Dr Geisler's Strange Defence for Belief in a Literal Millenium

Geisler is undoubtedly sincere, but this defence of premillenialism only serves to show - yet again - that this extra-Christian belief is pretty deeply flawed. Especially problematic is Paul's lack of support for the schema.

L ike myself, Dr Norman Geisler is a Christian apologetics writer. I really like much of Dr Geisler's work, however, he does offer some rather strange defences for his commitment to premillienialism ( 'premillenialism' is a commitment to a belief in a literal 1,000 year 'millenium' which commences immediately following the Second Coming of our Lord ). I too once held to premillenialism but as my study of Scripture went deeper I eventually found too many inconsistencies in the position, now preferring to support 'realised millenialism' (often called 'amillenialism'). Having said that, there is no doubt that truly commited Christians will be freely found who support all positions on 'the millenium.'
The good doctor Geisler wrote The Importance of Premillenialism in 2009. It is to be found here.

For sure, there is a certain fascination for me in many things written by this man and his defence for a literal millenium does not disappoint. Dr Geisler offers his defence over seven points. They are:

  1. Without a Millennium, God Lost the Battle in History.
  2. Without A Millennium, History Has no Climax.
  3. Without a Millennium, God Would Break an Unconditional Land Promise to Abraham.
  4. Without a Millennium, God would Break an Unconditional Throne Promise to David.
  5. Only Premillennialism Employs a Consistent Hermeneutic.
  6. Premillennialism Adds Urgency to Evangelism.
  7. Premillennial Imminency Adds an Incentive for Holiness.

In my experience, several of these points are not part of most defences of a literal millenium, so this obviously makes for an intriguing look at Holy Scripture.

So let us look at these points. I will offer a critique of them because I honestly see errors in the approach which is being employed; I will do this despite the fact that I am, and will remain, a general admirer of much of Dr Geisler's work.

Now we really must begin by pointing out that the word, 'millenium' is not a biblical word. Of course that point does not tell us everything. Reformed Theologians often talk about 'providence' too although that is not a biblical word. Believers also talk about 'The Holy Trinity' although the term never appears in that precise form in Scripture. But in both those cases the words, or terms, are being employed to describe things which are very clearly biblical. In contrast, the concept of a 'millenium' heavily rests on just one Scripture, Revelation 20:3, so - in order to build up a doctrine - several Old Testament verses must be brought to bear. Mostly, these could indeed fit into the concept of a literal, one thousand year millenium, but they are certainly capable of being understood differently. Most damagingly for premillenialism, the early church mostly did understand them differently.

Highly regarded Princeton theologian Charles Hodge (1797-1878) wrote:

'It is a sound rule in the interpretation of Scripture that obscure passages should be so explained as to make them agree with those that are plain. It is unreasonable to make the symbolic and figurative language of prophecy and poetry the rule by which to explain the simple didactic prose language of the Bible. It is no less unreasonable that a multitude of passages should be taken out of their natural sense to make them accord with a single passage of doubtful import.' (p842, Hodge, Charles. 1960. Systematic Theology. Vol. 3).

Let us look now at Dr Norman Geisler's seven points:

1. Without a Millennium, God Lost the Battle in History.

I must say that I find this a somewhat strange argument. This is how Dr Geisler explains his point:

"God started human history by creating human beings in a literal Paradise (Gen.1-2). It had trees, plants, animals, and rivers (Gen. 2). It had a specific geographical location on earth, by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (Iraq). There was no sin, evil, or suffering there. Our first parents Adam and Eve lived in a perfect physical environment. But this Paradise was lost by sin. Being tempted by the Devil, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:16-17), thus bringing pain, suffering, and death on themselves (Gen. 3:14-19) and on all mankind (Rom. 5:12; Rom. 8:18-25). They were expelled from the Garden which was sealed off and guarded by an angel (Gen. 3:24). So, the Tempter won the first battle. He brought death, its results, and its fear on mankind (Heb. 2:14)."
"If the Paradise lost is never regained, then eventually God is the loser and Satan the winner. If physical death is not reversed by physical resurrection (Jn. 5:28-29), then Satan gains the ultimate victory (Heb. 2:14). And if a literal Paradise is not restored, then God lost what He created. But God is omnipotent (Rev. 19:6) and cannot ultimately lose. Hence, there must be a literal Paradise regained such as we have in the premillennial view of the End of history. Otherwise, God did not reverse the curse and gain the victory over Satan, the damaged earth, and the fallen human race."
"But God will regain the Paradise that was lost. This He will do this by a literal resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12-19; Luke 24:39-43) and by the literal reign on earth of Christ the Last Adam. He will reign until death is actually defeated (1 Cor. 15:24-27). But this will not be until the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:4-6) and the beginning of the New Heaven and Earth of which John says, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4). So, only by a literal reign of Christ on earth, such as the millennium shall be, will the true Paradise be restored."

