Doctrine of the Millennium
In our study of Eph 1:10, “With a view to an administration Dispensation suitable to the fullness of the times the Millennial reign, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ eternity future, things in the heavens and things upon the earth in Him,” we have a reference to the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we will note a description and the characteristics of the Millennium dispensation.
But first we need to understand the three views of the Millennium found in Christianity.
Three Views on the Millennium:
The word Millennium means one thousand years. In the New Testament, the Greek word for “one thousand” is CHILIAS – χιλιάς (khil-ee-as’). Therefore, the study of the Millennium is also called Chiliasm. While the word Millennium never occurs in the Bible, it refers to the thousand-year reign of our Lord here on earth mentioned six times in Revelation 20.
By both Jews and Christians this dispensation is often identified with the many promises of the Old Testament of a coming kingdom of righteousness and peace on the earth, in which the Jews would be leaders and all the nations would have great blessing both spiritual and economic.
Since the early church, many have written about this dispensation with varying opinions. Some believe we are in the Millennium now, others expect it to come to pass in the future before Christ returns, and some, as we do, expect that Christ must return first before this kingdom can come. These views are respectively called; amillennialism, postmillennialism, and premillennialism. We believe, from rightly dividing the Word of God, in “premillennialism,” as noted below.
Amillennialism. A view popularized by the early church writers Augustine and Origen, third and fourth centuries, and it subsequent rise in the Roman Catholic Church. Its most general character is a denial of the literal reign of Christ upon the earth after His Second Advent. It is amillennial or nonmillennial, because it denies such a literal reign of Christ on earth and states that the eternal state will immediately follow the Second Coming of Christ. “A” Millennial means, “without a Millennium,” as they do not believe in a literal 1,000-year reign by Jesus Christ on earth. As such, the present age between the first and second comings is the fulfillment of the Millennium.
There are varying interpretations of what the Millennium is. Some believe, as Augustine did, that it is fulfilled on earth running coterminous with our current age in the inter-advent period and will terminate with the Second Advent, while others believe it to be spiritually fulfilled in heaven by the saints. Augustine thought that human history would be completed in 6,000 years, and the 7th was the eternal state. In order to accommodate his point of view, in regard to Revelation 20, he held that “the first resurrection” is a spiritual resurrection which occurs when a person is regenerated by faith in Christ, while the second resurrection described in Revelation 20 occurs at the time of the Second Advent. Most schools of thought which oppose premillennialism are derived in some measure from Augustinian theology. Many modern scholars of amillennialism hold with some minor variations to Augustinian amillennialism.
A modified Augustinian interpretation of the Millennium is probably the most popular amillennial viewpoint today. Like Augustine, they believe that Revelation 20 parallels the earlier chapters of the book of Revelation and constitutes a recapitulation. Unlike Augustine, however, they believe the Millennium refers to the saints reigning in heaven with Christ. In contrast to Augustine, they do not make any attempt to make the thousand years a literal period. As this was made impossible after A.D. 1000 had come to pass, their “Millennium” accordingly runs from the death of Christ to His Second Coming
Regarding Satan being bound, they believe he was bound at the first coming of Christ, consisting in Christ’s triumph over him, first in His temptations and later in every triumph which stems from Christ.
Regarding resurrection, the first resurrection occurs when the Christian’s soul is taken from earth to heaven at his death. The second resurrection relates to the resurrection of all men.
Most Amillenarians consider the Second Advent of Christ a distinct future event, just as do the Premillenarians. Some modern Amillenarians, however, spiritualize not only the Millennium but also the Second Advent. This view of the Lord’s return identifies the coming of Christ as a perpetual advance of Christ in the church that includes many particular events. As such, they believe until the Christian’s clean up or Christianize the world, Christ will not come back. Even others like William Newton Clarke, hold that the promises of the second coming are fulfilled by “His spiritual presence with His people,” which is introduced by the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, accompanied by the overthrow of Jerusalem, and ultimately, fulfilled by continual spiritual advance in the church. William N. Clarke, An Outline of Christian Theology, fifth edition, pp. 443-46.
