Four Major Views of the Millennium – 6
Four Major Views of the Millennium – 6
Brad Mills / General
Critique of Dispensational Premillennialism
1. The Second Coming is not separated into two phases: Christ’s “coming” (parousia) is associated with the rapture (1 Thess. 4:15), Christ’s return with the saints (1 Thess. 3:13), and Christ’s defeat of the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:8). Christ’s “revelation” (apokalypsis) is associated with the rapture (1 Cor. 1:7) and his coming in judgment (2 Thess. 1:7-8). Christ’s “appearing” (epiphaneia) is associated with the rapture (1 Tim. 6:14) and the defeat of the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:8). It makes much more sense to take all of these words as describing the same event rather than indiscriminiately using the same terms to describe two separate stages of eschatology.
2. The Church does not escape the great tribulation: The days will be shortened for the sake of the elect who are suffering through the tribulation (Matt. 24:22). The rapture is the same as the second coming (Matt. 24:31; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). When the Lord returns their will be a resurrection of all dead believers that precedes the transformation of all living believers (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-52). Why would Paul warn the Thessalonians that the Antichrist must appear before the second coming if he expected them to escape the great tribulation anyways (2 Thess. 2:1-3)? The rapture/second coming must follow the great tribulation.
3. The Rapture is not pretribulational, but processional: In 1 Thess. 4:16, “meet” is a term used to describe citizens welcoming a visiting dignitary outside of the city and then entering into the city with him.
Acts 28:14–16 ESV
There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.
Matthew 25:6 ESV
But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’
The interpretation of Paul’s contemporary analogy would have assumed the completion of the descent to earth with everyone, not the reversal of course back into heaven.
4. Christ’s second coming is with and for his people: 1 Thess. 3:13, 4:13-18 describes the coming of saints in heaven with Christ (Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8; Belgic Confession A.37).
Heidelberg Catechism 22. Sunday
QUESTION 57. What comfort does the RESURRECTION OF THE BODY afford thee?
That not only my soul, after this life, shall be immediately taken up to Christ its Head; but also that this my body, raised by the power of Christ, shall again be united with my soul, and made like unto the glorious body of Christ.
5. Believers can be spared the punishment of God’s wrath as it is poured out upon the world while still in the world: Remember Israel was spared from the impact of the plagues that were poured out upon Egypt. The 144,000 will be spared the wrath of God too (Rev. 9:4), yet the Church will still suffer tribulation from her enemies (Matt. 24:9). Deliverance from tribulation will occur at Christ’s return (2 Thess. 1:6-8).
6. Christ’s return is visible (not secret) and glorious: Rev. 1:7. Just as Christ’s first appearing was visible, so will be his return (Titus 2:11-13). Just as Christ’s ascension was visible, so will be his return (Acts 1:11).
7. There is no indication that salvation is possible after Christ’s return: There are only two resurrections mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:23, “Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” This verse doesn’t allow for future resurrections. Again, Christ returns with all of his saints (1 Thess. 3:12-13). Even the great rapture passage (1 Thess. 4:16-17) leaves no room for future resurrections after the millennium. Any delay of the Lord’s return is seen as an opportunity for repentance (2 Pet. 3:4, 9). The implication is that no opportunity for repentance will be available after Christ comes. Those who aren’t prepared when Christ comes, like the foolish virgins in the parable, will be shut out of the marriage feast (Mt. 25:12).
8. Revelation 20:4-6 doesn’t fit into the Dispensational Premillennialists view: There is no mention of living believers being transformed in this passage as dispensationalists like Charles Ryrie and Dwight Pentecost read it. Since these are the only ones actually reigning on earth during the MR, it seems like a major problem that John only speaks of the dead who have been raised in their glorified bodies (who are interpreted by DPs as living in the Heavenly Jerusalem above the earth and only partially involved in the MR). In addition, if the MR is seen as the fulfillment of Old Testament promises to Israel, why isn’t there any mention of the Jews in this text?
It’s terribly problematic that the only passage that deals with the MR cannot be read with the DPs literal hermeneutic…
An Amillennial Perspective on Revelation 20:1-6
I tried to show in our first sermon that the best way to read Revelation is from an eclectic perspective that combines the best parts of the Preterist, Futurist, Historicist, and Idealist positions, while discarding their faults. The goal is to understand (1) how Revelation would have been read by the original audience, and (2) how the Church throughout the present age is supposed to understand and apply the text.
Then I spent several weeks showing that the structure of Revelation is one of cyclical order. The sections run parallel throughout the entire present age (between the first and second coming of Christ). We need to be convinced of this in order to read Revelation 20 correctly. If we see chronological order, then we will naturally read about the return of Christ in 19:11-16 and note the MR follows his return. But, once we acknowledge that Revelation depicts cyclical order, we see a great deal of room for recapitulation and overlapping of the events being portrayed.
