The Case for the Premillennial View of Prophecy – Program 2
|By: Dr. Norman Geisler; ©1993|
|Why do we believe the premillennial view fits the prophecies in the Old Testament?|
The Evidence for the Premillennial View from the Old Testament
God has placed a huge amount of prophetic information in the Bible. Of the Bible’s 31,124 total verses, 8,352, or 27% of the entire Bible is devoted to prophecy. God says He declares future events in the Bible so that people will know that He exists. God told Isaiah, “Who foretold this long ago? Who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord,… I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times what is still to come… what I have said, that will I bring about.” [Isa. 45:21-22]
Jesus rebuked His disciples for not studying and believing in prophecy when He said, “How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” [Luke 24:25] Concerning future events Jesus commanded, “What I say to you, I say to everyone, watch! I have told you everything ahead of time.” [Mark 13:23]
But many Christians find it hard to study biblical prophecy. They say it is like trying to put together a big puzzle that has thousands of little pieces and they don’t know how to put the pieces together. What is needed is something like the box cover of a puzzle that shows the big overall picture so that one can fit the small, prophetic events into place. But does a big picture exist?
Biblical scholars and Christians down through the ages have agreed that there are only three views or outlines that give the big picture. All agree that one of these three views is correct. But which one? Today you will learn what these three views are and whether or not there is evidence that supports them.
John’s guest is Dr. Norman Geisler, dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dr. Geisler is professor of theology and apologetics and the author of 45 books, including the widely read General Introduction to the Bible, When Skeptics Ask and When Critics Ask. We invite you to join us.
- Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. I’m sure that you know that in Revelation 20, the apostle John talks about a thousand year period of time. This period of 1,000 years, called the millennium, is identified six different times in this chapter. Both Jews and Christians believe this 1000 year millennial period is the fulfillment of the many promises God made to Israel in the Old Testament in which he said the Jewish people would someday be gathered from across the world into Palestine, and the Messiah would come and reign.
- But I’m sure you know that some Christians wonder whether we should take all of the Old Testament passages about this coming millennial kingdom literally. In fact, down through church history some Christians have believed there will not be any 1000 year kingdom over which Christ will literally rule. They interpret all of the Old Testament promises to Israel about their land and a future descendant of David who will rule over the whole world allegorically or spiritually.
- Then, other Christians believe that the millennial kingdom will be brought in by the church and then Christ will return to earth.
- Finally, there are still other Christians who believe that only when Christ returns will He bring about and establish the millennial kingdom. Those Christians who hold these three different views are respectively called amillennialists, postmillennialists and premillennialists.
- The amillennialists do not believe there will be any millennium and spiritualize the promises God made to Israel.
- Postmillennialists believe that the millennium will be brought in by the church, and then Christ will return. But again they also allegorize the promises God made to Israel.
- Premillennialists believe that Christ must return first and then He will bring in and establish the millennial kingdom, fulfilling the promises God made to Israel. Now, one of these three views is correct. Every Christian who studies prophecy must decide which view is correct and the choice you make will greatly affect how you think and live.
- Today, my good friend Dr. Norman Geisler who is currently dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina will present the evidence from the Old Testament for the premillennial view.
- Geisler: What is the biblical basis for premillennialism? It goes back first of all to the unconditional land promises that God gave to Abraham. In Genesis 12:7 we read: “Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ And there he built an altar to the Lord who had appeared to him.” What land? Well, the land is mentioned in verse 5, the land of Canaan. God gave to Abraham and to his literal descendants the land of Canaan.
- This is the basis for premillennialism – the belief that there will be a restored nation of Israel in the land of Canaan in the last days and that the Messiah will come and set up a kingdom and that the Jews will reign in that land and that Jesus will reign over the entire world.
- Look in Genesis 13:15: “For all the land which you see I give to you and to your descendants forever.” Notice the important word “forever.” Abraham and his literal descendants were given the land of Canaan forever. They’ve never had it forever, but they will have it; and if they don’t have it, God Almighty broke an unconditional promise. And so premillennialism is built on the unconditional promise of God.
- If you can trust God when He makes an unconditional promise, you can trust that there is going to be a millennium someday.
- Furthermore, look in Genesis 15:7: “Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees to give you this land to inherit it.’” That’s the explicit purpose that I called you for, Abraham, to give you this land of Canaan to inherit it.
- Now notice in verse 18: “On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram saying, ‘To your descendants I have given this land from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.’” He defines the border, all the way from the Euphrates to the river in Egypt; that whole land is going to be given to Abraham and his descendants forever. That’s the basis for premillennialism. If you can trust God, then you can believe that there is going to be a millennium and that Jesus Christ is going to return and reign over this piece of real estate that God gave to His people and promised that they would bring the Messiah into the world.
