As I have promised before, I don’t want this blog to turn into a “here’s my latest sick update” blog. I’ve still been working in a limited capacity and pouring what time and little energy I have into my church, and a week before I got acutely sick, I started off my summer C&C topical studies where people sent me questions and I explore one every other week. One of the first questions was about the Millennium, so I cobbled together a sort of rough and brief guide to the topic. Here’s a slightly modified version of the handout I gave everyone:
A General Overview of the Millennium:
The Concept the Millennium
The Millennium refers to a time in Israel’s future where Jesus will return to establish his kingdom in Israel, ruling over the nation of Israel as their king, for a period of one thousand years (hence the term “Millennium”. This will be an earthly kingdom, over the real and physical nation of Israel with Christ ruling from David’s throne, and it will commence at the end of the Tribulation when Christ returns.
Terms associated with the Millennium
In church, you might hear several words that are apparently connected to this topic:
– Chiliasm – This is another word for The Millennium that is found in some pieces of literature.
– Eternal State – This is not to be confused with the Millennium. The Eternal State is the everlasting period of time that follows the closing of the Millennium. It is ushered in by the destruction and recreation of the universe, as well as the Great White Throne judgment and the descent of the New Jerusalem from heaven.
– Premillennial (ism) – The concept that Christ will return before the Millennium. This is the only Millennial position that thinks that the Millennium involves Christ ruling over Israel on earth.
– Amillennial (ism) – An idea that the “Millennium” actually refers to something other than the reign of Christ over Israel upon earth. Amillennialism often sees the Millennium as an indefinite period of time (the church age) where Christ’s spiritual rule over believers is manifest. Some Amillennialists would suggest that Christ’s reign in heaven is over a literal kingdom, but not one on Earth.
– Postmillennial (ism) – An idea that the “Millennium” actually refers to something other than the reign of Christ over Israel upon earth. Postmillennialism often sees the Millennium as a period of the future where mass conversion will usher in a time of peace and harmony on earth as the entire earth is essentially evangelized. The Post par of Postmillennialism points to the idea that Christ will then return after this “Millennium” (which is an indefinite period of time) and will assume the reigns of the already-present kingdom on Earth, ushering in the Eternal State.
– Pretribulational (ism), Postrib, Midtrib – The terms with “trib” in them refer to the timing of the rapture in relation to the tribulation, not the millennium. Many Amillennialists and Postmillennialists don’t believe that there will be a rapture at all, so this issue is separate from millennial questions.
– The Tribulation – The seven year period marking out Israel’s final time of suffering and divine wrath; punishment for their rejection of the Messiah. The Tribulation is also related to the Millennium loosely, but the debates about the tribulation are separate from the debates about the Millennium.
The Background to the Millennium/Millennial Kingdom
In the Old Testament, the theme of “The Kingdom” runs throughout the Old Testament. The theme is often carried along by references to God’s universal empire and rule (2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chron. 29:11; 2 Chron. 13:8, 20:6, 36:23; Ps. 45:6, 103:19, 145:11-13; 37:16; Jer. 10:7; Dan. 2:37-44, 4:3, 17, 25-26, 32, 34, 5:21) but also is carried along by God’s promise to Israel of a singular, global and everlasting kingdom, centered in Israel, promised to a descendant of David (Ex. 19:6; 1Sam 13:13-14; 2Sam. 7:12-16, 1Chron. 17:11-14, 28: 5-7; Is 9:6-7; Dan. 2:44-45, 7:14, 18, 22, 27). 2 Samuel 7:12-16 contains six specific promises:
1. When David dies, someone from his line will become king.
2. The future Davidic king will build a house for Yahweh’s name (temple).
3. Yahweh will make the reign of that descendant everlasting.
4. Yahweh will be a father to him and he will be a son to Yahweh.
5. He will be disciplined by God “when he commits iniquity”, but Yahweh’s covenant faithfulness will not depart from him as it did with Saul.
