Exploring the Millennial Kingdom: Five Key Questions
Dr. Christopher Garrow
Hello to all my readers! Today, I hope to take you on a journey through a part of the Bible that's always been a hot topic for discussion among believers. Before we dive deep into our exploration, let’s take a moment to reflect and set our intentions.
The Millennial Kingdom: A Biblical Enigma
As we continue our series on revelation, today's focus is on the "Millennial Kingdom." Among Bible-believing Christians, the verses related to this topic are probably some of the most debated. Yet, it's this very debate that beckons us closer to the scriptures. The discussions prompt us to seek more profound understandings and interpretations. Some might question the purpose behind discussing a topic so open to interpretation, but I firmly believe in the immense value these verses offer. They challenge our understanding and push us to deeper scriptural study.
Understanding Hermeneutics: More than Just a Fancy Word
Before we delve into the questions, let's get familiar with a term: hermeneutics. Though it may sound like a peculiar name one of my daughters might give to a pet turtle, hermeneutics holds significant importance in our journey of understanding.
At its core, hermeneutics refers to the study of methods and principles of interpretation, particularly in theology, law, and medicine. But if I were to break it down from an academic perspective to a personal one, it would be this: Hermeneutics is the sincere endeavor to understand and let God's word speak to us, without bias or preconceived notions.
Sharing a personal anecdote, as my sons Gabriel and Angel embarked on their journey for basic training and subsequently their adventures in the military, I emphasized to them the essence of the Bible. I urged them to delve into the scriptures, seeking out its truths, and praying for the strength to live by those truths. That, in essence, embodies the spirit of hermeneutics – letting the scripture interpret itself and guide our paths.
Five Questions of the Millennial Kingdom
As we embark on this exploration, we'll be addressing five central questions about the Millennial Kingdom. Let’s dive deep into the mysteries of these debated verses and seek answers that resonate with the truths of the scriptures.
Question One: Literal 1,000 Years or Allegory?
The Case for Premillennialism
Direct Reading of Scripture: One primary argument for a literal 1,000-year reign of Christ is the plain and straightforward reading of Revelation 20. It's mentioned explicitly six times in the chapter, emphasizing its importance.
Consistency with Other Biblical Timelines: Throughout the Bible, there are prophecies with specific timeframes that were fulfilled literally. For instance, the Book of Daniel provides precise periods leading to significant events, suggesting that God does operate within set timeframes.
No Symbolic Use of "1,000 Years" Elsewhere: There's no precedent in the Bible where "1,000 years" is used symbolically. When the Bible says "a day is like a thousand years" in the Psalms and 2 Peter, it's poetic language highlighting God's transcendence over time, rather than defining a specific period. If this is used as a hermeneutic, creation and any other timeline in the Bible becomes suspect.
Various Interpretations of the Millennium:
Premillennialism: This view believes that Christ will return physically before (pre-) the Millennium. He will then rule for a literal 1,000 years before the final judgment and the introduction of the eternal state. The early church fathers, like Papias, Polycarp, and Justin Martyr, endorsed this view.
Postmillennialism: Advocates of this view believe the world will become more Christianized, leading to an age of peace (the Millennium). Following this, Christ will return, succeeded by the final judgment and the eternal state. This viewpoint became popular at a time when Christianity was spreading, and it seemed as though a Christianized world was a foreseeable future. However, its popularity has waned in modern times after the World Wars.
Amillennialism: This perspective suggests that the "Millennium" isn't a literal 1,000 years but symbolizes the time between Christ's first and second comings. It believes Christ reigns spiritually during this time. This interpretation was introduced around 300 years after the church's establishment, a time when church leaders were financed by the state. This economic tie could have influenced the spiritualized understanding of Christ's reign; however, the historical emergence is not a reason to invalidate the biblical arguments.
Conclusion: For believers, while it's essential to understand these perspectives, unity in the primary tenets of the faith remains paramount. All evangelical Christians believe in a final return of Christ; however, premils take Chapter 20 literally in their view of the Millennial. I believe this is the most consistent view.
Question 2: Is Satan currently in prison?
Biblical Text: Revelation 20:1-3
I lean towards the pre-millennial view, suggesting that Satan is currently active and not bound. This perspective is derived from interpreting various New Testament verses which indicate the active role of Satan in deceiving and attacking the nations and believers.
