In 1517 AD, when Martin Luther historically nailed his 95 reasons he was protesting the Catholic Church to the front door of his church in Wittenberg, Germany, none of those reasons had anything to do with eschatology—the study of the future.
Luther’s main objection was that the Catholic Church taught that you were saved by what you did or didn’t do. But what he was reading in Scripture was that you were saved by faith alone.
Others joined his protest and it continued to grow into a large number of protesters. Eventually they became known as the “Protesters”—what we call Protestants today. These enlightened Believers basically spent 100 years fighting the Catholic Church over how you get saved, by works or faith. The Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Anglicans and a few others were the initial denominations that grew out of the protest.
When the dust settled, and with the newly invented printing press cranking out Bibles by the thousands, more and more Believers could read the Scriptures for themselves and ponder them with the Holy Spirit’s light. So it wasn’t long before some protesters noticed that there were other doctrines the Catholics had wrong, including eschatology.
Back in 431 AD at the Council of Ephesus, the Catholic Church had officially embraced their eschatological doctrine. This doctrine taught that they were currently living in the Millennium, the 1000-year time period at the end of the age. At the end of the 1000 years, Jesus would return.
Due to this teaching, around 1000 AD many Catholics expected Jesus to return for His 2nd Coming. People simply quit working and sold off their assets to wait for Jesus to return.
When it didn’t happen, some figured they should have added the age of Jesus to the equation and 1033 AD became the new date of the expected 2nd Coming. When that date also failed to be accurate, the Catholic Church changed from teaching a literal 1000-year Millennium to teaching that the Millennium would last a long time.
But with tens of thousands of Protestants now examining their Bibles, they began to realize that the Catholic eschatology was wrong. So a new denomination began—Baptist. They believed in a FUTURE literal 1000-year reign of Christ, citing many reasons that it was impossible to be currently living in the Millennium.
From the Baptists grew many more pre-millennial denominations like Church of God, Assembly of God, Calvary Chapel and Bible Churches. All basically teach a pre-millennial doctrine.
But the original Protestant denominations continued to teach the Catholic eschatology they had inherited. So today you have two main groups, a-millennial and pre-millennial. You either believe we’re in the Millennium, referred to as a-millennium (a-mill), meaning no future Millennium. Or you believe the Millennium is yet future, referred to as pre-millennium (pre-mill), meaning we’re living “pre,” or before the Millennium.
The main distinction between the two doctrines is how you treat the six references to “1000 years” in Revelation 20, literally or figuratively.
. . . they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Rev 20:4b
A-mill believers believe the 1000 years has to be figurative, since they teach we’re currently living in the Millennium and it’s been over 2000 years since the cross. They believe we’re currently reigning with Christ in Heaven and that Jesus will not actually reign as King of the Earth as a literal reign. Jesus will come again, but the earth will burn up and we’ll have a new heaven and earth.
Pre-mill doctrine takes the 1000-year passages to be literal— that one day Jesus will return to the earth and Christians will literally reign with Him as King for the last 1000 years of mankind on earth. Then the earth will burn up and a new heaven and earth will be created.
The a-mill believers have some major problem verses. For instance, the Bible describes the Millennium to be free of flesh-eating animals.
The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; Is. 65:25a
Scripture says the devil will be bound during the Millennium and there will be no wars.
And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; Rev. 20:2
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war. Is. 2:4b
If Satan is currently bound, he must have a long leash! Isaiah wrote the entire earth will be full of God’s glory in the Millennium.
. . . the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. Is. 11:9
A-mill believers have to do hermeneutical gymnastics to get past these and other verses to clearly point to a future reign of Jesus on the earth after His 2nd Coming.
But the main problem is what a-mills think about Israel. They believe Israel rejected Jesus at His 1st Coming and the Church has inherited the promises to the Jews. To me that’s blasphemy. Anyone with two brain cells can read Romans 9, 10 and 11 and see that God is not finished with the Jews. His promises to them will be kept.
And if His promises are kept, this necessitates Jesus returning to the earth to be the Jews’ Messiah, ruling from Jerusalem where the Jews live before Him. (Hos. 6:1-2)
When the Old Testament Jews asked God if He had for gotten them, He told them He never would and had even etched them into the palms of His hands!
. . . I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Is. 49:15-16
Jeremiah 31:35-37, Romans 11:29 and Romans 9:1-5 all talk about God never forgetting the Jews.
But the easiest way to know the Lord is not finished with the Jews is the fact that, as prophesied, after some 2000 years the Jews have returned to their homeland. This is not hard to understand.
Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people, who will remain, Is. 11:11
The first regathering was from Babylon after 70 years of captivity. God was emphatic that He would bring them back a second time to the land.
. . . will no longer be said, “As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,” but, “As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.” For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers. Jer. 16:14-15
God also said that AFTER they returned, they would be a burdensome stone for the world. . . .
it will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it. Zech. 12:3
The tiny nation of Israel is indeed today a burden to the world. God said when they returned Hebrew would be their language (Zep. 3:9) and the desert would bloom (Is. 35:1).
So Israel is in the future, and we’re seeing the regathering right in front of our eyes. Jews from all over the earth have returned to their homeland, and God is allowing the nation to be quite prosperous. It’s a sight to see! And one day their Jewish Messiah Jesus will rule the world from Jerusalem for a thousand years.