APPENDIX 1: CONFLICTING INTERPRETATIONS OF REVELATION

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015

Some Christians are in the delightful situation of being part of a church that is untouched by the controversies that surround the interpretation of Revelation. They know that Jesus is coming back. And they know that they have to be ready, because he is coming to judge the world. They know that beyond that judgment is the eternal state. They have never heard of such things as pre-trib, post-trib, pre-mill, post-mill, a-mill.  What a joyful state to be in! If this is you, I would suggest that you don’t read any further in this appendix. There is no need for you to have your peace disturbed. And if anyone tries to tell you your ignorance about this is a sin, tell them rather that it is a blessing.

Dispute #1: When is Christ’s return in relation to ‘the millennium’?
Below are the four major views about the ‘thousand years’ [commonly called ‘the millennium’] referred to in Revelation 20:1-7. Here there are two main questions:

Will Christ return before or after the ‘thousand years’?

Is the ‘thousand years’ literal [that is, exactly 1,000 years by the human calendar], or is the ‘thousand years’ a symbolic reference to a ‘long time’ or a particular ‘age’ of which the calendar years are neither known nor relevant?

There are also secondary questions about what actually happens during the ‘thousand years’.

[1] Post-millennial – Christ returns after the ‘thousand years’ (sometimes termed Preterist): the thousand years is a (most likely) figurative/symbolic period prior to the return of Christ, with increasing peace in the world as the Gospel increasingly dominates and Christianizes the nations. [This view is held by such respected writers as Loraine Boettner, BB Warfield and Charles Hodge].

[2] Amillennial (sometimes termed Historical): the ‘thousand years’ is a symbolic term referring to the time between the first and second comings of Christ, beginning with the victory/triumph of Christ in his death/resurrection/ascension and ending with his return at which time he will put an end to Satan, sin and death. It is termed ‘a’ millennialism because it does not believe in a literal one thousand years. [This view, taught in some form as early as Origen (185-254AD) and Augustine (c400AD), has predominated right through the history of the church; it is held by AA Hoekema, William Hendriksen, Jay Adams, JI Packer, RC Sproul.]

[3] Historic pre-millennial – Christ returns before the thousand years (sometimes called Futurist or Chiliast): the thousand years is a literal, future period of one thousand years during which Christ will reign on the earth; it will begin with the return of Christ (and rapture of the saints) and end with a final rebellion which Christ will crush; the eternal state begins after that. [This view, taught as early as Irenaeus (140-203AD), has maintained adherents right through the history of the church; it is held by George Eldon Ladd, John Warwick Montgomery.]

[4] Dispensational-pre-millennial – a complex adaptation of the previous viewpoint (also termed Futurist or Chiliasm): a literal one thousand years that begins after (1) an unseen, half-way return of Christ at which believers are taken up, (2) seven years of tribulation, and (3) a visible and glorious return of Christ to defeat his enemies. During the one thousand years that follow the temple and sacrifices are re-established and Christ rules over the Jews, who continue as a people of God distinct from the church. After a final rebellion comes the judgment day and the eternal state. [This view was first proposed by Francesco Ribera, a Jesuit priest, in the late 16th century as a deliberate ploy to undercut the Reformation belief that the Pope was the Antichrist. It was promoted by another Jesuit, Manuel Lacunza, in the early nineteenth century. Darby, one of the main leaders of the Brethren movement in the mid 1800s, influenced by Cronin, [a converted Roman Catholic who had been exposed to Lacunza’s teaching], adopted and developed it. It was popularised in certain sections of evangelicalism by Schofields’s Annotated Bible. It is currently the dominant view in some sections of the church. It also appears to be the most aggressive in promoting itself, and the most irate when its beliefs are challenged. Some of its beliefs have been absorbed into ‘ordinary’ pre-millennial thinking, possibly unintentionally. It is promoted by Hal Lindsey, Dave Hunt, Tim La Haye, Charles Ryrie.]  The term ‘dispensational’ is applied to this view because it divides the history of mankind into several ‘dispensations’ [the number varies] in which it is taught that God related the mankind in different ways. Because of its understanding of dispensations this view divides the Scripture, including the New Testament, into passages that are applicable to the Jews, but not the Church, and passages that are applicable to the Church, but not to the Jews. It thus robs both the Jews and the Church of large sections of the Word of God.

Dispute #2: When is ‘the rapture’ of the saints?
In addition to these four major divisions are sub-divisions, particularly within each of the two pre-millennial perspectives. The word ‘rapture’ refers to the removal of believers from the earth. Two questions relate to the timing of ‘the rapture’ – [1] ‘Does the rapture occur before, in the middle of, or at the end of the ‘thousand years’?’ which obviously relates to which millennial viewpoint one holds. [2] Does the rapture occur before, in the middle of or after ‘the great tribulation’?’

Dispute #3: What about Israel?
There is also a wide range of viewpoints regarding the future of Israel. Various questions arise here, including [1] Will Israel be restored to its original national/political glory and under a Davidic King? [2] Does the church replace the nation of Israel as the people of God? [3] how much of Israel will be saved in the spiritual sense? [4] Will Israel be saved spiritually by believing in Christ, or by adherence to the rituals and worship prescribed in the Old Testament law? [5] Is the church an unplanned temporary hiatus in God’s plans for Israel that is in place only because the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah? [See Appendix #2.]

Dispute #4: ‘Kingdom’ or ‘kingdom now’ theology.
This is a rather recent development. The actual name sounds fine. However the way it works out is otherwise. It goes beyond the written Scripture and depends largely on present day ‘prophets’ and ‘apostles’ through whom God is said to be revealing additional truth, and through whose leadership the rule of God will be established on earth. It presents an eschatology that is far removed from both the Bible and the four major millennial views identified above. It takes everything, including the defeat of Satan, out of Christ’s hands and puts it in the hands of the church – or rather, in the hands of that section of the church submissive to the present day so-called ‘apostles’ and ‘prophets’.

For more detailed information:
www.reformedreader.org/mchart.htm  for a comprehensive and easy to read comparison of the four views
http://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/mill.cfm  for easy to read synopsis, with links to diagrammatic time-lines.
www.graceonlinelibrary.org/  and click on ‘Eschatology’ for an extended selection of articles on the four major millennial viewpoints.