GEAR CHANGE WARNING! From this point forward, and to some extent somewhere in the past few chapters, we begin to leave the essentially ‘Historicist’ interpretation of Revelation and we have begun heading into a wider field. Historicism by definition finds its most firm interpretations in previously FULFILLED prophecy. Any movement into the future – and there is certainly more to come – becomes more speculative. What is the exact timing and nature of Christ’s coming? Does the 1000 years in chapter 20 represent something symbolic or should we see this as now being a literal timeline of what is coming next?
It is my understanding that the majority of historicists from the past saw the millennial period as being literal. A time when Christ would be physically on the earth and reigning over the nations from Jerusalem. However, others, though in general agreement about the central themes of Revelation, concerning the identity of the beast, the harlot, etc. may have espoused one of two other views concerning this period. As this topic is not the central focus of the school of historicism, and is extremely wide-ranging, I will not make any attempt to go further here but I have added a simple summary of the three millennial views below.
The following provides a very simple summary of the three millennial views…
The belief that The Kingdom of God is growing and will continue to grow ‘successfully’ and eventually everyone in the world will become a Christian – or at least live quietly and acceptingly under Christian ‘rule’ and dominance. There will be a 1000 years – either literally or this is figurative of an undefined period of time – where ‘world peace’ and respect for The Lord and His Christ will prevail, after which time Jesus will return – hence ‘POST’-Millennial – He comes AFTER The Millennium.
The ‘A’ in A-Millennial means ‘without’ – like ‘Atheist’ means literally ‘without God’. The A-Millennial view is very similar in many ways to the above Post-Millennial view except it does not necessarily anticipate such a ‘glorious’ period of Christian growth and dominance in the world prior to Christ’s return. The ‘Kingdom’ is still seen as being a ‘spiritual’ kingdom – that began to be established at Christ’s first coming and as with the Post-Millennial view it does not expect there to be a literal, ‘physical kingdom’ at any time. The ‘Millennium’ in Revelation chapter 20 is simply figurative of ‘The Church age’.
PreMillennialism is, in simple summary, a more literal, physical understanding of The Kingdom of God. Whilst there is acknowledgement of The Kingdom being here presently and growing spiritually it views the fullness of the Kingdom as only beginning after Christ’s second coming – when He physically returns to earth – literally stands on the mount of Olives, enters Jerusalem and begins direct rulership and governance of the entire earth from this location. He therefore comes and establishes His Kingdom rule for literally 1000 years – at the end of which there are a few final events that culminate in the new earth being established (for ever thereafter).
To my mind, all three above proposals are entirely rational positions to hold. There are strengths and weaknesses in all these views. There is both reasonable logic and persuasive Scriptural grounds for each. There are good and Godly men, both past and present, who take these differing positions. My above summaries are not designed to provide enough detail for anyone to come to any kind of conclusion about these matters. You have a lot of serious research to do if you want to arrive honourably at a firm conclusion on this. I do of course have my own view about this, which is in favour of premillennialism but for now I do want to distract from all that has gone before or from the glorious path immediately ahead of us.
In Revelation 20 we read of two resurrections. A premillennial viewpoint would see these as both being physical resurrections. The first of the righteous, the second, one thousand years later, of the rest of mankind. That’s a simple summary but there are many other more detailed questions and complexities in all of that. Those who hold to a postmillennial or amillennial view would see the first resurrection as being spiritual, i.e. the believers salvation. Don’t leap to any conclusions until you have heard all of the arguments put forth for all of these difficult and complex matters. In either case, all agree that physical resurrection is in view here on at least one occasion. This aspect of the Gospel, the redemption of our bodies, goes hand in hand with the restoration of God’s wider creation. In fact, to use a more modern term, it looks like the earth (I mean entire world here) is about to get an upgrade and this is the focus of the final two chapters ahead of us. To wholly enjoy all of the beauty and glory of the new world to come we will of course require bodies that do not get sick and die. Lessons on the condition of our resurrected bodies are plentiful throughout Scripture, especially in the New Testament. The day of resurrection is also the moment when believing loved ones will be reunited. Brothers and sisters, from here on, for those that believe, there is such an abundance of love, joy and peace to come.