The Millennium Question
Men have long speculated on what will happen in the ages to come. What will the condition of men be when they are raised (1 Cor. 15:35)? What is the purpose of the reign of Christ in the age to come, known to the Hebrews and early Christians as the Kingdom Age, or the Messianic Age? How does it differ from the age that follows it, described as “the new heaven and the new earth” having a “new Jerusalem”?
Perhaps even more confusing to people today is all this talk about man's ultimate abode in heaven. If we are to live in heaven, then why would the saints return to earth at the resurrection to reign with Christ as it says in Revelation 5:10 and other places? In fact, what is the purpose of the millennium? I have encountered people in the ministry who were also puzzled by these questions. If even they are puzzled, it should not be surprising that many average Christians are also puzzled. Some may have been receiving contradictory teachings and do not have the keys to sort it out for themselves.
It is our purpose in this book to break the seals on this topic and boldly strike out on what we can only call an awesome adventure. The first door can be unlocked only with the key of understanding the three main feast days of Israel.
The Three Feasts of Israel
Passover was the first feast of Israel, occurring in late March or early April. The people gathered at the place where God had placed His name, carrying with them the firstfruits of the barley, which was the first crop to ripen in the spring. Fifty days after the barley was offered to God, the people gathered again before God to give Him the firstfruits of the newly-ripened wheat. About four months later, in September, the people gathered a third time to give God the firstfruits of the wine, for this was the time of grape harvest.
These three feasts are prophetic in many ways. They speak of three stages of development in the Kingdom of God upon the earth. They speak of three anointings or manifestations of the Spirit that are associated with each stage of Kingdom development. And finally, the firstfruits themselves foreshadow the beginning of a greater harvest to come.
From Moses to Christ was a Passover Age, reflecting the first level of anointing and empowerment, wherein the Kingdom of God operated on a relatively small scale in the House of Israel. The day of Pentecost in Acts 2 began a Pentecostal Age with an enhanced level of the Holy Spirit's power, and this brought the Kingdom of God an entirely new empowerment. But even Paul acknowledged three times that this was only an EARNEST of the Spirit, a downpayment of something better that was yet to come. He looked for a Tabernacles Age, in which the FULLNESS of the Spirit would be poured out, and the Kingdom of God would be established in the earth in its highest form and with its greatest power.
The key to understanding the Kingdom of God is to view it in its three stages of development, rather than pitting one view against another. Some say the Kingdom is NOW, and they are certainly correct. Others say the Kingdom is FUTURE, and they are correct as well. A few even say that the Kingdom of God began with Moses, and they too are correct. The Kingdom of God did indeed begin in the time of Moses when God first organized Israel into a kingdom at Horeb. But the Kingdom of God was manifested in a greater manner under a Pentecostal anointing in the second chapter of Acts.
But the Kingdom of God is also yet future as of this writing. We await the outpouring of the Spirit under the feast of Tabernacles, which will manifest the Kingdom of God in its highest form on the earth. Only this view is large enough to encompass both those who believe the “Kingdom Now” idea, as well as the “ Future Kingdom ” viewpoint.
Under Moses, the people of Israel no doubt thought that the Kingdom of God had come in its fullness in their day. It was not revealed to them that there was much more yet to come, except in a progressive revelation of the prophets who came later. Even so, most of the people did not understand the true meaning of their own feast days. They had focused too much upon the rituals themselves in trying to please God. This is why they did not recognize the true Lamb of God when John pointed Him out to the people (John 1:29), nor did they see that He would have to die at Passover for the sin of the world.
The early Church understood clearly the meaning of the feast of Passover. They wrote extensively about its fulfillment in Jesus' death. But the people were only Pentecostal in their outlook. They had moved up one level, and this had greatly increased their understanding of the plan of God. However, they had little or no understanding of the feast of Tabernacles. Pentecost was their prime focus, and this is perfectly understandable, for it was a new and marvelous thing in the earth. To many, it was the end and goal of all history. But the revelation of Tabernacles was not clearly understood, because it was too early for this to be revealed. Kingdom people had to have opportunity to explore the marvels of Pentecost before overwhelming them with a serious revelation of Tabernacles.
