The Premillennial Dispensational view of eschatology is very popular in many churches. It says that in the future, Jesus will return and reign on earth for 1000 literal years before bringing this world to a close. They also hold that there is a different dispensation – set of rules, for Jews compared to Gentiles. Many of them are expecting another physical temple to be built in Jerusalem.
Personally I hold to an Amillennial view, that is, Jesus is currently reigning in heaven and at the appropriate time, he will return to judge the earth and bring in the new heaven and new earth. Those who have put their trust in him will then be with him into eternity, and those who don’t will be banished from his presence. There is no difference in the way Jews and Gentiles are dealt with.
What about the millennium (1000 years)?
The idea of the millennium comes from Revelation 20:4 where it refers to Christ reigning for 1000 years. The problem is that the book of Revelation is apocalyptic in nature, meaning that generally numbers and colours and so forth are all used for their symbolic purpose, not to be taken literally. This is how John meant it to be read. In keeping with this, 1000 years most likely means “ a long period of time”. The other problem with interpreting Revelation, is that it most likely is not strictly chronological, it keeps looking at the same events, in a cyclical pattern, but from different viewpoints (e.g. Revelation 7:9-17; 11:15-18; 14:14-20; 16:17-21; 19:11-21; 20:11-15 may all be describing the final judgement). People come unstuck when they try to interpret it in a literal, chronological way.
When we look at what happens when Jesus returns, we see the following:
- Judgement – Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
- A new heaven and new earth – 2 Peter 3:8-13
- The dead not in Christ will rise for judgement – John 5:28-29
- The dead in Christ will be made alive – 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13; 4:16-17; Matthew 24:31
We see that there is no room for a 1000 year reign!
When is Christ to reign as King?
Christ died and he rose, and he is presently reigning, and then he will return and death will be destroyed – Acts 2:36; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (see also Hebrews 9:27-28).
What about the separate dispensations?
There is now no division, no separate dispensation, for Jew and Gentile, they are all part of the same fulfillment of OT prophecy, the church is the Olive Tree, started by Jews, composed of both Jews and Gentiles. Both Jew and Gentile are Abraham’s offspring, heirs of the promises made to Abraham. They are fellow citizens and members of the household of God. Ephesians 2:11-22; Romans 10:12-13; 11:17-21; Galatians 3:28-29
What about promises regarding the land?
Old Testament prophecies should be read as the New Testament reads them. The New Testament is the key to the Old. It is a mistake to read Old Testament prophecies literalistically when the New Testament doesn’t.
Paul was looking towards the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly one (Gal 4:25-26).
Abraham was not looking to earthly Canaan, but the heavenly one – Hebrews 11:9-16, 39-40 (see also Acts 7:5).
The Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled through Jesus bringing both Jew and Gentile into the new heaven and new earth.
In Isaiah 65:19-25, we have classic prophecy concerning Jerusalem and its blessed future, but when does this happen? Two verses earlier (Isaiah 65:17), Isaiah explains that it is in the new heavens and new earth. This is the context for all the promises that have come before.
What about another temple?
There is no need for another temple, Jesus has fulfilled all that the old tabernacle / temple was set up to be a model of. The real temple is in heaven, that is where Jesus went and offered himself. There is no further need for any sacrifices of any sort. It has all been fulfilled by Jesus. That is why Jesus was able to sit down next to the Father. His work as a High Priest was completed. Hebrews 7:27; 8:1-6, 13; 9:24-28; 10:3-4
What of Jews today?
Only those who recognise Jesus as their Messiah are inheritors of the promises – Romans 9:6-8. There are reports of large numbers of ethnic Jews recognising Jesus as their Messiah, and this is to be supported and rejoiced over.
Why does it matter?
A hope for the future is critical for the Christian message, if Jesus is not going to return, then as Paul says, we should be pitied (1 Cor 15:19), as our faith is useless (1 Cor 15:17). In that case, Jesus’ death and resurrection achieved nothing.
However, enormous amounts of effort by large numbers of people are put into studying the scriptures and trying to line it up with current events in Israel. This effort could be put into other more useful pursuits, e.g. fulfilling our commission of making disciples of all nations.