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The Bible does not teach that the Millennium is a literal one thousand years

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1. Introduction

In this study on the Millennium, we compare Realised Millennialism with the recently popular heresies of Dispensationalism and Futurism.


A. Millennium Heresy

These heresies have slipped into present-day Christianity and keep believers in fear of the Great Tribulation in the future. This fear hinders people from moving in signs, wonders and miracles that believers can see happen through the power of God.

Until after the First World War horrors, the predominant view was not a future millennial reign. Neither the early church fathers, nor Augustine, Luther, or Spurgeon, to name a few, believed in a coming millennium as described in the Dispensational View towards the end of this lesson. On the contrary, these generals of faith thought that the kingdom’s reign started when Jesus ascended -i.e. the Kingdom is here now.


B. Millennium Truths

Awakening Impact Ministries, with a rapidly growing number of other ministries, believes in the following foundational truths:

  1. Christianity’s eschatology (end times) is victorious, we are a glorious warrior bride, not a remnant that will face the Antichrist and great tribulation in the future.
  2. The kingdom reign started when Jesus ascended, therefore the kingdom is here now. Because of this truth, we are able to move more effectively in the power of God to see miracles and healings happen on a regular basis.
  3. The Millennium is not a literal one thousand years, but the term is used here to provide a label for the current reigning of God’s kingdom.
  4. The Millennium started after the Great Tribulation of 66-70CE.
  5. The last days commenced on the day of Pentecost and finished in one Hebrew generation.

Those that believe in the Futurist view think that Jesus will return and set up a dominion from Jerusalem. They will reign with Him for one thousand years. Such a future Millennium does not hold up to scriptural challenges.

C. Post-Tribulation Millennialism

Like the early church fathers, Awakening Impact Ministries are post-tribulation millennialists. The majority of New Testament books were completed before the destruction of Jerusalem, so they were looking ahead to the Millennium starting after the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Therefore Awakening Impact Ministries believing we are already in the Millennium, agrees with the church fathers. We will explain why further in the study. Firstly we need to determine the Millennium does not mean a literal one thousand years.


2. Book of Revelations: Millennium is Not Literally One Thousand Years

The word Millennium is not in the original Hebrew or Greek translations. However, Judaism and Christianity both refer to one thousand years.


A. Not a Literal Thousand

Firstly we need to realise that the Book of Revelations does not support one thousand years being literal.

Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison

Revelation 20:7

In the Book of Revelation, the Greek word for a thousand has uncertainty to it:

χίλιοι chilioi; plural of uncertain affinity; a thousand

Affinity means understanding, so we cannot be definitive about it being the number one thousand.


B. Whenever the Thousand Years are Finished

We have found that the word for thousand is indefinite. Another term in this verse also lets us know the thousand years is not literal. It is the word when:

Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison.

Revelation 20:7

The Greek word for when is:

ὅταν Hotan; whenever (implying hypothesis or more or less uncertainty) as long (soon) as, that, + till, when(-soever), while.

As you can see, one thousand years is only an estimated time. Firstly, the word for one thousand is of uncertain affinity. Secondly, “whenever” is not a definite article.


C. A Literal Thousand is a Different Greek Word

When one thousand is a literal number, it is a different Greek word. For example:

Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell;

1 Corinthians 10:8

A literal one thousand is a different word in this and other scriptures:

ιλιάς chilias; one thousand (“chiliad” ): — thousand

Looking at the verse, which has a specific number, the Greek word is different. Unlike the word used for the Millennium, which is of uncertain affinity, this word is specific and not an estimate.

If the Millennium were exactly one thousand years, we would have used the chilias word rather than chillioi.


3. Old Testament Millennium

We have seen that one thousand years in the Book of Revelations is not literal; we need to look into the Old Testament to see if there are other examples of one thousand not being literal.


A. The Non-Literal One Thousand Hills

For every beast of the forest is Mine
And the cattle on a thousand hills.

Psalms 50:10

One thousand hills are not literal because the earth has many more than one thousand hills.


B. Forty Thousand or One Hundred Thousand Year Millennium Reign?

Fundamental to the Futurists and Dispensational View is that Jesus will reign from Israel for a literal one thousand years. However, the literal interpretation has a problem when we look at this scripture in First Chronicles:

Remember His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations,
The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac,
And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute,
To Israel for an everlasting covenant,
Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
As the allotment of your inheritance,”

1 Chronicles 16:15-18

If we were to take the Millennium as a literal one thousand years as the Dispensationalists and Futurists do, we also need to take this scripture literally.