This is a very interesting argument, but it is ultimately flawed. God does not have to regain His original paradise in the original shape or manner in which it first appeared. The promise of a Paradise is indeed fulfilled both in heaven now and, more completely, in the Eternal State to come. Dr Geisler states,

"If the Paradise lost is never regained, then eventually God is the loser and Satan the winner. If physical death is not reversed by physical resurrection (Jn. 5:28-29), then Satan gains the ultimate victory (Heb. 2:14)."

However, no amillenialist that I know of would claim that Paradise is never regained. It most certainly will be regained and in a far superior form to that limited, physical form in which it originally appeared upon this earth. Secondly, surely no Christian believer would claim that there is no physical resurrection to come - there most certainly is - and Satan will indeed finally be judged. It seems that Geisler is arguing here - not with those who strongly question a literal millenium - but with those who hold to Full Preterism (there are no prophecies left to be fulfilled). So Dr Geisler seems to believe that most of those who question the need for a literal, physical 'millenium' do not believe that the original Paradise will be regained. Amillenialists - it's a horrible word, 'realised millenialists' is far better - on the contrary, believe that a Paradise currently exists in Heaven and this will indeed eventually spread to this earth, but the concept of an earthly, physical, "millenium" of limited time is not called for in any of this. This simply refers to the Eternal State. This is the time when all things in heaven and earth are finally restored, and reconciled, to God. Premillenialists like Dr Geisler insist that a thousand-year government is required for that as though God's eternal plan and schema is really all about good government rather than being all about salvation in Christ.

Geisler is correct in stating that the original Paradise needs to be restored, but his first point is demolished when it is made clear that 'realised millenialists' do indeed believe that the original Paradise will be restored, however, we believe that it must be restored in the Eternal State in which only the saved will have any part. Premillenialists, on the other hand, believe it must be restored in the physical state first. So Dr Geisler's first point which states that without a literal, 1,000 year 'millenium' God has lost the battle within human history, must be rejected because he is bringing certain assumptions about the beliefs which 'realised millenialists' hold to the table which most of them do not even hold. Moreover, he appears to be considering that 'human history' must eventually deliver a perfect record, but God is not necessarily interested in "human history" but in saving souls in Christ! Surely the message of the New Testament is that - without the involvement of Christ - all human endeavours will ultimately and finally fail. One might also say that a divine/human theocracy has already been tried but it failed abysmally (the Old Covenant).

Dr Geisler certainly accepts the reality of a New Heavens and New Earth to come (the Eternal State), yet he seems unable to see that that is entirely sufficient, still looking for a perfect earthly government to come first. This puzzles those of us who reject premillenialism.

2. Without A Millennium, History Has no Climax.

Dr Geisler presents this as a second point yet, in my view, it is really the first point which is expressed somewhat differently. On this point, Dr Geisler writes,

"It is widely acknowledged that a linear view of history (that history is moving forward toward a final Goal) is the result of the Judeo-Christian revelation. History is said to be His-story, for God has planned it and is moving it (Dan. 2, 7) forward toward its End (Eschaton). But without a literal historical millennium on earth there is no real end to history. According to a traditional amillennial view, human history merely stops, but it never really comes to a climax. It simply ends and then the eternal state begins. However, on the premillennial view, the millennium is not the first chapter of eternity; it is the last chapter of time. It is the time when, by Christ’s reign, sin, suffering, and death will be finally overcome. For only “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” (1 Cor. 15:24-25). But Christ only does this through His millennial reign which ends in the final resurrection (Rev. 20:5). So without a literal millennium there is no real End to history."

The 'realised millenialist' would state that history does indeed have a climax and this is what the parousia (Second Coming) and the resurrection of the dead are all about! Paul the Apostle seems utterly clear about this in all of his writings (1 Corinthians 15, for example), and only possibly two to five verses in all of Paul's highly doctrinal epistles could - I repeat could - have a millenialist connotation. In fact, some have stated that Paul's disinterest in any millenialist schema in the entire volume of his New Testament input (which is considerable), is a death-knell for the concept of a literal millenium.

Dr Geisler states that,

"...According to a traditional amillennial view, human history merely stops, but it never really comes to a climax. It simply ends and then the eternal state begins..."

