Bible Question:

What is the most common view among reformed theologians about the end times: amillennialists, postmillennialists, and premillennialists?

Bible Answer:

Most reformed theologians are amillennialists. A fewer number embrace postmillennialism and premillennialism. Amillennialists and postmillennialists do not believe there will be a literal 1,000 year kingdom on this earth. Premillennialists do believe in a literal 1,000 kingdom. Here is a quick overview of the three views.

Postmillennialism

Postmillennialism is not very popular today as it once was because postmillennialists teach that the world will get better and better with time. They believe the world will continue to improve until the world turns into God’s kingdom – heaven. Then Christ will come. This view was very popular in the 1800s but when the catastrophes of World War I and World War II occurred and Christians began to realize the world was getting not better but worse, many changed their views and postmillennialism lost its appeal. Those who do hold to this view do not believe in a tribulation or a literal 1,000 year kingdom.

Amillennialism

Amillennialists also reject a seven year tribulation and a literal 1,000 year, earthly kingdom. However, they do believe the world will get worse and worse with time. Eventually, Christ will come, defeat the nations of the world, judge the living and the dead and usher in the eternal kingdom of heaven.

Premillennialism

Premillennialism teaches that the world will become worse with time just as amillennialism. Eventually, a time of severe tribulation will come, a seven year period, followed by a literal 1,000 year, earthly kingdom. They believe that at the end of the kingdom after a brief conflict, the living and the dead will be judged. This will be followed by the kingdom.

Why The Difference?

Amillennialism and premillennialism are very close in their general timeline. They both believe the world is getting worse. This Jesus predicted.

Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. (NASB) Matt. 24:12-14

Both believe there will be a time of severe tribulation (Matt. 24:21), but amillennialists do not believe this time of tribulation is seven years, nor that it is called the Tribulation. Amillennialists and premillennialists both believe in an earthly kingdom, but the amillennialists say the earthly kingdom is the eternal kingdom on earth. Premillennialists believe the earthly kingdom follows the Tribulation, followed by judgment and then the eternal, heavenly kingdom.

The amillennialists believe the church has existed since the account in Genesis 3:15 and that the church will continue on earth until heaven and earth are destroyed. They believe in a principle of “continuity” – that nothing spiritually new occurs. So they do not believe the church started at Pentecost, since that would be something new. They believe the church has existed since the creation, and they reject the idea of a rapture since that would mean the church would disappear with no one left to preach the gospel – something new. Consequently, they do not believe the church will disappear during a time called the Tribulation. Therefore, they do not believe in a rapture either. When they come to the book of Revelation, they cannot interpret it literally since they reject the references to 42 months or 1,260 days or “time, times and half-time” (a 3.5 year period of the tribulation (Rev. 11:2; 12:6, 14; 13:5) spoken of in Daniel (Dan. 7:25; 9:27; 12:7). So they also reject a literal 1,000 year kingdom spoken of in Rev. 20:2, 5.

Premillennialism accepts scripture more literally. The amillennialist will claim that he reads and understands scripture literally, too, but he admits that his understanding is filtered by his principle of “continuity” – nothing new happens. To make his system work, he must treat most prophetic portions of scripture symbolically. So he finds difficulty in understanding Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Matthew 24-25, or Revelation literally. He must treat many portions of scripture symbolically to make his view work.

Conclusion:

While most reformed theologians are amillennialists, there are an increasing number who are reformed in their theology with the exception of being premillennial in their eschatology. This is not new. In fact, Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) and Irenaeus (130-200 AD) were reformed in their theology and premillennial about future things.