Four Good Reasons Why Premillennialism Matters
Premillennialism is less popular than it used to be. But it’s essential to understanding Bible prophecy, which constitutes one third of God’s Holy Word.
Premillennialism is the belief that Jesus Christ will physically return to Earth (Zech. 14:4; Acts 1:11) to set up a throne in Jerusalem (1 Chr. 17:14; Ps. 2:6; Isa. 2:2–4; Mt. 19:28; 25:31) and reign over the whole earth for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1–6). The main reason to accept Premillennialism is because the Bible explicitly teaches it.
This fact shines through simply by comparing three verses in the book of Revelation:
1. 5:10: “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (NASB).
2. 11:15: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (NASB).
3. 20:6: “They will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years” (NASB).
Revelation 5:8 identifies the “priests” (v. 10) who will reign on Earth as “saints,” and verse 9 states they are saints whom Christ “redeemed . . . to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”
Revelation 11:15 then affirms that “the kingdom of the world” (NASB; Dan. 2:35, 39, 44; 7:13–14, 27) is where Christ will reign, and Revelation 20:6 confirms He will reign with these “priests of God” for 1,000 years.
Applying simple deductive logic to these texts results in only one conclusion: The saints, who will be priests of God, will reign with Christ on Earth for 1,000 years. For these texts to be fulfilled literally, Christ must come before (pre-) the 1,000 years (Millennium) to establish His Kingdom-rule on Earth.
There is a disturbing trend today to discount the importance of having a set view on prophecy—or dealing with prophecy at all. But God made prophecy one third of His Bible, and every student of the Bible who follows God’s storyline must deal with the timing of events from creation to the crown. Since a definite sequential order exists for prophetic events, we must decide on an interpretive position in order to understand the timeline.
Shouldn’t it matter how, when, and where Christ will return? Shouldn’t this information affect our spiritual lives? Theologian and pastor Andrew Woods has insisted that being ignorant or confused about prophecy carries real-world implications for one’s theology and the life of the church. It alters the church’s divine purpose and affects its mission by promoting a “kingdom program” that includes a social gospel, humanitarian programs, and even ecumenical religious affiliations.1
However, there are many other important reasons why the biblical teaching of the premillennial return of Christ is important.
1. Premillennialism employs a consistent, literal interpretation of prophecy.
In considering a prophetic view, it’s important to adopt a position that most consistently follows the literal, historical, grammatical interpretation of the Bible. Premillennialism is based on this hermeneutical (interpretive) method that respects the text of Scripture as being written to a nontechnical society that was expected to understand and accept normal human words as God’s own Word.2
Since Scripture connects history and prophecy, a literal interpretation allows us to connect events from creation to consummation and to connect Messianic prophecies from prediction to fulfillment. Doing so enables us to prepare for and receive the Messiah in history (Lk. 19:43–44; 21:24–31; Jn. 1:45).
Both Israel and the nations need to understand the prophecies of judgment as real warnings of historical disasters and invasions (Isa. 13—23; 34:2; Jer. 46—51). If those prophecies were literal warnings, then the prophecies of Israel’s restoration that are joined with them, such as those in Ezekiel 36:1–38, express a future land-based hope. Viewing the biblical text and the prophetic texts in particular as nonliteral (spiritualized) opens the door for us to apply them based on our individual understanding, rather than in the straightforward way God intended.
For example, if we applied a nonliteral method of interpretation to the creation, Adam, and the fall of humanity, we would deny the historicity of these events. And if the events at the beginning of history could be denied as nonliteral, so could those at the end of history.
As theologian Kenneth Kantzer once observed, “If you adopt a hermeneutic that will exclude a millennium from the Bible, you can just as easily drop the bodily resurrection of Christ out of the Bible.”3
It is difficult to understand how someone can spiritualize prophetic promises that have Israel’s enemies bowing before this people, serving them, learning from them, and worshiping with them (Isa. 2:2–4; 11:10–12; 60:3, 10–14; 61:5–6; 66:18–21; Zech. 14:16–19). This universal recognition of Israel’s uniquely blessed status (Zech. 8:13, 21–23) cannot be spiritualized and applied to the church because, in this age, Jews and Gentiles are on an equal status as “one new man” (Eph. 2:11–22). Only in the Millennium, when Israel’s fortunes are reversed (Isa. 62:4; Jer. 31:10–14; Hos. 2:23) could this prophecy be realized.
