There is an old adage: Don’t know if you are Pre, Mid or Post? Then you must be Catholic.
The chart that you see above is what the church believed from Augustine to Calvin, and for 200 years after the Reformation. The Amillennial timeline is church doctrine that has been upheld by Catholics and orthodox Protestants — excluding fundamental evangelicals — for over 2,000 years.
Augustine, who is recognized as the most brilliant theologian after the Apostle Paul, validated the earlier writings of Origen that the Bible uniformly teaches Amillennialsim. Subsequently, the Roman church decided it was not safe to teach Premillennialsim.
What we are talking about is a method of interpretation called hermeneutics. How do you read and understand the Bible?
Let’s break it down. If we read the Book of Revelation with a literal (or linear) filter it is hard not to see that John is speaking of a visible, earthly Millennial reign of Christ. The Bible, however, is written as poetry, history and prophesy. The Rabbin, in the manner of the Pharisees, would read the Jewish scriptures with a strictly literal interpretation. That is one reason why the Jews rejected Christ because they were looking for a Messiah who would literally restore the kingdom, and physically sit on the throne of David.
The literal (linear) method of interpretation is recommended when studying the legal and historical books of the Old Testament. This method, however, does not work when we try to understand the poetic and prophetic books including Revelation. The Apocalypse was written as a progressive parallel of the church age sandwiched between the two Advents of Christ which is depicted as the Millennial reign — Jesus is reigning even now. He is both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).
Premillinnialism presumes that the church will be raptured prior to Christ’s return after which our Lord will reign for a literal 1,000 years upon the earth.
Because neither Jesus nor the Apostles taught this, the church (for 1800 years) interpreted a thousand years to be symbolic of the completeness, or fulfillment of time. This would be in keeping with the Jewish tradition of attaching symbolic relevance to numeric prophesy. The prophetic books are allegoric, metaphoric, symbolic and figurative — not to be understood in a linear way.
This is what happened in the 19th century. The literal church expected Christ to return in AD 1000. He didn’t. By the 1800’s there was a great falling away as people lost faith in the fundamentalists preachers who stood on street corners holding signs that read, The End is Near.
This gave rise to varied cult-like groups such as the Millerites, Russellites and Jehovah’s Witnessess who were deeply engaged in date-setting the imminent return of Christ. People would sell all of their assets in anticipation of the long-awaited day of the Lord. When Christ still didn’t return it was suggested that He came spiritually.
Jesus told John that the Revelation must soon take place for the end is near (Revelation 1:1-2). The end was near for 1800 years, and the church was going through a mid-life crisis. This was not a problem for the orthodoxy who rested upon the words of Peter:
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation’ (2 Peter 3:3-4).
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up (2 Peter 3:8-10).
The literal church will use this passage to support their Millennial interpretation. It cannot be done. This is the eisegesis (imposed meaning) that Dispensationalists apply to Scripture in order to make their theology. as they often say, fit the prophetic timeline. Orthodoxy, on the other hand, applies exegesis to determine the contextual meaning of Scripture. What Peter does confirm are the words of Christ that there will be an appointed last day when this age will end. The day of the Lord has been postponed for over 2,000 years even as we patiently await His glorious return.
Enter John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren. Darby was the father of modern-day Dispensationalism. In the early part of the 19th century he devised a system of literal interpretation that is known also as Rapture Theology. It revived the long-dormant belief in Premillennialism with an emphasis on the rapture and a carnal fulfillment of the Millennial kingdom.
Darbyism, as we have noted before, was codified in the Scofield Reference Bible (1909) which became the training tool of the Dallas Theological Seminary. Alumni of DTS include David Jeremiah, Hal Lindsey, Chuck Swindoll, Charles Ryrie, and J. Vernon McGee (who was an orthodox, Amillennial Presbyterian until he went through the DTS program.)
When Lindsey made his 1970 prediction of Christ’s return by 1988 he said, “If I’m wrong, I guess I’ll be a bum.” Why is this man still preaching and teaching? This is what Dispensationalism has wrought, but no more so than the pastor of a mega-church in San Antonio, John Hagee.
Hagee’s brand of Christianity is Dispensationalism on steroids. Israel, by this standard, has always been the prophetic center of God’s plan of redemption. The church is just a footnote to be removed so that God can fulfill His promises to Abraham in an earthly, carnal kingdom. This was a false doctrine of the early church that was emphatically denounced on two accounts:
Jesus said, My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) — it was spiritual, not physical; and Paul declared that the promises of God were made to Abraham and his seed who is Christ (Galatians 3:16). John, and Origen, condemned the chiliastic view of an earthly kingdom since Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of all that God had promised to Israel and Abraham.
Hagee believes in a two-fold plan of redemption — Jesus for the Gentiles, Moses for the Jews. In his own words:
The Jewish people have a relationship to God through the law of God as given through Moses. I believe that every Gentile person can only come to God through the cross of Christ. I believe that every Jewish person who lives in the light of the Torah, which is the word of God, has a relationship with God and will come to redemption. The law of Moses is sufficient enough to bring a person into the knowledge of God until God gives him a greater revelation. And God has not … I’m not trying to convert the Jewish people to the Christian faith … (it) is a waste of time … The Jewish person who has his roots in Judaism is not going to convert to Christianity. There is no form of Christian evangelism that has failed so miserably as evangelizing the Jewish people. They have a faith structure. (Everyone else) needs to believe in Jesus, but not Jews. Jews already have a covenant with God that has never been replaced by Christianity. 
Hagee’s brand of Dispensationalism is called Christian Zionism. It virulently derides Historic Christianity (pejoratively branded Replacement Theology) as anti-Semitic; the evil force behind the Crusades, Inquisition and Holocaust.
In his book, In Defense of Israel, Hagee claims that Christ did not come to be the Jewish Messiah (p. 137). This is counter to everything taught in Scripture, but to be expected from a man who thinks like a Pharisee — linear, literal and lawful.
If the Jews knew what awaited them in the carnal kingdom to come — two-thirds of them will be killed — then they might reconsider their rejection of Messiah. No, the eternal kingdom has always been viewed by the Orthodoxy as the new heaven and new earth as described in Revelation 21. The Millennial age — where a day is like a thousand years — precedes the Second Advent of Christ. “Oh,” say the Dispy’s, “you’re spiritualizing the text.” Well, yes. And so did Jesus, Matthew, Peter, James and John who were all Jewish by the way.
Let me explain the millennium another way. Suppose I ask a woman to marry me and she says, “No! Not in a thousand years.” If I take her literally all I have to do is wait, and in 3016 she’ll say “yes”? If a thousand years is like a day then her answer tomorrow would still be “no”. It’s a figure of speech, and we do well to understand the Bible in the context of Jewish idioms and symbolism.
None of this matters if you are not right with God in Christ Jesus. We must have a discerning spirit to expose deception and false doctrine.
1. Julia Duin, San Antonio Fundamentalist Battles Anti-Semitism, The Houston Chronicle, 30 April 1988.
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