A Revolution in the Realm of Eschatology


I belong to a Facebook group called “Charismatic Preterist Movement,” led by my friend, Maurice Perry. The purpose of the group is “bringing charismatic saints together who hold a fulfilled (preterist) eschatological position.” Yesterday Maurice highlighted the group description. I love the way it’s worded, and, for the most part, it resonated so much with my own outlook that I’ve decided to re-post it here:

Once again, it’s time for reformation in our church. For far too long, the seduction of dispensationalism and the futurist eschatological viewpoint has held the church captive in a state of fear, escapism, and lack of zeal and compassion for missions, ministry, evangelism and reaching the lost.

The Charismatic Preterist Movement (CPM) is a company of Christians that is dedicated to promoting Sola Scriptura, proper exegesis and hermeneutics in an effort to dismantle every lie and strong delusional tactic constructed by Satan to keep the corporate Body of Christ in a state of slumber, inactivity and perpetual hope deferred. CPM also believes that the same Holy Spirit that moved in power, signs and wonders through men and women in the 1st century church can, will, and desires to do the same today through yielded human vessels that have compassion for the lost and those that are bound.

What Do We Believe?

1. Everything Jesus said would happen, happened exactly as and when He said it would — within the lifetime of his contemporaries.

2. Everything every New Testament writer expected to happen, happened exactly as and when they expected it would — within their lifetime — as they were guided into all truth and told the things that were to come by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13).

3. Scholars across a broad spectrum are in general agreement that this is exactly how every NT writer and the early Church understood Jesus’ words. If they were wrong on something this important, how can we trust them to have conveyed other aspects of the faith accurately, such as the requirements for salvation?

4. No inspired NT writer, writing twenty or more years later, ever corrected their Holy Spirit-guided understanding and fulfillment expectations (John 16:13). Neither should we. Instead, they intensified their language as the “appointed time of the end” (Daniel 12:4; Habakkuk 2:3) drew near — from Jesus’ “this generation” (Matthew 24:34), to Peter’s “the end of all things is at hand” and “for it is time for judgment to begin” (1 Peter 4:7, 17), and John’s “this is the last hour . . . . it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18).

5. God is faithful (2 Pet. 3:9) and “not a man that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19). Faithfulness means not only doing what was promised, but also doing it when it was promised.

6. 1st-century fulfillment expectations were the correct ones and everything happened, right on time — no gaps, no gimmicks, no interruptions, no postponements, no delays, no exegetical gymnastics, and no changing the meaning of commonly used and normally understood words. Such manipulative devices have only given liberals and skeptics a foothold to discredit Christ’s Deity and the inerrancy of Scripture.**

7. What needs adjusting is our understanding of both the time and nature of fulfillment, and not manipulation of the time factor to conform to our popular, futuristic, and delay expectations.

8. The kingdom of God was the central teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a present but greatly under-realized reality, and must again become the central teaching of His Church.

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**As an example of point #6 above, the famous author, C.S. Lewis, taught that Jesus meant for His disciples to believe that His eschatological predictions would take place in their own time, but that He didn’t know what He was talking about:

“The apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else. This is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.” (Essay: “The World’s Last Night” (1960), found inThe Essential C.S. Lewis, p. 385.)

I appreciate a lot of C.S. Lewis’ writings, but this quote is tragic. Jesus wasn’t wrong. He told the truth. He kept His word. He did what He said He would do within the time frame He set for Himself to do it. The church is overdue for a revolution that makes it clear this is our common position.

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Jesus’ Use of “This Generation” in the Olivet Discourse Is No Different Than Anywhere Else


There is plenty of disagreement on what Jesus meant when He said, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32). He was making a reference, of course, to all that He had said prior to this statement. This included prophecies about war, earthquakes, famine, false prophets, persecution in the synagogues, the spreading of the gospel to all nations, the surrounding of Jerusalem and Judea by a foreign army, a time of unparalleled distress, His coming in the clouds with great power and glory, the arrival of His kingdom, and redemption for His people.

The careful reader will take note that Jesus was prompted to make these predictions in response to His disciples’ question about when the temple would be destroyed, and what signs would point forward to that event (Matthew 24:1-3, Mark 13:1-4, Luke 21:5-7). It was this question that led to His discourse, known as the Olivet Discourse.

Mark and Luke, in their accounts, only show the disciples asking this one question about the temple. Matthew shows them asking a three-part question or, some would say, three separate questions: [1] When will the temple fall? [2] What will be the sign of Your coming? [3] What will be the sign of the end of the age? Those who believe in fulfilled eschatology maintain that these events are synonymous, while those who regard this discourse as unfulfilled often say that the last two belong to our future.

When it comes, then, to the timing of this prophecy’s fulfillment, there is debate at both ends of the Olivet Discourse:

[1] Did Jesus set out to answer just one question? Or did He set out to answer three questions, and therefore He may have prophesied about two different time periods?

[2] When Jesus said “this generation,” did He mean His own generation? Or did He have in mind, as some are fond of saying, a future generation that would begin to see those signs take place all at once? Did He even perhaps imply a dual fulfillment, a partial fulfillment in His own generation, and an ultimate fulfillment in the far distant future?

We will set aside the first question for the rest of this article, and focus on the second question, for Jesus is shown to say precisely the same thing in all three accounts: “…this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

At the very beginning of the New Testament, we get a good idea of how Matthew defined the word “generation.” Consider his genealogy listing from Abraham to Jesus:

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations” (Matthew 1:17).

We learn from Matthew that 14 generations passed from the Babylonian captivity until the time of Jesus. We also know that Babylon took Judah captive in 586 BC. Putting these two pieces together, we can calculate that each of these 14 generations was about 42 years in length (586 divided by 14). [For more details on this, see my study on Matthew 24:29-34 / Mark 13:24-30 / Luke 21:25-32.]

This being the case, let us ask if the temple was destroyed, as Jesus predicted, within one generation of that prediction, i.e. within approximately 42 years. It was! Jesus was crucified in or around 30 AD, and the temple was destroyed by the Roman armies in 70 AD, that is, 40 years later.

The Olivet Discourse was not the first time that Jesus had used the expression, “this generation.” In all His other uses of this phrase, it’s more than evident that He meant His own generation. Consider the following examples:

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: ‘We played the pipe for you,and you did not dance; we sang a dirge,and you did not mourn.’” (Matthew 11:16-17)

“The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:41-42; see also Luke 11:29-32)

“Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:45)

You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” (Matthew 17:17)

And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.” (Matthew 23:35-36)

He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” (Mark 8:12)

Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like?” (Luke 7:31)

“But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” (Luke 17:25)

Time and space limitations will not allow us to examine all the signs that Jesus predicted would take place before “this generation” would pass away, although I believe that [1] a study comparing Scripture with Scripture and [2] a study of 1st century history will show that they did take place before Jesus’ own generation passed away. As an example of the first point, Luke says that Jews “from every nation under heaven” heard the mighty works of God proclaimed in their own languages (Acts 2:5-11), and the apostle Paul was emphatic that the gospel was preached all over the (known) world in his lifetime (Romans 1:8, Romans 16:25-26, Colossians 1:5-6, and Colossians 1:23).

However, as helpful as these confirmations may be, they are not even necessary for our understanding of Jesus’ words, “…this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” The generation that would pass away had to see, not some, but all of those things take place. There’s only one generation that witnessed the fall of the temple, and that was Jesus’ own generation. This will never happen again, and this point alone indicates that “all these things” could not possibly take place in our own generation or in the future. Remember also that the earthquakes, wars, the invasion of Judea and Jerusalem, the great distress, and all the other signs were to take place, not after the temple fell, but before the temple would fall (Matthew 24:1-3, Mark 13:1-4, Luke 21:5-7).

To the people of Jesus’ time, we who live in the 21st century would be regarded as “that generation.” To those of us living in the 21st century, the people of Jesus’ time would also be regarded as “that generation.” Jesus didn’t use that phrase, however. The people of Jesus’ time would have understood their own generation as “this generation,” just as they did when He uttered this phrase in Matthew 11:16-17; Matt. 12:41-42; Matt. 12:45; Matt. 17:17; Matt. 23:35-36; Mark 8:12; Luke 7:31; Luke 11:29-32; and Luke 17:25.

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All of our studies on the Olivet Discourse can be seen here, including a verse-by-verse parallel study of Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21.

The Implications of Luke 21:8


Some of Jesus’ disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” 

“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.

Luke 21:5-8

In six previous posts (hereherehere, here, here, and herewe examined the Olivet Discourse, recorded in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Jesus elsewhere warned His disciples that false prophets would claim to be Him (e.g. Matthew 24:5, 23, 26; Mark 13:6, 21; Luke 17:22-23). It’s only in Luke 21:8, though, that Jesus warns His followers not to pay attention to those who would proclaim that “the time is near” (or “at hand” in some translations). In fact, they were to regard such a proclamation as a characteristic of false prophets…at least for a while. We should give this some extra thought.

If we look ahead to Luke 21:28, we see that Jesus later says, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Jesus thus gives permission at that point for His people to realize the very thing that earlier they were not to believe, that is, that the time was near. First they had to see “these things begin to take place,” and then they could know and proclaim that the end was near. The expression “these things” refers to what Jesus describes in verses 9-27 (see Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of our series for an explanation on how all these things were indeed fulfilled in Jesus’ own generation).

Did any of the writers of the New Testament proclaim that the time was near? Consider these statements:

“…For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand…” (Romans 13:11-12).

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5).

Yet a little while, and the coming One will come and will not delay” (Hebrews 10:37).

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand…behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:8).

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (I Peter 4:7).

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour” (I John 2:18).

From these statements we see that Paul, James, Peter, and John all proclaimed that the time was near. They stated that “the day” was at hand, “the Lord” was at hand, “the coming of the Lord” was at hand, “the end of all things” was at hand, and that it was “the last hour.”

Did they become the very false prophets Jesus had warned about in Luke 21:8, since they uttered the very statement that Jesus warned His followers not to believe? If the signs of the Olivet Discourse are still future and unfulfilled, as futurists insist, then they certainly did become those false prophets.

We know, however, that this is not the case. This is actually one more indication that the events predicted by Jesus came to pass within His own generation. The apostles witnessed the predicted signs coming to pass, and on this authority they announced that the end was near. Notice how closely the language they used mirrors what Jesus said, as recorded by Mark: “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that He is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Mark 13:29-30).

Soon after Paul, James, Peter, and John made these declarations, that end did come, i.e. the end of the Old Covenant world and age. The apostles were not false prophets. Jesus also did not lie to, or tease, His disciples. Nor did He speak in terms, or with time markers, that they couldn’t understand. Nor did He ascend to His Father, only to find out that His overall rejection by the Jewish people would set in motion an unforeseen 2000 year postponement of His promises. Instead He kept His word, and fulfilled all that He said He would do within the time frame that He boldly market out. (He said these things would happen before the downfall of the temple, and before His own generation passed away). We can trust that everything else He said outside of the area of eschatology is also true.

Dear Abby


‎[Dear Abby]

So, I opened up the newspaper this morning and read this letter by a guy named “John.” No other information was given about him but apparently he wrote about these dreams he had from God on an island about an impending change to the world and the end of this current age. He also had some great insight from God on how my church should change to live more rightly before God.

I was actually very excited and encouraged because it would seem that the tribulation we are enduring will be coming to an end, and the very first line of his letter said that all of this stuff would take place soon.

[Dear Reader]

Don’t get too excited. None of this was meant for you. All those things John was talking about won’t happen for at least another 2,000 years or more. “Soon” doesn’t mean “soon,” darling. It means at a minimum 2,000 years. Get your facts straight!

Those churches he was speaking about aren’t your churches. He was just using the same names, you silly goose. They were metaphorical language for “ages.” The tribulation you Christians are going through at the hands of the Roman authorities you think will end… forget about it. Why do you people think it’s always about YOU? Can’t you see this letter was not written for YOU?

One piece of advice I have for you: Get your time indicators straight. “Soon” doesn’t mean “soon”. It means it might actually happen quickly when it starts. “You” means “them”. “This” generation means “that” generation. “At hand” means…. well something that’s not soon. If you simply take the time indicators and make them the opposite of what they mean, things will make much more sense. So, don’t be encouraged by this [man]’s letters. They’re not for you.

This dialogue above was posted early this morning by Robert Woodrow in a Facebook forum devoted to the subject of eschatology. I felt it was quite creative. Robert said he wanted to imagine that “someone from one of the seven churches [of the first century] actually wrote into an advice column,” and received a response that reflects the way the book of Revelation is often viewed today.

This imagined dialogue is both humorous and thought-provoking. I know that I once gave very little (if any) thought to what the book of Revelation meant to those who first received it into their hands (i.e. God’s people living in the first century). As I was trained, I jumped straight to what it could mean to me and to my generation. In doing so, I got way off track.

No doubt this great book does speak to our generation, but, because that’s so often our first and only consideration, we miss out on what John (and Jesus, through John) wanted to communicate to God’s people at that time. On the other hand, if we will first take into account audience relevance, we are then far more likely to grasp the relevance of this book for our own time. And it does speak to us in a very powerful and hope-filled way.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

A New Testament Exodus Mirroring the OT Exodus


My friend, Danny Foster, started a blog two months ago today, and he titles it “Ultimate Reality = Everlasting Kingdom.” Today I’d like to feature his most recent post, written on January 30th. He makes an interesting comparison between the 40 year exodus during Moses’ generation, and what he sees as a 40 year exodus in the earliest years of the New Testament church. His post has been edited slightly, but not for content:

While Old Testament Israel’s exodus was from the bondage of Egypt, the New Testament Israel’s exodus was from the bondage of the Old Covenant Law. The most recognizable passage that depicts this “new exodus” is found in 1 Corinthians 10:1-11, where Paul wrote:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food,  and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.  Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.’ We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction,on whom the end of the ages has come.”

Paul’s contextual foundation for this final statement was the Old Testament exodus from Egyptian bondage. He wrote that……

1) They passed through the sea (verse 1).
2) They ate manna and drank from the rock (verses 3-4).
3) They wandered in the wilderness (verse 5).
4) They became idolaters (verse 7).
5) They tried the Lord and were destroyed by serpents (verse 9).

This list shows us that just like the “type and shadow” of the Old Testament and their deliverence from bondage, the New Testament saints were undergoing the same exodus. The only difference was that Paul’s generation was the reality to which the Old Testament examples pointed.

The exodus for those New Testament saints started at the Cross (30 AD) and ended at the Parousia (70 AD), exactly a 40 year period just as with the wilderness wandering of the Old Testament exodus.

The end of the age came upon that generation, and we are now in the everlasting age (Ephesians 3:21).

Matthew 24:35-51 (Part 1 of 2)


Post Outline

1. A Study of Matthew 24:35
2. A Study of Luke 21:34-36

This post is a continuation of the 4-part Olivet Discourse series posted between April and August 2011 (here, here, here, and here). That series featured a parallel study of Matthew 24:1-34, Mark 13:1-30, and Luke 21:5-32. At this point in the Olivet Discourse, Matthew gives us an extended version of this discourse, 63 more verses actually, in Matt. 24:35-51 and Matt. 25:1-46. Mark and Luke, on the other hand, wrap up Jesus’ message in just a few verses. In Mark’s case, there are seven (7) more verses (Mark 13:31-37), and in Luke’s case there are only four (4) more verses (Luke 21:33-36).

These next two posts will cover the last 17 verses of Matthew 24 (verses 35-51), the text of which is below. The first two verses in this text are also found as direct parallels in the gospel accounts of Mark and Luke (highlighted in red), and several other verses seem to allude to similar statements in Mark and Luke (these are highlighted in blue):

MATTHEW 24:35-51

Parallels and Similarities in Mark 13 and Luke 21

35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 36 But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  

1. Direct Parallels

Verse 35 –> Mark 13:31,  Luke 21:33

Verse 36 –> Mark 13:32

2. Similarities

Verses 42-44, 48-50 –> Mark 13:33-37, Luke 21:36


Verse 35: In the last portion of the Olivet Discourse (covering Matthew 24:29-34/Mark 13:24-30/Luke 21:25-32), we examined Jesus’ declaration that “all these things” (the fall of the temple, and all that would precede that event) must take place before His own generation would pass away. Following that statement, He immediately adds that “heaven and earth” would also pass away. This was in contrast to “His Word,” which would never pass away. This statement also appears in Mark’s and Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33).

