The Millennium

“Revelation 20 is the only place in the Scriptures where the millennium [1000 years] is mentioned,” and “what makes it problematic is that it occurs in a book of the Bible that is highly symbolic.”

Pre-millennialism [Christ will return before the millennium]

According to dispensational premillennialists, “Christ offered the Jews the kingdom of David, but the Jews rejected it, so the coming of David’s kingdom…was postponed” until the millennium. Therefore, “the church age is a parenthesis between the advent of Christ and the future coming of the kingdom.” Christ will return to rapture His Church, meeting her in the air and taking her to heaven, before the great (7-year) tribulation and the rise of the Antichrist. At the end of the tribulation, Christ will come back again, “with His glorified saints, fight the battle of Armageddon, bind Satan, and establish a worldwide political kingdom, in which Christ will reign from Jerusalem for a thousand years.” The “temple will be rebuilt,” and “the sacrificial system…will be reinstituted.” At the end of the millennium, “Satan will be released, and Christ and His followers will be attacked at Jerusalem. At this point Christ will call down judgement from heaven and destroy His enemies,” which will be followed by the resurrection and judgment of the wicked,” and “the final eternal order.”

According to non-dispensational premillennialists, “the church is the initial phase of Christ’s kingdom,” and the church will pass through the great tribulation, at the end of which Christ will return to rapture His church and begin the millennium.

Amillennialism / Postmillennialism [Christ will return after the millennium]

Amillennialists and Postmillennialists agree that Christ will return to rapture His Church after the millennium, and that the millennium is not a literal 1000 years.  Christ’s messianic kingdom began with His first advent, and “is essentially redemptive and spiritual rather than political and physical.” The “church age is the kingdom age prophesied in the Old Testament. The New Testament church has become the Israel of God. Amillennialists believe that the binding of Satan took place during Jesus’ earthly ministry; Satan was restrained while the gospel was preached to the world, and this restraint continues today.” The church will “have some influence in the culture,” but “will not transform the culture. Toward the end, the growth of evil will accelerate, resulting in the great tribulation and a personal Antichrist. Christ will return to end history, resurrect and judge all men, and establish the eternal order.”

Postmillennialists believe that before Satan is released, Christ’s heavenly kingdom will transform culture. The church will have a “redeeming influence on culture” and “eventually triumph over the wickedness of the world.

There is a debate over preterism. “Partial preterism holds that many of the prophecies of the future were fulfilled in the first century – chiefly in the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70…. full preterism teaches that all the prophecies regarding the coming of Christ – including the millennium and the last judgment – were fulfilled in the first century. Full preterism is regarded as heretical, as it denies an essential truth of Scripture: the return of the King.”

[Adapted from R.C. Sproul, Everyone’s a Theologian]