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Millennium in the Bible: Big Fraud or Amazing 1,000 Years?

Millennium in the Bible: Big Fraud or Amazing 1,000 Years?
The Millennium is a prophecy of God’s kingdom on earth. There are many views. All could be wrong. One thing is sure: Jesus will reign!

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Millennium in the Bible: Big Fraud or Amazing 1,000 Years?

Millennium is the Latin word for 1,000 years.

The word “millennium” is not in the Bible, but the English equivalent “thousand years” occurs only six times in the New Testament, all in the six verses of Revelation 20:2-7.

This passage describes

  • 1) an angel binding Satan and casting him into the bottomless pit for 1,000 years, and

  • 2) a select group of Christians reigning with Christ for 1,000 years

It says no more, but Bible scholars and theologians have been analyzing it for 2,000 years and come up with some very interesting scenarios.

Millennium as a “Golden Age”

Both the Greeks and Romans had Golden Ages long ago when a perfect world was ruled by gods and goddesses of myth. The Bible’s perfect world was in Eden when the Lord walked with Adam* and Eve* in paradise.

(*after a name means that person in a part of my book SPIRITUAL LIVES)

And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. – Genesis 1:31

Satan lured the pair into sin, and they were cast out of Eden, but promised a Deliverer to restore all things. The Millennium of the Bible is pictured by all of its champions as a restoration of God’s kingdom on earth but in very different ways.

Millennium in the apostolic era

The apostles did not know the book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, written after all but John* had died. They had only the account Jesus* gives of His second coming, the last judgment, and the end of the world in Matthew 24, which has no hint of a millennium.

The first we hear of it is in Papias of Hierapolis (60-130), a disciple of John*. He accumulated “unknown sayings of Jesus,” and among them:

that there will be a period of some thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, and that the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth.

Eusebius (260-339) opposed this idea but conceded the millennial view was widespread in the early church. He discredited the idea:

I suppose he got these ideas through a misunderstanding of the apostolic accounts, not perceiving that the things said by them were spoken mystically in figures.

Despite Eusebius’ opposition, millennialism was asserted by some important teachers, like Justin Martyr (100-165) and Irenaeus (130-202) *.

Their teaching is called premillennialism, namely the belief that Jesus will physically return to the Earth and establish “a literal thousand-year golden age of peace” before Judgment Day. (before= “pre-”)

I admitted to you formerly, that I and many others are of this opinion, and [believe] that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise. – Justin Martyr

But as time went on, opposition to it went further.

Millennium in the Catholic Church

Once a premillennialist himself, St. Augustine (354-430) opposed the view as “carnal,” in the same way that Eusebius had. But Augustine went further and said there was no literal millennium, just a time when the Gospel would hold sway and the church would grow.

This view became known (first used in 1935) as a-millennial, a meaning “without” as in “amoral.”

Jerome (347-420) * and Augustine taught the symbolic interpretation of Revelation, and this was the basis of Catholic eschatology through the Middle Ages.

The amillennial idea is that Christ rules the earth through the Church, and this has been held to this day. In the 20th century, the Roman Catholic Church still holds to Augustine’s views and denounces Millennialism as the work of the Anti-Christ:

The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment.

The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism.

— Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1995 (Ratzinger was later Pope Benedict XVI)

Millennium in the Reformation

John Calvin* (1509-1564) accepted amillennial view of Augustine, as did most of the Reformers. He wrote that millennialism is

a “fiction” that is “too childish either to need or to be worth a refutation”- Institutes of the Christian Religion

All of the reformed Churches built amillennialism into their catechisms, confessions of faith, and articles of religion, although premillennialism reappeared among some Baptists, Huguenots, and Bohemian Brethren, during the 16th century but was always a minority view.

Millennium in the Modern Era

In the 17th and 18th centuries, millennialism reappeared. Puritans John Owen (1616-1683) and Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) * preached postmillennialism.

This view teaches that the Gospel will convert the nations to Christ and set up a godly kingdom of peace and love to prepare for Jesus’ Second Coming after the millennium. (after = post)

During the same timeframe, Puritan Increase Mather (1639-1723), president of Harvard, articulated the premillennialist view in 4 principles:

  • That the thousand apocalyptical years are not passed but future.

  • That the coming of Christ to raise the dead and to judge the earth will be within much less than these thousand years.

  • That the conversion of the Jews will not be till this present state of the world is near unto its end.

  • That, after the Jews’ conversion there will be a glorious day for the elect upon earth, and that this day shall be a very long continuance.”

Millennium in the 19th century to present

Premillennialism became the dominant view in the evangelical circle. Simply expressed, it teaches that those in the church will be caught up to meet Christ in the air and rule with Him on earth for 1,000 glorious years. All before the general resurrection on Judgment Day.

Calvinists John Gill, Charles Spurgeon, Francis Schaeffer, and John Piper embrace this view.

In the 1830s, John Nelson Darby (1800–1882) advocated the dispensational form of premillennialism.

Dispensationalists view the church and national Israel as separate entities with different histories and roles in the millennium.

This view was widely spread through the Scofield Reference Bible and is the view of the Assemblies of God and other evangelical churches.

It is central in popular novels and visual media and advocated by John F. MacArthur, Ray Comfort, Jerry Falwell, and former Moody pastor Erwin Lutzer.

Millennium: What does the Bible Say?

The Bible does not mention a millennium. All the views about it have been exposited from Revelation 20:2-7.

Jesus does teach about end times, His Second Coming, and His kingdom, in Matthew 24, and some of the ideas there have factored into the conceptions of the millennium we see today and throughout history:

End times: In verses 4-14, Jesus warns that there will be many wars among the nations, many false prophets, and many claiming to be Christ:

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Matthew 23:12-14

Between these verses and those about His second coming, are warnings to His disciples about the coming destruction of Jerusalem along with instructions to escape. All this did indeed come to pass before that generation had passed away.

Second coming: After warning about the great darkness that will come over the earth once Jerusalem has been destroyed, Jesus goes on to say:

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:30-31

His kingdom: Jesus began His ministry preaching these words:

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. – Mark 1:5

His kingdom will arrive with Him when He comes again, but He gives a warning that should prevent us from making assumptions about when that will be:

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. – Matthew 24:36

He goes on with this

Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?

Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. – Matthew 24:44-47

Luke gives us this supplemental promise:

That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. – Luke 22:30

Millennium: next steps

What is our assessment of the millennium? All cannot be right. All could be wrong! One thing can be affirmed: Jesus will come again! Praise God!

The Bible teaches this throughout the New Testament, and we can join our Christian brothers and sisters in affirming these words of the Nicene Creed:

He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.

And follow the orders Jesus gives us:

Watch, therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. – Matthew 24:42

Jesus, being who He is, always give a blessing:

Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: Luke 12:37

What a Day That Will Be!

There is coming a day,

When no heart aches shall come,

No more clouds in the sky,

No more tears to dim the eye,

All is peace forevermore,

On that happy golden shore,

What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be,

When my Jesus I shall see,

And I look upon His face,

The One who saved me by His grace;

When He takes me by the hand,

And leads me through the Promised Land,

What a day, glorious day that will be.

There’ll be no sorrow there,

No more burdens to bear,

No more sickness, no pain,

No more parting over there;

And forever I will be,

With the One who died for me,

What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be,

When my Jesus I shall see,

And I look upon His face,

The One who saved me by His grace;

When He takes me by the hand,

And leads me through the Promised Land,

What a day, glorious day that will be

James Hill (1955)

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2


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