Problems with Premillenialism
“Premillenialism” is the belief that Jesus will return prior to (“pre”) the 1,000 years (“millenium”) spoken of in Revelation chapter 20:1-6. This “millenium” of Revelation (perhaps the most highly symbolic book in all of Scripture) is interpreted in a woodenly-literal fashion to teach that the Lord Jesus, having returned to this earth, will reign on the earth for a literal 1,000 years before the final Judgment Day and the ushering in of the eternal state (the “new heavens and new earth”). Today many Bible-believing Christians and Christian churches believe in the premillenial view. This view of Bible prophecy (especially in its dispensational form) has been further popularized and reinforced in the evangelical world by the best selling Left Behind book series penned by prophecy writers Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, and it seems that many believers today are convinced that anyone who rejects the premillenial view is either a “liberal” or rejects the full authority and inspiration of the Bible.
Of course, all orthodox, Bible-believing Christians confess that Jesus Christ will one day return in glory, that He will one day judge all mankind, and that He will ultimately be victorious in ushering in a glorious “new heavens and new earth” wherein perfect righteousness dwells. Orthodox believers may differ on how to interpret some of the details of Bible prophecy, but any professing Christian who is willing to confess our Lord’s future second advent, the reality of the coming future judgment day, and the eternal state, should be regarded as being within the bounds of biblical, historic orthodoxy when it comes to their beliefs about the “end times” (or “eschatology” – the doctrine of the “last things”). Saying that someone is a “liberal” or questioning that person’s salvation simply because he/she rejects premillenialism is uncharitable, and may even be slanderous. Making “premillenialism” a litmus test for biblical orthodoxy is narrow, schismatic, and contrary to the faith and confession of the historic “catholic” (“universal”) church. Whether one is a “premillenialist” or a “postmillenialist” or an “amillenialist”, as long as one confesses that “He will come again, in glory, to judge the living and the dead” (as we confess in the Nicene Creed), from the standpoint of the historic “catholic” church one is within the bounds of biblical, historic orthodoxy with respect to one’s eschatology. Churches which exclude individuals from membership or ministerial candidates from ordination simply because they disagree with premillenialism are guilty of following a narrow, sectarian, and pharisaical policy.
While there are certainly many orthodox Christians today who hold to the premillenial view, the fact that numerous modern cults and sects are also strongly premillenial (for example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Seventh-Day Adventists are all premillenial sects) should cause us to question whether the premillenial view is, in fact, based upon a valid interpretation of Holy Scripture. In his book The Millenium (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company; copyright 1957 by Loraine Boettner), theologian Loraine Boettner exposes some of the problems with the premillenial position:
“What a Millenium the Premillenialist has! A thousand years of Jewish supremacy with Jerusalem as the capital, semi-heavenly and semi-earthly, saints in glorified resurrection bodies mingling with sinners in the flesh, a mixed state of mortals and immortals, and all of this climaxed by an unprecedented manifestation of evil at its close! Human life and the work of the world will go on during all that long period very much as now. Men and women will marry and children will be born; people with mortal bodies will live in houses and eat physical food and be subject to sickness and death although not to the same degree as at present. Conditions will be ideal but not heavenly; the earth will be abundantly fruitful; multitudes will honor and worship God while other multitudes will be sullen and resentful. Wicked men will be held in check by the rule of force. To a considerable extent Old Testament conditions will be re-established. “The middle wall of partition” between Jew and Gentile, which Christ has broken down “that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace” (Eph. 2:14, 15), is to be built up again and made higher and stronger, and the Jews re-established as the chosen people. Such a Kingdom must of necessity be far inferior in glory to the final Kingdom.
“Premillenialists insist that the latter part of Ezekiel, chapters 38 to 48, is to be taken with great literalness as having fulfillment in the millenial kingdom, and as foretelling a restored Israel in the land of Palestine. Thus the temple is to be rebuilt, animal sacrifices are again to be presented to make atonement for the sins of the people (45:15-46:15), the priests will officiate (46:2), the people of the earth will go up to Jerusalem for the appointed feasts (46:9), and Christ personally present and visible only to a comparatively small number of people will enter the temple by the eastern gate as the priests prepare His burnt-offerings and peace-offerings (46:2, 3). Notice that if these chapters are to be taken literally they do not say, as Premillenialists attempt to make them say, that the sacrifices will be only memorial in nature, but that they definitely are called “sin-offerings,” “burnt-offerings,” and “meal-offerings” (45:22, 25). A literalists has no right to give them any other meaning. We prefer to say that these predictions were fulfilled in part when Israel was restored to Palestine at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah and later, and that as regards any parts that did not find fulfillment at that time, Old Testament thought forms are employed to teach New Testament spiritual truths, truths which in that day could be expressed intelligently only through those forms with which the people were familiar.
“Frankly, we have no desire for such a state as Premillenialism sets forth, but prefer at death to enter directly into the heavenly Kingdom. Surely it must be evident to anyone that such a state, though for the saints it may be marked by holiness of life, nevertheless leaves much to be desired, and that such a lesser state of things prolonged for a thousand years becomes not an increase but a decrease of blessedness, restraining rather than promoting the coming of the Kingdom of God in its fullness…For the departed saints who have been reigning with Christ a return to earthly life and earthly conditions would be, literally and figuratively, a great “come-down,” a serious restriction of the glorious life that they now enjoy…And as far as those who who still are in the flesh are concerned, surely the Lord’s physical presence, visible to but a comparatively small number of His people, would mean less than His spiritual presence now experienced by all His people in all parts of the world – unless we are to cease walking by faith and begin walking by sight.” (pp. 79-80)
I highly recommend Boettner’s book on the Millenium. You can order it here: http://www.prpbooks.com/Millennium-117.html