6. David’s house, kingdom and throne will be everlasting.
These six promises (also recorded in 1 Chron. 7:11-14 but without the line “when he commits iniquity”) were regarding a future kingdom that wasn’t recognized in the reign of Solomon, though 1 Chron. 28:5-7 gives strong reason to suggest that Solomon could have been the king that David was promised. Sadly, Solomon committed iniquity and the kingdom was torn from his rule due to his sin, though God’s promise was not annulled by Solomon’s unfaithfulness. Many years later, Is. 9:6-7 contains mention of the promised Davidic king suggests that he’s still to come in the future, and Daniel spoke of a coming kingdom that would conquer all others and last forever (Dan. 2:44, 7:14).
By the time of the New Testament, the Israelites are eagerly awaiting the coming of their promised king from the line of David to whom all the kingdom promises will be fulfilled. When Jesus arrived in Matthew 2:2 being called “King of the Jews” and in 3:2 was talking about the kingdom and saying “repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand”, people knew exactly what he was talking about and thought, for good reason, that Jesus was the promised king who would establish the promised messianic kingdom in Israel. In the gospel of Matthew, the “gospel” that Jesus proclaimed was the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23, 9:35, 24:14).
The expectation for Jesus to establish the kingdom was the undercurrent of his entire ministry to the extent that after his resurrection Jesus spent 40 days talking about the kingdom with his apostles (Acts 1:3) and after that the apostle’s biggest question was ” Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6 – It’s worth noting that the word “restore” suggests that the kingdom they were expecting was going to be like it was in the past; namely like it was when there was a kingdom of Israel…) Jesus answer was very interesting. He indicated a coming future kingdom when he answered ” It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7)
After Christ had ascended into heaven, the kingdom was still spoken of as a future reality (though there is a present aspect to the kingdom as well: i.e. Col 1:13 or Rev. 1:6). The kingdom is spoken of as a future inheritance in the New Testament (1 Cor. 6:9-10, 15:50; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5; James 2:5) or a generally future reality (1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 12:28; 2 Pet. 1:11; Rev 11:15, 12:10). The thousand year length of the kingdom specifically comes from Rev. 20:1-10.
Questions for parking on a Millennial positions
In subjects like this, a person may want to toss their hands up in the air and say “I give up! If the scholars like John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul cannot agree on this, and they’re way smarter than me, then how in the world can I figure it out?”
The most helpful thing you can do with a complex issue like this is to ask specific questions. As you work through specific questions, you’ll slowly amass a framework of answers that will be funneling you towards a millennial position.
Here’s a few that may be helpful:
1. How would Abraham, Isaac and Jacob understood the promises made regarding their offspring/seed in Gen. 12:7, 13:15-16, 17:7-8, 17:19-21, 22:15-19, 24:7, 26:2-5, 28:4, 28:13-15, 35:11-12, 48:3-4?
1a. Do those passages give you any hint that they were thinking of anything other than their physical descendants or the land of Canaan?
1b. Were all those promises fulfilled during the reign of Saul, David, or Solomon?
1c. Were all those promises fulfilled during the earthly ministry of Jesus?
2. Were the promises made to Abraham in Gen. 12:1-7, 13:14-17, 15:1-21, 17:1-21, and 22:15-19 conditional or unconditional?
3. How would Moses or the Israelites of his day have understood the promises made in Deut. 30:1-10?
3a. Does that passage give you any hint that they were thinking of anything other than the physical descendants of Abraham or the land of Canaan?
3b. Were those promises conditional or unconditional?
3c. Were all those promises fulfilled during the reign of Saul, David, or Solomon?
3d. Were all those promises fulfilled during the earthly ministry of Jesus?
4. How would David or the Israelites of his day have understood the promises made in 2 Sam. 7:12-16 or Ps. 89:2-4, 27-37?
4a. Does that passage give you any hint that they were thinking of anything other than the physical descendants of David, or the land & people of Israel?
4b. Were those promises conditional or unconditional?
4c. Were all those promises fulfilled during the reign of Solomon or any following king?
4d. Were all those promises fulfilled during the earthly ministry of Jesus?
5. Is the “throne of David” ever spoken of as a metaphor for something other than the chair from which David ruled Israel?
