdom, we mean the places and conditions where God’s sovereign rule, his kingship, is manifested. Throughout the ages of human history his kingdom is being progressively revealed by his word and providence.
When we try to understand the complex of issues relating to things like the Kingdom prophesies, the final judgment, and the nature of eternal life, the problem is to decide how each specific promise or prediction becomes a part of the flow of redemptive history. Each prophetic statement needs to be considered carefully to see where it best fits with what God has told us in other passages of Scripture.
The word Eschatology means “the study of last things”. Since we live in the present, and the last things are still to come, we can only know about them by God’s special revelation. For us today that special revelation is only available by means of God’s preservation of of what he’s made known in the inspired Scriptures of the Bible.
Prophecy is when God makes himself known to chosen individuals supernaturally by means of this special revelation, and he enables those persons to speak for him to others. Since the Bible has been completed, we have the total of all revelation for this era preserved in the 66 books commonly received as canon. This means that the Bible is our only reliable guide in all matters of faith and practice.
In certain times in the history of God’s redemption he has communicated supernaturally to explain his plan for restoring lost humanity by saving some undeserving sinners from the wrath they deserve in the final day of judgment.
Prophecy is not like God’s general revelation of himself which is given by means of creation and providence.
Prophecy is not given through secondary means. It is “immediate”. That means that it is given directly by God himself through supernatural means such as a voice, a dream, or a vision.
Prophecy is not constantly visible to all humans. It is visible only to those who hear the message at the time it is given. There may be a preserved record of the prophetic revelation which may be passed on and examined, but the direct revelation is only tied to the time and place where it is given.
Prophecy is objective. It can be studied by the rules of the language in which it is given and recorded for preservation.
Prophecy may be directed to just one era or people rather than to all people as in his natural revelation where his glory is always visible in providence and in the things he has created to all people in all times (Romans 1:20).
Prophecy is preserved beyond its time of origin by it’s placement in Scripture. It may be read and studied by people even after the things predicted had taken place.
Regarding future events, Prophecy should not be seen as simply the prediction of events before they happen. It is wrong to define it as “pre-written history.” History writing in Scripture is easily distinguished from Prophecy.
The purpose of predictive Prophecy is to prepare people on earth so that they will have a proper response to God’s activity when it takes place. Old Testament redemptive Prophecy was to prepare the world for Messiah’s coming. It did not give explicit details of when and how it would take place. As the moment of the birth of Jesus approached, few clearly understood what was about to happen as God’s Anointed One appeared on earth to complete the work of atonement.
Much of New Testament Prophecy is to prepare the world and his church in particular about soon coming events in God’s plan, and for the return of Messiah at the end of this church age. It does not give us explicit details about when and how these things will take place. There are great differences among interpreters of these prophetic passages today. The study of these prophesies and the ways the church has handled them is the purpose of this present study.
Eschatological Prophecy gives us a teleological view of God’s creation. That means it helps us to see the final goal and purpose of God’s creation. We learn that all things are moving toward a particular goal and purpose. All that happens as history unfolds shows how the divine decrees fit within that teleological intent. The basic purpose is that all things were made, and all things happen, to promote the glory of God the Creator.
This simple diagram will be expanded upon as we continue this study:
There are dangers to avoid in the study of eschatology.
1. Prophecy should not be interpreted with the intent of supporting particular theological assumptions, or to make such assumptions work into a preconceived scheme. Many cults and movements have used eschatology in this way. There is nothing wrong with making conjectures based upon Scripture or upon our understanding of it as long as our intent is to test our models against what God has made known. What is not supported by God’s word must remain a mere conjecture. What is opposed by God’s word must be cast away. The danger is to presume some conjecture then to search for Scriptural support by assembling verses out of context which can be made to appear to support it. Even worse is the practice of stringing together several unsupported conjectures as if the abundance of them confirms a particular system of theological thought.
2. We should not search for contemporary conditions and circumstances in which we believe we have found keys to unlocking God’s truth independently of the process of sound biblical interpretation. This is somewhat like seeing faces in the clouds. A person with a good imagination and who looks hard enough will find almost anything in prophetic symbols. Once someone points them out, it may be hard not to see them, yet they are mere fantasies.
Sometimes the contemporary conditions that shape our view of the future come from positions that have become popular in the church. History shows that the popular opinions held by large groups that call themselves “the church” have not always been correct. Like the Protestant Reformers we must be willing to stand upon what we find in Scripture even if it goes against what many around us claim the Bible teaches.
