For our theology Thursday series we are now going over the four main views of eschatology, historic premillennialism, dispensational premillennialism, amillennialism and postmillennialism.
Historic premillennialism draws its name from the fact that some of the early Church Fathers (i.e. Ireneaus [140-203], Justin Martyr [100-165], and Papias [80-155]), apparently believed and taught that there would be a visible kingdom of God upon the earth, after the return of Christ. This view expects that there will be an unprecedented time of difficulty for all Christian believers, known as the great tribulation, then Christ will return to rapture believers and judge the living and the dead. Then there will be a thousand year rule of the kingdom of Christ here on earth. At the end of the millennium Satan will be loosed and there will be one last and closing battle. God will intervene with judgment to vindicate Christ and the saints. Then the final state will begin. This view is generally marked by a pessimistic outlook for the future of the church in the world before the return of Christ.
The well know theologian and premillennialist George Eldon Ladd wrote this:
We must recognize frankly that in all the verses cited it would seem that the eschatological kingdom will be inaugurated by a single complete event, consisting of the Day of The Lord, the coming of the Son of Man, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment. However, in the one book which is entirely devoted to this subject, the Revelation of John, this time scheme is modified … the theology that is build on this passage (Rev 20) is millennialism or chiliasm … this is the most natural interpretation of the [Rev 20] passage. One thing must be granted, this is the only place in the scriptures which teaches a thousand-year reign of Christ (George Eldon Ladd, The Last Things, 108-110).
And elsewhere he has written:
The gospel is not to conquer the world and subdue all nations to itself. Hatred, conflict, and war will continue to characterize the age until the coming of the Son of Man, evil will mark the course of the age (George Eldon Ladd, Historic Premillennialism, 17).
One strength of this particular view is that it has been held for a long time throughout the history of the church. But, however, that does not help with its inherent weakness. This view inserts a literal millennium period between the return of Christ and then a final day of reckoning for the enemies of God. Thus creating two bookends of two separate events that I believe are all one event in the Scriptures. The other telling weakness is the considerably pessimistic view of the effect of the gospel and the kingdom of God in the present and near future. There are too many scriptures pointing to the victory of God through Christ and the effect of the gospel in the world for me to accept this pessimism.
Please check out last weeks introductory post, next week I will give an overview of dispensationalism.