Increasingly, the attention of the world is being drawn to the Middle East.
This is due, in part, to the combustible nature of the political situation in
that part of the world and the impact which events there are bound to have on
the fragile possibilities for World peace. However, a second factor which has
helped to focus attention on the Middle Eastern situation is the interest in
certain religious theories which can be loosely grouped together under the
heading of "Premillennialism."
The book market has been glutted in recent years with Premillennial
publications, but the book which has gained the most attention is Hal Lindsey's
LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH,
which has sold several million copies Lindsey's book has served to crystallize
interest in the doctrines of Premillennialism. Many have found justification in
Lindsey's writings for their belief that the end of the present order of things
is very near. Lindsey's book was made into a movie, also titled
THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH,
which further popularized the Premillennial view of the future.
The impact of these theories upon evangelical Christian groups is readily
apparent. Many churches which formerly rejected Premillennialism have now
endorsed it and are doing all they can to spread it. The growing popularity of
these doctrines demands that they be examined carefully in the light of
WHAT IS PREMILLENNIALISM?
The word millennium is Latin for "1000 years" and Pre is a prefix
meaning "before." Premillennialism, then, is the doctrine that Christ
will return to earth prior to establishing a material kingdom which will last
for 1000 years. The supporters of this theory often cite Revelation 20:4 as a
basis for their claims. Though there are many varieties of Premillennialism,
most of its adherents adopt the following basic assumptions:
God's Kingdom is not yet in existence;
The Second Coming of Jesus will be preceded by the rise of the antichrist;
Judaism will be re-established in its ancient form and the Jewish Temple will
be re-built on Mt. Moriah;
There will be two resurrections from the dead;
The righteous will be removed from the world for a period known as the
The world will be plunged into a period of Tribulation which will culminate in
the great battle of Armageddon; and
Christ will return to earth to establish a material kingdom headquartered in
Jerusalem which will usher in a 1000-year period of peace and prosperity on
earth. Let us examine each of these theories in turn.
THE FUTURE KINGDOM THEORY
Premillennialists generally are agreed that Jesus came the first time for the
purpose of establishing the Kingdom. However, His rejection by the Jewish
nation caused the postponement of His plan. Instead, Jesus established the
Church as a kind of stop-gap measure to prepare men for the Kingdom and to last
until it was established. They theorize that Jesus is now sitting at God's
until He is able to assume the throne of David. (David Brown,
CHRIST'S SECOND COMING: WILL IT BE PREMILLENNIAL?
1882, page 120.)
The Bible plainly teaches that the Kingdom already exists. John claimed to be a
part of it. (Revelation 1:9.) Paul likewise claimed to be a citizen of it.
(Colossians 1:13.) Jesus showed that the Kingdom was to be associated with the
Church. (Matthew 16:18-19.) The writer of Hebrews asserts that we have received
a kingdom which cannot be shaken. (Hebrews 12:28.) The Church is not a Divine
afterthought! The mind of God conceived it before the world began. (Ephesians
3:9-10.) The Old Testament prophets predicted its establishment. (Acts 2:16.)
Jesus bought it with His own blood. (Acts 20:28.) Jesus is now ruling His
Kingdom from the throne of David. (Acts 2:34-36.)
Premillennialism is wrong because it has the wrong concept of the Church!
Premillennialists believe that a great world leader will arise in opposition to
Christianity. They usually insist that he will be the head of a Revived Roman
Empire which is often equated with the European Common Market. According to Hal
"The way in which this dictator is going to step onto the stage of history
will be dramatic Overnight he will become the by-word of the world... He will
have a magnetic personality, be personally attractive, and a powerful speaker.
He will be able to mesmerize an audience with his oratory."
(THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH,
p. 108.) In the 20th century many possible candidates have been labeled as
the antichrist including Adolph Hider, Benito Mussolini, Josef Stalin, Anwar
Sadat, Henry Kissinger, George Bush, and Sadaam Hussien! Lindsey insists that
the antichrist is alive somewhere in the world right now!
