The word "millennium" is a Latin compound of the words "mille" and "annus" and signifies "a thousand years." Some also use a Greek word for millennialism; it is the word "chiliasm," which is the Greek equivalent of the Latin "millennium." In Revelation 20 a number of times the fact is revealed that our Lord will reign in the future with His saints over the earth for a thousand years. This period of time of the Lord's reign is therefore called the millennium. Certain exegetes make the claim that the belief in such a personal reign of Christ in an earthly kingdom has very slender Scripture support. They say the Book of Revelation is obscure and mysterious in its meaning and that it is unwise to build such a doctrine upon a passage in this book which solely teaches such a reign of Christ. But they greatly err. As we have shown in our "Harmony of the Prophetic Word" it is one of the great revelations of the Old Testament. Nearly all the prophets saw in vision such a golden age for the world, including the physical earth. As the Holy Spirit witnessed beforehand of the Christ who was to suffer and to die, so He witnessed of His coming glory in the earthly kingdom from sea to sea, unto the uttermost parts of the earth, when the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the deep. Frequently this period of His reign is called "His Days," which the rabbinical expositors paraphrased "the days of the Messiah." Christian expositors have spiritualized these glorious visions and explained them as meaning "Christ's reign in the Church" or "the glories of the Church," and by this unsound method have brought confusion to the hearts and minds of professing Christians. The Apostle John, the instrument used in writing the Apocalypse, did not invent the thousand year reign of Christ. He used the definite article "the thousand years," an indication that he referred to it as a period perfectly familiar to the Jews as well as to Christians, as the time of the Messiah's glorious reign, called by our Lord and His apostles "the world to come" or "the coming age."
The character of this coming age is clearly revealed in both Testaments, as consisting in universal righteousness, peace and blessedness. Not parts of the world will experience the predicted blessings, but all the earth, every continent and every nation will share in it. The people Israel, in fulfillment of their oath bound covenants, will be restored, Jerusalem will become the city of the great King of kings, His capital, the centre of the theocratic government. The saved nations of the earth who passed through the judgments, bring then their wealth and glory to the feet of the King, and adore and worship Him, as the Lord of all. Longevity, fertility, the harmony of the lower orders of creation, will be some of the great features of the millennial kingdom. Groaning creation will no longer groan; peace in the animal world will be as evident as peace among men. War is forever abolished. That which peace pacts, treaties, leagues of nations and disarmament plans failed to accomplish, will in that coming age be a glorious reality. No more discussions about limited navies; no more bombings by aeroplanes; no more warfare by chemical productions; no more submarines—all the satanic instruments for the destruction of life, invented by the erstwhile civilized nations, will be forever gone. Idolatry ends. Every false religion is gone! Islam and Hinduism, fetishism, polytheism and every other pagan system and philosophy have been wiped out, never to return. False sciences, headed by "Christian Science," evolution and every other philosophy, with existing metaphysical cults, the worst enemies of true Christianity, have all collapsed. Modernism has gone down in its ignominious and eternal defeat. Earthquakes and pestilences no longer claim their countless millions. The character and the glory of that age to come, the age of the millennium, though so beautifully sung by the harp of prophecy, is beyond our imagination.
When will this millennium come into existence. It is not here now, nor has it been in the past. The wars of the past, the still threatening wars of our own days, the increasing lawlessness and unrighteousness, the arrogant rejection of the revealed truth of God, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord, the ravages of pestilences and earthquakes and many other things, are evidences that there is no millennium on earth now. Nor is there the slightest hope that it is coming gradually. Some believe that this glorious time will ultimately come through the preaching of the true Gospel. But even if this were true (which is not the case) how is its coming possible when that Gospel is preached less and less? There is no such thing as a world which is getting better morally, religiously and righteously.
