A City Set On a Hill
Surviving the Seventieth Week by Reforming Fundamentalism and Establishing Cities of Refuge
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The Millenium
Copyright 2010 by Raul E. Lopez, MD, MDiv

Many Christians believe that after the seventieth week Jesus Christ will return to establish a one thousand year rule over those nations which survive the seventieth week and its judgments. This will be a time of peace, righteousness and prosperity. Satan will be imprisoned so that he cannot entice the nations to sin. During this time mankind will consist of two groups. One group consists of reproducing biological humans, while the other group consists of those who were either resurrected or transformed at the rapture. After the thousand years Satan is released, a final rebellion of mankind will be squelched, and the great judgement of mankind takes place. After this the Universe is transformed and what is called the eternal state, begins. This view is called Premillennialism because Jesus Christ is thought to return before the millennium to establish His kingdom.

Other Christians believe that when Jesus Christ returns the judgment of mankind occurs immediately with the eternal state occurring after that. This view is called amillennialism because it teaches that no direct earthly reign of Jesus Christ over reproducing humans occurs. They believe that the prophecies which premillennialists say describe the millennium are either descriptions of the eternal state or of the church age.

A majority of Premillennialists believe that the rapture of the church occurs before the seventieth week, while the majority of amillennialists believe that the rapture occurs at the end of the seventieth week. The view presented here, that the rapture occurs at the end of the seventieth week and that a one thousand year rule of Jesus Christ over reproducing humans intervenes between His second coming and the eternal state, is held by few Christians. One reason for this was the interpretational difficulties associated with the judgement of the sheep and the goats which was discussed earlier.

Progressive parallelism, the view of the Apocalypse held by some Amillennialists, has the advantage of offering teaching and comfort to Christians throughout the totality of the church age. It interprets the symbols of the Apocalypse in a way which makes it applicable to the experience of common Christians in the present. It is based on the belief that the book of Revelation presents the on going struggle between good and evil in a symbolic way. Nevertheless, prophetic passages in general seem to contain meaning on three levels. These can be identified as past, present, and future. They have a short term fulfilment, which for us is now in the past, and a long term or climactic fulfilment in the future. The short term fulfilment serves to verify the inspiration and veracity of the prophecy. In addition to these two levels of meaning, past and future, prophecies also serve as formulas containing general principles which can be applied to similar conditions in the present and throughout history. Prophecy is not the only literary type in scripture which contains two levels of meaning; many characters in the histories of the Old Testament serve as ‘types' for New Testament truths, which, in turn, serve as the ‘antitypes.' Paul himself, in his epistles, makes reference to ‘types' and ‘antitypes.' The parables are a New Testament example of passages with two levels of meaning, an earthly and a heavenly. Consequently, it is entirely possible that truths contained in the Apocalypse which are both generally applicable to Christians throughout the church age but also reach a climactic fulfilment during a specific period of time in the future. Therefore, the good aspects of the symbolic amillenialist interpretation might be valid, without at the same time invalidating the more literal premillenial interpretation.

However, when it comes to the matter of the millennium itself, It is clear that the one thousand year reign mentioned in Revelation 20:4 cannot be the eternal state because at the end of this period Satan will be released to gather Gog and Magog to battle against the camp of the saints (Revelation 20:8). Therefore, the thousand year reign must be a period of time before the great judgment, a time during which the final destiny of mankind has not yet been determined. Consequently, this leaves only two options, it must be either the church age or a period of time intermediate between the church age and the eternal state. Which of these options is true depends on the meaning of the term "42 months", mentioned in Revelation 13:5. This 42 month period is the length of time that the beast will rule. If this term is taken to mean 42 literal months, that is 3˝ years, then premillennialism is true. If this period represents the totality of the church age, then amillennialism is true.