Are there grounds for believing that Jesus was saying that heaven and earth would pass away along with His own generation? I believe there are. Certainly, there is no clear indication that Jesus suddenly goes here from speaking about first century events (verses 1-34) to speaking (in verse 35 and beyond) of events that are future to us 2000 years later. This idea has been proposed by some, but the weight of the gospel accounts in their entirety do not allow for this. If we examine, for example, Luke 17:22-37, we will see that four portions of this passage are directly parallel to content found within Matthew 24:1-34, and two separate portions are directly parallel to content found within Matthew 24:35-51.

Portions of Luke 17:20-37 parallel to content in Matthew 24:1-34

Portions of Luke 17:20-37 parallel to content in Matthew 24:35-51

Parallel to Matthew 24:23

Luke 17:23And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them.

Parallel to Matthew 24:27

Luke 17:24For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.

Parallel to Matthew 24:17-18

Luke 17:31On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back.

Parallel to Matthew 24:28

Luke 17:37And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

 

 

 

 

Parallel to Matthew 24:37-39

Luke 17:26Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

Parallel to Matthew 24:41

Luke 17:35There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.

So we see that in Luke 17:22-37, Jesus blends these six references (four of which are present in Matthew 24:1-34, and two of which are present in Matthew 24:35-51) together, without any distinctions related to time. Therefore, the one who acknowledges that everything Jesus said in Matthew 24:1-34 is tied to His own first century generation, but insists that what He said in Matthew 24:35 and beyond is not yet fulfilled, is very much inconsistent. Otherwise, in Luke 17:22-37, Jesus arbitrarily switched back and forth between speaking of first century events and events in the 21st century (or beyond).

What would Jesus have meant then by saying that heaven and earth would pass away in His own generation? We have repeatedly seen in our study of the Olivet Discourse that the prophetic language of the Old Testament provides quite a backdrop to what Jesus says in this discourse. The same is true for the expression “heaven and earth.” It’s covenant language. This is perhaps most evident in the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah was given a vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the very first verse (1:1). The very first words he uttered were these: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 1:2). This is not unique to Isaiah, for heaven and earth were repeatedly called as witnesses against Israel (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:26, 30:18-19, 31:28, 32:1; Jeremiah 2:12, 6:19; Micah 6:2). In Isaiah 51, speaking to the people of Israel, God says:

I, I am He who comforts you; who are you that you…have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth…? …And I have put My words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of My hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are My people (verses 12-16).

The establishment of the heavens and the earth is thus linked directly to the establishment of Israel as God’s people at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:5-6). Psalm 68:7-8 reiterates that the earth and the heavens were greatly affected when “God, the One of Sinai” marched through the wilderness before His people, as does Judges 5:4-5. Jeremiah also spoke of Jerusalem’s pending destruction (in 586 BC) in a way that might seem as if he was talking about planet earth and the galaxies, if it weren’t for the context:

My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent, for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war… I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light… For thus says the Lord, ‘The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. For this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above be dark…’” (Jeremiah 4:19, 23, 27).

On a more pleasant note, Isaiah also prophesied of “new heavens and a new earth,” and the creation of Jerusalem as a joy (Isaiah 65:17-19). That this is covenantal language, and not language referring to the material/physical heavens and earth, can be seen in the fact that the new heavens and new earth were to be marked by sin and death (verse 20), building and planting (verses 21-22), and the reproduction of children (verse 23). When I was younger, I was taught that the new heavens and earth would be set up following a future Second Coming of Christ and a 1000 year “millennial reign” based out of Jerusalem, at which time sin and death would completely cease to exist.

Isaiah’s description of the new heavens and earth, however, does not allow for this. Instead, his description speaks of present realities, the earthly existence being experienced by anyone reading this. It also mirrors what we see in the New Testament. Paul told the Ephesians that God’s people are called to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). He likewise told the Corinthians, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (II Corinthians 5:17). In Christ, a new temple/tabernacle had come (e.g. I Corinthians 3:16-17, I Cor. 6:19, II Cor. 6:16, Ephesians 2:21, Revelation 3:12), and the old temple/tabernacle had to go. During the one generation following the cross, all of the rituals attached to the temple in Jerusalem were worthless. By the end of that generation, that temple and those worthless rituals were gone.

Obituary of the Old Covenant

SOURCE

We would also do well to remember that Jesus had already made a very significant statement about the disappearance of (the old) heaven and earth in the Sermon on the Mount:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will be any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).

Is the Law 100% intact even now in the year 2012, and are we thus still under the old heavens and earth? Or did Jesus accomplish everything and fulfill the Law, so that we are now under the covenantal framework of the new heavens and earth? Matthew 5:17-18 is an all-or-nothing statement. If “heaven and earth” have not yet disappeared, neither then has even one trace of the Law of Moses.

The “heaven and earth” spoken of by Jesus here are certainly connected to the temple worship and law keeping of the Jewish world. We know that Jerusalem, the temple, and the Old Covenant system attached to it passed away in a fiery blaze in 70 AD. Jesus, of course, predicted this (in Matthew 22:7; Revelation 17:16-17; Rev. 18:8-9, 17-18).

II Peter 3:7-13 also speaks of the heavens and earth of that time being “stored up for fire” (verse 7) and ready to “pass away with a roar” and be “burned up and dissolved” (verse 10), giving way to “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (verse 13). As Bishop John Lightfoot (1601-1675) wrote in his Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 3, p. 452),

“Compare this with Deut. 32:22, Heb. 12:26, Gal. 4:9, Coloss. 2:20: and observe that by elements are understood the Mosaic elements: and you will not doubt that St. Peter speaks only of the conflagration of Jerusalem, the destruction of the nation, and the abolishing of the dispensation of Moses.”

Indeed, Galatians 4:9 and Colossians 2:20 make use of the same word translated as “elements” in II Peter 3:10. It’s clear that Paul spoke there, not of the cosmos, but of what was contained in the Law:

[1] “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years!” (Galatians 4:9-10).

[2] “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?” (Colossians 2:20-22).

In a 1721 sermon, the Puritan preacher John Owen said,

I affirm that the heavens and earth here intended in this prophecy of Peter, the coming of the Lord, the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, mentioned in the destruction of that heaven and earth, do all of them relate, not to the last and final judgment of the world, but to that utter desolation and destruction that was to be made of the Judaical church and state… [A]nd then the heavens and earth that God Himself planted, -the sun, moon, and stars of the Judaical polity and church, – the whole old world of worship and worshippers, that stand out in their obstinancy against the Lord Christ, shall be sensibly dissolved and destroyed: this we know shall be the end of these things, and that shortly.”

Jonathan Edwards (in 1739) said this in his work, “The Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath, Vol. 2”:

The Scriptures further teach us to call the gospel-restoration and redemption, a creation of a new heaven and a new earth… The gospel state is everywhere spoken of as a renewed state of things, wherein old things are passed away, and all things become new… And the dissolution of the Jewish state was often spoken of in the Old Testament as the end of the world. But we who belong to the gospel-church, belong to the new creation; and therefore there seems to be at least as much reason, that we should commemorate the work of this creation, as that the members of the ancient Jewish church should commemorate the work of the old creation.

C.H. (Charles) Spurgeon also had the same understanding. In a sermon delivered in 1865 (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vo. XXXVII, p. 354), he said:

Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, of any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacle, or the dedication? No, because, though these were like the old heavens and earth to the Jewish believers, they have passed away and we now live under a new heavens and a new earth, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone: and we do not remember it.

Here also is a very intriguing quote from the church father, Eusebius (265-340 AD), from one of his writings known as “the Theophania”:

All authorities concur in the declaration that “when all these things should have been done”, ‘The End’ should come: that “the mystery of God should be finished as he had declared to His servants the prophets“: it should be completed: time should now be no more: the End of all things (so foretold) should be at hand, and be fully brought to pass: in these days should be fulfilled all that had been spoken of Christ (and of His church) by the prophets: or, in other words, when the gospel should have been preached in all the world for a testimony to all nations, and the power of the Holy People be scattered (abroad), then should the End come, then should all these things be finished. I need now only say, all these things have been done: the old and elementary system passed away with a great noise; all these predicted empires have actually fallen, and the new kingdom, the new heaven and earth, the new Jerusalem–all of which were to descend from God, to be formed by His power, have been realised on earth; all these things have been done in the sight of all the nations; God’s holy arm has been made bare in their sight: His judgments have prevailed, and they remain for an everlasting testimony to the whole world. His kingdom has come, as it was foretold it should, and His will has, so far, been done; His purposes have been finished; and, from that day to the extreme end of time, it will be the duty, as indeed it will be the great privilege of the Church, to gather into its bosom the Jew, the Greek, the Scythian, the Barbarian, bond and free; and to do this as the Apostles did in their days–in obedience, faith and hope.

A LOOK AT LUKE 21:34-36

Before going on to the rest of Matthew 24, some details from Luke 21:34-36 are also very much worth noting. This passage follows His two-fold declaration in verses 32-33 that [1] His own generation and [2] heaven and earth would pass away. He then says,

But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).

In verse 34, Jesus refers to “that day.” Taking this reference in context, what day would He be referring to? It should be clear that He was referring [1] to the passing of His generation after all that He had prophesied would take place and [2] to the passing away of heaven and earth. This command to “watch yourselves” was given to His followers living in the first century.

In verse 35, Jesus says “that day” will come “upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.”  On the Biblos Online Parallel Bible website (www.bible.cc), there are 18 parallel translations listed for this verse. All of them render the final phrase of this verse as “the whole earth,” except for Young’s Literal Translation, which renders it as “all the land.” Indeed, the Greek word used here, “ge,” can be rendered as “land” in many cases where it is used, and can refer specifically to the Promised Land (i.e. Israel). In various commentaries on Luke 21:35, Albert Barnes (1834) and Adam Clarke (1831) agreed that these troubles were to come upon Judea, and John Gill (1746-1763) said that Jerusalem, Galilee, and Judea suffered the calamities that Jesus predicted.

This certainly makes sense here, as we have already seen in Luke 21:23 that Jesus says those days would be full of great distress for “this people” and for “the earth” (or “the land”), and this is very clearly equated with “those who are in Judea” (Luke 21:21). The same Greek word, “ge,” is also used in verse 23, and there it is rendered as “land” instead of as “earth” 17 out of 18 times in the Biblos entry for that verse.

The expression “those who dwell on the earth” (or similar forms of this expression) can also be seen often in the book of Revelation, and a solid case can be made that it refers, not to the globe, but to 1st century apostate Israel. See the 3-part series I have written on this phenomenon: here, here, and here.

Lastly, in Luke 21:36, we see that Jesus makes reference to “all these things that are going to take place.” In verses 34-36 He does not detail any number of things that are going to take place. We must conclude, then, that He is referring to what He has already described in verses 5-32 (see verses 7, 9, 12, 22, 26, 31, and 32 for similar references). This is further evidence that Jesus does not, as some have suggested, speak of 1st century events in certain parts of this chapter and speak of yet unfulfilled events in other parts. For He declares in verse 32 that all these things must take place before His own generation passes away. Furthermore, in verses 8 and following He details the signs which must take place before the temple was to be completely destroyed (see verses 6-7), an event that we know took place in 70 AD.

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In the following post, we will conclude our study of Matthew 24 by examining the remaining 16 verses (Matthew 24:36-51).

Revelation 20: Minority Views on the Millennium (Part 2)


Revelation 20: Minority Views on the Millennium (Part 2)

Adam Maarschalk: March 20, 2010

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 20:1-15

This is now the second post on minority views on what is known as the Millennium. The primary purpose of this post and the previous one is to acknowledge that there are some whose beliefs regarding the Millennium do not fit into the three well-known camps: premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism. In the previous post we highlighted two such views: [A] the position of J. Stuart Russell (1816-1895) and Duncan McKenzie (and others) that the Millennium began in 70 AD and continues until now [B] Kenneth Gentry’s newest viewpoint on Revelation 20:4-6; what he calls “The Martyr’s Millennium.”

In this post we will examine the position of full-preterism, which does not see Revelation 20 as either a present (ongoing) or future reality, but as having been completely fulfilled in the past. If the reader has not already noted the position of J. Stuart Russell and Duncan McKenzie (see previous post: Part 1), it would be good to do so by way of comparison with what is to follow:

C. Full Preterism: One Thousand Years Represents Only 40 Years

I’ll admit—I approached this post with very little prior knowledge of the full-preterist position on the Millennium and the content of Revelation 20. Still, I will do my best to articulate some of the distinctives of this position. A few sources have been referenced below, but if anyone knows of some other good online resources which give a clear and concise synopsis of this position, please let me know. For now, though, here goes:

[1] According to full-preterism, the period of time designated as “the thousand years” of Revelation 20 (verses 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) is representative of the period between Christ’s resurrection around 30 AD until Jerusalem’s judgment and destruction in 70 AD. In this way, the thousand years is not a literal 1000 years in the future (premillennialism), nor is it the nearly 2000 years and counting of this present Church age (amillennialism/post-millennialism), but it covers the scope of one generation (about 40 years in length). It parallels the one generation that God gave to the Jewish people to repent before judgment came upon their nation.

For the Church in its infancy, it was a generation in which growth and expansion took place (e.g. Romans 10:18; Colossians 1:6, 23; cf. Matt. 24:14) before the Old Covenant system was judged and the New Covenant age continued on unencumbered by the hindrance known as Judaism (cf. I Thess. 2:14-16). This time period parallels the 40 years that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness before coming into the Promised Land.

Kenneth Gentry’s points in the section above would appear to make him a proponent of full preterism as regards Rev. 20:4-6, except that he doesn’t seem to view the reigning of the first-century believers (in the intermediate state) as beginning and ending between 30 AD and 70 AD. For Gentry, those who take their place on thrones do so in the first century, but there is nothing to say that they also left those thrones in the first century.

[2] The release of Satan at the end of “the thousand years,” in which he surrounds the camp of the saints (Rev. 20:7-10; cf. verse 3), mirrors the intense persecution which came against the saints as recorded elsewhere in Revelation (Rev. 13:5-7; cf. Rev. 11:2-12, esp. verses 2 and 7; Rev. 12:13-17; Rev. 1:9; Rev. 6:9-11).

Still, I remain unconvinced. Persecution is a normal expectation for believers (e.g. II Timothy 3:12), so it’s entirely possible that just as an intense period of persecution marked Church history between 60 AD—70 AD the same would be true (as it has been during many periods since then) in our future. It’s also true at present for many believers in various places around the world.

Full-preterism says that the Second Coming took place in 70 AD, pictured here in Rev. 20:9 as “fire coming down from heaven” (a parallel to II Thess. 1:6-10, esp. verse 8). While the Jewish enemies of the Church were consumed in 70 AD, the same is not true of the vast majority of the Church’s non-Jewish persecutors, namely Rome. Here’s why I say this. I do agree that “the camp of the saints and the beloved city” (Rev. 20:9) which is targeted by Satan’s armies is a reference to the Church, for reasons already given:

Every indication in Revelation thus far is that “the beloved city” in verse 9 must be the New Jerusalem (i.e. the Church—Heb. 12:22-24; Gal. 4:24-27), and not earthly Jerusalem. After all, Jerusalem in John’s day was designated by the names “Sodom” and “Egypt” (Rev. 11:8), and a strong case has been made that it also bore names like “the great prostitute” (Rev. 17:1) and “Babylon the great” (Rev. 14:8, 16:19, and 18:2). Nothing in Revelation since chapter 11 has occurred to suggest that natural Jerusalem is now (in chapter 20) deserving of the title “beloved city”; in fact, the opposite is true.

During the 40 years leading up to 70 AD, the Jews were the major persecutors of the Church, but Rome under Nero was especially vicious toward the saints from 64-68 AD, as we have written elsewhere. The Church’s Jewish persecutors were judged in 70 AD, but not its Roman persecutors, as one could reasonably expect if Rev. 20:9 was fulfilled at that time.