The infallible Word of God decides the question as to the time of the Millennium. It has, according to Scripture, no existence in history until after the visible and glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ and the promised resurrection of the righteous dead. This is the teaching of the prophets. Every prophecy of the coming of the kingdom and its blessed glories is linked with the glorious manifestation of the Lord. This is the teaching of our Lord. The great regeneration can only come when He sits upon the throne of His glory (Matt. 19:28). In His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) our Lord first shows what precedes His second coming in great power and glory: a peace-less, a law-less, a righteous-less world, a world filled with evil and culminating in a great tribulation. Then He shows what will follow His visible and glorious coming: He will sit upon the throne of His glory, judge the nations, and some will enter the kingdom, not in heaven but on earth. This is the teaching of the apostles, Spirit filled and Spirit taught. And the early Church never believed anything different. It was the Church of "Our Hope," expecting the return of her Lord and with His coming the millennial kingdom. It was the teaching of the mighty men of God, the reformers, the chosen instruments of the Holy Spirit.
"No Millennium before the resurrection," and hence no millennium before Christ's coming, was the hammer with which these great men of God smote the false Chiliasm of their own day, so gross and unscriptural, and which still smites the postmillennial invention of our own times. A pre-advent Millennium has met with the strongest condemnation from the whole Protestant Reformation, because it is a miserable theory of man, with no basis whatever in the Word of God. Long ago it was denounced by Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of St. John, the apostle, as "a heresy." Nowadays certain men, would-be scholars and teachers, denounce premillennialists as teachers of heresy. But it is postmillennialism which is a perversion of the Word of God. Not premillennialism distorts and denies the prophetic element in God's Holy Word, but the postmillennial theory does. To preach this theory, or to pass resolutions in favor of it, is a violation of the inspired teachings of both Testaments, and of the primitive and Protestant faith as well. There can be no Millennium until after the cessation of Christ's presence at the right hand of God (Acts 3:19-21); none until after the resurrection of the righteous dead (Rev. 20:1-6); none until after Israel's restoration and conversion (Acts 3:19-21; Rom. 11:25,26; Isa. 59:19-21; Zech. 12:9-14, etc.); none until after the binding of Satan (Isa. 24:21-23; 27:1-6; Rev. 20:1-3). Equally is it that the millennial kingdom exists in history before the second resurrection, the resurrection of the wicked dead, and before the final cosmical new heaven and earth.
The Jews divided time into two great periods. (1) Olam Hazeh. This means "this present world." This they believed began with the creation of man and continues till the Messiah appears in the clouds of heaven, for the overthrow of the enemies of Israel, and their national deliverance from the dominating power of the Gentiles. The Book of Daniel mentions "the end of days" (Dan. 12:13) but these come after the demolition of the man-image, the prophetic picture of the times of the Gentiles. The stone which smites the image is His second coming; the stone which becomes a mountain filling the whole earth is His earthly kingdom. We are still living in this present world, which is also called in the New Testament "Man's Day." The other period to follow "this present world" is called by orthodox Jews Olam Haboh, that is "the world, or age to come." It contains two periods (a) the thousand years, the age of the kingdom and (b) the endless age, the ages of ages. Our Lord and His apostles endorsed this division and used the same terminology—"This World" and "The World to Come." The latter does not mean heaven, as it is generally believed, but the world conditions after Christ has come back to earth again. This "Age to Come," the millennial age, is bounded by two resurrections, the first resurrection before the millennium, the second resurrection, the resurrection of the wicked dead, at the conclusion of the Millennium: by two judgments, the judgment of nations in the beginning and the great white throne judgment at the end of the millennium; the two conflagrations, the fiery judgments by fire (2 Thess. 1:8-9) in the beginning and the final burning of the earth at the close of the millennium; and by two new earths and heavens, one in the beginning partial, the other at the end complete and everlasting.
The common belief that at Christ's second coming time, history, the race, the physical earth come to an absolute end is positively unscriptural. His second coming brings the end of "this present world—or Age" and ushers in "the coming age."
