Talking about eschatology is not without controversy. There are a number of viewpoints of what the Bible means when it speaks of future events. When you have a prophecy in the Bible that has not yet come to pass, not everything will be clear. In 1 Peter chapter 1, Peter says that the prophets who wrote concerning Christ, wondered what person and what time. That is to say that while they understood that someone would come, the timing was not clear and the precise personages were not clear. We should take prophetic Scripture at face value, in the same way we interpret any other passage of Scripture. It will yield for us as clear an understanding of the future as the Lord wants us to have. It is not nearly as difficult as some people make it if you just take Scripture at face value.
Now to affix our thinking, let us talk about the coming Kingdom of Christ, known as the Millennial Kingdom in the twentieth chapter of Revelation. The words “One thousand” are repeated six times in that brief text. That leaves us with the impression that God wants us not to question the length of its duration.
There are a number of views. But let us boil them down to three.
THE POST-MILLENNIAL AND A-MILLENNIAL VIEWS
The first view we will call the POST-MILLENNIAL view. That is to say that Christ will come after the Millennial Kingdom. Christ will return, but not to establish His Kingdom, but rather His Kingdom has been established by the church. The church will move out of its own environs to capture nations, leaders, ideologies, philosophies, theories, religions, and bring them all into captivity to Christ. In the world things will get better and better as the church becomes more powerful and more influential. And when the church has brought about the dominating influence of Christ across the world, He will then come and end everything and establish the new heaven and the new earth which is the eternal state. Post-millennialists also think that there is not to be a literal thousand-year kingdom as such, but that’s just metaphoric for a long time.
The second view is called A-MILLENNIALISM. The alpha privative in the Greek language means a negative, so they believe there is no Millennium and that what John is writing about in Revelation 20 is very vague and may refer to nothing other than a long time in which the church flourishes on earth, referring to that kingdom which is spiritual. Others believe that it refers to heaven and the experience of the saints in heaven.
Post-millennialism and amillennialism is really the same thing. Amillennialism can almost be called negative, and postmillennialism positive. In both cases it will be the flow of history under the influence of the church. One calls it a kingdom and says it will expand and gives it the positive spin. The other looks at it as a spiritual kingdom also but says it will decline until Jesus finally comes.
But in both cases they deny the actual thousand-year reign of Christ and that Christ will reign and rule on earth and literally fulfil all His promises to the nation Israel given in the Old Testament covenants. They basically say Israel forfeited all its promises, privileges, and all those things that God declared in covenant that He would give to them in the future. They forfeit it by their disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant, by their apostasy from true religion and by their rejection of their Messiah. Therefore, Israel has permanently been set aside so that the only Kingdom will be that Kingdom which is called the church.
THE PRE-MILLINNIAL VIEW
They believe that there will be a Millennium and prior to it, Jesus will come. He will return to an increasingly wicked earth. He will come in fiery judgment. He will judge all the ungodly of all the earth and then establish His rule and His Kingdom forever. After that, His rule will continue in a new heaven and a new earth that replace this heaven and earth which will melt in an atomic implosion and make way for the new creation.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE REVEAL ABOUT THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM?
There is a growing influence of a-millennialism because it has been a part of reformed theology. The Reformers had it right on most issues, but they were fighting the massive Roman system and being occupied on those fronts, they never really got to the front of eschatology.
It is really one of the strange ironies of Reformed Theology. They are usually the most fastidious in Bible interpretation, but are in varying degrees of disinterest in applying their skills to the end of the story. If you don’t know what you believe about the future, you can’t preach on it.
A-millennialist and post-millennialists do not know what to do with prophetic truth. If they interpret prophetic truth in the same normal natural way they interpret the rest of the passages of Scripture, they are going to end up as pre-millennialists. So they have to change the rules of interpretation. When you have to go to all of the passages of Scripture that talk about the Kingdom and do believe what say, it is a strange approach.
Does the end matter to God? It is the whole point of the beginning and the middle. The end is as divinely designed as the beginning. In fact, some say nearly one fourth of Scripture is prophetic. God filled the Bible with prophecy and much of it is looking at the end. There are whole denominations that are instructed not to teach on the end times. You would assume that they are confused because parts of the Bible are “confusing”. But if the Bible is confusing, then God Himself is confused.
Working hard to understand prophetic passages is needless. In fact, it is an impossible effort since it does not mean what it says and you have to sort of allegorize it or spiritualize it. If it does not mean what it says, everybody has a different view, and nobody has the authority to say this is true.
Loraine Boettner wrote a book called The Meaning of the Millennium and this is what he said, “It is generally agreed that if the prophecies are taken literally, they do foretell a restoration of the nation of Israel in the land of Palestine with the Jews having a prominent place in that Kingdom and ruling over the other nations.” What’s wrong with that and why do we want to run from that? Why do we want to change the rules in interpretation to avoid that?
Normal, natural, literal interpretation is the only way to stop abuse of Scripture. If we are going to change the rules, then we better have a divine mandate because God cares that we get it right. His glory is at stake and our hope and comfort is at stake and the evidence of God’s massive moving in history is at stake with regard to the future.
Most people who hold to a sound, biblical view (and Reform Theology) would live and die by the fact that Genesis 1 through 3 means exactly what it says because that is the only way to interpret Scripture. Therefore we reject evolution. Why then if we are so committed to protecting the text of the beginning in its literal nature are we so fast to give up the texts of the end and their literal nature? It makes no sense. Where is the divine mandate to do that?
And if we change the rules, what are the new ones and who made them? And by what authority? Now here comes the real irony. Those who most capably defend that whatever God chose to do, He will do, and whatever He began to do He will complete, they will die for that truth regarding the church, but unashamedly abandon that same truth for the elect nation of Israel.