6. When Jesus was on earth during his incarnation, did he sit on the throne of David “from this time forth and forevermore.” (Is. 9:6-7)
6a. If so, when?
6b. If not, does the New Testament say that he’s sitting on the throne of David now?
6c. Seeing that Luke 1:32-33 and Acts 2:29-30 are the only mentions of the throne of David in the New Testament, what does that tell us about Jesus and Is. 9:6-7?
6d. Do the other references to Jesus & thrones in the New Testament (Matt. 19:28, 25:31; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:8, 4:16, 8:1, 12:2; Rev. 3:21, 22:1, 22:3) give any insinuation that the term “throne” carries some sort of metaphorical meaning?
6e. What about every other occurrence of “throne” in the New Testament? (there’s 53) Do any of those references suggest a non-physical throne or a metaphor that isn’t rooted in actually ruling over people and land? (i.e. does the N.T. ever talk about ruling “in your heart” or in some metaphorical way?)
6f. If the throne of David isn’t in Heaven, and Jesus hasn’t ruled from David’s throne yet, when exactly will that occur if not in the Millennium?
7. Has the re-gathering of the Israelites spoken of in the scriptures (Is. 11:1-11, 12:1-3, 27:12-13, 43:1-8, 49:8-16, 66:20-22; Jer. 16:14-16, 23:3-8, 30:10-11, 31:8-22; Ez. 11:17-21, 20:33-38, 34:11-16, 39:25-29; Hos. 1:10-11; Joel 3:17-21; Amos 9:11-15; Mic. 4:4-7; Zeph. 3:14-20; Zech. 8:4-8) occurred with all the promised details?
7a. If not, what details are outstanding?
7b. When will these outstanding details be experienced if not in the Millennium?
8. Has the future kingdom promised to Israel (Is. 2:1-22; Ez. 36:22-36, 37:15-28; Joel 3:1-21, Amos 9:11-15; Zeph. 3:14-20; Zech.8, 12:8-10, 14) already been experienced in the Old Testament?
8a. If not, was it experienced during the incarnation of Christ?
8b. If not, when will this be experienced if not in the Millennium?
8c. Has Israel already experienced the promises of the New Covenant as outlined in Jer. 31:31-40?
8d. If not, when will these be experienced if not in the Millennium?
9. Is the term “Israel” ever used in the New Testament to refer to anything other than the nation of Israel? If so, where? What does “Israel” mean in those passages?
10. After the resurrection, did the apostles have an expectation that the kingdom was still coming?
10a. What kind of kingdom were they apparently expecting?
11. Does Matt. 21:43 or Rom. 11:1-32 teach that the nation of Israel was disinherited from the promises made regarding the land of Israel?
12. Is there a chronological flow between Rev. 19 to 20? In other words, is there an indication in Rev. 20 that the events listed are not chronologically after the events in Rev. 19?
FAQ regarding Millennium
1. Who’s going to inhabit the Millennium?
– The Millennium will be inhabited by unglorified but believing Jews (Zech. 12:10, 13:7-9) and Gentiles (Matt. 25:31-34) that survive the Tribulation, as well as the resurrected saints of all ages (Rev. 20:4). There will be unregenerate children born to those who survive the Tribulation and those children will be evangelized (Is. 2:2-3; Ez. 47:21-22; Zech. 10:8).
2. Will the curse be lifted in the Millennium?
– Not exactly, but creation will be “set free from its bondage to corruption” when believers are redeemed in body via the resurrection (Rom. 8:18-23). Animals will no longer be predatorial/carnivorous (Is. 11:6, 35:9, 65:25; Ez. 34:28) and the land of Israel will become amazingly fruitful agriculturally (Is. 30:22-26, 35:1, 35:6-7; Ez. 34:14, 34:26-29; Joel 2:21-27; Zech. 14:11). Lifespans will be extended (Is. 65:20) and the only intentional deaths that occur will result from capital punishment for sin (Is. 11:3-4, Ez. 34:16). Beyond that, all sickness and deformity will be wiped out (Is. 29: 17, 33:24, 35:5-6; Ez. 34:16).
