A Simple Argument Against Premillennialism

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A Simple Argument Against Premillennialism

By Aaron Brake

There are three views within Christian eschatology regarding the millennium (or thousand-year reign of Christ) described in Revelation 20: premillennial, postmillennial, and amillennial. Very briefly, the premillennial view believes Christ returns before the thousand-year reign (hence “pre”), the postmillennial view believes Christ returns after the thousand-year reign (hence “post”), and the amillennial view denies a literal, earthly reign of Christ (hence “a”), believing the millennial reign to be cotemporaneous with the present church age and spiritual in nature while Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father.1 The premillennial view is by far the most widely held view among evangelical Christians, especially in America.

According to the premillennial view, after Christ returns at the Second Coming He will establish His kingdom on earth and physically reign from Jerusalem for 1,000 years (the “millennial reign”), ushering in a time of great peace and prosperity.

One of the more peculiar and problematic teachings of the premillennial view is that sin and physical death will continue after the Second Coming of Christ. According to premillennialism, the Second Coming will not put an end to death or sin, rather both will continue as individuals in their natural earthly bodies inhabit and procreate on earth during the millennial reign. Pretribulational premillennialist Craig Blaising states,

“although the millennial kingdom that John envisioned will see some of the dead raised to reign with Christ, death itself will not be completely abolished until after the Millennium has passed (Rev. 20:12-21:4).”2  

This is a non-negotiable, something premillennialists must believe because they need to give an account for (1) the sin which leads to the final rebellion in Revelation 20:7-10 at the end of the millennium and (2) the physical death of numerous believers and unbelievers during the millennial reign. But as I will argue, the idea that physical death continues after the Second Coming is something the New Testament explicitly denies.3

If it can be shown from Scripture that physical death will end at the Second Coming, this is a decisive blow against the premillennial view. The argument can be placed in the following syllogism:

  1. If Scripture teaches that physical death will end at the Second Coming, then premillennialism is false.
  2. Scripture teaches that physical death will end at the Second Coming.
  3. Therefore, premillennialism is false.4

Premise 1 should be uncontroversial and agreed upon by everyone, including premillennialists. Again, according to the premillennialist timeline, one must believe that sin and physical death will continue on earth after the Second Coming. The argument then hinges on premise 2. Does Scripture teach that physical death will end at the Second Coming? One such passage that clearly teaches this is 1 Corinthians 15.

In 1 Corinthians 15:22-26 we read the following:

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

According to the premillennial interpretation of this passage, the millennial reign of Christ on earth fits between “his coming” (v. 23b) and “the end” (v. 24a). The reasoning for this interpretation is as follows: just as there is a lengthy gap of time between the resurrection of Christ (v. 23a) and the resurrection of believers (v. 23b) lasting 2,000 years (so far), so there is also a lengthy gap between “his coming” (v. 23b) and “the end” (v. 24a). Within this final gap between “his coming” and “the end” is the millennial reign of Christ. Christ will reign during the millennium until all his enemies are destroyed, the last of which is death (vv. 25-26). Because the millennium is viewed by premillennialists as a literal, physical reign of Christ for 1,000 years on earth, sin and physical death will continue until the battle of Armageddon after which death is destroyed, the final judgment takes place, and the new heavens and earth are ushered in.

Sam Storms summarizes why this is important:

The point of dispute is the time of the “end.” The premillennialist argues that the “end” is the end or close of the millennial age, 1,000 years after Christ has returned to earth. The amillennialist argues that the “end” is the end or close of the present church age, signaled and brought to fruition by Christ’s second coming.

It seems clear that all one need do is demonstrate which of these two options is correct and the millennial debate would come to a close. This isn’t as difficult as one might think. Since both eschatological schools agree that Christ’s reign consummates with the destruction of death, and since the destruction of death signals the end, we need only ascertain the time of “death’s death!”5

In other words, either physical death is destroyed at the Second Coming, or it is destroyed 1,000 years later according to the premillennial timeline. If Scripture indicates when physical death will come to an end, then we will know which millennial view is correct (and which is not). If Scripture teaches that death will end at the Second Coming, then premillennialism is false. So, does Paul elaborate further and reveal when physical death will end? As we continue to read 1 Corinthians 15, in particular verses 50-57, we find that Paul does indeed tell us when death is forever destroyed: at the Second Coming of Christ! In 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 Paul states,

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is revealing the mystery of the resurrection of believers. He told us earlier when this will take place when he said, “then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (v. 23) will be “made alive” (v. 22). At the Second Coming of Christ believers will be “made alive,” i.e., resurrected and glorified. Historic premillennialist Craig Blomberg agrees that Paul is discussing the resurrection of believers at the Second Coming. In his commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 he states,

The secret that Paul is revealing here is that believers’ bodily resurrections will occur when Christ returns. Not all Christians will die first, since some will be alive when he comes back. But all will undergo whatever transformation is necessary to give them their glorified bodies. This change will take place instantaneously not gradually. The trumpet (v. 52a) was a stock metaphor in biblical literature to herald the end (cf. Joel 2:1; Zech. 9:14; Matt. 24:31; 1 Thess. 4:16; and the seven trumpets of Rev. 8:2-9:14).

