Historic Pre-Millennialism

While many Preterists, Amillennialists and Post-millennialists, etc., appreciate my opposition to a “Pre-Trib Rapture” theology, they still complain about my “Pre-Millennial” position, concerning the Return of Christ. My answer to their complaint is this— “Revelation chapter 20 forces me to believe in a literal,1,000 year reign with Christ—AFTER His return for His own. While there certainly have been false doctrines & interpretations about the “Millennium”, I still believe that the source of Biblical “Millennial” teaching began with the Apostle John, in Revelation 20, and there’s no need to abandon his inspired words… If one could erase Revelation 20 from the Bible, then I might agree with them— but, one cannot do that!”  ~ Pastor Matt Furse

{NOTE: Had I written the following article, myself, I would have reworded a few phrases– yet, overall, it is well-written, and I am in basic agreement with the entire concept of what Mr. Finn is explaining.}

Why I Am a Historic Premillennialist

by Nathan A. Finn

I affirm historic premillennialism, sometimes also called classical premillennialism. Like all premillennialists, I believe the Bible teaches a future period of tribulation when the Antichrist will unite the nations under a satanic false religion and persecute the faithful. At the end of the tribulation, Jesus Christ will return to earth, defeat the Antichrist and his allies, and bind Satan. Christ and His saints will then reign on earth for a thousand years. This “millennium” is a foretaste of the eternal new creation that will commence following the final rebellion, the ultimate defeat of Satan, and the last judgment.

Historic premillennialists reject two ideas that are popular among many modern premillennialists. First, we do not believe the Bible teaches a sharp distinction between Israel and the Church. All believers from all the ages are part of the one spiritual “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). Second, we do not believe the Scriptures teach that God will remove the Church prior to the tribulation so that He can resume a unique saving work among the Jews, an idea that presupposes erroneous overemphasis on discontinuity between Israel and the Church. The “rapture” is part of the second coming—the saints on earth will meet Jesus in the air as He returns with the heavenly saints to conquer the Antichrist and establish His millennial rule (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).

I hold to historic premillennialism for two key reasons. First, I believe it accurately reflects the “one people of God” theme found throughout the entire biblical canon. From Genesis to Revelation, we see a picture of a God who is on mission to rescue sinners from every tribe, tongue, and nation through the perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. Under the old covenant, His redemptive purposes centered upon Israel, but always with a view toward the nations. After calling Abraham out of the land of Ur, the Lord promised to make him a great nation and ultimately to bless all the peoples of the earth through him (Genesis 12:1–3). Israel was specially called by the Lord to covenant with Him and testify to His rule, even during its own exile due to covenant unfaithfulness (Exodus 19:4–6; Psalm 67; Isaiah 40–55).

God’s initial promises to Abraham and Israel found their fulfillment in the saving work of Jesus Christ, the Seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16). Jesus commissioned His followers to proclaim the good news of redemption to all nations (Matthew 28:18–20; Acts 1:8). This Gospel will be successfully preached to and embraced by people from every ethnic group on earth (Revelation 5:9; 7:9–10; 14:6). Under the new covenant, Gentiles have been grafted into the spiritual Israel, and though ethnic Israel has been temporarily hardened, before God is finished “all Israel”—spiritual and physical—will be saved (Romans 11:17–26).

Second, historic premillennialism seems to reflect the most natural reading of Revelation. In the narrative of the book, Revelation 20:4–6 represents a climactic moment during John’s vision. Rather than representing a spiritual reign taking place now among believers—though Christ surely presently rules in the lives of His people—the millennium is depicted as a historical, visible moment in history that follows the tribulation and comes before the final judgment. It is an interlude during which time Christ will visibly rule the entire earth and subdue all His enemies (Psalm 110; 1 Corinthians 15:24–28; Philippians 2:10–11).

Though the millennium follows the tribulation in Revelation, it does not follow a secret rapture. At no point in the book of Revelation are any of God’s people removed from the earth—unless they are martyred. In John’s vision, the martyrs are in heaven, where they watch the events transpiring on earth and long for Christ to return and avenge their deaths, defeat their enemies, and commence His rule (Revelation 6:9–10). The martyrs are told to rest until the full number of those who are to be martyred is completed (Revelation 6:11). Rather than being promised an exit from tribulation via the rapture, God’s people are called to endure in authentic faith in the midst of persecution and even martyrdom with the promise that they will be raised from the dead and reign with Christ (Revelation 2:26–27; 3:21; 20:4).

I believe it is no coincidence that most of the earliest church fathers such as Papias (60–130), Justin Martyr (100–165), Irenaeus (130–202), and Tertullian (160–225) affirmed historic premillennialism. This view best reflects God’s singular plan of salvation and the narrative of the book of Revelation itself. Historic Premillennialism offers a hopeful vision to Christians facing persecution and all believers who long for the visible reign of Christ alongside His ransomed people and before His conquered enemies. Maranatha!

Nathan A. Finn is associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a member of First Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina.


(Accessed 2021)

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*Author’s Note: I do not know Mr. Finn, nor am I endorsing all of what he may do, believe, or teach.