Revelation 20 – Millennium

Read Revelation 20

There is a lot packed into these last few chapters of the Bible.  At the end of Chapter 19 we see the Beast, symbolic of the antichrist, and the false prophet captured in the last battle between the armies of God, led by Jesus, and the forces in opposition to God.  Then John sees an angel coming down from heaven who binds up Satan.  Associated with this is a 1,000-year reign of Christ and the martyrs who were faithful to Him and did not worship the beast.

How this all plays out is a bit difficult to interpret.  Many have offered their interpretations and many “doctrines” have come out of these attempts.  The three major interpretations are known as Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Amillennialism, each carries a different interpretation of when Christ’s actual return will be in relationship to the millennial reign” that is spoken of here in Revelation 20.

Postmillennialists believe that the physical appearance of Christ at the second coming will be the culmination of a 1,000-year era of blessedness that will take place in the world.  As the church grows and the Gospel spread, it was thought that things on earth would get increasingly better until a time that evil was practically non-existent.  This would mark the supposed binding of Satan and would last for a millennium until the time that Satan would be loosed, Jesus would appear, and the final judgment would take place.  Especially toward the end of the second millennium, that is the years 1,000 – 2,000, many people started to believe this.  As countries developed and life became better for some people, there was a notion that somehow the Church and the spread of the Gospel were causing this era of blessing which, some believed, would culminate in a 1,000-year reign beginning, perhaps, at the end of the millennium.  The height of this view’s popularity was in the early 1900’s before a significant decline following the first and second world wars.

Premillennial belief is a bit more complex as there are two forms that it comes in.  Normal Premillennialists, also known as historical premillennialists, believe in the rapture, a time in the future where Christ will “return” to take all the faithful up to heaven with Him.  Following that will be a period of great tribulation and persecution, the time of the rule of the antichrist, and the period when the judgments that we have read about will be poured out on the earth.  This will also be the last chance for people to turn to Christ.  At the end of this period, which many believe will be seven years, drawing on the numbers from different parts of Revelation, Christ will return and set up His millennial reign on earth which will mark the period when Satan is bound as well.  All of this will take place for 1,000 years which will be followed by the final judgment and eternity.  This belief was held early on in the church but started to die out mid 300’s B.C. and was given little consideration until it was revived in the post-reformation era.

Dispensational Premillennialism offers a similar premillennialist view but casts it within a greater understanding of how God deals with humanity in different, successive ways, or dispensations, throughout time.  Each dispensation is a further revelation and offers a new understanding of God and the way He deals with humankind.  Another marker of Dispensational Premillennialism is the literal view taken on the differences between Israel and the Church.  God’s dealing with the world through the Church is different than His dealing with Israel, prior to Christ, and He will return to His work with Israel post-rapture, during the time of the tribulation.  Those sealed from the tribes of Israel, then, would be an actual number of Jewish people saved prior to Christ’s physical return roughly seven years after the Rapture.  This particular spin on Premillennialism comes largely from U.S. Biblical Fundamentalists, finding a most of its roots in the 1800’s, and has become widely popular in U.S. culture.  Many books such as the widely popular Left Behind series have been written from this perspective and have served to popularize this theory all the more.  Much of the political dealings with Israel as well as a number of other things throughout western culture have been influenced by the Fundamentalist influence, something you won’t find much in Christianity throughout the rest of the world.

Amillennialists hold to the view that, like the rest of Scripture, and especially the book of Revelation, the numbers in chapter 20 are symbolic and there is no “true” millennium.  Amillennialism, also known as realized millennialismsays that the binding of Satan took place at the time of Jesus resurrection, that Jesus is reigning now along with the saints and the Church, and that this reign is spiritual in nature. This binding of Satan and the reign of Christ is shown in the spread of the Gospel throughout the world because Satan “cannot deceive the nations anymore”.  At the end of the so-called millennium, which if you remember the number 1000 is a symbol in other places for power, strength, and completion, Christ will return, the final judgment will take place, evil will be vanquished forever, and the eternal reign of God will begin.  Along with this view of eschatology comes a particular grounding in Scripture and Covenant theology, much of which we have talked about, and does not look at Revelation differently than the rest of Scripture but views it within the context of the entire Bible, as we have tried to do here.  At some time in the future, it seems that Satan will be set free to deceive the nations once again and gather the people in opposition to God for a final battle at which time He will be summarily defeated and the eternal reign of God will begin.

These topics are very interesting to talk about and even debate with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is important, however, to recognize that our views of “eschatology,” the study of end times, are peripheral in nature and not central to the doctrines of salvation by grace.  They should not be dividers within the Church nor should they be barriers to the Gospel.  Scripture is very clear that, while the signs of the “end times,” can be clearly seen, and we’ve talked about that throughout this book, the actual times and dates, as well as the specific events that will take place, are known only to the Father.



