Friday, April 26, 2013

4 Reasons Why I’m Tentatively a Historic Pre-Millennialist

Yesterday I proposed a grid for thinking through early church practices. I believe it partially works for how to apply early church theology too. Following a similar grid is why I am tentatively a historic pre-millennialist.

  1. New Testament passages explicitly deny a Post-millennial position; namely, those passages which show the world will get worse (2 Thess. 2:3-4) and those passages which seem to state the number of believers will be fewer than unbelievers when Christ returns (Mt. 22:14).
  2. I am not convinced by pre-millennial dispensationalism.This article explains that in part.
  3. The historical place that historic pre-millennialism holds. The Apostle John discipled Papias and Polycarp. Polycarp discipled Irenaeus. Between these three we have explicit claims that the apostle John held to a pre-millennial position.
  4. It is the most clear reading of Revelation 20:1-10. This seems to be the most clear reading of the binding of Satan and the nature of the resurrection.

In all honesty I want to hold to amillennialism. I find certain aspects of that position compelling. But I believe because of the place in history that the historic pre-millennial position holds the burden of proof lies on other positions. There is nothing in Scripture that seems to directly contradict a pre-millennial position. Therefore, I’m inclined to lean that way.

I hold the historic pre-millennial position tentatively. There does not, in my estimation, appear to be enough textual evidence to overturn the most clear reading of Revelation 20:1-10, nor to overturn the historical precedent set by the early church fathers. Therefore, I hold at least a form of historic pre-millennialism—yet there is still much that I do not know.

The one thing that I do know is that Christ is returning. Christ has defeated Satan on the Cross and will more fully defeat him in the culmination of the history as we know it. It is to the return of Christ that I look. Regardless of your view of the millennium it is appropriate to say, Maranatha!

Feel free to convince me of your position in the comments. I could be an easy sell to an a-mill position, you’ll have a more difficult time of convincing me on the others.

11 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this Mike. I don't think the arguments against Post-Mil are as strong as people think. We've been taught to read certain passages in a modern day context because we undervalue the imporance of Jerusalem's destruction.

    I was an Amil believer. The view is without question the majority report throughout church history. But I was drawn first to the Historic Pre-Mil position. I feel the prophets make it clear one should be Post or Pre Millennial. And I found the teaching of the early church fathers to be irrefutable evidence for a "golden age" not a Pre-mill perspective.

    In the end it was Calvinist Baptist like August Strong and John Broadus who swayed me to the Post-Mil position. Althought I didn't accept their forms of Postmillennial theology..

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    1. Which early church fathers? The earliest ones--especially those closest to John--seemed to be pre-mill.

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    2. The Nicene Creed and Apostle's Creed state "he shall come to judge the quick and the dead". There isn't much room for the two resurrection theory.

      Irenaeus certainly had pre-mil leanings. And though these fathers come later, Eusebius, Athanasius and Orgien all seem to have explicit post-mil leanings. Papias is often quoted as the earliest supporter of the pre-mil position but the fragment the text come from reads as such, “he same person, moreover, has set down other things as coming to him from unwritten tradition, amongst these some strange parables and instructions of the Saviour, and some other things of a more fabulous nature. Amongst these he says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth. He moreover hands down, in his own writing, other narratives given by the previously mentioned Aristion of the Lord's sayings, and the traditions of the presbyter John.”

      Irenaeus claims Papias was a student of John. Eusebius uses Papias own words to show he may have meant John the Presbyter. This certainly puts both him and Ireanus at odds. Scholars have more than enough trouble with other things Ireanus has said (e.g. Jesus lived to be 50, the math on the "sixth thousand year" being the end of time) to deal with this small issue.

      In either case, it is quite clear that the group often identified as “John’s disciples” leaned towards premillennialism and that this was well known in the early church. But it was counted as “strange parables” and “things of a more fabulous nature”. It is worth being surprised that their teaching was the first to be condemned by the church as it spun into licentious chiliasm.

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    3. I thought that "quick and dead" statement had to do with gunslingers in the wild west...

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  2. What has convinced me of an Amil position (as a reformed SBC guy) is starting with the Gospels and moving to the Epistles BEFORE I read Revelation...as it was revealed by God and ordered in our Bibles. If you look at what the Gospels teach about end times and then how the Epistles build upon that, then there is no reason to believe in a future millennium. It is only when people start with Rev 20 that they read a future millennium into the rest of the passages.

    I could elaborate...but that is just my quick thought on the issue.

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    1. What passages do you find that directly contradict a future millennium?

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    2. 1 Cor 15 comes to mind. He conquers until the final enemy is destroyed. The final enemy is death. The splitting of two resurrections remains one of the principal reasons I can accept no form of premillennialism.

      Eph 2 also seems to make it clear we have already been raised and seated to reign with Christ as a fulfillment of Rev 20.

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    3. Have you read Regnum Caelorum? Hill argues that Polycarp was an Amillennialist based on his view of the intermediate state.

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    4. Jim hit on the main passage that comes to mind with that. 1 Cor. 15 is decisive, IMO.

      If death is destroyed at the 2nd Coming, how can we then enter into a 1000 year period where people die?
      If "the end" follows the 2nd Coming, in what way can we interpret "the end" to mean another 1000 years of similar situations followed by yet another coming and another judgment and a giant war?

      Those are rather simple questions, and I know there are pre-mil responses, but I find them untenable, personally.

      But before I even get to 1 Cor, I feel there is a framework for understanding end times laid out in the gospels. If you look at the use of the phrase "this age and the age to come", you can begin to piece together that framework. As you build on it through the gospels and epistles, you begin to see that the dividing line between those 2 ages is the 2nd Coming. You will also see that judgment and resurrection occurs at the 2nd coming and that with the description of "the age to come" in the gospels, there is no way to put the millennium in that time period, and thus you can't put the millennium after the 2nd coming. Obviously that is a brief sketch...but I hope it helps.

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  3. David (NAS) RogersApril 26, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    There is a view called "pro-millennialism" which I think is better labeled "martyr's millennium". I first learned of it from Kendell Easley's Holman Commentary on Revelation. It takes the "thousand years" of Rev. 20:4 as a time with Christ for the martyrs of the Church. It is considered to be a symbolically numbered amount of time rather than 1000 365-day years. Maybe extra-dimensional with regard to the passage of time for living believers waiting on the earth while those martyrs fellowship with Christ right before the last actions of Satan and his servants. It would be a calm before the last storm of rebellion (possibly connected with the half hour of silence at the seventh seal in Rev. 8:1).

    This view allows for the "came to life" and "resurrection" terminology of Rev. 20:4-5 to be taken as literal rather than symbolic as the a-millennial view would have them.

    This view presents the Second Coming as post-millennial for the living Church, pre-millennial for the martyrs, and even a-millennial in the understanding that the "thousand years" are symbolic.

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    1. That is interesting. Never heard of that view. I'll try to check it out.

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