Elements of a Biblical Eschatology, Part 9

What is the purpose of the millennium?  Why would God’s plan include an intermediate kingdom prior to the eternal state?  Here are a few answers that I can offer:

1. God’s design is for Christ to exercise a coercive rule over his enemies.  If amillennialism were true, then we would have to identify that period of Christ’s reign as the present time, during which Christ rules at the right hand of the Father.  I fully agree with amillennialists that Christ reigns from Heaven right now, but I’m not sure that the present reign of Christ constitutes the complete fulfillment of prophecies such as Psalm 110:2: “The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter.  Rule in the midst of your enemies!”  This and many other passages (Psalms 2, 72, etc.) seem to require an earthly reign of Christ over his enemies prior to the final separation of the righteous from the wicked.

2. The doctrine of the millennial kingdom helps us maintain an orthodox Christology.  I am not at all saying that Postmillennialists and amillennialists are not orthodox in their Christology.  But I do believe that one implication of the millennial kingdom is a greater focus on the humanity of Christ.  I joyfully proclaim that Christ reigns now as the God-man at the right hand of the Father.  But if he is truly human, why should we expect his reign to remain invisible until the day he hands over the Kingdom to the Father (1 Cor 15:24)?  (By the way, I don’t believe that Christ’s handing over the Kingdom constitutes the cessation of his reign; I believe it constitutes the cessation of that phase of his reign during which he subdues his enemies).  Jesus Christ, a real flesh-and-blood man will be clearly perceived as supreme ruler even over those nations and people who do not believe in him. 

3. In the book of Revelation, I believe the millennium serves in part to justify the eternal torment of unbelievers.  The fact that a vast multitude can still be deceived by Satan and led to rebellion against Christ at the end of a thousand years under his direct rule on earth is a testimony to the depravity of the human heart.  Ali made this comment a few posts back, and I agree.  Of course, I am not saying that the millennium is necessary to justify Hell.  Amillennialists believe in Hell too.  God would be just to send unrepentant sinners to an eternal Hell whether there is a millennial kingdom or not.  But the deep persistence of sin will be clearly exposed by the outcome of the millennial kingdom when multitudes rebel against Christ even after the greatest age of peace and prosperity the world has ever known. 

These are a few reasons for a millennial kingdom.  I would also like to point out (though this is not a reason, but just a biblical observation) that some eschatological prophecies seem to demand a millennial kingdom.  For example, Isaiah 65:17-25 describes conditions that will not take place until after the return of Christ.  Yet, sin and death are still there (v. 20).  Granted, Isaiah is using figurative language by saying that a young man will die at 100 years old, but is this the kind of figure of speech that one would use to describe a world without death?  One may object that Isaiah is talking about the new heavens and the new earth (v. 17), which, in the book of Revelation, clearly follows the millennium (Revelation 21).  But I would respond by saying that the prophetic outlook often collapses eschatological events together.  The new heaven and the new earth is a reality that has already begun now in the resurrection of Christ.  The return of Christ will bring us to a new phase when the new creation will become dominant over the old, but the old will still persist to some degree.  Revelation 21 describes the final consummation, when the old is done away with altogether.  The fact that Isaiah collapses these ideas into one should not surprise us, given the typical prophetic outlook. 

 I’m planning to wrap this series up in part 10 on why this matters. 

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2 Responses to “Elements of a Biblical Eschatology, Part 9”

  1. Bob Jones Says:

    I have made some observations in Matthew that suggest a different eschatology. I have not yet correlated them with Daniel, revelations etc. but invite you to take a crack at them. The basic question I have is, are the parallels I observe real or contrived?

    The book of Matthew can be broken into four blocks:

    1. Jesus as King or Here comes the King! Matt 1-4
    2. Sermon on the mount or Who is in His Kingdom? Matt 5 – 11:27
    3. Nature of the Kingdom of God or His Kingdom is not of this world. Matt 12-22
    4. Matthew’s Eschatology or His Kingdom Established. Matt 23-28

    The last three blocks are written in parallel outlines which are identified by words or concepts shared between sequences of verses.

    For example:
    In the second block, Matt 5:1 parallels Matt 8:1 by the imagery of Jesus going up and down the mountain.
    This alone would not be a significant fact were it to stand alone. But if the sequence of linking passages that continues through the rest of the book is real, then what is the message that Matthew is attempting to show us?

    Although there are interesting sermons that can be preached by discerning parallel passages. The greatest interest concerns Matthew’s eschatology. Beginning in the fourth block, I will title scripture subject pairs, highlight the primary verses that link them and explain the connection if it isn’t obvious.

    Please note: These parallel passages are sequential on both sides.

    1 Religious leaders work to be seen of men.
    Matt 23:1-7 || Matt 26:1-5
    Verse 23: 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men
    Verse 26: 5 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.
    Obvious connection.

