Is Premillennialism True to the New Testament? (Part One)

Revised Edition

A Critical Overview of Fundamentalist

Dispensational Eschatology

by Mark Mountjoy

Introductory Remarks

Premillennialism has so many components to it that it is daunting to contemplate studying them and very easy to just accept the doctrine.  But this system of belief should not be accepted without critical reflection about its key claims, (it is also possible to reject Premillennialism without giving it the benefit of the doubt).  Whatever the case may be, Premilllennialism’s claims, when scrutinized, quickly reveal the tenet’s serious weaknesses and, ultimately, its implausibility and source of constant oscillation and intrinsic unreliability.  

For our purposes, a four point examination of this view must suffice to demonstrate, in the strongest possible terms, how Premillennialism in no way agrees with the claims of the New Testament, nor did the earliest Christians harbor any expectations now enshrined, cherished and venerated in this recently developed belief system.  

In this essay we will cover Structure, Imminence, the End of the Age in Question and the Olivet Discourse as it appears in the Synoptics in order to demonstrate that the most definitive passage Jesus ever gave about his return, uttered just seventy-two hours before he was crucified for the sins of the world, offers NO justification for Premillennialism at all.

The Structure of Premillennialism Belies Its Inauthenticity

The four kingdoms of prophecy form the backbone of Bible prophecy and give structure, direction and finality to our understanding of God’s intention to bring the his kingdom, once and for all time, to the world of mankind.

The list and descriptions of the four kingdoms can be found in Daniel chapters 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12.  Our attention will be directed, in the interest of brevity, will only on an analysis of Daniel chapter 2.

There the monarch of the Neo-Babylonian Empire,1 Nebuchadnezzar had a mysterious dream which spooked him, but when he awoke he could not remember what it was.  In his search for answers he found that Daniel, a Judean captive employed in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace, was able to both discover the dream and give the interpretation and its significance.

In the kings dream he saw a statue, largely, but not entirely made of metallic substances; it has a head of gold; chest and arms of silver; belly and thighs of brass and shins of iron, but also feet and toes part of iron and part of clay.

In the dream the king looked and saw a small stone cut out of ablogtalkradio.come image mountain.  This stone came down from the sky and struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, violently shattering figure into multiple pieces.

Hit with such a blow, the image fell down and the stone proceeded to smash and grind the remainder of the broken statue into particles so small they seemed like chaff on the summer threshing floor.

A mighty when then kicked up and carried the particles of the image away entirely. Once the particles were swept away the stone itself grew and transformed into a great mountain that filled the whole earth.  

The Prophet Daniel notified King Nebuchadnezzar that he and his Babylonian kingdom represented the head of gold and would be followed by a kingdom inferior to his.  Daniel chapter 5:24-30 tells us exactly who that kingdom was: The Medes and the Persians founded under the auspices of Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian.2

After the Medes and Persians a third kingdom, identified in the Book of Daniel as belonging to the Greeks (Daniel 8:18-22) is represented in Daniel 2:32 as consisting of belly and thighs of brass.

The fourth kingdom, following contiguously from the third kingdom, can only be known by correctly identifying traits about it that make it stand out from a variety of possibilities.  This is the case because the Bible does not come right out and ‘name the enemy.’   

Since the fourth kingdom is the kingdom with which Premillennialists use to justify itself as ‘Scriptural’ it is here that we must look at the evidence and decide if what they say actually makes sense and adds up.

Four Kingdoms JSH PNGDaniel 2, in the larger panorama of world history, excludes parallel kingdoms that existed on earth during the twenty-two years Nebuchadnezzar reigned supreme in the A.N.E.  This is important to note up front because, it will be seen, that none of the four kingdoms ever demand a globally exhaustive reach, either in the beginning, nor in the end.

