It seems like everyone and their mother has a different opinion on Revelation and what will go down in the End Times. As you can imagine, different denominations have different views on the End Times as well. When people speak of different views of the end times, it is often in relation to the Millennium.
There is great debate over when this thousand-year period will occur, if at all. Before getting into the differences amongst different denominations.
Let’s first give a brief survey of each of the four predominant views of the End Times.
The scriptural context for this debate is found in Revelation 20. The text reads:
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison (Revelation 20:1-7).
The Four Views
1. Premillennialism. One of the most widely accepted views of the End Times is premillennialism. This view holds that the Second Coming of Christ will occur before a literal thousand-year reign of Christ.
This view makes sense in accordance with the text, especially considering verse four, which reads, “They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).
This was the predominant view of the End Times in the Early Church and has continued in popularity to this day.
2. Postmillennialism. Not as widely accepted as premillennialism, postmillennialism holds that there will be a period of time, not necessarily a literal 1,000 years, during which there will be a rise of Christianity, culminating up to the return of Jesus.
The common thought is that throughout this era, the world will become more and more Christian so that when Christ returns, He will swiftly usher His followers into eternal bliss, and judge those who reject Him.
Over the last 75 years, this view has been largely rejected by Christian theologians, mostly due to its lack of direct support in Scripture and in the world.
3. Amillennialism. Made popular by Augustine, amillennialism has become one of the most widely held views of the End Times.
Amillennialism, literally meaning ‘no millennium,’ holds that the thousand years in Revelation 20 is symbolic, referring to the present period, during which Christ is reigning through the Church.
Amillennialists believe that there will be no thousand-year reign because we are currently in His era of reign over the Earth. This view believes that the binding of Satan already occurred through Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.
4. Dispensationalism. Almost certainly the most controversial of each of the four views, dispensationalism views history as a series of eras, or dispensations. There is a strong emphasis on eschatology among dispensationalists, and they believe in a form of premillennialism.
Dispensationalists believe that the Second Coming of Christ will be manifested in a specific order of events:
First, dispensationalists believe that the Second Coming will be a physical event occurring on Earth and that Christ will set foot in Jerusalem, specifically on Mount Zion (Revelation 14:1).
Then, Christ will initiate the rapture, during which His followers are brought into heaven, followed by the seven-year tribulation, which will end with the Battle of Armageddon. Christ will then be victorious in this battle and will establish his millennial kingdom.
Due to Christ’s Second Coming occurring before the thousand-year period, in this way of thinking, dispensationalists are by definition premillennial. However, to clear up a common misconception, not all premillennialists are dispensationalists.
Many premillennialists do not agree that there will be a seven-year tribulation period, whereas this is a key eschatological event for dispensationalists.
What Denominations Hold to Each View of the End Times?
1. Premillennialism. Methodists have no official stance on the millennium, but many churches tend towards teaching premillennialism.
Baptists and Southern Baptists hold a premillennial view, although many tend towards the dispensationalist side of premillennialism.
The Christian & Missionary Alliance has historically held a premillennial view of the End Times, although has recently opened up the possibility of amillennialism.
Premillennialism is often thought of as the default view for Christians. For groups that do not hold to a specific view, it can be a reasonable assumption that they are premillennialist.
2. Postmillennialism. Prior to the Two World Wars, postmillennialism was quite popular. However, after such catastrophic wars, there are few people who believe the world will progress towards a state of peace and harmony.
Therefore, there are few people, let alone entire denominations, that hold to this view anymore.
3. Amillennialism. Amillennialism has become one of the dominant views on the End Times.
The denominations most known for holding to amillennial eschatology include Presbyterians, Lutherans, Reformed, Anglican, Methodist, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and many other Protestant groups.
4. Dispensationalism. Many, if not most denominations oppose dispensationalism. However, some are known for agreeing with this eschatology.
These groups include Baptists, the Southern Baptist Convention, Pentecostals, and Charismatic groups such as the Assembly of God.
These denominations do not necessarily include dispensationalist claims in their official statements of faith, but churches in these denominations are known for participating in and supporting the teaching of this nature.
Why Does This Matter?
Regardless of your view on the End Times, it is important to remember the beliefs that unify each of these ways of thinking. Each of these views looks forward to the coming triumph of Jesus Christ.
Each of these views believes that evil will be vanquished in the end. Each of these views holds a high view of Scripture and takes the text seriously. Eschatology is not a salvation issue.
Christians can, and often do, worship together with other believers who have very different eschatological opinions. This is not an issue that ought to divide congregations.
Regardless of your view, let us all join together in praise of Jesus Christ who, in the end, will be victorious!
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Lucas Hagen is a freelance writer, recently graduated from Taylor University with majors in Biblical Literature and Youth Ministries. When he is not writing for Crosswalk, you can find him reading great books, playing guitar, competing in professional disc golf tournaments, and spending quality time with his lovely wife, Natalie, and their fluffy cat, Woodward. You can read more of his writing at habitsofholiness.com.