The Doctrine of Last Things, Part Three: Premillennialism

By Leroy Forlines

Premillennialists have one thing in common. All believe that Jesus will come back to earth before the millennium. He will sit on the throne of David and will reign on earth for a thousand years (millennium). When it comes to details there are a variety of opinions.

For the most part premillennialists believe that the Abrahamic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and various Old Testament promises indicate that the descendants of Jacob who are living at the time of the second coming of Christ will be gathered to the land of Palestine and that they will experience mass conversion.

Saints who have died before Jesus’ second coming will be resurrected and will share in this thousand years reign with Christ. Premillennialists do not believe in a second chance after death in connection with the second coming of Christ for either Jews or Gentiles.

One of the main points of difference among them is the place of the church in the plan of God.  Many speak of the church as a parenthesis. By this they mean that it would not have come into existence had the majority of Jews not rejected Christ. Acceptance of Jesus by them as Messiah would have ushered in the thousand years reign without the intervening period of time we speak of as the church age. God is said to have temporarily set Israel aside to be brought back into God’s program at the second coming of Christ.

Other premillennialists take a different viewpoint. They understand each covenant made with Israel, and each step in the plan of God before the beginning of the church, to be a step toward God’s introduction of the church into redemptive history. The fact that the majority of Jews rejected Christ might have altered the place of the descendants of Jacob in the church so far as the leadership role is concerned. It was not what caused the church to come into existence.

Some who take this approach are of the opinion that Israel, as such, is not set aside. The Jews who do believe continue to be the covenant people of God with whom believing Gentiles become identified and become heirs of salvation.

The majority of Jews have not believed and are said to be set aside as far as being the channel through which God is working, but Israel as the covenant people of God has not been set aside.

They believe in the mass conversion of Jews in connection with the second coming of Christ and the return to the land of Palestine.

Another point of controversy among premillennialists is related to the time of Christ’s second coming in relation to the tribulation. All, however, agree that there will be a tribulation. Some think this will be a seven-year period based on the conclusion that the seventieth week of Daniel 9 is the tribulation period.

Some do not accept this conclusion and would not set seven years as the duration of the tribulation. The major difference centers around the controversy over whether Jesus will come back before the tribulation and take the church out of the world or whether the church will go through the tribulation and be raptured by Jesus at the end of the tribulation. The first group believes in what is called the pre-tribulation rapture of the church.

The second group believes in the post-tribulation rapture of the church. A few take a position called mid-tribulation rapture. They say that the church will be taken out of the world in the middle of the seven years tribulation.

Christians should fellowship across their differences on details concerning the second coming, but they should not let this cause them to neglect this study. It is important for us to come to grips with biblical teachings on this important subject.