Previous article in this series: March 15, 2015, p. 276.
The preceding article in this series began setting forth the premillennial explanation of the passage of Scripture that is fundamental to all millennial doctrine, that is, all doctrine that predicts a “golden age” in future, earthly history, namely,.
In the preceding article was laid out all that must immediately precede the events of Revelation 20 on the premillennial understanding of the passage. These preliminary events include the rapture out of the world of the believing church, including those who have already died—a first resurrection of the dead; the appearance of the Antichrist; Antichrist’s persecution of the Jews; the visible return of Jesus to destroy Antichrist and his hordes, in order to save Israel; and Jesus’ establishment of the now converted nation of Israel as the glorious, earthly kingdom of God on earth in the sliver of land along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.
These events, proposed by premillennialism, pave the way for the premillennial explanation of Revelation 20.
The Glories of the Millennium
On the occasion of the realization of these preliminary events, the events prophesied in Revelation 20 are to take place, especially the millennium.
Satan will be bound for a literal period of one thousand years of human and earthly history, confined to some remote place away from the earth. As a result of this binding of Satan, sin will be severely curtailed throughout all the world. Peoples and nations will become susceptible to the gospel that the Jews will preach everywhere.
The millennium begins—a thousand years of earthly peace and prosperity for all mankind. And now begins a thousand years of the rule of the world by the converted nation of Israel—the all-glorious, all-powerful earthly kingdom of God, similar, but superior, to the Old Testament nation of Israel during the reigns of David and Solomon. Alva J. McClain speaks of the “restoration and world supremacy of the nation of Israel.”1 Jesus Himself, in His resurrection body, will be enthroned in Jerusalem, ruling the world as the king of Israel.
Premillennialists exhaust the superlatives of language in extolling the glories of this earthly, millennial kingdom. “Golden age” is the common premillennial description of the millennial kingdom. Why anyone living in this kingdom and enjoying its splendors and comforts would desire the eternal kingdom, which is to follow the millennium, much less desire it ardently, as the Bible calls believers to do, is a mystery. Alva J. McClain’s glowing description of the millennial kingdom is subdued among premillennialists. “All wars will be stopped, all diseases cured, all the injustices of government rooted out, and a full measure of years added to human life…all such unrealized and worth-while dreams of humanity will at last come true on earth.” The millennial kingdom will be a “‘Golden Age’ upon earth in history.” McClain calls his theology of the future millennial kingdom “a truly optimistic view of human history.”2
The reign of Christ during the millennium, in fact, will be the glorious kingdom of earthly Israel, the Jewish nation. Israel will dominate all the nations of the world. All the nations will subject themselves to Israel. Israel will prosper materially. The nations will share in Israel’s bounties. Israel will bring peace to the world.
Reformed, covenant theology criticizes dispensationalisms exaltation of Jewish Israel, which renders the beloved church of Jesus Christ a mere cipher in the millennium. Of late, the “moderate” premillennialists have responded to this criticism by affirming that the church will somehow share in the millennial glory of Israel. Nevertheless, the millennial kingdom will be national Israel. The millennium will be the “golden age” for the Jews.
The attempt by premillennial theologians to counter the charge that premillennialism makes the church a nonentity during the millennium is a complete failure. Especially the contemporary, “moderate” premillennialists emphasize that the souls of those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and who reign with Christ during the millennium are the members of the church. The church, therefore, will reign with Christ over the millennial kingdom.
Does not this tribute to the church disarm the criticism that the millennial kingdom is a Jewish matter?
Not at all, and this, for several reasons.
First, the lip-service to the reigning of the church is drowned out in premillennial treatments of the millennial kingdom by the overwhelming testimony to the peace, power, and prosperity of Israel.
Second, according to premillennialism’s own fundamental doctrine of the separation of Israel and the church, the church has no place, certainly no ruling place in the millennial kingdom. Israel is the kingdom; the church is not the kingdom. Premillennialism, therefore, is merely tossing a sop—an illegitimate sop—to covenant theology when it acknowledges that the church will reign with Christ during the millennium.
Third,rules out this sop. Those who will reign with Christ for a thousand years are those who were martyred by the beast, that is, the Antichrist. But, according to premillennial doctrine, the church was raptured before the persecution of Antichrist. Besides, according to premillennialism the object of Antichrist’s persecution will be the Jews of national Israel.
Those who reign with Christ in the millennial kingdom must be the Jews, some of whom have been raised from the dead in their immortal bodies.
The reign of the glorified Jesus Christ and of risen, immortal saints, whether Jews or Gentile believers, is another impossible absurdity of premillennial theology. The risen, glorious, majestic, awesome Jesus Christ lives and reigns, in His body, on earth among sinful humanity, in the stream of the continuation of earthly history. The risen Jesus tolerates and cooperates with sinful humans, part of the flow of sin-tainted history, rubbing shoulders daily, not only with sinful saints, but also with reprobate, ungodly unbelievers. As ruler of the nations of the world, the populations of which are all still earthy, sinful descendants of Adam, the risen Jesus concerns Himself daily with such matters as police, medical treatments, business, agriculture, transportation, sewage, domestic tranquility, crime, entertainments, finance, and more—everything that is part and parcel of the natural life of earthy, sinful humans on the present earth.
During the millennium, glorified, heavenly, sinless saints rub elbows with sinners and participate somehow in the goings-on of earthly, sinful life in this fallen and sin-cursed world.
During the millennium, the normal course of human life goes on: births, sicknesses, griefs, deaths, and sins.
Literal Interpretation of Prophecy
But there will also be vast improvements of history and human life. This rosy aspect of the millennium is due, in part, to the premillennial insistence on explaining Old Testament prophecy in a strictly literal way. A literal understanding of Old Testament prophecy is one of the fundamentals of premillennialism. “Consistent literalism is at the heart of dispensational eschatology,” especially “the literal fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.”3 And this literal interpretation of Old Testament prophecy is “the basic tenet of premillennial eschatology.”4 How the premillennial theologians insist on the literal interpretation of Old Testament prophecy! How they rail against the amillennial interpretation of Old Testament prophecy as typical of the spiritual salvation and blessing of the church! How they boast of their literal interpretation as setting them apart as alone faithful to the Word of God! And how they squirm, deservedly uncomfortably, when this insistence on a literal interpretation of prophecy not only leads to absurdity but also drives them into egregious heresy!
Ifprophesies that the “mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains” in the last days and that “all nations shall flow unto it,” we must expect a literal, rebuilt, material temple in the top of the mountains in Palestine and the traveling to this temple for right worship of all the nations on earth, during the millennium. Never mind that Jesus said that time was coming when the godly would not worship the Father at Jerusalem ( ).
If this same Old Testament passage foretells that the nations will destroy their weapons of war and renounce war, we must expect earthly peace in the future, during the millennium. Never mind thatforewarns that the beginning of sorrows related to the bringing forth of the new world will be “wars and rumors of wars,” with nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom.
If Amos 9 prophesies miraculous fertility of the fields in Israel, so that food and drink abound in the land, we must expect huge crops and large quantities of wine in Israel during the millennium, although most premillennialists, being tee-totalers, must have a problem with the literal explanation of the prophecy of vineyards and wine.
If Zechariah 8 prophesies that all the inhabitants of Jerusalem will live to an old age and that the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing their games, we must expect that all the Jews will become very old before they die and that all families will be large and happy.
... to be continued.
1 Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom (Winona Lake, Indiana: BMH Books, 1959), 211.
2 Ibid., 530, 531. The emphasis is McClain’s.
3 Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), 158. Ryrie, of course, is a prominent premillennial theologian.