- Here’s another verse where God says emphatically “I am going to give you this land forever.” Genesis 17:7: “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you and their generations for an everlasting covenant to be God to you and your descendants after you; also I will give you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession and I will be their God.” Repeatedly God says the entire piece of real estate – Iraq, southern Israel, the Sinai Peninsula, all the way up through Syria, Israel and Jordan – that entire piece of real estate God gave to Abraham and his descendants forever.
- The promise to give the people of Israel this land is as good as God is. He said, “I’m going to be your God forever. You’re going to have this land forever.” If you can’t trust that the children of Israel are going to get this land forever, you can’t trust that God is going to be God forever.
- Ankerberg: Many times people ask, how much land did God promise He would give Israel? What are the boundaries. Has Israel ever possessed all of the land that God promised? Dr. Geisler answers these questions next.
- Geisler: From Genesis to Revelation, God promised that there would be a restoration of His ancient people the Jews, the descendants of Abraham, into the land of Canaan.
- The land of Canaan is the land of Palestine. That’s Israel and Jordan and Syria, all of the land from Egypt to the Euphrates over where Iraq is. That entire piece of real estate God gave to Abraham and his descendants. And He said it not only in Genesis 12, Genesis 13, Genesis 15, but in Exodus 3 when God called Moses, He said in verse 17: “And I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of Canaan.” God promised that to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob. It’s repeated here to Moses.
- In Exodus 6:8 it says, “And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and I will give it to you as a heritage. I am the Lord.” He could swear by no higher than Himself and so He said, “I swear by Myself.” This is an unconditional promise: “I promised it to Abraham and you will have it forever.” Never in the history of the world have the Jewish people ever had that piece of real estate “forever.” They don’t have that entire piece of real estate today. But they will have it when Jesus Christ returns and sets up the millennium. This is called premillennialism.
- Ankerberg: This brings us to the next major point. Premillennialists believe there is no way to get around the biblical passages in which God promised to David that a future descendant of his would sit on His throne and rule over Israel forever. Dr. Geisler now presents just a bit of the biblical evidence for this point. Listen.
- Geisler: The Bible is filled with evidence for premillennialism. Not only did God give the land in which Christ will reign forever to the children of Israel as an everlasting possession, but He promised a King would come from the line of David. Let’s look at the Davidic promises of a kingdom to come.
- David, you remember, had the desire in 2 Samuel 7 to build a house for God. God said, “Thanks, David, but no thanks. You’re a man of blood. I appreciate what you’ve done. You can gather the material, but instead of you building a house for me, I’m going to build a house for you: the House of David.”
- In 2 Samuel 7:16 here’s what God said: “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” Along with the land promises to Israel now, it’s a promise for a King to reign on a throne in this land, a King who would come through David, who would be called the Son of David.
- In that famous Christmas passage in Isaiah 9:6 we read of the Davidic Kingdom coming when Christ comes. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end…upon the throne of David and over his kingdom to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.”
- So along with the promise to Abraham that the land of Canaan, the land of Palestine, would be given to the Jews forever, now we have a Davidic Kingdom, the Son of David who will come and who will reign over that forever. He will have government; He will have reign. This is a political, not a spiritual thing. This is a political, outward thing and a literal piece of real estate. It has never happened, but it will happen when Jesus returns to earth and sets up His Kingdom in Jerusalem.
- Ankerberg: Now, those who believe that the Bible teaches Jesus Christ will return physically to this earth, conquer the forces of evil, and establish a millennial kingdom in which He will reign for over a thousand years from Jerusalem, have done so on the basis of applying the literal, historical, grammatical approach to the Bible verses. Many Christians do not realize that Jesus Himself interpreted prophetic passages using the same literal historical approach. If it can be shown that He did, then I believe Jesus set the example for how the rest of us ought to interpret prophecy as well. Dr. Geisler documents where Jesus used this method of interpreting prophecy. Listen.
- Geisler: The Bible is literally filled with verses that tell us there will be a future literal kingdom in a literal piece of real estate called the land of Canaan.
- In Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God.” That’s a very interesting passage and it proves the premillennial view that Christ will come before the millennium.
- Jesus actually stopped in the middle of a verse when He read that passage in Luke 4 in His hometown synagogue. And He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” And then He stopped there, and we read, He closed the book, gave it back to the attendants and sat down and the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him and He began to say to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” [Luke 4:18-21]
- Why did Jesus stop in the middle of the verse and say today it’s fulfilled in your hearing? Because if He had read any farther He would have been talking about the Second Coming. The first half of the verse was literally fulfilled in His first coming and the second half will be literally fulfilled in His Second Coming. In other words, if you can trust Jesus when He says the prophecies about His first coming are literal, you can trust Jesus when He says the prophecies about His Second Coming are literal as well.