1. Historic positions on this topic:
- Post-millennialism: Those who subscribe to this viewpoint argue that Satan is currently bound. They often hold that through the proclamation of the Gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit, the world will eventually be Christianized. Following this, Christ will return to initiate a peaceful reign.
- Amillennialism: This perspective suggests that Satan is partially bound. Advocates of this position might argue that while Satan is restricted in some of his operations, perhaps on a geopolitical scale concerning nations, he remains active in other areas, such as in individual lives.
- Pre-millennialism: This is the stance I resonate with. It asserts that we are not in the millennial kingdom at present, and Satan remains active and unbound. Only in the future, during the literal thousand-year reign of Christ, will Satan be completely restrained.
2. New Testament verses concerning the nature of Satan:
- Revelation 20:1-3 the scripture explicitly describes an angel descending from heaven with a key and a chain to seize and bind the dragon, known as the devil, for a thousand years. The repetitive and emphatic phrasing used - "key," "bottomless pit," "great chain," "seized," "bound," "thrown into the pit," and "sealed" - underscores the complete incapacitation of Satan during this period. Just as believers trust in their eternal relationship with Christ due to the sealing of the Holy Spirit, the sealing of Satan implies a definitive end to his deceitful actions. His primary title, "the deceiver," becomes null and void. If he can no longer deceive, it's akin to saying a renowned baseball player can no longer play. It's a testament to his complete removal from his inherent nature and abilities during the millennial kingdom.
- 1 Peter 5:8: This passage portrays Satan as a roaring lion, actively seeking someone to devour. It implies that he is not bound but continues his mission to harm believers.
- Ephesians 6:10-11: Paul's admonition for believers to don the armor of God to withstand the "schemes of the devil" further underscores Satan's active role in attempting to deceive and challenge the followers of Christ.
3. Personal reflection:
Observing the world's state, marked by deception, sickness, and malevolence, it's evident to me that Satan is at work. Yet, I find hope in the knowledge that God will one day bind Satan as depicted in Revelation 20:1-3. This assurance in the sovereignty of Jesus and the eventual destiny of Satan provides a beacon of hope and a reason to persevere through life's trials. When I'm confronted with the deception and evil of this world in my life, and I know it affects others too, I fervently pray to God. I beseech Him to send a mighty angel to intervene, emphasizing that I call upon His power, not mine. This act of faith in the midst of adversity is a testament to the enduring belief in God's supreme authority over all.
Question Three: Are There Two Resurrections?
As someone who interprets the Bible literally, I've always understood the resurrection not as a mere symbol but as a concrete event that scripture has prophesied. The key question remains: does the Bible speak of one unified resurrection or does it delineate two separate resurrections types with many events? Drawing from scriptures such as John 5:28-29 and Acts 24:15, which distinctly mention the resurrections of the "just" and the "unjust", I've attempted to weave together an understanding through the lens of various theological interpretations.
Position 1: One General Resurrection
This perspective maintains that the Bible describes a singular resurrection event, where both the righteous (the "just") and the wicked (the "unjust") are raised simultaneously at the end of times.
Position 2: Two Distinct Resurrections Events (not types)
Advocates of this viewpoint discern two separate resurrection events in the scriptures: the first for the righteous (the "just") followed by another for the wicked (the "unjust"). This interpretation often cites Revelation 20:4-6, which hints at a thousand-year reign between these two resurrections.
Position 3: Two Resurrection Types with many Resurrection Events
The Bible speaks of several resurrection events scattered across the timeline of redemption, each intended for two different groups:
1. The Resurrection Life (Righteous or Just)
2. The Resurrection of Dead (Wicked, or the Unjust)
The first for the righteous (the "just") followed by another for the wicked (the "unjust"). This interpretation often cites Revelation 20:4-6, which hints at a thousand-year reign between these two types of resurrections. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 says:
"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ."
Christ as the First fruits: Paul refers to Jesus as the "first fruits" of the resurrection. Just as the first fruits in Jewish culture were the initial harvest, given to God as a sign of the greater harvest to come, Christ's resurrection is the first occurrence of this “type” with many resurrection events within this “type” to follow. He is the prototype of the “Resurrection of Life”, the first category. So the first event of this type is Christ resurrection, then the sleeping or imprisoned Old Testament saints in Sheol (Ephesians 4:8-10, 1 Peter 3:18-20, Heb 11:1-2), then the Rapture and Church Called up (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Philippians 3:20-21, John 14:1-3, Matthew 24:31), and finally the tribulation saints and martyrs at the beginning of the thousand years (Rev 20:4). It is commonly held that all these categories reign with Christ in the 1,000 Kingdom; however, it is debated.
