There is much misunderstanding in the church about the differences between the 3 basic millennial positions. As we continue to walk through Revelation during our Sunday lunch series, I wanted to provide the distinctives. I also want to encourage you not to give-in to the sin of hasty-generalization. Even if someone technically falls into one category or another, we cannot assume to know exactly what they believe or how they apply their personal doctrine. For instance, many premillennials (doctrine) I know live more like postmillennials (practice). The best way to know what someone believes about something is to ask. If we do not ask personally, we judge others based on our own thoughts rather than theirs. I hope this brings some clarity to the millennial perspectives and helps to dissipate the cloud of apocalyptic confusion many find themselves in.
Premillennial: fundamental, separatist
- Definition: Christ’s second coming will precede His millennial reign.
- The millennium comprises a literal 1,000 years at some point in the future.
- Generally sees the world as getting progressively worse. Christ will return when the world is bad enough to destroy the wicked and establish His kingdom.
Postmillennial: reformed, activist
- Definition: Christ’s second coming will follow His millennial reign.
- The millennium comprises the time between the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and Christ’s second coming.
- Generally sees the world as getting progressively better. Christ will return at the consummation of His kingdom, which is currently overtaking the world through the church.
Amillennial: reformed, pacifist
- Definition: Christ is reigning in Heaven and on Earth during the millennium established in Heaven.
- The millennium comprises the time between the crucifixion and Christ’s second coming.
- Generally sees the world as being conformed more to the image of Christ, but allows for an up and down struggle between good and evil until Christ’s return. The world won’t necessarily always be progressing or digressing. Christ will return when He sees fit in order to finally consummate His kingdom on the earth.
Eschatology and World Engagement
I want to be edifying, here, to people who claim to hold each one of these viewpoints or some amalgamation thereof. The Bible is very clear about some aspects of events that will come in our future. For instance, Christ will return bodily to the earth. We should hold with great humility anything we believe the future will present, especially if it isn’t made absolutely clear in the Scriptures. For instance, a pre-tribulation rapture. Prior to the 1800s, a fairly recent development, people did not really distinguish between three different millennial views or feel the needed to philosophize concerning a possible rapture or future great tribulation event. I don’t think people felt a need to do this because they weren’t obsessed with cataclysms like we are in the modern age–consider the many movies and books about the end of the world. I’m not sure our obsession with cataclysms is healthy. Instead, I hope we read the Bible literally (historically and grammatically), not importing the predictions of people outside the Bible, and make proper application to our lives from the text. We don’t have to choose a millennial position to be a Christian. We do need to follow Christ and hang on His words.