PostMillennialism. This is one of the most recent points of view. Originating in the writings of Daniel Whitby 1638-1726, a Unitarian of England, postmillennialism holds that the present age will end with a period of great spiritual blessing corresponding to the Millennial promises accomplished through preaching the gospel. The whole world will be Christianized and brought to submission to the gospel at the end of this age, which will usher in the return of Christ. The name is derived from the fact that in this theory, Christ returns after the Millennium hence, postmillennium. A great many variations of this view exist and some forms of amillennialism are closely akin to it. They regard the 1,000-year reign as being completed prior to the Second Coming of Christ. It is very similar to amillennialism but views the Millennium as the final triumph of the gospel in the present age. It is usually a literal view that considers the Millennium to be a thousand years. Those who believe this view include Charles Hodge, A. H. Strong, C. A. Briggs, and David Brown. Most of them trace their view to that of Daniel Whitby. postmillennialism today is not commonly held, and the controversy that continues is principally between amillennialism and premillennialism.
PreMillennialism. Just about every student of the early church agrees that premillennialism or chiliasm was the view held by many in the apostolic age. It is the oldest of the various Millennial views. It is the teaching that Christ will reign on earth for one thousand years following His Second Advent. It is the belief that the Second Advent of Christ will be before this Millennium, and therefore premillennial. As a system of doctrine, premillennialism is necessarily more literal in its interpretation of prophecy than the other viewpoints that are more spiritual or symbolic. It views the end of the present age as sudden and catastrophic, with great judgment upon the wicked and the deliverance of the righteous.
Premillennialism distinguishes the dealings of God as separate with Israel and with the church. There will be a Jewish nation and their repossession of their ancient land when Christ returns. Satan will be bound, Rev 20:2, and a theocratic kingdom of righteousness, peace, and tranquility will ensue. The righteous are raised from the dead before the Millennium and participate in its blessings. The wicked dead are not raised until after the Millennium. The eternal state will follow the judgment of the wicked.
PreMillenarians of the historical school tend to interpret Revelation 6 – 19 as largely fulfilled in history prior to our Lord’s Second Advent, but hold that chapter 20 and following are future and are to be interpreted literally. This view holds that the Millennium is a period in which Christ will literally reign on earth as its supreme political leader and that the many promises of the Old Testament relating to a kingdom on earth, in which Israel will be prominent and Gentiles will be blessed, will have complete and literal fulfillment. Because of this, the Millennial reign of Christ is maintained in contrast to the present age, and is designated as the dispensational interpretation. As such, all material from Rev 4:1 on is considered as future, which often leads to being named futurists.
The Millennial doctrine determines large areas of Biblical interpretation which are not in themselves prophetic in character. The distinctions in dispensational dealings of God, the contrasts between the Mosaic period, the Abrahamic promises, the present age of grace, and the unfulfilled prophecies about the coming kingdom are of major importance in Biblical interpretation and systematic theology. Many of these issues are largely determined by the Millennial doctrine one holds to. And as stated above, a premillennial viewpoint is the one which is rightly divided by the Word of God, as is pretribulation resurrection of Church Age saints.
In regard to the resurrection of the saints, the three views regarding the Millennium are as follows:
The Amillennial view is that the resurrection is spiritual, that is, the new birth, and the Millennium began with the first coming of Christ, a view popularized by Augustine, or that the first resurrection was Christ’s resurrection and the second is that of all men.
The Postmillennial idea introduced by Whitby and advocated by Vitringa which understands the resurrection to signify a resurrection of the principles, doctrine, spirit, and character of the Christian martyrs and saints departed: being thus one in part spiritual, in part ecclesiastical, and indeed in part too national; inasmuch as it is supposed that the Jews will be then nationally restored, as well as converted to take a share of it.
The literal and Premillennial interpretation followed by Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian holds to a literal period of a thousand years, preceded and followed by resurrection and judgment.
“The Millennium” as noted in R.B. Thieme Jr.’s Doctrine.
- The Millennium is promised to Israel in the Davidic Covenant, 2 Sam 7:8-17, Psa 89:20-37.
- The Millennium is prophesied in Isa 2, 11, 12, 35, 62, 65.
- The Millennium was presented during the First Advent of Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ presented the conditions of the perfect environment that would exist during the Millennium in the Sermon on the Mount.
- The Millennium is postponed by the rejection of Christ as the Son of David and the legitimate Messiah. In its place, we have the calling out of the Royal Family of God; the Church Age believer.
- The Millennium is plagiarized by Satan’s attempt to create perfect environment on the earth, not only during the Church Age, but especially in the Tribulation.
- The Millennium is proclaimed by angelic heralds in Rev 10 and by human heralds in Rev 11.
