The Doctrine of Last Things, Part One

By Leroy Forlines

This division of theology referred to as eschatology means the study of last things or end events. It deals with the events surrounding and related to the second coming of Christ. There are basically three schools of thought on this subject: Amillennialism, Premillennialism, and Postmillennialism. Within each of these schools of thought there are variations of opinion.

The word millennium means a thousand years. The prefix to the word indicates the basic school of thought about the thousand years and Christ’s return. In Amillennialism, the a means “no.” Amillennialism means no millennium, that there will be no thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth.

In Premillennialism, pre means “before,” that there will be a thousand- year reign of Christ on the earth. “Pre” indicates that Christ will come before the thousand years begin.

In Postmillennialism, post means “after.” The idea is that the Church will usher in a thousand years of peace and prosperity on the earth. “Post” indicates that Jesus will come again after this thousand years of peace and prosperity.

The basic thrust of each view can be seen in the name. However, they represent much more than that. They represent a basic approach to biblical interpretation and a development of God’s plan for the ages. Biblical interpretation is fragmented until a person has chosen a view and has begun to see it as an approach to understanding the development and carrying out of God’s program of redemption.

It is obvious that all three views cannot be right since they have some basic contradictions. However, a development of either view is preferred to total ignorance on the subject. This is true in view of the fact that in the broad sense, which includes a view of the total program of redemption, there is a lot of truth in either view. The Amillennial view states much more than there will be no millennium. The Premillennial view says much more than that Jesus will come back before the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth. The Postmillennial view indicates much more than the church will usher in a thousand years of peace and prosperity followed by the return of Christ.

It is in the broader context that each view contains much that is true regardless of which view may be correct in its basic distinctions. Knowledge needs organization. We need to see design and development in God’s plan and program of redemption. Each of us must be true to what we understand the Word of God to teach on the subject, but we must have at least a degree of tolerance for difference of opinion.

Intolerance often leads to ignorance since some people prefer to have no opinion rather than be criticized. There is some error that cannot be tolerated. But in areas where sincere Christians disagree, where no fundamental of the faith is at stake, and where Free Will Baptist doctrine does not take a definite opinion, there should be a degree of liberty and tolerance. We need that liberty that gives birth to study and exchange of ideas that helps us understand what the other person is saying.

At the same, time each must be true to his convictions. Postmillennialism is held by very few people today. The optimism that the church will usher in the kingdom is fading out for most. Most do not understand the Bible to present such a hope. In fact, the fact that Jesus indicated that only a small percentage would be saved (Matt. 7:L3, 14), along with the corruption that is said to come in the last days of this age (II Tim. 3:1-13), has caused most Bible believers to think that the Bible clearly rules out the possibility of the Church’s ushering in the kingdom.