Above all, the context of the calendar has its framework circumscribed by the captivity of the Southern Kingdom of Judah in Babylon.  When the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon, the Judeans found themselves in the custody of the Medes and the Persians.  After the Persians fall to the Greeks, the Jews were in custody, so to speak, of Hellenistic chaperones.  They were, at first, under the kingdom of the north (Greek Syria), then of the south (Greek Egypt).  They switched hands, back and forth, a number of times until matters came to rest under the dominion of the north, again (Daniel 11:31).  What happens next?

In light of the king’s dream there is only one thing that could happen next: A kingdom has to come into being and it must flow and follow, contiguously, from Greek rule, authority and power.   Remembering that the Bible does not name the fourth kingdom, but gives definite clues as to who and what it was, let’s look at the evidence.

The beginnings of the fourth kingdom would be sparked by an abomination of desolation of the Second Jewish Temple.  This Temple was built by Zerubbabel3 through the largesse of Cyrus the Persian.  The prediction for and circumstances of this event can be found in Daniel chapter 8:9-14. 

A similar prophecy that adds more information can be found in Daniel chapter 11:31.  There it is clear that Jewish efforts in response to this Greek era sacrilege will lead to a successful rebellion from Greek rule (Daniel 11:32 cf. 1 Maccabees 13:41).  But the people who “know their God and who stand firm and take action” have to be Jewish, not Roman people.  Furthermore, in ancient history and in Deuterocanonical memory the Hellenistic catastrophe turns out to be the occassion of the successful rise of the Hasmonean Revolt against the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes IV.4

After 25 years of fighting and negotiations the Hasmonean State kingdom was what came into being.  Now, to be sure, this is a far cry from Premillennial conclusions, but in order to be accurate, consistent and fair to the prophecy, what comes out of the Jewish rebellion against the Greeks has to be considered the fourth principality.

But this is where Premillennialism stubbornly refuses to acquiesce to the facts of history; it also won't concede to the imperative of continuity from the third to the fourth kingdom of Bible prophecy.  And it is at this point that the ideology of Fundamentalist eschatology jumps the track and goes down hill and off into a different direction from the Bible.

Rejecting Judea as the fourth kingdom, Premillennialists constantly acclaim the Roman Empire as the exact fulfillment and representation, not only of the shins and the feet and toes of the image, but by sheer force of habit, even the thighs are considered to be of iron, instead of brass.

By this means, the  third, (rather than the fourth) becomes the shortest kingdom, in the list, and the fourth kingdom becomes, by exaggerations of this serious error, the longest kingdom of all.  

Let's look deeper into how this unfortunate eisegetical process gets even more distorted, outrageous and unreasonable . . . 

Now, not only does Premillennialism mar the visual of the king’s dream by extending the fourth kingdom back into thighs of iron, it also extends the existence of the feet of iron and clay from the birth of the Roman Republic, through the Imperial Period and (as if that was not enough) it has a place in its theory that the Roman Empire, latently exists in Europe itself, and an isolated, but deadly renaissance of Roman rule, authority and power remains to be seen in our so-called apocalyptic future.

This effectively means that Babylon had 70 years (from 609 to 539 B.C.), the Medes and Persians had 216 years (from 539 to 323 B.C.), then the Greeks had 182  years (from 323 to 63 B.C.), but the Romans have 2,083 years (63 B.C. to the present!!!).  This artificial Roman fourth kingdom creates an imaginary principality, that even now, really no longer exists politically or geographically or anywhere else, but it does exist in the theory of Premillennialism, and also in the minds and imaginations of its enthusiasts!

All the developments from the founding of the Jewish nation under the Hasmoneans, to the usurpation by the Herodians, to the rise of the Zealotes and the Sicarii and, finally, to the disappearance of the Jewish state under the delusions of the false Messiah, Bar Kokhba.

Bible prophecies and Jewish history is entirely sidestepped by Premillennialism’s odd and willful math, and its delay tactics inherent in its acceptance of the Roman Empire as something it absolutely was not.

Suddenly we are supposed to believe there is a more than twenty century ‘crisis of delay.’  Suddenly we are to accept that the prophecy of the fourth kingdom, the stone, the wind and the mountain is stuck on ‘pause,’ even though the New Testament argues that conditions in the late Second Jewish Commonwealth situation was the very opposite! (Revelation 1:1; 1:3 and 1:7). 