This is clearly an over-simplification. Amillenialism, as already stated, does indeed believe that history comes to a climax and that climax is in the parousia, the resurrection of the dead and the Great Judgment. This is simply the picture which the New Testament epistles present to us. Those epistles are silent on a supposed earthly 1,000 year reign of Christ in Jerusalem. Do we believe that revelation is progressive or do we not? Yet amillenialism never denies that certain great cosmic events will undoubtedly accompany those great occurrences, so Dr Geisler's assertion that 'realised millenialists' teach that human history never reaches a climax but simply finishes is hardly an accurate statement or summation of what most amillenialists believe, although it could describe what some 'complete preterists' believe.
Dr Geisler writes,

"It is the time (the millenium) when, by Christ’s reign, sin, suffering, and death will be finally overcome. For only “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” (1 Cor. 15:24-25). But Christ only does this through His millennial reign which ends in the final resurrection (Rev. 20:5)."

But here Geisler adds things to Scripture which are just not there. He quotes 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 as though it endorses a literal millenium, but it does not. I challenge the reader to go carefully through 1 Corinthians 15 - verse by verse! - to see if the concept of a literal millenium can be found - IT CANNOT! Paul is discussing the resurrection of the dead which - without doubt - Paul sees, along with the Second Coming, as the great climaxes of history. Again, the reader is challenged to find anything like a millenium in that chapter. Despite the obvious fact that a millenium is missing and clearly completely absent from the thoughts of Paul, Dr Geisler quotes the chapter triumphantly. Rather than endorsing a literal millenium, 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 is discussing the final, logical outcome of Christ's resurrection. Let us go back to verse 20 to get the context:

20. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
21. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
22. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
23. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
24. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.
25. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
26. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15: 20-26).

Notice how Paul sees the resurrection of the dead as the pivotal future occurrence, enabled by the resurrection of Christ, which leads to Christ finally delivering the kingdom back to God the Father, with the final eradication of all human death as the result.
In all his writings Paul always points to the resurrection as the great Christian hope, considering that it is here, and in the judgment, where God's human creation will eventually be reconciled to God. Premillenialists might indeed see glimmers of a 'millenial rule' in verses 24 and 25, but they are very faint glimmers indeed. Christ is reigning even now, there is no need to look for a future physical rule over the nations from Jerusalem. He rose from the garden tomb in glory, receiving the full measure of glory when He rose to heaven to be accepted by the Father. He reigns even now; nothing further can be added to that.

A literal restoring of the kingdom to Israel was certainly a Jewish hope and the disciples asked Jesus about this:

6. So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
7. He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
8. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:6-8).

Though one might say that the words of Jesus do not entirely rule out a 'millenium' to come, Jesus plainly encouraged the disciples to banish thoughts of a Jewish super kingdom from their thoughts and to be prepared to start travelling the world to spread the gospel proclamation.

So I submit that the lack of a literal, 1,000 year millenium in which Christ reigns at Jerusalem and in which Israel becomes a 'super nation' (as most millenialists teach) does not mean that "history has no climax" - for Paul, the climax of history lies in the super events of the Second Coming and the Resurrection of the Dead.

3. Without a Millennium, God Would Break an Unconditional Land Promise to Abraham.

In his third point, Dr Geisler states his case in the following manner:

"God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendents forever. This Land covered everything west of the Jordan River from Egypt to Iraq. “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’”( Gen. 15:18). God said to Abraham: “I give to you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession” (Gen. 17:8). “For all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever” (Gen. 13:15).

This land promise was also unconditional since only God sealed it by passing through the split sacrifice while Abram slept. God said to Abram, “Bring Me a three-year old heifer, a three year old female goat, a three year old ram...and cut them in two.... Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram.... And it came to pass when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there was a smoking oven and burning torch that passed between those pieces. 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...” (Gen. 15:9-18).

The Bible declares that “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). God’s promises don’t depend on our faith but on his faithfulness. For “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). God’s promise was immutable. For “When God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself.... Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation” (Heb. 6:13-18).

But this land promise to Abraham has never yet been fulfilled. However, according to the Bible it will yet be fulfilled (Matt. 19:28; Acts 1:6-8; Rom. 11) in the future in the thousand year reign of Christ (Rev. 20:1-6). Even after the days of Joshua (21:43), the land promise was yet future (Jer. 11:5; Amos 9:14-15). Without a literal national fulfillment, such as the millennium, God would have broken an unconditional covenant-which is impossible (Heb. 6:17-18)!"