There are two Hebrew biblical definitions of a generation, either 40 years or 100 years. For a Dispensationalist, the natural reign of Israel during the millennium is essential to their theology. If that were true, then Chronicles teaches Jesus must come back 40,000 or 100,000 years after His death and resurrection, not 2000 years as they suggest.

One thousand years is not necessarily literal in the Old Testament or the New Testament, and the Millennium is not a literal one thousand years.


4. Prelude to the Millennium

Most theologians agree that the Millennium will start after the return of Jesus Christ to destroy the AntiChrist. It will end with the day of judgment. Futurists only recognise two comings of Christ, whereas there are six comings referred to in the Greek and Hebrew translations.

Awakening Impact Ministries believes that the Millennium started after His fifth coming on the clouds of glory with His armies in 66CE. Three historians attest to this sign three and a half years before the final destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE.

Now we have seen that one thousand years is figurative, not literal, let us look at what happened before the Millennium. The book of Revelation refers to the Millennium in Revelation 20, so we will start in Revelation 12.


A. Jesus’ Ministry on Earth

For three and a half years, Jesus had his ministry on earth as the Son of Man and the Son of God. Jesus reveals His view on His ministry to the apostle John in the Book of Revelation:

Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.

Revelation 12:5-6

The dragon is the devil, the woman is Israel, and the male Child is Jesus Christ. How was the woman, Israel, nourished? Through Jesus, the Bread of Life, who nurtured the Jews of Israel with the word of God.

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

John 6:35

B. Jesus’ Victory Means War in Heaven

Following on from His ministry, after His death and resurrection, next in Revelation is Jesus’ ascension. When Jesus ascended, and God coronated Him, war broke out in heaven, resulting in the angels casting Satan out of heaven to earth.

And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Revelation 12:7-9

Because Michael and his angels cast Satan out of heaven, he now attacks the woman. Satan being thrown to the earth resulted in the Roman-Jewish wars of the next forty years.


C. Jesus Prophecy Means War Against Israel

In Matthew 24, Jesus predicted in His prophecy that there would be the Great Tribulation that occurs to the Jews within one generation. He then went on to say another Great Tribulation would never happen again:

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

Matthew 24:21

We see this figuratively portrayed in Revelation:

When the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. … So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.

Revelation 12:12-15

D. Start of Persecution

That which John saw in his Revelation is precisely what happened; the Jewish believers knew relative peace until the stoning of Stephen in 33CE, the same year Paul had his conversion.

Now Saul was consenting to his death.
At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Acts 8:1

Three and a half years of Jesus’ ministry, plus three and a half years of peace after His death, equals seven years of peace.


E. Seven Years of Peace Under the Messiah

Daniel refers to confirming a covenant with many for one week, where one week equals seven years. It talks about the prince confirming the covenant. We see Jesus did exactly this, confirming His covenant with preaching the gospel, healing the sick, being raised from the dead and birthing the church.

Then He shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering

Daniel 9:27

In the minds of Futurists, “He” in the passage above, is the future Antichrist who will make a covenant of peace with Israel. However, Daniel never mentioned Antichrist in his book, and the context in Daniel is clear. “He” is referring to the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, in the previous two verses:

“Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the wall,
Even in troublesome times.
“And after the sixty-two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;
And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end of it shall be with a flood,
And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

Daniel 9:25-26
F. People of the Prince

This verse clarifies who the “people of the prince” are:- the Jews. Reading the history of the Roman-Jewish wars, it is clear that it was the Jews who destroyed Jerusalem, not the Romans, who carried it out. If the Jews had not stirred and attacked the Romans, Jerusalem would have remained to stand.

It is Jesus, not a future Antichrist, who made a covenant of peace, and put an end to sacrifice and offerings (the law), after three and a half years of ministry.

Jesus the Messiah made the New Covenant through His death. Halfway through the seven years of peace, He put an end to all sacrifice and offerings by nailing the law to the cross. There were a further three and a half years of peace before the persecution of the Jews started in 33CE.


G. War Will then Break Out Against Gentile Believers

Returning to the Revelation seen by John, the next stage is that war will break out against the followers of Jesus.

And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 12:17

Believers in Jesus were first called Christians in Acts 11. They were, of course, persecuted by the Jews, who would not allow them to come into the synagogue. Nero also persecuted the Christians in the Great Tribulation for approximately three and a half years.

From then on, the influence of the Roman Empire became weaker and weaker as the Millennial age began. Christianity eventually became the predominant religion, as it still is, two thousand years later.


