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Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1998
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 4: Disciplinary Truths of God’s Kingdom
Appendix: The Millennial Issue
Lesson 100 – Restoration Period, Preservation and Reliability of Scripture, Canon Closing
08 Oct 1998
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’re going to begin the first of three, it might drift into four, into what we call eschatology, and we do this because we’re coming up on the Gospels. You can’t understand the Gospels without understanding eschatology. Every doctrinal category has a name, and this one is from the word which means last, “knowledge of last things.” That’s the subject content and that’s what we’re going to be working through in this appendix. We have enough material from our study of the Old Testament to put together some basic viewpoints on eschatology, so we want to do that. We want to apply some of what we’ve learned in the Old Testament, and realize that an eschatology is implicit in the Christian faith, and in fact, everyone has an eschatology. This is not strange; this is not something that Christians think of when they have nothing else to do. Eschatology is just basically God’s plan for history. All of us have de facto, our idea of where history is going. It may be that history is going nowhere. Henry Ford was quoted once as saying that history is the sequence of one damn thing after another, and that was his eschatology. At least he was honest; I guess that’s the average eschatology of most people on the street.
The thing I want to put away right from the front is that this is not something strange, new, different; it’s not something that should be foreign to us, because we operate every day with a view of what is coming. We may worry about it, we may fret about it, we may be glad about it, we may hope about it, but everyone has a view of the future. It may not be developed, you may not have sat down and thought it through, but it’s always there. In fact, it can be argued that eschatology is always involved when you make a moral judgment, because if you say that something ought to be, or ought not to be, you’re making an ethical judgment. You have a motive, usually involved in that. When you decide this is right or this is wrong, what is the motive to do what is right? If you ask that question you get pushed back to consequences: that if I take path A, there are certain consequences; if I take path B, there are certain consequences. So we’re talking about the future.
We want to go back to something we started with back in Genesis because one of the things, the Bible shows its power as the Word of God, in that it gives a reason for a valid eschatology. Apart from the Bible nobody has a valid eschatology. Let me show you this; work it through, because this is one of those little truths that ought to make us appreciate the Word of God. Daily we’re using either logic or experience. We put this up when we started Genesis. This is an example of how a Christian and a non-Christian approach the issue of logic, and why every person is relying basically upon the fact that they know in the bottom of their heart that they are a creature of God, and they know in the bottom of their heart that God created history, and they know in the bottom of their heart that logic works. All of those assumptions make sense only if the Bible is correct.
So let’s look at this little statement. This is just a math equation, a linear equation, and algebra is nothing more than a shorthand way of expressing something you could put in the English language. You don’t have to an equation. No equations are written before, I think, the 11th century, so when you see an equation just remember that prior to AD 1000 they didn’t have equations. They had computations; what did they do? They had rules, they recipe books on how to solve the problem, and then somebody thought of shorthand. So when you see an equation don’t worry about it, it’s just a shorthand way of expressing something. It can be perfectly expressed in the English language; it doesn’t have to have a symbol to it.
But why I did this is because this is an elementary algebraic equation, we all learn this somewhere in high school, 7th or 8th grade, somewhere in there. Yet no one ever points out something vitally missing from the presentation there. And that is, in order to make that thing work, you have to have something that’s always constant, like that a and b. If nothing is constant you never can write a rule that handles it. So there’s always got to be a constant. This is no small thing. There’s always got to be a constant behind every, what we call predication, or every sentence. If everything was changing all the time, then you couldn’t talk, you couldn’t think. So the very fact that we all talk and think proves that in our everyday experience deep down in our heart believe in constants. Operational, every day. Very few people, only one or two in a hundred, think of the implication of what that means. Why do I believe in constants? Why do I really believe that something remains the same?
Back in Genesis we related this to an attribute of God. We went through the attributes of God, God is sovereign, God is righteous, God is holy, God is love, God is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, immutable, eternal, etc. What attribute of God do you think supports this? The immutability of God, and His omnipotence, that He is always the same. He is THE constant; all these other things that we call constants are derivatives. They’re derivatives of Him and His character. If you don’t believe in the God of the Scriptures, then you can be successfully challenged as to why you bother to talk, think, or add and subtract, because all it is just wasted energy of the brain unless it’s doing something. And it can’t be doing anything unless there’s some constants involved.
The other thing that’s always involved in this is rules of logic; that the rules of logic hold from moment to moment, they don’t go away, they’re required for thinking. And everybody uses these, you don’t have to be a mathematician or an historian or a philosophy professor, we all think and we think logically, some more than others, but we always have at least some principles of logic. The question then is, why do these work? If there is no God, and if the universe is evolving, and if this stuff is occurring in our brains, then it probably is no more than the result of biochemical actions going on inside our heads. But as a matter of fact, we all walk through life, every day, from dawn to dusk utilizing logic in a way that betrays the fact that deep down we after all do admit that logic is useful and we use it all the time.
Thinking back to the attributes of God again, sovereign, righteous, holy, love, omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable, etc. what is the attribute of God that supports logic? Who thinks and who thinks perfectly, and what do we call that? His omniscience. So out of the omniscience of God we support human logic, and out of the immutability of God we support these concepts. In other words, every sentence and everything we do is a derivative of God our Creator. And, we do not have to be embarrassed as Christians. The unbeliever has the problem, he ought to be embarrassed because he uses these tools every day and he can’t give a foundation for them. No foundation, no reason, no rhyme, no cause behind all these things; there’s no support for this. So that’s logic, and we say it’s supported by God.
