Is Premillennialism Consistent with New Covenant Theology? All forms of premillennialism rely to some degree on a literal interpretation of prophetic passages in Scripture. For example, Historic Premillennialism largely interprets the millennium of Revelation 20 as a literal one thousand years following the bodily return of Christ in glory. Other forms, such as Classical Dispensationalism, tend to interpret the land promises to Abraham’s offspring and the restoration of the Davidic monarchy in a more literal fashion. New Covenant Theology (NCT) offers a different approach in that it seeks to consistently ensure that New Testament has interpretive priority over the Old Testament (since the former is the final revelation of God). In short, the New Testament (especially its clearer passages) has the final interpretive say. For instance, NCT generally understands Hebrews 11:9-16 as teaching that the patriarch Abraham was not looking for an earthly country but a “heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16). The passage also states that he was looking for “the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10) – in other words, the heavenly Jerusalem (cf. Heb. 12:22). Put differently, the land promise to Abraham is ultimately realized in the new heavens and new earth (Rom. 4:13; 2 Pet. 3:3-13; Rev. 21-22). Additionally, NCT generally understands Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 to indicate that Christ’s current reign in heaven at God’s Right Hand is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. How so? First, the apostle emphasizes that David died and was buried (Acts 2:29). This is an important point since the Lord promised David, “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Sam. 7:12). Certain versions of premillennialism teach that Christ will reign over the earth from Jerusalem after David has been resurrected. However, Acts 2:29 and 2 Samuel 7:12 appear to teach that David must be dead for God to raise up David’s Greater Son and establish his kingdom. Second, the apostle emphasizes that Christ’s pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost demonstrates that God has fulfilled His promise to David in raising Christ from the dead and enthroning Him as Lord at His Right Hand (Acts 2:30-36). In my opinion, for these reasons and others, premillennialism is not consistent with NCT.
That being said, let me unequivocally state that the question of the millennium is a non-essential matter of the Christian faith. Can an individual hold to premillennialism and still be an advocate of NCT? Of course, they can. In fact, I used to be such an individual, at one time holding to Historic Premillennialism and NCT. Moreover, I know of excellent theologians who ascribe to both NCT and premillennialism – theologians whose works I find very edifying and would unreservedly recommend to others. In my opinion, there are five eschatological essential on which all Christians should be able to agree: (1) a future bodily return of the Lord Jesus Christ in victory; (2) a future bodily resurrection of all believers for glory; (3) a future bodily resurrection of all unbelievers for reprobation; (4) a future, final judgment for believers and unbelievers; and (5) the eternal state, consisting of both an eternal hell for the reprobate and the eternal New Heavens and New Earth for believers. All other eschatological questions are secondary. Thus, a premillennialist, whether Historic or Dispensational, should never be excluded from NCT. At the same time, I do think that believers can and should be able to cordially discuss the hermeneutics that lead to particular eschatological positions. Others in NCT may disagree with my view here, believing instead that the hermeneutics of NCT do not lead way from the premillennial position. That’s completely fine. 🙂 It is my personal view that Revelation 20, being in the genre of apocalyptic prophecy, is less clear than other prophetic passages in the New Testament – passages such as Romans 8:19-23, 2 Peter 3:3-12; the aforementioned Hebrews 11:9-16, the aforementioned Acts 2:29 & 2 Samuel 7:12, and 1 Corinthians 15 (with its recapitulative structure). In short, it is my view that when the clearer prophetic passages of the NT guide the less clear prophetic passages of the NT, a non-premillennial view is more consistent with NCT overall. Put differently, I personally view this to be a consistent application of the analogy of faith as it relates to the New Testament having interpretive priority over the Old Testament – a principle strongly held by most, if not all, advocates of NCT. I also recognize that my hermeneutical presupposition of Revelation 20 being a less-clear passage (due to it being in the genre of apocalyptic prophecy) is integral to this view. Others, who do not consider Revelation 20 to be a less-clear passage and interpret it in a more literal fashion, will differ with me. That’s perfectly fine. 🙂