This might - initially at least - seem to be the strongest argument for a literal millenium which Dr Geisler has so far produced, but a closer look soon reveals problems. Nevertheless, we need to spend longer here to ensure that we all correctly understand the problems which this popular premillenialist view presents.

Premillennialism almost always asserts that God unconditionally promised Canaan to the descendants of Abraham. Further, it is held that the promise has never been completely granted; hence, the claim is made that the Jews eventually will be restored to Palestine in order that the Abrahamic covenant might be fulfilled. Indeed, some have asserted that, with the establishment of Israel as an independent government in 1948, the Jewish restoration has already started and Christ must return soon. But we really must observe that this notion (despite being very popular in some quarters) is not consistent with biblical teaching.

Concerning Canaan, the Lord had certainly promised Abraham that his children would inherit the land (Genesis 12:7), indeed, it was promised "forever" (Genesis 13:15).

But there are some very important questions here:

The Book of Joshua records an interesting comment on this:

'So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there.' (Joshua 21:43).

This land expanded still further during Solomon's reign:

'And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River (Euphrates) unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt...' (1 Kings 4:21; 2 Chronicles 9:26).

So eventually Israel inherited a huge amount of land, far more than originally promised to Abraham. But some will still say: but wasn't it supposed to be inherited "forever"? But what is the Meaning of “forever”? We need to understand that the term “forever” is not always used in the Bible in a completely unlimited sense.
For instance, circumcision was an “everlasting covenant” (Genesis 17:13); the Passover was an ordinance “for ever” (Exodus 12:14); and the Levitical system had an “everlasting priesthood” (Numbers 25:13). These Old Testament institutions, however, certainly passed away with the abrogation of the law, thus demonstrating that “for ever” sometimes has a temporary significance. A huge majority of Christians accept this point. 'Forever' in the Old Testament often has the sense of, 'continuously, while the present system/dispensation is in effect.'

But was the promise conditional or unconditional?

Let us allow Bible scholar Wayne Jackson to address this point for us,

'The truth of the matter is, the Old Testament clearly indicates that Israel’s possession of Palestine was conditioned upon their faithfulness to God—a condition which they violated repeatedly; hence, it was foretold:
When ye transgress the covenant of Jehovah your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods, and bow down yourselves to them: then will the anger of Jehovah be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you (Joshua 23:16).
That time eventually came, and the Jews lost their “deed” to the Promised Land!
Jeremiah’s Visual Aid:
In the nineteenth chapter of the book that bears his name, the prophet Jeremiah was instructed of Jehovah: “Go, and buy a potter’s earthen bottle.” Subsequently, he was told to go to the valley of Hinnom and prophesy to the inhabitants of Jerusalem concerning their sins and their eventual destruction. As a symbol of this promised punishment, Jeremiah was commanded to “break the bottle” and to proclaim its meaning.
Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be made whole again (v. 11).
This prophecy was partially fulfilled with a siege of the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25), but was completely and ultimately fulfilled with the destruction of national Israel by the Romans in A.D. 70 (see Clarke, Adam, n.d., 305, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. 4. Nashville, TN. Abingdon). After the Jewish nation was destroyed, it was so permanently scattered by the providence of God that it cannot be made whole again. Regardless of the fact that some Jews are migrating back to Palestine, they will never be restored as God’s nation!" (source: http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/322-examining-premillennialism).

So the promise to Abraham, which was then passed on to Israel, was hardly without any conditions whatsoever, nevertheless, for many years Israel did indeed possess land even beyond what was promised to Abraham. But the truth is that the great land promised to Abraham's descendants is only finally and completely fulfilled through the Church! Actually we have the very words of Jesus as evidence for this. The reader is directed to the parable of the wicked husbandmen of Matthew 21. Here Jesus told of how the people of Israel had so abominably treated God’s prophets, that hatred coming to a hideous climax with their willingness for Christ to go to the cross. Let us look at verse 43:

'Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.' (Matthew 21:43).

In the interests of space we only quote one verse, but the reader is encouraged to go through that whole parable in detail.

Peter the Apostle shows us that the “nation” to be so abundantly blessed as God’s “holy nation,” is the church (1 Peter 2:7-10). The New Testament is clear on this point: Christians are the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:26-29), or, to put it another way, the “Israel of God.” (6:16).

