Biblical Prophecy: Why I am a Historic Premillennialist

This Blog is really a continuation of my Previous Blog  “Why Israel Has a Future in God’s Plans –  Romans 9–11 and the People of God”  By Michael J. Vlach, Ph.D.

I will answer this question on why I am a Historic Premillennialist in 5 Parts:

1. “What is premillennialism?”

Premillennialism is the view that Christ’s second coming will occur prior to His millennial kingdom, and that the millennial kingdom is a literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth. In order to understand and interpret the passages in Scripture that deal with end-times events, there are two things that must be clearly understood: a proper method of interpreting Scripture and the distinction between Israel (the Jews) and the church (the body of all believers in Jesus Christ).

First, a proper method of interpreting Scripture requires that Scripture be interpreted in a way that is consistent with its context. This means that a passage must be interpreted in a way that is consistent with the audience to which it is written, those it is written about, whom it is written by, and so on. It is critical to know the author, intended audience, and historical background of each passage one interprets. The historical and cultural setting will often reveal the correct meaning of a passage. It is also important to remember that Scripture interprets Scripture. That is, often a passage will cover a topic or subject that is also addressed elsewhere in the Bible. It is important to interpret all of these passages consistently with one another.

Finally, and most importantly, passages must always be taken in their normal, regular, plain, literal meaning unless the context of the passage indicates that it is figurative in nature. A literal interpretation does not eliminate the possibility of figures of speech being used. Rather, it encourages the interpreter to not read figurative language into the meaning of a passage unless it is appropriate for that context. It is crucial to never seek a “deeper, more spiritual” meaning than is presented. Spiritualizing a passage is dangerous because it moves the basis for accurate interpretation from Scripture to the mind of the reader. Then, there can be no objective standard of interpretation; instead, Scripture becomes subject to each person’s own impression of what it means. Second Peter 1:20-21 reminds us that “no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Applying these principles of biblical interpretation, it must be seen that Israel (Abraham’s physical descendants) and the church (all New Testament believers) are two distinct groups. It is crucial to recognize that Israel and the church are distinct because, if this is misunderstood, Scripture will be misinterpreted. Especially prone to misinterpretation are passages that deal with promises made to Israel (both fulfilled and unfulfilled). Such promises should not be applied to the church. Remember, the context of the passage will determine to whom it is addressed and will point to the most correct interpretation.

With those concepts in mind, we can look at various passages of Scripture that produce the premillennial view. Genesis 12:1-3: “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’”


God promises Abraham three things here: (1) Abraham would have many descendants, (2) this nation would own and occupy a land, and (3) a universal blessing will come to all mankind out of Abraham’s line (the Jews). In Genesis 15:9-17, God ratifies His covenant with Abraham. By the way this is done, God places sole responsibility for the covenant upon Himself. That is, there was nothing Abraham could do or fail to do that would void the covenant God made. Also in this passage, the boundaries are set for the land that the Jews will eventually occupy. For a detailed list of the boundaries, see Deuteronomy 34. Other passages that deal with the promise of land are Deuteronomy 30:3-5 and Ezekiel 20:42-44.

In 2 Samuel 7:10-17, we see the promise made by God to King David. Here, God promises David that he will have descendants, and out of those descendants God will establish an eternal kingdom. This is referring to the rule of Christ during the millennium and forever. It is important to keep in mind that this promise must be fulfilled literally and has not yet taken place. Some would believe that the rule of Solomon was the literal fulfillment of this prophecy, but there is a problem with that. The territory over which Solomon ruled is not held by Israel today, and neither does Solomon rule over Israel today. Remember that God promised Abraham that his descendants would possess a land forever. Also, 2 Samuel 7 says that God would establish a king who would rule for eternity. Solomon could not be a fulfillment of the promise made to David. Therefore, this is a promise that has yet to be fulfilled.

Now, with all this in mind, examine what is recorded in Revelation 20:1-7. The thousand years which is repeatedly mentioned in this passage corresponds to Christ’s literal 1000-year reign on the earth. Recall that the promise made to David regarding a ruler had to be fulfilled literally and has not yet taken place. Premillennialism sees this passage as describing the future fulfillment of that promise with Christ on the throne. God made unconditional covenants with both Abraham and David. Neither of these covenants has been fully or permanently fulfilled. A literal, physical rule of Christ is the only way the covenants can be fulfilled as God promised they would.

