Millennial Views

Question
Could you briefly explain the difference between postmillennial, premillennial, and amillennial beliefs?  
Answer
The most basic differences between these views concern the timing of Christ's return in relation to the thousand-year reign of Christ (i.e. the millennium) mentioned in Revelation 20.

Premillennialism

Premillennialism takes its name from its assertion that Christ will return prior to this thousand-year period. There are two major forms of premillennialism: historic and Dispensational. Both versions believe that Christ's return will be preceded by a seven-year tribulation that will mark the beginning of his one thousand year earthly reign, though not all historic premillennialists believe this is a literal seven years. They also believe that at Christ's return believers will be resurrected and Satan will be bound. The millennium will then consist of a golden age of Christ's reign. At the end of the millennium, Satan will be released to lead a last rebellion against Christ, and this rebellion will be crushed. Then will ensue the general resurrection of the rest of mankind, and the final judgment, followed by the New Heavens and the New Earth.

The clearest difference between historic and Dispensational premillennialism concerns their different views of Israel and its relationship to the church. Historic premillennialism sees the church as spiritual Israel, so that God's people in the Old Testament were Israel, while in the New Testament his people are the church. Historic premillennialists see the millennium as the great age of the church's triumph, in union with believing Israel (i.e. Old Testament saints). Dispensational premillennialism, however, sees Israel and the church as distinct entities, such that God has one plan for Israel and another plan for the church. In the Old Testament, God was dealing with Israel, but when they rejected Christ God began to deal with the church instead. However, they believe that in the millennium God will again deal with national Israel and fulfill his promises to them. Most Dispensational premillennialists also believe that the tribulation is designed primarily for God's dealings with Israel.

Postmillennialism

Postmillennialism takes its name from the fact that it holds that Christ will return after the thousand-year period mentioned in Revelation 20. There are also two major kinds of postmillennialism. One kind teaches that the millennium is a literal one thousand years, more specifically, the last one thousand years before Christ returns. According to this system, we can never really know whether or not we are in the millennium. Only when Christ returns can we look back and see when the millennium was. The other kind of postmillennialism teaches that the millennium is not a literal one thousand years, and that it spans the entire period between the first and second advents of Christ (this is also the position held by amillennialism).

All versions of postmillennialism share the belief that there will be only one bodily resurrection, and that this will occur when Christ returns. At Christ's return, all Christ's enemies will be finally defeated, the final judgment will take place, and the New Heavens and New Earth will be created. The distinctive mark of postmillennialism is that prior to Christ's return the gospel will progress and triumph more and more, so that the world will be largely Christianized prior to Christ's return. Things will get better and better for the gospel and the church until Christ returns.

Amillennialism

"Amillennialism" is a somewhat misleading name in the term means "no millennium." In actuality, amillennialism is "postmillennial" in that it teaches that Christ will return after the millennium. The "a-" in "amillennialism" designates the idea that there is no literal millennium, that is, the idea that the reign of Christ may be shorter or longer than a literal one thousand years. The millennium, in amillennialism, is the entire period between the first and second advents of Christ. As mentioned above, one type of postmillennialism is identical to amillennialism in this respect. What distinguishes amillennialism from this type of postmillennialism is the nature of the development of the kingdom of God during the millennium.

There are varieties of views regarding the shape and progress of the church and of the gospel during this period. Some amillennialists believe that things will get markedly worse before Christ returns, some believe things will go on about the same as they always have, and some believe that Scripture doesn't tell us enough to know what will happen before Christ returns. At Third Millennium, we are in this last camp, but with the added twist that we believe the shape of the kingdom of God (i.e. the millennium) will be influenced by the obedience or disobedience of the church. When we are obedient, things will go better; when we are disobedient, things will go worse.


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Creative Delivery Systems at Third Millennium Ministries.