Millennium Teachings
Question: Could you please try in a very simple way to give an explanation of the
whole millennium teaching, as we believe it is recorded for us in the Bible? I can
never remember how we are to view it. Thanks.

Answer: In evangelical Christianity there are three views regarding the
millennium. I will briefly describe each view, and then focus on the view which
represents the official position of our denomination.
1) The Pre-Millennial position. This is a view espoused by a large majority of
evangelical Christians in North America. The term “Pre-Millenialist” is used
to describe the view of those who believe that Christ will return to earth to
establish a literal 1000 year reign (referred to as the millennium), and that He
will do so in Jerusalem. (His return would also usher in the restoration of
Israel as a theocracy.) The prefix “pre” (which means “before”) indicates
that those who adhere to this view believe that Christ’s return will come
before this millennium, and that the final judgment of all men will come at
the end of this millennium. The proponents of the pre-mil view therefore
separate the return of Christ and His final judgment by a period of a
thousand years. Many who adhere to the “pre-mil” position, also believe that
Christ’s return to establish His one-thousand-year reign upon earth will be
preceded by a seven-year period of tribulation. This period will supposedly
be initiated by the rapture of the saints, who will suddenly disappear from
the earth to be with Christ, where they supposedly will celebrate the
marriage supper of the Lamb. After this seven-year celebration, Christ would
then return to usher in the millennium. These seven years will supposedly be
a time of great tribulation on earth during which sinners will still be saved.
This view has been greatly popularized by the widely used Schofield
Reference Bible—a Bible which promotes the dispensational view of
history. According to this view, the millennium represents the final of the
seven dispensations of history.
2) The Post-Millennial position. This view is espoused by a considerable
segment of the Reformed community, and was also popular among the
Puritans. The prefix “post” (which means “after”) indicates that those who
adhere to this view believe that Christ will return after the millennium, and
thus they do not separate the return of Christ and the final judgment. They
also do not necessarily believe that this millennium will be a literal 1000-
year period. What they do believe, however, is there is a time yet to come
during which Christ will demonstrate His power upon earth in an
extraordinary fashion. In other words, the “post-mil” people believe that a
time of extraordinary spiritual prosperity is coming during which the church
of Jesus Christ will flourish as never before. It will be a time when the
knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth—a time when Christ truly shall
have dominion over land and earth, and when earth’s remotest region shall
His empire be. And thus the “post-mil” people believe in a world-wide reign
of the Lord Jesus Christ as has never been witnessed before in human
history. This reign would, however, be a spiritual reign executed by Christ as
He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and not a physical, political reign
headquartered in Jerusalem as the “pre-mil” people would have us believe. It
would be at the end of this extra-ordinary period of world-wide spiritual
prosperity, designated by the “post-mil” people as the millennium (which
could last more or less than a literal 1000 years), that Satan would be loosed
for a short season, and that Christ would then subsequently return upon the
clouds and execute the final judgment.
3) The A-Millennial position. This term is somewhat of a misnomer, for it
gives the impression that they who adhere to this position do not believe in a
millennium at all. This is, however, not the case! What it does mean is that
the “a-mil” people reject the notion that we must anticipate a future
millennium—an expectation which both the “pre-mil” and “post-mil”
position have in common. The “a-mil” position is that we are presently in the
millennium, and that this world-wide spiritual reign of Christ was initiated at
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and will come to a
conclusion when Christ returns on the clouds of heaven to execute the final
judgment. In other words, the “a-mil” people believe that the number 1000 in
Revelation 20:2-7 is a symbolical number—as is true for all the numbers in
this last book of Scripture. The “a-mil” position maintains that the day of
Pentecost marks the beginning of the period during which Satan is bound.
Prior to that day Satan had free reign among the nations of the world. Israel
was the only speck upon the globe where the light of divine revelation was
shining. The rest of the Gentile world dwelt in utter spiritual darkness. Satan
was unopposed in his reign among these nations. However, from the day of
Pentecost on forward, Christ begins to conquer the world through the
preaching of the gospel. Wherever that gospel came, Satan had to yield, for
he was now bound by the exalted Christ to whom all power in heaven and
earth had been given. Ever since then Christ has been riding on the white
horse of the gospel, going forth conquering and to conquer. Until this day
Satan must yield wherever the gospel comes, and Christ is presently having
dominion over land and sea, and will not return until the gospel will have
been preached to all the nations of the world—something that, as a result of
the modern mass media, is happening at an accelerating rate. The “a-mil”
people believe that the number 1000 symbolizes a period in which Christ
fully (the # 10) accomplishes the sovereign purpose of a triune (the # 3) God
(1000 = 10
). We are presently living in that period. In other words, the “a-
mil” people believe that the exalted Christ is already reigning, and that His
present reign upon earth will set the stage for the final step of His exaltation,
when He will usher in the glorious and everlasting future of a new heaven
and earth in which righteousness will dwell.
