In this article I will summarily present the core distinctives of the four major evangelical views. Such summaries are easy to grasp and quite helpful for presenting the differences between the systems.
1. The Church Age is the kingdom which the Old Testament prophets predict. God expands his people from the one nation of Israel in the Old Testament to the universal Christian church of the New Testament, making this phase of God’s people the “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16).
2. Christ binds Satan during his earthly ministry at his first coming. His binding prevents Satan from stopping gospel proclamation. This allows for multitudes of sinners to convert to Christ and insures some restraint upon evil.
3. Christ rules spiritually in the hearts of believers. We may expect occasional, short-lived influences of Christianity on culture and society, especially when Christians live out the implications of their faith.
4. History will gradually worsen as evil’s growth accelerates toward the end. This will culminate in the great tribulation, with the arising of a personal Antichrist.
5. Christ will return to end history, resurrect all men, and conduct the Final Judgment, and establish the eternal order. The eternal destiny of the redeemed may be either in heaven or in a totally renovated new earth.
1. The New Testament era church is the initial phase of Christ’s kingdom, which the Old Testament anticipates especially in its prophetic books.
2. The New Testament church may win occasional victories in history, but ultimately she will fail in her mission, lose influence, and become corrupted as worldwide evil increases toward the end of the current era, the Church Age.
3. The church will pass through a future, worldwide, unprecedented time of travail. During this period a personal Antichrist will arise, possessing great religious and political power. This era is known as the great tribulation, which will punctuate the end of contemporary history. Historic premillennialists differ significantly from dispensationalists in that their system is post-tribulational.
4. Christ will return at the end of the tribulation to rapture the church, resurrect deceased saints, and conduct the judgment of the righteous in the “twinkling of an eye.”
5. Christ then will descend to the earth with his glorified saints, fight the battle of Armageddon, bind Satan, and establish a worldwide, political kingdom, which Christ will personally administer for 1,000 years from Jerusalem. (Historic premillennialists often do not demand the Revelation’s 1000 years be a literal time frame.)
6. At the end of the millennial reign, Satan will be loosed and will cause a massive rebellion against the millennial kingdom and a fierce assault against Christ and his saints.
7. God will intervene with fiery judgment to rescue Christ and the saints. The resurrection and the judgment of the wicked will occur and the eternal order will begin. The eternal order may be either a recreated material new heavens and new earth, or it may be simply a heavenly environment.
1. Redemptive history is divided up into seven categorically distinct dispensations, wherein God works with men under each dispensation in different ways. Hence, the name “dispensationalism.”
2. Christ offers renewed Davidic Kingdom — an earthly, political structure — to the Jews in the first century. They reject it, leading him to postpone it until the future.
3. The Church Age is a wholly unforseen and distinct era in the plan of God. It was altogether unknown to and unexpected by the Old Testament prophets.
4. God has a separate and distinct program and plan for racial Israel, as distinguished from the church. The church of Jesus Christ is a paren-thetical aside in the original plan of God.
5. The church may experience occasional small scale successes in history, but ultimately she will lose influence, fail in her mission, and become corrupt as worldwide evil intensifies toward the end of the Church Age.
6. Christ will return secretly in the sky to rapture living saints and resurrect the bodies of deceased saints (the first resurrection). He is removing them out of the world before the great tribulation. The judg-ment of the saints transpires in heaven during the seven-year great tribulation period before Christ’s bodily return to the earth.
7. At the conclusion of the seven-year great tribulation, Christ will return to the earth in order to establish and personally administer a Jewish political kingdom headquartered at Jerusalem for 1,000 years. During this time, Satan will be bound, and the temple and sacrificial system will be re-established in Jerusalem as memorials.
8. Toward the end of the Millennial Kingdom, Satan will be loosed so that he may surround and attack Christ at Jerusalem.
9. Christ will call down fire from heaven to destroy his enemies. The second resurrection and judgment of the wicked will occur, initiating the eternal order.
1. Jesus Christ founds his Messianic kingdom on the earth during his earthly ministry and through his redemptive labors. His establishing the “kingdom of heaven” fulfills Old Testament prophetic expectations regarding the coming kingdom.
2. The kingdom is essentially redemptive and spiritual, rather than political and corporeal. Although it has implications for the political realm, postmillennialism is not political, offering a kingdom in competition with geo-political nations for governmental rule.
3. The kingdom will exercise a transformational socio-cultural influence in history. This will occur as more and more people convert to Christ, not by a minority revolt and seizure of political power in history nor by the catastrophic imposition of Christ at his second advent from outside of history.
4. Postmillennialism expects the gradual, developmental expansion of Christ’s kingdom in time and on earth before the Lord returns to end history. This will proceed by a full-orbed ministry of the Word, fervent and believing prayer, and the consecrated labors of Christ’s Spirit-filled people.
5. Postmillennialism confidently anticipates a time in earth history (continuous with the present) in which the very gospel already operating will win the victory throughout the earth, fulfilling the Great Commission.
6. After this extended period of gospel prosperity, earth history will draw to a close by the personal, visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ (accompanied by a literal resurrection and a general judgment) to introduce his blood-bought people into the consummative and eternal form of the kingdom. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.