Four Major Views of the Millennium – 5
Lecture 5: Dispensational Premillennialism
Dispensationalism and Eschatology
Definition: Christ’s second coming not only occurs before (pre) his earthly MR, but a secret rapture of the Church takes place prior to the Great Tribulation.
The promises made to the nation of Israel throughout the Old Testament are, for the most part, reserved for fulfillment during the MR:
- Isa. 65:17-25 This passage describes the new heavens and the new earth (17) where we will rejoice forever (18) and weep no more (19). But what about the death that is mentioned in v.20? Has Isaiah shifted to the MR as dispensationalists contend? Isaiah has already mentioned the end of death and tears (25:8). Here in ch.65 Isaiah is using figurative language to speak of the length of eternity. No one will die early (20), their days will be like a tree (22). There will be harmony in the animal kingdom as carnivores become herbivores, and human violence will cease (25). He’s contrasting the blessings of the NH&NE with the curse of this fallen world.
- Isa. 11:6-10 The New Scofield Bible interprets this as a reference to the MR, but it makes more sense as a reference to the final state of the NH&NE. The MR does not contain full knowledge of the Lord as the NH&NE does (9).
- Ezek. 40-48 The New Scofield Bible sees a description of worship in the millennial temple. The animal sacrifices are supposedly only memorial, yet the Hebrew language is of making atonement (כפר)! If these are literal animal sacrifices that are being offered, it must also be admitted that they are atoning sacrifices. Isn’t the Lord’s Supper our memorial of Christ’s death? Here, the NSB concedes that these sacrifices are not literal. But if that’s the case, why would we take the temple literally? Ezekiel’s original audience was Jews living in exile. He is reassuring them-in terms they would grasp-that a future perfect worship awaits in the NH&NE. Rev. 22 echoes Ezekiel’s vision.
- Isa. 2:1-4 NSB titles this passage “A vision of the coming kingdom.” Verse four suggests there is war, which is contrary to the conflict that appears during the MR. The joyful worship of the nations pictured in verses 2-3 are the glorious worship of the new heaven.
It seems better to view passages like these as referring to the new earth. These passages are not typically about the present age or heaven, but the NH&NE.
Dispensationalists believe Jews will be restored to their land during the MR.
- Isa. 11:11-16 NSB, “This chapter is a prophetic picture of the glory of the future kingdom, which will be set up when David’s son returns in glory.” At v.11 they see “a second time” as a return of Israel to the Promised Land. However, v.16 makes clear that “a second time” means after their first return from Egypt during the Exodus. In other words, this is a prophecy regarding the remnant that returned from Assyria to Israel in the sixth century B.C.
- Jer. 23:3, 7-8 Again, what Dispensationalists see as a reference to the final restoration, can just as easily be interpreted as being fulfilled in sixth century B.C.
- Ezek. 34:12-13 Restoration during the MR? Ezekiel prophesied to the exiles in Babylon. Therefore, it makes more sense to see this as their return during the sixth century B.C. In light of the “already and not yet” lens with which we interpret prophecy we may see elements in the rest of this chapter that find fulfillment in the NH&NE. There is no need to see all of this as requiring an earthly MR.
- Ezek. 36:24 Another example of the MR according to NSB, but v.8 makes more sense of this as a return from captivity during the sixth century B.C.
- Zech. 8:7-8 MR? Zechariah, prophesying after the return of the remnant from Babylon, but he is encouraging more people to return from exile. And that happened in the days of Ezra during the fifth century B.C.
All of these passages have already been fulfilled.
- Amos 9:14-15 A restoration that lasts forever makes much more sense in the NH&NE.
Many Old Testament prophesies have an initial fulfillment under the old covenant and another fulfillment under the new covenant.
- Isa. 7:14 Initial fulfillment during the reign of King Ahaz but ultimately foreshadowing the Christ’s birth by the virgin Mary (Matt. 1:22).
- Amos 9:11-12 The restoration of Israel after exile foreshadowed the entrance of Gentile believers into the kingdom (Acts 15:14-18). This inspired interpretation is a clear figurative fulfillment of prophecy that had already received literal fulfillment.
The Secret Rapture of the Church
When Israel rejected Christ as their king, he turned to the nations to establish the Church. The Church will continue to gather until the rapture.
- Pretribulational: The rapture could occur at any moment prior to the tribulation.
- Midtribulational: Certain tribulational events must begin before the rapture will take place.
- Posttribulational: The rapture will occur after the tribulation (same as Historic Premillennialism).
Christ initially comes in the air to take his Church up to heaven. Dead Christians will be raised (no Old Testament saints). Living believers will be transformed. All will meet the Lord in the air and enjoy the marriage supper of the Lamb for seven years.
The Seven Year Tribulation
The seventieth week of Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27) is fulfilled after the rapture, during the seven year tribulation. Several events will take place during this time:
- The Great Tribulation begins in the second half.
- The Antichrist begins his reign demanding to be worshipped.
- The various judgments of Revelation fall upon the earth.
- A remnant of 144,000 Israelites will be saved (Rev. 7:3-8).
- This remnant will preach the gospel.
- A multitude of Gentiles will be saved.
- The armies of the beast gather for the Battle of Armageddon.
Christ will return with the Church and conquer Satan and his army. The vast majority of Israelites will now turn to Christ.
The Millennial Reign
How do they read Rev. 20:1-6? Satan is bound for a literal 1,000 years (1-3). Saints who died during the tribulation as well as all of the Old Testament saints are now raised and join the Church in heaven (4).
What Occurs At Christ’s Second Coming? Judgment of living Gentiles takes place (Matt. 25:31-46). The sheep who pass the test will enter in the MR. The goats will be cast into the lake of fire.
Next, judgment of Israel will take place (Ezek. 20:33-38). Those who rejected Christ will be killed and those who accepted Christ will enter into the MR.
The MR begins with only regenerate Jews and Gentiles living in unresurrected bodies. This will be a golden age. Worship will center around a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem including memorial animal sacrifices (not propitiatory). But as children are born to believers, some of them will rebel and require judgment.
All glorified believers are in the new heavenly Jerusalem described in Rev. 21:1-22:5 which will be hovering in the air above the earth during the MR. Resurrected believers will take part in some of the judgments on earth (Matt. 19:28; 1 Cor. 6:2; Rev. 20:6).