We’ve shown this diagram a number of times. We’re moving to eschatology and we want to show you why we’re thinking of these two things before we get to eschatology. This is experience. We all have some degrees of experience, and the experience that we all have is limited. When we have all the different things added up that we’ve experienced, every little thing that has ever happened to us, we’ll get some number, n, there’s always the next experience. Here’s the question, and philosophers have tried and struggled with this thing. How do we know that the n + 1 experience everything we’ve learned before? How do we know that? In advance how do we know that because we yet haven’t experienced it? So if we haven’t experienced the n + 1 experience than how do we know that we have already experienced is valid and it’s going to last? If we’re not grounded on the character of God as the sovereign, omniscient planner of history, this little formula renders all human knowledge uncertain. Apart from the Scriptures we would be skeptics, and very confused in our thinking because there’s no guarantees out there in the unknown. We live in a mystery, always sitting here waiting for the next thing to happen. Not a clue, not a basis for it, there’s no basis for our logic, no basis for the future. So when we come to experience, we’re always dealing with this unknown.
Let’s tie this together. We have constants, we have rules of knowledge, logic, and we have experience. Eschatology says that there’s a logical plan to history, that there are constants involved in history and that history, the experience, we call it future experience, is already crafted and shaped in the plan of God. That’s eschatology. Apart from Scripture and apart from God, there’s no basis for saying this. As we go through these views on the Millennium, I’m going to point out to you historic consequences. This is not a peripheral discussion that has no practical applications. You’re going to see that there have been vast historical movements throughout history involving millions of people who have died because of wrong eschatology’s. Communism was one of them. We’re going to learn how communism borrowed its eschatology from the Bible. The atheist movement, in order to hold to a progressive view of history borrowed it from the Bible and borrowed it from a particular book in the Bible. And it’s interesting that Marxist’s today would be utterly embarrassed and ashamed to admit where their idea of progress came from; utterly embarrassed and ashamed to have to admit that it came from nowhere else than the Bible.
Why is that? Because the Bible alone has the concept, has the truth, that history is going somewhere, that future experience has already got a shape to it. That is not a possible consequence if you do not accept the Scriptures. If Scripture is not your authority, you have no authority for the future. All you have is just a personal arrogance in deciding, because you decided it’s going to be that way, the future is going some way, that’s all you’ve got, is arrogance or the Word of God.
We want to look now, as we come down to how eschatology developed, and I did this in fine print because I’m trying to compress it down. We’re just trying to start by giving you a little history and background. One other thing we want to define before we get in here. We’ve talked about eschatology, we’ve talked about the fact that it’s built on God’s character, it’s built on a constancy of logical rules; it’s constants and experience. One other thing by way of vocabulary so we can talk about this is you’ll see two words used here a lot. One is history, and the other is eternity. What we mean by eternity here is not God’s attribute. What this word, “eternity” means; it means future, the future experience with God, the future eternal history you might say.
These are two categories, so let’s look at these two categories and get them firm in our mind so we can start a vocabulary of thinking this through. History is a period of time and we’ve seen this, we’ve just never used the word before in connection with this diagram. Let’s go back to our old familiar diagram and let’s look at the Christian position. The Christian position has creation as the starting point, before creation you have God eternally existing. So there’s no eternal history except His own personal eternality. History begins there and runs on a line to judgment. Then once we reach this point in judgment, we say good and evil are separated, the book of Revelation ends with a total division, and it’s locked up. So here is a characteristic that sets apart eternity future and history as we live it. In this interim what do we say? Good and evil coexist. It’s possible to cross from one to the other. This is the time for repentance; this is the time for sin, go toward evil—sin; go toward good—repentance. It’s a time, history is that time when repentance can be possible, and sin, falling into sin, is possible.
When we come out to eternity, however, the evil remains evil and the good remains good, and there is no crossover, there is no repentance, nobody falls, angels don’t worry about salvation, nor do the eternally redeemed. Salvation is past tense, it’s gone. The only time we discuss salvation is in this interim period, between creation and the final end. After that, salvation is irrelevant. So that tells us something else, it tells us that as far as God’s plan for us, there’s something greater than the salvation plan. Salvation is not the end point. If it were, then there would be no sense of living forever and ever. If salvation stops at a point in time then it’s no longer is an issue. If salvation is no longer an issue, what then has become the issue? And of course the answer is the glory of God. That’s why the glory of God is a higher goal than salvation itself, and why any plan of salvation must be subordinate to the glory of God, because that’s ultimately what occupies the creation here. So if we define this as history and we define this as eternity, then history is a period of repentance and sin, and eternity is a time when it’s frozen and locked in place. That’s a pretty powerful difference between history and eternity.
Let’s bring out a few other things. We call this period of time in history the time of mortality, i.e. it’s the era of mortality. What does that mean? It means we can die. In Adam and Eve’s case they could die if they fell, so they were vulnerable to death. Christ, in His humanity…, we see now why we’re setting this up because we’re going to start talking about Christ and what He could do and couldn’t do. Jesus Christ as true humanity could also die. That was possible, because He lived inside history. That’s all tied in with His incarnation, what a magnificent miraculous thing it was, for the God of eternity to come into history and become vulnerable to death as any other creature in history would be, creature being His created body in Christ.
On this side, once we get over into eternity, we call that the era of immortality. I am immortality. Those are two words, mortality and immortality. Those two words become very important when we go to sort through the pieces in all of this. Here we have repentance, evil and change. Here we have fixed categories without that kind of change, mortality and immortality.
Let’s go to page 1 in the handout, and we want to look at that first chart. This is the chart, figure 1, the pre-New Testament controversy of kingdom and judgment. Now here’s the problem that arose. You can see it developing in the Old Testament, and it occurred long before Jesus walked the face of this earth. The issue in the Old Testament, let’s go back, we said this all develops out of what we studied, so let’s go back to the call of Abraham and the origination of the kingdom of God in the Old Testament. We called that “The Disruptive Kingdom” because the world had fallen, and God’s intrusion into fallen history from the standpoint of history it was a disruption; it’s not a disruption as far as He’s concerned. It’s the history that’s disrupted, but reversing it that’s why we use that vocabulary.