In the final analysis, Premillennialism starts off strong, but ends up completely destroying the historical timeline of the king’s dream and, in doing so, basically operates from a questionable perspective that has no basis either in Bible prophecy, historical fact or ultimate future eschatological possibility. 

The Concept of ‘Imminence’ Professed in Theory, 

But Categorically Denied in Fact 

Since Premillennialists believe the Roman Empire is the fourth kingdom of Bible prophecy and that it actually came into being quite a long time ago, but no apocalypse ever materialized, it should come as no surprise that the view has found it necessary to redefine what ‘soon,’ ‘near’ and ‘at hand’ mean. 

Without tampering with meaning, the concept of imminence means “the state or fact of being about to happen,” but Premillennialists cannot explain why and how the Second Coming was and WASN’T going to happen in the first century AND how, (even for us) it might and MIGHT NOT necessarily happen at all in our lifetime, either. 

The idea of Premillennialism is literally oscillating because its understanding of the fourth kingdom and the concept of imminence is based on obvious fabrications and falsehoods.

Now, five topics of the New Testament prove, without controversy, that imminence was taken seriously by Jesus, the Apostles and the first Christians but, according to Premillennialists, not a single thing happened (even though it was supposed to happen a long, long time ago!)

To begin with, shins are contiguous with thighs and feet do not float, folks!  And it is here, and not only here, but also through the rest of the way through the vision of King Nebuchadnezzar that Premillennialism, precisely, shows its pseudo-structural, faulty and unreliable nature.

The Second Coming Was to Transpire

in the Lifetime of the Apostles

Matthew 10:23 and other similar passages (e.g., Matthew 16:27-28; Mark 13:14-30; I Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4 (compare Revelation 16:15-21) and 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 are promises, commitments and events that Premillennial apologists absolutely avoid or attempt to obfuscate and equivocate whenever they are forced to try to explain what they mean. 

This verse is far from alone in its insistence that the return of the Lord, at that very time, was in the historical vicinity of the lifetime of the Apostles and nowhere near the twentieth century or beyond!

The Great Tribulation in the Lifetime of the Apostles

Just as Daniel’s prophecy of the victory of the Maccabees leads into the cause of Herodian politics and steps into the greatest tribulation ever, so Jesus, in Matthew 24:15-21, Mark 13:14-20 and Luke 21:12-22, along with the pericope of Revelation 3:11 and Revelation 6:1-19:21. These prophecies envisage a first century Jewish world engulfed in a snare radiating out in all directions from Jerusalem out into the Diaspora. 

Such are the facts and realities of history, but Premillennialists must lift the texts and conjure imaginary dangers and manufacture threats, and do on a constant basis in order to convince its constituency that we are at the doors of events  that, if language meant anything at all (see, e.g., James 5:1-9), should have already happened long ago in Jewish antiquity.

The Great Day of the Wrath of the Lamb

in the Lifetime of the Apostles

On his way to the cross, Jesus passed by women who bewailed and lamented his fate on that awful tree.  Turning to them he said, Daughters of Jerusalem do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For the days are coming in which they shall say to the mountains, “Fall on us!,” and to the hills, “Cover us!” for if they do these things in a green tree, what shall they do in a dry [tree]” (Luke 23:27-31 compare with Revelation 6:12-17).

The Lord’s words of warning and of woe make sense only if the threat they portray will happen in the lifetime of those woman and their children, (not late, but early). These warnigs do not read naturally if delayed more than twenty long centuries beyond their lifetime; not eventually after eons of time and the passage of countless centuries and generations.  

So the understanding of Premillennialism renders what Jesus said to those women null and void, but what John saw in the Sixth Seal makes it entirely logical that the ‘dry tree’ conditions that Jesus warned about had come to be at the very outset of troubles that befell the Jews in the spring and summer and autumn of A.D.66.