In summation, while the promises to Abraham might be said to be substantially fulfilled up to and including the reign of Solomon, we should understand that they are only entirely and comprehensively fulfilled in the Church. The New Heavens and New Earth will obviously go way beyond the original promise to Abraham; only true believers will be there, including, of course, Abraham as 'the father of the faithful.' So Christians do indeed finally inherit the entire earth (Matthew 5:5).

4. Without a Millennium, God would Break an Unconditional Throne Promise to David.

Geisler expresses his next point in the following manner:

"God promised David that he and his descendents would reign on a throne in Israel forever. He declared, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and...I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.... My steadfast love will not depart from him.... And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:12-16).

This was an unconditional promise to David and his descendants for God declared that: “My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him. I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens. If his children forsake my law...then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes, but I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness....I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever...” (Psa. 89:28-37).

However, no descendent of David is now-nor has been for over 2500 years-reigning on a literal throne in Jerusalem. But Jesus promised that Christ, a descendent of David, would do so in the future (Matt. 19:28). So, this unconditional and everlasting promise has not yet been literally fulfilled. Without Christ’s return and perpetual reign God would have broken this unconditional promise. But this is impossible (Rom. 11:29). Therefore, there must yet be a literal Messianic reign of Christ on earth such as is promised in the millennium (Rev. 20:1-6)."

Premillenialists insist that Christ will return to this earth to be seated on the literal throne of David in Jerusalem. This has to be considered as a very physical and materialistic approach to the reign of Christ, moreover, it is one which ignores several clear Scriptures. Fact is: Jesus never claimed that His kingdom would be a worldly, political entity, as David’s had been. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Surely, that is a pretty clear Scripture!

Christ is, of course, heir to David's throne as Isaiah pointed out:

'...Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever.' (Isaiah 9:7).

Then the archangel Gabriel said,

'He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.' (Luke 1:32-33).

Realised millenialists believe that Christ’s reign upon the throne of David is of a heavenly and spiritual nature. There is still further evidence for this:

The last king to reign on the Davidic throne of the Old Testament era was Jehoiachin (sometimes also known as Jeconiah, or, Coniah). In Jeremiah 22:24-30, it was prophesied that he and his seed (Judah) would be delivered into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar and cast into a foreign land (Babylon). Specifically, concerning Coniah we have this:

Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days; for no more shall a man of his seed prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling in Judah (v. 30).

So the testimony of Scripture is clear that no descendant of Coniah would ever again prosper, ruling from the literal throne of David. Yet many forget that Christ Himself was of the “seed” of Jechoniah, so, both from a legal standpoint, that is, through Joseph (See Matthew 1:12, 16) and from a physical vantage point (through Mary, via Shealtiel - See Luke 3:27), it becomes obvious that Christ can never reign on David’s earthly and physical throne. If He should do so, He would not prosper!

But what did the prophet Zechariah prophesy with regard to Christ?

'Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.' (Zechariah 6:12-13).

This passage affirms that Christ would function as priest and reign as king on his throne—simultaneously. Yet, as Wayne Jackson and others have pointed out, according to Hebrews 8:4, Christ could not act in the role of a priest while on the earth—for he was not descended from the priestly tribe (Hebrews 7:14). Since the Lord could not be a priest on earth, and since he is priest and king jointly, it necessarily follows that his reign as king cannot be earthly in nature. Rather, it is heavenly. I thank Wayne Jackson, principally, for this insight.

The fact that the reign of Christ is a spiritual reign - not a physical one - is also illustrated by the parable of the pounds, recorded in Luke 19:11-27. The parable involves a certain nobleman (Christ) who went into a far country (heaven) to receive a kingdom and to return. Some citizens, however, sent a message to him, saying, “We will not that this man reign over us.” Finally, having received the kingdom, the nobleman returns to render judgment.
From this account it should be perfectly clear that:

  1. the kingdom was received in heaven (not on earth);
  2. the reign was from heaven (not from Jerusalem); and
  3. the return of the nobleman was after the reception of the kingdom (not prior to it).

Please let us notice that all of these facts are strikingly opposed to the premillennial concept. But there is still more:
Let us consider what King David was told by the prophet Nathan:

12. When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.
13. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Samuel 7:12-13; NIV throughout).

Without question, this is a prediction of the reign of Christ upon David’s throne. In view of this promise, David was told: “Your throne shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:16). Also notice Hebrews:

'But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom."' (Hebrews 1:8).

Here 2 Samuel 7:16 is clearly being applied to Christ! We need to carefully note that Christ is to be seated on David’s throne, over his kingdom, while the Old Testament king is still in the grave. Contrastingly, premillenialists believe that Christ will sit upon David’s throne after the resurrection of all the righteous—including David.

