The Premillennial Error

Written by Rev. Dale Kuiper

How one view the events which surround the return of Jesus Christ in glory is determined largely by the interpretation given to the term millennium (thousand years; ). As was pointed out in the previous article, there are three such interpretations: post-, pre-, and a-millennialism. We have seen that post-millennialism is that optimistic view which holds that Christ shall return after the millennium (a long period of time, not necessarily an exact thousand years), and find the world thoroughly Christianised with only a few vestiges of sin remaining. It will be a golden age of righteousness and peace, the majority of mankind shall be saved, and war shall have disappeared from the face of the earth. It was shown that such a conception cannot be harmonized with many portions of the Holy Scriptures, and therefore must be rejected.

Considering premillennialism, the first clue one receives that this view cannot be the teaching of the Word of God is the astounding lack of agreement between the premillennialists themselves. If Scripture presented the last things as this view insists, should there not be unanimity on all but a few minor points perhaps? But this is not the case. The definition which we offer is, therefore, not representative of all premillennialists, but is general enough to cover most: historic premillennialism is the view of the last things which holds that the second coming of Christ will be followed by a period of peace (an exact one thousand years) during which time Christ will reign on this earth in an earthly kingdom; then shall come the end. A more radical form of this view is dispensationalism. The dispensationalist divides the history of mankind into seven distinct periods or dispensations, and teaches that God deals with the human race during each period according to a different principle: innocence, conscience, human government, promise, law, grace, kingdom. Also, this view insists that the Church will be removed from the earth before the great tribulation (see ). This latter view, espoused by John N. Darby in England about 1830, and disseminated widely in this country by the Scofield Reference Bible, is really the unique phenomenon called American premillennialism. It is not taught in the Bible but in the Scofield Reference Bible. Do not confuse the two. The Bible is the infallible Word of God; the Scofield Reference Bible is a deceiving commentary that contains “explanatory notes” on the same page with the text of Scripture. Premillennialism has never been incorporated into any of the creeds, but is the private interpretations of individuals with many denominations. It has never been maintained by outstanding theologians not taught in seminaries where scholarship and exegesis are prominent, but by various Pentecostal and Holiness groups, and Bible institutes. Today this seems to be changing a bit. Premillennialism seems to be making little inroads also into the Reformed community. It is to counteract this trend, and to afford God’s people some Scriptural guidelines for judgment that we briefly examine this erroneous view.

Let us get it clearly in mind. Its main tenants are:

1. The Jews are God’s originally intended people, they are His Kingdom people. To them God spoke the entire Old Testament and to them He promised the Messiah.

2. When Christ came, He was not recognized nor believed on by the majority of the Jews. This contingency was not foreseen by the prophets, nor was it in the original plan of God. However, since Israel, the twelve tribes, rejected the Christ, as an expedient He resorts to the Gentiles, which people constitute the Church in distinction from the Kingdom. Thus the Church is a parenthesis in history. It began at the cross and shall end at the beginning of the millennium. Also, this implies that Scripture has been written for two distinct recipients. Part is for the Jews—the entire Old Testament, most of the gospels and especially the Sermon on the Mount, and parts of Revelation. The epistles plus other parts of the book of Revelation are for the Church.

3. At any moment, without signs or announcement, there shall be a Rapture (see ; ). By the rapture is meant the sudden and secret coming of Christ to take to Himself in the air the bodies of the resurrected and living saints. The wicked dead remain in the grave. This is Christ’s coming for His saints and is known as the first resurrection.

4. Next is a seven year period called the Tribulation (the seventh week of ). During this time all the events of and take place. The Church, however, is not under tribulation but is with her Lord in the air.

5. Then Christ comes with His saints to this earth again in the Revelation. At this time there is a second resurrection of those saints who died during the tribulation. The second coming of Christ ushers in the Millennium.

6. With the advent of the Millennium, prophetic time resumes, for God returns to His favoured people, the Jews. Christ comes to this earth and reigns in an earthly kingdom of peace and prosperity, a kingdom which has its centre in Jerusalem. The Jews are restored to Palestine, and at the sight of Messiah are turned to Him in a great national conversion. At the beginning of this period Satan is bound, and Christ destroys the Antichrist in the battle of Armageddon. The curse is removed from nature: deserts bloom and wild animals are tame. Great numbers of Gentiles are also converted and incorporated into this Kingdom.

