How’s it all going to end?

Audio # 2 The Millennium – in light of Revelation 20 and the broader context

Eschatology: the study of the last things.

We have seen that there have been three basic systems of interpretation concerning Eschatology: A-millennialism, Pre-millennialism, Post-Millennialism. As we seek to examine these systems of thought, there are two questions we must answer:

a) What do other Bible passages say about the victorious kingdom, even if they don’t use the word “Millennium”?
b) What else does Rev 20 have to say which may help us to understand what the millennium is?

1. What does the rest of the Bible say about the Millennium?

Start with the simple passages to help to understand the complex passages. The simple idea is that the saints will “live and reign with Christ” (Rev 20:4) – and this is an idea we find elsewhere where there is a sense of this going on in the world which is still to some degree the world as we know it.

  • The surrounding passage is Rev 20-22. This is about a new creation which, in 2Cor 5:17, we do not think of as being a complicated idea.
    • The messianic kingdom, the reign of God on earth – not necessarily heaven or eternity
  • Gen 3:15 – an event that occurred at Calvary and is now being worked out in history
  • Gen 12:1-3 – the success of God’s purposes on earth
  • Is 2:2-4 – “Latter Days” (after the Lord’s first coming) – but before the second coming. This is not eternity, but history, for nations are still at war.
  • Is 9:6,7 – “increase” is a temporal process in a finite world
  • Dan 2:44 – “in the days of those kings”: establishing the Kingdom in the context of history
  • Rev 21,22 – this is not clearly describing eternity, (e.g. there are still other nations around - 21:24)

These are the promises of a world transformed by the power of the Gospel.

2. What else does Rev 20 say which clarifies the meaning of the millennium?

a) The theme of the chapter

  • The millennium is not the main subject of the chapter
  • The chapter is about God dealing with Satan – his acts, his binding, his release and his judgement
  • The millennium is only mentioned as a parenthesis (vs. 4-6) within this history of Satan
  • Primary purpose of chapter: not speculative but practical encouragement to see where we live in relation to God’s authority over Satan (consistent with the purpose of the whole book as a present encouragement to a church in difficult times – 1:1)

b) The nature of the Millennium (v.4)

i. Living with Christ

  • o Life is understood in the context of resurrection
  • o The first resurrection
  • o to be understood in relation to the first death – Gen 2:17; Eph 2:1; 1Tim 5:6
  • o thus the first resurrection is the new birth – Eph 2:5,6; Col 2:12,13
  • o The second death (physical, rather than spiritual) cannot harm those who have come through the first resurrection
  • o Even “living souls” are living and reigning: the loss of their heads has not destroyed them

ii. Reigning with Christ

  • o This does not imply either political rule or an after-life state. It is a normal part of Christian living – 2Tim 2:12; Rom 5:17

iii. Satan is bound

  • o Satan currently is bound – does not have the power to deceive the nations
  • o Not that he has no power, but his power has been limited

iv. Satan will be loosed

  • o The end of the millennium will be characterized by Satan’s release and attempt to deceive the nations
  • o This is not speaking of Satan’s triumph but about his end according to God’s strategy and plan
  • o The city he will attempt to attack is the new Jerusalem, the church.
  • o His attack will be God’s means of exposing all his powers in order to precipitate his total demise

v. The Great White Throne

  • o We are now at the end of time, the raising of the dead, the rapture and the final judgement
  • o The judgment of Satan (to a lake of fire), of the works of the saints (with a view to rewards) and the works of those who are not in Christ
  • o Heaven is a temporary dwelling place for the departed in Christ; Hades is the equivalent for those who are not in Christ
  • o These in turn are replaced by Hell and the rewards of the new heaven and the new earth.

3. The implications for the various eschatological schools of thought

a) Pre-Millennialist dilemmas

  • o Surely we do not want to have to wait for Christ’s return before we can be “living and reigning with Christ”

b) A-Millennialist dilemmas

  • o If the first resurrection is a resurrection out of earth and into a heavenly realm, then the a-millennialists would have a point; but being “seated with Christ in heavenly places” refers to an earthly reality, and this passage talks of God’s purposes for his saints on earth in time of conflict

c) Post-Millennialist prospects

  • The victory of Christ has been inaugurated in the first coming and will come to its climax at the end of history.
  • The Great White Throne settles issues for eternity but after the “earth phase” is already completed
  • In the mean-time, we, as new creations, live in a field of wheat and tares
  • The whole of the new creation exists in a similar context of mixture
  • But it is a wheat field with tares in it, not a “tares field”
  • There are still weeds, but healing is in process
  • The end will come when he has made all his enemies to be his footstool – 1Cor 15:20-28
  • In the mean-time we live in growth, as all the parables of the kingdom indicate
  • But after this long period of growth and victory we will live for ever in our new resurrection bodies in the adventure of eternity

Brian Watts is Pastor of The King's Community Church and lives in Langley with his wife Rosalind.
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