End Things

Over the summer my blog posts will consist of spin offs from our summer sermon series—People’s Choice—where folks have contributed questions and passages to form the basis of my sermons. Sadly, not all submissions could be worked into the preaching schedule so I am addressing those here.

Today we want to examine the Bible’s teaching (doctrine) on the end things (known as eschatology), as a number of our questions focused in this direction. Specifically this post will focus on the millennium.

Central to Christianity is the Biblical teaching that Jesus Christ will return. Eschatology largely centres around this. But before we get to that let’s affirm that indeed, as the Apostle’s Creed puts it, Jesus Christ “will come again to judge the living and the dead.” Jesus second coming is in fact the second central hope of the New Testament aside from salvation in Jesus. Scripture teaches that history is moving toward a climax where Jesus will return, judge the living and the dead, the righteous to their eternal reward and the guilty to their eternal punishment, and inaugurate the New Heavens and New Earth (NHNE- 2 Pet 3:13, Rev 21:1) in which all with be complete, perfect, and free from sin and where believers will live with our God as we were intended to before sin entered the world.

Those are the basics on which all Christians must agree. Then there is the question of what the millennial age is and how this fits into things (millennium-meaning one thousand years). In Revelation 20:1-10 (ESV) we read:

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.

The challenge with the book of Revelation is that it is a blend of numerous Biblical genres and some sections are allegorical while others are literal; some are present to the 1st century while others are in the future, etc. So what is intended by these “1000 years?” Again, let’s begin with the basics where all Christians might agree and must agree (these are the primary issues, whereas the conversation, though important, would represent secondary issues). Let’s look at Jesus’ words from the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. Here, at a very basic level, we might draw 3 basic conclusion of what we might term pan-millennialism (we trust it will all pan out in the end):

  1. Jesus will come again (v. 6)
  2. We do not know when that will be (v. 13)
  3. We ought to live our lives as if His return is imminent (v. 10)

These are the types of things that are non-negotiables and if you hold to these (at least) you will do no wrong. Building upon these basics throughout the history of the Church there have been 3 main views. I include a brief overview along with a chart to help better comprehend them:

  1. Amillenialism. This is the simplest view. Accordingly there is no future millennium (hence “a” which is Greek for no) for the millenium describes the Church age where Satan’s influence over the world has been reduced so the gospel may be preached. Christ’s reign is not bodily but heavenly (He ascended to heaven and is seat at the right hand of the Father and He will come again…, cf. Matt 28:18). The thousand years is taken figuratively (Ps 90:4; 2 Pet 3:8), which can also be the case with the other views. The Church or millennial age will continue until Jesus returns. When this happens the Resurrection will take place followed by the judgement and the inauguration of the NHNE.amillenialism
  2. Postmillenialism. “Post” means after. With this view Jesus will return after the millennium. Essentially the Gospel will progress and the Church will grow until it has such influence in the world that righteousness largely reigns. The growth of the Church will usher in the return of Christ, afterwhich there will be the Resurrection, judgement, and the NHNE. This view is very optimistic and has often been held in Church history when the Church is on top and things appear to be going well. Many Christians held this view prior to WWI, when the horrors of war largely dashed their triumphant hopes. postmillennialism
  3. Classic Premillenialism (also another form known as Dispensational Premillenialism). “Pre” means before. In this view Jesus returns before the millennial age. Before Jesus comes there will be a time of tribulation. When Jesus returns believers will be raised from the dead and given their glorified bodies and will reign with Christ for a 1000 years. Satan will be bound for a time and Jesus will physically reign on earth and peace and righteousness will prevail (many unbelievers will turn to Christ but those that do not will pretend as if they are believers). At the end of the 1000 years Satan will be loosed and will be joined by those unbelievers who pretended to be Christian. There will be a decisive battle. Jesus will then raise the unbelieving dead from history, judgement will ensure and then the NHNE. This viewed has prevailed in history when Christians have been persecuted. It is a rather intricate view. Within it is another view known as Dispensationalism (that God works in dispensations, or eras of history).classicpremil
    1. Dispensationalism. This view largely follows its parent above but has a number of distinguishing features.
      1. Found especially in the United States
      2. Christ’s return will be pre-trib, mid-trib or post-trib (that is Jesus will secretly come and catch up believers either before or during the great tribulation which will last 7 years).
      3. Many Jews will turn to Jesus as their Messiah and then Christ will return with the Church and reign for a 1000 years until a great rebellion is defeated. Dispensationalists tend to favour the State of Israel and Jews and believe that the Church has not replaced Israel and that the promises to the Jews will be fulfilled in a special dispensation after the Church is taken away.
      4. This view tends to interpret Biblical prophecies literally where possible.
      5. *This view is very complex and I have only touched upon the surface of it!


Have a ponder! See which position you feel best fits into the Biblical account? (If you are interested in reading more I can recommend some helpful resources).

If this is all too much to take in, focus on the mere basics and you will not go wrong. Also remember that God has been faithful in the past and present, and has given us enough knowledge of the future to trust Him in it. Rest in this truth.