There are four "ends" mentioned in the Bible: (1) The Antediluvian end (Gen. 6:11-13; 2 Peter 3:5-6); (2) The Mosaic End (Matt. 24:13,14; Rom. 10:18; Col. 1: 13); (3) The end of the present age (Matt. 24:13, 14; 23:40-43); (4) The end of the Millennial kingdom; then comes an endless age, eternity.
The events which precede the Millennium are therefore the following:
1. The Coming of the Lord for His Saints. This is an altogether New Testament revelation unrevealed in the Old Testament prophetic Word. The Lord will descend into the air. His shout will raise the righteous dead, awaken them out of their bodily sleep, and will change the living Saints in a moment in the twinkling of an eye. The whole company will be caught up together in clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Cor. 15:55,56; 1 Thess. 4:16-18).
2. The Great Apostasy and the Manifestation of the man of sin, the Son of perdition (2 Thess. 1:8 and other passages)
3. The Great Tribulation. This is in store for Israel, still unbelieving, for the world and for professing Christendom (Matt. 24:21)
4. The Glorious Manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Coming of the Lord with His Saints, so wonderfully revealed in Revelation 19:11-15.
5. The restoration and conversion of Israel (Isa. 59:20; Rom. 11:26; Matt. 23:39; Zech. 12:10; Zeph. 3:8; Joel 3:11-21).
6. The Judgment of the Living Nations (Matt, 25:30-46; Zech. 14:2-3; Zeph. 3:8; Joel 3:11-21). The "my brethren" in Matt. 25:30-46, are the "our brethren" in Revelation 12:7-11, the 144,000, the sealed and saved during the great tribulation.
7. The complete destruction of the Antichrist, as well as the little horn of Daniel 7 (2 Thess. 2:8, Rev. 19).
8. The Binding of Satan (Isa. 24:21-22; Rev. 20: 1-3).
This question was answered almost fifty years ago by a speaker at the Niagara Bible Conference, Dr. N. West, whom the writer knew well. We adopt his reasons with our own additions.
1. Because God the Father speaks of it in the revelation of His eternal purposes. His "decree" to the Son in the second Psalm, locates His kingdom on earth after the dashing to pieces of the nations, by the Son, in the judgment of His second coming. "Until" then, the Son sits upon the Father's throne—"waiting" (Psa. 2:8-9; 110:1-3; Heb. 1:13; 1 Cor. 15:25).
2. Because God the Son taught Premillennialism. See the parables of the tares and of the nobleman. The kingdom comes to earth, according to our Lord's teaching, only after the harvest, which takes place at His second, visible coming; only after the return of the nobleman from the far country (Matt. 13:40-43, etc.).
3. Because the Holy Spirit teaches and endorses Premillennialism. The kingdom cannot come until after the second great outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh, that other great Pentecost in Jerusalem (Joel 2). This follows the invasion of the land by the final Assyrian, the last king of the North. Everywhere the Holy Spirit, the author of the Scriptures of truth, bears witness to the fact, "No Millennium till Christ comes again." No glory till His feet touch this earth once more.
4. Because the holy Angels bore a testimony to Premillennialism. Gabriel's message to Daniel was premillennial (Dan. 12:1-13). So was his message to Mary, the Virgin mother of our Lord (Luke 1:32-33).
5. Because all the prophets of God are Premillennialists. Nowhere in prophecy is found any other teaching than the teaching that the glorious kingdom of our Lord comes [after] His visible manifestation. Postmillennialists must either force Scripture, or handle the Word of God deceitfully, or deny its prophetic revelation altogether (as the modernist does) in order to uphold their theory. Not one of the prophets is a postmillennialist.
6. Because Peter, Paul and John are premillennialists. Peter gave one of the most pronounced and glowing premillennial testimonies in Acts 3:19-21. Paul received from the Lord the greatest revelation as to the blessed hope (1 Thess. 4:16-18). He preached and taught prophecy (2 Thess. 2). The summit of Romans 8 is a great declaration as to the golden age. And John also followed the same truth. The entire New Testament bears witness to the fact that the second coming of our Lord is the hope of the Church, the hope of His earthly people Israel and the hope of the nations, the entire world.
