concept of a millenium has caused a great deal of confusion. Most
Christians believe that Christ is going to return and set up a
throne in Jerusalem from which he rule for 1000 years. However,
they generally do not realise that the concept is based on one
fairly obscure verse in the book of Revelation.
They will be priests of
Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. Rev 20:6.
This reference to the
"thousand years" during which the saints will reign has
caused a great deal of confusion. It is generally assumed to refer
to the future. However, if we realise that we have already
participated in the first resurrection, then we will understand
that we are reigning with him now.
This number 1000 should not be
taken literally. Like all the numbers in the book of Revelation,
it is symbolic. In the Bible the number ten signifies
completeness. One thousand is the cube of ten, so one thousand
years signifies the completion of an age. It also indicates
vastness of time (Ps 50:10; Deut 1:10,11). The number, as used in
Revelation 20, indicates that God’s people are to reign
throughout the present age. Their reign will be complete.
The thousand years is the period
between the ascension of Jesus and his second coming. The Bible is
teaching that the saints are to rule throughout this time. The use
of such a large number also indicates that this age will go on for
a long time. This is confirmed by the fact that we have now gone
nearly two thousand years beyond the ascension.
The expression, the
"Millennium" comes from this passage (millenium means
1000). Many commentators use this title to describe a thousand
year reign of Christ that they place after the second coming. They
believe that Jesus will return to Jerusalem, and rule the world
through the nation of Israel. The Old Testament prophecies of an
age of blessing are seen as being fulfilled in this time. In this
pre-millennial scenario the Jews are not converted until after
Jesus returns. However, this approach is unsatisfactory for a
number of reasons.
It has made the church very defeatist. If Satan is not bound
until Jesus returns, then he rules in the present age. This
would mean that the church has no hope of being victorious.
This belief has caused the church to retreat from the world.
It has become a hiding place, when it should be a launching
ground for building the Kingdom. As a result evil as increased
in the world. This has not happened because it was part of God’s
plan, but because the church has allowed it.
The church has been given
responsibility for establishing the Kingdom. It should not
pass the buck to Jesus. In Daniel 7:27, there is a description
of the Kingdom coming to power. It happens when all the power
and sovereignty under the whole heaven is handed over to the
saints, the people of the Most High. God’s people are to
establish the Kingdom. Jesus taught the church to pray,
"Thy Kingdom come". He gave this command because he
intended the church to bring in his Kingdom. If the Kingdom
does not come until Christ returns, the church is destined to
be a failure. Its prayer cannot be answered (or can only be
answered by Jesus returning).
The Bible actually teaches that
the church will be victorious. Jesus promised that he would
build the church, and the gates of hell will not be able to
prevail against it (Matt 16:18). The apostle Paul also taught
that God would bring the church to victory.
His intent was that now,
through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made
known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,
according to his eternal purpose, which he accomplished in
Christ Jesus our Lord. Eph 3:10,11.
This passage teaches that the
defeat of Satan and his forces will be accomplished through the
church. Christ will not have to return to display his glory,
because his glory will be displayed through the victories of the church.
These victories will take place "now" in the present
age. Psalm 149:6-9 also says that bringing in the Kingdom is the
"glory of the saints".
The teaching that the church
will be raptured out, and that Christ will return to establish
the Kingdom, is contrary to these scriptures. It makes the
church a failure. God has commissioned his church to establish
the Kingdom. This is not a choice or a challenge: it is a
command. To say that the church will not establish the Kingdom,
is not just incorrect; it is a sin.
This teaching also makes the Holy Spirit
a failure. This age is the age of the Spirit. In our time God
is working in the world through the Holy Spirit. Jesus
promised that the Holy Spirit would ‘convict the world of
guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and
judgement"" (Jn 16:8). He is able to give sinful
people a new heart" (John 3:5). He can empower his people
to witness to Jesus throughout the earth (Acts 1:8). We can
expect the Holy Spirit to be successful in these tasks. The
presence of the Holy Spirit in the church means that it has
dynamic power. Because he has all the infinite power of God,
we should expect the Spirit to bring the church to victory.
teaching that the millennium comes after the second coming of
Jesus glorifies Satan. It really hands the present age over to
him. The usual teaching is that things on earth will get worse
and worse. Neither the church nor the Holy Spirit will be able
to hold back the tide of evil. If this is true, then Satan is
in control. This gives him more glory and authority than he
deserves. He is not divine, but is a finite creature. He
cannot stand against the divine power of the Holy Spirit.
Satan was really and truly defeated on the cross (Heb 2:14).
We should never let him think otherwise.
The second coming of Jesus
will not achieve anything spiritually that would destroy the
forces of evil. Seeing Jesus will not be enough. Many people
saw Jesus when he lived on earth, but continued to reject him.