The reason for this is that those who reign with Christ a thousand years include those who did not worship the beast. This means that some of them lived and died under the rule of the antichrist. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received [his] mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4). Therefore, the thousand year reign of Christ can only start after the appearance of the beast. If the 42 months represent the totality of the church age, then it is possible that those who reign with Christ are the dead of the church age who are in heaven. The thousand years then represents the totality of the church age and the thousand year reign begins with the death of Steven, the first martyr. In this case the beast represents all organized opposition to the church. On the other hand, if the rule of the beast lasts only 42 literal months, then the earliest that the one thousand year reign can begin is 3˝ years before the second coming of Christ because the rule of the beast is terminated by the second coming of Christ (Revelation 19). Whether or not the thousand years is to be taken as an exact figure, it must represent a long period of many years, surely more than 3˝ years. This means that the one thousand year reign has to be a long period of time which follows the second coming of Christ and is intermediate between the present age and the eternal state.

Two point argue against the idea that the 42 months represent the totality of the church age. First of all, the terms forty two months, time times and half a time (3˝ yrs), and 1260 days are all used in the Apocalypse to describe the length of various events. These are all synonyms for a very exact period of time. It is inconsistent that the Lord would use very exact figures representing a fairly short period of time to refer to a long period of unknown duration such as the church age. The explanation given by Hendriksen, a leading amillennialist, that it refers to the period of time during which Elijah was protected by God, is extremely weak. Exact chronological figures must represent well defined periods of time, or else they are misleading, especially when the same time interval is defined using different units of time.

Secondly, the fact that the beast is an individual mortal human being argues against interpreting the term 42 months to represent the church age. This is made clear by the fact that he is cast alive into the lake of fire along with the false prophet (Revelation 19:20). To further emphasize that each of them is an individual it says "these two were cast...." The Apocalypse clearly says that his number is the number of a man, and it is obvious that an individual mortal human could not have ruled for the totality of the church age.

It seems to me that in order to be most effective in our service to the Lord it is important to be as accurate as possible in our doctrinal views. Even a secondary doctrine, such as that concerning the millennium, can have a significant impact on our effectiveness. This is especially true for this doctrine since a large portion of scripture is devoted to prophecy and to eschatology. The doctrine of the millennium is important because it serves as a motivator for service. It is a significant part of our reward. This issue of rewards is a key component of faith. The author of Hebrews states "But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). The Lord says "Blessed and Holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:6). In the parable of the talents, which forms part of the olivet discourse (a discourse on eschatology), the faithful servants were rewarded with rule over several cities (Matthew 25:14-30). Furthermore, the disciples, because they left all to follow Christ, were promised rule over the twelve tribes of Israel. These are promises given in concrete terms using images similar to those which we experience in this age. These promises are of such a character that their fulfilment is compatible with the existence of a time period intermediate between the present age and the eternal state.

As humans we have a two fold nature, physical and spiritual. Our physical nature longs to experience this world under ideal conditions, to experience utopia. The eternal state is surely wonderful, but God created this world originally perfect and for a purpose. A likely purpose is to prepare us for the eternal state. The millennium will differ from the eternal state in that there will continued procreation. We will interact, befriend and participate in the raising of many new generations. In addition these people will work, grow food, produce technology, and manufacture items. As rulers during this time we will be involved in meeting the financial, social and spiritual needs of this constantly growing population. We will act like healthy grandparents. Those who live their natural lives during the millennium will have the blessing of growing up, marrying, having children and working under utopian conditions. Those of us who lived our natural life in the present age with its horrible shortcomings and challenges will have the privilege of being something like the landed aristocracy of the millennium.

A second consequence of premillennialism is that it makes possible a futuristic interpretation of the prophetic portions of the book of Revelation. Such an interpretation will be more literal than the other interpretations. This gives an added intensity to the warnings of the Apocalypse. The conditions described in the prophetic sections are not those which we are experiencing now in the form of low grade persecution. Neither does it describe a short futile final battle waged by Satan against the church. Rather it is a horrifying future, lasting seven full years, which we or our children or our grandchildren may face. However, the fact that the Lord has given us a detailed warning and has promised to give protection to the faithful during this time (Revelation 3:10) should motivate us to prepare now.

In a superficial way, Postmillennialism can be considered an optimistic form of Amillennialism. Like amillennialism it teaches that there will not be a literal rule of Jesus Christ over natural biological humans, but it teaches that the church will ultimately achieve such a high level of influence that it will be able to usher in near utopian conditions as Jesus Christ rules from heaven through the church. These views will be further discussed later.

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