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11.3. Why a Millennial Kingdom

Why must there be a future thousand-year kingdom on earth? Even in the absence of the book of Revelation, premillennialists would expect a future kingdom on earth because one is required in order for God to fulfill the many OT promises which require such a kingdom:

It is to be regretted, however, that the word “millennium” ever supplanted the Biblical word “kingdom.” For we are not dependent on the twentieth chapter of Revelation for our understanding of the kingdom age. it is mentioned and described so many times by the Hebrew prophets that the Bible would not make sense unless there is a literal kingdom. In fact, if there is no kingdom, God’s word cannot be trusted, and many of the promises of God to both Israel and the Gentile nations would go unfulfilled. That is impossible. . . . The kingdom is guaranteed if for no other reason than Jesus promised He would return and set it up and permit His twelve disciples to rule on thrones [Mtt. Mat. 19:28; Luke Luke 22:30] and as we shall see, so will His “saints.”1

Due to the superficial knowledge of so many in our day . . . they have not recognized . . . in their study of the Scriptures . . . ‘the 1000 years’ of John are found in the Old Testament prophets, but still keep harping on the old and tuneless string that ’the Millennium is found in only one passage of the Bible, and that in a very obscure book called the Apocalypse!2

None of the promises which God has given are more important than those which are the subject of unconditional formal agreements, called covenants which God made in the OT. A plain reading of each of the Biblical covenants3 indicates there are elements of the covenants which remain unfulfilled. Since these covenants are unconditional, then it follows that they will be fulfilled else God’s word would be broken:

Another basis for the belief in a coming kingdom rests on the four unconditional, unfulfilled covenants [Abrahamic, Land, Davidic, New] God made with Israel. These covenants are unconditional and so rely solely on God for their fulfillment and not on Israel. They are also unfulfilled and since God is One who keeps His promises, they must be fulfilled in the future. They can only be fulfilled within the framework of a messianic age or a millennial kingdom.4

Another reason there must be a Millennial Kingdom is because there are numerous passages, especially in the OT, which describe conditions which sound a lot like the eternal state,5 but contain elements which are incompatible with what we know about the eternal state. For example:

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying. No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. (Isa. Isa. 65:17-20) [emphasis added]

In the midst of describing a time of tremendous blessing and restoration, Isaiah mentions two facts which are incompatible with the eternal state: death and sin (cf. Rev. Rev. 21:4+, Rev. 21:8+; Rev. 22:15+). It is obvious that this passage has never been fulfilled in history past. It most certainly doesn’t describe history present. And it cannot describe the eternal state. So what is an interpreter to do? There are basically two “solutions” to this predicament. Which solution one chooses determines if one winds up a premillennialist or not: (1) take the text at face value and assume there must be a time where conditions are as the text describes—the Millennial Kingdom on earth, or (2) spiritualize or allegorize the text to deny its literal meaning and interpret it as a vague description of general spiritual principles.

But to what part of the history of salvation are we to look for a place for the fulfilment of such prophecies as these of the state of peace prevailing in nature around the church, except in the millennium? A prophet was certainly no fanatic, so that we could say, these are beautiful dreams. . . . The prophet here promises a new age, in which the patriarchal measure of human life will return, in which death will no more break off the life that is just beginning to bloom, and in which the war of man with the animal world will be exchanged for peace without danger. And when is all this to occur? Certainly not in the blessed life beyond the grave, to which it would be both absurd and impossible to refer these promises, since they presuppose a continued mixture of sinners with the righteous, and merely a limitation of the power of death, not its utter destruction. But when then? This question ought to be answered by the anti-millenarians. They throw back the interpretation of prophecy to a stage, in which commentators were in the habit of lowering the concrete substance of the prophecies into mere doctrinal loci communes [generalities]. They take refuge behind the enigmatical character of the Apocalypse, without acknowledging that what the Apocalypse predicts under the definite form of the millennium is the substance of all prophecy, and that no interpretation of prophecy on sound principles is any longer possible from the standpoint of an orthodox antichiliasm, inasmuch as the antichiliasts twist the word in the mouths of the prophets, and through their perversion of Scripture shake the foundation of all doctrines, every one of which rests upon the simple interpretation of the words of revelation6

One of the purposes of the Millennial Kingdom is to demonstrate what life on the earth would have been had man not rebelled in the Garden of Eden, but instead had exercised his God-given dominion in righteousness. The restoration (Mtt. Mat. 19:28; Acts Acts 3:21) of the earth in preparation for the Millennial Kingdom will roll back conditions to be much like they were prior to the flood. Animals will be vegetarian and will no longer fear man. The earth will be highly productive and peace will extend throughout the globe. This is what would have been in the absence of man’s rebellion. In the righteous rule of Jesus from Jerusalem, the Millennial Kingdom will be a time of great spiritual and material blessing, which was God’s intention for the earth from the beginning. It forms a transition between present history, floundering in sin, and the eternal state of perfection.7 Those who oppose the idea of a literal earthly kingdom often claim that premillennialists hold to this unsophisticated (even crude) idea because they don’t understand the spiritual blessings they already have and are unsatisfied with their lot. Some even claim that premillennialists are fleshly in their desire for material blessing:

