Home > Church Replacement Theology, dispensationalism, eschatology, Israel, premillennialism, rapture > The Differences Between Historic and Futurist Premillennialism

The Differences Between Historic and Futurist Premillennialism


In an online group someone recently asked, what are the main differences between historic premillennialism and futurist premillennialism?

Of course variations exist even within the term “historic premillennialism,” but here I am defining historic premillennialism as that view of many post-Reformation premillennialists: a view sometimes referred to as “covenantal premillennialism,” the perspective of those teachers from the Calvinist Covenant Theology background, yet who appealed to literal hermeneutics especially regarding the future for Israel and a future literal 1000 year kingdom of God upon the earth.  Names representing this view include 18th century preacher John Gill, plus 19th century preachers Horatius Bonar, J.C. Ryle, and Charles Spurgeon.  It is also worth noting  that the early church fathers were also “historic premillennial,” the original form, though not Covenantal — since Covenant Theology itself is a relatively recent development, from the 17th century.  Following are several  areas of difference between historic premillennialism and futurist premillennialism.

1) The theological covenants of Covenant Theology, or the biblical covenants of scripture? Historic premillennialism follows the theological covenants set forth in Covenant Theology, and is silent concerning the biblical covenants (Abrahamic, Davidic and New covenants). This comes out, for instance, in Spurgeon sermons talking about the covenant of grace, God’s grace to all the elect, or about the covenant made within the Triune Godhead.  J.C. Ryle, too, though very strongly premillennial with future for Israel, also taught the full understanding of Covenant Theology regarding infant baptism.

Futurist premillennialists emphasize the importance of the biblical covenants, especially the Abrahamic, Davidic and New Covenants, and all the promises in those covenants including the land promises.

2) The nature of the Church and Israel.  Historic premillennialism does not see a distinction between Israel and the Church, but one general category: the people of God, the church. Like futurist premillennialists, they do follow a generally literal hermeneutic in interpreting the OT prophecies as being about Israel, including Israel’s future regathering and their being returned to their land in connection with the Second Coming events and the future Millennial Kingdom — in great contrast to amillennial spiritualizing the Old Testament prophecies as being about the church age.  John MacArthur’s six-part series, “Why Every Calvinist is a Premillennialist,” addresses this aspect of historic premillennialism, the future for Israel. Barry Horner’s emphasis in Future Israel also fits in here. (Both MacArthur and Barry Horner, though, do teach the biblical covenants, point 1 above.) Historic premillennialist preachers will sometimes talk about “the Jewish church” or refer to examples from the Old Testament while talking about the church. As another example of literal interpretation but without the distinction between Israel and the Church, Spurgeon pictured Ezekiel’s temple as some type of church/worship structure that would exist during the Millennial Kingdom.

Futurist premillennialism sees a greater distinction between the Church and Israel, that the Church began in Acts 2.  Several other teachings flow out of this difference.  Ezekiel’s temple will be a structure specifically for the people of Israel.  The Day of the Lord/Great Tribulation/Jacob’s trouble is something specifically for Daniel’s people — Daniel’s 70th week.  The millennial kingdom includes Israel’s prominence: the people of Israel’s role in going out and being a blessing to the world, as pictured in the Old Testament prophecies about people from the Gentile nations coming to Jerusalem with their gifts and offerings.

3) Are the events of Revelation future, or past/present?  Historic premillennialism generally sees the events in Rev. 6-18 as unfolding throughout history in a general way — such as identifying “Babylon” as the Catholic Church and applying the texts symbolically to events happening during this the church age. Also note, the term “futurist” can apply to any millennial view, as described in this previous article.

Futurist premillennialism sees these events as future, taking place during the last seven years (Daniel’s 70th week) before Christ returns.

4) The purpose for the millennial kingdom: both historic and futurist premillenialism recognize one of the purposes for the millennial kingdom, as the final test of man.  With all conditions perfect, even Christ ruling on the earth, man still rebels at the end, showing man’s complete inability — and all the more glory to God.  Futurist premillennialism recognizes the above purpose for the millennial kingdom, but goes beyond it to add another purpose: the biblical covenant promises yet to be fulfilled to Israel.

Futurist Premillennialism recognizes the above purpose for the millennial kingdom, but goes beyond it to add another purpose: the biblical covenant promises yet to be fulfilled to Israel.  Reference FP’s distinction in point 2 above: Israel’s prominence in the future kingdom of God upon the earth.

5) Historic premillennialism has a post-trib rapture timing, and generally very little, if any, said about the rapture or the Great Tribulation events (reference point 2 above). Within Futurist Premillennialism, the pre-trib rapture is not the most important feature (and not an essential), but is part of the overall teaching and sequence of future events.

Advertisements
  1. Mike Vlach
    August 24, 2013 at 8:38 am

    This is an excellent summary!

    • August 24, 2013 at 9:15 am

      Thanks, Dr. Vlach!

  2. October 25, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    I am a Southern Baptist and once held the Pretribulational view of Premillennialism. I now reject that view as grossly unbiblical. One probably has to do with the Israel of God and the Church. In my opinion, Galatians 6:16 teaches that the Church is the Israel of God. Romans 10:12 teaches that Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) are this new Israel. When I read the Book of Revelation, it appears that most of the events have already happened; Revelation 20-22 refer to the Second Advent, the millennium that is future, and God’s eternal kingdom in the form of a new heaven and new earth. This is how I believe. Partial Preterist Historic Premillennialism is the way.

    Charles E. Miller, Jr. BA, MAR

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: