1. The Premillennial View: Christ Initiates His 1,000 Reign

By James M. Rochford

The premillennial perspective holds that God originally worked through the nation of Israel until he established the Church at Pentecost (Acts 2). Now that God is working through the Church, he is not currently working through the nation of Israel. However, at the end of history, God will once again work through Israel. Premillennials refer to the Church Age as a “parentheses” in God’s plan: first Israel, then the Church, then Israel again. After Christ’s Second Coming, he will inaugurate a literal kingdom on Earth in Israel for 1,000 years. At the end of the 1,000 years, Christ will defeat Satan and inaugurate the New Heavens and New Earth. We might define this view in comparison to the others below:

Millennial Views





Historical Premillennial

The Millennium

A literal 1,000 year period

A figurative number

A figurative number

A literal 1,000 year period

Christ’s Reign

Reigns literally in a kingdom on Earth after his Second Coming

Reigns spiritually on a heavenly throne or reigns spiritually in the hearts of believers

Reigns spiritually in the hearts of believers, as the gospel transforms the nations of the Earth

Reigns literally in a kingdom on Earth after his Second Coming


Christ reigns in Israel over a regathered Israel

The Church replaces the promises given to national Israel

The Church replaces the promises given to national Israel

The Church replaces the promises given to national Israel

View of Human History

Believes human history will get progressively worse, as the gospel reaches all nations

Believes human history will get progressively worse, as the gospel reaches all nations

Believes that human history will get progressively better. The nations will eventually be transformed by Christ’s reign over society

Believes human history will get progressively worse, as the gospel reaches all nations

There are a number of reasons for holding to this premillennial view:

ARGUMENT #1: If we do not assume a literal interpretation for interpreting Scripture, it leads to speculation, which places the interpreter in authority “over” the text.[1]

This argument does not prove that we should interpret these prophecies literally—merely that we should assume a literal interpretation unless the text indicates otherwise. Paul Benware writes, “It is essential, therefore, to have this literal mind-set as we approach the prophetic Word of God. Without it there is no reliable check on an interpretation, and the interpreter becomes the final authority… the text becomes putty in the hand of the interpreter.”[2] Often, those who assume an allegorical interpretation are so subjective that it is difficult to see whether the interpretation came from the Bible or from the mind of the interpreter.

For instance, Matthew Henry interpreted the prophecy of Zechariah 14 to refer to the Church Age. He writes that the “great mountain” is the “way of the Jews’ conversion,” and “the valley of the mountains is the gospel-church, to which there were added of the Jews daily such as should be saved, who fled to that valley as to their refuge.”[3] Of course, nothing in the text itself would guide us toward this wild interpretation.

Today, most amillennial interpreters would not be this loose with the text. Instead, they would argue that we can’t really know for sure what this text describes. However, this leaves vast portions of scripture virtually unintelligible and therefore useless. As postmillennial Loraine Boettner admits, “A whole continent of prophecies [are left] unexplained, many of which then become quite meaningless.”[4]

ARGUMENT #2: If we applied a non-literal or “spiritual” hermeneutic to other doctrines of Scripture, we would be openly heretical.

Just imagine if we held an allegorical interpretation in the areas of soteriology (the study of salvation) or ecclesiology (the study of the Church) or Christology (the study of Christ). If we held to an allegorical interpretation in any of these areas of theology, we would rightly be called heretical. For instance, imagine if a Christian stated that they found Jesus’ resurrection account to be figuratively interpreted to mean that Jesus “rose in our hearts” but not in reality. This would preclude them from core Christian faith (1 Cor. 15:12-19). Similarly, we believe eschatology should have the same hermeneutical consistency as any other any of theology.

ARGUMENT #3: The OT authors assumed a literal interpretation.

Since God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18; Titus 1:2), we believe that these prophecies will be fulfilled literally. We shouldn’t expect these promises to be fulfilled figuratively, especially when we consider the language that is used. Consider a few passages:

(Jer. 31:35-37) “This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the LORD Almighty is his name: 36Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the LORD, “will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.” 37This is what the LORD says: “Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,” declares the LORD.”

Here, the author compares God’s promises to Israel with the existence of the moon and stars in the sky. This doesn’t look like figurative language. Consider another example. Isaiah writes, “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. 10 Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” (Isa. 54:9-10; c.f. Ezek. 36:22-38; 37:1-14; 39:28-29; Joel 2:28-3:21). Likewise, Jeremiah predicted that the Jews would have a 70 year exile (Jer. 25:11-12; c.f. Ezra 1:1), and in Daniel 9:1-2, Daniel interpreted this literally. He didn’t believe that Jeremiah’s prediction was figurative or allegorical.

Other portions of prophecy compare future historical events to past historical events. For instance, consider Zechariah’s prediction:

(Zech. 14:5) You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!

If this future event is figurative, then why does Zechariah compare it with a literal past event (Amos 1:1)? This literal, historical past event implies a literal, historical future event.

