Problems with Premillennialism

New Jerusalem

One very common idea in the denominational world is the doctrine of Premillennialism. The prefix “pre” means before. The second part of the word – “millennial” – refers to the thousand year reign of Christ. The doctrine of Premillennialism states that Christ will one day return and reign on earth for a thousand years before the final judgment and that we are living in the time before this period.

There are a few variations of this doctrine. These variations usually have to do with the timing of the “tribulation” and the “rapture.” But all the variations have one thing in common – the belief that Jesus will come again to establish His kingdom and reign for a thousand years.

There are several problems with this doctrine when we compare it with what the word of God teaches. Let us notice some of these problems:

Premillennialism teaches that Jesus failed – This is the most fundamental and grievous problem with the doctrine. According to the doctrine of Premillennialism, the reason why Jesus is going to return to establish His kingdom is because He was unable to do so the first time He came because the Jews rejected Him.

First of all, Jesus was God in the flesh (Colossians 2:9; John 1:1, 14). Will the premillennialist say that God can fail? If this were the case, what reasonable hope would we have that God could save us? More to this point, what confidence do people have that Jesus will be successful in establishing a kingdom the second time? After all, if He failed once, He could fail again.

Secondly, if Jesus wanted to establish a physical kingdom, He would have. At one point Jesus had five thousand men ready to “take Him by force to make Him king” (John 6:15). In addition to this, He also had the authority to call down “more than twelve legions of angels” (Matthew 26:53). He had an army ready to fight for Him if that was His plan. But it was not. Jesus did not fail to establish a physical kingdom because this was not even His intention.

Premillennialism teaches that the church was an afterthought – Since Jesus failed to establish the kingdom (as Premillennialists believe), He established the church in its place. According to the theory, the church was not part of the original plan; it was an afterthought. However, Paul said the church was not an afterthought but was part of God’s “eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ” (Ephesians 3:10-11). If God’s eternal purpose was for Jesus to establish a physical kingdom, then Jesus did not carry it out. If His eternal purpose was to establish the church, then Jesus did accomplish this. Whatever God’s eternal purpose was, that is what Jesus did.

The establishment of the church corresponded with divine prophecy, indicating that it was certainly not an afterthought. Peter, in explaining the events that occurred on the day of Pentecost, quoted Old Testament prophecy: “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). According to Joel, these events would also mark the time when “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21). This salvation resulted in people being added by God to the church (Acts 2:47). The church was no afterthought. It was part of God’s plan all along.

Premillennialism teaches that there is a distinction between the church and the kingdom – To the premillennialist, the kingdom is yet in the future while the church is here today. They are not the same thing. But Jesus taught something different. He used the terms “church” and “kingdom” interchangeably (Matthew 16:18-19). Many are making a distinction that Jesus simply did not make.

When we read of the establishment of the church in Acts 2, we are also reading of the establishment of the kingdom. Jesus told His disciples that some of them would see the coming of the kingdom and that it would come with power (Mark 9:1). Before His ascension, He told the remaining disciples that the power would come with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit came upon them on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). This announced the time of the kingdom’s arrival. As we read through the book of Acts, we see this kingdom referred to as the church.

Premillennialism teaches that some Bible prophecies failed – This is another problem that brings severe consequences. If Jesus did not establish His kingdom when He came the first time, then not only did Jesus fail, but the word of God in prophecy failed. After all, the kingdom was foretold of in prophecy (Isaiah 2:2-4; 2 Samuel 7:12-13).

Daniel even gave a time frame for the coming of the kingdom: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44). From the interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, this was clearly referring to the Roman empire. This empire was in power in the first century. John the Baptist and Jesus both taught, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). These prophecies declare the kingdom was near in the early first century. But according to premillennialism, we are still waiting for the kingdom two thousand years later.

The Israelites were told to reject the words of a prophet who prophesied wrongly (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). If the kingdom was not established in the first part of the first century, then we should not listen to the Old Testament prophets or even to Jesus Himself. How can we accept any of the Bible, if these things did not come to pass?

Premillennialism is based on a literal interpretation of symbolic language – A lot of the passages used to defend Premillennialism are ones that are full of symbolic language. Books like Revelation and Ezekiel are favorites for the Premillennialists.

The passage in Revelation that mentions the thousand year reign of Christ also talks about the beast that men worshipped and the marks on their foreheads. Was this a literal beast or literal marks on their foreheads? No. This was symbolism. Yet when the same verses mention Christ reigning for a thousand years, that part must be literal? Symbolic passages are used to defend this doctrine and historical and literal passages – like the ones mentioned in previous points – are ignored. Those who teach this theory are guilty of twisting and distorting the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16).

Premillennialism misinterprets the nature of the kingdom – Premillennialists believe that the kingdom of God is physical in nature. They are waiting for Christ to come back to earth to establish His throne in Jerusalem and rule over the nations.

This concept is not new. The Jews in Jesus’ day had this same idea. Some were willing to “take Him by force and make Him king” (John 6:15), showing the notion they had of a physical kingdom. It seems that Jesus’ own disciples were influenced by this thinking. Before His ascension, they asked Him, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Premillennialists, believing the kingdom is physical, are still waiting for the kingdom to be restored. But Jesus plainly told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). The kingdom is not physical in nature, but rather is a spiritual kingdom.

Premillennialism teaches that we are looking forward to a future kingdom – Again, the very name of this doctrine teaches that we are living in the time before (pre) the thousand year reign of Christ (millennial). But the Bible clearly teaches that the kingdom is already in existence. Paul told the brethren in Colossae, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). These brethren living in the first century – even before the destruction of Jerusalem – had been “transferred” (past tense) into the kingdom. The implication is that the kingdom had to be in existence at this point. Other passages we have looked at show that the kingdom was established on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

We do not need to look forward to Christ’s kingdom. Instead, we need to be a part of it now and serve God faithfully in it all the days of our life.

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