5. Post-Tribulation Millennium

Most theologians agree the Millennium starts after the Great Tribulation and the destruction of the Antichrist.

The early church fathers believed in a post-tribulation millennium. Awakening Impact Ministries Statement of Faith agrees with their theology. We believe that the Great Tribulation, apostasy and destruction of the Antichrist have already been fulfilled within one generation of Jesus’ prediction of these events. Futurists are still looking for a future tribulation. To reiterate, Jesus prophesied the Great Tribulation would happen within one generation of 30CE.


A. After the Great Tribulation of 66-70CE

There is no doubt that the Jews went through their worst time in history between 40 and 70CE. A higher percentage of Jews died in that generation than at any other time, including the Holocaust of World War Two. We will look at the Great Tribulation being within one generation of Jesus’ prophecy in more detail in another study. However, declaring a future Great Tribulation is making Jesus a false prophet because He declared there will only be one Great Tribulation before 70CE, and there shall never be another.

The Great Tribulation probably started at the coming of Jesus at Passover in 66CE at the time of the vision of Jesus and His armies over Jerusalem, and ended three and a half years later with the destruction of Jerusalem in September 70CE.

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image …

Revelation 20:4

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

Matthew 24:21

B. After the Anti-Christ

We have seen that Nero was indeed the Antichrist.


C. After the Mark of the Beast

We will see what the mark of the beast was in another study.

… and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Revelation 20:4

Briefly, the beast’s mark is the opposite of God’s mark referred to in Deuteronomy.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
… You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

Deuteronomy 6:4-8

Jesus says that if you do not become part of the New Covenant, you are not His son or daughter. You either have God’s law in your heart and mind (part of the New Covenant), or you belong to the devil.

and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Revelation 13:17

In the time of Nero, you could not buy or sell without the Roman money you needed to trade, carrying Nero’s head.

They could not buy or sell without the money carrying Antichrist’s (Nero) head.


6. Ruling and Reigning

During the current Millennium, we are ruling and reigning with Jesus.

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

Revelation 20:6

Believing that ruling and reigning is in a future Millennium will limit your faith today. It may cause you to think that failure to get a breakthrough in healing is because it is not time for that level of miracle to occur yet.


A. The Devil is Bound

The Millennium is when the devil is bound:

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

Revelation 20:1-3

During the Great Tribulation, the devil had authority first over the Jews, then the Gentile believers. However, the church started to rule and reign once the Great Tribulation finished and the Millennium began.


B. Church Arising over the Devil

There are two progressions here for the devil. First, there is a casting down to earth. The war in heaven started on the day of Jesus’ enthronement.

There is a further binding that occurs due to being in the Millennium. Here Satan is cast down into a pit. The church arising in their kingdom authority and anointing will further bind the works of Satan on earth. Our cornerstone teaching, the “Fellowship of the Mystery of His Will”, identified that our purpose as sons and daughters is to displace the principalities and powers. The binding of Satan is figuratively seen as going into the pit, awaiting judgment day.

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 16:18-20

Ruling and reigning is an important truth to understand. The devil is bound when we take our authority seriously. The devil is under our feet.

Notice the similarity of Revelation 20 to Matthew 16. The devil is only bound as much as the church binds it! The devil is bound, and the church needs to enforce that.

In our study on sin, we find the following important truth.


7. Is the Millennium the Seventh Day of Rest?

We have learned that neither the book of Revelation nor the Old Testament support that the Millennium is a literal one thousand years. Before we look into the Dispensational heresies, I want to give some background concerning the person who started this theology. Jesus said that we should judge people by their fruits. The fruits of the father of Dispensational Millennialism were poor.

A. John Darby

John Nelson Darby, the founder of Dispensationalism and Futurism, was from the Plymouth Brethren and founded the Exclusive Brethren. Both these denominations are sectarian in their relationship with all other churches. As the nephew of Lord Nelson, Darby’s influential upbringing allowed him some credence.

John Darby’s heresies included that righteousness is neither imputed nor given. Instead, Jesus kept the law for us! (Jesus did not keep the law, He fulfilled the law through the New Covenant)


B. Charles Spurgeon on John Darby

Talking about these serious heresies, Charles Spurgeon continues to criticise Darby’s teaching on Dispensationalism, Futurism and a future rapture:

“With the deadly heresies entertained and taught by the Plymouth Brethren, in relation to some of the most momentous of all the doctrines of the Gospel and to which I have adverted at some length, I feel assured that my readers will not be surprised at any other views, however unscriptural and pernicious they may be, which the Darbyites have embraced and zealously seek to propagate.