Applying a literal method of interpretation to Scripture results in the pieces of the puzzle coming together. All of the Old Testament prophesies of Jesus’ first coming were fulfilled literally. Therefore, we should expect the prophecies regarding His second coming to be fulfilled literally as well. Premillennialism is the only system that agrees with a literal interpretation of God’s covenants and end-times prophecy.


2. “What is historic premillennialism?”

Historic premillennialism and dispensational premillennialism are two different systems of eschatology. Here are a few examples of the differences between the two:

• Historic premillennialism teaches that the church was in the fore-vision of Old Testament prophecy, while dispensationalism teaches that the church is hardly, if at all, mentioned by the Old Testament prophets.

• Historic premillennialism teaches that the present age of grace was predicted in the Old Testament. Dispensationalism holds that the present age was unforeseen in the Old Testament and thus is a “great parenthesis” in history introduced because the Jews rejected the kingdom.

• Historic premillennialism teaches a millennium after the second advent of Christ but is not much concerned with classifying other epochs of history. Usually, dispensationalism teaches seven divisions of time. The present age is the sixth such dispensation; the last one will be the millennial age after the second coming.

• Historic premillennialism is posttribulational; dispensational premillennialism usually embraces the pretribulational view.

The premillennial view of the end times is thus advanced in two different ways: historic premillennialism and dispensational premillennialism. The Bible contains many prophecies about the future, with the New Testament speaking extensively about the return of Jesus to earth. Matthew 24, much of the book of Revelation, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 are the more salient references to the second coming.

Historic premillennialism was held by a large majority of Christians during the first three centuries of the Christian era. Many of the church fathers such as IreneausPapiasJustin MartyrTertullianHippolytus, and others taught that there would be a visible kingdom of God upon the earth after the return of Christ. Historic premillennialism taught that the Antichrist would appear on earth and the seven-year tribulation would begin. Next would be the rapture, and then Jesus and His church would return to earth to rule for a thousand years. The faithful spend eternity in the New Jerusalem.

When Christianity became the official religion of Rome in the fourth century, many things began to change, including acceptance of historic premillennialism. Amillennialism soon became the prevailing doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.

One of the most influential historic premillennialists was George Eldon Ladd, an evangelical New Testament scholar and professor of New Testament exegesis and theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. It was through Ladd’s work that historic premillennialism gained scholarly respect and popularity among evangelical and Reformed theologians of the twentieth century. Other well-known historic premillennialists include Walter Martin; John Warwick Montgomery; J. Barton Payne; Henry Alford, a noted Greek scholar; and Theodor Zahn, a German New Testament scholar. [Other famous Historic Premillennialists include Francis Schaeffer and James Montgomery Boice]

Historic premillennialism is one system of eschatology that has support in the Protestant community. Generally, all of the premillennialist beliefs teach that the tribulation is followed by 1,000 years of peace when all live under the authority of Christ. Afterwards, in a brief, final battle, Satan is permanently conquered. The placement of the rapture in relation to the other events is one of the main differences between historic premillennialism and premillennial dispensationalism.


3. “What is amillennialism?”

Amillennialism is the name given to the belief that there will not be a literal 1000-year reign of Christ. The people who hold to this belief are called amillennialists. The prefix “a-” in amillennialism means “no” or “not.” Hence, “amillennialism” means “no millennium.” This differs from the most widely accepted view called premillennialism (the view that Christ’s second coming will occur prior to His millennial kingdom and that the millennial kingdom is a literal 1000-year reign) and from the less-widely accepted view called postmillennialism (the belief that Christ will return after Christians, not Christ Himself, have established the kingdom on this earth).

However, in fairness to amillennialists, they do not believe that there is no millennium at all. They just do not believe in a literal millennium—a literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth. Instead, they believe that Christ is now sitting on the throne of David and that this present church age is the kingdom over which Christ reigns. There is no doubt that Christ is now sitting on a throne, but this does not mean that it is what the Bible refers to as the throne of David. There is no doubt that Christ now rules, for He is God. Yet this does not mean He is ruling over the millennial kingdom.

In order for God to keep His promises to Israel and His covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:8-16, 23:5; Psalm 89:3-4), there must be a literal, physical kingdom on this earth. To doubt this is to call into question God’s desire and/or ability to keep His promises, and this opens up a host of other theological problems. For example, if God would renege on His promises to Israel after proclaiming those promises to be “everlasting,” how could we be sure of anything He promises, including the promises of salvation to believers in the Lord Jesus? The only solution is to take Him at His word and understand that His promises will be literally fulfilled.