- The Millennium is provided by the Second Advent of Christ, Rev 11:15-19; Rev 19.
The Millennium begins with the Second Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, to establish and begin a literal 1000-year reign here on planet earth. He ends the Tribulation with the battle of Armageddon, the incarceration of Satan, and the resurrection of martyred Tribulational saints, Rev 19:11-20:4.
Christ then removes all unbelievers from earth and the nations that were antagonistic to Israel, by the Baptism of Fire. Jewish unbelievers are removed in Ezek 20:34-38. Gentile unbelievers are removed in Mat 25:31-46.
Therefore, the Millennium starts out with believers only, and the earth will need to be repopulated. Many of their children will turn out to be unbelievers. Therefore, the Salvation message of Christ crucified and risen continues to be presented to the new population of the Millennium. Evangelism reaches its peak during the Millennium. There is a giant population explosion.
Jesus Christ will rule the earth. There will be a perfect world government under the leadership of Christ, and the delegation of authority to invisible heroes of the Church Age and Tribulational saints to rule nations, Isa 11:1-2; Zech 14:9; 2 Tim 2:12; Rev 2:25-28, 3:21; 5:10; 20:4, 6.
Israel is regathered and restored as a client nation, and all the unconditional Covenants are fulfilled to Israel. There will finally be peace in Jerusalem. The peace of Jerusalem can be a matter of prayer when the Tribulation begins, because it will be fulfilled by the Second Advent. Israel is currently under the fifth cycle of discipline until Christ returns. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who will finally deliver and regather Israel, Dan 9:24; Isa 5:26-30; 10:19-23; 11:11-16; 14:1-3; 60:4-6; 65:19; Joel 2:16 ff; Zech 8:20-23, 10:6-12; 14:9.
The nations will enjoy for the first time, since Adam’s innocence, perfect environment under the reign of Christ. There will be perfect environment, because Satan is bound and demons are removed. As a result, there is no religion on the earth, Rev 20:1-3. Remember that Jesus Christ supersedes Satan as the ruler of this world at the Second Advent. Religion is part of human good and evil. It combines the functions of human good with evil. As long as Satan is the ruler of this world, religion will exist. This perfect environment is described in many ways.
Universal peace, Isa 2:4; Hosea 2:18; Psa 46:9; Micah 4:3.
Universal prosperity, Psa 72:7, 16. Free enterprise will operate worldwide. Competition from motivation and profit will exist, creating a perfect economy.
Perfect world government, because the government is run by the Lord Jesus Christ, Isa 11:1-2; Zech 14:9.
Everyone will understand Bible doctrine in those days. They may not accept it or agree, but there will be a universal knowledge of God, Isa 11:9; Jer 31:31-34; Heb 8:14; 10:15-17. You have the option of the spiritual life or not.
Perfect environment will exist in nature:
- Creation is released from the bondage of man’s sinfulness, Rom 8:19-22.
- Plant and animal life abounds, Isa 35:1-27.
- Animals lose their ferocity, Isa 11:6-9; 65:25.
There will be an optimum spirituality upon the earth, Isa 65:24; Zech 14:16-17.
- Believers in the Millennium are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, Ezek 36:27; 37:14.
- Believers are filled with the Spirit in the Millennium, as well as indwelt, Joel 2:28-29; Isa 32:15; 44:3; Zech 12:10.
Spirituality in the Millennium is by the filling of the Spirit and is characterized by ecstatics. Ecstatics are produced by the filling of the Holy Spirit; this is legitimate because Christ is present on earth.
By way of contrast, there are no ecstatics during the Church Age, since Christ is absent. During the Church Age, the filling of the Spirit is designed to produce the character of the humanity of Christ, compare Eph 5:1 with Gal 6:19; 5:22-23. The filling of the Spirit is not ecstatics today.
In the Millennium, the filling of the Holy Spirit has an effect on the body which it does not have at present. Joel 2:28-29 is a very critical passage, because it describes the filling of the Spirit in terms of ecstatics. The filling of the Spirit in the Millennium produces an ecstatic experience. Why? This is a part of appreciation of Christ while He is present on the earth. But in the Church Age, the filling of the Spirit is never said to produce any emotion; it produces the character of Christ minus emotion. Ecstatics and emotion are not bona fide functions in the Church Age, they are in the Millennium.
