Saturday, March 29, 2014

P3 Interpreting Revelation 20:1-10 - The Postmillennial approach and a Premillennial response

Revelation 20:4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Introduction and Review
In yesterday's post we did an overview of the Amillennial position, its treatment of Revelation 20:1-10, its seeming strengths and a Premillennial response to the position.  Today we want to continue in the same approach as we consider the Postmillennial position.

The Postmillennial position and its inerpretation of Revelation 20
Out of all the major positions on the Millennium, the Postmillennial position is among the post positive.  Essentially in contrast to the Premillennial and Amillenial viewpoints, Postmillennialists believe history is gradually improving do to the continual preaching of the Gospel.  To illustrate the basic tenets of this position, I will direct the reader to the following chart:1

By quick comparison let the reader note the Amillennial timeline from yesterday:2

In somewhat familiar fashion to Amillennialism, Postmillennialists see Christ returning and immediately ushering in the eternal state.  As a matter of fact, up until over 100 years ago, no one made the distinction between the two viewpoints.  Remarkably in the past century, perhaps more than any other, we have seen a major increase in books, discussions and debates on the subject of last things or Bible prophecy.  So then how do Postmillennialists typically approach Revelation 20? In listening to lectures, watching videos and reading books over the years, the following typical approach can be outlined:

1. Revelation 20:1-3 refers to Christian conversion in this present age. Very similar to the Amillennial position.

2. Revelation 20:4-6 has the Gospel gradually overcoming and history becoming a golden age of sorts that may or may not be 1,000 years in duration. Some postmillennialists hold to the 1,000 years being literal but most would say it is symbolic, citing passages such as Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:18.

3. The New Covenant promises of Isaiah 40-66, Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31-33 are read to refer to Israel being replaced by the church.  Passages such as Galatians 6:16 are often used to support the idea that the church is the New Israel.

4. Much like Amillennialism, the binding of Satan is treated as meaning His defeat at the cross.  Some Postmillennialists will also add that the Gospel itself is the main binding force, holding back an preventing Satan and the kingdom of darkness from having full freedom of expression.  

5. After the Gospel has converted all the nations (not every individual mind you, but a good portion of people on earth) and ushered in the "millenium" so to speak, Jesus will return and judge the nations as spelled out in Revelation 20:11-15. 

Seeming strengths of Postmillennialism
The Postmillennial position is admittedly appealing for a few reasons.  

1. For one thing, it has the most optimistic view regarding the accomplishment of the Great commission.  Many past missionaries such as Jonathan Edwards and William Carey were Godly, conservative Postmillennialists. 

2. Secondly, it ties in Christ's ascension and reign in heaven to the accomplishing of the Great commission on planet earth.  Some of my dearest friends, with great hearts for the lost are Postmillennialist and have a very exalted view of Christ.  

3. Thirdly, Postmillennialism tries to take seriously the Kingdom as not being only spiritual but eventully impacting every sgment of culture and society.  How much this impact will be differs among Postmillennialists, however it is quite intriguing to think about.  

A Premillenialist response to Postmillennialism
1. Much like the Amillenialist viewpoint, I see the weakness of trying to make Revelation 20:1-3 or 20:1-6 as referring to this present age as introducing an uncessary disruption in the flow of the book of Revelation.  John's main focus is on Christ's second coming and His reign that will follow.  The Premillennialist viewpoint holds to what appears to better fit the flow of Revelation as being primarily more future in the areas of Revelation 19-22.

2. The Postmillennialist's uncertainty of whether the number "1,000" is literal or symbolic stems from the similar inconsistency we see in Amillenialism. Postmillennialists try to read all of the Old Testament in light of the new, however they then read the number "1,000" in Revelation 20 in light of Psalm 90.  Yes, Peter also uses Psalm 90:4 in his main arguments in 2 Peter 3:18.  However, his subject has to do with the suddeness of events leading up to the quickness of Christ's return, whereas John in Revelation 20 is focusing more upon what will take place after Christ's return in Revelation 19.

3. Undoubtedly the church is getting a chance to foretaste in a spiritual way some of the blessings of the New Covenant spelled out in the Old Testament.  However to say that the church has replaced Israel is to ignore passages such as 1 Corinthians 10:32 where Jews, Gentiles and the church are distinguished.  Also too, if the church has replaced Israel completely in the realm of her blessings, then what of the curses pronounced upon Israel in the Old Testament?

4. The weakness on the point of Satan being bound now begs the question: what about passages that tell us that Satan is roaming to and fro on the earth, seeking whom he may devour? (1 Peter 5:8)  Also, if the Gospel is that main binding force, then why is Satan clearly blinding the eyes of people to the truth of the Gospel world wide?  Premillenialism recognizes the reality of things.  We would say with the Postmillennialist that only the Holy Spirit can convict and draw sinners to believe, represent and be saved.  However it is very evident that Satan is not bound now, but rather will be bound later. 

5. The idea of history getting gradually better and better is hard to measure and depending upon what part of the world your from will make such a measurement hard to do.  Postmillennialism in all its admirable optimism has fluctuated in popularity over the years.  Prior to the 20th century, Postmillennialism was at a near all-time high. However in the wake of two World Wars and many wars thereafter, Postmillennialism greatly waned.  Despite the fact of its recent increase in popularity, the position will ever remain at a disadvantage in its assertion that things will get better spiritually and historically leading up to Christ's return. The premillennialist recognizes that until Jesus returns, no such conditions will take place apart from His direct intervention.      





  1. I must say that I believe in the amillennial view. The postmillennarians teach a view that is not occurring in our world. Just look at our Supreme Court and its rulings to observe that. I accept the view that Revelation 20-1-10, which both amillennialists and postmillennialists interpret as I, that the millennium is the rule of Christ on the throne of David in heaven. It is also the intermediate state, i.d., the souls of the dead in Christ rule with him now. When Jesus returns, He will hold the Last Judgment and establish the new heaven and new earth.

  2. Dear Anonymous: Thanks for visiting and commenting today. I would encourage you to read the whole series of posts. I try to be as charitable to the three major views (a, post- and pre-millennialism). I myself am pre-millennial. Blessings.