[3] Full-preterism sees the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) as having taken place by 70 AD. In the first section we already noted that “progressive” partial-preterist Duncan McKenzie believes that this passage began to be fulfilled in 70 AD (and that this fulfillment is ongoing for every individual upon death). He also sees the judgment of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-46) as somewhat parallel to Rev. 20:11-15, and thus a 70 AD event, as did J. Stuart Russell in his 1878 classic “The Parousia.” Before examining this possibility further, I’d like to note what Wikipedia (rightly or wrongly) says is the full-preterist view of the Second Coming and the Resurrection of the Dead:

Full Preterism holds that Jesus’ Second Coming is to be viewed not as a future bodily return, but rather a “return” in glory manifested by the physical destruction of Jerusalem and her Temple in A.D. 70 by foreign armies in a manner similar to various Old Testament descriptions of God coming to destroy other nations in righteous judgment. Full Preterism also holds that the Resurrection of the Dead did not entail the raising of the physical body, but rather the resurrection of the soul from the “place of the dead”, known as Sheol (Hebrew) or Hades (Greek) and that both the living and the dead were raised, changed, caught away and glorified together into one/corporate matured New Covenant Body of Christ. Some versions of Full Preterism teach that the righteous dead obtained an individual spiritual and substantial body for use in the heavenly realm, and the unrighteous dead were cast into the Lake of Fire. Some Full Preterists believe that this judgment is ongoing and that it takes effect upon the death of each individual (Heb. 9:27).

Other Full Preterists believe that because the Book of Revelation was signified (or “symbolized”, according to its first verse, Revelation 1:1), the Lake of Fire was only A.D. 70’s Gehenna (Jerusalem’s garbage dump, not Hell) as it burned. Moreover, this burning was just aionios (pertaining to an age), not eternal. The hermeneutic of audience relevance confines this judgment and punishment to the 1st century AD.

If this position held that only the faithful dead were raised and brought out of Hades at this point, this would be one thing. But the living too?  Were they physically caught away? If so, the planet would have been left with only unbelievers in 70 AD. Or am I missing something, such as an interpretation of the rapture which deems it as only a spiritual occurrence? Has Wikipedia misrepresented the full-preterist position on this matter? Feedback is welcome. This next quote is interesting, though, also from the same Wikipedia source:

Critics of Full Preterism point to the Apostle Paul’s condemnation of the doctrine of Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim 2:17-18), which they regard as analogous to Full Preterism. Adherents of Full Preterism, however, dispute this assertion by pointing out that Paul’s condemnation was written during a time in which the Resurrection was still in the future (i.e., pre-A.D. 70). Their critics assert that if the Resurrection has not yet happened, then the condemnation would still apply.

Regarding the position of full-preterists that the Millennium was 40 years in length (roughly 30 AD—70 AD), I did find this rather clear explanation which is to follow. It was left as a comment by “Reformer” (on 7/6/2006 at 11:29) here:

I suggest that the millennium was 40 years in length and transpired (past tense) thusly.

It commenced with Jesus’ baptism and anointing in the Jordan River in A.D. 26; was heralded by his resurrection and the “first resurrection” of many, but not all, Old Testament saints in A.D. 30; progressed as his 1st-century followers “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6 KJV); and ended in A.D. 66. Satan’s loosening to “deceive the nations” (Jews, Romans, and others) into the Roman-Jewish War began in A.D. 62 or 64 and ended six to eight years later at Daniel’s “time of the end” in the fall of Jerusalem in the Fall of A.D. 70 (Dan. 12:4). When the “last days” were finally over and the “power of the holy people has been [was] finally broken” (Dan. 12:7), the rest of the dead were raised on the “last day” (singular) of those “last days” (plural) and Satan was cast into the lake of fire, sometime between A.D. 70 and 73.

The viability of this 40-year time span being the millennial reign of Christ can also be drawn from and enhanced by Jesus’ end-time parable of the talents. He spoke of “a man [Jesus] going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them [his 1st-century disciples] . . . . After a long time [but within their lifetime – i.e. 40 years] the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them [judgment]” (Matt. 25:14, 19).

Full preterist [Max] King, summarizes his perspective on this short length of time for Christ’s millennial reign this way:
“The impressive thing about Christ’s consummating reign is that He did not have to reign over a long period of time in order to achieve all that a thousand-year reign symbolized . . . . The point of Christ’s reign is missed when the thousand years symbol is made to mean a long, indefinite period of time.” (The Cross and the Parousia of Christ, p-214-215).

Lastly, I propose that the fulfillment of a 40-year, millennial reign from A.D. 26 to 66, a 6 to 8-year loosing of Satan from A.D. 62 or 64 to 70, and “the end of all things” (1 Pet. 4:7) and the judgment (1 Pet. 4:17) in A.D. 70 – 73, which were all termed as “at hand” in that same 1st-century time context (Rev. 1:3; 22:11; 1 Pet. 4:7), is the most Christ-honoring, scripture-authenticating, and faith-validating of all the millennial and eschatological views I have seen so far. This is the strength to be kept. It coincides exactly with the present-age and right-hand reign that Paul described in Ephesians 1:20-22: “. . . which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age” [i.e., his millennial reign] but also in the one to come [i.e., post A.D. 66-70].

Those who would object to a past-fulfillment interpretation for Revelation’s millennial period, or for any aspect of its prophecy, must overlook or otherwise non-literally interpret Revelation’s self-imposed, prologue, and epilogue time statements. Again, the fulfillment context for the whole of this prophecy was time restricted by the book itself. That is the discipline that must be honored and the strength that must be kept.

And, yet, Revelation’s prophecy contains an exegetical basis for an ongoing, idealistic relevance as well.

At this point, I’d like to expand on some of the distinctives of the full-preterist position on the Millennium as noted above. Helpful in this regard will be the website of David Green (Preterist Cosmos). David Green is one of four authors of what is reported to be a ground-breaking book, “House Divided: Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology (A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be?).” Green has so far fielded and answered a total of 112 questions regarding full preterism, and I will draw on several of these answers to help paint a picture of the full-preterist position on the Millennium.

Green provides his own explanation for why “the thousand years” of Revelation 20 can be seen as only a period of about 40 years. This question is asked here (“How do you interpret the ‘thousand years’ of Rev. 20? Assuming you believe the Millennium was fulfilled in A.D. 70 (as most other preterists today seem to believe), how do you exegetically justify spiritualizing away a “thousand years” to mean merely a literal 40 years?”):

ANSWER: I interpret the “thousand years” of Rev. 20 to symbolize the eschatological “fulness of the times,” when all things were fulfilled and filled up in Christ. (Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:10, 23; 4:10)

Ps. 50:10 is often cited, usually by postmillennialists, to teach that “a thousand” symbolizes literally “many thousands or millions“: “For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” (Ps. 50:10)

The postmillennialists reason that God owns the cattle on every hill, therefore “a thousand hills” symbolizes or represents “many thousands or millions of hills.” Thus, they reason, we are led by Scripture to interpret the “thousand years” in Rev. 20 to mean “many thousands or millions of years.”

That reasoning sounds solid at first glance. However, the context of Ps. 50:10 does not lead us to a principle that a symbolic “thousand” always signifies “many thousands.” Rather, it leads us to the principle that a symbolic “thousand” signifies “all” (of something), or more specifically, the “fulness” (of something). Ps. 50:10 is in fact reiterated and its “thousand” is interpreted for us two verses later: “…The world is Mine, and the fulness thereof.” (Ps. 50:12b)

In Ps. 90:4 a “thousand years” is as “yesterday” and as “a watch in the night.” In II Peter 3:8 a “thousand years” is as one “day.” In those verses, a “thousand” (and “yesterday” and “a watch” and a “day“) is used to denote how that God fills up time itself, whether the time of yesterday or of a day or of a night or of an aeon. (Compare Job 7:7; Ps. 39:5; 90:2; 144:4; Heb. 13:8; Jms. 4:14.)

In Ps. 105:8, a “thousand” corresponds with “forever,” i.e., eternity: “He has remembered His covenant forever, the word that he commanded to a thousand generations.” (Ps. 105:8)

In Scriptural usage, a symbolic “thousand” can correspond to “1” (day / yesterday / a watch in the night), or to “13,169,103” (hills), or to “eternity” (“forever“). A “thousand” can be likened unto, or used to represent, a number lesser or greater than a literal thousand. Only its context can determine its literal numerical meaning. The basic idea that is communicated by the symbol is “fulness.”

As I understand it within a preterist framework, the biblical and eschatological context of Revelation 20 should lead us to interpret the “thousand years” to signify the fulness of the times of the Christological fulfillment and filling up of all things.

The exact, literal, historical dates for the beginning and the end of “the millennium” are sometimes a subject of debate among preterists. Generally though, the beginning of the millennium is placed somewhere between Christ’s first Appearance and the beginning of Paul’s ministry to the gentiles. And the end of the millennium is generally placed in the years A.D. 66-70 (the years of the Jewish War that ended in the fiery destruction of the persecuting, old-covenant world).

One of the tenets of full-preterism which we have already seen is that the Great White Throne Judgment took place in 70 AD. Green takes on this question here (“How would you explain the Great White Throne Judgment and the Judgment Seat of Christ from the preterist perspective? When do these judgments take place?”):

ANSWER: The terms “Great White Throne” (Rev. 20:11) and “Judgment Seat of Christ” (II Cor. 5:10) refer to God’s Judgment of all men, which took place in 70.

Here are Scriptures that show that the Apostolic church was living in the final days of crisis before the Resurrection of the dead and the Judgment:

“…’There is about to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.’ …And as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment which is about to come….” (Acts. 24:15, 25; Jn. 5:28-29)

“…He has fixed a Day in which He is about to judge the world…” (Acts 17:31)

“…Christ Jesus, Who is about to judge the living and the dead.” (II Tim. 4:1)

“…The Judge is standing right at the door.” (Jms. 5:9)

“…They shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (I Peter 4:5)

“…but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which is about to consume the enemies. (Lk. 19:27)

Revelation 11:1-18 reveals that God judged the living and the dead, the just and the unjust, at the fall of Jerusalem. After Jerusalem was trodden under foot for 3 1/2 years, (Rev. 11:2) a tenth of the City fell in an earthquake (Rev. 11:13) and seven thousand men were killed. (Rev. 11:13) Then “quickly” afterward, (Rev. 11:14) “the kingdom of this world” became the eternal Kingdom of the Father and the Son. (Rev. 11:15)

The kingdom of this world” was the kingdom of the Pharisees and chief priests. (Amos 9:8; Matt. 8:12; Heb. 9:1) The Church became the eternal Kingdom of the Father and the Son (Compare Jn. 14:23; Rev. 22:3) when the unredeemed sons of the kingdom were cast out in 70 AD (Matt. 8:12):

Therefore I say to you [chief priests, Pharisees and elders], the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.” (Matt. 21:43)

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” (Lk. 12:32)

But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.” (Dan. 7:18)

“…until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom. (Dan. 7:22)

Revelation 11:18 reveals what happened when the Kingdom was taken from the Pharisees and given to the Church:

And the nations were wrathful, and Your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and to give the reward to Your bond-servants the prophets and to the saints and to those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”

The Pharisees, chief priests and the elders saw their Judge seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of Heaven, in God’s calling out and empowering of His Church throughout the Last Days. (Matt. 26:64; I Cor. 14:21-22) By 70 AD, all the tribes of the Land understood as well, (Matt. 24:30; Rev. 1:7) when they fell by the sword and were led captive into all the nations, (Lk. 21:24) and when the Temple and the Holy City were reduced to rubble. (Lk. 19:44; 21:5,6)

In that Great Day, the dead were raised, both the just and the unjust, and were judged according to their works. (Dan. 12:1-2) The sons of the flesh were cast out, but the Church was perfected, confirmed, and established, and was given eternal dominion over the earth as God’s Kingdom of priests. (Dan. 12:3; I Peter 5:10-11; Rev. 5:10; 22:5)

Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His Kingdom will be an everlasting Kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.” (Dan. 7:27)

Green also proposes that Hades serves as both a representation of judgment on earth and as eternal torment after death. He believes that one pitfall of some full-preterists has been to take the annihilationist position that where Scripture speaks of Hades, Gehenna, or the Lake of Fire that it is only speaking of earthly judgment. That discussion can be seen here.

Related to this question, Green also took on the question of how this judgment (as also recorded in Matthew 25) was fulfilled. This question is asked here (“Assuming that the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats was fulfilled in A.D. 70, my question is how was it fulfilled? Was it fulfilled symbolically on Earth, or was it fulfilled in Heaven?”):

ANSWER: The prophecy of Matt. 25:31-46 was fulfilled in Heaven. It was a prophecy (not a “parable”) of the Judgment of the dead of Christ’s generation.

Sequence of events:

1. First the Coming of the Son of Man in A.D. 70 (Matt. 25:31)
2. Then the gathering of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:32)
3. Then the separation of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:32)
4. Then the casting out of the wicked into the eternal fire (Matt. 25:41,46)

The same order of events is given in the parable of the Wedding Banquet:

…But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire. THEN he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ And those slaves went out into the streets, and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'” (Matt. 22:7-13)

1. First the destruction of the City in A.D. 70 (the Coming of the Son of Man) (Matt. 22:7)
2. THEN the gathering together of the righteous and the wicked (the sheep and the goats) (Matt. 22:8-10)
3. Then the separation of the righteous and the wicked (the sheep and the goats) (Matt. 22:11-13)
4. Then the casting out of the wicked (the goats) into outer darkness, the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 22:13)

The prophecy of the Sheep and the Goats is a reiteration of the prophetic teaching of the parable of the Wedding Banquet. In both passages, the gathering and judgment of the righteous and the wicked (the sheep and the goats) take place after the destruction of Jerusalem. Both passages were fulfilled after God’s eschatological judgment on Earth was finished in A.D. 70, (Lk. 12:59) which means that both passages were fulfilled in Heaven, which means that the post-Parousia Judgment was the Judgment of the dead. As Rev. 11:18 says: “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged…'”

In the parable of the Wedding Banquet, the gathering of the good and the evil (the sheep and the goats) after the destruction of the city represented the gathering of the dead of Christ’s generation to His heavenly Tribunal after the destruction of Jerusalem.

The man in the parable who was cast out of the banquet (Matt. 22:13) represented the murderers (“the goats” / the Pharisees, etc.) who were destroyed when Jerusalem was burned, (Matt. 22:7) and who were then raised to “a resurrection of condemnation.” (Jn. 5:29)

Rev. 20:11-15 is another parallel Scripture to the prophecy of “the Sheep and Goats,” and it confirms again not only the post-Parousia time of the Judgment of the sheep and the goats, but also, more strikingly, the heavenly location of that Judgment:

And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.  And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.  And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:11-15)

In Rev. 20:11-15; Matt. 22:7-13; 25:31-46, we see the following:

1. The passing away of Heaven and Earth (the end of the old-covenant world / the Coming of the Son of Man / the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70)
2. THEN the gathering together of all men (the righteous and the wicked / the sheep and the goats) for Judgment
3. Then the judgment of all men (the righteous and the wicked / the sheep and the goats) according to their deeds
4. Then the casting of the wicked (the goats) into the fire; outer darkness, the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Rev. 20:11-15 reveals not only that the Judgment took place after the consummation of God’s eschatological purging of His Kingdom on Earth, but also that those who were judged were “the dead” –those who had been gathered from out of “the sea” and from out of “death and Hades.”