3. Eschatology can become a blinding obsession. We need to be cautious that this one doctrine of Scripture, as important as it is, does not crowd out our concern for learning the whole counsel of God. Some have disobeyed our present mandates expecting a soon return of Jesus Christ in the consummation of all things. Sadly church history is filled with those who drop out of the orthodox stream to hide in caves, stand on roof tops or hills clothed in robes and sandals awaiting the coming of the Savior. Meanwhile the world below goes blindly about its uninformed meander toward horrible destruction. We have a gospel mandate and a cultural mandate that should not be abandoned as we show films about fictionalized speculations of the end times, or huddle together expecting that God is through with his church.
Scripture must interpret Scripture
Some passages of God’s word are more direct in what they are teaching than others. The historical narratives and moral commandments are directly worded and more easily understood. This is not true of many prophetic passages. They often use symbolic and figurative language which must be cautiously studied. Before they can be explained there must be a diligent use of the various tasks of hermeneutics.
We must know the meanings of the actual words the Holy Spirit guided the writers to use in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. We should determine how the symbols and figures of speech were previously used in Scripture and what they meant in the society contemporary with the writers. Then we need to see how our understanding of the text fits with what God has said in other places and how it fits into the scheme of the progressive unfolding of the redemptive plan. We also should avoid the danger of wrongly linking passages together simply because they use similar language while perhaps they are speaking of unlike things.
It is often not easy to separate conjectures from propositions which are soundly based upon these methods of interpretation. Our minds tend to fill in gaps in our logic with ideas that appear to systematize what we know with certainty. A poorly supported theory may appear to make sense and be used as a piece of data that forms a more complex model. Every model is only as strong as its most poorly supported premise. Until we establish the truth of an idea by drawing only from properly interpreted Scriptural information it must remain a theoretical concept. God does not tell us all we desire to know. He only reveals what he wants us to know. That should be sufficient for us in the realm of theology.
Conflicts Among Interpreters of Prophecy
We can learn a lot from those who disagree with us. Many times we learn the most when we discover that others take a different view of things than we do. It makes us dig deeply to see if our own ideas can be supported soundly.
Unfortunately, we often fall into the trap of using pejorative language that gives a wrong slant on views we have personally rejected. Derogatory labels obscure issues we ought to desire to settle. Believers should love God’s truth more than their own theories. Some phrases which have good meanings have taken on distorted implications when applied to biblical interpretation. They become either deprecations which unfairly characterize what we hope to disprove, or banners that give thoughtless credence to our own views by implying a soundness which may actually be missing.
Three of these theological phrases are particularly important in the study of how we interpret prophetic passages.
1. literal interpretation
This does not mean taking every word or expression as a strict physical description. Most views of the end times recognize the use of figures of speech and symbolisms. Literal means using the standard rules of interpreting literature. It recognizes that God chose to use human language as his means of making his truths known. Human language uses figures of speech. When some say they have taken a passage literally they often mean that they interpret it to not include figurative language. But every view of the end times takes some passages in a figurative way. It is prejudicial to imply that when a word or expression is taken as a figure of speech the literal approach to the Bible has been abandoned.
All Bible-believing Christians see spiritual meaning in Prophecy. Though this is true, the term is often used derogatorily. For example there are passages which speak of God’s people as spiritual Israel as opposed to the physical descendents of Jacob. When the term Israel is taken in a spiritual sense to apply to the church of the New Testament the charge of spiritualizing is sometimes made as if it is a departure from taking God’s word at face value. This derogatory use of the term does not help clarify the issue. Instead of name calling we should attempt to look at the textual evidence to decide if any given passage is speaking of physical Israel or spiritual Israel which might include God’s church as prefigured by the Nation of Israel in the Old Testament.
An allegory is an extended metaphor designed to teach some principle. When the Bible uses allegory it is clear from the context. Examples would be Psalm 80:8-15 or John 10:1-18. Dangerously some have called biblical passages allegories simply because they could not accept them in any other way without endangering their theological assumptions. Many of the early church writers were guilty of this approach. It is still used today by the existential mystics who may call themselves Christians. It becomes an excuse for ignoring the direct and obvious meaning of texts that are a problem to them. It is unfair to accuse people of allegorizing who take well established figures of speech in a metaphorical way as if they were following in the tradition of these mystics.