We also see a depiction of Satan’s defeat associated with Christ’s first coming in 12:7-9. The order in Rev. 20 begins with the Millennial Reign (4-6) followed by the Final Judgment (11-15). The Final Judgment is associated with the Second Coming throughout the New Testament (Rev. 22:12; Mt. 16:27; 25:31-32; Jude 14-15; 2 Thess. 1:7-10). This would place the MR before the Second Coming.
If the expected form of communication is symbolism in apocalyptic literature, then we should assume the thousand years of Rev. 20 will be figurative. It describes an indefinite, but lengthy period of time (10 to the 3rd power).
The Binding of Satan
Satan is in the “bottomless pit” (1-3) which is not the “lake of fire” (10, 14-15). While in the pit, he is prevented from deceiving the nations as he had done under the Old Covenant. This is what makes fulfilling the Great Commission possible (Mt. 28:19)!
Where else in Scripture do we find this taught?
Matthew 12:29 ESV
Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.
The angel seized the dragon and “bound him” (Rev. 20:2). Matthew uses the exact same word to refer to the binding of Satan. What did Jesus do at the beginning of his ministry immediately following his baptism? He defeated Satan in the wilderness effectively binding him from interfering with his mission.
Luke 10:17–18 ESV
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
Jesus told his disciples who experienced authority over demons that he “saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Satan was already being prevented/bound from interfering with the advance of the kingdom. The fact that Jesus can now cast out demons is evidence that the kingdom of God has come, which means we are now in the age of gospel proclamation.
John 12:31–32 ESV
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.”
The angel “threw” Satan into the pit (Rev.20:3). John used the same root here to describe Satan being “cast out” which leads to Jesus drawing “all men” to himself while he is lifted up on the cross. Satan’s defeat + the power of the cross > worldwide gospel proclamation.
The Millennial Reign
During the same thousand years that Satan is bound from deceiving the nations on earth (1-3) the saints are reigning with Christ in heaven (4-6). This period covers the present age between the first and second coming of Christ.
Where are the thrones mentioned in verse four?
The word “throne” appears 47x in Revelation. 44x it refers to heavenly thrones and 3x it refers to Satan’s throne (Rev 2:13; 13:2; 16:10). Revelation contains no references to an earthly throne (this is a problem for all but Amillennialists). The fact that John also sees “the souls of those who had been beheaded” would indicate that he is seeing a picture of heaven.
Who is seated upon these thrones?
1. Believers who have died and been given authority (4a).
Revelation 3:21 ESV
The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
2. Believers who have been martyred for their faith (4b).
Revelation 6:9 ESV
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.
Revelation 13:15 ESV
And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain.
John has in mind all believers who have died, but especially those who were martyred, as coming to life and reigning with Christ 1,000 years.
What kind of resurrection do these believers experience?
Although this term often refers to a physical resurrection, it doesn’t require us to read it that way. Those who reign with Christ experience “the first resurrection”. This resurrection seems to be different than the dead who are judged later on (Rev 20:11-13). Premillennialists see the first resurrection as referring to believers (Rev 20:4-6) and the second resurrection as referring to unbelievers (Rev 20:11-13). However, this is not consistent with any other passage of Scripture.
John 5:28–29 ESV
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
There is no indication that the dead in Rev 20:11-13 are only unbelievers. Amillennialists see this later resurrection as a general resurrection that includes everyone who had died. Therefore, the earlier resurrection (Rev 20:1-4) must be something other than physical.
They have entered into a joyous intermediate state where their souls of deceased believers are alive and reigning with Christ (Phil 1:23; 2 Co 5:8). The MR is now, but it is heavenly. Verses 4-6 say nothing about an earthly reign. The imagery is consistent with John’s heavenly visions. The natural reading of the passage is to see a heavenly MR.
Jesus uses a similar logic with the Sadducees who denied the resurrection of the body. Jesus quotes Exod. 3:6 in order to prove that the patriarchs, in some sense, are still alive:
Luke 20:37–38 ESV
But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”
Not only does Jesus prove the resurrection from the Pentateuch (the only portion of Scripture the Sadducees accepted), but he also proved the life of the soul in the intermediate state.
But what about the “rest of the dead” who “did not come to life until the thousand years were ended” (Rev 20:5)?
These deceased unbelievers receive the opposite of the deceased believers. They do not “come to life” and reign with Christ in heaven. This is also true during the entire present age. This sentence is a parenthetical statement, so that “the first resurrection” refers to believers in heaven (the NIV gets this right). That is why verse six begins with a blessing upon those who experience “the first resurrection”. The implication is that they will also enjoy a second (bodily) resurrection upon Christ’s return.
After the blessing, John describes the situation of the deceased unbelievers as being under the power of “the second death”. Essentially, they are waiting for “the second death, the lake of fire” (Rev 20:14).