The central issue of eschatology (the study of end-times) is the millennial kingdom of Christ. There are three primary positions that are denominated amillennialism, premillennialism, and postmillennialism. As you can see, the millennium is the operative term in each. Amillennialism says there is no literal kingdom that will come to earth. Rather, the kingdom is spiritual and was inaugurated when Christ arose from the dead. In other words, we are living in the millennium now which is indefinite in length. At the end of this age, Christ will return to judge the world and we pass into eternity.
Postmillennialism is the view that the reign of Christ is not literal but refers to the gradual increase of the gospel until the world turns to Christ producing a golden age upon the earth. This view was popular at the end of the 19th century during the industrial age when it appeared the world was becoming better and more affluent. However, it lost most of its proponents in the 20th century due to two world wars that convinced them the world was not getting better. Most theologians no longer agree with this view having reverted to amillennialism.
The third millennial position is premillennialism. It is divided into two camps—dispensational premillennialism and historic premillennialism. Both views hold that a time of tribulation will occur before the before the millennium and then there will be a literal one-thousand-year reign of Christ upon the earth. The two views differ in some aspects of biblical interpretation with historic premillennialists regarding much of Revelation as already fulfilled throughout history. Thus, there is much more symbolism involved in the historical interpretation than the dispensational.
Our understanding of the millennium is dispensational. Although I am not an advocate of what I would call “militant dispensationalism,” I do believe the dispensational interpretation is mostly correct. Our understanding is that Christ will return to rapture believers before seven years of tribulation (pretribulational rapture). This is the time for Israel to be prepared to inherit the kingdom promised by the Old Testament prophets. During this time, thousands, even millions of Jews will be saved. At the end of the tribulation, Christ will return in the second phase of His coming to reestablish the throne of David in Jerusalem where He will reign from a newly constructed millennial temple. At the end of one thousand years, He will destroy Satan and this world and will bring the lost to their final judgment and condemnation in the lake of fire.
We appreciate the dispensational viewpoint because of its largely literal approach to the Bible’s interpretation. The symbols of other views are widely interpreted which leaves little certainty that students of scripture can come to a consensus of meaning. With a literal interpretation there is much more cohesion and better understanding of what God intended us to know. In dispensational eschatology, Israel is Israel and is always Israel. The church is the church and is always the church. We do not conflate the church with Israel. Further, our view of local church does not conflate the church and the kingdom.
This is a very brief primer on these positions. I must remind you that millennial viewpoints are important, but this is not a salvation issue. Good Bible expositors may disagree on the particulars, and yet remain in agreement on 90% of the rest of the Bible. I do not believe a test of fellowship should be made on these points alone. Thus, we are charitable regarding our differences.
Pastor V. Mark Smith