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Millennial Positions and Revelation Interpretive Views

August 22, 2011 6 comments

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.

Popular Christian Slang Terminology: Pan-Trib and Pan-Mill

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

A popular slang term among Christians of recent years is “pan-” plus something, as in “I don’t understand all this, and don’t need to understand it, but it’ll all pan out.”  Two of these “pan-” terms refer to views on eschatology:  pan-trib and pan-mill.  I first heard the term “pan-millennial” from Christians in Reformed circles, whose only consideration of eschatology had been the presentations of equally confused (regarding the subject) Reformed preachers.  Like so many others, they remain content in that area of “pious agnosticism,” and now they even have a label to attach to their belief — a name that means they don’t know what they believe.

I first heard the term “pan-trib” used with a very specific meaning:  someone who is undecided concerning the timing of the rapture.  This came from an audio sermon a year or so back; the preacher and that church affirm futurist premillennialism.  The preacher explained the different rapture views (pre-, mid- and post) and the different strengths and weaknesses, from scripture, of each view, before finally admitting that he was “pan-trib” in that he could not decide from scripture the precise timing of the rapture.

Since then, however, I have heard the term “pan-trib” used by laypeople, to apparently mean the same thing as “pan-mill.”  (Actually, I have not personally known anyone to use that term, but have seen it mentioned by others at online blogs and message boards.)  Evidently these are individuals who are not even aware of the different millennial views, but have heard terms such as “rapture” and “tribulation” and so express their pious agnosticism in the simpler wording “pan-trib.”  A brief googling of the two terms on the Internet shows more references to the term “pan-millennial,” though a few message-board type sites list references to “pan-trib.”

Though both terms (as broadly defined) are excuses for a lazy approach to scripture, I would hold to the distinction in terminology and agree with the “pan-trib” definition used by the premillennial pastor uncertain of the rapture timing.  As with everything, of course, when someone throws out a term such as this, we need to clarify and ask them what they mean by that particular term.

As I have mentioned many times before, it really does matter what you believe, and God gave us all 66 books of the Bible to tell us these things.  The very book name, Revelation, suggests this is something God has revealed to us, and yet strangely too many Christians turn it into the great Concealment instead.