An individual Christian may ask himself this question: “What more could the popular conception of the millennium give me that I already possess? I have a Saviour who is my Prophet, Priest, and King. God the Father is my covenant God. I have the forgiveness of sin. I have the promise of eternal life in heaven. I belong to the Church which is the Lamb’s Bride. I have the Holy Spirit as my Teacher, Sanctifier, and Comforter. I have security against my greatest enemies: Death, Hell, and the Devil. I belong to the commonwealth of Israel and am not a stranger from the covenants of promise.” What more does a Christian desire?8

Kik misrepresents the motivation behind premillennialism. It has nothing to do whatsoever with what premillennialists want or whether they are unsatisfied. The question is not about what premillennialists want, but what is it that God wants and, in particular, what has God said He WILL do? Premillennialists believe all that God has said and are not content to spiritualize away the plain meaning of the text in order to support the deluded notion that Satan is now bound and that the Church is ruling and reigning over the nations “to the ends of the earth” while the majority of the peoples on the earth haven’t the slightest idea this is so! Another oft-heard criticism of a literal earthly kingdom is that such a belief is carnal and fleshly. In their pursuit of holiness, many have embraced the view that material things are bad and spiritual things are good. This idea is not from Scripture, but derives from the dualism of gnosticism which holds that the material realm is the seat of sin and the spiritual realm is the seat of pure things, lofty and high. But what does Scripture say? Who was it that created the material realm in the first place? God! What was God’s assessment of the material realm? “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. Gen. 1:31a). Neither material nor spiritual is inherently sinful. There are material things which are pure and there are spiritual things which are pure. There are material things which are sinful and there are spiritual things which are sinful (e.g., unclean spirits). The idea that a future time of material blessing is carnal is unsupportable from Scripture. It just so happens to be one aspect of a time of great blessing in both the material and spiritual realms which God has said He will bring on the earth. The problem for those who deny the future earthly kingdom is one of dealing with reality. No matter how triumphant one’s theology, there comes a place when the rubber meets the road and practical reality impinges on faulty belief. The problem with those who deny premillennialism is that they confuse lack of faith with faulty interpretation. They blame the premillennialist for failing to realize the victory and dominion which the Church currently has because he lacks faith. However, the real problem is that the amillennialist or postmillennialist is deriving his theology from a faulty interpretation of the text. And in order to support that faulty view, he must continually deny the real facts on the ground. With each abortion, murder, war, or lie that occurs on the earth, the amillennialist—who believes Satan is currently bound—must go further and further out on a limb denying reality. The results are predictable: reality is increasingly denied by an incessant posturing of “victory” and “dominion” which is completely out-of-step with the real world. In its extreme forms, amillennial interpretation has more in common with Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science—which denies the reality of sickness and pain as a mirage of the mind—than with Biblical Christianity. If Satan is bound, Amillennialists can only explain the reality of pain and sin and the horrid evidences of darkness all around us as a lack of faith or inadequate perspective on the part of the Church. For all the work has been done and all that remains is for the Church to realize what power she has and to take it up and overcome the sordid reality of darkness with “power theology.” The idea that God prophesied that Antichrist will be given dominion over faithful saints during the Great Tribulation, as recorded by the books of Daniel and Revelation, is simply not permissible in their worldview. If Satan is bound and cannot touch believers, what Scripture records as faithful martyrs must in fact be untaught saints who lack faith! In the end, these spiritualized views do great damage. Not only do they twist the word of God so that it is made to serve up any desired result, but they damage the cause of Christ. The spiritualization of important passages calls into question the very foundation of the faith. Just where does spiritualization end and literal interpretation begin? If the resurrections of Revelation Rev. 20:1+ can be spiritualized, then why not our future physical resurrection or the resurrection of Jesus? If Satan is bound now, then perhaps we are also in the new heavens and the new earth? This is the slippery slope to full preterism—a heretical view. There is also the issue of our witness in the midst of a skeptical world. If we tell a nonbelieving observer of the nightly news that Satan is bound, how likely is he to trust our discernment? And if we can be so wrong about Satan, why should he trust what we have to say concerning Jesus? No, there are numerous reasons to expect a future Millennial Kingdom:
  1. It is implied by God’s desire to demonstrate righteous dominion.
  2. OT promises, when normally interpreted, require it.
  3. NT prophecies, when normally interpreted, describe it.
  4. Scripture and our daily experience affirm that God’s literal kingdom has not yet come on earth (Mtt. Mat. 9:10).
  5. Our daily experience affirms Satan is not bound.

Notes

1 Clarence Larkin, Dispensational Truth (Glenside, PA: Rev. Clarence Larkin Estate, 1918, 1920), 92.

2 Nathaniel West, The Thousand Years in both Testaments (Fincastle, VA: Scripture Truth Book Co., n.d.), 79.

3 We use the phrase Biblical covenant to denote an agreement which Scripture itself calls a “covenant” rather than various imagined covenants which are imposed upon the text by the minds of creative theologians.

4 LaHaye, “A Literal Millennium as Taught in Scripture, Part 2,” in Thomas Ice, ed., Pre-Trib Perspectives, vol. 8 no. 8 (Dallas, TX: Pre-Trib Research Center, November/December 2003), 2.

5 Many think of the eternal state as heaven, but it is both “heaven and earth” (Rev. Rev. 21:1+).

6 Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), 7:624.

7 “In the Premillennial view the coming Kingdom becomes the consummating link between history and the eternal order, thus guarding the Church from either illusion or despair as regards the present life.”—Alva J. McClain, The Greatness Of The Kingdom (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1959), xii.

8 J. Marcellus Kik, Revelation Twenty: An Exposition (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1955), 30.