Consider a final example of the inconsistency in taking an allegorical or spiritual view of OT prophecy. Amillennial and postmillennial interpreters argue that Psalm 2:7 (“You are My Son, today I have begotten you”) refers to Jesus’ spiritual kingdom on Earth, because Peter interpreted this passage to refer to Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 13:33). Postmillennial Kenneth Gentry writes, “The word ‘today’ suggest a formal moment at which the title becomes associated with the new Ruler. Rather than occurring at Christ’s Second Advent, as many assume, the New Testament relates it once again to the first century—at the exaltation of Christ, beginning with his resurrection.”[5]

However, when we read the rest of the psalm, we see that the Messiah will “break them with a rod of iron” and “shatter them like earthenware” (v.9). Amillennials and postmillennials are forced to interpret this language to refer to the peaceful spreading of the gospel through the Earth! But this just simply doesn’t honestly fit with the language of the passage.

ARGUMENT #4: The NT authors assumed a literal interpretation for these OT predictions.

Consider several examples:

(Acts 1:6-7) So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.”

This passage implies that God will eventually get back with the nation of Israel. Jesus could have said, “Restoring the kingdom… to Israel? Guys, don’t you realize that we’re in a spiritual kingdom now? The Church has replaced Israel!” But instead, Jesus implied that God would eventually do this, but they couldn’t know the timing.

(Rom. 9:3-5) For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Note the present tense in these verses. Paul does not say that the ethnic Jews had the promises or covenants; he says that that still do have them.

(Rom. 11:25-29) For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 ‘This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’ 28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Paul explains that God will eventually get back with the ethnic nation of Israel, because “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

(Lk. 21:24) They will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Jesus explains that the Jews will retake the city of Jerusalem.

(Mt. 20:20-23) Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” 22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”

Jesus doesn’t imply that the physical kingdom is an illusion. Instead, he said that God is the one who places someone in authority.

ARGUMENT #5: If we do not assume a literal interpretation, we have a double standard concerning Jesus’ First and Second Coming.

Because Jesus’ First Coming was literally fulfilled, we believe that the passages concerning his Second Coming will be literally fulfilled, too. It would be a double standard to believe that Jesus’ First Coming was literally predicted, but his Second Coming was figuratively predicted. For instance, Micah predicts:

(Mic. 5:2) But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.

This prophecy was literally fulfilled in Jesus’ First Coming. Therefore, we expect that the rest of the prophecy will be fulfilled at his Second Coming.[6]

(Mic. 5:3) Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel.

To whom does the Messiah return? The Church? Not according to Micah! He writes that he returns to the “sons of Israel.”

(Mic. 5:4-5) And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God and they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. 5 This One will be our peace when the Assyrian invades our land, when he tramples on our citadels, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight leaders of men.

Amillennial interpreters argue that this refers to the church age.[7] But does this really capture the language of this prophecy? Micah mentions that the Messiah will fight the Assyrians in the land of Israel. Can this really be spiritualized to refer to the church age?

Jewish interpreters feel that Christians are using a double standard when handling the OT. One verse is a literal prediction of Jesus, while others are allegorical or spiritual predictions of Jesus or the Church. They’re right! We prefer a consistent hermeneutic that interprets the Bible fairly and consistently (c.f. Zech. 9:9-10).

(Lk. 1:31-33) And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

Amillennial interpreters interpret the first portion literally (Jesus was born of a virgin), but they interpret the second portion figuratively (Jesus would not rule on a literal throne in Israel)! This is an inconsistent hermeneutic to say the least.

This inconsistency can be seen in other OT predictions about Israel’s judgments and blessings. The amillennial interprets the passages about judgment for Israel literally, but they interpret the blessings and promises figuratively, applying them to the Church. For instance, Jeremiah writes, “Just as I brought all this great disaster on this people [JUDGMENT], so I am going to bring on them all the good that I am promising them [BLESSING]” (Jer. 32:42). How can we interpret the first half of the verse as literal, and the second half as figuratively applied to the Church?

ARGUMENT #6: A non-literal interpretation was historically borne out of anti-Semitic aggression.

The origin of a belief should not invalidate a belief system (this would commit the genetic fallacy). However, it is suspicious that the allegorizing of future promises to Israel was borne out of intense early Christian anti-Semitism.

In the early centuries after Christ, Christians had been persecuted by the Jews, who sold them out to the Romans. This led to extreme anti-Semitism in the Christian community.[8] The thought that God would still love the Jews (and fulfill his promises to them) was nonsense to these early, anti-Semitic Christians. They thought that there was no possible way for God to return to the Jews, because they had rejected the Messiah and the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Early Church. Dwight Pentecost writes, “The continuing Judaism, which began in the Apostolic period, gained strength, so that there was a rising enmity between Jewish and Gentile Christians. This antagonism ultimately led to the rejection of the millennium because it was ‘Jewish.’”[9]

ARGUMENT #7: The earliest Christians believed in a literal millennium.