Lastly, Matt. 8:11-12; 10:15; 11:22, 24; 12:42; Lk. 10:12, 14; 11:31; 13:25-28 also lead us to interpret the prophecy of the Sheep and the Goats as having been fulfilled in Heaven, as those verses tell us that at the Judgment, “the goats” saw the peoples of past generations:

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you [the Jews to whom Jesus was preaching as He made His way to Jerusalem] shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves cast out.” (Lk. 13:28)

Summary interpretation of the prophecy:

Though the post-Parousia Judgment was a judgment of all generations from Adam to Christ, the prophecy of the Sheep and the Goats is concerned only with the judgment of the dead of Christ’s generation. God’s “scapegoat” was that reprobate generation that despised and rejected the Body of the coming King. (Matt. 23:45)

The “goats” were those of that generation who had no compassion for the King’s suffering brothers (as the Rich Man had no compassion for Lazarus). The “goats” were chiefly the Jews of Judea, in union with their brothers who were scattered among “all the nations” of the Roman world. (Matt. 25:32; Jn. 11:48-52)

They had excluded believers from the synagogues and from the commonwealth of Israel. They had not only persecuted them, but they stood idly by, justifying themselves, while their brothers suffered deprivation and imprisonment through the hatred that the whole world had held against Christians. (Matt. 7:22; Jms. 2:14-17; I Jn. 3:17; Rev. 11:10)

The “sheep” were those who had loved and cared for the King’s suffering brothers (as the Good Samaritan had compassion and cared for the man on the road from Jerusalem). They were believers; those whom the Father predestined to eternal life from the foundation of the world; those who love their brothers. (Matt. 10:40-42; I Jn. 4:16-17)

By about September of A.D. 70 (the fall of Jerusalem), immense multitudes of Christians had been murdered, and even greater legions of Jews and Pagans had been slaughtered in wars. When Christ’s eschatological judgment on the earth was finally finished in A.D. 70, He gathered the vast myriads of the dead of that generation to His Judgment-Seat.

He gave His brothers (who had been “last” in the world) the Kingdom in which we dwell today through faith; the Inheritance of eternal life that fills Heaven and Earth. But He sent the “goats” (who had been “first” in the world) into the punishment of the eternal fire. (Matt. 22:13; 25:41; Rev. 20:10)

Since that Day, the Judgment-Throne of our King remains, and His rule will never end:

But of the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.'” (Heb. 1:8)

Therefore,

Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Ps. 2:11-12)

David B. Curtis, pastor of Bible Berean Church in Chesapeake, Virginia, is also a full-preterist. In a sermon preached on April 5, 1998, he presented the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats as a 70 AD-event. His message is lengthier than the material presented above by David Green, and can be seen here. Like Green, David Curtis sees Matthew 25:31-46 as being concerned only with the judgment of the dead of Christ’s generation. In one portion of his message, he says:

We see here that the destiny of the righteous and the wicked is determined by their treatment of those Christ calls, “my brethren.” There is nothing said here about faith, the judgement is based on acts of love toward the distressed brethren of Christ. It is not surprising that this text causes much perplexity both to theologians and general readers.

William Barclay writes, “This is one of the most vivid parables Jesus ever spoke, and the lesson is crystal clear–that God will judge us in accordance with our reaction to human need.”

Is this the doctrine of Paul? Is this the ground of justification before God set forth in the New Testament? Are we to conclude that the everlasting destiny of the whole human race, from Adam to the last man, will finally turn on their love and sympathy towards the persecuted and suffering brethren of Christ? Not according to the teaching of the New Testament…

The clear teaching of the New Testament is that salvation is by grace through faith alone [e.g. Romans 3:28, 4:5, 11:6]. Yet this text in Matthew 25 seems to be saying that judgement is based upon works. The difficulty is easily and completely solved if we regard this judicial transaction as the judgment of Israel at the close of the Jewish age. It is the rejected King of Israel who is the judge: it is the hostile and unbelieving generation of Jews, the last and worst of the nation, that is arraigned before His tribunal [cf. Matthew 23:35-36]…

As those first century Jews responded to Christ’s disciples or “brothers” and aligned themselves with their distress and afflictions, they aligned themselves with the Messiah whom they preached. The acceptance or rejection of the disciples was based upon their acceptance or rejection of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. Saul persecuted Christians because he did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. In attacking them, he was attacking Christ [cf. Acts 9:5]…

Because the Jews hated Christ, they mistreated His followers. Those who believed in Christ were kind in their treatment of His disciples. Thus, judgement is based upon faith or rejection of Jesus as the Messiah…

We have here, not the final judgment of the whole human race, but that of the guilty nation or nations of Palestine, who rejected their King, despitefully treated and slew His messengers, and whose day of doom was now near at hand. This being so, the entire prophecy on the Mount of Olives is seen to be one homogeneous and connected whole. It is a clear, consecutive, and historically truthful representation of the judgment of the Theocratic nation at the close of the age, or Jewish period.

A universal judgement in our future is entirely unnecessary, those who have died since AD 70 already know where they will spend eternity. When a person dies, his spirit immediately enters heaven or hell. So, what purpose would there be of a final judgement? [cf. John 3:36, 5:54]…

Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ will not see life, they are under the wrath of God. Believers have already passed from death to life and will not come into judgement. Believers will stand before Christ to give an account of what they have done in the body and to receive rewards [cf. II Cor. 5:10].

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Another good article on a 40-year Millennium in the 1st century can be seen here:

http://www.eschatology.org/index.php/articles-mainmenu-61/40-revelation/877-a-forty-year-millennium-is-that-possible.html

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In the next post, we will discuss a variety of views on Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20).

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

All of our studies on Revelation 20 and the Millennium can be found here.

Revelation 20: Minority Views on the Millennium (Part 1)


Revelation 20: Minority Views on the Millennium (Part 1)

Adam Maarschalk: March 20, 2010

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 20:1-15

The primary purpose of these next two posts is to acknowledge that there are some whose beliefs regarding the Millennium do not fit into the three well-known camps: premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism. In this post I would like to highlight three minority views on this subject which I am aware of: [1] the position of J. Stuart Russell (1816-1895) and Duncan McKenzie (and others) that the Millennium began in 70 AD and continues until now [2] Kenneth Gentry’s newest viewpoint on Revelation 20:4-6; what he calls “The Martyr’s Millennium,” and [3] the position of full-preterism, which does not see Revelation 20 as either a present (ongoing) or future reality, but as having been completely fulfilled in the past. This post covers the first two views. This post and the next are summed up by the following outline:

OUTLINE

A. J. Stuart Russell & Duncan McKenzie: The Millennium Began in 70 AD
B. Kenneth Gentry: “The Martyr’s Millennium” (A Study of Revelation 20:4-6)
C. Full Preterism: One Thousand Years Represents Only 40 Years (30 AD—70 AD)

A. The Millennium Began in 70 AD

We now come to the viewpoint espoused well over a century ago by J. Stuart Russell (and perhaps before that by others) that the Millennium began in 70 AD following the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple. This is quite similar to amillennialism/postmillennialism which generally proposes that the reign of Christ began with His work on the cross. I haven’t read Russell’s writings on this particular matter, but I would imagine he drew his conclusions from at least the following texts: [1] Daniel 7:21-22, 27 [2] Matthew 21:33-45.

In Daniel 7, the time comes for the saints to possess the kingdom after “the horn” makes war with the saints and prevails over them for a time (cf. Rev. 13:5-7). Most preterists (partial or full) would agree that this passage was fulfilled in the first century, in Nero’s day and shortly after. In Matthew 21 (The Parable of the Tenants), Jesus tells the Jewish religious leaders of His day that the kingdom of God would be taken away from them “and given to a people producing its fruits” (verse 43; cf. verse 41). This is linked to the stone (verse 44) crushing those who had been responsible for killing God’s servants and Son (verses 35-39; cf. Acts 2:22-23, 36; 5:30; 7:52; I Thess. 2:14-15), which many take to refer to God’s wrath poured out on apostate Israel in 70 AD. So it would seem from these texts that the kingdom was inaugurated (or “secured for God’s people,” as Kenneth Gentry says) at this point, even if the kingdom was present from the time of Christ’s ministry. Thought of this way, then, the “already but not yet” phase of God’s kingdom lasted for only 40 years rather than for about 2000 years (as postulated by many premillennialists).

Interestingly, Duncan McKenzie calls his view “The Postribulational (i.e. post AD 70) Beginning of the Millennium.” This is because he believes (as I do) that the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21; Rev. 7:14) took place from early 67 AD—mid 70 AD. Before quoting from McKenzie on his views regarding the Millennium, it will be helpful if I can clarify where he stands with regard to preterism. He stands with J. Stuart Russell (1816-1895), the writer of the classic book “The Parousia,” [1] whose position is as follows:

Where Russell’s position is different from full preterism is that it does not hold that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70… The position of James Stuart Russell offers a third preterist option that is different from full preterism and traditional partial preterism. Russell’s position is essentially like the full preterist position (i.e. the one and only Second Coming, the judgment and the resurrection happened at AD 70, the resurrection having an ongoing fulfillment since AD 70.[2] Russell’s position sees us as currently in the new heaven and earth, a symbol of the post AD 70 new covenant order). Where Russell’s position is different from full preterism is that it does not hold that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70… Russell saw the millennium as beginning at AD 70, not ending at that time as full preterism necessitates. I believe that Russell was right and a wrong turn took place with the advent of full preterism. I say this because of my study of Daniel 7; I believe it lends support to Russell’s position. It should be noted that in Russell’s system there will be a future end to evil at the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:7-10); it sees Satan as defeated, just not disposed of yet.

Russell’s position is that what is being shown in Revelation 20 is not two separate throne scenes and judgments (one in Rev. 20:4 and one in 20:11-15) separated by the millennium, but one throne scene and judgment (composed of Revelation 20:4 and 11-15) with a digression of what will happen at the end of the millennium (Revelation 20:7-10) in between. Russell’s position is that John begins describing a throne scene judgment at the beginning of the millennium in Revelation 20:4. At 20:7-10 John digresses about what would happen at the end of the millennium, and then at 20:11 he takes up again the subject of the throne scene judgment he started in 20:4. Russell thus saw the description of the throne scene and judgment that is begun in Revelation 20:4 as being continued in Revelation 20:11. The two sections (Rev. 20:4 and 11-15) are thus describing one throne scene judgment (which happens at the beginning of the millennium), not two throne scene judgments (one at the beginning of the millennium and one at its end).

Russell spoke of Rev. 20:5-10 as a parenthesis and “the sole instance in the whole book of an excursion into distant futurity…matters still future and unfulfilled.” Here, McKenzie is even more clear regarding his own overall position on eschatology, i.e. what has and has not yet been fulfilled:

Like full preterists, I see AD 70 as the time of the Second Coming, resurrection and judgment (with the resurrection and judgment having an ongoing fulfillment since that time).  Like partial preterists I see certain prophetic events that still await fulfillment (e.g., the destruction of Satan at the end of the millennium described in Revelation 20:7-10).  While my position is much closer to full preterism, I strongly disagree with its premise that all biblical prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70.

Our approach is most similar to that of nineteenth-century theologian James Stuart Russell.  Like full preterists, Russell saw AD 70 as the time of the Second Coming; unlike full preterists, Russell saw the Second Coming as the beginning of the millennium, not its end. I call this position “premillennial preterism.”  It is premillennial in that it holds that Jesus returned right before (pre-) the millennium.  Unlike futuristic premillennialism, however, it does not see the millennium as a literal 1000-year period.  My position is preteristic because it holds that the one and only Second Coming occurred at the AD 70 end of the old covenant age.  R. C. Sproul, in his book The Last Days according to Jesus, wrote favorably concerning Russell’s position and his attempt to answer the hard questions related to the New Testament’s teaching of a very soon (first century) Second Coming.

One may also follow the above link to view McKenzie’s arguments on why the Second Coming occurred (once and for all) in 70 AD, based on “the words of Jesus (as recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke), Peter, Paul, James, John, Jude, and the author of Hebrews.” That discussion falls outside of the scope of our discussion here, but as McKenzie makes brief references (in what is to follow) to a past Second Coming I wanted to point this out for the sake of clarity.  Let us now turn to McKenzie’s discussion of why the Millennium should be thought of as having its formal and official beginning in 70 AD. I have to admit that this is very well argued:

[Revelation 20:1-4] is the famous passage of the binding of Satan and the reign of Jesus and His people. On the surface this passage appears relatively simple; on closer inspection, however, it turns out to be one of the most difficult and debated passages in the Bible. One of the first matters to attend to in understanding the millennium is the question of how it fits in sequentially in relation to the rest of Revelation. Is the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:1 a continuation of the events of Revelation 19 (the AD 70 fall of Babylon and the Second Coming) or is there a recapitulation (a going back and restating of events that happened earlier)? Some say that there is a recapitulation here, that Revelation 20 is going back to the time of Pentecost (c. AD 30) or even the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (c. AD 26). My position is that Revelation 20 is a continuation of the (AD 70) events of Revelation 19, not a recapitulation to the time around AD 30.

In considering the sequence of Revelation 19-20, it is helpful to broaden one’s focus. Here is Revelation 19:11-20:4 without the chapter separation (chapter separations were not part of the original manuscript). For brevity I have left out Revelation 19:12-18 which is mostly a description of the One on the white horse (the Word of God, Rev. 19:13).

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True and in righteousness He judges and makes war…And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was capturedand with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh. Then I saw an angel coming down form heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”

Notice the sequence in Revelation 19-20. The individual beast and false prophet (the one who made people take the mark of the beast, Rev. 13:11-18) are captured at the Second Coming in chapter 19 and put in the lake of fire. Satan is then taken and thrown in the abyss as the kingdom is established in chapter 20. Those who had lost their lives for not taking the mark of the beast (cf. Rev. 19:20; 13:15-16) are then resurrected in Revelation 20:4 at the beginning of the millennium. God was letting His first century audience know that the one who was faithful to Him to the point of death (cf. Rev. 2:10-11) would still get to participate in the soon coming millennial reign (Rev. 2:25-27; 3:21).

Notice the reference to the mark of the beast as a past event in both chapter 19 and 20. Revelation 20 is a continuation of the AD 70 narrative of the Second Coming, not a recapitulation to AD 30.

Rev. 19:20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.

Rev. 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

In Revelation 13:1-10 the seven churches were warned about the soon coming individual beast (cf. Rev. 17:18) that would overcome the saints. In Revelation 13:11-18 they were warned about his mark on the head and hand (cf. Rev. 14:8-11). These events of the tribulation were to happen in the forty-two month period (of AD 67-70) immediately preceding the Second Coming.

And he [the beast] was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months…It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation…[and] as many as would not worship the image of the beast [were] to be killed (Rev. 13:5, 7,15 brackets mine).

In Revelation 19 we are shown the defeat of the beast by the Second Coming. The saints that had been killed for not taking the beast’s mark are shown among those that come to life in chapter 20 as the millennium begins. Revelation 20 is thus a continuation of the AD 70 narrative of chapter 19; it is not a recapitulation back to AD 30. Again, one of the groups that come alive at the beginning of the millennium consists of those who had been killed for not taking the mark of the beast. They had gone through the great tribulation (cf. Rev. 7:9-17) and are being resurrected at AD 70 to participate in the millennium.

The sequence I have proposed above is shown in Daniel 7. 1. The Antichrist (the little eleventh horn, Dan. 7:19-20) overcomes the saints. 2. He is defeated by the coming of God. 3. The court is seated (thrones are put in place as the kingdom reign begins, Dan. 7:8-11) as the saints possess the kingdom.

I was watching; and [1] the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, [2] until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and [3] the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom. Dan. 7:21-22

Again, the same sequence that is shown in Daniel is shown in Revelation. 1. The Antichrist (the individual beast) overcomes the saints (Rev. 13:5-7). 2. He is defeated by the coming of God (Rev. 19:11-21). 3. The saints then possess the kingdom as the millennium begins (Rev. 20:4). This is a pre-millennial sequence; the Second Coming happens right before God’s people possess the kingdom of God. This was James Stuart Russell’s position; he considered any attempts to fit the millennium in before AD 70 to be “violent and unnatural.” [J.S. Russell, The Parousia (Baker, 1999), 514]. It is at the AD 70 coming of God that the saints inherited the kingdom. This explains why one of the groups that come alive at the beginning of the millennium consists of believers who had been killed for not taking the mark of the beast. The millennium began right after the great tribulation at the AD 70 Second Coming, not at AD 30. Again, it was at the coming of God (what the NT will show as the Second Coming) that God’s people possessed the kingdom of God (Dan. 7:21-22; cf. Rev. 19:11-20:4).

