Ask Me Anything - Pre-Post-A. What Will The Millennium Look Like?
January 22, 2020
Ask Me Anything
Pre-Post-A. What will the millennium look like?
As we’ve looked at the end times part of God’s End Game, I may have been hard on those who are really into it. I haven’t meant to be, I promise. I guess I’m probably reacting to abuse I’ve seen over the years as Western Christianity has had an unhealthy obsession with it. And, if I’m being honest, at one time I might have as well.
Or maybe it was more I held to a particular view of the End Times I believed was so unmistakably right, I saw others who held a different view as terribly wrong, deceived even. But, as I’ve said before, time and personal experiences have a way of changing your beliefs. I think it’s supposed to be that way. If you’re a Christian and you haven’t changed what you believe about certain doctrines over time, you aren’t growing.
Now it’s not that I find my original understanding of the End Times as wrong as much as it’s I’ve come to understand the other views might be right. I now know you can be a Bible-believing Christian and support a view different than mine and vice versa.
However, among all the views out there when it comes to interpreting Revelation, there are four approaches that uphold the authority and integrity of Scripture, all have merit and support in the Bible and are held by godly scholars, pastors, and commentators.
The first is the one most likely held by a majority of Baptists.
The historicist approach
This has been the standard of Protestantism for hundreds of years. In this view “the Book of Revelation [is] a prewritten record of the course of history from the time of the apostle to the end of the world. Fulfillment is thus considered to be in progress at present and has been unfolding for nearly two thousand years.”
This view has Revelation presenting a prophetic sweep of history from the time the Apostle John was given the vision all the way to the end of the age. It allows for symbolism but takes much of Revelation literally.
The next is the…
The preterist approach
Preterist comes from a Latin word meaning “past.” This approach “sees the fulfillment of Revelation’s prophecies as already having occurred in what is now the ancient past, not long after the author’s own time. Thus the fulfillment was in the future from the point of view of the inspired author, but it is in the past from our vantage point in history. Some preterists believe that the final chapters of Revelation look forward to the second coming of Christ. Others think that everything in the book reached its culmination in the past.”
This view has the bulk of Revelation’s meaning and intent focused on the early Christians and world events leading up to AD 70 when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple
The next is…
The futurist approach
The “futurist approach [sees] the majority of the prophecies of the Book of Revelation [as having] never yet been fulfilled and [awaiting] future fulfillment. Futurist interpreters usually apply everything after chapter four to a relatively brief period before the return of Christ.”
The spiritual approach
You might guess how this view works. Everything in Revelation is allegory and symbolism. The book is not to be taken literally. This approach “does not attempt to find individual fulfillments of the visions but takes Revelation to be a great drama depicting transcendent spiritual realities, such as the spiritual conflict between Christ and Satan, between the saints and the antichristian world powers, and depicting the heavenly vindication and final victory of Christ and his saints. Fulfillment is seen either as entirely spiritual or as recurrent, finding representative expression in historical events throughout the age, rather than in one-time, specific fulfillments. The prophecy is thus rendered applicable to Christians in any age.”
As I said, there is value in all these views. I might lean one way or another, but I have learned each have their support and each have their problems and in the end we just have to show grace. I’m not so sure the truth about Revelation isn’t found in a combination of all four.
I shared those approaches with you because when it comes to interpreting the visions of John, you can take most any commentary or sermon on Revelation and figure out what approach they use when it comes to the chapters 4 through 19, which is most of the book.
Chapters 1-3 record the things that are in the letters to the seven churches. Chapters 4-19 are about the signs, the seals, the trumpets, the tribulation, the beast, the antichrist, and such. But when you get to chapter twenty, the four approaches break down. In other words, you could listen to a sermon or read a book on Revelation 20-22 and not be able to tell which of the four views they hold to because most if not all see these chapters as applying very specifically to the end of all things with Christ’s return.
So you have to switch gears and come up with new labels to understand where they are coming from. And you can do that by zeroing in on how they interpret something mentioned in chapter twenty we call the Millennium…
Revelation 20 (ESV) — 1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. 4 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 those who had not worshiped 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. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. 7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Did you see the Millennium? The thousand year reign of Christ and his saints. How you understand those thousand years and the return of Christ determines the new labels we must make and there are basically three…
In this view Christ returns before the thousand year reign. It will bless your hearts to know there are two kind of premillennialists!
Dispensational - “believe in a special status of the nation Israel in the redemptive work of God in the end times, resulting in a restored millennial temple in Jerusalem complete with Levitical priests and animal sacrifices.” They believe the church will be raptured seven years prior to Christ’s return to set up his millennial kingdom (two returns!).
Historic - “see the church, rather than… Israel, as prominent in the millennial period.” They see the rapture as happening simultaneously with Christ’s return.
These folks “find in Revelation 20 a consummation of history in the 1000-year reign of the saints, but they believe that Christ will accomplish this through the church’s fulfilling of its gospel mission, prior to His return. The 1,000 years of peace will be accomplished through no other agency than that which is already in the possession of the church, i.e., the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. The world will become christianized, either as the result of worldwide revival and mass conversions, or through the imposition of Christian ideals by converted rulers and Christian governments—or both.”
In this view the church will spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, transforming people, cultures, and governments so much so that peace comes on the earth for a thousand years, preparing the world for Christ’s return (hence post).
The World Wars had a big effect on this view.
The prefix “a” makes it mean “ ‘no millennium,’ [and] takes its name from its denial that there will be a special golden age of literally 1,000 years, either before or after the return of Christ. Revelation 20 is understood symbolically or spiritually, so that the reign of the saints depicts either the vindicated martyrs reigning from heaven in the present age, or earthly believers achieving spiritual victory over personal sin during the same period. The time frame is seen to be the whole time between Christ’s first and second advents. Thus the binding of Satan at the beginning of the Millennium is associated with the First Coming of Christ, and the ‘fire from heaven' at the end of the Millennium is associated with His Second Coming.”
The reason the old labels don’t work is “the fact that amillennialist theologians, for example, can interpret the Book of Revelation according to any one of the four approaches. Amillennialists like Luther and Calvin interpreted Revelation according to the historicist method. Other amillennialists, like Jay Adams, take the preterist approach to Revelation. Abraham Kuyper was unusual among amillennialists, in that he took the futurist approach. Very many amillennialists, like Hendriksen, Wilcock, Hailey, Hobbs, Morey, and others, follow a more spiritual approach to Revelation. Likewise postmillennialism has been espoused by adherents of more than one approach to Revelation, as has premillennialism (e.g., Ladd, who mixes preterism, futurism, and the spiritual approach).”[9
You may be wondering which view I hold to. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have hesitated to tell you it was historicist, dispensational, premillennial. Now, it seems to be a combination of them all. I mean that they all have value and add to my understanding of the end times. That sounds like a cop out I know. As I’ve shared on Sunday mornings, I’m convinced the bigger picture is the way to go.
NEXT WEEK: What about election? Or Is John Calvin a demon in disguise?
 Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: a parallel commentary (p. 2). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.
 Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: a parallel commentary (p. 458). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.
 Ibid, p. 459.
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