Those who teach a "millennium" after the second
coming often imply that Jesus will establish the Kingdom by
force. It is hard to imagine how Jesus would do this. Even if
he sat on a throne in Jerusalem, he could only control those
in the immediate vicinity. Those further abroad could escape
his power. Jesus can accomplish far more in the present age
through the Holy Spirit. Working through him, Jesus can extend
his power and influence throughout the entire earth. He is not
limited by time or space. This is why Jesus said it was better
for him to leave the earth (Jn 16:7). By departing, Jesus
released the Holy Spirit to work in the world. While living on
the earth, Jesus had no influence beyond Israel. Once he left
the earth and began to work through the Spirit, his influence
soon extended throughout the earth.
The Jews expected Jesus to
establish the Kingdom of God by force. He refused to do this,
My Kingdom is not of this
world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my
He said this to show that his
Kingdom would not be established by worldly means. Yet this is
what many Christians are wanting him to do. Jesus refused to use
force, even though he could have called on his Father to send a
whole host of angels to his aid (Matt 26:52,53). His Kingdom is
not to be established by the sword. Jesus knew that true
converts cannot be won by force. God has a much better way; to
win the hearts of men through the inner work of the Holy Spirit,
as the church proclaims the gospel.
This theory also tends to
devalue man. Man was created to rule. God instructed Adam to
establish his dominion over all the earth. His intention was
to establish the Kingdom, as man exercised authority in the
areas where he held responsibility. Although the fall
prevented this from happening, the commission has not been
withdrawn. Christian men are to complete the task by
exercising authority in obedience to the Word in the power of
If Jesus is to rule through the
nation of Israel, Jerusalem will become a giant bureaucracy. The
saints will not really be ruling: they will just be cogs in a
giant machine. They will not need to use initiative or exercise
their talents, but will just take orders from Jerusalem. This is
unnecessary because the Spirit lives in every believer. Jesus
can rule through Christians now, if they will submit to his Word
and the Spirit. There is no need for an earthly bureaucracy. Man
was created to exercise authority, use initiative, and be
creative. He would not be fulfilled, and his ability would be
wasted, if Jesus ruled through a giant bureaucracy. We live in a
bureaucratic age, and this idea may appeal to men who do not
wish to take responsibility, but God would prefer men to be
responsible, and exercise authority in obedience to the Word and
There is also a problem in
explaining how the saints would rule. Revelation 20 describes
the saints ruling with Christ. If this is after the second
coming, then the saints will have already experienced the
resurrection of the body. They will have spiritual bodies (1
Cor 15:42-44). It is hard to understand how saints with
spiritual bodies would rule in a physical world. (And those
who were converted after the millennium began would still have
physical bodies, so the church would be a strange mixture.)
This approach also robs
Christians of their reward. They would be required to return to
earth at the second coming and rule in a mere worldly kingdom.
This is far less than Jesus has promised. The scriptures promise
that at the second coming, the church will enter into an
everlasting state of exaltation and glory.
is also a problem of how Jesus would reign. He was glorified
at the time of the ascension. At the second coming he will
come with the "glory of the Father and of the
angels" (Luke 9:26). If the millennium follows the second
coming, there would still be men on earth in their present
physical form. Those who understand the fullness of Jesus’
glory will realise that communication with these men would be
impossible. They would be destroyed by his glory. Any humans
who tried to have contact with him would be totally overcome.
When John saw Jesus just in vision form, he fell at his feet
as though dead (Rev 1:17). It would be impossible for normal
human life to go on in the presence of such glory. Likewise,
his glory would be so great that no temple built by human
hands would be able to contain him. (For this reason, some
writers have suggested that Jesus will hover above the
Jerusalem, but this is absurd.)
Jesus specifically taught his
disciples not to expect the Kingdom to come suddenly by
another appearance on earth.
Once, having been asked by the
Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied,
"The kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people
say, ‘Here it is’ or ‘There it is’ because the kingdom
of God is within you." Then he said to his disciples,
"The time is coming when
you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but
you will not see it. Men will tell you, ‘There he is’ or
‘Here he is’. Do not go running off after them. For the
Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which
flashes and lights up the sky from one end to another."
He was warning his disciples
that some people would urge them to look for his coming to bring
in the Kingdom. But the Kingdom does not come instantly in a
visible way. It comes gradually as the Spirit works in the
hearts of men. As lightning starts in one place and then flashes
out to fill the whole sky, so the Kingdom will grow. Eventually
it will fill the whole earth.
Hebrews 10:12,13 teaches that
Jesus will remain in heaven until all his enemies are
He sat down at the right hand
of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made
He does not return to defeat
his enemies. He waits in heaven until the church has defeated
them. The Bible promises that in a short time we will crush
Satan under our feet (Rom 16:20). Jesus returns when his enemies
are defeated, to bring in the end of the age.
