“Every idea of a Millennial Dominion with its throne established in Jerusalem, in connection with previously resurrected Jews and Gentiles, converted unto Him, is contrary to the entire economy of the Sacred Scriptures, and as such must be rejected…and thus be destroyed root and branch in the heart of the brethren.”
Abraham Kuyper, “Chiliasm or the Doctrine of Premillennialism”
“All prophecies, which speak of Israel, Jerusalem and Zion, and which even after the coming of Christ, still await their fulfillment, must…be understood…as pertaining to the spiritual glory of the true church of the Lord after His return. Any other interpretation of these prophecies is a return to the Ministry of Shadows, which is ended once and for all and to which there is no return without causing the Christian to become a Jew again, that is to say: without denying the fulfilment of all prophecy in Christ our Lord.”
Abraham Kuyper, “Chiliasm or the Doctrine of Premillennialism”
“The church of Jesus Christ in her orthodox development has ever condemned Chiliasm [dispensational premillennialism—DJE] as heretical.”
Abraham Kuyper, “Chiliasm or the Doctrine of Premillennialism” (See footnote “4.”)
In our study of the biblical truth of the millennium, or thousand years (), we move from postmillennialism to premillennialism. Thus, we move from fantasy to absurdity.
Such is the foolishness of premillennialism, or, more fully, dispensational premillennialism, that the Reformed Christian might be tempted to suppose that a critique of premillennialism is unnecessary.
That the risen, exalted, glorious Jesus Christ—the Jesus Christ of—should reign, bodily, on a material throne in the city of Jerusalem in the country of Palestine, in the historical flow of this sinful world, among sinful people, including reprobate sinful people, for one thousand years before history ends, is absurd, on the face of it.
That during this thousand years, the ungodly should scheme against this glorious King and finally dare, and be able, to launch an attack on Him and the seat of His power with jets, tanks, and machine guns, beggars the Christian imagination. Indeed, by virtue of its vaunted commitment to the “literal” understanding of Old Testament prophecy, premillennialism is bound to teach that the ungodly will someday attack the exalted Christ in Jerusalem with horses, swords, bows and arrows, and handstaves ().
That in the course of history, Christians should suddenly, mysteriously disappear from the scene, while time goes on and history continues, the farmer from his milking stool, the mother from her preparations for supper, the husband and father from the midst of his family, the young man in the Christian high school in the midst of his jump shot on the basketball court, and the bus driver from his seat (as the properly ridiculous sign, “In case of the rapture, this vehicle will be driverless,” warns), is silly—the stuff of jokes.1
Against such foolishness, against such absurdity masquerading as the biblical gospel concerning the last days, the Reformed faith is firmly closed. Because the fantasies of postmillennialism—the “Christianizing” of the whole world; the earthly, political reign of the saints; and a coming “golden age” within history—are defended and aggressively promoted by Reformed and Presbyterian theologians within the Reformed community of churches, a thorough critique of postmillennialism, such as I have just concluded, is in order.
Dispensational premillennialism, on the other hand, is both so entirely outside the sphere of Reformed Christianity and so foolish that 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.
John Calvin was right in his judgment of the “chiliasts” of his time, “who limited the reign of Christ to a thousand years,” that “their fiction is too childish either to need or to be worth a refutation.”2
The Necessity of Critiquing Premillennialism
The temptation simply to ignore premillennialism, however, must be resisted. 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” () the rapture of themselves out of the world and its history at any moment.
It is profitable, if not required, therefore, that the Reformed Christian know what premillennialism is, and why the Reformed faith rejects it, root and branch.
Fourth, although the Reformed faith renounces premillennialism, and the Reformed creeds condemn it, the sheer prevalence and popularity of the eschatological error have their subtle influence on Reformed Christians. Almost unconsciously, Reformed Christians are seduced by the error.
For fourteen years, as pastor of a Protestant Reformed church on the south side of Chicago, I moved in the large Reformed community in that area. During that time, I observed that that community was heavily influenced by the radio broadcast and periodic Christian conferences of the Moody Bible Institute (MBI) in Chicago, a premillennial organization. Reformed men and women who regularly tuned in to the radio station for Christian programming and who attended the effectively advertised religious conferences would speak freely of the impending rapture of the church out of the world, while history continues, as though this were standard, orthodox Christian and Reformed doctrine. Such influence of premillennial media and propaganda upon Reformed Christians and Christianity is not limited to the Chicago area.
Enormously popular of late have been the books of fiction known as the Left Behind series, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.3 They popularize fictitious premillennialism by the genre of writing that befits the heresy: fiction. It is not impossible that Reformed Christians have wasted their time and even corrupted their minds by reading this series.
Evidently, Abraham Kuyper had similarly noticed the influence of premillennialism upon Reformed church members in his day. He began his criticism of premillennialism with the observation that “this is a rather delicate subject to touch upon, also within our [Reformed] circles [in the Netherlands in the early 1900s—DJE].”4
A warning against premillennialism, therefore, has its value for Reformed Christians. Reformed Christians must know that premillennialism differs radically from amillennial orthodoxy, and what this difference is. Rightly dividing the word of truth, as is commanded by God of the preacher and theologian in, includes rightly explaining and understanding the word of truth about the last days. As the next verse in II Timothy 2 points out, right explanation of the truth about the last days, as about all aspects of the Christian faith, must “shun profane and vain babblings.” That the apostle had specifically in view babblings about the truth of the last things is evident from verses 17 and 18. Paul mentions two false teachers of his day, who “concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already.”
1 As, for example, the novel, Left Behind, which has hundreds of persons suddenly disappear from a plane in flight: “All over the plane, people were holding up clothes and gasping or shrieking that someone was missing” (Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days [Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1995], 23).
2 John Calvin, Institutes, ed. John T. McNeill, tr. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960) 3.25.5. Calvin was right also when he immediately added that the “Apocalypse [book of Revelation], from which they undoubtedly drew a pretext for their error, does not support them.”
3 The first volume in this only slightly disguised series of propaganda on behalf of premillennial dispensationalism is Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1995). The only value of this series of potboilers is to demonstrate both to the contemporary, supposedly more “moderate,” “progressive” premillennialists and to the gullible Presbyterians who accept “moderate” premillennialists as genuine evangelicals and worthy partners in honorable theological discussion that the essence of premillennialism, be it “moderate” or “radical,” original or “progressive,” is the heretical nonsense regurgitated in the form of fiction in the Left Behind series. This is, and always will be, the premillennialism of the people in dispensational, premillennial churches.
4 Abraham Kuyper, “Chiliasm or the Doctrine of Premillennialism,” tr. G. M. Pernis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1934), 6. This booklet is a “free translation” mainly of Kuyper’s treatment of “chiliasm,” or premillennialism, in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, E Voto Dordraceno: Toelichting op den Heidelbergschen Catechismus, vol. 2 (Amsterdam: Hoveker & Wormser, 1905), 252-290.