There are some events which are certain to occur.
These are things agreed upon by all those who are in the line of orthodox Christianity. They are clearly taught in Scripture when we use a sound Grammatical-Historical-Theological approach.
1. Jesus Christ will return again. He will come in a visible bodily appearing and will usher in a new era. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
2. A series of events will end this age and bring in the next. We may not know exactly how the events will occur, but we agree that there are some particular events which are yet to come.
3. A final judgment will occur before the eternal state of glory begins. This present age is not the last. All dead humans will be resurrected. Their bodies will be reconstituted and united with their souls. They will then live in whatever estate they are assigned as declared in the judgment.
4. There will be an eternal estate in which all humans will be conscious forever. It will be a time of eternal glory for those redeemed by grace, but a time of eternal punishment for those who remain in their fallen state.
The truths we learn from Eschatology should effect our behavior and attitude.
There is a prophetic purpose for us in what God has revealed about things yet future to us. It is not to enable us to map out the future. It is to teach us to properly respond when we see God’s work unfold here in this present age of the church, in the future at his second coming, and when each of us and our friends face death and suffering.
In 1 Thessalonians these encouragements are summarized:
4:13 Our grief over death should be replaced with hope.
4:16 There will be a resurrection of the dead.
4:17 There will be a translation of the redeemed to eternal glory.
4:18 We are to comfort one another with these truths.
5:6 We should be alert and sober as the day approaches.
There are some matters relating to the events of the end times upon which all Bible believing Christians agree. They are primarily these:
1. God has promised a kingdom on earth over which Jesus Christ will rule together with his saints.
2. Satan will be bound during this kingdom period. Then he will be loosed for a final confrontation. A last battle will take place where Satan will be completely defeated.
3. There will come a day of final judgment.
4. At the return of Christ the dead will be raised up, and the believers alive at that time will be translated into glory.
5. After the final judgment will come the eternal state. It will bring eternal perdition for the lost and blessing for the elect.
Not all agree upon the nature, time and order of these and related events
This chart shows the general events that mark redemptive history relevant to the study of Special Eschatology.
Periods of the expanding visibility of the Kingdom of God on earth.
The covenant of grace has been administered differently in different periods throughout the history of redemption. Different forms of human leadership of the covenant people have been used by God as he has progressively revealed his truth.
The Old Administration of the Covenant is the time before Christ’s atonement. God’s Kingdom was progressively revealed in stages as his promise of Kingship unfolded setting the stage for the drama of Messiah’s work on the cross, his resurrection, and his ascension into glory.
1. The Patriarchal Period
In Genesis 3:15 God promised that the seed of the woman will crush Satan’s seed. His sovereign kingship was first revealed on earth through the heads of families. They led their families in worship and made blood sacrifices showing their faith that God will one day provide a substitute for the wrath they deserve. The promise of a special covenant people was made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This represented his saving of some out of the lost human race to make them his own beloved children.
2. Mosaic Period
God revealed his sovereignty through the Elders of Israel, various deliverers, and the divinely called judges. In this period he established an elaborate system of sacrifices and worship to more fully prefigure the work yet to be done by the promised Messiah.
3. The Kingdom of Israel
God revealed his sovereignty through the kings. David was chosen to head an unending dynasty (2 Samuel 7:13). The people were warned of captivity if they continued to disobey.
4. The Captivity (Under foreign rule)
During this time God’s kingdom was not very visible. God promised that if Israel returned to the Lord (Isaiah 10:21) she would be restored to the land (Isaiah 11:12 Jeremiah 23:3, 31:8-9 Micah 2:12, Amos 9:14, Zephaniah 3:20, Ezekiel 34:13, 36:24 37:21-22), the temple would be re-built, the sacrifices restored, and the Levitical system would be re-instituted.
5. Israel restored to Canaan under foreign rule
God’s kingdom was seen in only a limited way during this time. The temple was rebuilt, the sacrifice re-established, and the Mosaic system again became openly practiced. Israel was still dominated by various powerful foreign empires.
The New Administration of the Covenant
In the coming of Messiah a greater visibility of the reign of God was realized on earth.
1. The earthly life of Messiah
Jesus walked among us where he physically revealed his dominion. He cast out demons, healed the sick, raised the dead, performed miracles, and forgave sins. He triumphed over sin and death by establishing our righteousness at the cross of Calvary.
