Division In The Church - Millenium
Division In The Church
In Rev. 20:1-7 we read the following:
"And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison."
On this one passage of scripture different doctrinal beliefs have been formulated which have torn the church apart and set brother against brother even to the point of doubting a fellow Christian's salvation because of differences in its interpretation. Much of the animosity which arises is due to the fact that in many assemblies only one viewpoint, that of the given church, is discussed and all others are rejected without any comparative discussion. In order then for any student to grasp the view of his brother he must do in depth study outside the realm of the local assembly. It is truly unfortunate when men of God must keep their congregations ignorant in order to further a doctrinal stand which they seemingly fear to subject to a comparative analysis with the doctrines of other brothers who may differ with them.
There are four basic views of the millennium, actually a fifth is beginning to surface among some of those with whom I have talked and it seems to be the one which some believers, tired of the controversy the other four arouse, are proclaiming themselves to be.
Two of the views proclaim one visible coming of Christ, they are A- and Postmillennialism. One view expects a two-fold advent of Christ which is know as Historical Premillennialism. The fourth view, the one most widely proclaimed today in this area, teaches three advents of Christ and is known as Dispensational Premillennialism. The fifth group finds things they agree with in more than one of the above and often times call themselves Panmillennialists believing the scriptures are to vague to make a dogmatic doctrine of the issue and base their hope on the knowledge that all will "pan out" according to the good pleasure of God.
Basically A- and Postmillenialists trace their origins back to Augustine who taught that the millennium is to be interpreted spiritually and believed it represented the church age. He believed that the binding of Satan took place during the earthly ministry of our Lord (Luke 10:18), that the first resurrection spoken of is the new birth of the believer (John 5:25), and that the church age would last for a thousand years, at the end of which time Satan would be loosed for a season to deceive the nations and his doom sealed at the return of Christ. He believed that the 1000 years was to be taken literally. When time passed and the second advent did not occur Biblical scholars had to rethink their stand and three basic views emerged:
The first held widely during the reformation taught that the millennial reign was past and the small season had been entered into.
The second associated with a man named Whitby held that the golden age of the church was still in the future. He could be considered a true postmillenialist. The main thought of postmillenialism being that the church will in its final stages overcome the evil in the world and the kingdom of God will finally be seen in its purity, established on this earth.
The third set forth by a man named Kliefoth holds to the belief that the 1000 years cannot be seen as literal but refers to a time of completeness. He based his belief on the fact that most of the other references in the Word of God which spoke of or used the term 1000 did not denote an actual length or amount but rather spoke of entirety or completeness, ie. Psa.50:10; 84;10; 90:4; De.7:9; 32:30; etc. This is basically the A-millennial view.
The Historical Premillenialist holds the belief that there will be a personal reign of Christ on the earth for 1000 years after the Beast, False Prophet, and the Apostate Church have perished. According to this view the Lord will come not to a perfect world but to a world with both good and evil (Matt. 13:30; Luke 18:8). At His coming the saints will be taken up to meet him in the air (the first resurrection) and immediately return to set up the millennial kingdom at the end of which Satan will be released for a short season the Lord then coming in a Post or second advent at which time the last judgment and final state will be ushered in.
A fourth view that of Dispensational Premillennialism, was taught much later on in the history of the church and can be traced directly to the Brethren Movement which took place in England and Ireland after the year 1830. Although dispensational theologians attempt to trace their roots back to the early church and make the claim to historic Premillennialism they differ in many aspects.
1. The dispensationalist adheres to the belief that the church is to be raptured out prior to a seven year tribulation, the historic believes that the church will be included in any tribulation which will come.
2.The dispensationalist believes that the church is a parenthesis in God's original plan for His people Israel, the historic believes that the church is God's fulfillment of His promise to Abraham.
3.The dispensationalist adheres to a localized reign of Christ from Israel during the millennium which the historic believes is to be world-wide with no central throne.
4.There are other areas of disagreement but one of the main is the three fold return of Christ which the dispensationalist adheres to, ie. Christ's first return to rapture the church, His second return seven years later to end a period of tribulation which is used to bring the Jewish nation as a whole to Christ and set up a 1000 year reign and thirdly at the end of the thousand years to return to destroy Satan after he has been loosed for a short season.
As can be seen there are many differences concerning the interpretation of this scripture. The main difference of interpretation has been prevalent in almost all of the arguments discussed previously. It is the war between the spiritual and the physical. One believer looks at the passage and sees a physical kingdom implied which will involve a physical nation on this physical earth. Another looks at the same scripture and interprets it as implying a spiritual reign of Christ in and through His spiritual body, the church, while he dwells on His spiritual throne in the heavenlies. Still another applies spiritual aspects to some of the passage and physical aspects to another.
Although the term literal is used many times in the interpretation of prophecy, the term is actually a poor one and has the effect of giving a biased view. Literal to this student means real and all interpretations believe in a literal translation of this verse of scripture. Some believe it is to be seen in a literal physical way and others in a literal spiritual way. The physical and spiritual are both very real aspects of the world in which we live, therefore one student of God's Word finds truths in a verse which he applies to his physical life while another applies the same truths to his spiritual life.
In order for us to understand the true interpretation of any given verse of scripture we must find in the context of what is being spoken either a reference to the physical aspect of our lives or the spiritual in order to be dogmatic about the reference. This student sees mainly a spiritual trend in this passage of scripture. A spiritual battle ensues in verses 1-3 in which one spiritual being lays hold of another and binds him and casts him into a prison which is built to contain a spiritual being. In verse 4 we see more spiritual beings worshiping and reigning with Christ (the souls of those beheaded for the witness of Jesus) and in verse 5 only the dead are referred to, again no mention made of physical beings. In verse 6 we see that only those who have taken part in the first resurrection are to reign with Christ, again there must first be a death before there can be a resurrection.
As I read this passage, therefore, I see the omnipotent God of the universe carrying to completion His plan for the ultimate victory of Christ and the church, but again, this does not make me more or less spiritual than another brother just as I gain hope from this passage concerning the church another believer may be buoyed in his faith by seeing the plan of God fulfilled physically through Israel.
Whatever the case may be, the main subject of the passage is not so much the physical participants but the ultimate victory of Christ as He once and for eternity destroys the power of sin and death. No where in this passage do we read where the reign is to take place, whether in heaven at the throne of God (David's spiritual throne, Acts 2: 30 - 31) or on David's physical throne in Jerusalem.
Because I believe this passage refers to the church I see the spiritual reign of Christ on the earth through those who have died to sin and are resurrected by the precious blood of the Lamb but this passage does not give the exact location so for me to be dogmatic would be to add to the scripture. Again, the main principle of the passage seems to be overlooked by many brothers in Christ, that of the fact that wherever Christ is dwelling, whether in heaven or in earth, He is king. Because he gained the victory over sin and death through His resurrection the third day, all creation is subject to His will now and for eternity.
The main thrust of this passage, in fact the main thrust of the entire Word of God, is not the church or Israel, they are but tools to bring about a desired end. What the entire scripture points to is the person and work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If we dwell on that fact we will dwell in unity if not we will continue to see the ranks of the church torn by dissension and pride. The foundation is secure but the building the church of America is placing on that foundation is in dire need of repair.