In this situation, we talk about the kingdom, and that’s a theme in the Old Testament, the Kingdom of God. And Abraham is told the King shall come out from Him, and they shall rule, they shall have dominion. In the Exodus we have God starting His theocracy or the theocratic kingdom. And what was the constitution of the theocratic kingdom? The Old Testament Torah. Watch it here, because this is a point that we will see again and again in the next two or three lessons. Where’s the church in all this? That’s the big question. The church is not visible at all in any of this business about the kingdom. This is all Israel. The church has nothing to do with this in the Old Testament, because the church doesn’t exist in the Old Testament. It’s Israel and Israel alone that’s centered in this. It’s Jewish; it’s a Jewish versus a Gentile issue. Forget all the New Testament, the New Testament hasn’t happened yet.
So you have this kingdom, and we know as we go through this kingdom, remember there was blessing and cursing on Israel, and we said that one of the paradoxes that we’re left with toward the end of the Old Testament is this paradox: how can a holy God, the King of Israel, bring sinful people into a kingdom that has no end? How can they ever have security as sinful people in God’s kingdom? And just to emphasize the point, what did God do to people who sinned here, and after the reign of David? Last year we saw that He disciplined, and what was the point in all the discipline? The point in all the discipline was that He’s a holy King and He will not tolerate sin in His kingdom. He rules His kingdom with an iron hand. Why is that? Because He’s a holy God.
Then the kingdom came into decline, the kingdom was divided, Israel, and went into exile. During this period there arose all the prophecies of this future kingdom, that God one day would restore the kingdom on a great scale. Here’s a question for Bible interpretation. If you were a reader of the prophecies, not now in the New Testament, but if you were a reader of the prophecies of Jeremiah, the prophecies of Daniel, of Zechariah, how would we think when we heard the word “the Kingdom of God?” Let’s think about that before we get screwed up, because believe me, this is a central point, and if you miss it here you’ll miss the rest of the whole discussion, so that’s why I want to take a few minutes and talk about this.
What would you have if you just had the Old Testament in your head, and somebody came to you and told you the Kingdom of God is coming, repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand? How would you interpret that? Would you interpret that to be an inner spiritual thing? Or would you interpret it to be a physical and political thing? Physical and political! What was it back here, when the word was used, what was the historic context of word usage. That’s how you define words. Was there spirituality to it? You bet there was, of course there’s spirituality with it because God kicked people out of it when they didn’t obey Him. So there’s spirituality there. But what else is there besides just spirituality? Physical existence, physical people, in physical bodies, in a physical land, in a physical location, doing physical things, building physical temples.
So the Kingdom of God is not heaven. We’ve got to watch it here because there’s sloppiness in our thinking. The Kingdom of God is not conceived as a synonym for heaven. People get that because they read the New Testament all their life and never understand where it came from. Two-thirds of the Bible is Old Testament. Why don’t we spend two-thirds of our time preaching, teaching and learning it? We both know we can go out of here and examine 100 different pulpits and go into any of them on a Sunday morning and where’s the sermon being taken from? Old Testament or New Testament? Then we wonder why everybody is screwed up.
The point we’re making here is that the Kingdom of God from the Old Testament, you always define words in the Bible in basically the first usage and then you build from there. The word “kingdom” has to do with something physical, has to do with something very Palestinian, has to do with something centering very much on Jerusalem, and has to do with Jewish kings. That’s the kingdom.
On page 1 the problem comes that in the Jewish picture, they had this judgment and resurrection in view. The question was, does the kingdom come before the resurrection or does the kingdom come after the resurrection. That was a question being tossed around in the centuries before Jesus came to minister. Let’s go back to our vocabulary. We’ve already learned tonight two words: immortality and mortality. If the Kingdom of God comes prior to the resurrection, is it made up of mortal people or immortal people? If it comes before the resurrection, it’s talking about people in their natural bodies, and it’s talking about a mortal population that dwells in the Kingdom of God.
On the other hand, if the Kingdom of God comes after the resurrection, now what are we talking about? We’re talking about people in resurrection bodies for whom there is no repentance, there is no salvation, there are no changes and then the Kingdom of God is immortal. This really gets complicated in the New Testament. We’re just beginning right here. So in the picture what I’ve tried to show you is in the pre-New Testament version of this conflict they had a question about this judgment/resurrection. Does the Kingdom of God come on the eternity side or on the present side of the judgment/resurrection?
|PRESENT||--------------?-------------||------X X X X X------||----------------?---------------||ETERNITY|
|Kingdom of God||Resurrection||Kingdom of God|
Figure 1. The Pre-New Testament Controversy of Kingdom and Judgment
You might want to write in there, if the triumphant Kingdom of God comes prior to the judgment/ resurrection it’s made up of mortal people; if it comes after the judgment/resurrection it’s made up of immortal people. So there’s a category problem and it obviously involves how we conceive this future promised kingdom.
As the next paragraph says, “When the church became established,” now we’ve got another problem. The controversy of the Kingdom continued and became more complex. “To the previous Jewish question regarding the nature and sequence of the Kingdom was added the Christian question of the relationship of the church to the Kingdom. Men debated whether the church was a ‘spiritualized’ version of the long-promised triumphant Kingdom, or if the church was only a forerunner of the yet-to-come Kingdom.”
If in the Old Testament they were thinking about the resurrection, and saying is the Kingdom here or is it here; the question came up in the New Testament, where do we put the church. Is the church this, so that church is the Kingdom, or is the church here, future to this Kingdom? Or is there even going to be a Kingdom? So the key here, one of the keys is: what is the relationship of the thing called “church” to the thing called “Kingdom?” Are they identical? Are they different? If they’re different, then what is their relationship to one another?
