Since the emergence of the Seeker Sensitive Church in America, many local churches have watered down their teaching such that doctrinal obscurity abounds in the pews and pulpits today. Decades ago, Christians would know whether they believed in premillennialism (the belief that Christ’s return will precede a thousand-year kingdom), postmillennialism (that His return is after the millennium) or amillennialism (that the kingdom is now)… but now the most common belief is panmillennialism (that somehow or another, it will all ‘pan out’ in the end).
First century Jews knew to watch for the Messiah because they took prophecies like Daniel 9 seriously, which told them that He was coming. Unfortunately, there were some first-century panmillennialists that neglected prophecy and completely missed out on enjoying the Christ’s presence. Let’s be watchful of prophecy like Philip and Simeon and not like Pharisees and Sadducees that twisted or ignored the plain sense of Scriptures.
Here are three ways that panmillennialism robs Christians:
1) Panmillennialism robs Christians of blessing
The book of Revelation begins:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Rev 1:1-3)
God reveals Himself and His message to us in the Bible – that is why it is called “The Revelation” rather than “The Concealment.” It is common practice for panmillennialists to simply neglect the larger portion of Revelation (perhaps they’ll read the messages to the seven churches, but the rest is considered a mystery). But God clearly says that he who hears the words of this prophecy is blessed. Anyone who neglects the prophecy of Revelation, therefore, is not going to be blessed in the sense that this passage is talking about.
2) Panmillennialism robs Christians of present perspective
It is said that history is the greatest teacher. Perhaps that’s why the Bible is full of history lessons. We look back to the Garden of Eden to see why we are in our current sinful state. We look back to the time of the judges to see what happens when everyone does what is right in his own eyes. When Jesus talked to Nicodemus, he looked back to the bronze serpent. By looking back, the Bereans were able to discern that Paul’s message was true. Simply put, prophecy is history that hasn’t come to past yet, and we can learn as much from prophecy as from history that has already taken place.
Consider the Christian’s three enemies: the flesh, the world, and the devil. Prophecy tells us how to relate to the flesh, the world, and the devil. How do we relate to the flesh? Can I live a good enough life that eventually my flesh will cease to be a nuance? Or, will the flesh cease only when I get a new glorified body in the future? Do we treat the world as something that’s getting better? Do we need to enforce Christian government until there is enough of a Caliphate for Christ to return? That’s what the postmillennialist believes. The dispensational premillennialist would say that the world is fallen and will remain so until God Himself fixes it – in the meantime, we are living in the fallen world and should be a light in the darkness. See how perspective changes the way we react with our environment? What about the devil? Is he bound with his minions as the preterist believes, or does our struggle go beyond flesh and blood? When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, the struggle was real indeed:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12 NASB)
If we do not take prophecy seriously, then we can’t have a perspective for understanding really practical passages such as Eph 6:12.
3) Panmillennialism robs Christians of encouragement
As we look back on prophecy that God has fulfilled literally, we can look forward to prophecy that He will also fulfill literally and find great comfort. Paul says we should use our knowledge of eschatology to comfort one another:
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thess 4:15-18)
How encouraging to know how everything will end! If we downplay prophecy and just say, “It will pan out somehow… trust me, I’m a theologian (who admittedly doesn’t have a clue what will happen),” then we aren’t able to be as encouraging to our brothers and sisters as we could be. Much worse, we fall short of fulfilling the biblical command to use these words to encourage one another.
All Scripture is equally inspired, but not all Scripture is equally clear. While it’s important that we don’t just give up and go panmillennial, we also need to humbly realize that none of us understand the entirety of Revelation fully and correctly. All of us have theological boo-boos. If we didn’t, then there would be no reason to read our Bibles any further. The dispensationalist sometimes forgets this and stops growing, but the panmillennialist knows this and stops growing.