Jesus will not return to establish a kingdom, but will return for judgment.
The Lord is coming with
thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone.
When Jesus returns it will be
for the last judgment. Jesus ascended into heaven to receive his
Kingdom. When it is established he returns for judgment. He then
hands his Kingdom over to the Father (1 Cor 15:23-25). The same
passage teaches that his second coming will be "the
end". It is not followed by another age.
The pre-millennial view puts a division between the Jews and the
Gentiles. The Gentiles receive their salvation through faith
in Christ in the present age. The Jews receive salvation
through seeing Christ in the millennium. In the Bible faith
and sight are contrasted, so this would imply a different
basis for salvation. But this distinction is contrary to the
New Testament. Jesus came to break down the barrier that
divided Jews and Gentiles. By his death he made them into one
body (Eph 2:14-18; Acts 15:7-11). Jews and Gentiles have an
equal standing before God: both are sinners and need the
salvation that came through the cross. Any doctrine that
places a division between the Jews and Gentiles is a denial of
what Jesus has accomplished on the cross. If the Kingdom is
seen as coming to reality in this age, and as including the
Jews, then both peoples have the same basis for salvation.
They share in the same fulfilment of the Kingdom. This fits
better with biblical teaching on the unity between Jew and
Gentile. It is confirmed by Hebrews 11:39,40, which says that
we all receive our reward together.
The pre-millennial theory is
actually a Jewish doctrine. The Jews expected the Messiah to
come and establish a glorious earthly kingdom in Jerusalem.
Then all the nations in the world would be subject to him, and
any that rebelled would be destroyed. The principles of
interpretation on which this expectation was based were proved
wrong, when Jesus refused to be a fighting Messiah. The Jews
were not just wrong in their timing, but also in their
understanding of the Kingdom. Some Christians have taken over
the Jewish expectations and applied them to the second coming.
There is no basis in the scriptures for this. The Jews have
many insights into the Old Testament, but in the area of
prophecy thy have missed the bus. The church should not copy
Some people actually say that
the Jewish system of priesthood, worship, altars, and
sacrifices, will be restored when the temple is rebuilt. This is
absurd. Jesus fulfilled the old covenant, and established a far
greater covenant. Having established such a wonderful covenant,
God would not go back to the old one. Any repetition of the old
covenant sacrifices would be an insult to Jesus. There can be no
restoration of Jewish practices.
interpretation of Revelation 20 postulates two days of
judgment. One for the church before the millennium, and one
for the rest of mankind after the millennium. This is contrary
to the teaching of the Bible, which always declares that the
saints and the righteous will face judgment together.
A time is coming when all who
are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those
who have done good will rise to life, and those who have done
evil will rise to be condemned. John 5:28,29.
It is quite clear from these
verses that there will be just one judgment, for the righteous
and the wicked. Matthew 16:27 warns that at his coming Jesus
will reward "every person" according to what he has
done. The righteous and the wicked will be judged together. This
teaching is so clear, that any theory that requires two
judgments must be contrary to the Word of God.
1 Peter 1:11 the prophetic message of the Old Testament is
summed up in the words: "the sufferings of Christ and the
glories that would follow". This is a clear statement
that the glory of the Kingdom will follow the sufferings of
Jesus. His ministry on earth accomplished all that is
necessary to bring in the glory of the Kingdom. The glorious
reign promised in the Old Testament follows Jesus’ ministry
on earth. It does not have to wait for his return at the end
of the age. If Peter’s understanding of the prophetic
message is correct, the fullness of the Kingdom will come
before the second coming of Christ.
The pre-millennial approach is
an insult to the finished work of Christ. When Jesus was upon
the cross he said, "It is finished", because all his
work on earth was complete. If Jesus has to come back to bring
in the Kingdom, he had not finished his work. However Jesus
has completed his work. He has already done all that is
necessary for the coming of the Kingdom. His active ministry
on earth is finished and replaced with an intercessory
ministry. Jesus’ return is a passive work; he comes to
receive the Kingdom. The active work of bringing in the
Kingdom is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. To say that Jesus
must return to establish the Kingdom is to deny that he has
completed his work.
For all these reasons it is wrong
to expect a millennium after the second coming. The Kingdom will
not be established by the return of Jesus. The Bible teaches that
we should be looking for the Kingdom in the present age. We should
be working to bring it into existence now. Jesus will return to
receive a Kingdom that is already a reality.
The word Millennium is not used
in the Bible, and the expression, "one thousand years"
is only used in Revelation 20. It is unwise to base a whole
doctrine on a figurative expression in a difficult passage of the
book of Revelation.
devil has used the millenium teaching to rob Christians of their
inheritance. Many of the scriptures that promise blessing or
victory are assigned to the millenium. This prevents us from
claiming them now, robbing us of what God has for us.