2. The era of the Christian Church
In this era Christ rules by the Holy Spirit working through his word and ordained church officers. There remains no national barriers to the gospel. Believers are to exercise the duties of the kingdom in their prophetic, priestly and kingly duties. The church is clearly identified as a “Royal Priesthood”, an “Holy Nation”, “God’s Israel”, and as the “spiritual seed of Abraham”. Throughout this era the Church has grown by the spread of the gospel in a vibrant missionary effort, by Scripture publication, and in the historic reformations and revivals. This time is marked both by times of the spreading influence of Christian teachings, ideals, and moral principles, and by a persisting remnant of faithful believers when the gospel is been marginalized by the dominant majority.
3. The final eternal state after judgment
Sin will be finally removed. The new heaven and earth will be established. It will be a time of absolute and universal peace. Satan and all evil will be finally judged. God’s Sovereignty will fully and eternally be made evident in all of creation.
The main issues
There are a few basic interpretive issues that produce the distinctions among those who accept the Bible as the infallible and inerrant word of God.
1. The Golden Age prophesies of the Bible
In various passages God promises to advance the establishing of his Kingdom on earth. It would expand the manifesting of his glory and holiness. These passages promise various blessings including the offer of peace, a purity of worship, and greater moral purity.
Some of these passages are speaking of the restoration of Israel to the land of Canaan and the rebuilding of her temple after the time of captivity. Others predicted the age of the birth and life of Messiah here on earth. Some are promises of the church age where the Kingdom would expand beyond Israel to include the Gentiles. Other passages speak of the eternal estate of glory that awaits the redeemed after the final judgment. Some Christians believe that these eras do not fully satisfy all the promises. They say there is a future time on earth beyond the present era of the church where a sanctified world order will be dominated by Christianity before the final judgment.
Each passage must be handled carefully to determine which of these eras it best describes. If there is another future period after the church era but prior to the final judgment there must be clear exegetical reasons to support that view. Each passage used must not fit into the other periods of redemptive history.
2. The thousand years of Revelation 20
Revelation 20 is the only passage in the Bible that directly mentions a thousand year period where Satan is bound in some sense (20:2), and where those who take part in the first resurrection reign with Christ (20:6). The Latin term for a thousand years is millennium. This is where we get the term that commonly describes this era.
There are different ways this passage is understood by believers. There are also variations in the way this period is linked with some passages that promise a Golden Age of increased blessing on earth.
There are three basic approaches to understanding the millennium. Each of these has variations which we will handle as sub-systems of each major view.
Early understandings of the Millennium
During the first thousand years of the church, most took the thousand years in an absolute sense. They expected that at the end of one thousand years after Christ’s earthly ministry the final judgment would come. They believed that this millennium was established at the first coming of Messiah and that they were already living in that millennial era. Immediately after the thousand years they expected that Jesus would return bodily in final judgment and bring about the eternal estate. Therefore they understood the millennium as being identical with the age of the expanding Apostolic church.
There were some during the second century from about 150 to 250 AD who held to a view known as Chiliasm. We will deal with the basic distinctives of their model of the end times under the heading of Premillennialism. It should be noted though, that the views of the Chiliasts differ in important areas from those of modern Premillennialists.
When at the end of the first thousand years the final judgment did not come believers were forced to reexamine their interpretation of Revelation 20. Several proposals were advanced as possible solutions.
1. Numeric Interpretations of the Thousand Years
These views all attempted to limit the thousand years to that exact number of calendar years.
a. The Millennium actually ended about 1000AD.
For a time it was held that Satan’s “little season” was upon them, that he had been released from his bondage. Soon that view was abandoned. It became hard to see the “little season” as being many decades long with no visible change taking place in the world.
b. The Millennium began some time after the Christ’s time on Earth.
According to this view, the Millennium may have begun at some time later than Jesus’ ascension and therefore the literal thousand years were not yet over. Some even put its beginning as late as the Protestant Reformation which took place nearly 1500 years after the time of Christ. Durham dated the beginning of the binding of Satan as late as 1560 AD. Many recalculations and theories followed. Inserting such a large gap before the Millennium began weakened their case for a strictly numeric interpretation of the years in Revelation 20 since the gap was not mentioned in Scripture.
c. The Millennium would not begin until some yet future time.
