Premillennialism, Revelation 20, and the Great Tribulation – D.J. Engelsma

Also in the March 15, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer,under the rubric “Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass”, Prof. (emeritus, PRC Seminary) David J. Engelsma delves deeper into the errors of premillennialism by taking on its explanation of Revelation 20, a key passage for a proper understanding of the doctrine of the last things (eschatology) and the believer’s hope of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Among the serious errors that Engelsma addresses in this article is the error of teaching that the NT church (Christians) will avoid the “great tribulation” (trial of persecution) at the end of this age. Properly showing how dangerous this is to the life and hope of the believer, Engelsma makes these comments – comments that ought to alert us to our true hope of the one coming of Christafter the tribulation – indeed, to deliver His own out of the midst of this fierce battle with its great personal cost.

Let every Reformed, indeed Protestant, reader take note that premillennialism has the coming great tribulation fall upon the Jews.  We Christians will be exempt, for we, of course, are supposed to be in the air somewhere or other while the tribulation rages.  All Christians will have been raptured before Antichrist rampages on the stage of world history.

…This exemption of the church and the Christian from the persecution of Antichrist is an outstanding sin of premillennial doctrine.  The sin is eminently practical.  Premillennialism does not prepare God’s people for the looming threat of persecution for Christ’s sake at the hands of the antichristian world-power.  In this respect, premillennialism is one with postmillennialism.  Both of the millennial errors assure the church of the 21st century that she has nothing to fear, or prepare for, with regard to suffering the great tribulation.  Premil-lennialism tells the church that she will be raptured prior to Antichrist’s raging in the world, and that the object of his hatred will be the Jews.  Postmillennialism preaches to the church that, whoever the Antichrist was and whenever he carried out his antichristian work, Antichrist and his fulminations are safely in the past.

     Exempting the church from the persecution by Antichrist helps explain the popularity of the two millennial errors.  Humans shrink from persecution, especially from that persecution about which our Lord said, “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21).

     Nevertheless, this is altogether the wrong attitude of Reformed Christians with regard to the coming persecution.  The believer should regard it an unspeakably great privilege to be counted worthy by the Savior to confess that Jesus is Lord in the face of the greatest attack on God and His Anointed in all history, and to seal this confession with his suffering and even with his blood.  And the divine reward for this spiritual battle against the beast and this faithfulness to Jesus will be correspondingly great.  This reward is described in Revelation 20:4-6:  resurrection in the soul at the moment of death into the life and glory of heaven, where they reign with Christ.

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  1. I am sure that David J. Engelsma has written some excellent articles and is a man who loves the Lord and is committed to serving Him. But this article is not his best. I feel that he has written something based upon what others have said about premillennialism without a thorough study of the writings of premillennialists themselves. Yes, I am a premillennialist and a pastor. I read books by those of different perspectives on end times to understand their positions on this important doctrine of study. I can say that the premillennialists that I read address often the spiritual battle we are in and that it will grow worse and worse. We are to fight the good fight of the faith. “Stand fast, therefore…” “Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…” Our adversary is seeking whom he may devour. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” II Tim. 3:12 ESV. None that I am aware of speak of the Christian life as easy street. Missionaries in organizations like New Tribes Mission have suffered greatly for the Lord. Do I believe that we will be raptured out before the Anti-Christ takes full power? Yes I do. I see it in many ways including the 70th week of Daniel as well as the church not being mentioned on earth after Rev. 4 begins. There will be the 144,000 believing Jews in Rev. 7 & 14. We believe that of the many people left behind after the rapture, many will receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior during the great tribulation. I take Rev. 20 as literally as any other part of Scripture. Are allegories used in Scripture? Of course. But unless there is a good reason in context to see it as an allegory, I take it literally. Yes, a 1,000 year reign on earth. Listening to and reading the books and articles of premillennialists, they urge Christians to stand firm in the face of a corrupt world. I think of John F. MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Ray Comfort, Jerry Falwell, Dwight Pentecost, John Walvoord, Tim Lahaye, Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Charles L. Feinberg. Craig Blaising, Darrell Bock, Warren Wiersbe, and Mark Hitchcock, etc. I could go on. Reading their books and articles, these men are very much challengers of all Christians to live strong and spiritually courageous in a spiritually hostile world. And to live everyday looking up and living righteously because we don’t know the hour of Christ’s appearing. Much more could be said. Thanks for posting Engelsma’s thoughts on the topic. God Bless!!!


    • Thanks for taking the time to write this “review” of Engelsma’s article. I assume you are an “SB” subscriber and reader and had access to the entire article. I can agree with some of your comments about current premill teachers advancing a proper view of the Christian life in terms of spiritual battle NOW. BUT Engelsma is correct that your view of the rapture and the great tribulation is a serious attack on what believers can expect in the FUTURE, and therefore how to prepare for the last days.
      If you don’t mind, I would like to show him your comments and allow him to respond to you personally. But only if you agree to do so.
      May God continue to give us faithfulness to His revelation concerning the coming of His Son, our Lord – our only hope in this dark world!


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