29. "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.
30. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.
31. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. (Acts 2:29-31).

Carefully notice that the placing of one of David's descendants upon the throne of David is clearly associated here with the resurrection of Jesus Christ!! That then, was fulfilled in the resurrection of our Lord - it is not awaiting fulfillment as most premillenialists teach. So we should hold no concept that Christ is still waiting to sit on His throne. He occupied that throne following His resurrection:

'He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne.' (Revelation 3:21).

Please carefully note the Greek past tense in the second part of that verse.

Should any questions arise as to whose throne Christ sat upon back in the first century AD, Wayne Jackson assists us:

If it be contended that this passage speaks of Christ on the Father’s throne and not David’s, it need only be replied that the Father’s throne and David’s are biblically the same. Solomon sat upon the throne of David (1 Kings 2:12), which was in reality Jehovah’s throne (1 Chronicles 29:23). Hence, when Christ sat down on the Father’s throne, he was on the throne of David! He is presently reigning and will continue such until all his enemies are destroyed, the last of which will be death (1 Corinthians 15:25-26)......To speak of Christ on David’s throne is simply to affirm that our Lord has “all authority”; that to him has been given “all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion” (Ephesians 1:21); indeed, that he exercises a regal reign characteristic of the great King that he is. Compare Matthew 23:2, where the authority of the scribes and Pharisees who taught the law is symbolically described as sitting on “Moses’ seat.”

So to sum all of this up, we must reject Dr Geisler's belief that without a literal millenium, God would be breaking a promise which He gave to David. Indeed, it seems an especially blinkered point of view for any Christian to claim ignorance of the fact that Christ indeed took over the throne of David as King of kings right back in the first century AD.

'He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne.' (Revelation 3:21).

5. Only Premillennialism Employs a Consistent Hermeneutic.

On this point, Dr Geisler writes thus,

'To deny premillennialism is to deny the consistent application of the literal historical-grammatical interpretation of the Bible. For the non-premill view fails because: 1) It takes parts of the Bible literally but not all (e.g., prophecy); 2) It takes part of the prophets literally (First Advent) but not all of the Second Advent texts; 3) It takes part of the Gospels literally, namely, Christ’s death and resurrection (Matt. 26-28) but not all of Jesus’ predictions made in the Gospels, namely, His statements about His Second Coming (Matt. 19:28; Matt. 24-25); 4); It takes part of a verse literally but not the rest. When quoting Isaiah Jesus stopped in the middle of a sentence and pronounced it literally fulfilled (in His First Coming), but the rest of the verse speaks of His Second Coming which must be taken literally too (cf. Isa. 61:1-2 cf. Luke 4:18-21); 5) It takes one resurrection literally but not the other (Rev. 20:5-6; John 5:28-29). But the two are listed together in the same texts. Both are said to involve people coming out of graves (Jn. 5:25-28) where dead bodies reside.'

'Further, if the non-literal (spiritualized) interpretations of amills and postmills were applied to other sections of Scripture it would undermine the fundamentals of the Christian Faith. If applied to Gen. 1-3, it would deny the historicity of Adam, the Fall, and the Doctrine of Creation. (If the End isn't literal, then why should the Beginning be literal?) If applied to the texts about the Cross, it would deny the atonement. And if applied to the resurrection narratives, it would deny Christ’s victory over death. In short, applying the same hermeneutic, which non-premills apply to prophecy, to other parts of the Bible would deny the fundamentals of the Christian Faith. This is why premillennial-ism is based on a kind of hermeneutical fundamental of the Christian Faith. There are three kinds of fundamentals: 1) Doctrinal fundamentals (e.g., the Trinity, Deity of Christ, Sacrificial Atonement, and Resurrection). These are a test of evangelical authenticity. 2) Epistemological fundamentals--Inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture). This is a test of evangelical consistency. 3) Hermeneutical fundamentals (a literal hermeneutic and premillennialism that results from it). This too is a test of evangelical consistency. So, to deny the foundation of premillennialism, is logically to undermine salvation fundamentals as well.'