    2 The humble shall be exalted.
    Matt 23:8-12 || Matt 26:6-13
    Matt 23: 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
    Matt : 13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
    The woman, who humbled herself in anointing Jesus, was exalted

    3 Judas worse than Pharisees
    Matt 23:13-33 || Matt 26:14-25
    Matt 23: 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
    Matt 26: 24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
    With all the incidents involving Pharisees, he never told one of them it would have been better if he had not been born, but Judas was “twofold more the child of hell.”

    4 Disciples sent.., Blood
    Matt 23:34-36 || Matt 26:26-28
    Matt 23:34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
    The disciples mentioned in Matt 26 were the ones he was sending out. Also there is use of the word “blood” in both passages as a hint of the linking.

    5 Desolate – Jesus is going away
    Matt 23:37-39 || Matt 26:29-30
    Matt 23: 38,39 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
    Matt 26: 29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
    Matthew 23:38 identifies the desolation as the absence of Jesus himself.

    6 Scattering of stones and disciples
    Matt 24:1,2 ||Matt 26:31
    Matt 24: 2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
    Matt 26: 31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
    Other scriptures say that we are the stones in the house that Christ built. So the scattering of the disciples matches the scattering of the stones.

    7 He is coming – when he is risen
    Matt 24:3 || Matt 26:32
    Matt 24: 3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
    Matt 26: 32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.
    The structure now points to the resurrection as his coming.

    8 The beginning of sorrows
    Matt 24:4-10 || Matt 26:33-38
    Matt 24: 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
    Matt 26: 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
    The structure points to Jesus’s sorrow as the beginning of sorrow.

    9 The love of many shall wax cold
    Matt 24:11-12 || Matt 26:39-44
    Matt 24: 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
    Matt 26: 43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
    His own disciples love for him was cold that they could not stay awake to pray with him.

    10 The gospel
    Matt 24:13-14 || Matt 26:45
    Matt 24: 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
    Matt 26: 45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
    The gospel that is preached in all the world is that a Holy God became man and died at the hands of sinners.

    11 The abomination of desolation
    Matt 24:15 || Matt 26:46-50
    Matt 24: 15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
    Matt 26: 48 Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.
    Judas’ kiss was an abomination since it is what condemned the just. Pr 17:15 He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD. Is this the abomination that caused desolation?

    12 Flee
    Matt 24:16-20 || Matt 26:51-56
    Matt 24: 16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
    Matt 26: 56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

    13 Tribulation
    Matt 24:21-22 || Matt 26:57 – 27-14
    Matt 24: 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
    22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
    The structure points to the tribulation of Jesus. What greater tribulation is theoretically possible than that of a Holy God placed in the hands of sinners, and becoming sin?
    They rushed Jesus to death. Had they not shortened the days of his tribulation, and he died in prison, no flesh anywhere or anytime would have been saved.

    14 The desolation
    Matt 24:23-28 || Matt 27:15-44
    Matt 24: 23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
    24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
    Matt 27: 16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.
    When Barrabas and Jesus are presented to Israel, Israel casts their sin on him and he becomes sin incarnate.

    15 The sun is darkened
    Matt 24:29 || Matt 27:45-49
    Matt 24: 29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven,
    Matt 27: 45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.

    16 The veil/his body is rent
    Matt 24:29b || Matt 27:
    Matt 24:29…and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
    Matt 27: 50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

    17 He comes in the clouds
    Matt 24:30 || Matt 27:62-66
    Matt 24: 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
    Matt 27: 66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.
    This is an odd one, while every one will see him coming in the clouds, they are watching a grave. Is it possible that when we die, we see him in the clouds?

    18 Gathering of saints
    Matt 24:31 || Matt 28:1-20
    Matt 24: 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
    Matt 28: 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
    After gathering his disciples, he sent them out to harvest.

    19 Jesus didn’t lie
    Matt 24:32-34
    Matt 24: 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
    All of the parallel passages that Matthew pointed to happened within weeks.

    20 Heaven and earth shall pass away
    Matt 24:35 || Matt 28:20b
    Matt 24: 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
    Matt 28:20b …I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
    If he is with us always, and we see him in the air when we die, what need is there for another returning?

    If these parallels are imagined, then please congratulate me on being such a clever guy. If they are real, do they say that we are in the harvest now? Will we be individually harvested by Christ who is able to sort the wheat and the tares. When there are two in the field and one is taken, to us it looks like he died. When two are in bed and one is taken, it looks like one went to be with the Lord in his sleep.

    Presumably, when we die, we are transported from time to eternity. As we look to our left, Adam has just barely arrived, and as we look to our right all our children and progeny are there too. We have been immediately transported to the end of the age.

    The rest of Matt 24 and 25 say “Be ready”. So we should be more concerned about being ready to die, than learning to fly.

  2. fenderpooh Says:

    Bob,

    I believe most of those parallels are forced and unnatural. To take just one example, the kiss of Judas is certainly not the abomination of desolation. Jesus was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, as is evident from the parallel passage in Luke 21:20: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that its desolation has come near.”

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