There are three viewpoints that developed. There are only three possible viewpoints that could develop. Look on page 2 you’ll see these views. They came to be called premillennial, amillennial and postmillennial because it’s the Christian way of saying… in other words, it’s rotating around Christ.
|Present||-------------O-------------||---------------------------||-----------X X X-----------||Eternity|
|Return||Kingdom of God||Resurrection|
|Present||--------------------||-----------------------------------O||X X X---------------------||Eternity|
|Present||---------------------||----------------------------------||X X X----------------||Eternity|
|Kingdom of God||Return||Resurrection|
Figure 2. The Post-New Testament Controversy of Christ’s Return, Kingdom, and Judgment.
First the word “millennial.” Why millennial? Turn to Revelation 20:1; this is why it’s called the Millennial Kingdom. “And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.  And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,  and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.  And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.”>
Notice something about this passage, first: “thousand.” The Latin word for thousand is mille, thousand; now we know where this vocabulary word came from, the Millennial Kingdom. This is actually what the word means, thousand year kingdom. Just as a side, those of you who have the vocabulary down, do you notice something very peculiar about this passage? Let’s look at a thousand year span. What happens at the beginning of the thousand years according to this passage? There’s a resurrection. He says they came alive again, those who had been killed, and they participated in the first resurrection. Are those mortal or are they immortal people? They’re immortal, and they reigned with Christ a thousand years. So interestingly this thousand year period has a reign of immortals, we’ll see later it also has mortals. And then of course there is the end, then eternity, Revelation 21. We have a funny thing going on in this millennium. This is why it gets so messy and I wanted you to get sharp with the vocabulary first, get the categories nice and clean before we screwed them up.
You’ll notice in this passage in this passage you have the coexistence of mortal and immortal people; a strange situation. Remember when we started this series, why did I make such a big point in Genesis 6:1-4. What was that passage, it talks about the sons of God cohabited, lived and walked the earth with whom? Men. What kind of men, mortal or immortal? Mortal people, Noah’s uncles, and all his friends. So they’re all natural bodies walking around, but who was walking around with them? Angels. So here you seem to have in the Millennial Kingdom a condition not unlike the strange condition that preceded the flood, where apparently the human race did have intercourse of some sort with angelic beings. So in this 1,000 years we tend to have a mixture going on.
There’s a lot of hairy stuff happening here, but for tonight all I want to do is introduce the vocabulary. The Millennial Kingdom comes through Revelation 20, that’s where it got its name. Now if you look on that diagram you’ll see there’s a prefix to millennial: “pre,” “a,” and “post.” Premillennial means before the Millennium, and if you look on the diagram, where do you see Christ return? Christ’s return is ahead of the Triumphant Kingdom. Then you have judgment, resurrection, and eternity. That’s the premillennial view of history. Christ comes back, the Kingdom of God goes on, comes into power, then you have the judgment, then you have eternity. That’s the premillennial, Christ precedes the Millennial Kingdom.
The amillennial view is that there isn’t any Millennium, this thing is probably identical with the church. It’s not something separate and Christ’s judgment comes with His resurrection, it’s all one thing, it’s not separated up into stages. It’s treated to be one event, complex but one basic event. “A” is the word that means negative; it’s a Greek negative, not something, so there’s no millennium.
Then the postmillennial view says post, afterwards, after the Millennium Christ comes. So they believe in a Triumphant Kingdom of God and after it is there, then Christ comes back and begins eternity. You’ll see there are parallels and differences, which I’m trying to summarize at the bottom of page 2 with that chart. We’ll use these three checkpoints over and over. That’s not the only checkpoints that can exist, but it’s always helped me to just think about these three things.
|Christ’s return to end history||NO||YES||YES|
|Kingdom to triumph over world culture||YES||YES||NO|
|Evil not to be reduced greatly before Christ’s return||YES||NO||YES|
Table 1. Comparison of the three millennial viewpoints from the three checkpoints discussed in the text.
Look at the chart on the top of page 2 and look at the table on the bottom of page 2. Let’s take the first checkpoint.
Does Christ’s return end history or doesn’t it? Premillennialist, what would he say? Does it end history? No. What about the amillennialist, does Christ’s return in the amillennial scheme end history? Yes. What about the postmillennialist? Yes. So the premillennialist is the odd person out on that first checkpoint, Christ’s return to end history, and premillennialism is against the other two in saying no, it does not end history. I don’t want anybody to be fuzzy here as we go on, but we will repeat over and over, there will be a lot of repetition.
The second checkpoint: Does the Kingdom of God actually come to triumph over world culture. What about the premillennialist? Is the Kingdom of God in history or is it in eternity in the premillennial view? It’s in history because there are mortal people in it. There are immortal people too, but there are mortal people in this thing, history hasn’t ended, eternity hasn’t begun in the premillennial view. So the Kingdom of God precedes eternity, comes into history, and acts as the climactic age in the history of man. Human history culminates in the triumphant Kingdom of God in history. So the premillennialist says yes, there’s a Kingdom of God that ends what we know as human history, that’s it, it ends with the Kingdom of God.
What about the amillennialist? Does the Kingdom come to triumph over world culture? He has to answer no because he doesn’t believe in a Millennial Kingdom, this is all spiritual, so there is no real kingdom that ever does come. What about the postmillennialist? Does he have a triumphant Kingdom of God in history? Yes he does. So here it’s amillennialism that’s the odd man out. Postmillennialists and premillennialists agree there’s got to be a triumph, a climax to human history in which the Kingdom of God appears in a physical political form.
The third checkpoint, will evil not be significantly reduced in history before Christ returns? What about the premillennialists; we live in an evil age, is it getting better? No, so the premillennialist says yes, evil is going to stay with us until Christ comes back. What about the amillennialist? He agrees with the premillennialist here? Yes, history is not going to get better before Christ comes back; we have to coexist with the good and evil. But the postmillennialist says no, history is going to get better and better until Christ returns. That’s the optimistic view of history, that evil will be reduced prior to Christ’s return.
