Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Revelation 20 (Part Two - The Length of the Millennium)

The defining feature of Revelation 20 is the “thousand years,” mentioned six times in the chapter (vv. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). Theologians have labeled this thousand year period as the “Millennium” (mille = 1000; anne = year).

The church has had difficulty assimilating the Millennium as described in Revelation 20 with what the rest of Scripture says about eschatology.

Historically, most Reformed churches have concluded that the Millennium is roughly equivalent to the church age. The Millennium starts with the first coming of Christ and ends with the second coming of Christ. Thus, the Millennium spans the gap between the two comings of Jesus Christ.

This means that the Millennium is now almost two thousand years long (and counting). Some have been troubled by this, expecting the Millennium to be exactly one thousand years long. While this is certainly a plausible expectation, Scripture often uses large numbers in a generic or symbolic sense.

“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11).

The word for “ten thousand” is myriad. A myriad can refer to the exact quantity of ten thousand, but it is also used to refer to an inexact large number, so much so that lexicons include “countless thousands” as a frequent translation.

The word for “thousand” is chilias, from which we get kilo, as in a kilogram. Likewise, the word chilias can refer to exactly one thousand, but it is also used to refer to an inexact large number. We see this use of “a thousand” in the Scriptures.

“For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10).

God is not limiting his possession of cattle to exactly one thousand hills, but using a thousand in a generically large sense. God owns the cattle on every hill, which would actually be a much larger number than one thousand hills, probably in the millions.

“For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10).

David is not making an mathematical equation to say that one day with God is better than exactly one thousand days without God. David is saying that one day with God is better than any number of days without God.

“For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4).

“But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).

When Peter alludes to Psalm 90, he is not employing a precise, algebraic formula. He is simply illustrating that God is not bounded by time.

We ought to bear these examples in mind when we come to Revelation 20, because John is not writing about a period of “one” thousand years. The word “one” is not in the Greek text. John writes about “a” thousand years. Such intentional imprecision indicates that this “thousand years” is probably a generically large number, just like “the cattle on a thousand hills” or “a thousand days outside.”

This squares with the rest of the Scriptures. If the Millennium was exactly one thousand years long, then we could know exactly when it was coming to an end.

On the other hand, if the Millennium is a generically large length of time, then we do not know exactly when it ends. This is true of the second coming of Christ. We do not know when Christ will return, which is how we are supposed to live.

6 comments:

Folken Family said...

In a couple years, you should read through this again. It seems that you have a optimistic philosophy rather than a Scriptural position. My head actually was hurting reading this one...

Eric Adams said...

Folken Family, I do have an optimistic eschatology because I believe that this is the Scriptural position. This is also a view that many, many Christians have held throughout the history of the church. At the minimum, this demands a careful appraisal of the evidence. Thanks for your comments.

ZDENNY said...

The fact that many have held it throughout church history is meaningless if they held the wrong position. The reformation only took place in the 16th century could also be ignored on that basis.

You have to be honest with the Scriptures. The reason all dispensationalists believe in inerrancy is that we believe that the Bible is in fact the Word of God. The people who have a real hard time affirming inerrancy are those in the covenant camp. In fact many, many of them deny inerrancy holding to neo-orthodox positions.

In this post, none of the Scriptures you show actually say what you are arguing for. There is only one possibility, you have a philosophy you are reading into the Scripture. Whenever I see this manner of isegesis, I immediately know the cause.

Just something to think about.

Eric Adams said...

ZDENNY, your comments about inerrancy and eisegesis are red herrings. If you really believe in inerrancy and exegesis, then prove it by dealing with the texts that I cite. Bare assertions ("none of the Scriptures you show actually say what you are arguing for") accomplish nothing.

ZDENNY said...

I figured out what you are doing. You believe in theological evolution rather than Biblical truth that is found in the propositions.

The fact is that 1000 years is a problem for your view since the church age is now been 2000 years. I can see how this is embarrassing to your position.

I suspect you also deny that one day in Genesis is one day. In fact, I suspect you will deny any number in Scripture has a literal meaning if it conflicts with your philosophy.

Eric Adams said...

ZDENNY, you're wrong again. I do not believe in evolution. I believe that God made the world in six 24-hour days.

Is this the best you can do? Baseless accusations? Motive-reading?

ZDENNY, I suspect that we'll never hear anything substantial from you because slander is the easy way out.