Why? It’s the same God, same terminology. Scripture affirms that all whom the Lord has chosen He brings to glory. In similar language, Scripture affirms ethnic Israel to a future salvation and a future Kingdom as a race of people and in that Kingdom will be the fulfilment of all divine promises given to them in the Old Testament and repeated in the New Testament.
Whether you are talking about the church as God’s elect, or Israel as God’s elect, both are God’s elect. If God will be faithful to His promises to His church, He will also be faithful to His promises to His elect nation Israel.
Of all the people who should be premillennialists, it should be the Calivinists who believe in divine sovereign election. On the other hand, those who follow Arminius do not believe in election and that would almost make them perfect amillennialists.
In the modern theological world, amillennialism should be left to the process theologians. They are the liberal theologians, who believe that as God receives more and more information and as He has more experience in dealing with the issues of His universe, He is getting better at being God. He is sorting it all out, as He goes. They want to get God off the hook so He is not responsible for evil. (But God takes the responsibility for allowing evil for His own glory. In fact, the worst evil that has ever been done on the history of the world was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And by that the worst evil, He gained the greatest glory).
The other view is called Openness Theology. It simply means God has no idea what the future is. He does not know the future because it has not happened. He is not predicting the future because you cannot predict what hasn’t happened, it does not exist. Even His promises may not be valid because He made them with inadequate information.
So leave amillennialism to those who do not believe in the sovereign unilateral irrevokable divine electing power of God. Leave it to the semi-Pelagians and Pelagians who go in and out of salvation. It makes sense for their theology. Israel sinned, you are out. Israel sinned, the promises cancelled. Israel crucifies the Messiah, that’s it. You forfeit everything and God gives it to somebody else, namely the church. And we hope the church can do better than Israel or the church will forfeit it all as well. So this is a classic perfect fit for Arminian theology.
But for those who embrace God’s sovereignty that He is the only one who can determine who will be saved and blessed and He is the only one who can save and bless, then saying that He cancelled promises to Israel because they didn’t believe, is completely inconsistent. How could they believe unless He caused them to believe?
There are two great elect people in the Bible…Israel and the church. And Israel is elect as the church is elect. The New Testament is full of comments about the church being the elect. But in the Old Testament, for example, Isaiah 45:4, “Israel, Mine elect. I have even called thee by thy name.” Isaiah 65:9, “Mine elect shall inherit it, the promises of God.” Isaiah 65, really the whole chapter is about Israel, God’s elect. Verse 22, “My elect…again…shall enjoy long the work of their hands.” Israel is repeatedly called God’s elect, and we know what that means.
When you understand God’s purpose for Israel, you now have the foundation for all eschatology. You get Israel right when you get the Old Testament covenants and promises with Israel right. You get the Old Testament covenants and promises right when you get the interpretation of Scripture right. You get the interpretation of Scripture right when you are faithful to valid rules of interpretation. So you interpret it right and God’s integrity is no longer at stake. Over 200 times in the Bible God is called the God of Israel. There are over 2000 references to Israel in Scripture. Not one of them means anything but Israel. So if you say the promises of the Old Testament that refer to Israel really meant the church, you have no precedent for such an interpretation. Not one reference anywhere in Scripture referring to Israel means anything other than Israel. There are 73 references in the New Testament, each of them refers to Israel.
And may I remind you that you have one very, very important reality to deal with – living Israelites. You never met a Hittite, an Amorite, a Hivite, a Jebusite, or any other ite…they have long since morphed into the melee and the mix of the races. But we have pure Israelites. That in itself is an indication of God’s preservation for their future. Seventy percent of Scripture is the story of Israel, start to finish. Not that they were the end, but they were the means to the end. Not that they were the only ones to be saved, but they were the ones through whom God will eventually reach and even set up His Son to rule over the nations.
When Frederic the Great called his chaplain in he said, “I want proof of the truthfulness of the Bible, and I want it briefly.” The chaplain replied, “Sir, I can give you proof of the truthfulness of the Bible in one word, Israel.”
When asked, “What is the biblical significance of the existence of Jews in their land?” one prominent amillennialist said “It has no significance at all.” Really? It is the single most inexplicable story in human history that this small group of beleaguered people attacked and assaulted by everybody around them for centuries still exists as a pure ethnic race.
So here’s how to get the foundation for a good sound eschatology. Get election right. Get Israel right. You got it. Cause what that means is God does know the future, God has set the future and the future involves not only the glory of His church but the fulfilment of His elect people Israel with regard to everything that He promised that nation.
God did not reveal prophetic truth in so much detail to hide anything, to obscure the truth, but to reveal it for our blessing, our motivation, and His glory. Return the sovereignty of God in election to its rightful place, return the nation Israel to its rightful place, and your eschatology will unfold in beautiful clarity.
Look, I reject some really abusive and bizarre kinds of Charismatic interpretations, but frankly, they are no wackier then the interpretations of the amillennialists who want to take the entire book of Revelation and stuff it into the events of 70 A.D. and a few years afterwards and come up with things that are just as ridiculous.
We are going to save the good stuff utill next time, but I want to end with Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy and heed the things which are written in it for the time is near.” What you have here is a benediction from God. This is a pronounced blessing. Getting your eschatology right will bless and purify you.
In Acts 3:19, Peter says, “Repent therefore and return that your sins may be wiped away in order that times of refreshing,” that’s the Millennium, “may come from the presence of the Lord that He may send Jesus the Christ appointed for you whom heaven must receive till the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.”
(Source: “WHY EVERY CALVINIST SHOULD BE A PREMILLENNIALIST.” – John MacArthur)