Those are the three views historically in the church. Now we’re going to move on page 3 to the first one, the premillennial view. I want to cover a lot of the premillennial view in the time we have left, we’ll finish it up next week, then we’ll go to the “a” and “post” and then we’ll go to the resolution. What I’m going to try to do, my methodology of presentation is I’m going to try to be as honest as I can to each of the three positions, you’ll see where I stand later as we go on. If you know the doctrinal statement of this chapel you’ll know where I’m going.
The origin and the history of premillennialism: It started before Christ. There was a view that originated back in the Jewish era at the end of the Old Testament. The quote I have there by R. H. Charles: “According to the universal expectation of the past the resurrection and the final judgment were to form the prelude to an everlasting Messianic Kingdom on earth, but from this time forth,” remember the exile and what was the next event, after the exile came the partial restoration to the land, that’s what R. H. Charles is talking about. During the period of the restoration “these great events are relegated to its close, and the Messianic Kingdom is for the first time in literature conceived of as of temporary duration.”
“In II Enoch the duration of this temporary Messianic Kingdom was placed at one thousand years. It declared that the close of the thousand-year period, history would end and eternity begin.” That II Enoch book is very important. Why do you suppose it’s important, it’s not the Scriptures? What it tells you is what people were thinking when the Apostle John wrote Revelation 20. If you had read II Enoch and you were already discussing the Kingdom in these terms, how would you have interpreted what John says in Revelation 20? This controls how we interpret these prophecies.
“Whether the final Kingdom was conceived as the last stage of history or as the eternal state, however, Jewish thought has always insisted that it would be material, earthly, and centered on Jerusalem.” Please underline that and notice that—very important. We’re going to see the rise of anti-Semitism in western civilization, and we’re going to watch what happens here. This figures into something that’s coming. The Jewish thought has always conceived of the Kingdom of God as material, earthly and centered on Jerusalem. It does not conceive of it in a Greek way of thinking which is immaterial, spiritual and heavenly. That’s a Greek form of thinking; it is not a Jewish form of thinking. And the church knew this, and we’ll have numerous quotes about it.
On page 3 I quote from the Jewish prayer book that’s recited in Jewish homes every Passover. I do this to show you something. “Proclaim by Thy loud trumpet our deliverance, and raise up a banner to gather our dispersed,” who’s our dispersed? They’re the people that didn’t come back in the partial restoration, the people of the exile. Where are those people? In all the different nations, there are Jews scattered among all the nations. So what they’re asking for every Passover in a Jewish home, “and gather us together from the four ends of the earth. Blessed be Thou, O Lord! Who gatherest the outcasts of Thy people, Israel.” Not the church, Israel! “Even in modern times the Jewish Passover closes each year with the phrase: “Coming year, may it be in Jerusalem!’ ” So, the location of the Kingdom is earthly, it is physical, it is not in Heaven, and it’s not just spiritual.
Now the Christian history: I gave you the passage in Revelation; we went over that so you’re already aware of the key passage for premillennialism as being Revelation 20. Premillennialists “point out that the Apostles were premillennialists and that the early church followed apostolic teaching in this regard. Authorities on church history agree that in the first several centuries of Christianity premillennialism was the majority view. Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165), the foremost apologist of the second century, was clearly premillennial.” Listen to him:
“But I” and this is sort of interesting, “and whoever are on all points right-minded Christians know that there will be resurrection of the dead and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and the others declare…. And, further, a certain man with us, named John, one of the Apostles of Christ, predicted by a revelation that was made to him that those who believed in our Christ would spend a thousand years in Jerusalem, and thereafter the general, or to speak briefly, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place.” Here you have it from a guy who knew John personally; at least he must have been close to John through an intermediary.
Another vocabulary word that you will see in writings, coming up in the next paragraph on page 3—“chiliasm.” Chilias is the Greek word for thousand like mille is the Latin word for thousand, so it’s a synonym, it means the same thing: chiliasm. You’ll see that sometimes in church creeds. Chiliasm is a Greek stem, whereas millennialism is a Latin stem.
“Premillennialism, or chiliasm as it is sometimes called, gradually declined by the fourth century due to several factors. Politically, the church had become powerful.” I want you to think this through. I want you to think in your head, visualize the flow of history, because I want you to see some connections here. These ideas are not theory; these ideas have swayed men, women and nations. Eschatology is a powerful influence, and it’s all the more powerful when it’s not understood. “Politically, the church had become powerful.” Who was the Roman Caesar who legitimized Christianity? Constantine. “The church had become powerful. It was declared the state religion of the Roman Empire.” Isn’t that’s kind of ironic, three centuries before the Romans were killing Christians in the coliseum. Who conquered Rome?
“A far-off Kingdom was no longer as attractive when a present Kingdom seemed possible. Philosophically, Neo-Platonism exercised influence through Origen (ca. 185-254) and Augustine (354-430). A key Platonic idea” Plato was who? A Greek philosopher. What did we say about Greek ways of thinking? They think in the immaterial, good, love, become abstractions, they’re something that is not physical, the physical deteriorates from the abstract ideas of truth. You can have all kinds of triangles, but a triangle is never drawn to be a perfect triangle but in my head I can imagine a perfect triangle, the angles of which sum to 180 degrees. Try to draw one on a piece of paper and you’ll never draw a perfect triangle. So the Greeks argued that it’s the material universe around us that’s screwed up, it’s never ideal. The ideal exists in this abstract area. The Neo-Platonists came to powerfully influence theology in the church.
