The manner in which we interpret the Bible (hermeneutics) will have something to do with our millennial viewpoint. However, we can arrive at very different conclusions about the millennium or the end-times using either a preterist, historicist, futurist or idealist approach to the Bible. The definitions of these hermeneutical approaches are as follows.
Preterism: This is the “before-times view.” Most of the prophecies of Daniel, the Mount Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) and Revelation were literally fulfilled by AD 70. The Book of Revelation and the Mount Olivet Discourse are thought to deal with the coming persecution of the Church by Caesar Nero and the destruction of the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem.
Historicism: This view states that the prophecies of the Book of Revelation were fulfilled sometime in history, but not in the first century or in the future. The black plague of the Middle Ages might be interpreted to be one of the plagues brought by the four horsemen of Revelation 6. The pope at the time of Martin Luther is often thought to be the Beast of Revelation 13.
Futurism: This is the “end-times view.” Most of the prophecies of the Mount Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) and the Book of Revelation are yet to be fulfilled. The locust plague of Revelation 9 might be interpreted to be Cobra helicopters, and the northern invader of Israel described in Ezekiel 38 might be an invading Russian army.
Idealism: This is also called the “spiritualist view.” This view states that the prophecies of Revelation are not to be taken literally, but have a general and symbolic application in all history. The heavenly battle of Revelation 12 is thought to describe the ongoing battle between good and evil in the spiritual realm. The millennium itself represents the kingdom of God, which is heavenly and not of this world.
I will be describing a postmillennial eschatology according to a preterist view of Daniel, Matthew 24 and Revelation. However, not all postmillenialists of history were preterists. Most have been historicists.
- Most postmillennialists are either preterists or historicists; a few are idealists.
- Most amillennialists are either idealists or historicists; a few are preterists and futurists.
- Most classical premillennialists are either futurist or historicist in their approach to Revelation; a few are preterists.
- Nearly all dispensational premillennialists put virtually every biblical prophecy about judgment in a seven year tribulation that is thought to be coming in the near future.