The Bible, however, teaches that antichrist is not a man but an attitude. The
literally means "opposer of Christ." While this word is not even
used in the Book of Revelation, it is used several times in the Epistles of
John. John wrote: "
Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the
antichrist; the one who denies the Father and the Son." (1 John 2:22.)
Note that John refers to anyone who denies the Father and the Son as
antichrist - an opposer of Christ. John gives us a further key to unraveling
the identity of antichrist in 1 John 4:3 where he writes:
"And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this
is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming and
now it is already in the world."
Note again that antichrist is not a man but a "spirit" or attitude which
prompts men to oppose Christ. The truth is that there are, have been, and will
be many antichrists. Each age has its own opposers of the truth. In one age it
may be Domitian, in another the papacy, in another Communistic dictators, and
in another rationalistic scholars who have sought to undermine Biblical truth.
John confirms this by saying that there were already many antichrists abroad in
his own day.
(I John 2:18.)
The Beast whose number is 666 has appeared and re-appeared all throughout
history in the different forms which opposition to Christianity has taken.
Premillennialism is wrong because it has the wrong view of antichrist!
THE REVIVAL OF ISRAEL
Premillennialists believe that the ancient promises to Israel have never been
fulfilled and that the Jews have a Divine right to the land of Israel. They
believe that it is God's will that the Jews return to Palestine and re-build
their nation. Near the end of 1977, fifteen top evangelical leaders in America,
including John Walvoord, Harold Lindsell, and Pat Boone, ran a full page
advertisement in the
NEW YORK TMES
calling for a U.S. foreign policy which would recognize the unique rights of
Israel in the Middle East. Two weeks later Carl Mclntire took a similar full
page ad in the
expressing the conviction that Fundamentalists must give their backing to
Israel in the Middle Eastern dispute.
January 1978, pp. 8-9.) Hal Lindsey speaks of "three keys" which he
claims provide the basis for the Premillennial interpretation of future events.
He says they are:
The Bible notes, however, that from the stand-point of God, Judaism has forever
served its purposes. The old Law was only a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.
Now that Christ has come, the schoolmaster may be dismissed. (Galatians
3:24-25.) When Christ died the veil of the temple was torn in two by God,
signifying that the old Law and Temple worship had served its purpose. As a
convincing demonstration that He was finished with Judaism as a religious
system, God caused Jerusalem to be completely destroyed in A.D. 70 so that not
one stone was left standing upon another. Furthermore, the Bible is very
explicit in teaching that the Covenant promises to Abraham's descendants have
been fulfilled. In Joshua 21:43 we read -
"So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their
fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it."
reiterates the same fact. It is a misapplication of Scripture and a
misdirection of foreign policy to insist that Israel must possess the Middle
East because "God wills it."
The rebirth of the nation of Israel;
The return of Jerusalem to Jewish hands; and
The rebuilding of the Jewish temple on Mt. Moriah. In his book he writes:
"There will be a reinstitution of the Jewish worship according to the Law of
Moses with sacrifices and oblations.. there will soon begin the construction
of the temple." (The
LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH,
Premillennialism is wrong because it misunderstands God's purposes for Judaism.
THE TWO RESURRECTION THEORY
Premillennialists hold that "the first resurrection" of Revelation
20:5 is the resurrection of the righteous dead to share in the Rapture. But the
Bible teaches that there is only one general resurrection from the dead.
Premillennial theory sees events in this order:
However, 1 Corinthians 15:26 teaches that death will not
be destroyed by the Resurrection until the final
defeat of Satan! In fact, it is the Resurrection itself which neutralizes
Satan's greatest weapon (death) and which results in his final defeat. Paul
"The last enemy that will be abolished is death." (1 Corinthians
And, then - immediately after the resurrection - the Kingdom is to be
delivered up to God. (1 Corinthians 15:24.)
The first resurrection;
the Rapture and the 1000 year reign; and
the final defeat of Satan.
