The Millennial Maze, pp. 139-41 (To be sure, the author of this “comparison” book is Amill and his bias comes out in various places; nevertheless, Grenz does have a keen, nuanced eye when describing the dynamic between millennial positions.)
Historic premillennialists have attempted to carve out a distinctive position between dispensationalism on the one side, and amillennialism on the other. Over against the distinction between Israel and the church posited by the dispensationalism from which many of them came, these thinkers agree with the amillennial emphasis on the church as the spiritual Israel. They employ a “spiritualizing” hermeneutic that transfers to the experience of the church the prophetic expectations of a future glorious age for Israel.
At the same time, historic premillennialists are unwilling to employ universally the spiritualizing hermeneutic. They do not resign Israel to oblivion, but agree with their dispensationalist cousins that there remains yet some future role for Israel in the divine economy, albeit only as the nation turns to Christ and thereby becomes a vehicle of blessing to the world. And they stubbornly cling to the literalist hermeneutic when the meaning of the thousand years of Revelation 20 is in question. Not all prophecy can be spiritualized, they argue, and not every dimension of the future hope for the people of God may be relegated to the eternal state beyond the culmination of history.
Because they are caught in the middle, as it were, contemporary adherents of historic premillennialism find themselves fighting on two fronts. When engaging in discussions with dispensationalists, especially adherents of its classical expression, they direct their polemic against the literalist hermeneutic and the emphasis on Israel that arises out of it. But they defend a literal approach to the Bible and the physical, earthly dimensions of God’s future purposes when confronting amillennialists.
As a result of the double direction characteristic of their apologetic, critics from both the dispensationalist and the amillennialist persuasions charge historical premillennialists with inconsistency. Both assert, for example, that the historic premillennialist hermeneutic is inconsistent, Dispensationalists complain that they are not consistently literal in approaching Scripture. Amillennialists, in contrast, see them as too literalistic. They wonder why historic premillennialists demand a fulfillment within history of the glorious blessings promised to God’s people.
Critics from both persuasions claim that historic premillennialists are likewise inconsistent in their understanding of Israel. Many amillennialists challenge them to consistency in seeing the church as the spiritual Israel. Historical premillennialists readily apply to the church various Old Testament promises originally given to Israel. Such promises find their fulfillment in the blessings the church will enjoy in the millennial era. But amillennialist critics wonder why these “spiritualized” promises require a future age for their “literal” fulfillment. Dispensationalists, in contrast, wonder why historic premillennialists cannot see that their acknowledgment of some distinction between Israel and the church naturally leads to a greater emphasis on the future fulfillment of God’s promises to the nation.
In short, dispensationalists complain that historic premillennialists have set out on the road to amillennialism. Amillennialists, in turn, encourage them to make the complete break with premillennialism demanded by their rejection of dispensationalism.