The Millennium

In an earlier article in this series, we considered the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. We saw the great prophetic significance of the seemingly insignificant stone “cut off without hands” that struck the feet of the great image, bringing all that spoke of human ingenuity, design, and execution, to ignominious dust, blown away by the wind. Our consideration stopped there, but Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation did not, for history does not end, and God’s purposes are not complete when Christ is manifest in glory, and His enemies are reduced to nothing before Him.

In his dream, the wondering king watched as “the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (Dan 2:36), and Daniel concisely explained the significance of what he had seen: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Dan 2:44). The devastating destruction of the kings and the kingdoms of earth is only a prelude to the establishment of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of the metals that composed the image represented an historical earthly kingdom, and the stone that replaces them must also represent an actual earthly kingdom.

King Nebuchadnezzar saw this event from an earthly point of view. Toward the end of the Revelation, John is granted a heavenly perspective: “And I saw an angel come down from heaven … And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them… and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev 20:1-4). Not only will the kingdoms of men be swept away, Satan himself will be bound, his baleful influence eliminated from the world as Christ and His redeemed reign for 1000 years, the glorious period that we call the Millennium.

There are, perhaps, few Scriptural truths that have been so distorted or denied as the millennial reign of Christ. Though believers in the centuries following the death of Christ held the doctrine, others, swayed by the influence of Greek philosophy and Gnostic teaching, denied it. Origen (AD 185-254) developed an allegorical way of reading Scripture, which was dismissive of the literal sense, and sought a deeper, spiritual meaning behind the text of Scripture. This laid the basis for the teaching of Augustine (AD 354-430). Augustine’s philosophical and political views, coupled with an allegorical approach to Scripture, led him to deny the truth of the reign of Christ on earth. Instead, he argued that Satan had been bound at Calvary, and that the Church – by which Augustine meant the Roman church – was already reigning spiritually. Augustine is the father of amillennialism, and his views formed the basis for the eschatological teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and, later, of the Reformers.

For most of the past 2000 years, the truth of the Millennium has been denied and denigrated by those who were unwilling – for whatever reason – to take God at His word. But all their denials should not cause us to doubt that Christ “shall have dominion also from sea to sea” (Psa 72:8).There are many reasons why this is so: we will consider two of them in the remainder of this article.

God’s Word Declares It

This, all by itself, should be a sufficient reason to believe in the truth of the Millennium. It is clearly and unambiguously presented in the Word of God. It is true that only Revelation 20 gives the duration of Christ’s reign – though it does give it six times in as many verses. However, Old Testament prophecy is saturated with details about that reign, about the religious, social, and ecological conditions that will mark it. Amillennialists will point out that Revelation is a book filled with symbolism. That is true, but it is also the case that Revelation is very precise about time – about years, months, and days. It is difficult, without significant special pleading, to deny that this passage clearly presents the literal reign of Christ for 1000 years, and the associated reign of all those who have a part in the first resurrection. We have already seen that God fulfills prophecy literally. We would never think of spiritualizing the many and detailed prophecies concerning the first coming of Christ, nor should we contemplate treating the prophecies of His second coming in this way.

God’s Character Demands It

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that “it is impossible for God to lie” (6:18). This great truth is of incalculable value to us. All of the exceeding great and precious promises that God has made to us are underwritten by the immutable truth of His character. But even as we cherish the application of this truth to ourselves, we ought carefully to notice the context in which it appears. The writer reminds us of the immutability of [God’s] council expressed in His covenant promise to Abram, and confirmed with the covenant oath. In His sovereign grace, God choose to bind Himself to Abram, and descendants in a solemn, unbreakable, and unconditional commitment.

In a similar way the truth that “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom 11:29) encourages the heart of every believer, giving us the confidence that God is no fickle despot, ruled by whim, but is faithful and dependable. Again, though, this great statement is made in the context of God’s covenant dealings with Israel. God’s refusal to renounce His failing earthly people is the example and evidence of the faithfulness of His character.

It is vital that we do not miss the significance of this. God has made unilateral and unconditional promises to Abram and his descendants. Nothing could be more sure than God’s promise, but in grace He confirmed it with an oath, in order that Abram and Israel could have no doubt about the certainty that God would perform His promise. Those promises have never yet had their complete fulfillment and, if there is no Millennium, they never will be fulfilled.

God’s covenant with David, too, is unconditional and immutable, and Scripture states its certainty in the strongest terms: “Thus saith the Lord; If ye can break My covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; Then may also My covenant be broken with David My servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne” (Jer 33:20-21). It is, then, entirely in concord with Scripture to say that the earthly reign of Christ (for David’s is unquestionably an earthly throne) is as sure as the rising of sun tomorrow morning.

To deny the Millennium, then, is to make a liar of God, and a fiction of His Word. Nor is the situation much improved by those amillennialists who argue that the promises made to Israel are being fulfilled in a spiritual way to the Church. It would be interesting to know how such an individual would react if his employer, who had entered into a binding contract to pay a certain salary every month, were to tell him that his literal paycheck was a spiritual one. In such circumstances, none of us would dream of suggesting that the employer had kept his word. We would excoriate him as a juggler with words at best, and an unscrupulous liar at worst. God made literal promises to Abram and to his seed. To suggest that God subsequently “moved the goal posts,” redefining what the promises meant, or to whom they were made, is a grave insult to His character.

Beyond this, the denial of a Millennium in which the promises to Israel will be fulfilled grievously undermines the believer’s confidence in God. As demonstrated by the passages mentioned, the faithfulness of God to Israel is a source of wonder and reassurance, and an invaluable insight into the character of the God we have come to know. Therefore, while it is true that a denial of God’s future purpose for Israel robs that nation of its special place, that is only a beginning. It also impoverishes the Church and, most seriously of all, touches the glory and greatness of God.

The truth that God cannot lie was, to the suffering Hebrew believers, a strong consolation. May we, too, rejoice in the steadfastness of our God, and, eschewing hermeneutical gymnastics and interpretative gyrations, be prepared to take God at His Word. And doing so, let us look forward to the glorious revelation and reign of the rejected Savior, Who: “must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet” (1Cor 15:25).