Clearly, there is no time in the Biblical scheme of things for two bodily
resurrections separated by a 1000-year reign on earth. It is inconceivable that
the doctrine of two resurrections from physical death, if true, would be
mentioned only once in a book of symbols when every book in the New Testament
touches upon the doctrine of the Resurrection.
The "two resurrection" theory contradicts the clear teaching of
Jesus. He said,
"Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming in which all who are in the
tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds
to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection
of judgment." (John 5:28-29.)
Jesus plainly taught that the righteous dead would not be raised up until "the
last day." The last day is that day which signals the end of time and
earthly matter as we know it! There is simply no time for a 1000-year reign on
the "last day." Whatever the first resurrection is, it is
a resurrection of bodies; rather it is contrasted in scripture with the second
or bodily resurrection!
Premillennialism is wrong in its concept of the two resurrections.
One of the most cherished doctrines of Premillennialism is that of the
so-called Rapture. According to Robert Strong, the Rapture refers to the
"sudden and possible secret coming of Christ in the air to catch away from
the earth the resurrected bodies of those who have died in faith and with them
the living saints." Those who hold this view are disagreed among
themselves as to whether this period will last 3-1/2 or 7 years. Hal Lindsey
describes it this way: "Someday, a day that only God knows, Jesus Christ
is coming to take away all those that believe in Him. He is coming to meet all
true believers in the air. Without benefit of science, space suits, or
interplanetary rockets, there will be those who will be transported into a
glorious place more beautiful, more awesome, than we can possibly comprehend.
Earth and all its thrills, excitement, and pleasures will be nothing in
contrast to this great event. It will be the living end. The ultimate
(THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH,
The Bible is unaware of any such doctrine! The word "rapture" is not
even found in the Bible! When Christ comes again it will be no secret -
"every eye will see Him"
(Revelation 1:7.) Paul says that when we are
with the Lord we will
with him. (1 Thessalonians 4:17.) This would not allow for a 1000-year return
to earth to participate in the "Millennium." When Jesus comes to be
glorified with His saints, He will simultaneously destroy the wicked. (2
Thessalonians 1:8-10.) Death will ultimately give way to the Resurrection and
Judgment, not Resurrection and Rapture! "And inasmuch as it is appointed
for men to die once and after this comes judgment." (Hebrews 9:27.) The
time between the Resurrection and the consummation of our hope will be but a
"moment"; not 7 years! (1 Corinthians 15:52.)
Premillennialism is wrong because it insists upon a "Rapture"of which
the Bible has no knowledge.
According to Premillennialism the 1000-year reign will be preceded by a period
of terrible tribulation which will climax in the Battle of Armageddon.
According to the theory: "The tribulation will be God's wrath on this Christ
rejecting world... There will be wars and at least one-half the world's
population will be killed... Men will be scorched with fire, there will be great
earthquakes and one hundred pound hail. Cities will fall and every island and
mountain will disappear." (Bible Believer's Evangelistic Association,
GOD'S PLAN FOR THE AGES.) The central feature of the Tribulation will be
Armageddon. Hal Lindsey envisioned this scenario:
The Bible furnishes no basis for these speculations. The Scriptures reveal that
had already begun in the days of the Apostle John! (Revelation 1:9.) The
faithful New Testament Church at Smyrna received this message from Christ:
"Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to
cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have
tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of
life." (Revelation 2:10.)
The tribulation represents that spirit of opposition which has confronted the
true Church of God all throughout history. In varying degrees, it is something
which the Church must constantly contend with!
Russia, allied with the Arab states will invade Israel;
Russia will then double-cross her Arab allies and will make war upon them and
the African states;
The Revived Roman Empire, headed by antichrist, will enter the war and defeat
the Russians using nuclear weapons;
An army of 200 million Red Chinese will cross the Euphrates and enter the war,
thus setting up the climactic battle on the plains of Armageddon.
Armageddon is not a physical battle to be waged with guns, tanks, and nuclear
war-heads! Rather, it is a spiritual struggle between the forces of good and
evil. The word
is a combination of the Hebrew words "Har" meaning "mount" and
which was the site of several crucial battles in Jewish history. (cf.
