Problems with Premillenialism by Matthew Svoboda

I used to go back and forth between Amillennialism and Historic Premillennialism… Now, because of many of the reasons below I am seeing any form of Premillennialism as less and less of a viable option. I know that highly offends some people, but let’s be graceful and deal with the points I raise below.

1. Premillennials insist on a “literal interpretation” of Eschatological/apocalyptic literature. It is my belief that not only is this wrong, but they cannot even hold true to their own convictions. Premillennials want to take some of Revelation (chapter 20 for instance) literally, while they easily allow for other parts of Revelation to be interpreted symbolically. Revelation should have a balance of literal and symbolic- but it seems silly to me to be someone who always harps and insists on “literal” when, at times, you don’t think twice about interpreting symbolically. How about some consistency? According to biblical and non-biblical apocalyptic literature the genre demands symbolism. Most Premillennials simply do not do justice to Revelation when they insist on all of the literalism (especially since they don’t necessarily follow through on their own claims). To be fair- this isn’t every Premillennial. If someone is absolutely convinced that Revelation 20 occurs after Christ’s return I suggest Dr. Grant Osbornes commentary- he at least does justice to the symbolic nature of the book of Revelation.

As I will demonstrate in a few points below- when I deal with certain texts- that Premillennials want the “plain, straightforward, literal interpretation of Revelation 20,” yet, they reject a plain, straightforward, literal interpretation of many other New Testament texts that deal with Eschatology. So, Premills insist on a literal interpretation on apocalyptic literature, which is meant to be symbolic, and yet reject a straightforward reading of texts that are not apocalyptic. Obviously, no Premill will say that is what they do, but as I will demonstrate it seems to me that is exactly what they do.

2. 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10: “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because out testimony to you was believed.” (Read verses 5-10 for context.) Here, the straightforward, plain, literal reading of the text says that, lost people will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction- when he comes ON THAT DAY to be glorified in his saints. This passage is clearly saying that the punishment of the lost comes on the same day that he comes to be glorified in his saints. No one argues that this passage isn’t talking about the second coming…

Here is how Premills typically try to answer this:

a. “Suffer the punishment of eternal destruction” is talking about God’s wrath in the tribulation. This must be thrown out for the only “eternal destruction” that exists is hell. The tribulation isnt eternal, hell is. This passage also implies that it is including everyone- all the lost will suffer eternal destruction and all of the saints will have relief. There is nothing in this passage to suggest otherwise.

b. Ladd and others argue this passage is explaining the entire scope of time in which these events occur, similar to Matthew 24. With this they insist this harmonizes with Revelation 20. This is simply wrong and I expected better from Ladd when I read his argument for this. The passage very clearly, even to an 8 year old, says that the two events- destruction of the lost and relief of the saints happens on that day. The two events happen on the very same day. Well, at least that is what a straightforward, literal reading of it says.

Yes, the example above is an example of Premills wanting a literal reading of Revelation 20 and yet trying to explain away the literal reading of 2 Thess. 1. IMHO, eisegesis is the only explanation for how Premills can come to an understanding of that passage that doesn’t conclude with- “Yes, eternal destruction of the lost and relief of the saints happens on the same day.”

3. John 5:28-29: “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” (This point is from Sam Storms.)

An hour is coming when (lit., “in which”) all who are in the tombs, i.e., the physically dead, whether believer or unbeliever, shall hear his voice and come forth in the resurrection.

The PM, however, is unable to accept this straightforward declaration. He insists that a 1000-year earthly reign of Christ must intervene between the resurrection of believers and the resurrection of unbelievers. He points to v. 25 where the word “hour” encompasses the whole of this present age. Why, then, can’t the “hour” in v. 28 also span the 1000 years of a millennial age? Anthony Hoekema answers this question:

“First, in order to be parallel to what is said in verse 25, the resurrection of believers and unbelievers should then be taking place throughout this thousand-year period, as is the case with the regeneration of people during the ‘hour’ mentioned in verse 25. But, according to the theory under discussion (Premillennialism), this is not the case; rather this theory teaches that there will be one resurrection at the beginning of the thousand years and another at the end. Of this, however, there is not a hint in this passage. Further, note the words “all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.” The reference would seem to be to a general resurrection of all who are in their graves; it is straining the meaning of these words to make them describe two groups (or four groups) of people who will be raised at separate times. Moreover, this passage states specifically that all these dead will hear the voice of the Son of man. The clear implication seems to be that this voice will be sounded once, not two times or four times. If the word ‘hour’ is interpreted as standing for a period of a thousand years plus, this would imply that the voice of Jesus keeps sounding for a thousand years. Does this seem likely?” (32)

No, it doesn’t.