The second type of resurrection has one event, it is the resurrection of the unjust or the dead to judgement following the 1,000 reign, Revelation 20:5-6.
Voices from Key Theologians:
Dr. Kayser (mostly post-mil):
"Premillennialists might have the timing wrong, but they are water-tight on two resurrections." Even as a mostly post-mil, Dr. Kayser concedes the strength of the premillennial argument regarding distinct resurrections. Dr. Kyser is a brilliant theologian, and I believe any Bible truth seeker will benefit from his teaching, even though we have different positions.
Charles Spurgeon (Premillennialist):
“We are to expect the literal advent of Jesus Christ. For he himself, by his angel, told us the same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Which must mean literally and in person, we expect a reigning Christ on earth. That seems to us to be very plain and to be put so literally that we dare not spiritualize it. We anticipate a first and a second resurrection, a first resurrection of the righteous and a second resurrection of the ungodly, who shall be judged, condemned and punished forever by the sentence of the great King.”
Charles Spurgeon's deep commitment to the scriptures, combined with his premillennial perspective, profoundly resonates with me. The underpinning of premillennialism is a sense of urgency: the belief that once this life ends, there are no second chances. We awaken to one of two judgments. This belief places significant emphasis on our choices in life and accentuates the imperativeness of evangelism. A belief in distinct resurrections fortifies the notion that every soul has eternal worth, spurring us to share the message of salvation with zeal.
Taking my literal interpretation of the scriptures, and considering the direct insights from Dr. Kayser, Spurgeon, Piper, Missler, and many others, I am inclined towards Position 3: Two Resurrection Types with many Resurrection Events. The distinctions laid out in the prophets, Thessalonians, Corinthians, John, Matthew, and Revelation, coupled with Spurgeon's emphasis on resurrection's transformative nature and even Kayser's affirmation, harmonize with this belief. Nevertheless, my conclusion is merely one voice among many. I hold deep respect for the vast spectrum of theological interpretations and appreciate the diverse insights the scriptures can offer. The pursuit of truth is endless, and the Bible, in its infinite richness, continues to enlighten and guide us across ages.
Question Four: Does Jesus Reign from National Israel?
When delving into the topic of Christ's reign and its association with national Israel, it's important to preface with my foundational belief: I interpret the Bible literally. To comprehend the scope of this debate, we need to appreciate the wide spectrum of theological perspectives that exist. There are three major positions concerning this: Postmillennialism, Amillennialism, and Premillennialism.
Proponents of this view assert that Jesus does not reign in a literal Israel. Instead, they believe the church has completely replaced Israel in relation to the Messianic promises.
This stance is intriguing and ties together various Biblical threads. Adherents argue that while the church supersedes Israel regarding the promises, there is a revival through which ethnic Jews can be saved. This doesn't encompass all of Israel, but rather individuals who turn to Jesus in Revelation.
This is the position I most resonate with. It posits that God remains steadfast in upholding every detail of His covenants to Israel. The unfolding events in Revelation and the subsequent realization of these promises are all centered on the thousand-year kingdom. "They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4). Here, it's suggested that the Jewish Christians, alongside other saved individuals, will be brought to life to reign with Christ.
At the heart of this discussion lies Romans 11, which underscores that God hasn't finished with Israel: "Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:25-26). The phrase “all Israel” doesn’t necessarily imply every single Jewish individual. Rather, it points to the national promises God bestowed upon the nation.
Psalm 89:34 is another beacon of clarity: "I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips." This verse, and many other OT verses, serves as a testament to God's unyielding commitment to His promises. In my view, there are aspects concerning Israel that the church hasn’t fulfilled completely. These encompass:
1. The throne of the Messiah in Israel.
2. The promise of the land, especially to Abraham. Historically, Israel has never completely inhabited the promised land.
3. Leadership by Israel, as depicted in Jeremiah 31:7 and Micah 3:12-4:2, which highlights Israel's dominion over other nations by the word emanating from Jerusalem.
