Is belief in premillennialism vital to our hope? Is it biblically necessary to believe in Jesus’ thousand-year reign seated on the throne of David in the city of Jerusalem? Yes, it is!
Life in the eternal state will undoubtedly be spectacular, far beyond even our best experiences in this life. Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven does an excellent job of expanding our imaginations regarding what life might be like on the new earth and in the New Jerusalem. We have much to look forward to when the words of Revelation 21-22 ring true throughout the earth and universe. We look forward to an eternity without sin, death, suffering, sorrow, and pain (Rev. 21:1-4).
If such is the case, does it matter what I believe about the millennial reign of Jesus? Absolutely! Scripture teaches it and, as we will see in my next post, it’s an essential aspect of a two-world perspective.
Premillennialism is a biblical necessity because:
- The Father Cannot Break His Promise to His Son.
In Psalm 2:7-8, we read this promise of the Father to the Son, “. . . The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.’” The context clarifies this as a physical rule over the nations of the world in which Jesus rules with a “rod of iron” and dashes the nations “in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:9-10). This cannot be a spiritual realm nor can it refer to the church; this remains an unfulfilled prophecy.
The presence of rebellion and harsh judgment during Jesus’ reign as described in Psalm 2 differentiates it from the eternal state where sin and death will no longer exist (Rev. 21:4). Since the conditions of Psalm 2 do not match our current experience and cannot apply to a spiritual domain, the church, or the eternal state, they must describe the millennium. No other explanation fits with the words of Psalm 2.
A millennium, separate from the eternal state, is a biblical necessity because its absence would signify that the Father has reneged on a promise to his Son. That can never happen!
- Only Premillennialism Maintains the Original Intent of the Words of the Prophets
One cannot deny the reality of a future millennium before the eternal state and at the same time interpret the prophetic words of Scripture in the way the authors intended them when they wrote them or in the way that their original audience would have understood them.
Take the words of the prophet Zechariah, for example. He prophesied about a time after Jesus’ crucifixion when a great number of the Israelites would repent and recognize Jesus as their Messiah. Using words that cannot apply to anyone else except those of Jewish descent, the prophet pictures a time of much weeping as they recognize the one “they have pierced” as the Messiah and weep, signifying great regret and repentance (Zech. 12:10-13:1).
Those who dismiss a future physical kingdom for Israel cannot take the words of Zechariah the way the prophet intended. Instead, they must retrofit an unrelated understanding to the text that is light years away from how the faithful in Israel would have understood it at the time.
Zechariah 14 describes the Lord as “king over all the earth” (v. 9). This occurs in Jerusalem during a time when rebellion remains possible on the earth (see vv. 16-19). The prophet is not talking about a spiritual reign nor can one apply these words to the eternal state. This prophecy remains unfulfilled since Jesus has never reigned over all the nations in the manner described in this chapter.
Zechariah is just one of numerous examples of how only premillennialists guard the original intent of the writers of Scripture when they wrote about the future of Israel and Jesus’ future millennial rule.
If Scripture can mean one thing when written and have an entirely different sense at a later time, we would no longer be able to trust it. The use of allegory erodes the objectivity of Scripture by allowing interpreters to impose their own viewpoint on the text that has nothing to do with the text at the time God inspired it.
Dr. Thomas Ice, in his section on amillennialism in the book, The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible prophecy, summed up this matter quite well:
Basic to amillennialism is its lack of a consistent hermeneutic. It must abandon the literal hermeneutic of the historical, grammatical, and contextual approach for some degree of allegorization. The amillennialist must supply ideas or concepts that one would not be able to find by simply reading the text. Allegorization, or spiritualization, brings a meaning from outside of a specific text to interpret it rather than basing the interpretation on what is written in that specific passage.
Only premillennialism protects the integrity of the words of the biblical prophets.