7. At the end of the Millennium, Satan is loosed for a short time.

8. Then is the third resurrection, that of the wicked at the end of the world. They are judged with the Devil and his angels, found wanting and assigned forever to feel the sting of hell.

9. Finally, the eternal state with all the fullness of heaven and emptiness of hell is ushered in. Some say all the redeemed mingle in a new heaven and a new earth. Others keep the Kingdom and the Church separate forever, the one in earthly Palestine, the other in heaven.

The above is a highly condensed, greatly streamlined presentation of the matter. Some authors list as many as 22 separate events. Many premillennialist preachers must resort to a complicated chart spread across the front of the church building to make sure they are being followed. A brief catalogue of the important premillennial points is as follows: seven dispensations, eight covenants, two second comings, three or four resurrections, and at least four judgments. It is difficult to conceive this as the teaching of the Bible, which was written in simple language for the simple, yea for babes. To the refreshing, uncomplicated, clear Word of God we now turn for light on these matters.

Underlying all premillennial thought is the separation made between old dispensation Israel and the new dispensation Church. The question is, is Israel God’s Kingdom people and are the Gentiles His Church? Or is Israel a spiritual concept, so that Israel is the Church and the Church is Israel? If the basic unity of the covenant of grace can be established; if Abraham , for example, and the New Testament Gentiles are one in the eyes of God; if God deals with His people in every age according to the same principle—faith, then premillennialism falls, and can only be called an ingenious misuse of Scripture. With that man of faith Abraham, to whom all Jews proudly traced their ancestry, God established His everlasting covenant of grace (). That covenant was established also with Abraham’s progeny (). The Lord makes clear that in His seed (Christ) all the nations of the earth shall be blessed (). In the book of Galatians, Paul (the apostle to the Gentiles) takes up the example of Abraham as he rebukes the foolish Galatians for their attempted work of righteousness. In making clear that God accounts faith in Christ for righteousness, the apostle speaks these amazing words: “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (). Later he writes “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.” He concludes this chapter with the words: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Can anyone miss the unity of God’s work of redemption? Abraham’s seed, true spiritual Israel, is composed of all those who have been given faith in His dear Son. In close connection with the above is the fact that Paul also stresses the unity of the Church of all ages in such passages as , , and . Jesus Himself as the Good Shepherd was intensely conscious of the unity of those given Him of God to redeem; He said to the Jews on Solomon’s porch: “And other sheep have I which are not of this fold; them also I must bring and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd” ().

Secondly, the text most referred to by the premillennialists, , simply does not prove a sudden, silent “rapture,” and a separate resurrection of the righteous and wicked. Rather it teaches: a visible, noticeable (shout, voice, trump) return of Christ; the resurrection of the bodies of dead saints followed immediately by the translation of those saints who are alive at Christ’s coming, without saying anything about the wicked; that the saints shall forever remain with their Lord, suggesting not that they return to this mundane earth again in their glorified, spiritual, incorruptible bodies, but that they remain with Christ in heavenly glory! Further, Christ Himself makes clear there is but one resurrection: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation” (). The Scriptures reveal one second coming of Christ, one resurrection at His coming, and one judgment.

At fault is the method of interpretation followed by adherents of this system. A sound rule is that difficult passages of the Word, which certainly is, must be explained in the light of simpler texts. One cannot escape the feeling, however, that with this view a preconceived theory is brought to Scripture, difficult passages are appealed to as proof, and then the attempt is made to b ring many simpler passages into line with the theory. The result is a violent splitting asunder of the Word, and thus of the redemptive work of God! But God is one. His Word is one (presented in two testaments, prophecy and fulfilment), and redemption is Jesus Christ is one!

Positively, we live near the end of what calls the “thousand years.” This millennium began at Pentecost and will end when time and history end. Christ shall return personally and visibly, shall call forth the dead from the graves and the seas, shall judge all men according to their works, and shall bring His sheep into one fold, the heavenly house of many mansions! Let the Reformed truth continue to be sounded “that the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to Himself by His Spirit and Word out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 21) Blessed are all those who are living members thereof!

20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison (ESV)

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (ESV)

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (ESV)

40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.

Matthew 25:13

13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (ESV)

24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” (ESV)

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, (ESV)

24:1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (ESV)

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. (ESV)

17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, (ESV)

18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (ESV)

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. (ESV)

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” (ESV)

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV)

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (ESV)

16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (ESV)

16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (ESV)

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (ESV)

28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (ESV)

20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (ESV)

20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (ESV)

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