3. Will the temple be rebuilt during the Millennium?
– A temple will be rebuilt (Ez. 40-48), and there will be sacrifices for sin since there will be converted sinners in the Millennium. This is admittedly one of the most disputed and difficult components of premillennialism.
4. Will there be government during the Millennium?
– Yes. There will be a righteous global monarchy, centered in Israel, with Jesus ruling a united nation of Israel as king (Ps. 2:6; Is. 9:6, 33:17-24; Jer. 3:19; Dan. 7:14; Zech. 14:9). There will be other countries besides Israel (Jer. 3:17), and those other nations will send emissaries to bring national tribute to Israel for presentation to Jesus, king of all kings (Zech. 14:17-18). Seeing that they won’t be any war (Is. 2:4) or sin, the governments and economies of the various world nations will looks astonishingly different, and Israel will be a nation of vast riches (Ez. 39:25). In the Millennium, justice will be swift and terminal (Is. 11:2-4), and everyone will witness the example made by the disobedient (Is. 66:24).
5. What else will the Millennium be?
– The Millennium will be a time where the entire world will exist in some recognizable way, akin to it is now though different in a hard to fathom way, meaning that it will be essentially sinless and almost exclusively characterized by righteousness and peace (Is. 32:17), joy (Is. 12:3-4; 61:3-7). There will be things like industrial and technological development without sin (i.e. financial corruption or wicked motivation). There will be nations without any national strife, since the entire government will be regenerate (most likely resurrected believers).
Beyond that, it will be the ultimate vindication of God’s righteous judgment against sin as he reveals his power and promises to Israel and the world (Ez. 39:27-29). In a thousand year kingdom of perfect justice, peace and prosperity where Christ is reigning on earth, the global culture is characterized by exemplary righteousness and every unbeliever experiences nothing but love and blessing, there will still be a rebellion against mankind’s benevolent and blessed king at the end of the period (when Satan is released for a short time). In the Millennium, all the current excuses for rebellion against God will lack any substance whatsoever and sin will be seen as the wicked, irrational rebellion that it is:
– Nobody will complain about why “bad things happen to good people”.
– Nobody will complain about some sort of “deficient of proof” for the existence of God.
– Nobody will complain about Christian hypocrisy (since a good portion of the believers on earth will be actually sinless).
– Nobody will complain about a lack of justice for this or that, since Christ will execute justice with both swiftness and severity.
– There will literally be nothing to complain about, and yet at the end of the thousand years, Satan will lead a rebellion against Christ and people will actually attack the one who has done nothing but provide for them and bless them and govern them in unadulterated love for close to a thousand years.
After that rebellion is over, nobody will have any question about God’s righteous judgment against sin. All mouths will be silenced and the sin-sick hearts of men will be seen for what they are. Against all reason, sinners will bite the hand that literally feeds them.
6. What happens at the end of the Millennium?
As I’ve already alluded to, Rev 20:7-15 informs us that Satan will be released from his holding cell and allowed to deceive the nations for a short time. Satan will amass a good portion of the world to attack Jerusalem, but they’ll be instantly defeated when fire from heaven consumes them all (in a similar way that the fire consumed the altar of the priests of Ba’al in 1 Kings 18:38, except that 2 Pet. 3:7 & Heb. 12:26-29 suggest that this time, the fire won’t stop. It will destroy everything, including the entire planet). After that, the wicked of all the ages, as well as those believers who die in the Millennium, will be resurrected for the Great White Throne judgment, where the books will be opened and the resurrected sinners will be cast into the lake of fire, along with the Devil and his angels and Hell itself.
After that final judgment, the heavens and earth (I suspect that means the entire universe) will be re-created and mankind will live on a paradise planet with the new Jerusalem (the giant golden spacecraft/city) and we’ll be living in eternal state as described in Rev. 21-22.
I hope that’s somewhat informative and helpful to my readers. The C&C group seemed to enjoy it and I got positive feedback, so here’s hoping that it was more blessing that burden!
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Longing for the day” Unger
P.S. – good luck finding pictures related to the term “Millennium” without them being Sci/Fi, pop-music or complete Christian kitsch. I apologize if the pictures are needlessly stupid.