Premillenialism: Not A One-Text Revelation 20 Doctrine


A common claim of amillennialists is that the millennial kingdom is only mentioned in one passage, and a highly symbolic one at that—therefore we can disregard it.  In my early years in a Reformed church (when I knew nothing about any kind of millennialism) I specifically heard that claim from the teachers there.  At a friend’s church, the amillennial pastor apparently reasons thus in his rejection of premillennialism, even as he claimed that “many premillennial people” now admit that Revelation is not sequential—a claim neither I nor any of my premillennial friends is aware of; I don’t know where he got that idea—as though the idea of Revelation being non-sequential disproves premillennialism. George Ladd, mentioned in this recent post, was a one-text premillennialist.  His approach was similar to amillennialism, interpreting and spiritualizing the Old Testament prophecies as about the church; yet he felt compelled to acknowledge the literal meaning of Revelation 20.

But those who are honest (and more familiar with the word of God) recognize that the idea of a future kingdom of God upon the Earth is taught throughout the Old Testament.  Revelation 20 is the only passage to tell us the length of that kingdom, but many other passages convey the fact of that kingdom.  Even noted amillennialists and postmillennialists have admitted as much, as for instance in these quotes from Floyd Hamilton, O.T. Allis, and Loraine Boettner:

Hamilton:  “Now we must frankly admit that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies gives us just such a picture of an early reign of the Messiah as the pre-millennists pictures. That was the kind of Messianic kingdom that the Jews of the time of Christ were looking for, on the basis of a literal interpretation of the Old Testament promises.”

Allis: the Old Testament prophecies if literally interpreted cannot be regarded as having been yet fulfilled or as being capable of fulfillment in this present age.

 Boettner:  “It’s generally agreed that if the prophesies are to be taken literally they do foretell a restoration of the nation of Israel with Palestine with the Jews having a prominent place in the kingdom and ruling over the other nations.”

A quick perusal of the Old Testament brings to mind many passages (including, though not an exhaustive list, Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 60; Isaiah 65; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:21-27; Ezekiel 40-48; Daniel 2:44; Micah 4:1-8; Haggai 2:6-9; Zechariah 14; plus many of the Psalms) which describe the Lord God ruling over the people, reigning from Jerusalem, the nations coming to worship and bringing their treasures to Jerusalem, and Israel having a prominent position.  Old Testament passages describe conditions that do not exist in this age – a renewed Earth which is characterized by unusual life spans only previously found in the antediluvian age, animals at peace (the Edenic curse reversed), and yet people who still sin and thus are in need of government, including the rod of iron mentioned in Psalm 2; “with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth” (Isaiah 11:4).

The New Testament also references such a kingdom, as for example in Luke 1:31-33, Acts 3:19-21, and Matthew 25:31-46.  Matthew 19:28 and 2 Timothy 2:12 mention the apostles and the saints sharing in that reign with the Lord.

S. Lewis Johnson often summed up the truth of the matter, as for instance in this lesson:

the doctrine of the kingdom of God upon the earth does not depend upon one text of Scripture.  The length of the kingdom as one thousand years does depend upon that statement made in Revelation chapter 20.  But I also commented upon the fact that there were six references to the term “one thousand years” in that one chapter.  So it is not fair, not correct to say, that there is only one mention of the length of the time of the kingdom.  And it is gross ignorance to claim that the doctrine of the kingdom of God upon the earth depends upon one passage, Revelation chapter 20.  That passage has to do with the length of the kingdom, but it’s not the only passage that has to do with the fact of the kingdom.  There are many passages throughout the Old Testament that let us know that there is going to be a kingdom of God upon the earth… the idea of a kingdom of God upon the earth is taught from the book of Genesis all the way through the Old Testament, and then is picked up by our Lord in the New Testament.

And finally, from Charles Feinberg in his Millennialism:

“To claim that the ‘strongest’ objection to millennialism is that it is found in a single passage of Scripture is incredible. How many passages of Scripture are required before a doctrine can claim biblical ground? What Ladd, and all amillennialists, try to say is that the duration of the Millennium is stated in one passage. What of the crucial passage in 1 Corinthians 15:23-26, which demolishes completely their contention? Would they say Armageddon is found only in Revelation 16:12-16, because it is the only place where the war is named? Then what of Revelation 19:17-19?”

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