“A key Platonic idea that affected the millennial discussion was that all matter is evil and anything good is immaterial.” How does that impact the Jewish idea of the Kingdom? What was the Jewish idea of the Kingdom? It was material, it was in a land, it was in a city, it involved politics, it involved rain, snow, not an ideal world awesomely, so now we begin to have a little tension develop inside the church, because you have a lot of people that have become Christians, some who haven’t, just hangers-on. But you have people who have become Christians who aren’t thoroughly converted because they don’t know what part of the Bible? Old Testament. It has an influence doesn’t it?
“Therefore, reasoned the Neo-Platonist, a material kingdom would be evil, and Christ could not rule something evil: His Kingdom had to be ‘good.” The Bible now began to be interpreted allegorically, particularly when it referred to earthly and material blessings in the Messianic Kingdom. Finally, the church was becoming more and more desirous of disassociating itself from Jewish culture. Hebrew Christians, for example, were required to give up all their Jewishness in order to belong to the church. Premillennialism was too solidly identified with Israel for the church leaders of the fourth-century era to leave it unchallenged.” What’s another influence that’s happened here? Neo-Platonism and Greek ways of thinking have come into the church, so we’re concentrating on an ideal spiritual thing, and we just don’t like those Jews. That’s the rise of something we’ll see later, it’s the rise of anti-Semitism inside Christianity. Ideas have consequences.
“Although mainline Roman Catholic thought continued to oppose premillennial eschatological thinking,” Rome has always been anti-premillennial; Roman Catholicism with all of its might, power and scholarship has tried for centuries to destroy premillennialism. “One can trace a narrow line of premillennial groups from the fourth century into the late Middle Ages. The Waldensians, the Lollards, the Wycliffites, and the Bohemian Protestants represent a few of the circles which thought in premillennial terms. Unfortunately, there were also radical groups,” now watch this one, this is a very important point of history. You won’t get this in your high school textbook. “There were also radical groups who seized upon the millennial vision as a justification for radical social upheavals. Although they are closer to postmillennial thoughts of ushering in the ‘golden age,’ in the popular mind they became associated with premillennialism.”
Let’s hold it on that sentence. Why do you suppose I say that? These guys were radical people, they wanted to overthrow some of the kingdom’s and [can’t understand word/s] of Europe and they did so because they saw evil in them and they wanted to bring in the Kingdom. Go back a page to that diagram on page 2. Which view do you think the radical socialists, the revolutionaries looked like in terms of those three charts? Postmillennialists. But what does postmillennialism have in common with premillennialism? Look at the checkpoint. Where does postmillennialism agree with premillennialism? They agree that the Kingdom of God will come about inside history. So these radicals, made a bad name for millennialism of any kind, post or pre. What do you suppose the Catholic Church is? Post, or pre, or “a”? Amillennial, Catholicism is amillennial. Some things will start to make sense that we’ve observed here once we get through this. I’ll show you some things; things that you observe in your own families will start to click when you start putting this together. Roman Catholicism is amillennial, always has been amillennial.
Roman Catholic thought continued to oppose premillennial eschatological thinking; you had the radical social upheavals. “Thus Thomas Munster” he was one of the guys that you read about in history, “and his followers brought premillennialism into great disrepute by their unbiblical exaggerations of the millennium and by their works-centered schemes to bring in the millennium through radical human revolution. From them…” Now look at this sentence - this is why I’m telling you eschatology is not theory only, “From them came later visions of a great historical climax through human works such as communism and Nazism which, ironically, as anti-Christian movements find their foundation for historical progress in Christianity.”
Isn’t this amazing? Do you remember what Hitler quoted to justify the Third Reich? What does He mean the Third Reich? The Kingdom. Nazis dedicated themselves to a movement, it wasn’t just one little soldier here and there, this was a passion in the German soul, to bring about a kingdom, centering on Germany that would dominate the world. And where did they get the idea? Who was the guy that formulated the German language as we know it today? He had more to do with it than anybody else. Martin Luther. And Martin Luther did what? He got printed and distributed the Bible in the people’s language. And guess where Thomas Munster lived, and these guys with their radical reforms? They lived right around the central European area.
So what they did is they began to read the Bible, they began to see that there was a kingdom in history, and they said all kingdoms now are demonic and we shall triumph over all of them and bring in the final kingdom. Then we can easily see how that moved into a Nazi vision. But it also moved into a Marxist vision. So here you have your European politics, the right and the left, borrowing their ideas of historical progress out of our Scriptures. And here they come. Marx borrowed it because he read about Munster. Marx read about those early reformers and he said those guys had the right idea, what a wonderful thing, we can do away with sin, what we need is a good revolution to do it with. Human works, energy of the flesh, a vision of a kingdom.
Remember this, these ideas are extremely powerful. Next time somebody laughs at you because you’re a Christian, carrying your little Bible, just say well, all the great thinkers of the world stole from it so I decided I’d like to go to the original source material instead of getting it second hand from the atheists, and second hand from Marx and Hitler, I decided I would get it first hand by reading Daniel, which is where they stole it from. By the way, there are two lines, Marx got it two ways. He got it through the radical social movement, and he also got it through a philosopher of Germany. Who was the philosopher in Germany that developed the theory that history had a spirit to it and it was progressing, and you have thesis, antithesis and synthesis, and you move one step forward and go on and on. The famous philosopher’s name was Hegel. Where did Hegel get his ideas of kingdom? Daniel, of all places. Holy mackerel, isn’t this sweet! We have Daniel writing the prophecy, we have Hegel taking the idea out of Daniel, developing it into a philosophy, and Marx comes along and borrows it from Hegel. Marx is also reading about these neat guys that had revolutions. Here’s your eschatology. This is not just a little thing for prophecy guys.
