What is premillennialism?

Question: "What is premillennialism?"

Premillennialism is the view that Christ’s second coming will occur prior to his Millennial Kingdom, and that the Millennial Kingdom is a literal 1,000-year reign. In order to understand and interpret the passages in Scripture that deal with end times events, there are two things that must be clearly understood: (1) a proper method of interpreting Scripture, and (2) the distinction between Israel (the Jews) and the Church (the body of all believers in Jesus Christ).

First, a proper method of interpreting Scripture requires that Scripture be interpreted in a way that is consistent with its context. This means that a passage must be interpreted in a way that is consistent with the audience to which it is written, those it is written about, whom it is written by, and so on. It is critical to know the author, intended audience, and historical background of each passage one interprets. The historical and cultural setting will often reveal what the correct meaning of a passage is. It is also important to remember that Scripture interprets Scripture. That is, often a passage will cover a topic or subject that is also addressed elsewhere in the Bible. It is important to interpret all of these passages consistently with one another.

Finally, and most importantly, passages must always be taken in their normal, regular, plain, literal meaning unless the context of the passage indicates that it is figurative in nature. A literal interpretation does not eliminate the possibility of figures of speech being used. Rather, it encourages the interpreter to not read figurative language into the meaning of a passage unless it is appropriate for that context. It is crucial to never seek a “deeper, more spiritual” meaning than is presented. This is dangerous, because when it takes place, the basis for accurate interpretation is placed in the mind of the reader, rather than coming from the Scriptures. In this case there can be no objective standard of interpretation, but instead, Scripture becomes subject to each and every person’s own impression of what it means. 2 Peter 1:20-21 reminds us “… that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.”

Applying these principles of Biblical interpretation, it must be seen that Israel (Abraham’s physical descendants) and the Church (all the believers) are two distinct groups. It is crucial to recognize and understand that Israel and the Church are distinct, because if this is misunderstood, Scripture will be misinterpreted. Specifically, passages that deal with promises made to Israel (both fulfilled and unfulfilled) are prone to be misunderstood and misinterpreted if one tries to make them apply to the Church, and vice versa. Remember, the context of the passage will determine to whom it is addressed, and will point to the most correct interpretation!

With those concepts in mind, a look will now be taken at various passages of Scripture that deal with the Premillennial view. Let’s start in Genesis, with chapter 12, verses 1-3. They read, “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

God promises Abraham three things here: that Abraham would have many descendants, that this nation would own and occupy a land, and a universal blessing will come to all mankind, out of Abraham’s line (the Jews). In Genesis 15:9-17, God ratifies His covenant with Abraham. In the way this is done, God places sole responsibility for the covenant upon Himself. That is, there was nothing Abraham could do or fail to do that would void the covenant God made. Also in this passage, the boundaries are set for the land that the Jews will eventually occupy. For a detailed list of the boundaries, see Deuteronomy 34. Other passages that deal with the promise of land: Deuteronomy 30:3-5 and Ezekiel 20:42-44.

2 Samuel chapter 7 deals with Christ’s rule during the millennium. 2 Samuel 7, verses 11-17 record a promise made by God to King David. Here, God promises David that he will have descendants, and out of those descendants God will establish an everlasting Kingdom. This is referring to the rule of Christ during the Millennium, and forever. It is important to keep in mind that this promise must be fulfilled literally, and has not yet taken place. Some would believe that the rule of Solomon was the literal fulfillment of this prophesy, but there is a problem with that: The territory over which Solomon ruled is not held by Israel today, and Solomon does not rule over Israel today, either! Remember that God promised Abraham that his decedents would possess a land forever, which has not happened yet. Also, 2 Samuel 7 says that God would establish a King who would rule for eternity. Solomon therefore could not be a fulfillment of the promise made to David. Therefore, this is a promise that has yet to be fulfilled!

Now, with all this in mind, examine what is recorded in Revelation 20:1-7, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received [his] mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This [is] the first resurrection. Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison.”

The thousand years which is repeatedly mentioned in Revelation 20:1-7 corresponds to Christ’s literal 1,000-year reign on the earth. Recall that the promise made to David regarding a ruler had to be fulfilled literally, and has not yet taken place. Premillennialism sees this passage as describing the future fulfillment of that promise with Christ on the throne. God made unconditional covenants with both Abraham and David. Neither of these covenants have been fully or permanently fulfilled. A literal, physical rule of Christ is the only way the covenants can be fulfilled as God promised they would.

Applying a literal method of interpretation to Scripture results in the pieces of the puzzle coming together. All of the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus’ first coming were fulfilled literally. Therefore, we should expect the prophecies regarding His second coming to be fulfilled literally as well. Premillennialism is the only system that agrees with a literal interpretation of God’s covenants and end times prophecy.

Related Topics:

What is the Millennial Kingdom, and should it be understood literally?

What is Covenant Theology and is it Biblical?

When is the Rapture going to occur in relation to the Tribulation?

What is systematic theology?

What is dispensationalism and is it Biblical?

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What is premillennialism?