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Vol.  9  No. 6 June 2007  Page 9
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What Is Dispensational Premillennialism?

Dennis GulledgeBy Dennis Gulledge

    Many theories are based upon the millennium. The word millennium is derived from two Latin words: mille, meaning “a thousand” and annus, meaning “year.” Therefore, millennium means a thousand years. Its English equivalent, “a thousand years,” is found six times in Revelation 20:1-7. If you will open your Bible and read that passage you will know all there is to know about the millennium.

    There are many questions that make this a controversial subject. The effort on the part of men to answer these questions is what accounts for the controversy surrounding this subject. People have different interpretations of Revelation 20:1-7, hence different ideas about the millennium have arisen. With our entrance into a new century and millennium such theories are on many people’s minds. In this article I wish to take a look at one of the most popular of those theories.

Some Pertinent Definitions

    Millennialism is a general term denoting belief in the millennium. 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 fashion. 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.

    Amillennialism denotes the view that there will be no millennium. An amillennialist may be one who does not believe the Bible—period. He may be a modernist who does not believe in the return of Christ. Or, he may be the Bible believer who feels that the Book of Revelation is largely symbolic and that Revelation 20:1-7 is a figurative representation of something that happened under the Roman Empire.

    Postmillennialism teaches that Jesus Christ will return after the millennium. This theory holds that Christ will conquer Satan through the spread of the Gospel by which the world will be converted. There will then be a thousand-year period of peace and righteousness on the earth. Afterward, Christ is to return and time will be no more. There were many disciples of this doctrine among religious thinkers in the nineteenth century (See Restoration Reachbacks).

    Premillennialism is the view that Jesus Christ will return to earth prior to the millennium; that he will, when he returns, inaugurate the millennial reign in Jerusalem.

    Dispensational Premillennialism is by far the most widely accepted view among people today who espouse millennial ideas. Since the late 1800’s, the exponents of this view went beyond typical (historical) premillennialism. The new premillennialism came to the United States about 1875 after thriving in England among the Plymouth Brethren, a religious body originated by J.N. Darby in 1830. Darby named the new dogma dispensationalism because the theory called for a division of history into dispensations. This is the view that is freely advanced by televangelists, charismatic preachers, self-styled prophets and popular religious authors of today (See Interesting Inquiries, by John T. Polk, II).

The Basic Format of Dispensational Premillennialism

    Although all premillennialists do not agree on all the points of their theories, here is the basic format of the dispensational view:

1.    Jesus Christ came into this world in order to fulfill Old Testament prophecies and to establish an earthly kingdom.

2.    The divine plan, however, was thwarted in Jesus’ unanticipated rejection by his subjects, and his crucifixion.

3.   The kingdom prophecies were then put on hold (i.e., since they were not fulfilled); Jesus is supposed to return, at which time he will establish the kingdom as he had originally planned, but had failed initially in so doing.

4.     The Lord set up the church as a substitute for the kingdom due to his rejection by the Jews.

5.   The return of Jesus will be both secret and silent. This is called the “Rapture,” when he will come for his saints. He is to snatch the sainted living and dead away in a rapturous disappearing act, but for those who are “left behind,” life will go on as usual. The “raptured” are to be with the Lord somewhere for seven years.

6.    This seven years will mark the “Tribulation” with a world populated entirely by unbelievers. The first half of this period is to see a revival of the Jewish nation and its repossession of the “Holy Land.” The last three and one half years is to be a period of “Great Tribulation,” such as the world has never seen.

7.  Jesus is to return again at the end of the Tribulation, and, in the Battle of Armageddon, eliminate his enemies so that his millennial reign may begin with a world populated entirely of believers. This is to be the “Second Coming” when the Lord comes with his saints. At this point the long awaited “King of the Jews” now assumes his rightful place on David’s throne where he will begin his millennial reign.

8.    At the end of the thousand years Jesus is supposed to deliver up the kingdom to God; there will be the judgment and then eternity.

    The danger of the dispensational theory and the Left Behind theology is that they falsify both the promises of God in the Old Testament and the preaching of Jesus Christ. Such denies that Christ is currently reigning as King of kings on God’s right hand (1 Timothy 6:15; 1 Peter 3:22). It also perpetuates the same materialistic view of the kingdom that led the Jews to crucify Christ.

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