want to give a very basic definition of the two major eschatological
beliefs systems that reside on the Pre-Millennial side of
the doctrinal fence--Classic or Historic Pre-Millennialism
and Dispensational Pre-Millennialism. This site teaches the Classic Pre-Millennial
definition, simply because that is where the majority of
believers who are on this side of the eschatological fence
reside. One such
denomination is the Baptists, who make up a sizeable portion
of Pre-Millennialists. This
paper in no way discriminates or teaches against the Dispensational
interpretations, but as it would prove confusing to teach
two separate interpretations, I stick with the Classic or
Historical interpretation, the one that has the most adherents. But I will here give the basic definition of
each, and present a chart showing how the Dispensational
side interprets end-time events.
This website does not in any way disparage or discourage
the Dispensational interpretation, and if that is your church
or denomination's belief system, I will provide links that
offer quality resources that teach the Dispensational interpretation
of prophecy. So here goes:
Premillennialism (Historic or Classical, which also
means non-Dispensational). The belief that Jesus Christ will return to
earth (personally and bodily) to defeat the forces of evil
and establish the millennium (a literal thousand years).
During this time, Christ and the saints will reign
from Jerusalem and the earth will be filled with holiness,
justice, peace and prosperity. They believe the tribulation will last for three
and one half years, as depicted in Revelation 12:14 and
chapters 13 & 17, and that all the saints that have
lived and died before will be resurrected to immortality
at the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ, while those
yet alive will be changed to their immortal bodies, and
all will rise to meet the Lord in the air as he descends
back to earth to defeat the forces of evil (1 Corinthians
15:49-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; Zechariah 14:1-15; Revelation
19:1-24; 20:4,6). This
was the dominant understanding of prophecy during the first
three centuries of the Christian church.
Some early church fathers who held this view were
Papias, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Lactantius. Many modern day Baptists, some Presbyterians,
Seventh-Day Advantists, Jehovah's Witnesses (with their
own unique belief system), almost all fundamentalists (across
denominational lines) and various Seventh-day Sabbatarian
groups hold this view. Numerically,
the largest number of people on the pre-millennial side
hold this view, denominationally speaking.
the Classical or Historic Pre-millennial explanation of
"the Place of Safety" doctrine CLICK
Dispensational Premillennialism: Just like
the Classic premillennialists, they believe in a literal
thousand-year reign of Christ.
They differ on the details of what will precede Christ's
return and what role the church will play in the end times.
Dispensationalists hold that Christ's coming will
take place in two stages. He will come for his church
rapture) and then with his church (his final revelation and appearance). These events
will be separated by a seven-year tribulation. They take three positions on the rapture: 1) pretribulationists: say that Christ will come for his saints; afterward
he will come with his saints.
Christ will rapture the church (they will disappear
from earth and be with Christ in heaven until the 2nd
coming to stop World War III and rule over the earth).
Thus the saints will be protected during the seven
years of the tribulation because they will be in heaven
while all hell breaks lose on earth.
posttribulationist: the church remains on the earth
for the seven years of the tribulation.
Believers won't be raptured until after the tribulation
ends. 3) midtribulationists: it is thought that the church will go through the
less severe part (usually the first half, or three-and-a-half
years) of the tribulation, but then will be miraculously
removed (translated) from the world.
It will suffer persecution during the first part
of the tribulation, but it will be removed when God's wrath
is poured out on a wicked and unrepentant world.
be noted that some believe that there will be a partial
rapture of only those believers who are actively watching
and waiting for the Lord's return.
They will be found worthy to escape the terrors of
the tribulation by being taken up into heaven. After this first rapture there will be a series
of raptures, some during the tribulation, and some after
(for those who were not quite mature as believers and who
needed trial by fire). Dispensationalism
is fairly new eschatological interpretation, and arose in
the 19th century primarily under the influence
and teachings of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882).
It spread to America through Bible prophecy conferences
and the Scofield Reference Bible (which has sold millions
of copies). A leading
seminary that teaches dispensationalism is Dallas Theological
Seminary (which was founded in 1934).
Those who hold this view make a distinction between
Israel and the church, which causes them to maintain steadfastly
their position that God will fulfill his promises to Abraham
through the Jews (Classic Pre-Millennialists also maintain
this same view). Thus
they reject the belief held by amillennialists that the
church is the new Israel. They express a great interest in the Jews because
they think the Jews will play a prominent role in end-time
Jews, it is held (by both Classic and Dispensational sides)
will be converted and accept Christ as their Messiah near
the end. [This is
already starting to occur.
Be sure to log onto http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/messianicmovement/twobranches.htm and read the articles in this section which
show what the Lord has been miraculously doing over the
past thirty or so years.]
It might be added here that Classical pre-millennialist's
hold the same or similar views about the Jews and that God
will fulfill his promises to Abraham through them and the
nation of Israel during the Millennium--this is not just
a Dispensational position, but generally includes all Pre-Millennialists.
used in preparing this short sketch:
Bray, Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present (1996)
Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism
J. Erickson, Christian Theology (1985)
House, Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine (1992)
Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (1980)
C. Ryrie, Basic Theology
links for those seeking teaching on the Dispensational interpretation
of end-time prophecy: Koinonia House:
Oakland's ministry, called "Understanding the Times", phone:
Smith's four cassette series "END TIMES, World Events &
The Return of Jesus Christ".
Available by calling 1-800-272-WORD or online at:
. Click on "Product",
then on "Pastor Chuck Smith's Materials", and then on "Audio
Tapes", then on "Specially designed tape packs to encourage
and stimulate spiritual growth", scroll down to "END TIMES,
World Events & The Return of Jesus Christ."
read two sermon transcripts giving the Dispensational explanation
of the Rapture CLICK
HERE FOR DISPENSATIONAL CHART
to continue to read the rest of this introduction for an
interesting article written by Koinonia
House's Chuck Missler about the dangers
of the Amillennial interpretation of prophecy.
(Then if you are of the Dispensation persuasion,
for further studies be sure to order the resources above.)