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13 December 2018

Millennium: When Jesus rules the world.

And those who think it’s coming… and those who don’t.

Literally, a millennium is one thousand years. There’ve been two of them since Jesus’s time.

In Revelation we read about a thousand-year period which takes place after Jesus returns. Since the passage is part of an apocalyptic vision, it’s not a literal thousand years… although certain literalists insist it totally is. I can’t help what they believe. I’ll just point out it’s meant to represent a mighty significant stretch of time. The period of time between King David and Christ Jesus was about a thousand years, so figure it’s as long as a successful royal dynasty, or kingdom, might last; that’s the general idea. Although instead of 300 generations of kings/messiahs, we’ll just have the one king, Jesus.

The millennium gets described thisaway.

Revelation 20.1-10 KWL
1 I saw an angel coming down from heaven,
which had the Abyss’s key and a great chain in its hand.
2 The angel grabbed the dragon and bound it a millennium—
the old serpent, which is the devil, Satan.
3 The angel threw the dragon into the Abyss, and shut and sealed the Abyss over:
The dragon may no longer deceive the nations till the millennium is complete.
After that, it has to be released a short time.
4 I saw thrones. People sat on them. Judgment was given them.
They’re the souls of those beheaded for testifying of Jesus, for God’s word.
Whoever hadn’t worshiped the Beast nor its ikon, nor took its forehead- nor hand-stamp:
They live! They reign with Christ a millennium.
5 The rest of the dead won’t live till the millennium is complete.
This is the first Resurrection.
6 Those who take part of the first Resurrection are awesome and holy.
The second death has no power over them.
Instead they’ll be God’s and Christ’s priests, and reign with him a millennium.
7 Once the millennium is complete, Satan will be released from its prison.
8 Satan will come out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth,
to gather Gog and Magóg into a war. Their number is like the sand of the sea.
9 The nations rose up over the edge of the earth. They surrounded the saints’ encampment, the beloved city.
Fire from heaven came down and ate them up.
10 The devil, their deceiver, was thrown into the pool of fire and sulfur, where the Beast and fake prophet are.
They’ll be tortured there, day and night, age to ages.

So. According to the vision, this takes place after the second coming, Rv 19.11-16 after the Beast and false prophet are thrown into the fire, and their allies are killed and eaten by birds. Rv 19.17-21 Yuck. Next Satan itself gets locked in the Abyss (KJV “bottomless pit”), a sort of prison for devils. And this leaves a clear path for Messiah to rule the world unhindered.

All those people who aren’t Christian, don’t know Jesus, don’t even think they wanna know Jesus? They’ll finally get to meet him. The imaginary versions of Jesus in their heads will be irrelevant: Actual living, breathing Jesus will be walking around on Earth again, interacting with people. Christians do a poor job of demonstrating what he’s like, but now Jesus will do that himself. Pagans get to see him as he really is. Skeptics have to deal with reality.

Put into special positions of responsibility and authority are the martyrs, those who died for Jesus and resisted tribulation. Rv 20.4 Some preachers claim this includes every Christian who was resurrected at Jesus’s second coming. 1Th 4.15-17 Including them, they suppose. (They hope.) But it all depends on what they did for Jesus. If you call the average Christian’s life in the United States “suffering for Christ,” I think you’re seriously delusional. Jesus has in mind people who really did give up everything for him, Mk 10.29-31 not wannabes who assume pushback is persecution.

These resurrected Christians will rule the world under Jesus. And finally the world will be led right. With justice and fairness. With grace, forgiveness, and mercy. By judges who share Jesus’s character, and rule like he does. No more do we have to worry about hypocrites and frauds in positions of power; Jesus’s officers won’t be anything like the politicians or pastors we’re used to. They’ll be good rulers. They’ll fix the world.

Oh, it won’t be heaven. Not for another 10 centuries. But heaven’s kingdom will rule the world, and rule it properly. It’s something wonderful to look forward to.

Wait, what about judgment and wrath and all that?

Sad to say, many Christians don’t believe in the millennium.

