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.

Premillennialism: Why a Reformed Critique?

StandardBearerIn the November 1, 2014 issue of The Standard Bearer professor emeritus (PRC Seminary) David J.Engelsma began a new series on premillennialism in connection with his rubric “Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass.” In pointing out the absurdity of dispensational premillennialism Engelsma raises the question whether it deserves serious attention from the Reformed camp. “…A Reformed teacher might be tempted to limit his critique to the bare statement that premillennialism is un-Reformed and ridiculous, or to ignore premillennialism altogether” (p.59).

But he goes on to show why we ought to consider it and critique it carefully, both biblically and confessionally. I give you here his first three reasons why Reformed Christians ought to and why, therefore, he intends to continue a lengthy series on this significant error.

First, premillennialism is a theological explanation of the thousand-year period of Revelation 20. A thorough study of the millennium, therefore, ought also to take premillennialism into account.

Second, by contrasting his amillennial belief with the premillennial error the Reformed Christian will better and more clearly understand the truth he confesses.

Third, even though premillennialism is un-Reformed from stem to stern and is not the internal threat to the doctrine of the last things for Reformed Christians that postmillennialism is, premillennialism is prevalent and popular in Christian circles. Likely, a majority of Christian churches today proclaim the gospel of premillennialism and entertain themselves of a Sunday evening by producing and studying elaborate premillennial charts. Multitudes of professing Christians believe, support, and witness to the premillennial gospel, making their ‘blessed hope’ (Titus 2:13) the rapture of themselves out of the world and its history at any moment.