A Premillennial View of Law and Government -- By: Norman L. Geisler
BSac 142:567 (Jul 85) p. 250
A Premillennial View of Law and Government
[Norman L. Geisler, Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary]
This approach to the topic of the Christian and civil law is doctrinal rather than historical or ecclesiastical. The issues which differentiate one evangelical view from another are more clearly focused this way. The crucial difference of viewpoints regarding Christian involvement in the political arena is more closely associated with one’s view of how the present kingdom of God relates to the future kingdom than with what one’s ecclesiastical tradition is. And the clearest line of demarcation on the relationship of the present and future kingdoms is between the premillennial and postmillennial views.
Postmillenarians believe that the church is obligated to usher in the kingdom. They believe that the future kingdom (millennium) “is to be brought about by forces now active in the world.”1 Hence it is understandable that their view manifests the closest relationship between church and state, between God and government. On the other hand premillenarians hold to a discontinuity between the present kingdom and the future kingdom (which only Christ will personally inaugurate). Hence they manifest less identity between the kingdom of God and civil politics. Amillenarians fall somewhere in between. But on the crucial point of whether there is continuity between the present and the future kingdom, amillenarians most often side with the premillenarians in answering no.
BSac 142:567 (Jul 85) p. 251
History of the Premillennial View
The extrabiblical roots of premillennialism go back to the first century. “Among earlier writers the belief was held by the authors of the Epistle of Barnabas [4, 15], the Shepherd, the Second Epistle of Clement, by Papias, Justin, and by some of the Ebionites, and Cerinthus.”2 There are no references to the millennial belief in the writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Tatian, Athenagoras, or Theophilus. But even Bethune-Baker admits that “we are not justified in arguing from their silence that they did not hold it.”3
The premillennial view was also shared by Irenaeus, Melito, Hippolytus, Tertullian, and Lactantius.4 In fact the Gnostics were the first to reject the premillennial view. They were followed by Caius, Origen, and Dionysius, all of whom engaged in allegorical interpretation of the Bible.
Eusebius recorded the millennial beliefs of Cerinthus saying that he believed that ...
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