So, why is all of this paramount? Because the gifts and callings of God are irreversible, as emphasized in Romans 11. God's promises to us are unwavering. Intriguingly, Israel remains the only nation to which God has made specific promises. Believing in the irrevocability of God's promises, I am convinced that He will uphold every commitment He has made, especially concerning Israel, realized throughout Revelation and the Millennial Kingdom. Verse to Consider (2 Sam 7:12-17; 23:5 Ps 89, Ps 2, Ps 110, Isa 2:1-5, 4:1-6, 11:1-9, 12:1-6, 30:18-26, 35:1-10, Isa 60-66, Jer 23:3-8, 32:37-44, Ez 40-48, Dan 2:44-45, 7:13-14, 12:2-3, Micah 4:1-8, Zech 12:10-14:21 Lk 1:32, 22:29-30, Phil 2:6-11, Rom 9-11)
The primary takeaway from this exploration is the unchangeable nature of God's promises. Whether they relate to individuals or nations, God's word is steadfast and trustworthy. It's this unshakable faith in His promises that forms the bedrock of my belief that Jesus will indeed reign from national Israel, fulfilling all prophecies and promises made in the past. God says what He means, and He means what He says. This anchors my trust in Him and His word.
Question Five: Are There Two Armageddons?
Throughout Christian eschatological discourse, the notion of Armageddon has been a fixture, an apocalyptic culmination of the enduring battle between good and evil. Parsing the Book of Revelation, I've grappled with an intriguing proposition: might there be not one, but two monumental confrontations that resonate with the spirit of "Armageddon"? I'll delineate the three primary theological standpoints and subsequently my personal conviction, its implications, and its profound resonance in today's world.
- Main Belief: Advocates of this perspective contend that the millennial reign has either a figurative or a literal interpretation. Nonetheless, the primary confrontation is believed to have already transpired, especially during the epoch of Jerusalem's collapse. In this understanding, there is no impending Armageddon. Instead, the world is thought to be moving towards a golden era dominated by Christianity.
- Relevance to the Dual Armageddon Question: Post-millennialists typically reject the notion of two separate Armageddon events. They believe that significant prophecies, inclusive of the described battles in Revelation, have already been realized.
- Main Belief: Amillennialism treats a vast portion of Revelation as allegorical. Adherents perceive the millennium not as an impending thousand-year reign, but as a symbolic depiction of the Church's prevailing era. They posit that evil will continue its expansion, yet the Church will simultaneously manifest spiritual victories.
- Relevance to the Dual Armageddon Question: Given their symbolic interpretation of Revelation, Amillennialists might not discern two distinct Armageddon confrontations. Instead, they might perceive these accounts as symbolic narratives of the ongoing spiritual conflict or the final triumph of good over evil. Their argument holds weight when combining OT prophets, Rev 12, Rev 19 and 20 as a prophetic and allegorical recapitulation.
- Main Belief: Holding the premillennial viewpoint, I am convicted that Christ will make His triumphant return preceding His thousand-year reign, manifesting as an actual, forthcoming event. After this reign, Satan will be freed, initiating another pivotal face-off.
- Relevance to the Dual Armageddon Question: In my understanding, the scriptures depict two distinct Armageddon-style battles: the first in Revelation 19 (with Christ's return and the defeat of the beast) and the subsequent in Revelation 20 (after the millennium, where Satan, once released, gathers a vast army to challenge the "beloved city").
Personal Reflection: The very essence of the Book of Revelation, for me, is not a mystifying riddle but a plain reading of the text. While it's essential to acknowledge the various interpretations, I believe a straightforward approach provides a clear narrative. By adopting a mostly premillennial stance, I am fortified by the unwavering assurance of Christ's imminent return and the subsequent establishment of His divine dominion. The possibility of two distinct confrontations only intensifies the magnitude of Christ's ultimate victory, sealing Satan's fate. This understanding inspires me daily, invigorating my faith, offering hope, and cementing my commitment to living in accordance with Christ's teachings, eagerly awaiting His reign.
Hermeneutics, in the realm of eschatology, reminds us of the value and weight in approaching scriptures with an open heart and mind. The literal approach, which seeks to let the Bible interpret itself without much systematic theology, can often raise intriguing questions. Infact, the Primill has more unanswered questions than any other view. As we've explored in this post, when questioning the Bible, the plain reading of the scripture is an invitation to a rich, engaging discourse with God's Word.
Reflecting back to the advice I gave my sons, Gabriel and Angel, the true essence of hermeneutics shines through. By seeking understanding without bias, we allow the Bible to become our compass, no matter the millennial view you like most. The mysteries and intricacies of eschatology are not barriers but gateways, opening doors to a profound connection with God's eternal message. In the end, it's not about fitting theological molds, but about embracing the truth of Jesus, and a journey of discovery, led by the scriptures themselves.