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REV 20 AS DISPENSATIONALISM’S ACHILLES HEEL

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  2 Comments
throne question

Dispensationalists are prone to boast that Revelation 20 presents their system in clear and certain terms. They often declare that they can go to one text of Scripture and find their system. Unfortunately, this is not the case. This text actually presents them with serious problems. Consider the following.

First, the concluding period of earth history, which experiences the glorious victory of Christ, is a thousand years long, but its length appears in only one chapter of the entire Bible.

Second, Christ’s thousand year rule not only appears in only one chapter in Scripture, but that chapter is in the Bible’s most symbolic book. This book has a seven-headed beast, a woman standing on the moon, fire-breathing prophets, and more.

Third, consistency requires that dispensationalists literally interpret the “key” to the abyss as a physical object (Rev 20:1). Yet the same book presents Christ as holding a “key” to death (Rev 1:18). Surely death does not have a literal key.


Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (ed. by Darrell Bock)
Presents three views on the millennium: progressive dispensationalist, amillennialist,
and reconstructionist postmillennialist viewpoints. Includes separate responses to each view
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Fourth, if we interpret Revelation 20 literally then only those Christians who live during the beast’s time will enter the premillennialist’s millennium. This is because the text only states that those who are martyred under him and effectively resist him will rule (Rev 20:4). Even if dispensationalists place the beast toward the end of history, just prior to the Rapture, the problem remains: The text only speaks of those who are martyred under him.

Fifth, if Revelation 20 presents only two resurrections, a problem arises. For according to their system the first resurrection is of all the saints. Then the second resurrection is at the end of the millennium and involves only the lost. Consequently, there is no resurrection for converts who die during both the tribulation and in the millennium.

Sixth, their view of a millennium in which Christ personally rules the nations is terribly problematic. For it results in his second humiliation, wherein his kingdom turns against him and surrounds him in Jerusalem (Rev 20:8–9). And this despite his own personally ruling them with a rod of iron.

Seventh, the premillennial view presents an absurd situation. On this view mortals who are aware that immortal, resurrected saints have been ruling them for a thousand years will nevertheless revolt against those immortals in trying to defeat them. This does not make sense.


Major Bible Prophecies (5 CDs)
Gentry conference lectures on the Millennium, Daniel’s 70 Weeks,
Man of Sin, Heaven, and Unfulfilled Prophecies.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

2 responses to REV 20 AS DISPENSATIONALISM’S ACHILLES HEEL

  1. Dr. Gentry, I enjoy following your blog, and have been happy to see you posting more lately! Thanks for that. I just thought I would offer a couple thoughts on your points.
    Your first point doesn’t really seem like a serious problem since that passage has no textual issues.
    Second, along with the first, in a chronologically-laden passage which reads simply and clearly, I don’t see how that would be a problem. If an average person reads Revelation 20, they will come away with a straightforward chronological reading. It is only by trying to complicate things that the issue gets more complicated. Yes there are seven-headed beasts and such in the book, but those difficulties are not present in every passage in Revelation (as I’m sure you agree). The difficulties of other passages do not necessitate the difficulty of Revelation 20.
    Third, I am not sure any dispensationalist would argue for a physical key. Some people misunderstand a literal hermeneutic to mean everything needs to be physical, but I can’t think of anyone who would that a non-physical reality such as death would need a physical key.
    Fourth, Rev 20:4 speaks explicitly about the martyrs, but there are other passages which talk about others in the kingdom (e.g., Zech 14; Matt 19:28). Taking something literally doesn’t mean that one believes a certain passage is exhaustive.
    Fifth, many (maybe most) dispensationalists hold to at least four resurrections actually (Christ, pretrib, premill, postmill). So, maybe a better charge would be that Revelation only mentions two. However, same point as above: taking something literally doesn’t mean that one believes a certain passage is exhaustive about all the details. What happens to millennial believers if/when they die is a good question, but I don’t think it is insurmountable objection to taking Revelation 20 literally. Some have said believers don’t die, or else they are resurrected at the end like non-believers. Either way, Rev 20 doesn’t need to say everything.
    Six and Seven appear to be presupposed that if Christ is on the earth nothing can go wrong. Yet, the Garden of Eden presents a very similar situation where man rebelled even while being aware of immortal God walking with mankind. Also, these arguments wouldn’t be valid anyway if Scripture does in fact teach what dispensationalists claim it does. I guess the summation is that dispensationalists argue that Scriptures should be taken literally and thereby form one’s theology. Others tend to argue that Scriptures can’t mean something because that would form bad theology.
    Thanks for your post. Hope these responses help clarify a bit about how dispensationalists would respond. I enjoy following your blog!

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. March 25, 2014 at 6:30

      Thanks for reading the blog and interacting with it. Much appreciated! I will respond to your observations in a separate article. Since I already have articles backlogged until April 16, my response to you will appear on April 18, the earliest open date. Hang on! This too will come to pass.

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