In their End Times timelines, Jesus doesn’t return to save the world; he comes to destroy it. The second coming isn’t about a thousand-year last chance for humanity. It’s about fire and bloodshed and vengeance and mayhem. It’s all their dark Christian fantasies come to life, as everything and everyone they don’t like gets torched.

All that fruit of the Spirit which Jesus demonstrates, which the Spirit’s trying to grow in us? Irrelevant. God’s gonna smite the wicked and we get to watch with evil glee.

If you’re getting the idea I think this view of the End is twisted and sick, good. But it’s fairly common among twisted and sick Christians. They want evil people to suffer, not repent. They want sinners to die, not come to Jesus. They figure the second coming means time’s up; there is no last chance, least of all a thousand-year last chance.

The idea’s called amillennialism. It takes various forms. The most common one is the idea Revelation’s millennium represents the Christian Era, and Jesus sorta rules the world because of all the Christians in the world, running things. Running them badly, which is why it hardly looks like God’s kingdom has arrived yet… but these folks are pretty sure it has; that we’re in it. And the era ends when Jesus returns to put a stop to the age, judge the world, then destroy it.

To them, Jesus doesn’t return to give us one last chance. This is our last chance. That’s why Jesus is delaying his return. Once he returns it’s Judgment Day. Not a thousand-year reign.

How do they defend this view? Simple: The prophets regularly talk about God showing up as if it’s Judgment Day. It seems to be their expectation. It kinda looks like it was the apostles’ expectation for Jesus’s return too: When the Son of Man comes, and all the holy angels with him, he separates humanity like sheep and goats, and the sheep inherit the kingdom, and the goats don’t. Mt 25.31-46

Whereas the bit about a millennium is only found in Revelation, is part of an apocalypse, and isn’t meant to be taken literally. We can’t claim with any certainty there definitely will be a thousand-year reign of Christ Jesus. It’s just as likely Jesus is returning to smite the world, not save it. He did the saving part in his first coming, didn’t he?

I gotta agree with the amillennials: The weight of the bible passages is in favor of no millennium at all. That’s why I never suggest anyone take a “wait and see” approach when it comes to Jesus’s second coming. Pick your side now! After all, we never know when we’re gonna die—and when it comes to death, I don’t see any second chances in the scriptures. Better be safe than infinitely sorry.

But the reason I’m not in the amillennial camp: I can’t bring myself to totally dismiss Revelation 20.

The hints elsewhere in the scriptures.

You know those passages in the prophets when God intervenes on “the day of the LORD”? When the prophets make all sorts of warnings to their sinful fellow citizens about God’s coming judgment? Yeah, they make it sound dire. Like God’s totally gonna stomp on the wicked.

And yet even in these passages, it sounds like… God’s coming to save the world. Save the oppressed from their oppressors. Save the needy from the wicked. Save Israel from its enemies.

Now, God’s prophets never state the oppressed, the needy, the Israelis, are believers. Instead they point out God’s in favor of any needy people, Hebrew or not. God objects to other nations oppressing their needy. Any needy. He plays no favorites.

When you really read these “day of the LORD” passages, you start to notice they generally sound like the Exodus—when God saved the Hebrews, then made them his people. Or like the Christians, when Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. Ro 5.8 The “day of the LORD” appears to be a day that’s awful for wicked oppressors… but a day when God gives grace to the humble, and is the savior for people who don’t even realize they have a savior yet. (After all, we Christians have done a really lousy job of showing them so.)

If God stays true to his character, even on Judgment Day, I can’t expect wrath and anger and destruction right away. Oh, those things’ll come eventually; they always do. But I’ve always recognized the millennium as a repeat of what God did in the Exodus—this time on a global scale. And better: This time with the king living among his people in person. This time with the priests not just limited to the Levites, and the prophets not just limited to the Seventy. God’s gonna show people what his kingdom was always meant to look like—then present them the choice to accept or reject it.

I expect for many, it’ll be just what they’ve always dreamt of. And for others, for the people who want nothing to do with Jesus, it’ll be horrifying; exactly what they always feared. But there’ll be no more nebulous speculation—just as there is these days about what the millennium might look like.