[serialposts]Now that we have briefly covered the essentials of the three major millennial views let’s analyze the views in three ways. First, I will give a quick evaluation of the three (strengths and weaknesses). Second, my opinion on why I adhere to one in particular. Third, the impact of the views in society.
Premillennialism (including dispensationalism)
- The emphasis on keeping the promises of God in the Old Testament relevant today with the nation of Israel may be helpful.
- The interpretation of Revelation 20 does not seem to take seriously the genre of the letter. Is the author of Revelation writing a letter to the churches in Asia Minor about future events that have no practical relation to their present and future suffering?
- This position is decidedly pessimistic. That is, the position suggests that the world is coming to an abrupt and violent end. Although the Bible does at times have a pessimistic edge, it is accompanied by optimism in God’s present power on earth (i.e. Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 15:58).
- The belief in two future resurrections is a weakness. The poetic imagery in Revelation 20 should be clarified by the non-symbolic language used in other texts of the Bible that conclude that there is one bodily resurrection that leads to judgment: Matthew 16:27; 25:31-33; John 5:28-29; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.
- One can appreciate this positions emphasis on evangelistic efforts and the use of the present power of Christ Jesus.
- The optimistic view of this position seems to require selective reading of the Bible. Biblical optimism is accompanied by Biblical pessimism (i.e. Matthew 24:4-14; 2 Timothy 3:1-5) and both emphases should be included with a view of Biblical millennialism.
- The ability of this position to hold both optimism and pessimism together (aka a realist view).
- The literal approach (taking the genre seriously) of Revelation. This position keeps Revelation applicable to the original readers of the prophetic letter.
- The amillennialist position may tend to minimize the promises to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and in Romans 9.
When the positions are weighed the amillennialist position rises to the head of the class.
If Revelation 20 failed to mention one thousand years, then there would be no discussion of millennial positions today. But because it does mention a thousand years and it is only found here in the Bible, the interpreter would be wise to understand the thousand years in the context of the apocryphal letter of Revelation.
And this is precisely what the amillennialist position does. The one thousand year reign of Christ is meant to give hope to the church in between the two advents of Christ. This seems to me to be the “plain” reading of the text.
Thus, the time of the millennium (meaning the reign of Christ to encourage the believers during persecution) is now.
It is not a literal one thousand years, but an image meant to lift the hearts of Christians everywhere while we wait and hope for the second coming of Jesus Christ our Lord.
The impact of the three views is diverse.
The postmillennial position was very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries and may be related to the optimism that was promoted by rationalist modern thinkers. This view took a major blow during WWI and then WWII. It is difficult to find major denominations that adhere to this position.
The amillennialist position remains the standard position in mainline Christian groups, which include Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, Easter Orthodox, and Roman Catholic. The position does not receive much publicity due to the nature of the belief – there is not a cataclysmic end to the world filled with layers of prophetic fulfillments. The view just is not that exciting. In other words, you would not make it into a movie.
The premillennialist position is the most popular among evangelical Americans today. A 2005 survey suggests that two in three evangelicals believe that the establishment of the state of Israel fulfils Biblical prophecy, which would be a premillennialist (and dispensationalist) position. This position is mostly promoted by Baptist, Charismatic, Pentecostal, and nondenominational churches. The position has the most “sensational” power as it has been used in modern movies, books (the Left Behind series), and the position takes full use of the image-bringing buzz words: tribulation and rapture. This position also has great influence on U.S.A. international politics related to the nation of Israel (see link above on the survey). All in all, the premillennialist position has the greatest impact on the church today.