2. Premillennialism guarantees the fulfillment of the biblical covenants made to national Israel.
In keeping with Premillennialism’s method of consistent historical, grammatical interpretation, the “covenants of promise” (Eph. 2:12), that is, the biblical covenants (Abrahamic, Land, Davidic, New), which demonstrate God’s working in history through a Chosen People, find ultimate fulfillment with national Israel. Only Premillennialism guarantees that promise and fulfillment for national Israel involve the same people (the Jews) in the same place (the land of Israel) and on the same terms (physical and spiritual restoration).
Without a Millennium, God would break an unconditional land promise to Abraham (Gen. 13:15–17; 15:18–21; 17:8) and an unconditional throne promise to David (2 Sam. 7:10–13; Ps. 89:34–37). With a Millennium, national Israel returns to its land forever (Ezek. 37:25); and King David, through David’s greater Son the Messiah, will continue the eternal throne promise (34:23–24; 37:24).
This fulfillment occurs in the Millennium after Christ’s return, when a regenerate national Israel comes under the provisions of the New Covenant (Jer. 33:14–26). Any other view violates the literal fulfillment of these covenants by applying them to the church and thereby denying God’s future plan for Israel at the time of its national repentance (Acts 3:19–21).
Since God must be faithful to fulfill His everlasting covenants (Num. 23:19; Jer. 31:34–37; Lam. 3:21–24; Heb. 6:13–18), He must fulfill them with Abraham’s descendants despite their sin (Ex. 6:4; Lev. 26:44–45; Dt. 4:30–31; Jer. 30:11; Hos. 6:7–11). So far, God has not fulfilled these covenants for national Israel (Isa. 60:15; 62:4; Rom. 9:4). Doing so must take place during Christ’s coming Kingdom (Jer. 30:24—31:1; Hos. 3:4–5). Christ Himself said fulfillment will come in the “regeneration” (a term for the Millennium), “when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory” (Mt. 19:28). Even the apostles understood fulfillment had not happened in their day (Acts 1:6; 3:19–21; 2 Th. 2:1–4).
Therefore, the unconditional, everlasting nature of God’s covenants with national Israel has not yet been fulfilled literally and cannot be fulfilled without the premillennial return and perpetual reign of Christ, along with Israel’s national restoration. As theology professor Michael Vlach noted, “Does He fulfill them [the promises to Israel] by having them spiritually absorbed into Himself? Or does He fulfill them by being the One through whom the literal fulfillment of God’s promises comes true? The latter is the better option.”4
3. Premillennialism proves there will be a victorious climax to history’s conflict between Christ and Satan.
History began in a literal Paradise with a specific geographical location (Gen. 2:8–15). God was present on Earth and had personal fellowship with mankind (vv. 15–22; 3:8–9).
This fellowship was disrupted by the fall of man that resulted from Satan’s deception (vv. 1–5). However, when God judged the serpent as Satan’s instrument of deception (v. 14), He revealed that a conflict would henceforth exist between mankind and Satan—particularly between Satan and the woman’s “Seed,” the Messiah (v. 15). The man and woman were expelled from Paradise, never to return (v. 24).
From this experience and the ongoing conflict, it would seem that Satan won, bringing humanity into the captivity of the fear of death (Heb. 2:14). If a literal Paradise were not restored, then God will have lost the earth and its creatures, whom He made to rule over as their Creator and Lord (Rom. 8:20; Heb. 2:8).
God established a theocratic Kingdom (direct rule by God) in the Garden, and the goal of His prophetic program is its resumption in a restored creation (Rom. 8:20–23) with the Lord as “King over all the earth” (Zech. 14:9; cf. Ps. 2:6; Rev. 19:15–16).5
Only by restoring this world, reversing the curse, and reestablishing His direct rule over humankind and nature will God satisfy this theological dilemma. As Bible scholar Charles Ryrie explained, “Why does there need to be an earthly kingdom? Because He must be triumphant in the same arena where He was seemingly defeated. His rejection by the rulers of this world was on this earth (1 Cor. 2:8). His exaltation must also be on this earth.”6
Two thousand years of evangelization by the church has not led to a global recognition of Jesus Christ. The only time in history when Christ can be glorified in this world and by this world is after His Second Coming—but before the end of history, which ushers in the eternal state with its creation of a new earth.7
The Millennium, then, brings a necessary climax to history and fulfills what the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 predicted: the final conquest of conflict and the Evil One, and the establishment of Christ’s earthly Kingdom (Isa. 2:4; 2 Th. 1:5–10; Rev. 19:11—20:3).
However, Genesis 1:26–28 also reveals that God created man to rule as His representative over Earth. His rule was ruined by sin, and Satan assumed dominion (Mt. 4:8–9), a dominion that continues in this age (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Jn. 5:19). So if God’s plan is to effect a proper conclusion to history where “He [Christ] has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:25; cf. Heb. 2:8), Christ must return to “[put] an end to all rule and all authority and power” (1 Cor. 15:24) by establishing His Kingdom-rule on Earth (Ps. 110:1–2). Only the Millennial Kingdom can fulfill this function, and only then can Christ “[deliver] the kingdom to God the Father” (1 Cor. 15:24).