The Resurrection of the Dead, Small and Great

in the Generation of the Contemporaries of Jesus

Rez in Daniel 12:1ff is reiterated in the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24:21 and 31 and Mark 13:19 and 27; Luke 21:23-24 and 32-36.  This is preached in all of Acts, too (Acts 3:22-23; Acts 13:40-41; Acts 17:30-31; and Acts 24:25.  The Pauline epistles envision it happening in the lifetime of some of the first Christians (1 Corinthians 7:29-31; 15:53 cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) He is about to judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and kingdom.

The resurrection in the Gospel; the resurrection in Acts; the resurrection in the Pauline epistles, and the resurrection in the Book of Revelation is not conceived as happening far away, but as a corollary to the downfall of that civilization which was quickly coming to fruition at that time.

The Coming of the Kingdom of God Was

Also to Be Fulfilled in the Lifetime of the Apostles

Like the Second Coming, the kingdom of God was closely attached to the expectation of the abomination of the Second Temple in the Synoptics (Luke 21:20-32) and in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 11:1-15 and 12:1-10).  The Premillennial strategy for overcoming this obvious fact is to insist that an abomination and war around a future THIRD Temple is the object of the prophecies in the Olivet Discourse, 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 and Revelation 11:1-2, but such a deferral is patently false.  

The End of the Age in Question

But this brings us to the matter of what age, era, or epoch was in question?  Who was it and where was it?  Premillennialists are accustomed to think of the “present evil world” as TODAY’S world-society at large, be it American, secular or that realm of hedonism hostile to the truth of God.  However, this was not the world of the New Testament.  And there are enough descriptions of it for us to be able to see what that doomed world actually was.

The era in question possessed a Temple and state; its was the only civilization in the late early Roman period to have a city that could be called a holy city (Revelation 11:2).  Its tradition sprang from rulings by the chief priests and elders (Matthew 15:1-9).  Its religious enthusiasm sowed a dangerous harvest (Matthew 23:15).  In late Second Temple history Zealots, those jealous for the Law of Moses, became the chief adversaries of the Apostles and the earliest Christians (Acts 6:8-15 cf. Acts 23:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:14. Missives authorizing arrest and extradiction of Christians from cities distant from Jerusalem were authorized, not by the Romans, but by the high priest (Acts 9:1-2), and martyrdom of the first Christians was instigated in Judea, Asia Minor and elsewhere (Acts 16:6-7; 2 Corinthians 11:1-15).  It appears from reading Pauline and Johanine texts that the occult realities were in happening most in Samaria (Acts 8:0-10), Asia Minor (1 Peter 5:8 cf. Revelation 2:13, 24) north of Judæa and in the northernmost regions of that world harbored the greatest dangers for the Christians, and the infiltration of these people in the Jewish debacle of A.D.66-70 led to catastrophic results.

The prophets and teachers of this element are described by the Apostles as men of corrupt minds and seared consciences.  Peter (in 2 Peter 2:3) portrays them as uttering πλαστοῖς λόγοις plastic or fabricated words.  He describes them as wishing to make merchandise of people and willing to use any means  (like Balaam) to achieve their aims (2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 11).  Kindness and gentleness was not one of the traits that described the persuaders who were of that perishing world.  Instead, Paul could write,

“For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face.”5

Paul's description of these leaders and teachers was more over-bearing than some of the worst extremist religious sects of our time.  Jude describes them as spots (actually ‘σπιλάδες’ means reefs).  Reefs, of course, are sharp jagged marine formations that tear the bottom out of unsuspecting ships and boats as they come into the supposed safety of a bay or a harbor.  In the same way, the Apostle is basically saying these people are hidden dangers.

In whatever was shameful, in that they found glory in shame (Jude 13).  These people of the world of Jesus’ day were destined to see an apparition of the risen Lord Jesus and be judged by him (Jude 14) as their city and Temple dissappeared into memory and their own carcases were left to be eaten by birds of the field (Revelation 19:11-21).  

