January 9, 2012

4 Honest Questions About the Millennial Kingdom

by Clint Archer

"What?"

The Millennial Kingdom (MK), if it’s depiction in Scripture is to be taken literally, is a strange place indeed. More accurately, it’s what God has always intended to be the standard of “normal” (Gen 1-2; Rev 19-21), while the way we now exist is abnormal, unnatural, and twisted by the fall and resultant curse (Gen 3 ff).

Just as a thornless thorn tree is an oxymoron for us, a world without Satan on the loose seems like sic-fi Utopia.

Every one of the various camps approaches the debate presuppositions in tow,  which can tempt even a pious seminoid to allow his eschatology to degenerate into scatology. Each camp possesses its air-tight arguments, as well as its hidden leaky cracks. When debate falls into each side battering at the other side’s weak points, and no one is probing to understand, the verdict is an inevitable stalemate.

I have many Amill friends (yes Facebook lets you ‘friend’ them, and so does God). When we take a break from tongue-in-cheek amiable jousting, to really try understand each other, these are the four honest questions they have for me…

 

1. How can it be that glorified and mortal people live together in the Kingdom?

This is a genuine concern and a reasonable question. It stems from the Premillennial notion that resurrected believers will rule in the MK with Jesus (Rev 20:6), while simultaneously mortal people are still living in the land, having babies (Is 65:20), growing vineyards (Is 65:21), and disarming their weaponry (Micah 4:3).

So you have mortal humans and immortal, glorified saints, coexisting on planet earth. [Insert an honest ‘Huh?’ here]. It does seem alien to us at first. One uncharitable Amill commentator calls it a “mongrel state of affairs.” But with a little thought, is it really so far fetched?

 

-The world didn’t unravel when the glorified Elijah and glorified Moses, joined the Transfigured Jesus in Mt 17. Peter wasn’t appalled by the mongrel state of affairs; he wanted to set up camp.

-Gen 6 talks about fallen angles integrating into human society. Though the travesty of copulation was dealt with severely by God, the possibility of a world where mortals and immortals coexist certainly has a precedent in Scripture.

-And let us not forget that in a sense we already live this way, though our experience of it is different. Angles are glorified immortal beings who can live in our world invisibly (as Elisha knew when he took confidence in the army of angels protecting him in 2 Kings 6). And angels are even able to have meal with mortals on earth right now (As Abraham found out in Gen 18, and we are explicitly informed of in Heb 13:2).

 

2. How do people get saved in the Tribulation since all the believers are removed at Rapture?

This is an apparent inconstancy in the pre-tribulational rapture view. You see, since the prophecies predict widespread conversion during the seven years of tribulation there must be some sort of witness. But since believers are removed at the beginning of the tribulation, how is the lost world evangelized?

But again, some careful consideration melts this apparent inconsistency.

Even now, not every conversion happens in the physical presence of a believer. Initially Bibles, tracts, blog posts on the internet, and churched unbelievers are just a few of the many sources of the gospel available to the unbelieving population of earth. And due to these sources, there will be a growing armada of new believers to become witnesses and even an angel commissioned to preach the gospel (Rev 14:6).

 

3. How can there be rebels in the Kingdom if only believers enter?

Sam Storms (Amill) picked on this point in the “Evening of Eschatology” debate moderated by John Piper.

Piper chimed in on the debate he had been objectively moderating, by suggesting one possible solution: babies. The children born to those mortal believers who survive the tribulation and who enter the kingdom, will be born with Adam’s sin nature. Those born in the MK will still need to repent of sin and accept Christ to be saved. And some will not do so. Remember this is not heaven, it is still earth. There are changes, but there is still sin and death (Is 65:20).

 

4. How can there be rebelling unbelievers in the Kingdom if Jesus is physically present?

I’ve been asked this a number of times by friends who can’t fathom how, with Jesus on the throne in Jerusalem, there could ever be a rebellion as per the prediction in Rev 20:7-8. How can there be unbelievers, after Jesus has returned to earth? Surely the return convinces everyone?

Again, a good question.

As remarkable as it is, this phenomenon is not unprecedented. Did Satan and the angels not rebel in heaven, while in the very presence of Jesus? Did Adam and Even not choose rebellion over the fellowship of their Maker who walked in the cool of the garden with them? Did not Judas rebel against his Lord after three years of first-hand witnessing of his deity in his very presence? Is it really that far fetched to think there will be people on earth who refuse to bow the knee to Jesus, though they can see evidence of his existence?  

 

Does this make sense to you, or is does it sound a bit far fetched? Leave a comment to join the discussion.

And if you have any honest (not facetious) questions, please also post them in the comment section, and I’ll consider a follow-up post to tackle them.