- Ankerberg: The biblical basis for the belief that Jesus Christ will return bodily to earth and will reign from Jerusalem over the whole world – the premillennial view – can also be seen in the many passages throughout the Old Testament that teach that someday there will be a literal restoration of Israel to the literal land of Palestine. The premillennialists believe that these passages cannot be allegorized or spiritualized away, as the postmillennialists and amillennialists do. Dr. Geisler explains.
- Geisler: Literally from Genesis to Revelation the Old Testament teaches that there would be a literal restoration of Israel to the literal land of Palestine. In Zechariah 14:4 says, “And in that day his feet, the Messiah, will stand on the Mount of Olives which faces Jerusalem on the east and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from the east to the west” and verse 9 says, “And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be, ‘The Lord is one and his name is one.’”
- These passages make it very clear that there is going to be a literal return of Christ to Jerusalem, tells even where He’s coming back – to the Mount of Olives; says it will split – there will be an earthquake there and He will reign over all the earth as the King of the Jews forever. Now, when you combine the unconditional land promises to Abraham and the promise of the Son of David to come back to Jerusalem and reign, you have a strong Old Testament basis for belief in premillennialism.
- In fact, you can’t possibly read the Old Testament in the normal common sense of the word without believing that there will be a literal fulfillment of these prophecies in the land from the Euphrates to Egypt, way up into Syria. That whole piece of real estate was given to the Jews forever and a Son of David would sit upon a throne and reign over that entire piece of real estate with the Jews restored back to their land forever. This is the hope of premillennialism. It’s grounded in Scripture. It’s as clear as the nose on our face. You can’t miss it if you look at the Old Testament. The only way you can possibly miss it is if you spiritualize, if you allegorize these prophecies away.
- There’s a little rule of interpreting the Bible that I learned way back in Bible school and it goes like this: “If the literal sense makes good sense, seek no other sense lest it result in nonsense.” It is nonsense not to take these as literally fulfilled in the nation of Israel when Christ returns to this earth.
- Ankerberg: Another question that people ask is, “Isn’t God playing favorites by pouring out His blessing on Israel? Why did He choose them? Why did He make all these promises to them?” Dr. Geisler answers these questions. Listen.
- Geisler: The fact that God chose the children of Israel doesn’t mean there was anything inherently good in them. In fact, Moses said in Deuteronomy, “God chose you because you’re the least of all people; because you’re the most stubborn of all people; you’re the most rebellious of all people.” So there’s nothing inherently good in them that merited their being chosen.
- They were chosen because of God’s grace. God is saying here, “By my grace I will pick a little insignificant nation of slaves and I will make them great to magnify myself, not to magnify them. I will make them a channel of blessing, not a container of blessing.” God didn’t choose Israel so they could hoard His blessings. He chose Israel so they would share His blessings. In Genesis 12:3 He said to Abram, “I will bless those that bless you and curse them that curse you and through you shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” God’s intention is to bless all nations through one nation. The basis for choosing that nation was God’s grace, not their merit.
- It’s important to remember that the millennium is not just for the Jews. Oh, they will be restored to their land, but that’s a small piece of real estate in terms of the whole world. The Bible says Jesus is going to reign over the whole earth. The Bible tells us that there will be great throngs of people from every tribe, kindred, nation and tongue there. This is paradise restored. This is the reign of Christ over the entire globe, over all of humanity who are redeemed, who are resurrected in the first resurrection. So the millennium is not just a provincial thing for one little pocket of people. It’s a cosmic thing for the entire world.
- Ankerberg: Now, part of the proof for the premillennial view which applies the literal, historical, grammatical approach to the biblical passages is that it has produced a picture of future events that seems to match the historical events that we are seeing take place in Israel right now. Listen.
- Geisler: One of the amazing things about all of these predictions in the Old Testament that Israel would come back in the land and be restored as a nation is that from 70 AD to 1948 AD there was no indication that it would happen. We went for 1900 years and Israel wasn’t in the land. They weren’t restored as a nation. But on May 15, 1948 Israel came back into the land.
- One of the proofs of premillennialism is that before 1948 people just taking the Bible seriously, people saying, “Look, it says here in the Bible that they are going to come back to the land and I believe it,” were predicting on the basis of Scripture that Israel would return to the land. They weren’t amillennialists; they weren’t postmillennialists; the only people who were saying that were premillennialists who took the whole Bible seriously and literally and they were predicting before 1948 that Israel would return. And they did return to the land, though in unbelief, and will eventually be restored as a nation when the Messiah comes back.
- Ankerberg: Today, we have presented the biblical basis for the belief that Jesus Christ will return bodily to earth and will reign from Jerusalem over the whole world. This is the premillennial view, and we have presented the biblical basis for it from the Old Testament. Next week, we will show you the biblical basis for this view from the New Testament.