So God saved the revelation of the feast of Tabernacles for the end of the Pentecostal Age in the twentieth century. The types and shadows of Scripture seem to indicate that the Pentecostal Age was meant to last for about 40 Jubilee cycles, or 1960 years (49 x 40). A Jubilee time cycle is 49 years. The Jubilee year was the fiftieth year, but that was also the first year of the next Jubilee cycle. God measures time in sevens, and so 40 Jubilees of time would be 1960 years. It may be, then, that the Pentecostal Age, which began in 33 AD, began to come to a close in 1993 in preparation for a greater Age to come under the anointing of Tabernacles.
The Thousand Years
Rev. 20 uses the term chilia (“thousand”) six times. It is often argued that the term is plural, and therefore it refers to “thousands” of years, not merely one thousand. But this argument is not valid linguistically.
While it is true that the word is technically plural, this is not how the term is actually used in Greek. It is a plural that can only be properly translated in the singular to make any sense. For example, in 2 Peter 3:8 we read,
8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand [chilia] years, and a thousand [chilia] years as one day.
Here “one day” is as a chilia. The normal understanding of this parallel is that ONE day = ONE thousand years.
Let us look at other examples of how chilia is used in the New Testament. Rev. 11:3 says,
3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for a thousand [chilia] two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.
Though chilia is technically plural, there is no way to accurately translate it in the plural here. One cannot say that the two witnesses prophesy for THOUSANDS two hundred and sixty days. The same is true for Rev. 12:6, where the woman flees into the wilderness for a thousand [chilia] two hundred and sixty days.
Chilia is an adjective, and grammar requires that it agree in number with the noun (years) that it qualifies. This is the only way the Greek connects adjectives to their nouns. Thus, because “years” is plural, so also must we use the plural, chilia, in order to make the words agree.
Both the Hebrew and the Greek use plurals differently than we do in English. For example, Jacob wrestled with the angel at a place which he called Peniel. This word comes from panah-el. Panah is the singular of paniym, but panah never appears once in the Bible. The word means “face” or “presence.” The fact that the word is plural may originally have something do with the fact that we have two faces, one on each side of our noses; but the fact that it has to do with one's PRESENCE makes the plural untranslatable. The plural is used to convey a singular concept.
My conclusion, then, is that Revelation 20 is about a thousand-year period, and that we should not disagree with the scholars without good reason based upon solid evidence that at least a few scholars can set forth.
The History of Millennial Teaching
When we look at the history of philosophy and thought, we see that the idea of a Sabbath Millennium is the earliest viewpoint of the known Christian leaders. For instance, in the Epistle of Barnabas, dated around 115 A.D., we read in chapter 13,
3 And even in the beginning of the creation he makes mention of the Sabbath. And God made in six days the works of his hands; and he finished them on the seventh day, and he rested the seventh day, and sanctified it. 4 Consider, my children, what that signifies, he finished them in six days. The meaning of it is this; that in six thousand years the Lord God will bring all things to an end. 5 For with him one day is as a thousand years; as himself testifies, saying, Behold, this day shall be as a thousand years. Therefore, children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things are accomplished. 6... then he shall gloriously rest in that seventh day.
This letter is written in Greek and was cited by many of the early Church fathers. I do not propose to enter into the debate of its canonicity or the date of its authorship. I use it as an early example of the fact that chilia is used as a singular “thousand,” as well as an example of the early belief that there would be a Sabbath Millennium in which “all things are accomplished.”
If the author (called “pseudo-Barnabas” by scholars) wrote this around 115 A.D., then he was almost certainly a contemporary of John himself, who died around 100 A.D. The book of Revelation was not even written until 96 A.D. It is not likely that the author would have disagreed with John's own interpretation of the book of Revelation.
Likewise, we see in the writings of Papias (70-155 A.D.), a disciple of John, the same viewpoint. Papias was one of the last of the Hebrew leaders in the Church. We know his viewpoint from Fragment IX, quoted by Anastasius Sinaita:
“Taking occasion from Papias of Hierapolis, the illustrious, a disciple of the apostle who leaned on the bosom of Christ, and Clemens, and Pantaenus the priest of [the Church] of the Alexandrians, and the wise Ammonius, the ancient and first expositors, who agreed with each other, who understood the work of the six days as referring to Christ and the whole Church.”