- God Cannot Break His Covenants with Israel
God could not have made it any clearer than He did in Chronicles 16:14-16; His covenant of the Land given to Abraham, Isaac, and the descendants of Jacob remains in effect forever. Why would God say it’s “an everlasting covenant” if he did not intend us to understand it “as an everlasting covenant”? If the Lord says something is “everlasting,” it’s exactly that! It just doesn’t just go away or reach fulfillment in a way not understood at the time of the promise.
In Romans 11:1-2a, Paul wrote this: “I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.”
The words of Paul in Romans 11 and the teaching of those who deny a future glorious kingdom for Israel are mutually exclusive; they cannot both be true. Either the apostle Paul’s teaching regarding Israel in Romans 11 is false or amillennial viewpoint that denies a future restoration of the kingdom to Israel is incorrect.
If the words of Paul are true, and they are, then all viewpoints that deny a glorious kingdom to Israel have no merit whatsoever because they overlook the permanence of God’s covenants with the Israelites.
Only premillennialism maintains the belief that God will remain true to His covenants with Israel and adheres to Paul’s declaration that God has not rejected Israel.
- The Lord Cannot Break His Promise to Israel of a Future Restoration
Did the Lord’s promises to Israel remain intact after the crucifixion? Yes, they did. We see this in Acts 1:6 when the disciples asked Jesus this question just before His ascension: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). The Savior’s response to their question speaks volumes: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7).
Notice that Jesus did not contradict, ridicule, or refute the premise of their question that He would restore a kingdom to Israel. Instead, He simply told his disciples they could not know the timing of this restoration as it was something the Father alone had “fixed by his own authority.”
This interaction tells us three key things:
First, after hearing Jesus teach about prophecy and the kingdom for several weeks after his resurrection, the disciples remained convinced He would someday restore Israel to a place of greatness. How is it possible that the Lord did not talk about Israel’s future after His resurrection? (see Acts 1:3). If the disciples had misunderstood His teaching on this critical matter, He surely would have corrected them at this point. Instead, He only comments on their timing.
Second, in the Old Testament the Lord promised to “restore the fortunes” of Israel 21 times. Are we to say all these assurances to the Jewish people somehow symbolically apply to the church or that Jesus fulfilled them? And if this was the case, would He not have made this clear to His disciples before the time of His ascension? Of course He would! In their question, the disciples just repeated a promise that occurred 21 times in the Old Testament, and Jesus did not contradict their understanding of it.
Third, the disciples’ question confirms they regarded the Lord’s promise to them in Matthew 19:28 as literal. Jesus there assures them of a future place in ruling over Israel in His kingdom, not the church. And, He let their continuing assumption of just such a future kingdom for Israel stand before He returned to heaven.
Only premillennialism does not dismiss the repeated promises of God to restore a glorious kingdom to Israel and protest the promise Jesus made to His disciples in Matthew 19:28.
- The Clear Prophetic Intent of the Book of Revelation
The book of Revelation begins with these words: “The revelation of Jesus Christ.” From beginning to end, the book contains Jesus’ revelation to us, His church. Yet many today treat the book as an allegory from which they can pick and choose what is symbolic and what is not and decide on their own how to interpret the symbolism.
John’s choice of words totally negates the allegorical approach to the book of Revelation. The apostle uses the word “saw” 44 times by itself and 12 times with the word “looked.” He uses the word “heard” 30 times to indicate he was writing down words he heard.
John purposely used the words of someone communicating God’s message based on what he saw and heard. Those writing allegory do not write as eyewitnesses to events, but John does.
Yes, the apostle employs symbolism and imagery in relating Jesus’ message about the future. His overriding intent, however, was to tell us specifically what he saw and heard concerning the future. Jesus Himself referred to the words of the book as prophecy (Rev. 22:6).
Only premillennialism interprets the book of Revelation as future prophecy, the way both John and Jesus tell us we should interpret it. John recorded what he saw and heard.
- Amillennialism Opens the Door to Heresy
History demonstrates that, over time, amillennialism leads to a further erosion of biblical truth opening the door to heresy. It has done so in the past; it is happening now; it will certainly occur again.
