"What's the Point of the Millennium?" That's a Good Question!4
I was somewhat surprised by a recent blog post (July 10, 2014) by Jim Hamilton of Southern Seminary, Louisville. You may recall that Jim was one of my dialogue partners at the Evening of Eschatology hosted by John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist Church. Continue reading . . .
I was somewhat surprised by a recent blog post (July 10, 2014) by Jim Hamilton of Southern Seminary, Louisville. You may recall that Jim was one of my dialogue partners at the Evening of Eschatology hosted by John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist Church.
Jim was asked by fellow premillennialist, Mike Wittmer, “What’s the Point of the Millennium?” In response, he argues that it provides yet another opportunity for us to see the typological relationship between Adam and Christ. There are certainly numerous expressions of that relationship, some of which Jim mentions and all of which appear to be valid. But finding in that relationship a justification for the millennium is a bit of a stretch, to say the least.
I certainly don’t need an earthly millennium to teach me about the typological relationship between Adam and Christ. The Bible asserts that clearly enough. I suppose one might construct any number of historical and redemptive scenarios that would provide ways in which this typology is seen, but that is not the same as finding explicit assertions of such in the biblical text. We lose nothing of the relationship between Adam and Christ in the absence of a millennium. And nothing about this relationship requires a millennium.
But what surprised me most was the way Jim portrayed Christ’s alleged earthly millennial kingdom. He writes:
“At his second coming (Rev 19), Jesus will cleanse the land of the serpent and his seed, restoring creation to an Eden-like state.”
Actually, on all premillennial schemes, Jesus does no such thing. He doesn’t cleanse the land of the seed of Satan. In fact, premillennialists believe that unregenerate men and women will populate the 1,000 year earthly reign of Christ. Since, according to premillennialism, many believers will enter this millennium in their unglorified, natural, physical bodies, they will reproduce and fill the millennial earth with their children who likewise live and die in natural, unglorified physical bodies. The primary reason premillennialists believe this is because at the end of this alleged millennium there is a multitude of unregenerate people who join Satan in his final rebellion. Where did they come from? The premillennialist insists they are the progeny of those who entered the millennium in their natural physical bodies. Clearly they did not all come to faith in Christ, notwithstanding his glorified, physical presence during this 1,000 years.
So the question must be asked: How can you say that the land will be “cleansed” of Satan’s “seed” if they continue to live and flourish and repudiate Christ during the 1,000 years? That hardly sounds like “an Eden-like state” to me!
Hamilton again writes:
“Having reigned for a thousand years in an undefiled, cleansed creation, Jesus gets another chance to succeed where Adam failed. Adam lived in undefiled purity and innocence but sinned at Satan’s instigation. Having established a millennial kingdom, a golden age of undefiled innocence, Jesus has subdued the earth, filling and ruling over it as God commanded Adam to do, when Satan is released from the pit (Rev 20:7).”
Uh, maybe I’m missing something here, but how can Christ reign in an “undefiled, cleansed creation” when multitudes of sin-defiled and defiling unregenerate people populate the land? How can this kingdom be a “golden age of undefiled innocence” in the presence of so much guilt and unbelief?
Furthermore, how can this alleged earthly millennium be “undefiled,” “cleansed,” “Eden-like,” and “golden” if the natural creation is still subject to the curse of the Fall (see Romans 8:18-25)? We mustn’t forget that according to premillennialism the new heavens and new earth do not come until the close of this alleged 1,000 year period. Hamilton may choose to say that “the point of the millennium is to begin the renewal of creation,” but he does so without so much as a single text that asserts this to be the case. Premillennialists cannot escape the fact that according to their end-time scenario people will continue to suffer the curse of physical death throughout the course of this 1,000 year period.
In sum, the “millennium” of the premillennialist is a time in which physical death continues to prevail. Bodies decay and suffer disease, die and must be buried. It is a time, therefore, when there will be sorrow over the loss of loved ones. Tears will continue to flow. Sorrow and anguish will remain so long as dying and death do. The natural creation will still be subject to the sin of mankind. Worst of all, unbelief will be widespread and will culminate in the collective rebellion of all the unregenerate at the close of this period.
I’m sorry, but that doesn’t sound like a “golden age” of “undefiled innocence” in a land that is “cleansed” and “Eden-like.”
If you are stirred by these thoughts, I urge you to read Chapter Five, “Problems with Premillennialism,” pp. 135-176, in my book, Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Christian Focus, 2013).
My reading of the NT, instead, leads me to the conclusion that when Christ returns in his Second Advent he will forever and finally put an end to physical death, wipe away all tears of sadness and sorrow from his people, judge all mankind, consign Satan to eternal suffering in the lake of fire, renew the natural order of things and inaugurate the new heavens and new earth. Will this be done as the antitypical fulfillment of the first Adam? Yes. Will the last Adam have succeeded where the first Adam failed? Yes. But we don’t need a 1,000 year earthly interregnum for that to occur.