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The Millennial kingdom refers to the thousand-year reign of Christ specifically mentioned in Revelation 20:1-6. This is usually seen as the same Messianic Kingdom anticipated by the Old Testament prophets. The major views regarding this millennial kingdom follow:
- Dispensational premillennialists propose that Christ's return will precede the millennium but will be in two stages: First, to rapture his saints, leaving all others behind, and then after seven years of tribulation, to publicly institute his visible millennial reign. Dispensationalism also has a uniquely Jewish view of the millennium in which God will literally fulfill his OT promises to ethnic Israel, promises not given to Gentile believers.
- Historic premillennialists, following some of the early church fathers, teach that the return of Christ will precede a literal thousand years of peace in which Christ would reign upon earth.
- Postmillennialists generally see the millennial kingdom as a "golden age" ushered in by the church through the triumph of the gospel, not only in bringing individuals to salvation, but also in dominating culture. In this view, Christ's return is at the culmination (conclusion) of this millennial age, hence the name post-millennial.
- Amillennialists believe that the "thousand years" of Revelation 20 is a figurative number indicating the whole period between Jesus' resurrection and his return (i.e. the current church age). In this view Christ now reigns and rules from heaven in and through the church bringing people into the kingdom of God through the preaching of the gospel.
Overview of popular views
|Dispensational Premillennialism||Historic Premillennialism||Postmillennialism||Amillennialism|
|Israel and the church||Views church and Israel as two distinct peoples of God with two individual redemptive plans.||The church is the fulfillment of Israel.||The church is the fulfillment of Israel.||The church is the eschatological fulfillment of Israel.|
|The rapture||The church is raptured before a seven-year tribulation (the seventieth week of Daniel - Daniel 9:24-27). This tribulational period contains the reign of the AntiChrist.||The saints, living and dead, shall meet the Lord in the clouds as he comes to earth to commence the millennial reign.||The rapture is temporally coincident with the Second Coming, both of which occur at the end of the church age||The saints, living and dead, shall meet the Lord in the clouds and immediately proceed to judge the nations with Christ and then follow Him into their eternal state.|
|Kingdom of God||The literal physical kingdom reign, anticipated by the OT prophets, during which God will fulfill all the OT promises to ethnic Israel.||The literal physical kingdom reign anticipated by the OT and NT prophets.||A spiritual entity experienced on earth through the Christianizing effect of the Gospel.||A spiritual reality in which all Christians partake presently by faith, but by sight at the consummation.|
|Millennium||Christ will return at the end of the great tribulation to institute a thousand-year rule from the New Jerusalem. Those who begin believing in Christ during the "seventieth week of Daniel" and survive the tribulation will go on to populate the earth during this time. Those raptured or raised prior to the tribulation will reign with Christ over the millennial population. This view sees the re-establishment of temple worship and animal sacrifices as a remembrance of Christ's sacrifice.||Christ will return to institute a thousand-year reign on earth.||A "golden age" leading up to Christ's second advent during which Christ will virtually rule over the whole earth through an unprecedented spread of the Gospel; the large majority of people will become Christian.||Inaugurated with Christ's resurrection. In an "already/not yet" sense, Christ already reigns over all and is already victorious over Satan.|
|Major proponents||John Nelson Darby, John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, Lewis Chafer, J. Dwight Pentecost, Norman Geisler, Charles Stanley, Chuck Smith, and Chuck Missler.||George Eldon Ladd, Robert Gundry, Walter Martin, John Warwick Montgomery, Wayne Grudem, and Theodore Zahn.||Rousas J. Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen, Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., David Chilton, R.C. Sproul and Gary North.||Meredith Kline, Richard Gaffin, Robert B. Strimple, Gregory Beale, Anthony Hoekema, and John Murray.|
"Dispensational premillennialists hold that Christ will come before a seven-year period of intense tribulation to take His church (living and dead) into heaven. After this period of fulfillment of divine wrath, He shall then return to rule from a holy city (i.e., the New Jerusalem) over the earthly nations for one thousand years. After these thousand years, Satan, who was bound up during Christ's earthly reign, will be loosed to deceive the nations, gather an army of the deceived, and take up to battle against the Lord. This battle will end in both the judgment of the wicked and Satan and the entrance into the eternal state of glory by the righteous. This view is called premillenialism because it places the return of Christ before the millennium and it is called dispensational because it is founded in the doctrines of dispensationalism." 
- See main page: Premillennialism
"Historic premillennialists place the return of Christ just before the millennium and just after a time of great apostasy and tribulation. After the millennium, Satan will be loosed and Gog and Magog will rise against the kingdom of God; this will be immediately followed by the final judgment. While similar in some respects to the dispensational variety (in that they hold to Christ's return being previous the establishment of a thousand-year earthly reign), historical premillennialism differs in significant ways (notably in their method of interpreting Scripture)." 
- See main page: Premillennialism
"The postmillennialist believes that the millennium is an era (not necessarily a literal thousand years) during which Christ will reign over the earth, not from a literal and earthly throne, but through the gradual increase of the Gospel and its power to change lives. After this gradual Christianization of the world, Christ will return and immediately usher the church into their eternal state after judging the wicked. This is called postmillennialism because, by its view, Christ will return after the millennium." 
- See main page: Postmillennialism
"The amillennialist believes that the Kingdom of God was inaugurated at Christ's resurrection (hence the term "inaugurated millennialism") at which point he gained victory over both Satan and the Curse. Christ is even now reigning (hence the term "nunc-millennialism" — nunc means "now") at the right hand of the Father over His church. After this present age has ended, Christ will return and immediately usher the church into their eternal state after judging the wicked. The term "amillennialism" is actually a misnomer for it implies that Revelation 20:1-6 is ignored; in fact, the amillennialist's hermeneutic interprets it (and in fact, much of apocalyptic literature) non-literally." 
- See main page: Amillennialism
Preterism rejects the idea of a future earthly millennial Kingdom in which Christ physically reigns, and also holds that much of the the Last Days (or End Times) prophecies were fulfilled in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish state in A.D. 70. Consequently, Preterists are usually Amillennial or Postmillennial in their eschatology. The term "preterism" has its roots in the Latin word praeter, meaning "past."
There are two major schools of Preterist thought: Partial Preterism, usually seen as within orthodox theology, and Full Preterism, often seen as outside of orthodoxy since it specifically views the Second coming as already fulfilled.
- See main page: Preterism
- Clouse, Robert, ed. The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views (InterVarsity Press, 1977)
- Sproul, R.C. The Last Days According to Jesus (Baker, 2000)
- Hoekema, Anthony A. The Bible and the Future (Eerdmans, 1979/1994)