Wrestling and Twisting the Olivet Discourse

No chapter (besides Revelation chapter 20) describes Premillennial efforts to portray itself as Biblical more than the Olivet Discourse.  It is found in three versions: Matthew 24-25; Mark 13 and Luke 21.  But the Olivet Discourse is also the very speech that disproves the claims of Premillennialism, more than anything else.  Charts will illustrate how this is so.

Now, so although Premillennialists claim they take prophecy literally, they, in fact, do not.  Where the Olivet Discourse centers itself around the Second Temple (called Herod’s Temple) these Christians run away from that fact as fast as they can!

But over and over Premillennial writers insist that the Jews are (only now) about to build a third Temple, a temple which the Olivet Discourse NEVER once entertains for one moment!  Like people who use the same language, but mean completely different things, the Premillennial system is a Master at using words that don’t Cropped New Atavist Chart PNGmean what they appear—like imminence; like truth; like certainty.  Whenever Jesus does not fulfill one of their promises of his return, they simply revise it, pushing it further out into the future (which is the wrong direction, anyway!).  Whenever they say they see, ‘The signs of the times,’ just wait, thirty years later brand new ‘signs of the times’ will make them think “something is surely about to happen!”

They remain certain that nothing the New Testament said ever came to fruition, whilst everything they claim in current events is only a fleeting mirage.  But the only people who see through the smokescreen are the people most critical of Premillennialism and popular Christianity in the first place--the Christian enthusiasts of the other three major viewpoints (e.g., Amillennialism, Postmillennial and Historicism), atheists, agnostics, social theorists, Rabbinic and Islamic critics; each of these groups would be surprised and horrified if they discovered that the events Premillennialists falsely ascribe to the future, truly happened, as expected in the distant past.6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

And this really is the true danger Premillennialism represents: It misrepresents the New Testament, the claims of Jesus and the hopes of the first Christians and gives critical foes and despisers of the Gospel occasion to say that the codified tenets of the Church are wishful thinking and have demonstrated themselves to be false in real time, which is absolutely not the case at all!    

Summary

We have shown that the structural integrity of Premillennialism, from the time of the end of the Greek era onwards is seriously lacking and egregiously misinterpreted.  We also saw that the concept of imminence entertained by this viewpoint follows no dictionary definition of that word at all.  From the promise of an early Second Coming, and of the coming of the promised kingdom of God, tribulation, judgment and resurrection, we have shown that these five events are corrolarial and cannot be cancelled, separated, or just hijacked from a New Testament contemporary framework and, willy-nilly, proffered to our impending future.  

The only thing that could come from these procedures is endless disappointment, embarrassment and disillusionment.

The age in question was described with enough detail that we can see that it was the Jewish world of the time corresponding to the late Second Temple period and the years extending to the end of the Zealot wars,  And, finally, the Olivet Discourse gives us the most definitive reason to reject Premillennialism: In comparison Premillennialism is a seemingly similar, but fundamentally contrary contrivance constructed in the face of directly contrary evidence of the texts themselves, the larger situation as described in the Bible, Rabbinic, and Roman history.

Conclusion

Premillennialism cannot claim to be ‘Biblical’ when it refuses to endorse what the Bible endorses and when it makes claims that fundamentally, deny, counteract and contradict the teachings and expectations of both Christ and the Apostles.  Though similar to the Bible at first, Premillennialism, as we have clearly seen, quickly careens away the Jewish salvation history timeline into whimsical and farcical notions, giving itself endless material to write never ending promises with hardly a grain of truth to support and not enough to ever mean it was a truthful promise of the future

In reality, Premillennialism is not true to the New Testament but is, in fact, a litany of hollow, out of context claims without any sanction or guarantee from God.

