Premillennialism is the position that Christ will physically return before the literal 1,000-year reign on earth. When Christ returns, believers who have “fallen asleep” and those still present on the earth will receive their glorified resurrected bodies. Together all those in Christ will reign with Him on the earth for 1,000 years. At the end of this time, one last rebellion will come against God and His saints by Satan and those who still never repented. Ultimately, Satan will be destroyed and the wicked will face God’s everlasting judgement in the lake of fire. The new heaven and earth will come, and the elect of God will live with Him forever without sin, death, or sorrow.
Some also believe that Christ will rapture His Church prior to the tribulation period. Then He will bring them back to begin His 1,000-year reign. Others believe believers will be present either for part or all the tribulation period.
Amillennialism argues that there is not, nor will there be a literal 1,000-year reign. Rather Christ is reigning in the hearts of His people. Those who agree with amillennialism do believe, however, that Christ will return one day to destroy Satan, his followers, and death. Until that day, Christ’s Church will experience suffering and persecution as the Gospel is preached. Yet, evil will never prevail over the Church and its mission to reach every nation. And one day the saints of God will live eternally with God in the new heaven and earth.
Postmillennialism asserts that Christ will return after the 1,000-year reign. However, unlike premillennialism, Christ’s millennial reign is from heaven, not earth. Adherents believe Christ exercises His reign through His Spirit and His Church’s proclamation of the Gospel. Another distinctive is that conditions of the earth will only improve as time draws closer to Jesus’s second coming. All aspects of life and culture will be redeemed.
At the end of the millennium, God will loosen His restraint on Satan and the wicked. Then Christ will come to defeat them once and for all, ushering in the new heaven and earth as well.
Please understand that each of these views are considered within the realm of orthodoxy. Historically, the Church has affirmed each of these views at different points in time. Most American Christians held to a form of postmillennialism during the Civil War. Go back and read some of the lyrics to the hymns that were written at that time. It wasn’t until the 20th century that premillenialism became the majority held view. Prior to all of this, many early church theologians held a very amillenial view of the end times. In other words, while we may not agree on everything, we are still brothers and sisters in Christ. Like one of my professors always said, “It will all work out in the end.”