“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4).”
There is a new movie starring Nicholas Cage set for release on October 3 called Left Behind. The movie is based on the bestselling series of books written in the ‘90’s. The books and movie purport to be biblically based, but at their core is a dogma known as Premillennialism. The term simply means “Pre”: before, and “millennial”: a period of one thousand years. So in essence, Premillennialists (PMs) teach that Christ will return just prior to a literal one thousand year reign on earth on David’s throne in Jerusalem. Prior to His return, PMs believe that the righteous who are living will be secretly raptured out of this world and a seven year tribulation period will ensue allowing time for the wicked to repent before Christ begins His millennial reign on earth.
There are too many divergent branches of this thought to respond to them all in this space. However, over the next few weeks we will endeavor to explore the fundamental tenants of this errant doctrine so that we may be equipped to respond to our neighbors, friends, and co-workers with more clear biblical answers as this becomes a hot topic.
Much of PMs erroneous conclusions are arrived at by interpreting some symbolic passages from the Bible literally. This is most clearly seen where John describes those who lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years in Revelation 20:4 above. This is taken by PMs to show Christ reigning on an earthly throne. They discount that John does not see all of the saints reigning with Christ but the souls of those who were beheaded for their witness to Jesus. One thousand in the Bible is not always to be taken as a literal thousand, especially in poetic or prophetic books. Take Psalm 50:10 for instance; “For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” Here God is demonstrating that He owns everything so what can man give to Him that isn’t already His? He is not saying that only the cattle on a literal thousand hills belong to Him and any hills above that number are outside His domain. In the same fashion, Isaiah says that “One thousand shall flee at the threat of one (Isaiah 30:17).” God is instructing His people to trust in Him rather than traditional military provisions. Similarly in Psalm 90, Moses writes, “For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday..like a watch in the night (v.4).” Here Moses is not teaching that a literal thousand years equals a four hour watch in the night any more than Peter equated this span to a day (2 Peter 3:8) but that God is timeless and what seems like a long time to us is but a blink to Him.
Over the next few weeks we will look at this doctrine of Premillennialism – Will the righteous really be secretly be raptured out of the world before Christ’s final return to earth? Will Christ really establish an earthly kingdom? Will He literally sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem? Does God still have unfulfilled promises to the nation of Israel that must be realized? Did Christ institute the church as a temporary measure because the Jews rejected Christ’s attempts to establish His earthly kingdom in the first century?
These are questions many want to know the answers to and their understanding should not be impaired by works of fiction and men’s imaginings. It is important that we respond to the biblical contradictions of this doctrine because there are those who follow them who do not understand the nature of the kingdom of Christ (John 18:36, Luke 17:20-21) and that He is even now reigning (1 Timothy 6:14-15). If they wrongly believe that His kingdom is so far away future reality that does not presently exist, how can they be taught to enter it today (Matthew 16:18-19, Acts 2:41, 47, Colossians 1:13)? As the pillar and ground of truth (1 Timothy 3:15) we are to expose the spirit of truth and the spirit of error (1 John 4:1, 6).
“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things (John 3:12)?”