Premillennial Textual Problems in Revelation
by Bill Lockwood
The Issue Defined
The word “Premillennial” has two components: (1) Pre; meaning “before” and (2) Millennial; meaning 1,000 years. It suggests that Christ will return to the earth just prior to a 1,000 year reign. It contains several ideas. According to Ernest Kevan in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (352) it is “held that the OT prophets predicted the re-establishment of David’s kingdom and that Christ intended to bring this about. It is alleged, however, that because the Jews refused his person and work he postponed the establishment of his kingdom until the time of his return. Meanwhile, it is argued, the Lord gathered together ‘the church’ as a kind of interim measure.”
This theory includes that in the future the Jews will return to the land of Israel; that Jesus will establish a physical kingdom after fighting physical battles and that these events have been in the immediate future since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. It is good to be reminded that Premillennialism is not the common doctrine of the early church (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Part IV, p. 861.
Problems with Premillennialism
The entire theory is freighted with Jewish doctrine and ideas that flatly contradict Scripture as a whole. In the following we are only examining textual problems associated with the book of Revelation. Not included here is the multitude of theological errors posed by premillennialism. What textual problems are there?
(1) Premillennial theorists uniformly remove chapters 4-19 from the immediate context of the book of Revelation. No justification, textual or otherwise, is ever offered for this maneuver. John Hagee does this (Four Blood Moons, 91; see also Mark Hitchcock, Blood Moons Rising, 19; and John Walvoord, Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis, p. 102, 171-72, 178). This is totally arbitrary and reflects merely the whim of the theorist. It substitutes fanciful unfounded caprice for sober exegesis.
(2) Premillennial writers universally insist upon the rule that all passages in the Bible must be literally understood. The late John Walvoord of Dallas Theological Seminary, for example, pronounces that “The study of these [biblical prophecies, bl] demonstrates that when prophecy is fulfilled, it is fulfilled literally” (Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis, 21). Walvoord is one of the premier leaders in the premillennial school. All others dutifully follow this capricious rule. Mark Hitchcock, for instance, insists upon this throughout Blood Moons Rising (p. 31, 45, 48, 71, 106, et. al.). However, no Bible passage states that this is the manner in which prophecies are to be understood. This is unreasonable. The Bible itself tells us that prophets spoke in various times and in various manners (Heb. 1:1,2). God did not reveal His message in one way. All prophecy should be interpreted in the same manner (literal) only if all prophecy was spoken in the same manner! But this is to contradict the Bible itself. The result of this “rule” ends in fantastic unfounded theories.
(3) Premillennialists use fanciful interpretations of the text as a template for the rest of the Bible. Again, no justification for this—only the unbending will of the future theorist. Mark Hitchcock announces: “Using Revelation as a framework, a Bible student is able to harmonize the hundreds of other biblical passages that speak of the seven-year tribulation into a clear model of the next time period for planet earth. With such a template to guide us, we can see that already God is preparing or setting the stage of the world in which the great drama of the tribulation will unfold.” (Blood Moons Rising, quoting another with approval, p. 19). Again, this is fanciful and arbitrary. The common and well-grounded method of interpretation of Bible material is that “the Bible is to be interpreted in the same manner … by the same principles” of other books (Milton Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, 173). It seems too simplistic to point out that words are to be understood in their primary meaning unless the nature of the literature demands differently. And this is precisely what Revelation tells us: that the message is in “signs and symbols” (Rev. 1:1-3). Why then insist upon using Revelation as a “template” of literal meaning and force other Bible passages within its mold? It can only be to uphold false theories.