4. Premillennialism promises universal peace on Earth with Christ’s Millennial reign.
It should be obvious that despite having “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) as believers, as well as having the “peace of God” (Phil. 4:7; cf. v. 9), there is no peace on Earth.
However, this condition was distinctly prophesied in the Old Testament, not only in terms of Israel and Jerusalem (Ps. 122:6; Mic. 4:4, 7–8), but also in terms of a restored harmony among Israel and the nations (Isa. 2:2–4; Mic. 4:2–3) and within nature itself (Isa. 11:6–9; 65:25).
The Bible calls for nothing less than a transformation of the nature of mankind and animal life so that the old order that brought fear, hatred, rivalry, hostility, violence, and war is removed and only a true and lasting peace prevails.
The United Nations headquarters in New York City sports a sculpture of a man beating his sword into a plowshare based on Isaiah 2:4, which predicts that one day nations will no longer learn or wage war again. Yet all human efforts to prevent war and produce peace have failed. Society’s longing for “world peace” is an unattainable, humanistic dream.
Premillennialism teaches that Satan is not bound during the Church Age but is “a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Believers are engaged in spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10–12); and the world will become increasingly more wicked until Christ’s return, which will end the Great Tribulation (Isa. 24:1–22; Mt. 24:21–22) that will be characterized by peace being taken from the earth (Rev. 6:2) and God’s wrath being poured out on mankind (v. 16; 11:18).
Only when the Prince of Peace returns to this world will Satan be defeated (12:9; 20:2, 10), the curse ended (22:3), and universal peace and righteousness established (Isa. 26:3, 9). This peace will be obvious as Israel and Gentile nations come together to worship the Lord (2:3; 11:12, 16; 19:16–25; 27:13; 66:18–21). Thus, the promised peace can only be accomplished by the premillennial coming of Christ.
As hermeneutics expert Matt Waymeyer has advised, “To formulate a thoroughly biblical eschatology, one must allow every passage of Scripture to make its own contribution to the doctrine of last things, including the millennium.”8
If Bible students started with the Old Testament and allowed it to guide them as divine revelation progressed into the New Testament, reading each prophetic text related to Israel’s restoration as literally as they do those related to its judgment, they would understand that Jesus came as Israel’s Messiah “to confirm the promises made to the fathers” (Rom. 15:8).
They would also understand that Israel’s rejection of Jesus has only postponed the fulfillment of the unconditional covenants until Jesus returns and Israel is saved (Rom. 11:26–27). This salvation involves national repentance (Zech. 12:10—13:1) and regeneration (Ezek. 36:25–27). In other words, they could not avoid seeing the promise of the Millennial Kingdom as an essential part of Israel’s history and the New Testament’s continued expectation (Acts 1:6–7; Rom. 11:12, 15; 2 Tim. 4:1; Jas. 2:5).
Premillennialism teaches that Jesus’ Second Coming will end the Tribulation, deliver the righteous (Zech. 12:7–9; 14:3–5; Mt. 25:31–40; Lk. 21:28), and result in the unrighteous being judged (Mt. 25:41–46; Gal. 5:21). The righteous (both Jews and Gentiles) will enter the Millennium Kingdom to enjoy the blessings of the New Covenant, with the Gentile nations worshiping alongside a restored nation of Israel in a world freed from the curse under the peaceful reign of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For this reason, Christians who understand the importance of Premillennialism pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10).
- Andrew M. Woods, The Coming Kingdom (Duluth, MN: Grace Gospel Press, 2016), 341–47.
- For a discussion of this in relation to premillennial interpretation, see John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1959), 4–6.
- Donald K. Campbell and Jeffrey L. Townsend, eds., A Case for Premillennialism: A New Consensus (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 9.
- Michael J. Vlach, He Will Reign Forever: A Biblical Theology of the Kingdom of God (Silverton, OR: Lampion Press, 2017), 562.
- For a full discussion of this concept see Woods, The Coming Kingdom, 7–10.
- Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1986), 511.
- For a discussion see Michael Vlach, Premillennialism: Why There Must Be a Future Earthly Kingdom of Jesus (Los Angeles, CA: Theological Studies Press, 2015), 69–85.
- Matt Waymeyer, Amillennialism and the Age to Come: A Premillennial Critique of the Two-Age Model (Kress Biblical Resources, 2016), 301.