As a result of the Spirit’s presence in Zech 12:11-14, we have the Jews expressing a ministry of regret.
There will be longevity in the human race, Isa 65:20, death will be abolished except in cases of capital punishment. There will be perfect health, so that people will have capacity for perfect environment, but this is not the same as capacity for life. The only reason people will die is capital punishment. No disease.
There will also be perfect objectivity in justice, Isa 11:3-5; Psa 72:12-14.
Conditions existing within the Millennium, for those on the earth, include untold blessing and glory poured out upon them through the Lord Jesus Christ showing the “greatness of the kingdom,” Dan 7:27.
Peace: The cessation of war through the unification of the kingdoms of the world under the reign of Christ, together with the resultant economic prosperity, since nations need not devote vast proportions of their expenditure on munitions, is a major theme of the prophets. National and individual peace is the fruit of Messiah’s reign, Isa 2:4; 9:4-7; 11:6-9; 32:17-18; 33:5-6; 54:13; 55:12; 60:18; 65:25; 66:12; Ezek 28:26; 34:25, 28; Hos 2:18; Mic 4:2-3; Zech 9:10.
Joy: The fullness of joy will be a distinctive mark of the Age, Isa 9:3-4; 12:3-6; 14:7-8; 25:8-9; 30:29; 42:1, 10-12; 52:9; 60:15; 61:7, 10; 65:18-19; 66:10-14; Jer 30:18-19; 31:13-14; Zeph 3:14-17; Zech 8:18-19; 10:6-7.
Holiness: The Theocratic kingdom will be a holy kingdom, in which holiness is manifested through the King and the King’s subjects. The land will be holy, the city holy, the temple holy, and the subjects’ holy unto the Lord, Isa 1:26-27; 4:3-4; 29:18-23; 31:6-7; 35:8-9; 52:1; 60:21; 61:10; Jer 31:23; Ezek 36:24-31; 37:23-24; 43:7-12; 45:1; Joel 3:21; Zeph 3:11, 13; Zech. 8:3; 13:1-2; 14:20-21.
Glory: The kingdom will be a glorious kingdom, in which the glory of God will find full manifestation, Isa 24:23; 4:2; 35:2; 40:5; 60:1-9.
Comfort: The King will personally minister to every need, so that there will be the fullness of comfort in that day, Isa 12:1-2; 29:22-23; 30:26; 40:1-2; 49:13; 51:3; 61:3-7; 66:13-14; Jer 31:23-25; Zeph 3:18-20; Zech 9:11-12; Rev 21:4.
Justice: There will be the administration of perfect justice to every individual, Isa 9:7; 11:5; 32:16; 42:1-4; 65:21-23; Jer 23:5; 31:23; 31:29-30.
Full knowledge: The ministry of the King will bring the subjects of His kingdom into full knowledge. Doubtless there will be an unparalleled teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, Isa 11:1-2, 9; 41:19-20; 54:13; Hab 2:14.
Instruction: This knowledge will come about through the instruction that issues from the King, Isa 2:2a; 12:3-6; 25:9; 29:17-24; 30:20-21; 32:3-4; 49:10; 52:8; Jer 3:14-15; 23:1-4; Mic 4:2.
The removal of the curse: The original curse placed upon creation, Gen 3:17-19, will be removed, so that there will be abundant productivity to the earth. Animal creation will be changed so as to lose its venom and ferocity, Isa 11:6-9; 35:9; 65:25.
Sickness removed: The ministry of the King as a healer will be seen throughout the Age, so that sickness and even death, except as a penal measure in dealing with overt sin, will be removed, Isa 33:24; Jer 30:17; Ezek 34:16.
Healing of the deformed: Accompanying this ministry will be the healing of all deformity at the inception of the Millennium, Isa 29:17-19; 35:3-6; 61:1-2; Jer 31:8; Mic 4:6-7; Zeph. 3:19.
Protection: There will be a supernatural work of preservation of life in the Millennial Age through the King, Isa 41:8-14; 62:8-9; Jer 32:27; 23:6; Ezek 34:27; Joel 3:16-17; Amos 9:15; Zech 8:14-15; 9:8; 14:10-11.
Freedom from oppression: There will be no social, political, or religious oppression in that day, Isa 14:3-6; 42:6-7; 49:8-9; Zech 9:11-12.
Longevity of Life: Will be restored, Isa 65:20.