 

Clint Archer

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Clint is the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church. He and his expanding troop of Archers live near Durban, South Africa (and pity anyone who doesn't). When he is off duty from CGate, his alter ego blogs at Café Seminoid, clintarcher.com
  • Christo

    Thank you for these clear and helpful answers.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      My pleasure. Thanks for your interest.

  • Jason Marianna

    Makes sense to me, but then again I’m pre-mil, pre-trib.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Yup, it’s easier when you start with our presuppositions. Both camps have their starting point.

  • Tina

    I am a Historical Premillennialist; therefore, I am in agreement with all that you stated other than the timing of the rapture. My question, which has always concerned/puzzled me is: if there can be rebellion in the MK, what will prevent us from rebelling in Heaven?

    • Anonymous

      the answer is in this question Tina: who is going to rebel in the MK, glorified or unglorified people?

      • MarkO

        sadly, your question is preceded by another more serious question for Premils: “Why will there be a second Fall after Christ’s Glorious Appearing, His 2nd Advent?” In reality the doctrine of the Second Coming disallows any possibility of sin continuing thereafter (except in Hell).

        • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

          Why will there be a second Fall after Christ’s Glorious Appearing, His 2nd Advent?

          “Second Fall” isn’t exactly starting from a level playing field. But if we start with an unpoisoned well and ask, “Why will there be a great rebellion against Christ after His second coming?” the answer is twofold:
          (1) Non-elect children of believers will be born dead in trespasses and sins, just like every other son of Adam.
          (2) Satan will be bound at the beginning of the millennium, but released from his prison at the end, and will come out to deceive the nations (cf. Rev 20:7-8).

          In reality the doctrine of the Second Coming disallows any possibility of sin continuing thereafter (except in Hell).

          How so?

          • MarkO

            Hi Mike,
            The point is that there is no explicit statement in Scripture which will allow for sinning to continue after the Parousia. No one can make it through the Parousia without either being glorified or being vanquished forever in judgment.
            thanks

          • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

            Well, I suppose Clint’s right and this is just going to come down to a matter of presuppositions, because Revelation 20:7-8 is pretty explicit. Jesus returns in Revelation 19:11-16. Revelation 20 begins with the word, “Then,” signifying a chronological, sequential connection, and then describes the millennial kingdom (“a thousand years” mentioned 6 times in 7 verses), after which (“When the thousand years are copmleted”), Satan is released to deceive the nations.

            The only way around that is to claim that 20 doesn’t come after 19, to make a thousand years not mean a thousand years, and to apply that period to the present age, for which there is no exegetical justification. The idea that “No sin will occur after the Parousia because Christ’s appearing will be soooo glorious,” sounds very attractive and very neat, but it is simply not supported by Scripture.

          • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

            Mark, this depends on one’s presuppositions. There is no statement in Scripture saying that the Parousia leaves all believer’s glorified. Remember that Premils hold the verses in 1 Thess 5 to refer to the Rpture which they take as occurring before the Second Coming. Those verses say “we will all be changed” but then those unbelievers who live through the Tribulation, and get converted during the Tribulation, are not glorified when they enter the MK, and they are still able to have children, who will be born in sin as per Isaiah 65. Also Rev 20 refers directly to rebels after the millennium. So they must come from somewhere!

        • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

          Hi again Mark. I’m afraid the Scriptures don’t back up your statement “doctrine of the Second Coming disallows any possibility of sin continuing.” As Mike points out there are explicit mentions of sin during the MK. Remember that Premills hold that the New Heavens and New Earth occur after the MK. Premills hold that at that point there will only be glorified people in the Eternal State, and therefor no sin. Hope that clears things up. I’m grateful for your desire to understand more.

          • MarkO

            Yes, Clint, I do agree with your above point – there is sin and death during “the millennium” – since that period occurs before Christ’s Second Coming. Of course, when Christ comes the Second time His coming will be soooo glorious, soooo perfect, soooo divine that He will fully (not partially) conquer sin, death and disease.

            His Second Coming is not truly a”blessed hope” if it is an interruption of Fallen Human History (as in a Premil schedule). It is in fact the end of Fallen Human History. Christ’s Second Coming it that glorious. I am looking forward to it as I am sure you are too.

          • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

            Amen, MarkO, I’d just encourage you to make sure you are formulating all your ideas of the “Second Coming” from Scripture directly. The event is Scripture is never called the 2nd coming, it is referred to in different ways, which may leave room for various stages of consumation. For example, a study of “the Day of the Lord” yields a fascinating and rich concept. Thanks again for your willingness to interact on these topics.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Tina, thanks for your question, it’s a good one. Elainebitt is right, the answer lies in the understanding that there are mortal humans who are born with a sin nature in the MK. Yes, there will be glorified saints ruling with Christ, but the population includes sinners. Of course, this does depend on when the Rapture occurs. A post-trib would remove/glorify all believers and leave no mortals to populate the MK. Another argument for pretrib (or, I guess mid trib).