Now a full preterist can not accept what I have written here, at least not if he or she wants to stay a 100% full preterist. Full preterism necessitates that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70. Thus full preterists have to reject an AD 70 beginning to the millennium; if the millennium did begin at AD 70 it means there is still prophecy yet to be fulfilled (e.g. Satan’s loosing from the abyss at the end of the millennium, Rev. 20:7-10). Full preterists are left with a choice of either accepting what I am saying about an AD 70 beginning of the millennium (which is not going to happen) or attempt to separate the millennial kingdom (which they see as being from around AD 26-30 to sometime before AD 70) from the saints possessing the kingdom at the AD 70 Second Coming (Dan. 7:21-22). Most full preterists (wanting to stay card carrying full prets.) will attempt the latter option (differentiating the beginning of the millennium from the saints possessing the kingdom at the AD 70 Second Coming). Again if a full preterist acknowledges the start of the millennium as being the same as the AD 70 coming of the kingdom (cf. Matt. 19:28; Rev. 20:4), then they violate their basic premise of all prophecy fulfilled by AD 70.

Comparing Daniel 7 with Revelation 20, it is impossible to make a legitimate case that the AD 70 establishment of the kingdom of God of Daniel 7 (vv. 19-27) and the millennium of Revelation 20 are speaking of two different reigns. Of the AD 70 establishment of the kingdom, Daniel 7:9-10 (NRSV) reads, [A] “As I watched, thrones were set in place…[B] The court sat in judgment” (brackets mine). Of the millennium, Revelation 20:4 (NRSV) reads, [A] “Then I saw thrones, and [B] those seated on them were given authority to judge.” I don’t see how one can make these to be two separate events, the first starting at AD 70 the second supposedly starting at AD 30.

…For more on J.S. Russell’s position on the millennium see, http://planetpreterist.com/news-5017.html. For more on the Connection between the little horn of Daniel 7 and the beast of Revelation see, http://planetpreterist.com/news-2622.html.

Duncan McKenzie, in his book “The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination” (Xulon Press: 2009) also sees the Great White Throne Judgment of Rev. 20:11-15 as beginning to be fulfilled in 70 AD (pp. 398-401):

Despite my disagreements with full preterism, I do agree with many of its conclusions. Let me begin with some of these points of agreement: I agree that the Second Advent happened at AD 70 and that this was when the resurrection and judgment began (it is ongoing from that time, cf. Rev. 14:8-13).[3] According to the book of Daniel the resurrection was to begin at the end of the great tribulation; these events were to happen at the AD 70 shattering of the Jewish nation.

At that time [the time of the king of the North’s attack on Jerusalem, Dan. 11:40-45] Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt… Then I saw the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished (Daniel 12:1-2, 7; cf. 7:25-27).

The partial preterist attempt to separate the time of the great tribulation (which they say happened at AD 70) from the time of the resurrection (which they say will happen in the future) does not hold up to scrutiny. Consistent with Daniel 12:1-7, Revelation 11:15-18 also shows the resurrection beginning at the destruction of those who were destroying the Land [ten gen] of Israel. This happened at the AD 70 full establishment of the kingdom of God.

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, whosit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:15-18 NASB).

Partial preterists acknowledge that Revelation 11:15-18 is referring to the AD 70 destruction of Israel. Because the creeds do not teach an AD 70 resurrection, however, they maintain that the judgment of the dead in Revelation 11:18 (“and the time came for the dead to be judged…”) is not really the judgment of the dead! They claim this is just showing an AD 70 reward of the martyrs.

Daniel 7 likewise shows the judgment (and thus the resurrection) as beginning right after the tribulation. Consistent with Revelation 11:15-18, chapter 7 shows the judgment beginning at the AD 70 full establishment of God’s kingdom, at the time that the dominion of the little eleventh horn…is taken away:

I was considering the [ten] horns and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated and the books were opened. I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking: I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame (Daniel 7:8-11; underlined emphasis mine).

Thus he said: the fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings. He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time. But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever (Daniel 7:23-26; underlined emphasis mine).

Contrary to what [most] partial preterists teach, the judgment began at the AD 70 defeat of the little eleventh horn (cf. Matt. 16:27-28; 25:31-46). At this point it is usually assumed by full preterists that because the partial preterist position is shown to be wrong on these issues, full preterism is therefore shown to be correct. This is an error in logic, however; just because a given position is wrong on a number of issues, that does not mean an alternative position is necessarily right on all points. Daniel 7 cuts both ways. Not only does it show the resurrection and judgment beginning at AD 70, it also shows the millennium beginning at that time (i.e. thrones being put in place as the court is seated, vv. 9-10, 25-27; cf. Rev. 20:4). That the resurrection and the millennium began at AD 70 explains why it is that the martyrs of the beast are shown being resurrected at the beginning of the millennium: “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witnesses to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image…And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years…” (Rev. 20:4).

This last statement by McKenzie is a very fitting transition into the next section.

B. Kenneth Gentry: “The Martyr’s Millennium”

The following information is taken from Kenneth Gentry’s newest book titled “Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues,” published in 2009 by GoodBirth Ministries (Fountain Inn, SC). Gentry discusses Revelation 20:4-6 in chapter 14 (pp. 157-165). This book is a precursor to Gentry’s full-length, verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Revelation which is now nearing completion.

Under discussion in this section are only verses 4-6 of Revelation 20. Gentry says that he maintains “the Augustinian view” on Rev. 20:1-3, i.e. “that the thousand years is a symbolic time frame covering Christian history from the first century down to the end” (p. 157). From what I can see, Gentry maintains his postmillennial viewpoint on chapter 20, except for these three verses [Amillennialism overlaps quite a bit with postmillennialism, which is why I quoted Gentry several times in my posts titled “Revelation 20: Amillennial Viewpoint…”]. Gentry explains how his views on Rev. 20:4-6 have now changed (p. 158), and for the record I’m intrigued by what he has to say because some of it reflects my own musings on this passage (any underlining is mine):

First, I originally held that two groups were in view in Revelation 20:4. I held the common Augustinian view that the martyrs represent deceased Christians in heaven (the Church Triumphant) and the confessors represent the living saints on the earth (the Church Militant). And together these two groups picture all Christians throughout Church history. I no longer accept this interpretation.

Second, I also previously held that the fact that they “came to life and reigned with Christ” (Rev. 20:4c) portrayed the new birth experience, where the Christian arises from spiritual death to sit with Christ in heavenly places. I still believe this doctrinal position, for it is taught in various places in Scripture (see especially Eph. 2). But I do not believe this is a proper exegetical position here in Revelation 20. In other words, I now believe that this view is good theology but bad exegesis—if we draw it from Revelation 20.

Third, I previously held that “the rest of the dead” who “did not come to life until the thousand years were completed” (Rev. 20:5) pointed to the bodily resurrection of all men. As an orthodox Christian I do, of course, believe that John teaches a general resurrection of all men. He even teaches it in Revelation 20. But I now believe he holds off on that until verses 11-15.

Gentry, a little further on, makes a very interesting claim regarding parallels between the books of Ezekiel and Revelation. Having noticed numerous parallels myself between these two books, I’m even more inclined to look into this now that I’ve seen the direct correlations Gentry has proposed (p. 160):

John approaches Israel like Isaiah (see especially Isa. 1), Jeremiah (see especially Jer. 2-3), and Ezekiel (see especially Eze. 2-6, 16). In fact, he organizes his material around Ezekiel’s structure—which explains so many specific parallels to Ezekiel:

Eze. 1 = Rev. 1
Eze. 2 = Rev. 5 (10)
Eze. 9-10 = Rev. 7-8
Eze. 16, 23 = Rev. 17
Eze. 26-28 = Rev. 18
Eze. 38-39 = Rev. 19-20
Eze. 40-48 = Rev. 21-22 (11)

Gentry then examines Rev. 20:4, which reads, “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the Word of God, and who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Gentry comments (pp. 160-163),

Previously I held that this presents two separate groups, martyrs and confessors, which themselves represent all Christians in history, dead or living. As such I originally thought these groups portray the whole Christian Church throughout the Christian era. I now believe that John envisions only one group: deceased martyrs who did not worship the beast…

Not only are these enthroned ones deceased, but they are deceased under specific circumstances. They have been judicially killed: “beheaded” is a standard form of capital punishment well-known in the Roman Empire (cf. Matt. 14:10)… Furthermore, this imagery fits all the preceding story of Revelation, where the Jewish aristocracy is drunk on the blood of the saints (Rev. 17:6), as is the Roman beast (Rev. 13:7). This further confirms my redemptive-historical preterism and continues John’s concern for his audience, which is facing the very real prospect of death for their faith.

What is more, I now realize that structurally Revelation 20:4 is really the answer to the prayer of Revelation 6:9-11. In fact, it clearly repeats some of the same thoughts and words. Revelation 6:9-11 speaks of “the souls of those who had been slain.” These did not just fall over and die; they were slaughtered (esphagmenon, Rev. 6:9). They are crying out for God to avenge [ekdikeis] their blood on those who “dwell in the Land [tes ges]” (Rev. 6:10). Revelation 20:4 and 6:9 are doublets, based on replicated wording and strong parallels: Note:

Revelation 20:4

Revelation 6:9

And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the Word of God. I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained.

…I would argue that these two passages represent promise and fulfillment… The “souls” at the altar in Revelation 6:11 are told to “rest for a little while longer,” until others join them in a martyr’s death, being “killed even as they had been.” Since Christ’s judgment-coming against Israel in Revelation 19:11ff (cp. Rev. 6:12-17) results in the glory of Revelation 20:1-4, John appears to be stating that by A.D. 70 the martyrs will be vindicated within the promised time frame of “a little while” (chronon micron, Rev. 6:11; cp. Luke 18:7-8). Thus, their “coming to life” as fulfillment of the promise given to them (which is given to them while they already are in heaven, Rev. 6:11), appears to be an image of their vindication in the death of their opponents in A.D. 70 rather than at the very moment of their entering heaven. This is unique to John—whose work is unique in many respects.

Some of what Gentry is saying here reflects the misgivings I’ve had for a long time with some of the things I’ve heard about the Millennium. Gentry rightly points out that the text says that those who were to be seated on thrones and to reign during these thousand years were only those who [1] had been beheaded because of their righteous testimony and [2] did not worship the beast and his image. I’m not likely to be beheaded in my lifetime, and most believers throughout Church history were never beheaded either. Nor have the vast majority of believers in Church history been faced with the prospect of worshipping the beast and/or his image. Are we not then disqualified from sitting on these thrones? At the same time, though, not all of Jesus’ disciples or John’s faithful first century readers were beheaded either, though many of them were martyred by some means. Peter, for example, never gave his allegiance to Nero (whom I believe was the beast in the singular sense), but he was crucified upside down rather than beheaded. So is “beheading” used in the text to represent all forms of capital punishment at that time, with beheading being perhaps the most common form?

Also, does this have anything to do with the promise Jesus gave to Peter and His other disciples? “Truly, I say to you, in the new world [regeneration], when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28). Likewise, in Luke 22:28-30 Jesus said to His disciples, “You are those who have stayed with Me in My trials, and I assign to you, as My Father assigned to Me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” At the same time, though, Paul in I Corinthians 6:2-3 says that “the saints will judge the world” and also “are to judge angels.” Paul’s use of “the saints” here seems to be wider than simply the twelve apostles.

In any case, Gentry’s conclusions on this passage (Rev. 20:4-6) are these (pp. 163-165):

Now all of this means that those who are on the thrones in the millennium are not living Christians. Nor are they simply deceased Christians. Nor are they Christians from all ages. They are deceased Christians in heaven, who are martyred in the first century. This is John’s point: Keep the faith! Withstand your oppressors! You will be greatly rewarded in heaven even if you die! Indeed, that is effectively how he introduces his book: “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus” (Rev. 1:9).

Of course, heavenly reward awaits all Christians in all ages. But that is not John’s point here. We learn this extended truth from other Scriptures. Here in Revelation 20 he is speaking from a particular context in completing a long-running call to accept martyrdom rather than succumbing to the beast or the false prophet. Remember how Hebrews warns Jewish converts to Christ not to apostasize—especially since the old covenant is “obsolete and growing old” and “ready to disappear” (Heb. 8:13)? John is doing the same in Revelation, only more dramatically.

So then, my first two changes in my understanding of Revelation 20 are: I now see only one group in the vision; and that one group involves only the first century martyrs. Revelation 20:4-6 does not speak of the reign of the Church in history, nor does it prophesy a still-future political reign on earth. Though again: I do believe the Church reigns in history (I Cor. 3:21-23; Eph. 1:19-23), and that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places (e.g. Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1)… But John’s express teaching regards the first century persecuted Church and her two persecutors, Rome and Israel.

[“The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.” (Rev. 20:5)]

It does not seem that “the rest of the dead” are the unbelievers of all of history who stand before God on Judgment Day. They have not been mentioned yet. I do hold that all unbelievers will stand before God on Judgment Day. And, as I stated above, I believe John teaches that—in Revelation 20:11-15. But he does not teach this here in Revelation 20:5. Who are these “the rest of the dead” then? How are they related to John’s overarching story-line?

“The rest of the dead” are the other dead mentioned in the preceding context [Rev. 19:11-21]. Who did we last hear had died in John’s narrative? Revelation 19:19-21 answers this: “And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, assembled to make war against Him who sat upon the horse, and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest [hoi lopoi] were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat upon the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”

“The rest” of the dead are the ones allied with the first-century beast and his false prophet, the ones responsible for executing the martyrs… John is encouraging his first century audience to withstand their assailants. Those enemies have a hollow victory: they will die and lie in the chains of darkness until the resurrection at the end of history. But the martyrs will not only enter heaven and eternal bliss, but after entering into heaven will be elevated and “come to life” and begin reigning in the presence of God and Christ.

Remember: Christ dies and is resurrected, then ascends into heaven and sits at God’s right hand in victory. And He is publically vindicated against His tormentors in A.D. 70. As Jesus warns the high priest and the Sanhedrin during His trial: “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64; cp. Mark 9:1). Likewise, His faithful martyrs will also die, arise to new life, and experience heavenly vindication. Thus, they actually will live in the glory of triumph and heavenly vindication while their persecutors die in ignominy. This is John’s point. This fits everything he has been saying previously.

This passage [Rev. 20:4-6] is really not useful to the “millennial” debate.

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In Part 2 we will look at one more minority view on the Millennium, and that is the full-preterist view.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

All of our studies on Revelation 20 and the Millennium can be found here.


[1] Charles Spurgeon is one who highly esteemed Russell’s work, despite some reservations, saying: “Though the author’s theory is carried too far, it has so much of truth in it, and throws so much new light upon obscure portions of the Scriptures, and is accompanied with so much critical research and close reasoning, that it can be injurious to none and may be profitable to all” (Charles Spurgeon, The Sword and the Trowel, 1878 edition). This book has been reprinted in modern times by Baker House, and has gained the deep respect of R.C. Sproul and others of our day.

[2] When McKenzie says that “the resurrection [is] having an ongoing fulfillment since AD 70,” I believe what he means by this is that those who die in Christ experience their personal resurrection at that time along with their redeemed bodies. Todd Dennis, the founder of the highly resourceful Preterist Archive, even believes that the “coming” of Jesus to receive His own and take them to be where He is (John 14:1-3) takes place each and every time a follower of Christ passes from this life (Hebrews 9:27-28). The Bema Seat judgment (Romans 14:10-12; I Cor. 3:12-15; II Cor. 5:10) also takes place at this time, on an individual basis. This understanding is related to the words recorded in Rev. 14:13, saying, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!

[3] In other words, for McKenzie (and Todd Dennis—see previous footnote) there is a future “resurrection of the dead” for every person living today. It’s only a past event for those who have already died. It’s future for everyone else, but will be experienced on an individual basis, not as a singular event on a given future Day. The “resurrection of the dead” and “judgment” was, however, a singular event (in 70 AD–in heaven) for those who had died prior to 70 AD.