2 Kings 23, Judges 5:19; Judges 7.)
Literally, then, Armageddon is "the mountain of Megiddo." In the
descriptive language of the Prophets, the word "mountain" was used
symbolically to refer to the church. (cf. Isaiah 2:2.) Armageddon, then, simply
refers to the spiritual baffles which must be fought by the church.
Ours is not a fleshly enemy -
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the
spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12.)
Armageddon is the continuing struggle between the forces of good and evil. It
is fought whenever and wherever right confronts wrong. It rages within the
heart and within the nation! It is a battle which is being fought now!
Christians must arm themselves and fight.
(Ephesians 6:11, 2 Corinthians 10:4, 1 Timothy 6:12.)
The faithful of God must confront every form of evil in every age at
Premillennialism is wrong because it has a mistaken idea about the meaning of
the Tribulation and Armageddon.
THE 1000-YEAR REIGN
Premillennialists insist that the Bible clearly teaches that Christ will reign
on earth for 1000 years. They base their belief on their interpretation of
Revelation 20:4, which says,
"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them.
And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of
Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast
or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their
hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years."
It is held that this verse teaches a literal rule of Christ on earth from
David's throne in Jerusalem.
But what does Revelation 20 actually say? Note some things which are not said
in this often mis-quoted and misunderstood section of the Bible:
A great deal must be read into Revelation 20 before anything resembling
Premillennialism will emerge from it. What does Revelation 20 actually say when
it is read carefully?
Revelation 20 does not specifically mention the Second Coming of Christ -
these events are not connected with it.
Revelation 20 does not mention us. Those who reign are souls (i.e. disembodied
spirits) who are referred to as "they."
Revelation 20 does not mention the reign "of" Christ, but the reign of souls
"with" Christ. There is a difference!
Revelation 20 does not mention a reign on earth. According to Revelation 6:9
the souls of the martyrs who are described as reigning are under the altar in
Revelation 20 does not mention a bodily resurrection. The first resurrection
mentioned here is something which is contrasted with the second or bodily
Revelation 20 does not mention David's throne. A plurality of thrones is
Revelation 20 does not mention the city of Jerusalem or the land of Palestine.
Revelation 20 does not indicate that the reign was for 1000 literal years. It
is said of the martyrs that "they lived and reigned..." In other words,
they lived for exactly the same period that they reigned. If the reign is 1000
literal years, then they only lived 1000 literal years!
Revelation 20 does not mention Christ on earth. Instead, Christ is with the
souls of the martyrs which were in heaven.
It says that Satan can be bound. (20:1.) How? By the preaching of the Gospel!
The sword of the Spirit is the chain which has the power to restrain the
devilish influence of the old serpent.
It says that the martyrs who died for the cause of Christ will see their faith
vindicated. How? By the triumph of the Gospel for which they died. When the
Gospel which they preached is triumphant, they share in that triumph. They are
victorious (i.e. sit on thrones) when the Word of God is victorious! The power
of the Gospel is such that the reign of the truth is spoken of symbolically
(Revelation is, after all, a book of symbols) as a thousand year reign. One
thousand years suggest completeness, fullness, totality. When the Gospel is
preached in all its original power and purity, then it has the capability to
fully, completely, and totally overpower the influence of the Devil. When this
happens, the martyrs who gave their lives for the Gospel's sake share in its
triumph. (cf. Romans 1:16, 8:37.)
Revelation 20 also warns that Satan can be loosed! How? By the failure of
Christ's followers to proclaim the Gospel. Where the voice of the Gospel is not
heard, then the influence of Satan rages unchecked.
Finally, Revelation 20 confirms that there is a coming day of Universal
Judgment when all mankind will be summoned to give an account of the things
done in the body. (Revelation 20:12-15.)
Premillennialism is wrong because it misunderstands the nature of the thousand
IS THIS THE END?