Grant, James (1875). The Plymouth Brethren: Their History and Heresies.

 

Interestingly, Spurgeon saw many thousand healed, yet there is no evidence that John Darby saw anyone healed because he held to the Cessationist heresy that healing is not for today.

Spurgeon would say the same about much of today’s “preaching” on rapture, futurism and dispensationalism.

In Victorious Eschatology, we see how Darby fell into his numerous deceptions.


C. Dispensational Error #1: Millennium is the Sabbath Rest

Dispensational and Futurist heresy is four thousand years from Adam to Jesus and two thousand years from Christ’s death to His return. There are, therefore, six thousand years from Adam to the return of Christ. On the basis that God created heaven and earth in six days, and on the seventh day, He rested, dispensationalists teach that there will be one thousand years of rest starting six thousand years from the creation. Then there will be one thousand years when Jesus will reign from the natural Jerusalem in the Millennium.

However, the Sabbath rest has nothing to do with the Millennium, fulfilled by Jesus Christ two thousand years ago.

Unfortunately for the Dispensational view, we now know that we have 229 years to go before the 6000 years are complete! We are currently in year 5781 in the Jewish calendar.


D. Dispensational Error #2: One Day As One Thousand Years

This error comes from a misinterpretation of Peter:

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

2 Peter 3:8

The word “as” in Greek is hōs. It means like. Peter is not saying one day for God is one thousand years for us.


E. Context is Living in the Last Days

Thirdly, the context of this verse is not related to the future; it is related to the last days.

that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,

2 Peter 3:2-3

Jesus’ Last Days Prophecy teaches in-depth that Jesus differentiated between the last days and the end of the age. When Jesus accurately prophesied about the last days, He said it would be within one generation; He knew when it would finish in one generation.

Peter knew that the last days started on the Day of Pentecost when he quoted Joel:

But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,

Acts 2:16-17

Peter knew He was living in the last days. We do not live in the last days, but we are coming to the end of the current age when Jesus will return.

After talking about the false teachers in the church of that time, in Chapter 2, Peter confirms that they are in the last days in the next verse:

knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,

2 Peter 3:3

Therefore we cannot use this verse to say one thousand years is a future day, as it was related to the last days finished in 70CE.


F. Context is Evangelism Before His Coming Judgment

If you believe, as I do, that the Apostle Peter wrote the second epistle soon after 60CE, then the context of Peter’s warning is that coming Jesus’ judgment would happen quickly. Indeed it would happen within one decade of Peter writing these words.
Moreover, in the next verse, he talks about evangelism.

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

Emperor Nero arranged Peter’s martyrdom sometime between 64CE and 68CE. Writing the epistle a few years earlier, he encouraged families to not become slack in their evangelism.

When Peter wrote this, he was speaking to those who were thinking Jesus was not coming soon as He had promised He would. Jesus had told them that the Temple’s destruction would be within one generation. Moreover, in their view, He was delayed, and His coming seemed to be one thousand years away. When we go through intense trials as they were under the persecution of Rome, everything can appear to be delayed.


G. One Day is Not a Literal Millennium

So when Peter said one day is as a thousand years, he was not saying there were seven dispensations! Peter meant that it might seem like a long time that nothing was happening. What Jesus promised would happen in one generation will occur.


H. A Millennium is Not a Literal Day

When Peter said that one thousand years is as a day, he was saying that what Jesus prophesied would happen, and when it does, they are not to delay as it will happen suddenly:

Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

Matthew 24:17-20

Precisely what Jesus prophesied happened when the believers saw the Roman army surround Jerusalem in 67CE, then leave. They immediately left for the mountains because they recognised that “The abomination that causes desolation” was the Roman army.

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.

Luke 21:20


8. Summary of Millennium

  • A future millennium was not the predominant view of the early church, until 1909 and the release of the Schofield Reference Bible.
  • Careful study of biblical text reveals that a thousand years is not necessarily literal.
  • Futurists teach Jesus will return at the end of 6000 years from the creation. If this is true (which it is not), then we have a further 229 years to wait. Indeed if we take 1000 generations literally that means there is 40,000 or 100,000 years to wait for Jesus’ final return!
  • The millennium started some time after the Great Tribulation which finished in 70CE, as Jesus prophesied.
  • We agree with the early church fathers in that we believe in the millennium starting after the tribulation in 66-70CE.
  • If you believe that you rule and reign now, then you will have faith for the impossible.

 

© Use by Permission Awakening Impact Ministries/ Dr Neville van Eerten 2022

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