Vol. 8, No. 10
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The false doctrine of premillennialism has been around for almost two thousand years, and yet it has absolutely no basis in the Bible. Papias (c. 60-130) of Hierapolis in Asia Minor advanced millennial views, believing that there would be a period of a thousand years after the resurrection of Christ during which the kingdom of Christ would be set up in a material way. When the millennium did not occur with Jesus' resurrection, some began to rethink the event that would initiate its beginning. It was decided that perhaps the return of Christ would be that event. The beliefs of Papias were pervasive enough that the churches of the first half of the second century were generally aware of the premillennial theory that he advanced.
Many later writers such as Origen, Dionysius of Alexandria, Eusebius and Augustine came out against millenarian views to the extent that the theory went into sharp decline. Premillennialism was almost a dead issue for the next thousand years. In the Reformation period some began to espouse millennial views again. The popular views included both premillennialism and postmillennialism. Biblical exegetes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries paid tribute to millennial ideas in their popular commentaries. Fiery preachers let their voices ring from the pulpits, groves and brush arbors in the cities and the country with eschatological excitement. Men such as William Miller predicted the return of Christ in 1843 and 1844. By 1875 a new brand of premillennialism called Dispensationalism spread like wildfire in the United States. J.N. Darby, a former priest in the Anglican Church of Ireland, brought this speculative dogma to the United States. C.I. Scofield taught it in his Scofield Reference Bible, still widely used today. Televangelists, charismatic preachers, self-styled prophets and popular religious authors freely advance his views still today.
Premillennial views made inroads into the Lord's church in the early part of the twentieth century largely through the influence of R.H. Boll. Foy E. Wallace, Jr. is credited with stalemating premillennialism among churches of Christ in his lifetime. In 1970 Hal Lindsey immortalized himself in his dispensational treatise, The Late Great Planet Earth. Lately, dispensational premillennialism has seen a revival among a new generation of readers in the Left Behind series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The books are selling like hotcakes! What will be the extent of the influence these books will have? They even target children! How many Christians will be unsettled in their minds because they prefer LaHaye and Jenkins to the Bible?