The concept of a millennium 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 will 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 (millennium 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.

  1. This view 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.

  2. 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).

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. The 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.

  6. 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, and said,

    My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest (John 18:36).

    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.

  7. This theory also tends to devalue humans. They were created to rule. God instructed Adam to establish his dominion over all the earth. His intention was to establish the Kingdom, as humans exercised authority in the areas where they held responsibility. Although the fall prevented this from happening, the commission has not been withdrawn. Christian people are to complete the task by exercising authority in obedience to the Word in the power of the Spirit.

  8. 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. Humans were created to exercise authority, use initiative, and be creative. They will not be fulfilled, and their 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 that humans be responsible, and exercise authority in obedience to the Word and the Spirit.

  9. 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.)

  10. 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.

  11. Another problem is 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.)

  12. 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" (Luke 17:20-25).

    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 people. 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.

  13. Hebrews 10:12,13 teaches that Jesus will remain in heaven until all his enemies are defeated.

    He sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.

    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.

  14. 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 (Jude 14,15).

    When Jesus returns, it will be for the final judgment. Jesus ascended into heaven to receive his Kingdom. When it is established, he will return 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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 for this in the scriptures. The Jews have many insights into the Old Testament, but in the area of prophecy, they have missed the bus. The church should not copy their mistakes.

  17. 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.

  18. The pre-millennial 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.

  19. In 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.

  20. 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.

The devil has used the millennium teaching to rob Christians of their inheritance. Many of the scriptures that promise blessing or victory are assigned to the millennium. This prevents us from claiming them now, robbing us of what God has for us.

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