For instance, Justin Martyr writes, “But I and whoever are on all points right-minded Christians know that there will be resurrection of the dead and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and the other declare.”[10] This was the view of the Early Church. Paul Benware writes, “Before Augustine, for the first three hundred years of the church, the premillennial view was virtually the only view to be found in the church.”[11]

Dwight Pentecost writes,

It is generally agreed that the view of the church for the centuries immediately following the Apostolic era was the premillennial view of the return of Christ… history records the fact that such a premillennial belief was the universal belief of the church for two hundred and fifty years after the death of Christ.[12]

John Walvoord writes,

Practically all students of the early church agree that premillennialism, or, as it is also called, chiliasm, was the view held by many in the apostolic age. It is the oldest of the various millennial views.[13]

Even amillennial author Oswald T. Allis admits,

[Premillennialism] was extensively held in the Early Church, how extensively is not definitely known. But the stress which many of its advocates placed on earthly rewards and carnal delights aroused widespread opposition to it; and it was largely replaced by the ‘spiritual’ view of Augustine. It reappeared in extravagant forms at the time of the Reformation, notably among the Anabaptists.[14]

ARGUMENT #8: The nation of Israel has been historically restored.

In 1948, the nation of Israel was reformed. In 1967, the city of Jerusalem was restored to the Jews. The regathering of Israel was completely unique to human history (see our earlier article “The Regathering of Israel”). However, an amillennial interpreter believes that this modern regathering is just a coincidence.

For these reasons, this author holds to a Premillennial Perspective.

Further Reading from a Premillennial Perspective

Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come: a Study in Biblical Eschatology. Grand Rapids, MI: Academie, 1964.

Pentecost’s book is a textbook arguing for a dispensational, premillennial perspective. He addresses this subject from a systematic theological perspective.

Benware, Paul N. Understanding End Times Prophecy: a Comprehensive Approach. Chicago: Moody, 2006.

Benware’s book is a textbook arguing for a dispensational, premillennial perspective. He addresses this subject from a systematic theological perspective. His book is much more readable than Pentecost above.

Walvoord, John F. The Millennial Kingdom. Findlay, OH: Dunham Pub., 1959.

Walvoord was the president of Dallas Theological Seminary for a number of years, and he is a respected evangelical scholar. His book offers a standard dispensational, premillennial viewpoint.

Thomas, Robert L. Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1992.

Thomas, Robert L. Revelation 1-8: An Exegetical Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1995.

Thomas’ commentary is considered the most in-depth technical commentary from a dispensational, premillennial perspective.

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[1] Did we invent this method of interpretation? No. The Bible teaches that prophecy should be interpreted literally. Peter writes, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pet. 1:20-21). We should listen to Peter’s instruction. We are not authorized to come up with our own interpretation. We need to find our interpretation of prophecy from Scripture itself. This means that we need to keep these prophecies in harmony with one another, as well. These prophecies are not allowed to contradict one another.

[2] Benware, Paul N. Understanding End times Prophecy: a Comprehensive Approach. Chicago: Moody, 2006. 25.

[3] Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

[4] Boettner, Lorainne. The Millennium. Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1958. 119. Cited in Benware, Paul N. Understanding End times Prophecy: a Comprehensive Approach. Chicago: Moody, 2006. 29.

[5] Gentry, Kenneth. “Postmillennialism.” Bock, Darrell (General Editor). Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan. 1999. 34.

[6] Paul Feinberg writes, “The only way to know how God will fulfill prophecy in the future is to ascertain how He has done it in the past. All the prophecies of the suffering Messiah were literally fulfilled in the first advent of Christ. We have no reason to believe that the predictions of a glorified and reigning Messiah will be brought to pass in any other manner.” Cited in Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come: a Study in Biblical Eschatology. Grand Rapids, MI: Academie, 1964. 61.

[7] Bruce Waltke writes, “The reigning Messiah will stand (i.e. endure forever; cf. Ps. 33:11; Is. 14:24) and shepherd his flock, providing for their every need, including spiritual food, and protecting them (Jn. 10; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 5:4). Through faith he will rule in the strength of the Lord, not through human engineering and manipulation (cf. 5:10–15). His subjects will live securely for, conquering Satan (Mt. 12:22–29; Rom. 16:20), he will extend his kingdom to the ends of the earth (4:3–4; Mt. 28:18–20; Jn 17:2). Christ gives his elect people eternal life and no-one can snatch them from his hands (Jn 10:28).” Bruce Waltke, New Bible Commentary, comments on Micah 5:4.

[8] Rausch, David A. A Legacy of Hatred: Why Christians must Not Forget the Holocaust. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1984. 18-27.

[9] Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come: a Study in Biblical Eschatology. Grand Rapids, MI: Academie, 1964. 379.

[10] Emphasis mine. Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho (chapters 80-81).

[11] Benware notes, “One notable exception was Origen of Alexandria, Egypt.” Benware, Paul N. Understanding End times Prophecy: a Comprehensive Approach. Chicago: Moody, 2006. 121.

[12] Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come: a Study in Biblical Eschatology. Grand Rapids, MI: Academie, 1964. 373; 374.

[13] Walvoord, John F. The Millennial Kingdom. Findlay, OH: Dunham Pub., 1959. 5.

[14] Allis, Oswald T. Prophecy and the Church; an Examination of the Claim of Dispensationalists That the Christian Church Is a Mystery Parenthesis Which Interrupts the Fulfilment to Israel of the Kingdom Prophecies of the Old Testament,. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub., 1945. 7.