Clear biblical indications that the kingdom will be a literal, earthly kingdom are:

1) Christ’s feet will actually touch the Mount of Olives prior to the establishment of His kingdom (Zechariah 14:4, 9);

2) During the kingdom, the Messiah will execute justice and judgment on the earth (Jeremiah 23:5-8);

3) The kingdom is described as being under heaven (Daniel 7:13-14, 27);

4) The prophets foretold of dramatic earthly changes during the kingdom (Acts 3:21; Isaiah 35:1-2, 11:6-9, 29:18, 65:20-22; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Amos 9:11-15); and

5) The chronological order of events in Revelation indicates the existence of an earthly kingdom prior to the conclusion of world history (Revelation 20).

The amillennial view comes from using one method of interpretation for unfulfilled prophecy and another method for non-prophetic Scripture and fulfilled prophecy. Non-prophetic Scripture and fulfilled prophecy are interpreted literally or normally. But, according to the amillennialist, unfulfilled prophecy is to be interpreted spiritually, or non-literally. Those who hold to amillennialism believe that a “spiritual” reading of unfulfilled prophecy is the normal reading of the texts. This is called using a dual hermeneutic. (Hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation.) The amillennialist assumes that most, or all, unfulfilled prophecy is written in symbolic, figurative, spiritual language. Therefore, the amillennialist will assign different meanings to those parts of Scripture instead of the normal, contextual meanings of those words.

The problem with interpreting unfulfilled prophecy in this manner is that this allows for a wide range of meanings. Unless you interpret Scripture in the normal sense, there will not be one meaning. Yet God, the ultimate author of all of Scripture, did have one specific meaning in mind when He inspired the human authors to write. Though there may be many life applications in a passage of Scripture, there is only one meaning, and that meaning is what God intended it to mean. Also, the fact that fulfilled prophecy was fulfilled literally is the best reason of all for assuming that unfulfilled prophecy will also be literally fulfilled. The prophecies concerning Christ’s first coming were all fulfilled literally. Therefore, prophecies concerning Christ’s second coming should also be expected to be fulfilled literally. For these reasons, an allegorical interpretation of unfulfilled prophecy should be rejected and a literal or normal interpretation of unfulfilled prophecy should be adopted. Amillennialism fails in that it uses inconsistent hermeneutics, namely, interpreting unfulfilled prophecy differently from fulfilled prophecy.


