Premillennialism is not Premillennialism

I recently had the privilege of attending Criswell College’s conference on the millennium called “Future Kingdom.” The title of the conference shows the host’s cards right off the bat. Add to that, three of the six presenters were some form of premillenniallism. I drove down to Dallas because of who they brought in. One couldn't ask for much better representatives for each position. Blomberg, Blaising, and House for premillennialism. Beale for amillennialism and Gentry for Postmillennialism. Hats off to Criswell for bringing in the “big guns.”

Anyway, I have noticed on more than one occasion lately Dispensationalists simply calling themselves “premillennialists.” I am calling all dispensationalists to academic honesty here. It is not true that “Premillennialism is premillenialism.” The fact that Criswell invited three different “brands” of premillenialism demonstrates this fact.

One’s particular view of the millennium is not that important to me. What is important for me is one’s underlying biblical-theological system. In other words, I am concerned with the foundational hermeneutic that leads to a particular view of the millennium. In this regard, there can be a world of difference between two premillennialists.

For example, consider a Covenant Theologian who believes that Israel = the church and the church = Israel, and that Christ is currently reigning on the throne in heaven as Davidic King, but happens to believe that one section of one chapter in the Bible teaches a “literal” one thousand year reign. This thousand years has nothing to do with Judaism or Jerusalem. It is just a one thousand year interim time before the eternal state.
                On the other hand, consider a staunch dispensationalist who not only believes that that one section of one chapter of the Bible teaches a “literal” one thousand year reign, but also believes there must be a millennium because it is during this time that Christ will finally reign as Davidic King and God will fulfill his promises to ancient Israel once the parenthetical church age is over.

                I hope it is clear that these are two very different versions of premillennialism. One is one expression of “classical” or “historic” premillennialism while the other is clearly dispensational premillennialism. A historical example of this is the way Charles Ryrie (a Dispensational Premillennialist) treats George Ladd’s work (a historic premillennialist). Clearly they are not on the same “eschatological team.” Dr. Blomberg (a historic premillennialist) mentioned that he wants to leave "Left Behind" behind. Interestingly, Ryrie thinks that “Progressive Dispensationalism” is guilty of drinking too deeply from the Ladd well.

                The hermeneutic of classical premillennialism and amillennialism are often very close.They “put the Bible together” in a very similar way, but just happen to read one section of one chapter differently (which – admittedly - is usually rooted in reading the whole book differently, but not always). The only major difference is their exegesis of Revelation 20. Take for example classical or historic premillennialists like Doug Moo, Don Carson, and Tom Schreiner. Their hermeneutic is very similar to that of Greg Beale, Kim Riddlebarger, and Anthony Hoekema. One cannot say the same for Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, or Darrell Bock. Their millennium is distinctly Jewish and is tied to their reading of other passages. Indeed it is necessitated by their larger biblical-theological system.

                So when someone says they are premillennial, it is helpful to ask, “What kind?” If you are dispensational, please do us all a favor and don’t merely call yourself a “premillennialist;” Be honest. You hold to dispensational premillennialism. There's a difference.