In order to deny the future glorious kingdom for Israel, one must relegate a multitude of Old Testament prophecies regarding the future of Israel to allegory. Such interpretations diminish the importance of words in the Bible and thereby open the door for other biblical texts to fall victim to allegory.
This diminished importance of the original intent of God’s Word explains why amillennialism so easily morphs into heresies such as preterism – the belief that Jesus returned to earth in AD 70 and, in doing so fulfilled most, if not all, of future biblical prophecy. Dominion theology also has its roots in the identical allegorical approach to biblical prophecy used by amillennialists and preterists.
The church in the United Kingdom exemplifies how amillennialism morphs into false beliefs. Although I receive several e-mails from many premillennialists who live there, the leaders of the church in the United Kingdom have long since rejected it in favor of amillennialism.
The events of January of 2020 show how their adherence to amillennialism has led to a further erosion of God’s truth. During this month, churches in Scotland and England disinvited Franklin Graham to speak because of his views on the LBGTQ agenda. Bryan Kerr, a Church of Scotland pastor in Lanark, said this: “Franklin Graham isn’t the voice of Christianity.”
Amillennialism opens the door to heresy.
Once a pastor, church, or denomination relegates a clear prophet passage to allegory, at some point this same methodology gets applied to other passages, and false teaching ensues.
Only premillennialism guards the integrity of the words of all of Scripture.
- Only Premillennialism Continues the Work of the Reformers
Luther and Calvin, along with other Reformers of their time, returned the church to a more literal interpretation of Scripture. Their approach to God’s Word restored the doctrine of justification by faith that had also fallen victim to false teaching during the dark ages as the church expended its use of allegory beyond prophetic passages of Scripture to those dealing with salvation.
Luther and Calvin recognized the considerable damage allegorical interpretations had done to the purity of the Gospel, and both firmly denounced its usage in interpreting God’s word. Despite their condemnation of it, the Reformers failed to apply their sound principles of scriptural interpretations to prophetic portions of Scripture.
Since then, Bible scholars have reversed the trend of the dark ages where allegorical interpretations expanded from prophecy to contaminate the purity of the Gospel. Since the Reformation, these teachers and writers have expanded the use of the Reformers’ principles of literal interpretation from passages on justification to those regarding prophecy. They continued the Reformation.
Dr. William Watson wrote an article called The Rise of Philo-Semitism and Premillennialism During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.[i] He documents how the next generation, after the time of the Reformers, turned away from the allegorical interpretations of John Calvin and Martin Luther; and as a result, biblical prophecies regarding a future kingdom for Israel sprang to life. Dr. Watson lists over 45 writers who from 1585 to 1800 expressed some level of belief in premillennialism.
Perhaps the most well-known premillennialist during this era was Isaac Newton. His study of the books of Daniel and Revelation led him to conclude in 1706 that God would again make Israel a nation, after which the Jewish people would build another temple that the antichrist would desecrate in the middle of the tribulation. Newton believed Jesus would return with his saints after this terrible time on the earth and establish a thousand-year reign upon the earth in Jerusalem.
Dr. Andy Woods describes the trend in this way: “The Reformers, in essence, knocked over a domino. And once it fell, the Holy Spirit raised up others who could go even further and knock over more dominoes—using the same method that the Protestant Reformers retrieved from Antioch.”[ii] The Sola Scriptura and Scripture-interprets-Scripture principles championed by the Reformers later became the spark for a resurgence of premillennialism that dominated evangelical churches during the twentieth century.
It might seem as though I am overly harsh on amillennialists, and perhaps I am. My objections to this teaching have grown substantially during the past couple years. Sadly, they have swung the pendulum back to the use of allegory that never fails to open the door to false teaching.
In my next article on this subject, I show why a belief in the millennium is so vital to the lives of believers living in the twenty-first century.
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[i] William Watson, The Rise of Philo-Semitism and Premillennialism During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, on the Pre-Trib Research Center website @ https://www.pre-trib.org/articles/all-articles
[ii] Dr. Andy Woods, Ever Reforming (Taos, NM: Dispensational Publishing House, Inc., 2018), p. 64.