In 1707 Whitby proposed a system based on the idea that the kingdom would begin in the future and would extend for a thousand years until the return of Christ. This is the view of Classic Post-Millennialism. The Chiliasts who held this view divided the future return of Christ into two separate events, one at the beginning of the thousand years and another at the end. This is the foundation of modern Pre-Millennialism.
2. Figurative Interpretations of the Thousand Years
These views take the number 1000 as symbolic as it is used in some other passages of Scripture.
a. The reign of the saints with Christ had not ended but continued.
The Millennium should not be measured in literal years, but it progresses “for the many years” which they say is the figurative meaning of 1000 in Scripture. This is the view commonly called A-Millennialism.
b. The reign of the saints had not yet begun.
This view holds that when this future reign begins prior to the return of Christ it will not last for a literal one thousand years, taking the number figuratively. This is the position of a modified view of Post-Millennialism.
c. The reign of the saints has not yet come in its fullness.
The millennium expands throughout the church age until a “universal Christianization of the world” takes place (B. B. Warfield). They see our mandate as using the gospel and its influence to bring society into conformity with the principles revealed in Scripture. This view is often called Modern or Contemporary Post-Millennialism. This should not be confused with Modernistic Post-Millennialism which sees the thousand years as a time of purely social reform not connected with the gospel. The modernistic view does not take the Bible as the inerrant word of God and so will not be a part of our study.
These primary views have developed in three main categories:
1. Post-Millennialism: Jesus returns for his saints after an earthly millennial reign of the saints with Christ which will be an earthly time of world-wide christianization, and is yet future.
2. A-Millennialism: This subset of Post-Millennialism also believes that Jesus returns for his saints after the millennium. But it views the millennium as a description of the present church age rather than as a future time of world christianization. It also believes that Jesus will come again in judgment after the Millennium.
3. Pre-Millennialism: This view holds that Jesus will return for his saints before his Millennial reign, then come again after the thousand years in the final judgment.
Basic historic interpretations of the placement of the millennial kingdom.
Post-Millennialism: The basic beliefs of this view are:
All postmillennialists view of the great tribulation of Matthew 24 as historical fact which is identified with the Roman siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in 70 AD.
Jesus fatally defeated Satan at the cross and cleared the way for the advancement of the church through the preaching of the gospel.
As the church expands (not in a steady growth but in historic periods) there will come a time when the world becomes essentially “christianized” in its morals and practices. Not all will be true believers but Christian views and values will dominate society. Believers will rule with Christ as they establish his Kingdom by grace through the gospel.
Satan is progressively bound so that he cannot keep the gentiles from obeying Messiah during this age. At the end of the kingdom age Satan is loosed for a final confrontation.
This age will end in the resurrection and the receiving up of all the living which will be followed immediately by the final judgment, then the eternal state.
Some Leading Postmillennialists: L.Boettner, B.B.Warfield, J.G.Machen, C.Hodge, A.A.Hodge, C.W.Hodge, R.J.Rushdoony, Ian Murray, Jonathan Edwards, J.Owen, A.Barnes, S.Charnock, R.Dabney, A.H.Strong, W.G.T.Shedd, J.M.Kik, J.H.Snowden, H.B.Smith, R.Campbell, D.Whitby, D.Brown, J.H.Thornwell, T.Goodwin, P.Nye
A-Millennialism: According to this view:
Jesus established his kingdom at the end of His earthly ministry. He now sits and reigns at the right hand of the Father. In some sense believers now rule with Christ.
Satan is bound so that he no longer deceives the gentiles. At the end of this age Satan will be loosed for a final confrontation. This age will end in the resurrection and the receiving up of the living which will be
followed immediately by the final judgment, then the eternal state.
1. Historic Model for A-Millennialism
The great tribulation of apostate Israel occurred with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD when the Roman army destroyed the Jewish Temple and ended the sacrifice. The old economy ended making the new economy of the church age more visible. Some call this “Optimistic Amillennialism since there is no future “great” tribulation.
2. Futurist Model for A-Millennialism
The great tribulation may still have some future fulfillment at the end of this age as well as its primary fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Some Leading Amillennialists: L.Berkhoff, A.Kuyper, W.Hendriksen, O.T.Allis, D.H.Kromminga, G.C.Berkouwer, A.A.Hoekema, G.Girod, H.Hoeksema, R.C.H.Lenski, J.Adams, G.Voss, A.Pieters, F.E.Hamilton, G.Murray, W.Rutgers, M.J.Wyngaarden, W.Messelink, W.J.Grier, W.Cox, T.Graebner, A.Hughes, Kliefoth
Pre-Millennialism: According to this system Jesus returns before the Millennium.