Endnotes

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Babylonian_Empire

2 “And this is the end of the posterity of king Nebuchadnezzar, as history informs us; but when Babylon was taken by Darius, and when he, with his kinsman Cyrus, had put an end to the dominion of the Babylonians, he was sixty-two years old. He was the son of Astyages, and had another name by the Greeks.” The Antiquities of the Jews 10.11.4:248

3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zerubbabel

4 Antiochus IV Epiphanes (/æntaɪ.əkəs ɛˈpɪfəniːz, ˌæntiˈɒkəs/; Ancient Greek: Ἀντίοχος ὁ Ἐπιφανής, Antíochos ho Epiphanḗs, “God Manifest”; c. 215 BC – November/December 164 BC) was a Hellenistic king of the Seleucid Empire from 175 BC until his death in 164 BC. He was a son of King Antiochus III the Great. His original name was Mithradates (alternative form Mithridates); he assumed the name Antiochus after he ascended the throne. Notable events during the reign of Antiochus IV include his near-conquest of Egypt, his persecution of the Jews of Judea and Samaria, and the rebellion of the Jewish Maccabees Source: Wikipedia.

Four kingdoms caption.  Source: Google.

Diagram: Bible prophecy in the New Testament is centered around the Abomination of the Second Jewish Temple and the end of the Jewish State at the Bar Kokhba debacle of A.D.132-135.  The former event saw the end of the Mosaic Era and the latter event saw the destruction of the Levitical Priesthood and end of the Jewish state‘s continuous existence from the time of Moses.  Writes Yehoshafat Harkabi,

“It can be maintained that there are two momentous events in Jewish history.  The Exodus from Egypt made the Jews a nation and placed them upon the stage of history; and the Bar Kokhba Rebellion removed them from that stage.  Such a contention is schematically correct, for neither was a single event; both were historical processes that consisted of chains of events. 

The Exodus includes not only the liberation from Egypt, but the receiving of the Law at Sinai, and the subsequent conquest of the Promised Land.  And the Bar Kokhba Rebellion, likewise, was the culmination of a period of uprisings such as the Great Revolt of 66-70 C.E. in which the Second Temple was destroyed, and the uprisings of 115-117 C.E. during the reign of Trajan when Jewish communities in Cyrenaica, Egypt, and Cyprus were destroyed, and the Babylonian Jewish community was weakened.

These revolts, reaching their climax in the rebellion of Bar Kokhba, 132-135 C.E. altered the position of the Jewish people.  As a result of their defeats, the Jews were pushed to the margins of history, to become history’s object, acted upon as opposed to active.” Harkabi, Yehoshfat, The Bar Kokhba Syndrome, p. xi, Rossel Books, 1983.

5 2 Corinthians 11:20

6 Heavenly armies flying in clouds around the cities of Israel -The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3:296-299.

7 Sound of a great multitude in the Temple saying, “Let us remove hence” The Wars of the Jews 6:5.3:300

8 Zealots and Sicarii pledge themselves to a covenant of death by a fatal wound on their right hand. The Wars of the Jews 3.8.6:386

9 The Jerusalem Church flees into the wilderness for the duration of the Jewish civil war.  See: Pella flight Wiki.

10 The people of Judea apparently heard the voice of Michael the Archangel in connection with the heavenly battle that took place in the skies over Herod's Temple - “The doors of the Temple were opened on a sudden, and a voice greater than human was heard, that the gods were retiring . . .” Josephus, Disseration Book 5, Dissertation 3, Chapter 13.

11 “. . .and the same time there was a great motion perceived, as if they were going out of it . . .” Ibid. Book 5, Dissertation 3, Chapter 13.

12 Multiplied thousands died by drowning in the bloody waters of the Sea of Tiberius, the Mediteranean and the Jordan River - (Revelation 16: cf. The Wars of the Jews 3.9.3:425-427; 3.10.6:503-9:531)

13 One hundred pound stones thrown into Jerusalem in connection with the return of the Lord (Revelation 16:15-21 cf. The Wars of the Jews 5.6.3:269-274)

14 The election of Simon Bar Giora in the final hours of Jerusalem’s existence  (Revelation 17:11-17 cf. The Wars of the Jews 4.9.11:566-12:577).

15 Jerusalem completely erased as if it had not been there -(Matthew 24:1-2 cf. The Wars of the Jews 6.1.1:5-8).