There is a whole list of illustrious early Church leaders who are said to have been in agreement with the idea of the Great Sabbath Millennium before the middle of the second century. In my view, it is tragic that it did not survive the allegorical views of the later Greek Church. The idea of a Millennium seems to have died out with the Hebrew Christians.
But a shift in thinking was inevitable as the apostles died along with their immediate disciples who knew them personally. It was not that the Church became paganized by the converted Greeks, as some have taught, but rather that their cultural backgrounds, values, and manner of thinking changed from Hebrew to Greek over the course of a century. Far from discarding Scripture altogether, this only affected their interpretation of Scripture, or rather their method of interpretation, which shifted from spiritual to allegorical almost imperceptibly.
In that day this shift was designed to win the Greeks by arguing Scripture on their own stage. But in doing so, they lost something in the translation. In my view, we ought to discard the Greek need to allegorize everything, and get back to the thoughts, words, and intent of the Hebrew prophets, as interpreted by the New Testament writers, who were all Hebrews except for Luke. Yet even Luke was the biographer of the Apostle Paul and no doubt adopted his viewpoint on all important matters.
The Greek Mindset Replaces the Hebrew
The Millennial teaching came out of Hebrew thought patterns, based upon the historicity of the Old Testament. For this reason, the Epistle of Barnabas was attacked later by those who preferred the Greek (Alexandrian) method of biblical interpretation. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. X (1911 ed.), under “Millennium,” says,
“The most powerful adversary of millenarianism was Origen of Alexandria. In view of the Neo-Platonism on which his doctrines were founded and of his spiritual-allegorical method of explaining the Holy Scriptures, he could not side with the millenarians. He combated them expressly, and, owing to the great influence which his writings exerted on ecclesiastical theology especially in Oriental countries, millenarianism gradually disappeared from the ideas of Oriental Christians.”
“St. Augustine finally held to the conviction that there will be no millennium... In the same book [De Civitate Dei] he gives us an allegorical explanation of Chap. 20 of the Apocalypse. The first resurrection, of which this chapter treats, he tells us, refers to the spiritual rebirth in baptism; the Sabbath of one thousand years, after the six thousand years of history, is the whole of eternal life; or, in other words, the number one thousand is intended to express perfection, and the last space of one thousand years must be understood as referring to the end of the world...
“This explanation of the illustrious Doctor was adopted by succeeding Western theologians, and millenarianism in its earlier shape no longer received support.
“The Protestantism of the sixteenth century ushered in a new epoch of millenarian doctrines. Protestant fanatics of the earlier years, particularly the Anabaptists, believed in a new, golden age under the scepter of Christ, after the overthrow of the papacy and secular empires.”
Thus, we see that the spiritual-allegorical interpretation of Scripture, coming from Alexandria, was popularized by Origen. He often tortured the Old Testament to speak allegorically. The Alexandrian view had little use for history as viewed by the Hebrews. The entire Greek religious mythological culture had shaped the mindsets and outlooks of society, and when some of them became Christians, they imported it into Christianity itself.
Greek religion was based largely upon myths, which were stories that were allegories, rather than history. Thus, when trying to convert Greeks to Christianity, some teachers adapted the Greek allegorical mindset in order to make it more palatable to them. But historically speaking, John was a Hebrew, and he had a Hebrew mindset. The Hebrews used allegories and parables, but the truth of Scripture was rooted in history. Adam and Eve were real people. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were real, and their stories are not mere allegories.
In fact, their stories are historical allegories. Their histories had prophetic meaning. Abraham really did have two wives: Hagar and Sarah. They were allegories of the Old and New Covenants, as Paul says in Gal. 4:22-31, but they really did live as historical characters on earth.
The primary difference between the Greek and Hebrew views is that the Greeks saw no need for any of the biblical stories to be rooted in history, as long as the stories had an allegorical meaning. The Hebrew view saw all things rooted in history, but also saw that history has meaning and often sets patterns for future prophetic fulfillment.
It is ironic that the Roman Church repudiated Origen of Alexandria in the year 400 A.D. for his teachings on universal reconciliation, but they adopted his method of interpreting Scripture. This was how the teaching of the Sabbath Millennium was lost. The Catholic Encyclopedia says that the Hebrew view was revived by Protestants in the sixteenth century. But even so, some non-Catholics have continued to reject the Hebrew idea of a Millennium in favor of the later Greek and Latin view.