At the end of this age Jesus will return in a partial resurrection, a partial judgment, and the translation of living believers into glory.
The Great Tribulation of Matthew 24 will take place for seven actual years before the Millennial Kingdom is established. Most do not identify it with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. Others see 70 AD as a minor fulfillment but that the greater fulfillment will be prior to the yet future Millennium.
There are differences among them as to when Jesus comes to rapture his church out of this world. Some place it before the Great Tribulation (pre-trib), some have it in the middle of the Tribulation (mid-trib), and others put it at the end of the Tribulation (post-trib).
After the future tribulation, Jesus will establish an earthly kingdom over which He will rule personally with His glorified saints.
During the earthly kingdom Satan is bound. This suppresses but does not actually eliminate sin and the influence of evil.
After the kingdom age Satan will be loosed for a final confrontation. Then another resurrection will occur and a final judgment, followed by the eternal state.
1. Historic Model of Pre-Millennialism
This view does not deny the unity of Israel and the Church as one covenant people of God. They generally hold to some form of an earthly kingdom being established by Jesus at his ascension but that the primary Millennial reign is yet future. It is within this camp that some hold to a partial fulfillment of the Great Tribulation in 70 AD, but that a greater fulfillment will take place before the Millennium.
Some Leading Historic Premillennialists (with variation): G.Ladd, Dean Alford, J.O.Buswell, S.H.Kellogg, A.A.MacRae, A.Reese, H.W.Frost, N.West, E.B.Elliot, H.G.Guinness, T.Zahn
2. Dispensational Model of Pre-Millennialism (Futurist)
Jesus offered an earthly, political kingdom to the Jews during his ministry in the first century but they rejected it. God inserted the church age into history as a “parenthesis” in His eternal plan for Israel. This was unknown to the prophets.
At the end of this age Jesus will return in a partial resurrection, a partial judgment, and the translation of living believers into glory.
After the gentile church is removed a time of great tribulation will begin for a restored Israel. The temple will be rebuilt, and the sacrifice re-instituted just as before the parenthesis began. During this time the temple will be desecrated.
At the end of the tribulation Jesus will come, yet again, and will establish an earthly kingdom over which He will rule personally with His glorified saints but keeping Israel and the church separate.
During the earthly kingdom Satan is bound suppressing but not eliminating sin and the influence of evil.
After the kingdom age Satan will be loosed for a final confrontation. Another resurrection will occur and Jesus will come still once more in final judgment where He will bring about the eternal state.
Some Leading Dispensational Premillennialists: J.N.Darby, H.Linsey, C.I.Scofield, W.E.Blackstone, A.C.Gabelein, L.S.Chafer, C.L.Feinberg, J.F.Walvoord, J.D.Pentecost, G.Cohen, S.Kirban, J.F.Silvers, J.M.Brookes, J.M.Gray
Dispensationalists are forced to adopt futurism since they reject an organic connection between the Old Testament Covenant People and New Testament church. All references to Israel not physically and politically fulfilled by the time of Christ must be about some future Israel that is indistinguishable from Old Testament Israel, but cannot refer to the New Testament Church.
A few early forms of Chilliasm were evident in a Jewish branch of the early church as evidenced in the writings associated with Barnabas and Papias. It was then embraced in one form or another from 150 to 250 AD by men such as Irenaeus and Tertullian. It was the basic view held by cults such as the Anabaptists and later the Millerites and the Adventists.
Throughout history many were plainly anti-chillaists while not clearly being Post-Millennial or A-Millennial. These configurations did not exist as such until well after the first thousand years of the Church Age had ended. Among those who directly condemned Chiliasm as heresy were: Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Gaius (200), Clement, Origen, and Dionysius. Chiliasm was openly condemned as error in the Augsburg Confession, the 39 Articles of the English Church, and in the Belgic Confession.
It is inaccurate and unfair to identify any form of modern Pre-Millennialism with this older movement. They have little in common aside from their view that the Millennium of Revelation 20 is yet future and that Christ will come again in some way for his church before it is established. It is also unwise for modern Pre-Millennialists to use these cultish writings to establish an historical foundation for their view as being typical of what the true church had always held.
Note: The Bible quotations in this syllabus are from the New American Standard Bible (1988 edition) unless otherwise noted.