Revelation 20: Post-millennial Viewpoint


Revelation 20: Post-millennial Viewpoint

Dave: January 27, 2010

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 20:1-15

Introduction (by Adam)

On January 27th, our Bible study group met as we usually do on a weekly basis, and studied Revelation 20, the classic text on “the Millennium.” That night three of us took a limited amount of time to present three different views of the Millennium: [1] premillennialism (Rod), [2] postmillennialism (Dave), and amillennialism (myself). This subject of the Millennium requires more coverage than we were able to give it in just one meeting, so we have turned this into a project of sorts, as I wrote in our Introduction and Outline of Revelation 20. That outline provides links to all of our (completed and pending) posts on the subject of the Millennium and Revelation 20. Neither Dave nor I hold to the post-millennial position, but this material is being presented in order to give coverage to multiple viewpoints. Both Dave and I lean toward the amillennial viewpoint. Following Dave’s information below, I will be adding some additional details from Sam Storms, the founder of Desiring God Ministries. Dave’s information will be in black font, and mine in maroon font.

Adam

Postmillennialism

Some helpful definitions:
“Postmillennialism expects the proclaiming of the Spirit-blessed gospel of Jesus Christ to win the vast majority of human beings to salvation in the present age. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history [which they identify with the “millennium”] prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of people and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions the Lord will return visibly, bodily, and in great glory, ending history with the general resurrection and the great judgment of all humankind. Hence, our system is postmillennial in that the Lord’s glorious return occurs after an era of ‘millennial’ conditions” (Kenneth Gentry, “Postmillennialism,” in Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond, pp. 13-14).

“The postmillennial conception of victory is of a progressive cultural victory and expansive influence of Christianity in history. . . . The personal status of the believer and the corporate standing of the Church in salvation is . . . one of present victory – in principle. . . . The distinctive postmillennial view of Christianity’s progressive victory, in time and history, into all of human life and culture, is postmillennialism’s application of the doctrine of Christ’s definitively completed salvation” (“Whose Victory in History?” in Gary North, ed., Theonomy: An Informed Response [Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991], p. 215).

Key Points:
• Christ will return after the Millennium
• The return of Christ is followed by the final judgment, the ultimate defeat of Satan, and the introduction of the eternal state
• Might be much longer than a literal 1000 years

Some characteristics of the coming Millennium:
• The effectiveness of the gospel will increase
• the vast majority of humanity will be won to Christ
• The world at large will experience a state of righteousness and peace, as will be reflected in economics, culture, politics, and world affairs
• Christian principles will be the rule in the world, rather than the exception
• Evil will be minimal
• Christ will return to a “Christianized” world

Key concept: The Kingdom of God
• The Kingdom is advancing and arriving on earth in degrees
• The advancement of the Kingdom is accomplished by the spread of the gospel
• After the great progress of the gospel, there will be a short time of Satanic activity and apostasy (Rev. 20:3 and 20:7)
Post-Millennium is distinctive in that it is optimistic about the current age.
Some Post-Millennialists believe that the Millennium began with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; others believe it is on its way.

Key Texts:

[1] Matthew 13:31-33

[Jesus] put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

[2] Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

[3] John 12:31-32 (Note: “all people” = “all”; see John 11:50-52)

Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

[4] John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

[5] Acts 2:32-36, 41

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified… So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

[6] 1 Corinthians 15:20-26

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits 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 firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

[7] Revelation 11:15

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,”The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.”

Well-known Post-Millennialists:
• John Calvin
• George Whitefield
• Matthew Henry
• Jonathan Edwards
• John Owen

What aspects of Post-Millennialism are difficult to accept?

What about the Scripture passages above most supports the position of Post-Millennialism?

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The following information comes from Sam Storms, in an article titled “The Postmillennial Viewpoint of the Kingdom of God,” written on November 7, 2006. Sam Storms is an amillennialist who maintains a Historicist viewpoint on most of the book of Revelation, but shares a preterist (past fulfillment) view of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). He presents the postmillennialist viewpoint here fairly and quite thoroughly. At the end, he lists some of the weaknesses of the postmillennialist viewpoint, which I believe are important to note:

1. The Kingdom of God – The Kingdom of God, according to Postmillennialism (hereafter cited as PostM), is primarily the rule or reign of God spiritually in/over the hearts of men. Thus the kingdom is truly present in this age and is visibly represented by the church of Jesus Christ. In other words, the kingdom “arrives” and is “present” wherever and whenever men believe the gospel and commit themselves to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ as Lord. Several important features of the kingdom in PostM thought are:

a. The kingdom is not to be thought of as arriving instantaneously or wholly via some cataclysmic event at the end of the age (an event such as the second coming of Christ). Indeed, the very name POSTmillennialism indicates that Christ will return only after the kingdom has come in its fullness…

b. The means by which the kingdom extends itself is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The continuing spread and influence of the gospel will increasingly, and in direct proportion thereto, introduce the kingdom. This gradual (but constantly growing) success of the gospel will be brought about by the power of the [Holy Spirit] working through the Church. Eventually the greater part, but not necessarily all, of the world’s population will be converted to Christ. As Greg Bahnsen explains, “the essential distinctive of postmillennialism is its scripturally derived, sure expectation of gospel prosperity for the church during the present age,” (“The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism,” in The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, III, Winter 1976-77, p. 66). This point is best seen in the PostM interpretation of Revelation 19, a chapter which Amillennialists and Premillennialists understand to be a description of Christ’s coming at the end of the age. B. B. Warfield, a PostM, writes as follows:

“The section opens with a vision of the victory of the Word of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords over all His enemies. We see Him come forth from heaven girt for war, followed by the armies of heaven. . . . The thing symbolized is obviously the complete victory of the Son of God over all the hosts of wickedness. . . . The conquest is wrought by the spoken word—in short, by the preaching of the gospel. . . . What we have here, in effect, is a picture of the whole period between the first and second advents, seen from the point of view of heaven. It is the period of advancing victory of the Son of God over the world. . . . A progressively advancing conquest of the earth by Christ’s gospel implies a coming age deserving at least the relative name of ‘golden,’” (B.B. Warfield, “The Millennium and the Apocalypse,” in Biblical Doctrines, pp. 647-648, 662).

c. At what point, then, does the “millennium” begin? Postmillennialists differ: some say the millennium covers the entire inter-advent age (i.e., the whole period of time between Christ’s first and second comings), whereas others conceive of the present age as in some sense blending or merging into the millennium. In other words, some PostMs see the millennial kingdom as present throughout the whole of the current age whereas others reserve the word millennium for the latter day, publicly discernible, prosperity of the Christian Church.

d. This ever-increasing success of the gospel will bring in its wake a reduction (although not a total elimination) of the influence and presence of sin. Righteousness, peace, and prosperity will flourish. Thus, writes Bahnsen, “over thelong range the world will experience a period of extraordinary righteousness and prosperity as the church triumphs in the preaching of the gospel and discipling the nations through the supernatural agency of the Holy Spirit,” (Ibid., p. 63).

Davis adds this important point: “It should be understood that the postmillennial perspective provides a forecast for the global and long-term prospects of Christianity, but not for the local, short-term prospects of denominations or churches in the nation. . . . [Thus] the merits of the argument for the postmillennial perspective are not to be tied to the judgments about the present or near-term prospects of the Christian church in America.”

e. The gospel will also sustain a positive influence in every sphere of society: the economic, political, and cultural life of mankind will be vastly improved. Therefore, this triumph or victory of the Church in the present age is not simply the spiritual/invisible victories in the Christian’s heart or the internal blessings privately experienced by the Church. The prosperity is such as will be visibly and publicly acknowledged. Every domain of human activity will be renewed according to Christian principles and thus brought into service for the glory of Jesus Christ. As Boettner expressed it above, “Christ will return to a truly Christianized world.”

f. At the end of the present age, that is, after the kingdom has spread visibly and powerfully throughout the world but just before Christ returns, there will be a brief time of increased Satanic activity and apostasy. This final rebellion will be crushed by the glorious return of Jesus Christ to the earth, at which time there will immediately follow the general resurrection, final judgment, and eternal state.

g. “In short, postmillennialism is set apart from the other two schools of thought [premillennialism and amillennialism] by its essential optimism for the kingdom in the present age,” (Bahnsen, Ibid., p. 66).

(NOTE: it should also be mentioned that many PostMs believe as do most Premillennialists that a mass conversion will occur among ethnic Israelites. Of course, unlike the Dispensational Premillennialists the PostM denies that this salvation of physical Israel has for its purpose a restoration of the nation in a future earthly millennium.)

2. Biblical Texts cited in support of Postmillennialism

(1) In the OT – Num. 14:21; Psalms 2:6-9; 22:27-28; 47; 72:8-11; 110:1-2; 138:4-5 (cf. 102:15); Isa. 2:2-4; 9:6-7; 11:6-10; 45:22-25; 65; 66; Jer. 31:31-34; Daniel 2:31-35; Zech. 9:9f.; 13:1; 14:9.

(2) In the NT – Matt. 13:31-33; 28:18-20; John 12:31-32; 16:33; I John 2:13-14; 3:8; 4:4,14; 5:4-5; Acts 2:32-36,41;Rom. 11:25-32; I Cor. 15:20-26, 57-58; Hebrews 1:8-9,13; 2:5-9; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:7-9; 7:9-10; 11:15; 19:11-21.

Storms, in his “Summary of Postmillennialism,” then includes this partial quote from Greg Bahnsen (underlined emphasis added):

The postmillennialist is in this day marked out by his belief that the commission and resources are with the kingdom of Christ to accomplish the discipling of the nations to Jesus Christ prior to His second advent; whatever historical decline is seen in the missionary enterprise of the church and its task of edifying or sanctifying the nations in the word of truth must be attributed, not to anything inherent in the present course of human history, but to the unfaithfulness of the church,” (Bahnsen, Ibid., p. 68).

Storms continues a bit later by naming advocates of postmillennialism in earlier and modern church history:

C. The Advocates of Postmillennialism

Postmillennialism, according to its modern advocates, was far more widespread in centuries preceding our own. Among those whom they say were postmillennialists include, in no particular order, the following: John Calvin(?), Theodore Beza, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Martin Bucer, John Owen, Thomas Boston, William Perkins, Thomas Manton, John Flavel, Richard Sibbes, Samuel Rutherford, William Gouge, Jonathan Edwards(?), Matthew Henry, John Cotton, George Whitefield, Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, Joseph A. Alexander, A. A. Hodge, C. W. Hodge, Robert L. Dabney, William G. T. Shedd, Augustus H. Strong, Benjamin B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, James Henley Thornwell, Patrick Fairbairn, Robert Baillie, Stephen Charnock, Samuel Hopkins, Robert Haldane, David Brown, E. W. Hengstenberg, John Murray(?), Greg Bahnsen, Rousas John Rushdoony, Gary North, and Kenneth Gentry.

D. Varieties of Postmillennialism

1. Classical Postmillennialism – See John Jefferson Davis,Christ’s Victorious Kingdom: Postmillennialism Reconsidered (Baker, 1986); Lorraine Boettner, The Millennium (P&R, 1957); J. Marcellus Kik, An Eschatology of Victory (P&R, 1971); and Jonathan Edwards, Apocalyptic Writings, Vol. 5 (Yale University Press, 1977).

2. Reconstructionist or Theonomic Postmillennialism – See the article (Democracy as Heresy)as well as the books in the Bibliography by Bahnsen, Chilton, Rushdoony, North, and Demar [Adam’s note: I’m not sure what bibliography Storms is referring to, as there is none in this post].

E. Misconceptions of Postmillennialism

Why has PostM received such bad reviews? Why has it, at least in the twentieth-century, been so casually dismissed by most conservative evangelicals? The answer is found in taking note of several misconceptions and misrepresentations of PostM.

1. Postmillennialism has been mistakenly linked and often identified with belief in the inherent goodness of man. This has occurred despite the fact that the vast majority of postmillennialists of today (and perhaps even in the past) are Calvinists [Adam’s note: who believe in the doctrine of total depravity]. The result is that postmillennialism has been perceived as teaching that the kingdom of God would be ushered in by human effort alone, independently of the Holy Spirit. Even a scholar as astute as Kenneth Kantzer has recently fallen prey to this error. In his concluding observations to the debate in the Christianity Today Institute, he writes: “The greatest weakness of postmillennialism is its failure to take seriously the biblical pessimism regarding man’s efforts apart from God.” But not one evangelical postmillennial scholar has ever suggested that the kingdom of God can be advanced by “man’s efforts apart from God.” This sort of misrepresentation must end. What postmillennialists do affirm is what they see as “the biblical optimism regarding man’s efforts through God.”

2. Related to the above is the fact that postmillennialism has been mistakenly identified with the notion of evolutionary optimism and other secular notions of historical progress. This view, writes Boettner, “presents a spurious or pseudo Postmillennialism, and regards the Kingdom of God as the product of natural laws in an evolutionary process, whereas orthodox Postmillennialism regards the Kingdom of God as the product of the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit in connection with the preaching of the Gospel.”

3. Postmillennialism has been mistakenly identified with theological liberalism and the so-called “social gospel”. Thus the kingdom it espoused came to be perceived as some sort of secular utopia that replaced the return of Jesus as the true hope of the church… Hope for this earth that is inspired by belief in the power of the Holy Spirit fulfilling the redemptive purposes of God through His church must never be confused with a hope inspired by belief in the power of human legislation, education and moral reform. Not all Christians, though, have been able to distinguish between the two…

4. Postmillennialism has been mistakenly charged with teaching salvific universalism. Whereas postmillennialists do indeed look forward to a day in which vast numbers shall turn to faith in Jesus Christ, at no time do they expect that all will be converted or that sin will be entirely eliminated prior to the eternal state. Evangelical postmillennialists believe no less fervently than premillennialists and amillennialists in the doctrine of hell and the irreversible damnation of those who die without Christ. Let us not forget that Jonathan Edwards, author of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” was himself a postmillennialist of the highest order…

F. Weaknesses of Postmillennialism

1. Postmillennialism minimizes one of the primary experiences that will characterize the church and all Christians throughout this present age: suffering with Christ.

E.g., consider 2 Corinthians 4:7-12. Here Paul “effectively distances himself from the (postmil-like) view that the (eschatological) life of (the risen and ascended) Jesus embodies a power/victory principle that progressively ameliorates and reduces the suffering of the church. . . . Until the resurrection of the body at his return Christ’s resurrection-life finds expression in the church’s sufferings (and . . . nowhere else–so far as the existence and calling of the church are concerned); the locus of Christ’s ascension-power is the suffering church” (Richard Gaffin, “Theonomy and Eschatology: Reflections on Postmillennialism,” in Theonomy: A Reformed Critique [Zondervan, 1990], 212).

See also Romans 8:17-18. How long will this experience of suffering with Christ last? How long will the groaning under the weight of weakness last? According to vv. 19,21,23, it will last until the day of our redemption, the return of Christ. Says Gaffin: “Until then, at Christ’s return, the suffering/futility/decay principle in creation remains in force, undiminished (but sure to be overcome); it is an enervating factor that cuts across the church’s existence, including its mission, in its entirety. The notion that this frustration factor will be demonstrable reduced, and the church’s suffering service noticeably alleviated and even compensated, in a future era before Christ’s return is not merely foreign to this passage; it trivializes as well as blurs both the present suffering and future hope/glory in view. Until his return, the church remains one step behind its exalted Lord; his exaltation means its (privileged) humiliation, his return (and not before), its exaltation” (214-15)… “as Paul reminds the church just a few verses after the Romans 8 passage considered above (v. 37), not ‘beyond’ or ‘[only] after’ but ‘in all these things’ (‘trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword,’ v. 35), ‘we are more than conquerors.’ Until Jesus comes again, the church ‘wins’ by ‘losing’” (216).

Gaffin concludes: “Any outlook that tends to remove or obscure the (constitutive) dimension of suffering for the Gospel from the present triumph of the church is an illusion. The misplaced expectation, before Christ’s return, of a ‘golden age’ in which, in contrast to the present, opposition to the church will have been reduced to a minimum and suffering will have receded to the periphery for an (at last) ‘victorious’ Christendom — that misconception can only distort the church’s understanding of its mission in the world. According to Jesus, the church will not have drained the shared cup of his sufffering until he returns. The church cannot afford to evade that point. It does so at the risk of jeopardizing its own identity” (217-18).

