What are the differences between premillenialism, postmillenialism, and amillenialism? What is the most biblical view among the three? Do they have similarities?
Postmillenialism, premillenialism and amilenialism are three views of eschatology, which is a fancy way of saying they are views of the nature of end-times. Arguably, postmillenialism and premillenialism are more similar, with amillenialism being the diametric opposite of both. Some would disagree with this, however.
Postmillenialists believe that there will be a thousand year golden era at the end of time, in which Christianity will reign supreme, before Jesus comes back to usher in the final kingdom: heaven. This view is relatively rare today, but in more optimistic times, such as in the early 19th century, it was held by many. Alexander Campbell, the chief figure in forming what is known as the Restoration Movement within Christianity was a postmillenialist. His most influential periodical was the Millenial Harbinger. I use this example because I am part of the movement started by Campbell. Although they would not have use the same three distinctions form above, many in the early church were, in effect, postmillenialists. One can argue that Augustine, the most important theologian in the history of Christianity, was a postmillenialist. He definitely believed in a millenial reign of Christ and that the Church was headed toward a golden Christian age, as one can see by reading his “City of God.” Unlike nearly all premillenialistws, many postmillenialists do not take the 1000 years of Revelation chapter 20 to be a literal 1000 years, but to represent an uncertain length of time in which the Christian world view will reign supreme.
Premillenialists believe that the second coming of Jesus will come BEFORE rather than AFTER the 1000 year regn of Revelation chapter 20. This is why they are called premillenialists. Premillenialists tend to be rather strong literalists and to take the 1000 years to be a literal length of time in which Jesus will reign over a physical Kingdom of God in physical Jerusalem. They overliteralize (in my opinion) many of the passages in Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel and other apocalyptic passages in the Bible. Premillenialists tend to strongly support Israel as a political entity. They are usually associated with conservative evangelicalism, especially in the United States. The rapture doctrine (that the beginning of the millenium will be marked by a “rapture” of faithful Christians, leaving behind those who are not saved) is generally associated with premillenialism.
Amillenielists, like many postmillenialists, take the 1000 years of Revelation chapter 20 to not be a literal 1000 year period of time. They see the events of Revelation 20 to be symbolic of what is now happening or has already happened, as Satan is somehow “bound” during this last Christian age before Jesus comes back. They do not agree that Jesus will reign over a revived physical Kingdom of God and they do not agree that the world will become “Christian” before the return of Jesus to bring in the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21).
Personally, I am an amillenialist. I believe that the problems of premillenialism and of postmillenialism are different. The problem with postmillenialism is not really a doctrinal one. The problem with postmillenialism is a simple misinterpretation of the biblical teaching about end times. The world will not get better and better. Christianity will not be a dominant force on the earth. Like Jesus said in Matthew 7, the way is difficult and the gate is narrow. Not many will choose Christ. Unfortunately, there will probably never be a Christian golden age when most humans choose to worship Jesus. The only golden age is the one which will ensue when Jesus comes back.
The problem with premillenialism is both misinterpretation and false doctrine. For this reason, I find it to be more concerning. The premillenialists believe that a kind of Judaism will be reestablished, with Jesus at its head. This simply is not the case. Most premillenialists believe that the Kingdom of God has not yet been established, but that it will be established at the beginning of the millenium. This simply is not the case, biblically,either. The Kingdom of God has always been in existence. It became even more of a reality when Jesus came in his ministry, and more still when the church was established. The Kingdom will reach its final culmination in the new heaven and new earth of Revelation 20. The idea of reestablishing an earthly kingdom of God involves moving backward, not forward in God’s plan of redemption. If you want more information about the Kingdom of God and why premillenialism is a misinterpretation, go to the outline and power point on the Kingdom of God at the web site. There is also an appendix on this topic in my book Daniel, Prophet to the Nations (www.ipibooks.com)
Be aware that none of these viewpoints rise to the level of heresy. One can be a true Christian and be in error on the exact nature of end-times. It is not worth dividing Christians over eschaltology, as long as the biblical nature of Jesus is not in question. You can extend the right hand of fellowship to pre- post- and amillenialists alike.
I could say a lot more and provide many passages to demonstrate what I am claiming here. The internal evidence from the book of Revelation is that the 1000 years of Revelation 20 involves things which already have or currently are taking place. This seems to be demonstrated by the statement twice in the Book of Revelation that the prophecies involve things which were to soon take place (Rev 1:1, for example). However, I will leave the topic for you to do some more research and come back with more questions if you like.