Reproduction: By the living peoples. The living saints who go into the Millennium in their natural bodies will bear children throughout the Age. The earth’s population will soar. These born in the Age will not be born without a sin nature, so Salvation will be required, Jer 30:20; 31:29; Ezek 47:22; Zech 10:8.
Labor: The period will not be characterized by idleness, but there will be a perfect economic system, in which the needs of men are abundantly provided for by labor in that system, under the guidance of the King. There will be a fully developed industrialized society, providing for the needs of the King’s subjects, Isa 62:8-9; 65:21-23; Jer 31:5; Ezek 48:18-19. Agriculture, as well as manufacturing will provide employment.
Economic prosperity: The perfect labor situation will produce economic abundance, so that there will be no want, Isa 4:1; 35:1-2, 7; 30:23-25; 62:8-9; 65:21-23; Jer 31:5, 12; Ezek 34:26; Mic 4:1, 4; Zech 8:11-12; 9:16-17; Ezek 36:29-30; Joel 2:21-27; Amos 9:13-14.
Increase of light: There will be an increase of solar and lunar light in the age. This increased light probably is a major cause in the increased productivity of the earth, Isa 4:5; 30:26; 60:19-20; Zech 2:5.
Unified Language: The language barriers will be removed so that there can be free social intercourse, Zeph 3:9.
Unified Worship: All the world will unite in the worship of God and God’s Messiah, Isa 45:23; 52:1, 7-10; 66:17-23; Zech 13:2; 14:16; 8:23; 9:7; Zeph 3:9; Mal 1:11; Rev 5:9-14.
The manifest presence of God: God’s presence will be fully recognized, and fellowship with God will be experienced to an unprecedented degree, Ezek 37:27-28; Zech 2:2, 10-13; Rev 21:3.
The fullness of the Spirit: Divine presence and enablement will be the experience of all who are in subjection to the authority of the King, Isa 32:13-15; 41:1; 44:3; 59:19, 21; 61:1; Ezek 36:26-27; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:28-29; Ezek 11:19-20.
The perpetuity of the Millennial state: That which characterizes the Millennial Age is not viewed as temporary, but eternal, Joel 3:20; Amos 9:15; Ezek 37:26-28; Isa 51:6-8; 55:3, 13; 56:5; 60:19-20; 61:8; Jer 32:40; Ezek 16:60; 43:7-9; Dan 9:24; Hos 2:19-23.
The wide diversity of the realms in which the blessings of the King’s presence is felt is thus clearly seen.
Not all will be believers. Because of perfect environment, there will be a tremendous population explosion so that by the end of the Millennium, there will exist many unbelievers on the earth who have rejected the gospel and who will have joined the Gog revolution of Satan against the rule of Jesus Christ, even though there is perfect objectivity in the administration of justice, Isa 11:3 4; Psa 72:12 14.
At the end of the Millennium, Satan will be released, and there will be a revolution. It will be very brief, Rev 20:7-10. The Gog Revolution, as Satan’s closing argument in the appeal trial of the Angelic Conflict, terminates the perfect environment of the Millennium. Satan is released from prison after one thousand years and immediately starts a revolution to overthrow our Lord’s reign. Satan does not attempt to improve the environment in this revolution; this is simply a power grab. This revolution proves that perfect environment is not the solution to man’s problem of the Old Sin Nature and spiritual death. Only those who are regenerate can appreciate perfect environment and the One who provides it. Regeneration is the only solution to man’s problem. So, this revolution indicates that perfect environment is not the solution to man’s problems. This will be the final demonstration of the Millennium.
The universe is destroyed and a new heaven and earth is created, 2 Peter 3:7-10; Rev 21:1.
The place of the Millennium in Scripture should be very clearly delineated. Wherever you find Old Testament passages dealing with the Millennium, these are all prophecies. None of them are fulfilled in Old Testament times. Whenever you find Millennial passages in the Gospels, they are still prophecy, but like the Sermon on the Mount, the Millennium was offered with the reign of Christ. Christ offered Himself to the Jews as their King. The Sermon on the Mount is the platform for the Millennium; it is not for the present. There are certain paragraphs in the Sermon on the Mount which have application today but only application, and the application comes through reiteration in parallel passages dealing with the Church Age. The Millennium is proclaimed in the Gospels as “at hand.” It is postponed in the epistles. Due to the rejection of Christ, the Millennium is not a reality in the Church Age.