The Hermeneutics of Prophecy

The Hermeneutics of Prophecy outline the different views to eschatology and how hermeneutics determine these different views to eschatology.


The Hermeneutics of Prophecy

The different views to eschatology (end times) are hermeneutically related. Therefore, it is necessary to note the different views and their principles of hermeneutics.

The Different Millennial Views

The word millennium comes from a Latin word which means a thousand year period. The different views of the millennium are related to the hermeneutical approach to this one thousand year period. Because of the inconsistency in hermeneutics, there are basically three views concerning the millennium.

The first view is amillennialism.

The prefix a means no or none and thus amillennialism teaches that there is no literal one thousand year period where Christ reigns on the earth. They suggest that the one thousand year period is symbolic and is indicative of a complete period of time of which the duration is only known by God. Therefore, the millennial age is in existence now between the two advents of Christ. In this way, this period refers to the Church on earth in which the Saints reign with Christ in a spiritual sense.

Furthermore, they teach that the Old Testament promises to Israel are initially fulfilled in the Church and then fully realised in the eternal state. In this way, the promises to Israel were conditional, and therefore transferable to the Church in a spiritual sense. Also, they state that Christ rules now from heaven and that Satan is bound now between the two advents of Christ.

The second view is premillennialism.

The prefix pre before millennialism means before, and thus premillennialism suggests that Christís return to the earth will precede the millennium. They teach that the one thousand year period is taken literally and that Christ will return at the end of the tribulation to rule in this one thousand year period. Furthermore, the Church is not fully realising the promises given to Israel but only partially.

The third view is postmillennialism.

The prefix post before millennialism means after, and thus postmillennialism teaches that the return of Christ is after the millennium. Zuck noted some of the tenets of postmillennialists:

The Church is not the kingdom but it will bring the kingdom to the earth by preaching the gospel. Christ will not be on the earth during the kingdom. He will rule in the hearts of people, and He will return to the earth after the millennium. The millennium will not last for a literal 1,000 years. The Church will receive the fulfilment of the promises to Israel in a spiritual sense.

Generally speaking, the postmillennial view has virtually been abandoned over the years; however, in recent times dominion theologians have revived the postmillennial view and there is now a growing audience among evangelical Christians. In fact, many contemporary authors are now subtly promoting dominion theology in their books by calling Christians to win cities and countries for God in order for the Lord to come back.

The Different Hermeneutical Principles

As stated before, the different views of the millennium are related to hermeneutics.

Premillennial Hermeneutics

Premillennialists recognize the grammatical-historical method of interpretation as the constant for premillennialism. They consistently used this method when interpreting prophecy, however, they do recognise figurative and symbolic language and interpret it accordingly.

Zuck noted eight guidelines for interpreting prophecy from a premillennial viewpoint: 1) follow the normal principles of historical, grammatical, literary interpretation; 2) take the words of prophecy in their normal, grammatical sense; 3) consider the literary element, which recognises the place of figurative and symbolic language; 4) view prophecy as focusing primarily on the Messiah and the establishing of His reign; 5) recognise the principle of foreshortening; 6) look for Godís built-in interpretations; 7) compare parallel passage; and 8) look for prophecies that are fulfilled and prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled.

Amillennial Hermeneutics

Amillennialists seemingly use the grammatical-historical method of interpretation to interpret most of the Bible; however, when it comes to prophecy, they seemingly use the typological and spiritual methods. In fact, some amillenarians call this method typological-spiritual.

One example will suffice. Israel is a type or forerunner of the Church (typological method), therefore, all the Old Testament promises made to Israel are spiritually fulfilled in the church (spiritual method). In other words, the promises to Israel were invalidated because of their disobedience to God. To say that amillenarians randomly spiritualise is somewhat naive and ill-informed. After all, their theological system has many complex typological presuppositions that presuppose spiritual fulfilment.

To appreciate the amillennial system, a study of the typological approach to Scripture is important and necessary. Again, to say amillenarians spiritualise prophecy and premillenarians take it literally is too simplistic and must be avoided.

For more information on hermeneutics, click on hermeneutics.

Bibliography

Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, pp. 241-249

William E. Cox, Amillennialism Today, p. 45

Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and The Future



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