Kenneth Gentry responds to Gaffin by insisting that the “suffering” in view in these texts need not be generalized beyond the experience of the apostles and the first century church. He does not argue that suffering connected with indwelling sin and creaturely mortality will be eradicated, but he does insist that, as external opposition to the gospel progressively diminishes, suffering for the faith (i.e., persecution) will be reduced to negligible proportions.

2. Postmillennialism undermines the NT emphasis on the church’s imminent expectation of Christ’s return. That is to say, PostM undermines the element of watchfulness that is essential to the NT church. See 1 Cor. 16:22; Rom. 13:11-12; Phil. 4:5; Js. 5:8; 1 Pt. 4:7; 1 Jn. 2:18; Rev. 1:3; 22:20.

3. The OT identifies the “golden” age of consummate success and triumph with the New Heavens and New Earth which come only after the millennium of Rev. 20 (Rev. 21-22). [Adam’s note: Storms’ objection in this case is a classic Historicist viewpoint. My view on this particular viewpoint is different, which will be seen in our study of Revelation 21 (pending).]

4. The NT seems to anticipate that the number of those saved when Christ returns will not be as great as the PostM suggests, and that conditions will be decidedly bad, not good. See Mt. 7:13-14; Lk. 18:8; 2 Thess. 2:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:1-5,12-13; 4:3-4. In the parable of the Tares in Mt. 13:36-43 “Jesus taught that evil people will continue to exist alongside of God’s redeemed people until the time of harvest. The clear implication of this parable is that Satan’s kingdom, if we may call it that, will continue to exist and grow as long as God’s kingdom grows, until Christ comes again” (Hoekema).

5. PostM’s interpretation of Rev. 19-20 seems forced and artificial. See the later lesson for an exegesis of these texts.

6. Scripture (esp. the NT) nowhere explicitly teaches the progressive and eventual wholesale reconstruction of society (arts, economics, politics, courts, education, etc.) according to Christian principles prior to Christ’s return. Of course, there may be relative success in this regard in isolated instances…

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All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

Revelation 20: Amillennial Viewpoint (Part 4)


Revelation 20: Amillennial Viewpoint (Part 4)

Adam Maarschalk: March 11, 2010

In the first two posts in this series on amillennialism (Part 1 and Part 2) we discussed Revelation 20 from an amillennial viewpoint, verse-by-verse. In the previous post we examined two articles: [1] “Why the Early Church Finally Rejected Premillennialism” by Charles E. Hill, and [2] “A Return to Types and Shadows in the Millennial Age?” by P.J. Miller (excerpted from Kim Riddlebarger’s book “A Case for Amillennialism”).

In this post, we will examine two more articles: [1] “Dispensationalism Today, Yesterday, and Forever (Part 6)” by Grover Gunn, and [2] “Problems with Premillennialism” by Sam Storms. In the first article, Grover Dunn demonstrates that Dispensational Premillennialism essentially attempts to place the New Covenant age in our future, even though a fundamental truth of the Christian faith is that Christ inaugurated the New Covenant by His work on the cross. In the second article, Sam Storms meticulously details his journey from premillennialism to amillennialism, examining various Scripture passages which have led him to believe that the latter view is more Biblical than the former.

Links to all of our articles on Revelation 20 (RE: the Millennium) can be found in our Revelation 20: Introduction and Outline post.

ARTICLE #1: “Has the New Covenant Arrived Yet?”

This article was originally written by Grover Gunn (the pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Tennessee) and posted at PJ Miller’s site under the title “Dispensationalism Today, Yesterday, and Forever (Part 6).” It was reposted at another site (Job’s “Heal the Land”) under the lengthy, but very fitting title, “Premillennial Dispensationalism Effectively Claims that the New Covenant Has Not Yet Arrived, Which Means We Are Still Under the Old.”

The subject of the New Covenant is important with regard to our discussion of the Millennium. The New Testament, of course, very clearly speaks of the New Covenant inaugurated by Christ’s atoning work on the cross (e.g. Matt. 26:28; Romans 11:27; I Cor. 11:25; II Cor. 3:6; Gal. 4:21-31; Heb. 7:22, 8:6-13, 9:15; 10:29; 12:22-24; 13:20). In each of these passages, the New Covenant is spoken of as a present reality for the body of Christ. God’s people, ever since Jesus went to the cross, have had the privilege of walking in the glorious promises of the New Covenant.

Within this New Covenant is the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:28; Rom. 11:27), characterized by the Holy Spirit who gives life (II Cor. 3:6) and freedom rather than slavery (Gal. 4:21-31). The author of Hebrews says this is “a better covenant” than the Old Covenant (Heb. 7:22); “much more excellent” with “better promises” (8:6); one that brings redemption from transgressions (9:15); and one that is eternal (13:20).

How strange then would it be to learn that the most popular form of millennial eschatology today (at least in the US) is not only fuzzy regarding its meaning and significance, but assigns its fulfillment (either primarily or entirely) to an age which is to occur after Christ’s Second Coming? This same eschatological system often maintains that “if” the New Covenant is now in force, it was not foreseen for this present age by any Old Testament text! The system I’m referring to is Dispensational Premillennialism, and these and other oddities are discussed in this article by Grover Gunn which I will now quote from (underlining added):

Before discussing the new covenant, I would like to review the basic distinction between dispensationalism and Reformed theology. This basic distinction revolves around the concepts of unity in reference to God’s people and continuity in reference to God’s program. First, according to Reformed theology, the people of God in all ages are in union with Christ and are therefore together united in the universal church, which is the Body and Bride of Christ. According to dispensationalism, only those who are saved between the Pentecost of Acts 2 and the end time rapture are in the universal church. In other words, Mary, the mother of Jesus, will be in the Bride of Christ, but Joseph her husband who died before Pentecost will only be a guest at the wedding of the Lamb. Also, John the Apostle will be in the Body of Christ in eternity, but not John the Baptist. According to dispensationalism, the Old Testament saints who died before Acts 2 are not to be made perfect together with the New Testament saints (compare Hebrews 11:39-40), but are instead to remain spiritually inferior throughout eternity, never being in the Body and Bride of Christ [Adam’s note: If anyone knows this to be an inaccurate statement regarding dispensationalism, please let me know].

Second, according to Reformed theology, the New Testament church is a continuation of the Old Testament program and is directly rooted in the Old Testament covenants. According to dispensationalism, the New Testament church is a parenthesis in the program begun in the Old Testament, not a continuation of the program. They continue the Old Testament program in a future Jewish millennium that is a glorified extension of the Davidic national kingdom and the Mosaic ceremonial laws.

Let us now go on with our examination of the dispensational theory by looking at the dispensational teaching on the new covenant. Since those twenty-seven books of Scripture that were written after the life of Jesus are named the New Testament or covenant, one would expect that all Christians would uncompromisingly acknowledge the Christian nature of the new covenant. Such an acknowledgment, however, is not easy or simple for the consistent dispensationalist. As it turns out, when the dispensationalist tries to bend Scripture to fit his system, the Biblical data on the new covenant is among the most stubbornly unyielding and uncooperative. Dr. Charles C. Ryrie says the following about dispensational interpretation of the new covenant:

“Although the new covenant is one of the major covenants of Scripture, a clear statement of its meaning and of its relationship to the [dispensational] premillennial system is needed. Even among [dispensational] premillennialists there seems to be a lack of knowledge concerning this covenant.”1

[Dispensational] premillennialists are divided into three groups as far as their interpretation of the new covenant is concerned. This does not evince weakness, for not one of the views contradicts the system.2

The classic passage on the new covenant is Jeremiah 31. Please take note: Jeremiah is an Old Testament prophecy, and dispensationalists teach that no Old Testament prophecy can refer directly to the New Testament church. Dispensationalists interpret Jeremiah 30 and 31 as referring to their futuristic tribulation period which is to occur after the rapture of the church and to their Judaistic millennium.3 The “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7) is identified with the seven-year tribulation period, and the new covenant of Jeremiah 31 is viewed as a millennial blessing upon Israel. According to Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost:

“This covenant must follow the return of Christ at the second advent.”4

“This covenant will be realized in the millennial age.”5

Regardless of the relationship of the church to the new covenant as explained in these three views, there is one general point of agreement: the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 must and can be fulfilled only by the nation Israel and not by the Church.6

According to Dr. John F. Walvoord,

the [dispensational] premillennial position is that the new covenant is with Israel and the fulfillment in the millennial kingdom after the second coming of Christ.7

The [dispensational] premillennial view, though varying in detail, insists that the new covenant as revealed in the Old Testament concerns Israel and requires fulfillment in the millennial kingdom.8

According to Dr. Charles C. Ryrie,

it can be shown that the period of the new covenant is millennial.9

I very much agree with this last statement by Dr. Ryrie, but will qualify my agreement by identifying the millennium as a present reality just as the New Covenant is (In other words, I affirm the amillennial view). It seems to me that this [dispensationalist premillennial] insistence on identifying the New Covenant as a future reality for Israel in a future earthly reign goes hand in hand with the failure to see the Church as true Israel today (e.g. Romans 2:28-29; 4:11-14; 9:6-8; Gal. 3:7, 28-29; 6:15-16; Phil. 3:3; Rev. 2:9; 3:9). It also goes hand in hand with a failure to see that the Old Testament prophets spoke in much detail regarding this present Church age. Many of those passages are taken instead to refer to a future millennium period on earth, as we discussed here. Gunn continues:

Also, Jeremiah’s new covenant prophecy is to be made “with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31), and dispensationalists teach their strong dichotomy between Israel and the church. In other words, what has a prophecy for Israel to do with the New Testament church in a direct and primary sense? Nothing, says the consistent dispensationalist. So, for the consistent dispensationalist, the new covenant of Jeremiah 31 must be for the Jewish millennium and not for the church age. For the new covenant to be fulfilled in and by the church would be to abrogate the new covenant with Israel and to alter its most essential meaning and intention.10 The significance of this point can be seen in the following quotation by Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost:

“If the church fulfills this covenant, she may also fulfill the other covenants made with Israel and there is no need for an earthly millennium.”11

According to Dr. Ryrie:

“If the church is fulfilling Israel’s promises as contained in the new covenant or anywhere in the Scriptures, then [dispensational] premillennialism is condemned.”12

We have seen that dispensationalists interpret the Old Testament data on the new covenant as referring solely to the nation Israel in a future millennium. When one comes to the New Testament data on the new covenant, this dispensational theory encounters some critical complications. For example, in Hebrews 8:6-13, the inspired writer called Christ “the mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” and then quoted extensively from the Jeremiah new covenant prophecy. In Hebrews 10:14-18, the inspired writer quoted from the Jeremiah new covenant prophecy in an argument for the discontinuation of animal sacrifices in the church age. This indeed is ironic, for the dispensationalist refers this Jeremiah new covenant prophecy instead to a Jewish millennium in which animal sacrifices are renewed! In Hebrews 12:22-24, several Old Testament concepts, like Mount Zion, Jerusalem, the blood of Abel, and the new covenant, are applied directly to the Christian. In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul called himself and Timothy “ministers of the new testament.” As if to remove any doubt about which new covenant he was referring to, Paul in verse 3 mentions the Jeremiah new covenant concept of writing on human hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). When Christ inaugurated the Lord’s Supper, He said, “This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). What did the Jewish disciples associate with this statement? Undoubtedly they related it to Jeremiah 31. What other new testament (i.e. covenant) were they aware of?

Surely you can now see that the consistent dispensationalist has a problem with the new covenant. According to a consistent application of basic dispensational assumptions and the dispensational hermeneutic, the new covenant of Jeremiah 31 is for Israel in a Jewish millennium, not for the New Testament church in the church age. Dispensationalists are divided among three suggested solutions to this serious problem in their system.

Gunn then goes on to examine these three suggested solutions. To see his examination in full (since I will only be quoting small portions of it), one may follow [A] this link (or any of the links at the beginning of this section), as well as [B] this link (or the original source here). The first solution is a two-covenant proposal, i.e. that God has created one New Covenant for the Church and one for the nation of Israel. Gunn rightly calls this solution “artificial” and an “amazingly strained exegesis.” One implication of this proposal is that there are actually three major covenants in Scripture, rather than just the Old Covenant (prior to the cross) and the New Covenant (from the cross onwards). It would also mean that Jeremiah (e.g. 31:31-37) did not foresee this present age (from the time of the cross until now), but that “the church age is an unforeseen parenthesis in the prophetic program between the sixty-ninth and seventieth of the seventy weeks of Daniel 9.”

This false dichotomy of the New Covenant (i.e. two separate installments) has implications on the doctrines and practices of the Church. For example, Gunn adds that “E.W. Bullinger, the father of ultra-dispensationalism, taught that the Lord’s Supper is a Jewish ordinance that has no place in the Christian church.” For Bullinger, this ordinance was to await an earthly kingdom centered in Jerusalem which would only be inaugurated by Christ’s Second Coming. This does not explain, of course, why the apostle Paul spoke of the Lord’s Supper as a legitimate ordinance in his own day (I Cor. 11:17-33). John F. McGahey’s rebuttal of this “solution” is excellent:

Consequently, it has been established that there is no warrant in Scripture for maintaining that there are two new covenants… [T]he theory of the two new covenants was born of controversy rather than strong exegesis. For it appears that it was manufactured to avoid the assumed conclusion that to relate the church to Israel’s new covenant necessitated that church fulfilling the promises given to Israel under that covenant.25

Yet the promises articulated to Israel in the Old Testament do indeed belong to the Church today (e.g. Romans 4:13-14; Gal. 3:16-29).

A second “solution” to the dispensationalist quandary regarding what the New Testament has to say about the New Covenant is equally absurd. This solution was articulated by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), the father of dispensationalism, and maintained by others (e.g. Harry Ironside) in this way:

The Christian is directly related to “the annexed circumstances of the covenant,” to “the essential privileges of the new covenant,” to the “benefit” of the covenant, and to “the Mediator of the covenant,” but not to the covenant itself. Darby expressed his theory as follows: “This covenant of the letter is made with Israel, not with us; but we get the benefit of it… The new covenant will be established formally with Israel in the millennium.”

Ironside even stated explicitly that “The Church, then, is not under the new covenant…it is Israel which is God’s covenant-people.” That’s why I so appreciate Job’s fitting title for his article, “Premillennial Dispensationalism Effectively Claims that the New Covenant Has Not Yet Arrived, Which Means We Are Still Under the Old.” That is the necessary conclusion of the teaching of Ironside and others who have embraced his error. It’s no small error either. Gunn thinks through some other implications of Darby’s false teachings:

Let us think through the work of Christ in terms of Darby’s theory on the new covenant. Jesus Christ at His first coming came to be the mediator of an earthly, nationalistic and Jewish new covenant that is totally unrelated to church age Christianity. He offered to Israel a theocratic political kingdom based on this Jewish new covenant, and He shed His blood to establish this Jewish new covenant. When the Jewish nation rejected the Christ, the offer was withdrawn and the theocratic kingdom was postponed. In this parenthetical age of postponement, God began an entirely new and unprophesied work in the calling of a heavenly people, the Christian church. Although the blood of Christ was shed for the establishment of the earthly people’s national new covenant, there was enough efficacy in the Messianic sacrifice for it also to be the basis for individual salvation and heavenly blessings in the church age. Christ had assumed the office of mediator to mediate the Jewish covenant, but in this parenthetical age, His mediatorial office is available for the spiritual benefit of Christians even though they are totally unrelated to the covenant of which He is mediator. Darby’s theory makes God’s entire program for the church seem incidental and secondary to God’s program for Israel… This theory teaches that Christian salvation in the church age is an unprophesied benefit of the atoning work of Christ.