I always wish to be fair to people whose articles I critique but here I struggle. To be frank, I find a level of confusion in this section which is highly surprising for such an eminent evangelical writer. Dr Geisler accuses those who cannot support the concept of a literal 1,000 year millenium of five separate things, yet he accuses them simply on the basis of one verse in one highly-symbolic book. Here are some of these five accusations (we don't have time or space to look at them all):

1. Taking part of the Bible literally, but not all of it.
Surely Dr Geisler is well aware that the Bible contains various forms of writing. Or, is he not? The Bible writers never pretended that everything they wrote should be understood literally. What about "the beast with seven heads and ten horns"? Is that literal? Or is it telling us something through the use of symbols? Apocalyptic writing, such as found in Daniel and Revelation, uses symbols liberally. But there is a sort of prophetic poetry as well which is used in parts of Isaiah and elsewhere. We will look at some of this later in our quick look at Arguments Used by Premillenialists. If Dr Geisler was sitting in my office right now, I could turn to things in the Bible and he would have to agree with me that they need to be understood spiritually/poetically but not literally. I could show him, for example, that '1,000' is only ever used symbolically/poetically in Scripture and he would have to agree with me - yet I am sure that he would still insist that the "1,000 years" of Revelation 20 is literal. But why??

2. Taking part of the prophets literally (First Advent) but not all of the Second Advent texts.
The problem here is that Geisler is looking at so-called "Second Advent texts" literally and in a very particularistic fashion yet there is good evidence that this is simply the wrong approach. Like all premillenialists, he is insisting that most of Bible prophecy has not yet been fulfilled, whereas many of us would insist that a very substantial body of scriptural prophecy is now fulfilled, obviously save for things such as the parousia, the resurrection and the Great Judgment. Geisler also supports the 'futurist' view of Revelation which his dispensationalist background requires him to support; this places his eshatological views roughly on a par with the Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Christiadelphians and Armstrongists. I don't say this as a slur but dispensationalism really does have to live with the fact that it brings that adventuristic naivety towards Bible prophecy which is also found in such groups. This approach tends to cut the prophecies loose from their biblical foundation, opening them up to often startling predictions.

3. Taking part of the Gospels literally, namely, Christ’s death and resurrection (Matt. 26-28) but not all of Jesus’ predictions made in the Gospels, namely, His statements about His Second Coming (Matt. 19:28; Matt. 24-25).
Again, I don't recognise myself as an amillenialist from this statement. The problem for people like Dr Norman Geisler is that they still refuse to recognise, for one thing, that the Matthew 24 prophecy largely covers the events of AD70 with just a few verses possibly referring to events just prior to the parousia. He, somewhat strangely, quotes Matthew 19:28 in this context. In fact, an increasing number of writers who share his general opinion are starting to see that much of Matthew 24 was fulfilled in AD70 (see Jerusalem AD70: The Worst Destruction Ever?).

In summation of all this, premillenialism does not always employ a consistent hermeneutic at all. Most premillenialists do agree that certain things in Daniel and Revelation are not to be understood literally, yet they will insist that the 1,000 years of Revelation 20 must be understood literally. Dr Geisler appears to be over-sensitive in his insistence on biblical literalism and this has long been a flaw within the theological approach which he represents. In contrast, Jesus and the writers of the New Testament have no trouble in 'spiritualizing' an Old Testament text to get at it's real meaning. Examples of this can be found in 'Arguments Used by Premillenialists' which follows this article. The other point is that it is hardly consistent biblical interpretation (which Dr Geisler insists that dispensational premillenialists always maintain) to hold the unbiblical view of the Church which Dr Geisler, as a dispensationalist, must hold. That is: that the Church was not an original intention of God - He only established it when He was surprised by Israel's rejection of Christ!! Now that is a highly confused hermeneutic indeed! In fact, Scripture is clear that the establishment of the Church was an original intention of God. See Luke 24:25-27 and Ephesians 3:10-11, for instance.

6. Premillennialism Adds Urgency to Evangelism.

Here is what Dr Geisler states on this:

'Premillennialism, especially in those who hold the imminency of Christ’s return, creates a certain sense of urgency not generated by the other views. For if Christ is coming before the millennium at a time we know not, then believers should live in a constant sense of expectation. Jesus said, "Occupy till I come" (Luke 19:13) and “Night is coming, when no one can work.” If one believes his time is limited and Christ may come at any moment, then he will have more of a sense of urgency about evangelism. This, of course, is not to say that there is no sense of urgency in the other views for everyone is going to die and some will die at any given moment. But there is a far greater sense of urgency if one believes it could be our last opportunity to reach anyone at any moment.
It is no coincidence that many of the modern missionary movements (William Carey, David Livingston, and Adoniron Judson) and evangelistic efforts (John Wesley, Billy Sunday, D. L. Moody, and Billy Graham) were headed by premillennialists. For the belief in an imminent premillennial coming of Christ gives a great sense of urgency in reaching the world before he returns.'

