Dominion in Genesis, Part 4/8: Three Perspectives on End Times Prophecy

One of the central themes of Genesis is dominion. Nowhere is that theme more apparent than in the life of Joseph. After many peaks and valleys, Genesis crescendos with his rise to power in Egypt. A central theme of this series is that Joseph’s reign with the pharaoh foreshadowed Christ’s reign with God the Father during the millennium.

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Christ in Glory c. 1660 by Mattia Preti

Below, I will review the three main positions on end times prophecy. They are premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism. These may be further broken down into “pessimillennialism” and postmillennialism.

Christians who hold any of the three main eschatological views are in broad agreement that Jesus will physically return to the earth. However, they argue over when this will occur in relation to the millennial reign of Christ. It’s widely understood that the millennium will occur over a limited time, on the earth, in the presence of unbelievers. This is taught in Revelation 20 and other places, such as in the symbolic meaning of Joseph’s reign. Beyond this, Christians don’t agree on much when it comes to the “end times.”

Premillennialism

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Judgment Day Billboard (Wikimedia)

Premillennialism is the predominant eschatological view among Christians today, but this wasn’t always the case. Prior to the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909, the dominant view was postmillennialism.

Premillennialists believe Jesus will return before the millennium, which they expect to last for a literal one thousand years. I describe them as pessimists because they view the Church as mostly being apostate. Presumably, this excludes the premillennialists’ own denominations. Naturally, this perspective fosters judgmentalism toward outsiders.

Since they don’t think God wants them to suffer trials, most premillennialists expect Jesus to return invisibly to rapture them before the Great Tribulation. They believe the Lord is literally scheduled to return again seven years later, at the end of the tribulation. At that time, He will return in bodily form with His saints and angels to defeat His enemies at Armageddon. Jesus will then reign over the world from a throne in Jerusalem.

Zionist Christians anticipate that animal sacrifices will be reinstituted in a new temple. They know there’s no longer any need for sacrifices (Heb. 10:4-18), but think the bloody slaughter of innocent animals will be a lovely memorial to ancient Israel.

It’s uncertain whether Jesus will travel around the world doing evangelism and working miracles, or whether He will mostly act as an Administrator. It’s also unknown whether His angels will serve as a heavenly Gestapo, intervene to prevent traffic accidents, or simply continue to whisper in people’s ears. These are but a few examples of the many absurdities that are bound up in premillennialist teachings. While it’s true that a complex theological position can’t be expected to answer every question, neither should it be irrational.

If the premillennialists are correct, we Christians will have proven ourselves to be perpetual screw ups. There’s no persuasive reason for supposing that this would change if Jesus were physically present on the earth. In any case, premillennialists admit that even Jesus will be seen as an incompetent ruler. Upon being released, Satan will be able to quickly gather and lead an enormous army against Him. These doctrines seem to originate from a judgmental view of the Church, and even of Christ Himself.

Christians don’t need Jesus to be physically present on the earth. The Lord didn’t leave us alone, but sent the Holy Spirit to live in and among us (Jn. 14:16-17). Jesus even said His followers would do “greater things” than what He had done (Jn. 14:12). Collectively, Christians represent Jesus as the body of Christ and the Bride of Christ. We ought to believe these truths and take these responsibilities seriously, as weighty as they are.

Even if you don’t believe that God can grant Christians the ability to perform miracles today, we’re able to take advantage of scientific and medical advances. The world currently produces enough food to feed everyone. This means problems such as hunger and starvation are our fault, not a problem of Jesus not being here in the flesh. Mankind, Christians in particular, must “take dominion” by being good managers of our technology and the earth’s resources.

Notably, some of the premillennialists’ predictions have been self-fulfilling. For example, after insisting that evil will increase, many are content to passively watch that happen, except for the occasional, futile rant against a particularly offensive sin. Premillennialists are conditioned to expect evil to increase, and to wait for a rapture that always seems to be just around the corner.

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