Other Prophetic Patterns
The Tabernacle in the Wilderness was designed in its very structure to indicate a 2,000 year Church Age, followed by a 1,000 year Kingdom Age. The Tabernacle was divided into three areas: the outer court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. The outer court typifies the Passover Age with its Brazen Altar. Because it had no ceiling, one cannot measure the outer court like we can the tent of meeting. Yet it signifies the Old Testament era.
In the tent itself, the Holy Place typifies the Pentecostal Age and was 2,000 cubic cubits (10 x 20 x 10 cubits). The Holy of Holies typifies the Tabernacles Age and 1,000 cubic cubits (10 x 10 x 10 cubits). In man's approach to God, the Tabernacle was built to show the way to God; and even its room's dimensions portray the time of Pentecost and Tabernacles.
Those who teach that there is no future thousand-year reign of Christ assume that we have all the necessary spiritual empowerment to reign on earth NOW. The view does not take into consideration that Pentecost gave us only an earnest of the Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; and Eph. 1:14). They do not see that the Kingdom of God is manifested in stages. They do not understand the limitations of the pentecostal anointing. Christians cannot fully reign on earth under the anointing of Passover, nor under the anointing of Pentecost. Only a Tabernacles anointing is sufficient to fully manifest the sons of God.
In other words, when a man is justified by faith in the blood of the Lamb, he receives a Passover anointing from God, but this does not bring him personally into the fullness of the Spirit. When a man receives the Spirit of God through the anointing of Pentecost, he receives a fresh anointing, but it is only an earnest, and he is still left with imperfections by which he falls short of the glory of God. Only when God pours out His Spirit upon us in the fulfillment of Tabernacles will we find the perfection and immortality we seek.
The first two feast days were fulfilled on historic dates according to the plan of God. No one has been able to enter permanently into a feast day's fulfillment ahead of its historic fulfillment. Moses entered into Tabernacles temporarily when he came down the mount with his face glorified (Exodus 34:29; 2 Cor. 3:7), but even he could not retain that glory permanently, for neither he nor the other overcomers could be perfected apart from the corporate body (Heb. 11:40).
There are many more such evidences that we could put forth, except that many of these require an in-depth knowledge of prophecy which is outside the scope of this book. And so we hope that these few words will suffice at least the majority of the readers for now.
The Two Resurrections
The first resurrection is limited to believers, for Rev. 20:6 says, “Blessed and holy is the one who has part in the first resurrection.” The allegorists later taught that “resurrection” was the equivalent of salvation, and they spiritualized resurrection to mean that one who is dead in trespasses and sins has now come into the life of Jesus Christ.
While that is certainly a valid application of the principle, it goes against the Hebrew mindset in general and the Apostle Paul's entire dissertation on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul may apply the idea of resurrection to one's present condition in Christ, but nowhere does he DEFINE resurrection in such a limited way. In fact, as an ex-Pharisee, he was well acquainted with the controversy. No doubt he had argued with the Sadducees many times over the issue of a literal, physical resurrection.
Job 19:25, 26 says,
25 And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. 26 Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God.
Daniel 12:2 says,
2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting [olam] life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting [olam] contempt.
These verses shaped Hebrew-Pharisee doctrine, in which Paul had been educated. If Paul had deviated from this view, it is certain that he would have left us a record of it in 1 Corinthians 15. But there is no trace of deviation. In fact, he proves the fact of our own resurrection by the example of Jesus Christ Himself. The only so-called Christians in the early Church who argued against the physical death and resurrection of Jesus were the Gnostics.
John was particularly repulsed by Gnostic teaching. There is no place in any of John's writings to indicate that he had deviated from the Hebrew idea of resurrection. And so, to adopt the Greek view of resurrection and to redefine it as some did long after the death of the Apostles is not credible or sustainable in my view.
The first resurrection is a corporate event, not a personal one. A corporate event is like the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, whereas a personal event is like the day that Cornelius and his friends experienced Pentecost for themselves. These are distinct events. So also, John does not treat the first resurrection as a personal experience, but as a corporate event.
The first resurrection is reserved for the overcomers who will “reign with Him for a thousand years.” It is not about becoming a believer, but about the reward for being an overcomer. It is not about citizenship in the Kingdom, but about rulership.