From this point Dr Geisler no longer argues his case for premillenialism from Scripture but from other areas. He argues that premillenialism adds urgency to evangelism. But my submission is that it is not so much premillenialism which has added "urgency" to evangelism, but the fact so many premillenialist preachers have been affected by Finneyism! That makes evangelism appear more urgent and fervent. Nevertheless, many of us believe that Finneyism has been a terrible influence on evangelism, leading to an over-dependence on emotion and on 'working a crowd' (like entertainers do). Many modern preachers who have dispensationalist roots seem to believe that they can get more "converts" by their use of psychological tricks and marketing tactics. Their seems to be no understanding that only the Holy Spirit can convict.

Certainly one cannot deny that some great preachers have come from a premillenialist background. However, some of the examples which Geisler lists, while apparently being from that general background, seem to have been almost neutral, never pushing premillenialism. John Wesley and Billy Graham would be examples here. But one can also think of many other great evangelical preachers and writers who were not premillenial: Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Charles Spurgeon, John Stott and the great JC Ryle to name just a few. So while admitting that this theological grouping has produced some fine preachers, I am not sure what that proves. However, it must be stated that premillenialism has not produced many great Christian writers, indeed, it has produced remarkably few. Almost all of the great Christian writers and thinkers would have rejected premillenialism out of hand. Just consider Thomas Aquinas, Augustine of Hippo, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Richard Baxter, Matthew Henry, A.R. Fausset, Philip Doddridge, William Cox, Philip Mauro, William Hendriksen, Albert Barnes, John Gill, Adam Clarke, W.B. Godbey, B.W. Johnson and C.S. Lewis for 'starters,' with scores more to follow!

7. Premillennial Imminency Adds an Incentive for Holiness.

Dr Geisler asserts,

'It is not that there are no other incentives for godliness, but certainly the imminent premillennial expectation is an added one. For no true believer wants to be caught in sin when Jesus returns. The apostle John declared: “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 Jn. 3:2-3). Paul declared that this “blessed hope helps in “training us to renounce ungodliness” and to set apart a people “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). So, the sense of imminency has a purifying effect on one’s life. It also has a sobering effect. As Peter said, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives” (2 Pet. 3:10-11).'

I think Geisler is certainly wrong about 'holiness' here. I think it would be better expressed to state that premillenialism encourages believers to be ever-expectant for the return of Christ because of it's distinctive use of Bible prophecy and it's ongoing focus on the Second Coming. But this is exactly as in such groups as Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians and Armstrongists. All of these groups use a similar approach with a high focus on (so-called) "end-time prophecies." Of course, I myself came out of such an approach. For some, that approach will indeed encourage towards a more holy lifestyle, however, for others it will not have that effect at all. Moreover, some of the most genuinely holy Christians I have ever met did not come out of this background at all. Generally, I take Dr Geisler's point, but I think it is over-stated. Many years of the Christian life have taught me that a truly close walk with God is not about holding any particular views on a millenium, rather, it seems to be about having a very strong prayer life and a willingness to reach out to those in need.

So the final point which Dr Geisler offers in support of premillenialism is an interesting one but if it were correct we would find all the most holy believers in such premillenial groupings as the Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians and dispensationalists. For myself, I have no doubt that we do not find that and I think Dr Geisler fails in his assertion that all the most holy believers share his views on the millenium.

To Conclude...

I think we have demonstrated that Dr Norman Geisler's seven points in support of a literal, earthly 'millenium' are far less persuasive that he appears to believe. Indeed, one finds that possibly not a single one of his seven points will stand under biblical scrutiny, the only sort of scrutiny which concerns us here. Moreover, it should be pointed out that Dr Geisler is 'saddled' with the undeniable fact that nearly all of the most strange, weird and deceptive false religious teachers of the last 250 years have supported his overall millenial views (obviously, with a few variations here and there). We speak of everyone from William Miller, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Ellen G. White, Jim Jones, through David Korresh, Herbert W. Armstrong, Charles Taze Russell and all the rest. This surely must lead to us pondering the 'fruits' of a belief which Dr Geisler insists leads to a more "holy" life. In complete contrast, I would suggest that - all too often - premillenialism is a belief which leads to certain believers taking their eyes off the centrality of Christ and becomingly overly-involved in prophetic speculation and other side-issues (such as the very strange belief that modern Israel should be seen as just as important as, or even, more important than the Church).
Robin A. Brace, April 2nd 2010.

See also: Scriptures Used by Premillenialists