Author John Walvoord articulates a third proposed dispensationalist solution “popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible” which “regards the new covenant as having a twofold application, first to Israel fulfilled in the millennium, and, second, to the church in the present age.” According to Walvoord, Scofield saw the New Covenant as “concerned primarily with Israel,” but “having an oblique [not straightforward] reference to the believers of this age.” Dr. Charles Ryrie (for one) has even lamented that this less-than-straightforward relation of the body of Christ to the New Covenant is too much, for it weakens dispensational premillennialism! Here is what he says:

If the Church is fulfilling Israel’s promises as contained in the new covenant or anywhere else in Scripture, then [dispensational] premillennialism is weakened…we agree that the amillennialist has every right to say of this view that it is “a practical admission that the new covenant is fulfilled in and to the Church.”

On this matter, Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost said, “The church, however, can not be placed under Israel’s covenant [i.e. the New Covenant].” In other words, in order to avoid the charge of adhering to so-called “replacement theology,” these proponents of dispensationalism say that the body of Christ should have no relation to the New Covenant! This is amazingly false doctrine that strikes at the heart of what Christ accomplished on the cross for all believers. It also elevates one ethnic group (the Jews) far above any other group, even though the Bible is clear that there is no Jew or Gentile in Christ Jesus (e.g. Rom. 10:12-13; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:11-22).

Gunn’s final conclusion is very apt:

The New Testament data on the new covenant fits well with Reformed theology. No bending is necessary; no artificial exegesis is required; no hair splitting distinctions are needed. Since the New Testament church is the continuation of the Old Testament kingdom program and is spiritual Israel in this age and is the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies, there is no problem in directly relating the Jeremiah 31 new covenant to the church in this age as is done by the New Testament writers. The new covenant relates directly to physical Israel only insofar as Jews accept Christ and are regrafted back into the olive tree of spiritual Israel, which is the church (Romans 11:26-27).

ARTICLE #2: “Problems with Premillennialism”

This article was written by Sam Storms, the founder of Enjoying God Ministries. He sums up his journey away from premillennialism and toward amillennialism by this statement: “In my own case, further study of what the NT said would happen in conjunction with the second coming/advent of Christ led me to conclude that a post-Parousia millennial reign upon an earth still under the influence of sin, corruption, and death was impossible.”

In other words, premillennialism says that after Christ returns He will set up a physical kingdom in which sin and death will still continue to take place. The question is, though, “Does Scripture allow for sin, corruption, and (especially) death to continue beyond the Second Coming of Christ?” Sam Storms takes on this question by examining seven different New Testament texts which address this matter:

1. I Corinthians 15:22-28
2. I Corinthians 15:50-57
3. Romans 8:18-23
4. II Peter 3:8-13
5. Matthew 25:31-46
6. II Thessalonians 1:5-10
7. John 5:28-29

We will now turn to this study presented by Sam Storms [Brief note: Sam uses “PM” to denote premillennialism, and “AM” to denote amillennialism]. I will quote Sam’s study in its entirety (underlining added):

1. 1 Corinthians 15:22-28

“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when he has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For ‘He has put all things in subjection under His feet.’ But when He says, ‘All things are put in subjection,’ it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.”

The PM interpretation is as follows: In v. 23 Paul says that the resurrection of believers follows the resurrection of Christ. But 2,000 years have already elapsed between these two events. Thus we shouldn’t be surprised if there is a similar historical gap between the resurrection of believers at the second coming (v. 23b) and “the end” (v. 24). This gap, says the PM, is the 1,000 year millennial kingdom which follows Christ’s return and precedes eternity.

At the end of the millennium, i.e., when “the end” comes, Jesus will deliver up the kingdom to the Father (v. 24a), after having abolished all rule and authority and power. The last of these so-called “enemies” is death. Therefore, according to the PM, death will not be destroyed or defeated or abolished until the close of the millennium, that is to say, at “the end”.

The point of dispute is the meaning of “the end” (v. 24). The “end” is when death, “the last enemy” (v. 26), is abolished. The PM insists that “the end” is the close or end of the millennial kingdom, 1,000 years after Christ has returned to earth. The AM insists that “the end” is the close or end of this present age, the age in which we now live.

If one could demonstrate conclusively what “the end” is or when “the end” comes, the millennial debate would itself come to a decisive end! This is not difficult to do. Both PM’s and AM’s agree that Christ’s reign (v. 25) consummates with the destruction of death. They also agree that the destruction of death signals “the end”. Therefore, all one need do is determine the time when “death” dies. Does Paul tell us when “death” dies or when death, the final enemy, will be abolished? Yes.

Several factors enable us to identify the “death of death”.

  • According to 1 Cor. 15:50-58 (esp. vv. 54-56), death is abolished or is “swallowed up in victory” (v. 54)at the second coming of Christ. Therefore, the reign of Christ described in v. 25, during which he progressively abolishes all rule and authority and power, is presently occurring. Paul is describing what Christ is doing now, as he sits enthroned at the right hand of the Father. When he returns at the conclusion of this present age, he will destroy death, the last remaining enemy. That, says Paul, is “the end.”
  • Another Pauline text which asserts that Christ is currently reigning in this capacity is Eph. 1:20-23 (note esp. Paul’s use of the same terminology found in 1 Cor. 15:24 – “rule, authority, power”).
  • But the PM does not believe Christ will abolish death at his second coming. He insists that death will continue into the millennium (cf. Rev. 20:7-10). But how can this be true when Paul places the destruction of death at Christ’s second advent? The destruction of death at Christ’s second advent/coming does not leave room for a millennial age in which death persists in its power.
  • The point is this: the second advent/coming of Christ marks the end of death and corruption, the end of sin and rebellion, and the inauguration of the consummated and perfected eternal state.

2. 1 Corinthians 15:50-57

“Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The key phrase is Paul’s declaration that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 50). Simply put, a corruptible and perishable nature can neither possess nor participate in an incorruptible and imperishable kingdom. Neither the living (“flesh and blood”) nor the dead (“the perishable”) can inherit the kingdom in their present state. Several factors contribute to make this a strong argument for AM and against PM.

  • Here Paul insists on the resurrection and glorification of all believers (whether already physically dead or still alive at the second advent; cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Only those who have been gloriously transformed in body and spirit shall inherit the kingdom of God (cf. v. 53).
  • The “kingdom” in view, according to the PM, is the millennial kingdom [on earth]. But how can that be? The PM argues that many believers will enter and inherit and enjoy the blessings of the millennial kingdom in their natural, unglorified, untransformed, “flesh and blood” bodies. But that is precisely what Paul denies could ever happen.
  • Paul’s declaration that unglorified, “flesh and blood” bodies cannot inherit the kingdom of God precludes a millennium following the second coming of Christ. The kingdom of God into which all believers are granted entrance at the time of their glorification (i.e., at the second coming of Christ), is the eternal phase of God’s kingdom rule. This eternal phase, at the beginning of which Jesus “delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father” (v. 24) follows immediately upon the second coming of the Lord Jesus. It is then that “we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (vv. 51-52).
  • Finally, according to vv. 54-55, the end of death at the second coming of Christ is the fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8. There we read that God “will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth.” Both the end of death and the wiping away of all tears are associated in Rev. 21:4 not with the coming of a millennial age but with the eternal state, i.e., the new heavens and new earth.

3. Romans 8:18-23

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”

Observe the following.

  • Paul describes the deliverance or redemption of the natural creation as connected with that of the children of God. It is when the sons of God are revealed (v. 19) that the creation itself shall experience its redemption. That is why the creation is personified as “waiting eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” The creation anxiously awaits the return of Christ and our glorification, for it is then that it too shall be set free from “its slavery to corruption” into that very “freedom of the children of God” (v. 21).
  • The creation waits for the revealing of the sons of God (v. 19) because it is into that very freedom that the creation too will be delivered (v. 21). In other words, the creation and the children of God are intimately intertwined both in present suffering and in future glory. As there was solidarity in the fall, so also there will be solidarity in the restoration.
  • If the creation should somehow fall short of complete deliverance from its present corruption, the finality and fullness of our redemption is seriously undermined. Inasmuch as the natural realm will enter into “the freedom of the glory of the children of God,” any deficiency that it might experience must obtain in the case of Christians as well. To the extent that the created order is not wholly and perfectly redeemed, we are not wholly and perfectly redeemed. The redemption and glory of creation are co-extensive and contemporaneous with ours.
  • The problem this poses for PM is clear: the consummate redemption of creation that occurs when Christ returns to redeem/glorify his people would appear to preclude any suffering or corruption of creation subsequent to that return. And yet the millennial age for which the PM argues is one that includes the corrupting presence of both sin and death. The question, then, is this:

How can the creation be delivered from the crippling effects of sin and death when we are, namely, at Christ’s second coming, if during the millennium it must yet suffer the presence and perversity of its enemies?

  • It seems more reasonable to me that Paul’s description of the day of redemption for both Christians and the created order (i.e., the second coming of Jesus) is identical with the advent of the new heavens and new earth portrayed in such texts as 2 Pt. 3:10-13; Rev. 21:1ff[1].; Mt. 19:28. If so, there is no place for a “millennium” subsequent to the return of Christ.

4. 2 Peter 3:8-13

Following his reference to “mockers” who question whether Christ will ever return (vv. 3-7), Peter writes this:

“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”

Here Peter echoes the words of Paul in 1 Thess. 5:2-3, both of whom refer to “the day of the Lord”, i.e., the second coming/advent of Christ (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 2 Pt. 3:4, 8-9).[2]

  • Peter tells us that it is on account of the coming of this “day of the Lord/God” (vv. 10, 12), i.e., the second coming/advent of Christ, that the heavens will be destroyed. The end of this present heavens and earth is the effect of the coming of Christ. The “present heavens and earth,” literally, the “now heavens and earth” (v. 7), are being reserved for this “day” of judgment.
  • Note also that the “present (now) heavens and earth” are contrasted with the former heavens and earth, literally, “the then world” (v. 6). Thus Peter looks at biblical history as consisting of three great periods: 1) the heavens and earth before Noah, which were destroyed by God’s judgment, out of which he formed anew 2) the heavens and earth that now are, which are being reserved for destruction, and out of which he will create anew 3) the heavens and earth that shall be, which are the object of our hope. “Since you look for these things,” says Peter, that is, for the new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells (v. 13), be diligent to be righteous.
  • Where is there room in Peter’s scenario for an earthly millennium intervening between Christ’s second coming and the new heavens and new earth? On the contrary, the present heavens and earth will be judged at Christ’s return, at which time thenew heavens and new earth(not a millennium) shall emerge as an eternal dwelling for God’s people.
  • Note Peter’s use of the word translated “look for” in vv. 12, 13, 14. We are to “look for” the day of God (the Lord), i.e., the return of Christ (v. 12). In v. 13 we are to “look for” the new heavens and new earth. In v. 14 we “look for” these things, i.e., the coming of Christ which brings judgment against the present world and righteousness for his people. It seems clear that the object of our expectation, that for which we are to “look,” is [the] return of Christ when the present heavens and earth give way to the new heavens and earth. If the new heavens and new earth come at the time of Christ’s second advent, there can be no earthly millennial reign intervening between the two. Remember: the PM places the creation of the new heavens and new earth after the millennium (Rev. 21-22). However, if the new heavens and new earth come with Christ (as Peter indicates they will), the millennium must in some sense be identified with this present age and not some future period subsequent to Christ’s return.
  • Finally, the PM argues that during the millennial age it will be possible for people to come to saving faith in Christ. But Peter’s argument is that the very reason why Christ has not yet returned is in order that He might patiently extend the opportunity for men to repent. This is meaningful only if it is impossible to repent subsequent to Christ’s return. If souls may be saved after Christ returns, the patience He now displays is unnecessary. The urgency of the moment can be explained only on the supposition that “now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

5. Matthew 25:31-46

We read in Mt. 25:31-32 that the Son of Man will return in glory in the company of the angelic host. It is then that he will gather all the nations (cf. Mt. 13:30, 39-41,49-50), separate them (cf. Mt. 13:49), and pass judgment (vv. 34-36).

  • The judgment that occurs at the second coming/advent of Christ is said to issue in eternal fire (v. 41) and eternal punishment (v. 46) for the “goats” (the unsaved) and eternal life (v. 46) for the “sheep” (the saved).
  • In Rev. 20:11-15, this same judgment is described. The unsaved are thrown into the lake of fire. This is commonly known as the Great White Throne Judgment.
  • The important point is this: the Great White Throne Judgment of Rev. 20:11-15 occursafterthe millennial reign described in 20:1-10. But in Mt. 25 the judgment occurs at the time of Christ’s second coming/advent. Conclusion:the millennium of Rev. 20:1-10 is simultaneous with the present age; the millennium is now, preceding the second coming of Christ.

My conclusion is that at the second coming/advent of Christ the lost are judged and cast into the lake of fire, to be punished eternally, whereas the saved are granted entry into eternal life, that phase of God’s kingdom which consists of the new heavens and new earth. The description in Mt. 25 of what happens when Christ returns simply doesn’t leave place or room for a 1,000 [year] earthly reign in between the parousia and the eternal state.

6. 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10

“This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed — for our testimony to you was believed.”

The conclusions drawn from Mt. 25 are re-affirmed in 2 Thess. 1. This passage also indicates that it is at the time of Christ’s second coming/advent, not 1,000 years later, that the eternal punishment of the lost occurs.

When does the eternal destruction of the unsaved occur? When shall they pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord? Paul’s answer is: “when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day” (v. 10). The climactic and final punishment of the lost is not reserved for a judgment 1,000 years after Christ’s return, but is simultaneous with it. And since this judgment is elsewhere said to follow the millennium (Rev. 20:11-15), the millennium itself must be coterminous with the present age.

7. John 5:28-29

“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”

An hour is coming when (lit., “in which”) all who are in the tombs, i.e., the physically dead, whether believer or unbeliever, shall hear his voice and come forth in the resurrection.

The PM, however, is unable to accept this straightforward declaration. He insists that a 1,000 year earthly reign of Christ must intervene between the resurrection of believers and the resurrection of unbelievers. He points to v. 25 where the word “hour” encompasses the whole of this present age. Why, then, can’t the “hour” in v. 28 also span the 1,000 years of a millennial age? Anthony Hoekema answers this question:

“First, in order to be parallel to what is said in verse 25, the resurrection of believers and unbelievers should then be taking place throughout this thousand-year period, as is the case with the regeneration of people during the ‘hour’ mentioned in verse 25. But, according to the theory under discussion (Premillennialism), this is not the case; rather this theory teaches that there will be one resurrection at the beginning of the thousand years and another at the end. Of this, however, there is not a hint in this passage. Further, note the words “all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.” The reference would seem to be to a general resurrection of all who are in their graves; it is straining the meaning of these words to make them describe two groups (or four groups) of people who will be raised at separate times. Moreover, this passage states specifically that all these dead will hear the voice of the Son of man. The clear implication seems to be that this voice will be sounded once, not two times or four times. If the word ‘hour’ is interpreted as standing for a period of a thousand years plus, this would imply that the voice of Jesus keeps sounding for a thousand years. Does this seem likely?” (32)

No, it doesn’t.

Conclusion:

My conclusion is that when we examine what the NT says will occur at the time of the second coming/advent of Jesus Christ, there is no place for a 1,000 year earthly reign to follow. At the time of the second coming there will occur the final resurrection, the final judgment, the end of sin, the end of death, and the creation of the new heavens and new earth. As Peter has said, “since you look for these things (beloved), be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Pt. 3:14).

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All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.


[1] My personal understanding of “the new heavens and the new earth” in Revelation 21:1-2 is a bit different than Sam’s, but this is a minor point of difference in the large scope of Sam’s well-reasoned arguments here. Our study on Revelation 21 will be posted shortly, Lord willing.

[2] Note: Some believe that the Day of the Lord (and “the new heavens and the new earth”) spoken of here in this text (as in Revelation 21) is not a reference to the future Second Coming of Christ and the subsequent eternal state, but to God’s judgment upon Jerusalem and Old Covenant Judaism in 70 AD followed by the universalizing of the New Covenant unencumbered by Old Covenant Judaism. For example, Charles Spurgeon said in a sermon he preached in 1865: “Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, or any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacle, or the dedication? No, because, though these were like the old heavens and earth to the Jewish believers, they have passed away, and we now live under the new heavens and a new earth, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone: and we do not remember it” (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. xxxvii, p. 354).  This will be addressed in our study of Revelation 21.