I believe that it is the “a-mil” position which is the historic position of the
Reformation, and it is therefore also the official position of our denomination. Let
me briefly state why we reject the “pre-mil” and “post-mil” positions as being
1) To hold to the “pre-mil” position requires that one interprets the phrase “one
thousand years” in Rev. 20:2-7 as referring to a literal 1000-year period. We believe,
however, that such an interpretation violates the fundamental rules of Reformed
hermeneutics (the discipline of correctly interpreting the Scriptures). The
fundamental rule of Reformed hermeneutics is that the exposition of a given passage
of Scripture must harmonize with the Bible book in which it is found, as well as with
Scripture in its totality. Such is decidedly not the case with the “pre-mil” exposition
of Rev. 20:2-7. For if we must interpret the term “one thousand years” as referring to
a literal 1000-year period, then we would expect that all the numbers found in the
book of Revelation should be interpreted literally as well. We would quickly
discover that this would lead to an exposition of Revelation that would border on the
ridiculous. Any sound interpreter of Revelation understands that the numbers in
Revelation are symbolical in nature, including the number 1000. When, therefore,
we interpret Rev. 20:2-7 within the context of all of Scripture, we cannot possibly
arrive at the explanation which the “pre-mil” people attach to this passage. The “pre-
mil” people are guilty of taking their exposition of Rev. 20:2-7 and projecting this on
all of Scripture, interpreting all that Scripture has to say about the end-time in light
of this one passage. Reformed hermeneutics demands that we do the contrary: We
must interpret this one passage in light of what all of Scripture has to say. We
believe that the “a-mil” position does precisely that. We believe therefore that rather
than anticipating the future reign of Christ upon earth, that Christ is presently
reigning and that we are presently in the millennium.
2) We also believe that the “pre-mil” position concerning the seven-year rapture of
the church is the result of a faulty exposition of Scripture. The primary passage on
which they base this view is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord
himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel,
and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which
are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet
the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Let me quickly point
out a few things from this text that refutes the common teaching regarding the
rapture of the saints.
° “Pre-mil” proponents teach that the rapture will occur suddenly,
silently, and without warning. God’s children will suddenly vanish.
This text teaches that the rapture of the saints (their being caught up
with Christ in the clouds) will be preceded by Christ’s very visible,
audible, and public descent from heaven, stating explicitly that it will
be announced by the voice of the archangel and by God’s trump.
° “Pre-mil” proponents teach that the only thing the world will notice
will be the sudden disappearance of people. The text says that the
rapture of the saints will be preceded by the resurrection of those who
have died in Christ—undoubtedly a most dramatic event.
° “Pre-mil” proponents teach that the rapture will last seven years,
during which the Christ and His church will celebrate the marriage
supper of the Lamb. The text says nothing of the sort! Instead, it says
that the raptured saints shall ever be with the Lord. And when
Revelation 19:7 states that, “Blessed are they which are called unto
the marriage supper of the Lamb,” there is nothing in the context that
even remotely suggests that this will only last seven years. (By the way,
this is the only passage in Revelation and in all of Scripture that
speaks of the marriage supper of the Lamb!)
Thus there is no biblical warrant for this rapture-tribulation-marriage-supper-of-the-
Lamb teaching.
3) We also believe that there is no biblical warrant whatsoever for the “pre-mil”
notion that the return of Christ and the final, “white-throne” judgment are separated
by a period of 1000 years. A careful study of all the NT passages regarding Christ’s
return and the final judgment reveal that both events are always referred to as
happening simultaneously.
4) Though we agree with the “post-mil” proponents that Christ’s millennial reign is
a spiritual one, we disagree that this millennial reign is still a future one. We believe
that Christ is presently reigning, and that Satan is presently bound—even though
there is alarming and mounting evidence that the loosening of Satan has already
begun. We believe that there is no scriptural warrant for the notion that the return of
Christ will be preceded by a period of unparalleled spiritual prosperity during which
Christianity will be the dominant and pervasive religion of the world. On the
contrary, we believe that Christ’s second coming will be preceded by the reign of the
man of sin, the Antichrist (See 2 Thess. 2), and the church will be slumbering when
her Bridegroom returns. Scripture also states explicitly that “Nevertheless when the
Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). We do believe
that there is a future of unparalleled glory, but that will occur after the final
judgment when Christ’s kingdom will fully come in the new heaven and new
I realize that in this answer I have not addressed this subject exhaustively. To
anyone who wishes to make a serious study of these matters, I would recommend that you purchase and read the excellent work by Anthony Hoekema, entitled, The Bible and the Future.” He does and excellent and very fair job of explaining the “pre-mil” and “post-mil” positions, and does a masterful job in explaining that the “a-mil” position is the only biblical and Reformed alternative. A very readable and helpful book! (Another excellent book on the subject is “The Promise of the Future” by Cornelis P. Venema.)

Pastor B. Elshout