There is no question that most of the preachers on TV and radio preach the doctrine of premillennialism. Basically this teaching is that before the second coming of Jesus there will be a time of rapture when the children of the Lord will be caught up into heaven and the rest of the people will go though a horrible time of tribulation. A the end of the tribulation the Lord will come again and set up his kingdom in Jerusalem where he will reign over the world for a thousand years. After the thousand years Satan will be released from his prison for a little season before he is completely taken out of the way. Then the final great white throne judgment will take place and the righteous will go to heaven, the new heaven and earth and reign forever with the Lord.
There have been literally thousands of books written describing what will take place during that thousand year reign of Jesus on earth. Would it surprise you to know that there is only one time when a thousand year reign is mentioned in the Bible? Would it shock you to know that nothing is said in that passage about Jerusalem or the earth? Now I know that people have taken many Scriptures and applied their fulfillment to this period but the Bible doesn’t say anything about the thousand years in the places where they quote scripture to prove it.
Look closely at the passage which does mention the thousand years and hopefully without the colored glasses of what you have heard from others to see what this may really mean. Keep in mind that it is in the Book of Revelation that begins with the proclamation that this is a book of symbols or signs. Here is the passage from Revelation 21:1-8: “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. I SAW THRONES ON WHICH WERE SEATED THOSE WHO HAD BEEN GIVEN AUTHORITY TO JUDGE. AND I SAW THE SOULS OF THOSE WHO HAD BEEN BEHEADED BECAUSE OF THE TESTIMONY ABOUT JESUS AND BECAUSE OF THE WORD OF GOD. THEY HAD NOT WORSHIPED THE BEAST OR ITS IMAGE AND HAD NOT RECEIVED ITS MARK ON THEIR FOREHEADS OR HANDS. THEY CAME TO LIFE AND REIGNED WITH CHIRST A THOUSAND YEARS. (THE REST OF THE DEAD DID NOT COME TO LIFE UNTIL THE THOUSAND YEARS WERE ENDED.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released form his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth – God and Magog – and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.”
There are many vitally important things in these verses that if one just would believe the text they would know that the teachings that are made on this topic are more fantasy than actual exposition of the Scriptures. Notice exactly who God said would be part of this first resurrection and reign with God for a thousand years. It is the souls of those who have been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and the word of God. They had refused the mark of the beast and to worship him. Every instance when he discusses the thousand year reign it is about what “They” did and what would happen to them. Nothing here is said about a physical reign. Nothing is said about anything happening on earth. It is a spiritual reign for people who had died for their faith. It isn’t just about someone who dies in the faith but for those who died for the faith. If you really want to qualify for this reign you need to stand up for the faith in such a way that it brings on persecution and ultimate results in your being beheaded for your faith in the Lord. I suspect that most of those who have read the left behind books or have the bumper stickers on their cars had any idea that to qualify for this reign meant to die as a martyr for their faith in the Lord that they would back away from it in a hurry.
There are multiple side issues that go with this whole teaching. Most believe that when Jesus came to earth the first time as a man he intended to establish his kingdom and was rejected by the Jews who lead to his crucifixion and as a result he decided to build the church for a temporary time and then to come again to establish the kingdom. This whole notion has led to lots of strange interpretation of Scripture. Let me focus on just a few of them. First, Daniel prophesied that the kingdom would be established by God during the days of the Roman Empire or the fourth kingdom from the Babylonian Empire. Babylon was the first of the four kingdoms that Daniel mentions in chapter 2. Then the Medo-Perisan Empire which was followed by the Greek Empire which was followed by the Roman Empire. Daniel said, “In the days of these kings God would set up a kingdom that would never be destroyed.” Since the Roman Empire has been out of existence now for some 1500 years it creates a huge problem for the premillennialist. Many are looking for the Roman Empire to come back so that the prophesy can be fulfilled.
Of greater significance is the fact that all though Jesus’ ministry his plan was for the kingdom to come soon. Both he and John the Baptist went about preaching to repent for the kingdom of heaven is near. When Jesus met with Nicodemus in John 3 he told him he had to be born again to enter the kingdom of God. When he didn’t understand Jesus said it again more clearly. “Unless a man is born of the water and of the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” If the kingdom is still not here then why preach the new birth or being born again? In Mark 9:1 Jesus told the disciples that some of the people standing there that day wouldn’t die until they saw the kingdom of God come with power. The Book of Acts opens and closes with a discussion about the kingdom of God. But two passages seem to me to be of special importance in this discussion.
In Colossians 1:13 Paul wrote “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” This is a strange text indeed if the kingdom is still future and won’t come until the Lord comes to set up his kingdom in Jerusalem. How can we be translated into a kingdom that doesn’t exist yet? The other text is found in Hebrews 12:28-29. The writer had been talking about the church that we have received and had noted that God had promised a removing of the things that are shaken. He noted that God had said, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” Then he said, “The words, “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain.” Then he gets to verse 28. Look closely at what is said here. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe for our God is a consuming fire.”
Did you notice it was about a kingdom that would some day be established but the kingdom we are receiving. This was written long before the close of the first century with the kingdom was new and spreading.
Does the Bible teach a premillennial reign of Christ on earth? NO it does not in any sense. It teaches we have the kingdom now and it will exist until the Lord comes again to deliver the kingdom up to God (I Corinthians 15:29). He isn’t coming back to establish a kingdom but to raise the dead, destroy death and carry the redeemed back to heaven with him. The ones reigning for the thousand years are the people who were murdered because of their faith during the time of persecution of the church.