Home > amillennialism, eschatology, hermeneutics, premillennialism, preterism > Millennial Positions and Revelation Interpretive Views

Millennial Positions and Revelation Interpretive Views


From online discussion with fellow Calvinist-Dispensationalists, I have noticed a common point of confusion concerning the millennial positions and the differing interpretations of Revelation.  Often, for instance, it is assumed that amillennialism by definition includes preterist belief, or that only premillennials are futurists.  Further confusion comes when they talk to particular amillennialists and get differing answers regarding the preterist issue.

So for a basic explanation:  preterist/historicist/futu​rist is a different “column” of criteria from the millennial choices premillennial, post-millennial or amillennial.  The time-reference choice refers to one’s interpretation of Revelation:  are the events described in Revelation 4-20 past (preterist), present church age (historicist), or future (futurist)?  Or are the events of Revelation merely symbolic (spiritualized) of general truth about good and evil, with no specific reference (idealist)?  In the idealist view, Revelation becomes a book with “symbols of nothing.”

These two groupings can be combined in various ways (though some combinations are more common than others): one of the millennial choices, and one of the time-reference choices. Historicist amillennialists include the Reformers, with their idea that the prophetic events of Revelation refer to things going on during the church age. The “pope is antiChrist” and Rome is Babylon comes from that historicist view. Futurist amillennialists (less common but they are out there) see the events of Revelation as future, that those events will occur in the future before Christ returns and brings the resurrection and Eternal State.

Thus, the term “futurist” by itself does not mean only dispensational or premillennial.  A “futurist premillennial” believes that the events of Revelation will take place during the future Great Tribulation, and believes in a future literal thousand year kingdom.  An amillennial futurist, on the other hand, would not believe in the future literal kingdom, but would affirm that the events in Revelation will take place in the future, in the years just before Christ returns.  See this page from an online message board, where someone defines himself as Amillennial futurist and gives his idea of the sequence of future events.  A good way to understand premillennialism and futurism is that all premillennialists are futurists–but not all futurists are premillennial.

Here is a simple table showing the possible combinations:

Probably the majority of amillennialists today are preterist or idealist, but I wouldn’t know percentages. Yet futurist and historicist amillennialists also exist.  Postmillennialists often are preterist, but could be historicist or even idealist, but generally not futurist since they think the future is better, not worse, and the events in Revelation simply don’t agree with that future scenario.  Premillennial and futurist generally go together, though some premillennialists have a mixture of historicist and futurist.

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  1. Brent
    October 5, 2014 at 11:24 am

    I appreciate your article, especially the table. It inspired me to attempted to take the table a step further, and I am wondering if it is correct? The reply box will not let me past a table:

    Amillennialist Preterist/Partial Preterist (fulfilled)
    Rev. 1-19 Past,
    Rev. 20 Present,
    Rev. 21-22 Future

    Amillennialist Historicist (being fulfilled throughout the church age)
    Rev. 1-20 Present,
    Rev. 21-22 Future

    Amillennialist Idealist (parable)
    Rev. 1-20 Present,
    Rev. 21-22 Future

    Amillennialist Futurist (yet to be fulfilled)
    Rev. 1-3 Past,
    Rev. 20 Present,
    Rev. 4-19, 21-22 Future

    Postmillennialist Preterist/Partial Preterist (fulfilled)
    Rev. 1-19 Past,
    Rev. 20-22 Future

    Postmillennialist Historicist (being fulfilled throughout the church age)
    Rev. 1-19 Present ,
    Rev. 20 Present/Future?,
    Rev. 21-22 Future

    Postmillennialist Idealist (parable)
    Rev. 1-19 Present,
    Rev. 20 Present/Future?,
    Rev. 21-22 Future

    Postmillennialist Futurist (yet to be fulfilled)
    Rev. 1-3 Past,
    Rev. 20 Present/Future?,
    Rev. 4-19, 21-22 Future

    Premillennialist Preterist/Partial Preterist (fulfilled)
    Rev. 1-19 Past,
    Rev. 20-22 Future

    Premillennialist Historicist (being fulfilled throughout the church age)
    Rev. 1-19 Present,
    Rev. 20-22 Future

    Premillennialist Idealist (parable)
    Rev. 1-19 Present,
    Rev. 20-22 Future

    Premillennialist Futurist (yet to be fulfilled)
    Rev. 1-3 Past,
    Rev. 4-22 Future

    • October 6, 2014 at 7:10 am

      Thanks, and yes, that looks correct in reference to all the millennial and timeline views.

  2. Phil Layton
    October 20, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Would it not be possible to be an idealist and premil? ? Schreiner seems lik one who agrees much with Amil / idealist. on Rev 6-19 but historic premil. on. Rev 20? I also heard. John Gill was preterist. on. Mt. 24

    • October 21, 2014 at 6:45 am

      Thanks, and yes, that is another possible combination, idealist-premill, though I wasn’t familiar with it. And I have read that about John Gill, that he interpreted Matthew 24 as about the destruction of Jerusalem, so an unusual variation on premillennialism with some preterism.

    • November 18, 2014 at 11:15 am

      John Gill did interpret Matthew 24 and Daniel 9:24-27 from a preterist perspective, which is very similar to J. Barton Payne. The latter published a dynamic and oft-quoted, little book called The Imminent Appearing of Christ in 1962. In this book, Payne highlights what he believes to be the exegetical flaws and practical concerns with advocating for a strict futurist view of end-times prophecy. His views are an unusual mix of preterism, historicism, and a dash of futurism for someone known to be a formidable, proponent of classic or historic premillennialism.

      Payne interacts with several scholars who were his contemporaries throughout his book such as John Walvoord, J. Dwight Pentecost, Charles Ryrie, and George Ladd. After finishing the book, I began to wonder if Dr. Tom Schreiner and Jim Hamilton (both are colleagues at Southern Seminary) found some of Payne’s ideas attractive and worth integrating into their own eschatology. One more thing, Payne’s book handles the second coming and “rapture” passages in a scholarly way that requires one to have his or her bible handy in addition to an online tool at the ready such as bible hub or blue letter bible.

      • November 18, 2014 at 11:34 am

        Thanks for that info, interesting about the history of that premillennial-preterist/historicist idea. That would explain the connection with Tom Schreiner’s and Jim Hamilton’s views as well. In reading some of Hamilton over the last year I learned that he takes a historicist view of Revelation, which is a less common premillennial view. From what I understand, the historicist view (from the early Protestants) hasn’t been that prominent a view since the early 20th century, after futurism developed in the early 19th century.

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