7. Because the early Church for three centuries knew nothing but the premillennial coming of the Lord. Any modernistic scholar will not dispute this fact. The premillennial hope was given up when the professing church became corrupted in the days of that chosen instrument of Satan, the Emperor Constantine the Great. Then the church and the world were married, a State, or World Church came into existence. Then they began to dream of a Church-Kingdom, without the King. Then the Old Testament prophecies relating to Israel were applied to the nominally Christianized empire of the fourth century. Then the flood gates of error were opened and one truth after another was given up, culminating in the abomination of the papacy with its anti-christian claims. No more was heard of the primitive hope of the Church. Anybody who disputes this is ignorant of church-history.
8. Because the premillennial coming of the Lord is such a wonderful incentive to holy living, to self-sacrificial service, and because all the great doctrines of Christianity are linked to that blessed hope and the coming kingdom of our Lord.
9. Because the premillennial coming of the Lord gives the only hope of re-union with our loved ones and the assurance of reigning with Christ over the earth. What Paul writes in the fourth chapter of the first Epistle to the Thessalonians is the only promise in the New Testament which assures of being together with those who died in Christ. "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
10. Because the only pre-advent millennialists in the Bible, are (1) Satan, who would have Christ seated in His visible kingdom and glory on the earth, not only before the second advent, but even before His sacrificial death, his most subtle temptation (Matt. 4:8,9). And (2) Antichrist and his associate, the head of the restored Roman empire, the little horn of Daniel 7, will attempt, under Satanic leadership, to bring about a mock-millennium. They will seek universal control and thus oppose the coming King. When He comes He will overthrow both and by His coming end the delusion of a King-less, Christ-less millennium.
11. Because, from whatever angle, or event, the thousand years are dated not before but after the coming of the Lord, let this event, the great mountain peak of all prophecy, be interpreted either literally, spiritually or providentially. If it is a spiritual coming, still a spiritual millennium must follow this spiritual coming and not precede it. If it is a literal coming, as it is, the case is the same.
12. Because postmillennialism is replete with manifest error. Its serious mistake is, that it confounds the accommodation and application of Scripture with the true interpretation, which in Bible study must have always the first place. Delitzsch well said, "Application is not interpretation. Application is manifold; interpretation is the very opposite, it is unitous. By the method of application the promises made to Israel are evaporated; in true interpretation Israel is given its rightful place in the purposes of God.
Postmillennialism mixes the different ages and their ends. It knows nothing of the different dispensations. It substitutes death, the destruction of Jerusalem, revivals, Pentecost, providence, for the second coming of Christ. It does violence to interpretation by dogmatic presuppositions and personal inclinations. Some years ago a theologian of the Presbyterian Church, Professor Snowden, wrote a book in which he attempted to answer Premillennialism. Among the many puerile inventions, he tried to explain the first resurrection, mentioned in the Book of Revelation, by saying that the spirit of Washington, Lincoln, etc., had come to life in our courageous soldiers on the battlefields of Europe. This foolish invention does not deserve the honored name of exegesis, but it is an evidence of the hodge-podge twistings of the plainest Scriptures by postmillennial leaders.
Postmillennialism makes time and history end with the end of this present age. It creates an irreconcilable antagonism between Daniel and John, and between Christ and both, as to the first resurrection. It interprets "the world to come" to mean the disembodied state of the soul, after death, in a super-earthly sphere. It identifies the throne of David with the throne of God the Father in heaven. It obliterates the distinction between Israel and the Church. It is responsible for the most deplorable condition of the professing Church of our times. It is part of the predicted apostasy.
Copied for WholesomeWords.org from Meat in Due Season: Sermons, Discourses and Expositions of the Word of Prophecy by Arno C. Gaebelein. New York: Arno C. Gaebelein, Inc., [19--?].
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