4. An earthly millennium reign after Jesus returns goes against everything I read in the New Testament. Why? Every passage that talks about the Second Coming (outside of a PM reading of Rev. 20) has it coupled with either the resurrection of the dead, judgment-reward, or hope-new heavens and new earth. So, in EVERY instance that the Second Coming is talked about at least one of those things accompanying it. Yet, because in the PM system one passage trumps all the others they insist there is a gap… Despite the fact the two verses above prove this gap simply cannot be harmonized with some of the other passages in the New Testament.
The PM understanding of what the actual Millennium is baffles me… After Jesus returns I am supposed to believe there is still people getting saved and sinning? Outside of a PM reading of Rev. 20 that goes against everything I read in the New Testament… Everything. It appears to me that when Jesus returns sin is no more and there certainly is not lost people (who survived the wrath of God at the second coming and entered into the Millennium) getting saved. Not only do I find that understanding awkward, but simply against everything in the New Testament.

Well, I have a few more points (yes, I have found more than 4 problems with Premillennialism :)), but I don’t want this to go as long as the last one… If I have time later in the week I will do a new post dealing with the “problem texts” of Amillennialism.

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  • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

    Good stuff here, Matt. Out of curiosity, have you listened to MacArthur’s Shepherd’s Conference address called “Every Self-Respecting Calvinist Must be a Premillenialist”? I’m baffled by the “must” on that one…

    • http://sbcvoices.com Matt Svoboda

      Aaron,

      I have… I respect MacArthur a lot, but that was pathetic. Not only was the “must” dumb, yes dumb, but his line, “if Calvin were alive today he would be a Dispensational Premillennial.” Wow… There was a lot of arrogance in that sermon. And a lot of stupidity…

      I dont say those things lightly, I respect MacArthur a lot! God has used him in my life tremendously. But, Eschatology is a real weak point for him. He argues his own position well, but he even goes to the straw-man arguments when discussing other view points. I expect a lot better from MacArthur.

      • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

        I had a hunch that that would be the tact that MacArthur would have used. The use of straw men is unfortunate (as is the presence of arrogance).

        I’ve had a bit of trouble with the Shepherd’s conference messages in general simply because they’re “every self respecting Calvinist must be XYZ.” Even the one on young-earth Creationism (which I would affirm), it was basically “If you don’t believe this, then you’re probably not even a Christian.” WOW.

        On topic: Definitely do write another dealing with the Amill problem texts. Was there one in particular that you had difficulty reconciling as you came to the position?

        • http://sbcvoices.com Matt Svoboda

          Aaron,

          Yes. :)

          There were a few difficulties I had… Revelation 20 was one of them, Zechariah 14, and a few other Old Testament passages. Honestly, what really made me Amill is Goldsworthy’s book, “Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics” because that book showed me how to interpret the OT according to the gospel… It changed everything for me, how I read the Old Testament(all of it as a foreshadow of Christ) to how I read Revelation. The principles in that book- what is means to have a gospel centered hermeneutic- is what really drove me to the Amillennial position.

          With that being said, I believe Dr. Grant Osborne- historic premill- uses the same hermeneutic as myself and most other Amillennials. In fact, if you read his and GK Beales commentaries on Revelation they are 99% alike until you hit Revelation 19-20.

          How I eventually became convinced of the Amill position in Revelation 20 was due to studying Revelation 19. After reading 19 I thought, “there is no way people are left after that… It says, he tread the winepress of the fury and wrath of God on the nations.” Yeah, in my mind, he finished it!

  • Alen

    Thanks for this post. It has been quite interesting. I look forward to what else you have in store for us.