4. Why I disagree with Amillemnialism: 

I am strongly in disagreement with amillennialism. It contradicts every rule of interpretation that I learned as a lawyer, and it treats the hermeneutics of Scripture in a similar way to neo-orthodox and liberal theology.
Most prominent Amillennialists treat all future prophecy as “apocalyptic genre” and therefore prophecy is treated as symbolism. This is a huge assumption, and is inconsistent with Scripture itself. As pointed out above, it is dangerous to “spiritualize” the interpretation of Scripture (2 Peter 1:20-21) as this opens the door to having Scripture say whatever you want it to say. Any inconvenient truth of Scripture is spiritualized to make it virtually irrelevant. This is exactly what liberal theology and neo-orthodox theology have done. Most if not all evangelical amillennialists that I know are great men of God who sincerely believe the Bible, but  in my view they are sincerely wrong in this particular area.
Of course there are symbols in prophecy (and elsewhere in the Bible). For example we see this in the Book of Daniel when he describes the statue in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, but Daniel goes on to explain the symbolism. In other words, the symbolism is obvious from the context. This is also true in any type of literature where symbolism is used;  but this does not give anyone the right to treat entire passages or books of the Bible or prophecies as symbolic, other than on clear contextual grounds.
The most  basic rule of interpretation in literature, and in law, and in theology, is the Golden Rule of Interpretation which is that we should always assume that words have their literal or natural meaning to the original writer and the original readers or hearers. The exceptions to the Golden Rule are limited and specific and should always be rooted in the context of the passage itself.
It is particularly wrong to treat all prophecy as symbolic, especially in view that over 350 prophecies about the first coming of Christ were LITERALLY fulfilled. 
Messianic Jews call amillennialism “Replacement Theology” which came about because when the Jews did not return to “the land” for hundreds of years, they thought that this would never happen, so they decided to replace God’s literal promises to ethnic Israel and decided that ALL God’s promises to Israel were really God’s promises to “the church”. This is a blatant violation of every basic rule of interpretation!
It is very significant that most of the early church were clearly historical premillennialist, and historical premillennialism pre-dates amillennialism. 
I find it interesting that it is only after Christianity became the powerful and the establishment religion, that God’s future plans for Jews were minimized, and “the church” became the centerpiece of all prophecy! Christ should be the centerpiece of all prophecy. He is the true Messiah first to the Jews and then also to the Gentile believers. Through Him Gentile believers are simply “grafted-in” to genuine Judaism. Jewish believers are not “grated in” to the church. It is no wonder that Messianic Jews feel betrayed by amillennialism, as modern Israel gets no special recognition, significance, or support from amillennialists.
Amillennialism and replacement theology ignore or play down the fact that even when there is a massive falling away of the Jews from God, there is ALWAYS a faithful remnant, and this remnant is a fulfillment of God’s irrevocable continuing covenant promise to the ethnic Jews and the nation of Israel. We see this throughout the history of the Jews in the Old Testament.  Even though the Jews were scattered for nearly 2000 years, God has now been faithful in fulfilling His promise to them by returning them to the land of Israel in 1948.
Please see: “10 Prophecies Fulfilled in 1948” This amazing miracle of literally bringing back the Jews to their land after nearly 2000 years, which became the state of Israel in 1948, was one of the spectacularly fulfilled Biblical prophecies, along with Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, which God used to bring me back to Himself, and millions of other skeptics and non-believers. In 1948, the whole world looked on in astonishment and this resulted in the famous popular historical novel Exodus by Leon Uris.
Both the original writers and he original readers of the prophecies about Israel clearly understand that most were very obviously referring to the nation of Israel 🇮🇱.  To interpret them otherwise is a serious TWISTING of Scripture.  For starters it is easy to see which parts of the Abrahamic covenant were directed at ethnic/national Israel and which parts of this irrevocable covenant were dealing with the universal church – every genuine believer regardless of nationality or ethnicity throughout the whole world! Not to treat the Abrahamic covenant carefully – and to simply replace “Israel” with “the church” is just lazy theology at best, or serious heresy or at worst! Christians throughout history have not only been guilty of the sin of discrimination – involving discrimination both of races and classes and slavery, but also the sin of anti-Semitism. I am not accusing amillennialists of being anti-Semitic, I don’t think they are, but some Messianic Jews today may perceive amillennialism as anti-Semitic.
Most amillennialists and premillennialists are primarily concerned with the book of Revelation. Many build an entire theology around a few verses in Revelations about the millennium by pointing out that other images in Revelation are symbolic. This is BAD THEOLOGY. Understanding true Covenant theology including a proper understanding of the Abrahamic covenant is a much better theological method than focusing on the millennium. Covenantal theology runs through the entirety of Scripture and is not limited to a few rather obscure verses in the Book of Revelation. The really important question is NOT how long or when is the millennium, but whether or not God’s Promises to Israel ended with the coming of Christ, and whether or not God has a future plan for ethnic or physical Israel as clearly laid out in Romans 9 – 11 (see my blog of 2.12.2018).
Clear passages should interpret unclear passages. We don’t use one or two verses in the book of James, which on the surface seems to state that justification is by works, to interpret the first 6 and a half chapters of Romans which systematically lays out that justification is by faith and not by works. Yet this is similar to what amillennialists do when they replace the clear prophecies made by God to the nation of Israel, and treat them as all referring to “spiritual Israel” the church.
5. Final Thoughts:
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was an “originalist” in his rules of interpretation with regard to the Founding Documents. I was taught exactly the same rules of interpretation when I was studying law at University in Britain in the 1960’s. If all the Supreme Court justices were originalists we would never have got Roe v Wade and all the subsequent legislation from the bench, and the continuing destruction of our Judeo-Christian based Constitution.
Historic premillennialism is the ONLY originalist interpretation of prophecy using exactly the same canons of interpretation which Scalia used and I was taught in British law school. This is consistent with the method of interpretation used by the early church fathers!  Amillennialists, postmillennialists, and dispensationalists, are latecomers who are “legislating from the bench” to bring Scripture in line with their presuppositions.
 I am in full agreement with covenant theology with regards to the doctrines of grace (Calvinism), and in particular I agree that we should see the whole of Scripture through the Covenant of Grace, including both the old covenant and the new covenant. However, I do not agree with those covenant theologians who are amillennialists with regards to the relationship between Israel and the church, and in regards to the end times, even if the majority of covenant theologians in the USA today are amillennialists. Francis Schaeffer and James Boice were both covenant theologians and historic premillennialists. I throw my hat in the ring with these great men of God and also with the Early Church Fathers.

SOURCES: The first 3 points above, “What is Premillennialism?”, “What is historic premillennialism?”, “What is Amillennialism?” are taken word for word from the website




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