At the bottom of page 4, “During the later Reformation period the Protestant leaders continued the Roman Catholic amillennial doctrine.” Please notice this, another important sentence. The Protestant Reformation did not reform eschatology. What area of theology did the Protestant Reformation reform? Soteriology, doctrine of salvation. The Reformists couldn’t do it all in one generation, give the guys a break. They had all they could do to figure out how you get saved, and they should be commended for that. I’m not demeaning, I respect the Reformers. All I’m saying is they didn’t finish the job. The Reformers continued the Catholic amillennial doctrine. Most Protestant denominations are amillennial, just like Rome. There’s not much difference between the average Protestant church and the average Catholic church when it comes to eschatology; they’re both amillennial.
“Some factors present in the fourth century were still at work in the fifteenth century to suppress premillennialism. In the Augsburg Confession, Article XVII,” look at the language, I want you to see how the Protestant Reformers attacked millennialists and why they did. They condemned premillennialists as Jewish. “For example, premillennialism was condemned as ‘Jewish.’” Here’s the quote. “They condemn others also, who now scatter Jewish opinions, that, before the resurrection of the dead, the godly shall occupy the kingdom of the world, the wicked being every suppressed.”
“In the Second Helvetic Confession, one reads these significant words: ‘We condemn the Jewish dreams, that before the Day of Judgment, there shall be a golden age in the earth….’” We’ll have to stop there, but you can see anti-Semitism. These ideas of eschatology are tied in with vast powerful movements of history. What we’ll do, next week we are going to go into the features of premillennialism. We’ll finish amillennialism next week and go into post, and try to go through as to why we believe what we believe here.
Question asked: Clough replies: You raised the question, what do you do with a thousand year kingdom? It says a thousand years; there it is right in the text. You’ve got to allegorize it, you’ve got to spiritualize it, you’ve got to move it around in such a way that it fits with the church. So behind all this you have what we call a hermeneutical shift from a literal interpretation of Scripture over to a spiritualized interpretation. So that passage I showed you about the thousand years doesn’t mean a thousand years, it’s just symbolism that refers to a blessing, eternal blessing.
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s the problem. This is why we believe in our premillennial dispensational circles, why we believe that the Protestant Reformation was prematurely ended because you can see a tension here. If the Protestants carried on with an allegorical interpretation of all of Scripture, they’d wind up back at Rome. It was the literal interpretation of Calvin and Luther that saved the church and the issues of salvation. They didn’t spiritualize that, they had a literal interpretation of the cross of Christ, that He paid for sins, that’s not just poetic images. That means He paid for our sins. So the Protestant reformers, when it came to salvation issues, were very dogmatic about the literal interpretation. But somehow they just never really got with it in eschatology, and frankly it’s because they were exhausted, they were tired. These guys risked everything they had just to articulate soteriology.
But what happened is that in the next generation, the generation after that, the Protestants who followed the Protestants, nobody is as bad as a disciple of the minister; the master may not be extreme but the disciples sure get extreme. What happens is that Reformation thought locked up like concrete right after Calvin and Luther, and so you have what we call, probably, the Reformed Theology, and it has remained virtually unchanged since the 17th century. The Holy Spirit taught between 1200 and 1600. What, did He stop teaching or something? We believe that the literal method of interpreting that was introduced into the church in a powerful way by the Reformers ought to be continued, and ought to then spread to all passages of Scripture, not just the soteriological passages, it ought to apply to eschatological passages.
The problem is when you do that you wind up with all kinds of complexities, which you’ll see shortly. It’s not an easy thing to do. That’s what I was hinting at in that Revelation 19:20 passage, you’ve got mortals coexisting with immortals. That is really hard to visualize. You’re driving your car along the road and all of a sudden there’s a resurrected saint looking at you in the window. This is hard to think about. So it’s not easy to be straightforward and do this. But you’re starting to see the issue here, the issue hinges on what do we do with the Kingdom?
Question asked: Clough replies: You brought up a point. What was asked was that you hear a lot of Christians praying for the Kingdom to come. Well, literally the Lord’s Prayer says that, “Thy Kingdom come.” [something else said] Oh, I understand, see here’s what happens. We hear the words in the Lord’s Prayer, and the Lord’s Prayer says “Thy Kingdom come,” what else does it say right after that, how does it define the Kingdom. “Thy will be done” where, “on earth as it is in heaven.” Notice that, He’s not talking about bringing heaven in; He’s talking about praying heaven down to earth. He’s talking about the Kingdom on earth, that’s the Kingdom, but the Kingdom, for it to come…, and we’re getting into the Gospels this year. What was the message John the Baptist had to Israel? What was his starting message, before Jesus you see Jesus operating in the Gospels, what was the message of John the Baptist? “Repent because the Kingdom of God is at hand.” The question is, this is why we’re going through this, how do you interpret John the Baptist’s message. What did he mean when he announced prior to Jesus that the Kingdom is at hand? Did he mean that there was just a spiritual revival in the hearts of the nation, or did he mean more than that, that the physical manifestation, the Messianic Kingdom could have happened? Had what happened? Had Jesus been accepted by His people?
In the last day, in Palm Sunday, and after the rejection, Jesus was in the city of Jerusalem and He made this comment. I shall not return, Israel, until you say “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.” What does He mean when He comes? Does he mean Pentecost, when He comes spiritually, or does He mean something else when He says I will come back when you welcome me Israel, when you admit that I am the Messiah I will return. What is that return? It’s a return to set up a Kingdom. A return to where? To Jerusalem, that’s where He spoke it, so He’s coming back to Jerusalem to set up the Kingdom. The problem is, what sort of Kingdom does He set up?
When you hear people praying, frankly the more you get into the Scriptures the more you see…it’s well intended; I don’t mean to demean in any way the motive of Christians who are doing this. But they’re not thinking through, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say in Chronicles, “If thy people, who are called by My name,” and they use 2 Chronicles as a blessing verse for America. It doesn’t apply to America, that’s not the context of Chronicles, that’s talking about Israel, and it’s talking about the Kingdom for Israel. In principle is it true that God blesses His people? Yes. But His people aren’t equal to America, His people is the church now. So if you want to spiritually apply it, it still doesn’t apply to the nation, it applies to the church.