  • Jerry Wragg

    Clint –
    On the issue of “glorified and non-glorified saints together,” I thought for sure you’d mention Jesus’ post-resurrection days with His yet-to-be-immortal disciples. Some “mongrel state of affairs,” eh?
    Also, under question #3 you state: “Remember, this is not heaven, it is still earth. There are changes, but there is still sin and death.” Just so we’re clear, the reason for the final rebellion is because God the MK is not the “new heaven & earth” yet. There will be a new earth for God’s people, populated with utterly holy and perfected saints from every tribe and tongue and nation. While the MK may seem a bit like an incomplete “stage one” to our Amil friends, apparently God is glorified with every step of His plan, including the rule of Christ for 1000 years over both true and feigning worshippers.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Very well said, Jerry. Thanks for that clarification. And I see the “stage one” rather as the complete “Plan A”. If Adam and Eve had not fallen, life on earth would have resembled what it will be like in the MK. Right? That’s why we pray “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Thank you for your helpful input.

  • Dick Ikenberry

    You mention “…a growing armada of new believers to become witnesses” (Question #2). It does seem to be a remarkable phenomenon that this results in the 144,000 – besides the two witnesses – in the few years of the tribulation, and evidently not too far into the period to then have time to effectively serve as evangelists to the rest of the world. This will thus be probably the most dramatic work of the Holy Spirit drawing people to Christ that the world has ever seen. I’m a firm believer in the Millennial Kingdom, and this kind of scenario, I must admit, is mind-boggling indeed! Perhaps it serves to illustrate just how unbelievably severe the tribulation events will be and how powerfully they will bring a repentent impact to the world with droves of people turning to Jesus Christ as their Savior.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      You are exactly right; the OT is evidence that people under sever judgment are prone to repent more easily than when they are living comfortably in their sin. Also, the daily news at that point will be constant apologetic for the veracity of the prophecy in the book of Revelation.

  • Jerry Wragg

    And while we’re pondering the issues, I couldn’t help but chuckle at question #2. Amil friends of mine have mentioned this to which I always reply, “You’re kidding, right? You mean that the spilling of the blood of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of martyrs by the Anti-Christ will not result in a single bold testimony for Christ nor yield a single convert?!” How can solid reformed guys rejoice over the sweeping advances of Christianity made in history on the heels of a martyr’s courageous confession at the stake, and then imagine no such glorious grace could possibly be in the plan of God for the MK?

    Baffled…

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      It seems the issue they have is how did the first believers in the Tribulation get saved? If the next event on the eschatalogical calendar is Rapture, then there will be a point in time when there are no believers on earth.

      • Anonymous

        Is it necessary for believers to be on earth for people to get saved?

        • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

          Exactly. A stack of pew Bibles will do the trick. Or hopefully a post or two on this blog!

  • Jerry Wragg

    Correction: Last sentence – “MK” should’ve read “Tribulation”

  • http://twitter.com/navychristian Dan Smith

    I agree with you, but of course I’m of the pre-mill/pre-trib variety. As to #2, it would seem that a radical disappearance of millions of people might spur several thousands (?) to come to terms with correct faith alone, even though they probably won’t all make it through the tribulation. I’m sure there will be a mad dash to understand what we all believed once we’re gone.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Right, and don’t forget that there will be people who sat in Premill evangelical churches, but who never repented. These unbelievers will have understanding without belief, which will no doubt be infused with faith, when it happens.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Toole/1635243850 Daniel Toole

    I am really torn between amil and historic premil positions..one thing thats always tripped me up is this..shouldnt all these things talked about in Revelation had some sort of meaning to the churches he was writing them to? b/c it seems theres only a small portion of the book that applies to them (chs 1-3)

    • MarkO

      Actually from an Amil perspective it is easy to see how the whole book was meant to be encouraging to those early Church believers. They would endure great persecution, but could willingly lay their lives on the line if need be because “those who were beheaded” would – in this age – be ushered into the Presence of Christ to serve before His throne (Rev 20.4).

      • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

        Thanks Mark. It certainly makes sense. I appreciate all the positions who make an honest, thoughtful attempt at dealing with all the Scriptures. In my experience many Amills, Postmills, and Premills alike have a real heart for making all the passages make sense. Each camp has its problem passages and it’s strengths. The important thing is to not ignore verses that don’t fit. They must all fit, no matter how ‘far-fetched’ the scenario may seem to us. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Great question Daniel. The way I see it is that many of the future prophecies made in Scripture were still a comfort to those who were receiving them at the time, though the fulfillment wouldn’t come for centuries. Think of Isaiah 53’s prediction of the suffering Servant or Micah 5:2’s prediction to Bethlehem that the Messiah would be born there. Malachi predicted the coming of John the Baptist, but it wouldn’t “apply” to those receiving it for another 400 years. In the same way all churches benefit from the prophecies in Revelation, though the events predicted will apply more directly to those who are alive during the time of the fulfillment.