John explains that one thousand years after the first resurrection comes the Great White Throne Judgment, in which ALL the (remaining) dead are raised, including both believers and unbelievers. This is proven by Jesus' words in John 5:28, 29, where He speaks of this general resurrection:
28 Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, 29 and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
Note that this is a single “hour;” that is, both just and unjust will be raised at the same time. This is obviously not the first resurrection, where only believers are raised. This is a clear description of the second resurrection, where ALL who remain in the tombs will come forth for judgment.
Note also that there will be believers raised at this hour, along with unbelievers. Jesus says that the just will be given “life,” while the unjust will be judged. Many teach today that all believers will be raised at the first resurrection; and all the unbelievers will be raised at the next resurrection. This simply cannot be true, if Jesus' words are to be believed.
Paul offers a double witness to this teaching that the second resurrection will include both good and bad. He says in Acts 24:14 and 15:
14 But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and that is written in the Prophets; 15 having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
This can only be referring to the second, not the first resurrection, because only “blessed and holy” people are raised the first time. We must conclude, then, that NOT ALL Christians will be raised in the first resurrection. Some must remain in the grave until the second resurrection, otherwise the statements by Jesus and Paul would be incorrect.
When we look at the rather detailed description of the second resurrection in Revelation 20, we find hints that there will be believers judged at that time. The very fact that the Book of Life is opened (20:12) hints at this. Why would the Book of Life be opened, if no one standing there were written in it? Furthermore, verse 15 strongly implies this when John says:
15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Certainly this means that many WILL BE FOUND written in that Book. And those who are will be given life at that time as Jesus said.
Who are these believers? Why would they need to be judged? I believe the key is found in Jesus' teaching in Luke 12:35-50. Jesus speaks of “the faithful and sensible steward whom his master will put in charge of his servants” (12:42). Such people, Jesus says, will be given a place of rulership and responsibility. This says essentially the same thing as Revelation 20:4, where those of the first resurrection “came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
There is, however, another kind of servant, or “slave.” Keep in mind that he is still called God's “slave,” a believer, but he is not “blessed and holy” by any means. Jesus continues in verse 45 of Luke 12:
45 But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; 46 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him, and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces [dichotomeo, “to cut up by severely beating”], and assign him a place [meros, “portion, part that is due, lot”] with the unbelievers.
In other words, these unsanctified slaves, who had been given authority over other slaves, but who abused their position, will NOT be given authority in the age to come. Instead, they will be beaten with stripes according to the law found in Deuteronomy 25. Furthermore, Jesus says they will receive their portion, or allotment “with the unbelievers,” that is, AT THE SAME TIME the unbelievers get their portion.
This does not mean their portions are the same as the unbelievers. Jesus made this clear in the next few verses when He said that the unsanctified servant will receive either few or many stripes (lashes), according to his deeds. It does NOT say that he will be classed as an unbeliever or that he will lose his portion (allotted inheritance). It merely says that he will not receive his portion in the resurrection of the just. He will get his portion along with the unbelievers at the Great White Throne.
Keep in mind that in God's Law, a beating was a punishment that was done immediately in front of the judge and was strictly limited to 40 stripes (Deut. 25:3). Jesus uses the term “many stripes” and “few stripes” to indicate an intense but quick form of correction, administered according to the law's judgment.
They will not be thrown into “the lake of fire” mentioned in Revelation 20 during that long, final Age, for that is the fate of the unsaved. Nonetheless, such believers will indeed be judged in a lesser manner. I believe that this is the judgment Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 3:15.
11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.
I do not believe that this fire is literal. They will, however, be judged according to God's fiery law, which in this case is up to 40 stripes. Christians in whom Jesus Christ is laid as a foundation, but who built upon that Foundation with wood, hay, and stubble, will suffer loss. They will be held accountable for their works, the things they built upon their foundation of faith in Jesus Christ. Their WORKS and their flawed CHARACTER will be tried by fire and will be burned. This will not destroy them, but will purify them by chastisement and make them fit for the Kingdom of God.
The unbelievers themselves, however, will be “thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14 and 15). The question is whether or not this is a literal fire that differs from the other fire in which certain believers are tried. This will be the subject of our next chapter.