Premillennialism has built its popularity on its sense of immediacy. It claims
to provide an insight into the near future. Those who preach the doctrines of
Premillennialism are convinced that the end of the present order of things is
at hand. Pat Boone wrote concerning the Second Coming of Christ: "...the
signs that it's about to happen are everywhere." In the original edition of
THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH, Hal Lindsey theorized that the end would come
within 40 years of the founding of Israel, which took place in 1948. In more
recent editions of the book, Lindsey somewhat modifies his prediction, but in
the movie version, he strongly suggests that the end will come before the end
of the 20th Century. The 20th Century has now become the 21st Century
and the end did not come.
It should be remembered that speculations about the Second Coming of Christ are
not at all new. In the 2nd Century, Montanus of Phrygia proclaimed the imminent
return of the Lord. During the Reformation, the German theologian Melchoir
Hoffman set the time of Christ's return as October 22, 1844. In 1920, J.F.
Rutherford, head of the Jehovah's Witnesses, wrote a book entitled
MILLIONS NOW LIVING SHALL NEVER DIE
in which he claimed that 1925 would be the year of Restoration when Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob would be restored to life in visible form. (pp. 88-89, 100.)
More recent literature by the Jehovah's Witnesses predicted that the present
age would come to an end in the Fall of 1975!
(LIFE EVERLASTING IN FREEDOM OF THE SONS OF GOD, p.29.)
Surely the long list of those who have mis-read the "signs of the
times" should caution us against any extreme or extravagant predictions
concerning future things!
What does the Bible say about the Future?
Christ Is Corning Again. "This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into
heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into
heaven." (Acts 1:11.)
Christ Is Coming Unexpectedly. Jesus Himself plainly said "you do not know the
day nor the hour." (Matthew 25:13.) He also said: "For this reason you be
ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He
will." (Matthew 24:44.)
Clearly, Jesus did not expect men to be able to unlock the secret of the time
of His coming! In fact, He went so far as to say:
"But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor
the Son, but the Father alone." (Mark 13:32.)
Even Jesus Himself does not know the time the Father has chosen for His
return! Anyone claiming to gauge the future by reading the "signs of the
times" is claiming a knowledge denied to the Angels of Heaven and the Son
of God. The time of Christ's return is both unknown and unknowable!
We Must Make Ready Now!
Since we cannot know at what time the Lord may come, we must be ready at all
times. The coming of Jesus may be soon or distant, but our only opportunity for
making ready for His return is now! (2 Corinthians 6:2.)
The question is not: "When is Christ coming?" but "Will I be
ready?" Jesus said, "Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know
when the appointed time is." (Mark 13:33.)
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.." (2 Peter 3:10.)
Bible Believer's Evangelistic Association,
GOD'S PLAN FOR THE AGES,
CHRIST'S SECOND COMING: WILL IT BE PREMILLENNIAL?
(T. & T. Clark: Edinburgh.)
THE COSMIC DRAMA,
V. E. Howard,
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST AND THE MILLENNIUM,
(Central Printers & Publishers: West Monroe, LA.)
J. Marcellus Kik,
AN ESCHATOLOGY OF VICTORY,
(Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.)
THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH,
(Zondervon: Grand Rapids.)
UNCONSCIOUS ENEMIES OF CHRIST,
(Gospel Light: Delight, AR.)
R.S. North, "Revelation 20 and the Thousand Year Reign,"
THE BEAM OF LIGHT,
(Fayettville, AR.) Sept. 22, 1974, p. 1.
Johnny Ramsey, "The Rapture,"
SOUTH SCENIC CHURCH OF CHRIST BULLETIN,
(Springfield, MO.) Sept. 15, 1974.
WORTHY IS THE LAMB,
W. I. Thomas,
THE BOOK OF THE HOUR,
(Bibletime: Grand Saline, TX.)
Foy Wallace Jr.,
GOD'S PROPHETIC WORD.
THE NEW TESTAMENT INTERPRETATION OF OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECIES OF THE KINGDOM,
(Harding College Press: Searcy, AR.)