It’s just not thinking through carefully and a lot of it can be traced back to the ignorance, the utter appalling ignorance of the Old Testament in people’s thinking. Again, you have to think. Why did Jesus wait so long to come to this earth? All those events that we’ve been talking about were set up for Him. Doesn’t that sort of imply that we can’t understand who He really is and what He is really up to unless we have that preparation, because the Holy Spirit is not wasting His time. The Holy Spirit must have had a reason. Why does He take centuries to set up history for that moment, when the Son of God will walk this earth? It’s because He wants it communicated what the Son of God is all about. We can’t understand what He’s all about if we don’t have that background; it’s a setup, in a good sense of the word.
Question asked: Clough replies: That sentence itself has to be kind of interpreted carefully because it’s not up to autonomous man. God’s sovereignty works behind the scenes to cause things to happen, including people choosing. So history is not out of control in the sense that we’re waiting on… God’s biting His fingernails waiting for Israel to do something. God in His mind has it all planned out, but the means through which Christ will return according to Christ Himself, I will not come until you, Israel, say “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.” This may strike you as odd, why does all history sort of get jammed up over Israel. Wait a minute, back up, back all the way up to the beginning of Israel’s existence. Why did Israel come into existence? The Abrahamic Covenant. What was the third promise of the Abrahamic Covenant? A land, a seed, and a worldwide blessing. So the blessings to this earth are channeled through Israel. Where do we get our Bibles? Israel. Where do we get the Savior? Israel. It’s a consistent theme. This is why Christendom is looked upon as askance by Jewish people because they see that in the name of Christ they have been persecuted.
But what I hope I’ve exposed you to tonight and as we go through subsequent lessons you’re going to see that the anti-Semitism that has existed inside Christendom has always been associated with amillennialism. The two go together, because amillennialism and postmillennialism displace Israel and replace it with the church. Once you’ve made that equation in your head, that the church has replaced Israel, you don’t need Israel anymore, and the Jews did crucify Christ, and they were thrown out of their land, it’s but a short application to then say, like Luther did, at the end of his life he wrote this most atrociously anti-Semitic tract in which he argued, and I quote it in the notes, you’ll see it, he talks about going in and burning up all the Jewish homes in Germany, and going in and ripping them off, and if you see a Jewess or a Jewish boy in the street, give them a shovel and a pick so they’ll learn how to work. This is Luther, the great Reformer, bitter old man toward the end of his life; he lashed out at the Jew. And guess who came along later and quoted Luther? Heil, Adolf and Mein Kampf.
That’s the Jewish picture of us, we know you Christians, we know what you Reformists said, they said burn us, kill us. So see why Jews have a problem and why evangelizing a Jew is rough stuff, and why you have men like Arnold Fruchtenbaum, you have some of the other guys that are Hebrew Christians today, and they’re tying to approach Israel and realizing that hey, I’m a Jew and I don’t stop being a Jew because I’m a Christian. I’m a Hebrew Christian and a completed Jew. And if you want to see an argument, you think we have arguments in Gentile culture, you watch a Jewish atheist go at it with a Hebrew Christian. If you want to see a good argument; I’ve seen them, I’ve watched them. I’ve sat there and watched Arnold go after a Rabbi one day and the Rabbi went after him. And that was cute to watch, because it reminded me when I saw this, they were waving hands and yelling and going all through things in the Hebrew, and I thought to myself, you know, this is probably the way Paul was, because everywhere Paul went in the book of Acts the ceiling fell in. People didn’t ignore Paul. They either threw rocks at him or they blessed him. But they never ignored him, except in one place—Athens—that was the Greeks.
Maybe we’ve touched on some of these themes; we need to think about them because they do really shape how we’re going to think about Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ walks into the pages of Scripture, and He says, He makes this statement, “My kingdom is not of this world,” now what does He mean by that one? That the kingdom is material, when He says the kingdom is not of this world. We have to look at that. That’s an argument the amillennialists use, see, He’s talking about a spiritualized kingdom there, He’s not talking about a material thing. And the argument can be made, wasn’t it true that at first the Jews welcomed Jesus because they thought He provided physical, political deliverance and when he failed to continue that agenda, they turned against Him. They didn’t want any spiritual kingdom, they wanted the physical one. Then how does that play a role in premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism. We’ve got to talk about that.
These are all issues that if we don’t talk about them now, when we get into the Gospels we’re going to lose it, because we’ll just talk about Jesus, He’s a wonderful carpenter, and He had nice ideas about God, and then He got Himself crucified for some reason. We don’t want that, that’s a stupid view of Jesus. What we want is a potent, powerful, biblical image of who this man was, this God-man, and to do that we have to have all the background. That’s what we’re trying to struggle with. Basically in 3-4 weeks we’re going to cover an entire semester of eschatology. We’re going to go fast, we’re not going to necessarily skim, but there’s enough verse references in this section, fine print, that if you look up those verse references by the time you get through in three weeks you will have gone through all the major disputing passages.
Question asked: Clough replies: You mean his diabolical cleverness? [something else said]
It’s common and we must remember that we do have blessings that are given to the church. The church, we will see, has a magnificent role, but it got the blessings through Israel. Always remember that. This is why in Romans, that Romans passage, what does Paul say about the branch? Don’t get smart and despise that from which you came, because God can chop you off. So it’s a warning passage there, I think it’s Romans 9.
Question asked: Clough replies: I agree with his experience because it was mine, I grew up in a very Jewish community, and frankly I had some close Jewish friends, but a lot of people I argue with all the time are Jewish people. And it’s to fault the stereotypes, so you get the stereotype and it’s easy to fall into that. I didn’t know what the Jews were all about until after I became a Christian, then when I brought that up to a Jew, I really had problems.