When all this has happened, then the way will be paved for the events of verses 24-28 to unfold. The climax of this series of events for believers is the destruction of death itself, as Isaiah had predicted (v. 54b, quoting Isa. 25:8).6

Most importantly, Blomberg rightly points out that the climax of this series of events is the destruction of death itself! Paul is highlighting the fact that the end of death at the Second Coming of Christ is the fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8. There Isaiah states that God “will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.” This raises a problem for the premillennial view.

If premillennialism is true, how can it be fulfilled that God will “swallow up death forever” at the Second Coming of Christ when physical death will continue on earth for another 1,000 years?

Let’s summarize Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 15 very quickly. The bodily resurrection of believers will take place when we are “made alive” at the Second Coming of Christ (vv. 22-23) when “the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall all be changed” (v. 52b). When this rapture/resurrection takes place, “the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality” (v. 54). Paul is clearly talking about the resurrection at the Second Coming of Christ in these passages. But notice what Paul says next. When all this happens at the Second Coming, “THEN shall come to pass” the fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8 where it was prophesied that God will “swallow up death forever.” Sam Storms explains further:

The “end” (1 Cor. 15:24) is marked by the destruction of the “last enemy,” namely, “death” (1 Cor. 15:26). All millennial views agree on this. And when is “death” destroyed? When does “death” cease to prevail? When is “death” going to be “swallowed up in victory”? Paul’s answer couldn’t have been clearer or more explicit: Death is defeated, death dies, death is swallowed up in victory and is utterly and absolutely no more, as Isaiah 25:7-9 has prophesied, at the very moment that the last trumpet is sounded, at the very moment we are all changed, at the very moment when the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality! And when, might I ask, is that? It is at the time of the second coming of Christ (and not some 1,000 years later as death continues to exert its horrid influence on the human race).7

There is one last important point regarding the fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8 which argues against the premillennial view. According to this verse, not only will God “swallow up death forever” but He will also “wipe away tears from all faces.” Again, Paul recognizes the fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8 at the Second Coming of Christ. But according to Revelation 21:1-4, God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more” (21:4) at the time of the creation of the new heavens and new earth. This raises another problem for the premillennial view.

If premillennialism is true, how can it be fulfilled that God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more” at the Second Coming of Christ when tears and death will continue on earth for another 1,000 years?

Let’s look at our argument one more time:

  1. If Scripture teaches that physical death will end at the Second Coming, then premillennialism is false.
  2. Scripture teaches that physical death will end at the Second Coming.
  3. Therefore, premillennialism is false.

In summary, there simply is no space in Paul’s eschatology for an intervening millennial kingdom between the Second Coming of Christ and the consummation of all things. For Paul, the Second Coming IS the consummation of all things.

Addendum: What About the Pre-Tribulation Rapture?

As a final thought, any argument against premillennialism is also a de facto argument against the pre-tribulation rapture. The debate among Christians regarding the timing of the rapture is largely an intramural debate among premillennialists. Both the postmillennial and amillennial see the rapture and resurrection as taking place at the Second Coming, all of which Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 4. Therefore, if premillennialism is false, the pre-tribulation rapture is also largely undermined.

  1. The amillennial position is also “post” millennial in the sense that the Second Coming of Christ takes place after (“post”) the present church age, i.e., the millennial reign. Amillennialists therefore do believe in a millennium despite the “a” prefix. Some prefer the term “realized millennium.”
  2. Craig Blaising, “Premillennialism” in Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 202.
  3. I am indebted to Sam Storms and his book Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Scotland: Mentor, 2015) for this argument. See chapter 5 of his book for an expanded and more detailed form of this argument.
  4. This argument applies to both dispensational premillennialism and historic premillennialism since both believe the Second Coming precedes the millennial reign.
  5. Storms, Kingdom Come, 145 (emphasis his).
  6. Craig Blomberg, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 285.
  7. Storms, Kingdom Come, Loc 2429 (emphasis his).

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