      • Scott C

        Also we should note that Revelation in the context of the broader canon of Scripture gives us details into the completion of God’s plan for history. Had we not had Revelation as part of the cannon much would be left open ended with regard to the end of the story. God did not finish the book without resolving all the loose ends. That should be encouraging to all believers.

        • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

          Good point Scott. Thanks for your insights.

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  • Paul

    I agree with the premill position. Just a couple things in Question 1 I take issue with:

    – “The world didn’t unravel when the glorified Elijah and glorified Moses, joined the Transfigured Jesus in Mt 17.”

    Neither Elijah or Moses are glorified as yet. The transfiguration is a sneak peek into the future (as the last few verses in Matt 16 tell us). Remember, Christ was the “firstfruit”, the firstborn from among the dead. Moses is still dead, awaiting the resurrection (see Hebrews 11). John 3:13 is pretty clear as well about this (ie: “No man” is pretty categorical).

    – “Angles are glorified immortal beings who can live in our world invisibly”

    Angels are not immortal. They can be destroyed or put out of existence (as will be the case with the devil, in the lake of fire which is the second death). Only God possesses immortality (1 Tim 6:16).

    One other thing, what are your thoughts in terms of distinguishing between the first resurrection and final resurrection? I think that would be interesting to look at.

    I really like your answer to Question #4.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Thanks for you input and questions Paul. You have a point, but I think mine is still valid. The Resurrected Christ was on earth for 40 days teaching, eating, and fellowshipping with mortal humans. So this is at least a precedent for God not minding a “mongrel state of affairs.”

      I’d have to disagree about angels not being immortal. Unless one is an annihilationist, the NT teaches that the devil and his angels will be in torment forever and ever. They don’t die (they live forever in agony). I agree only God is eternal, in that he is the only Being who has no beginning and no ending.

      The nature of the multiple resurrections mentioned in the NT would make a good topic for a future blog post (I’m not committing though :)

      • Anonymous

        “The nature of the multiple resurrections mentioned in the NT would make a good topic for a future blog post (I’m not committing though :)”

        It would make a great topic! ;)

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  • Andy

    “Gen 6 talks about fallen angles integrating into human society.”

    Are we certain about this? I know the Gen 6 passage refers to “sons of God” and “daughters of men” which seems to allude to some sort of fundamental difference, but does it necessarily mean angels? I know that elsewhere in Scripture, “nephilim” are people of greater stature than normal, but again, is angel DNA the only explanation? It raises a curious question: can spiritual beings (angels) take on physical bodies at will, bodies with genetic characteristics that are able to procreate, and pass on some sort of remarkable genetic traits (greater stature, etc)?

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Admittedly this is one of the most disputed passages in Genesis. But you know my view :)

  • Dcairns_99

    How does the Millennium fit in with what the New Testament appears to teach concerning two ages – this present temporal age and the eternal age to come? Mt 12:32, Lk 18:29-30, 20:34-35, Eph 2:21 to name a few.

    It seems that a Millennium couldn’t be classified as this present age nor the one to come – it’s another age…no?

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      I see the MK as the consummation of what this present age was always meant to be like. The Eternal State, on the other hand, is an entirely new era where everyone is glorified in the New Heavens and the New Earth, or cast from God’s presence in Hell. This is where men and women “will not be given in marriage, but will be like the angels” etc. Hope that helps.

      • Dcairns_99

        Thanks Clint, good point…appreciate the topic since I am dealing with my convictions from the Word on this topic. This article was very timely.

        At least after many hours of study and prayer I am down to 2 from 4 views – Historical Premill or Amill.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Even if it’s not neat and tidy, a premillennialist can view the millennium and the eternal state, broadly speaking, as a time (an “age”) altogether different from the present time. Plus, given the fact that even in the OT we have certain aspects of the kingdom intertwining with the new heavens and new earth (cf. Isa 65:17ff), it’s not totally unfounded or unprecedented to group them together.

      But what does the amillennialist do with Ephesians 2:7, which speaks of the ages (plural) to come [τοῖς αἰῶσιν τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις]?

      • Dcairns_99

        Thanks for the response – I need to think about that more as to what Eph 2:7 ‘ages’ means compared to Eph 1:21

        Not sure of O’Brien MK view but he says…

        “The plural ages is not simply a stylistic variation of the singular, but a more general conception, implying one age supervening upon another like successive waves of the sea, as far into the future as thought can reach. In the light of this meaning it may thus be claimed: Throughout time and in eternity the church, this society of pardoned rebels, is designed by God to be the masterpiece of his goodness.”

        O’Brien, P. T. (1999). The letter to the Ephesians. The Pillar New Testament commentary (173). Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.