Luke 21 – How Long?

Read Luke 21

The other morning I was sitting with my newborn baby daughterwatching the news while she fell back asleep in my arms.  As we rocked my attention passed between her and the news of the day.  I don’t remember them exactly, but I know they were bad.  Coverage of a bombing, a hijacking, or some other such thing, and I wondered allowed, “how much longer can this go on?”

I didn’t really have an answer at the time until I read this, a reminder of things already covered in Matthew, yes, but a good reminder each and every day that we see things like this.  It is hard to not get calloused, to not become indifferent at this news.  All bad all the time and its hard to find any comfort in that.

Certainly, as those who are called to show the love of God, we need to be mindful of our reactions, especially to those who want to do us harm.  “Love your enemy,” Jesus says, “Do good to those who hate you;” “Pray for those who persecute you.”  Never are we to become inhospitible, even to those who would do us harm.

At the same time, though, it is important for us to not become indifferent to these injustices either.  It is easy to turn a blind eye to things that happen over-seas, but we are called to “mourn with those who mourn.”  So we pray for Paris, for Ankara, for Brussels, and every place marked by such violence.

Finally, it is important to remember this: God is still on the throne.  Jesus says here that “these things have to happen.”  While it is painful to watch so much violence, one thing is sure: the end is coming and Jesus will return to make all things right.



Mark 13 – Permanence

Read Mark 13

Visiting Europe last summer I suspect that some of my responses to the old buildings that we saw was similar to that of the disciples at the temple.  “Jesus, look at the big stones!”  “Look at these great buildings!”  Europe has no shortage of them either.  Whether old castles or cathedrals, they are quite a sight to behold and stand as a testament to their builders and the ingenuity and creativity of humanity.

St. Paul's Cathedral (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

St. Paul’s Cathedral
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

However, what struck me about these buildings, particularly the cathedrals, is how their incredible design and structure was contrasted by their lack of function for what they were intended to do… namely worship God and be the body of Christ.  It was striking to me that we toured castles and palaces in the same way we toured churches.

Westminster Abbey (Photo Credit: chsrentals.com)

Westminster Abbey
(Photo Credit: chsrentals.com)

I wonder if this was, at least somewhat, what Jesus was referring to when He responded to His disciples’ comments about the Temple.  When He begins to talk about the end times, the discussion changes but the point Jesus makes doesn’t: what we look at with awe and wonder really is nothing compared to what is coming.

Notre Dame Cathedral (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Notre Dame Cathedral
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The same is true for people, something Jesus cautions His disciples about.  “Watch out that no one [or nothing] deceives you.” Lately, it seems, there has been a great deal of talk about making America great again, as if this is what will save us and the rest of the world.  While I am in favor of a prosperous country, I think it is important to keep things in perspective.  “Not one of these stones will be left on another.”  Shouldn’t we instead be focusing on building God’s Kingdom that will truly last?



Day 365: Revelation 20-22; The New Heaven and The New Earth

As we close this journey that we began a year ago, we come also to the final scenes of John’s vision in Revelation, and the final goal of what God has been working towards since the very beginning of this story.  This vision, this end purpose, the final will of God which we see in Revelation chapter 21, is that which we are told about in both our reading today and also that which we have heard about for for the past 364 days.  God’s ultimate goal, God’s overall will for creation has always been reconciliation… and that is what we see here today, reconciliation and restoration… a return to Eden, to paradise, to a time when all of creation lives in the presence of God for all time.

You see, what we read here today is the second high point of salvation history, the first being the salvation brought through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  To think, though, that the scope of this salvation is limited simply to humans would be a gross understatement.  Sadly, however, this understanding of salvation is that which runs rampant in the church today and is perhaps a symptom some of the greatest misunderstandings of discussions about the end times and all that will take place.  For too often we’ve pared down Jesus’ salvation work to the saving of human souls so that they can go to heaven when they die.  Again, this is a sad understatement of God’s plan of salvation throughout the Bible.

This thinking, as I said, is held by many people and often leads to an “escapist” mentality of the end times.  Whether it be from natural death or the second coming of Christ, the prevailing opinion that seems to have taken mainstream Christianity by storm is that of the hope of “getting out of here” to be with Jesus.  Thinking like this has become rather prevalent in the idea of the rapture, the idea that Christian’s somehow get to be taken away from the earth in these last years so that they don’t have to endure the awful judgments and trials that are described in Revelation.  While one can understand the desire to not be around destruction of that magnitude, if indeed these are literal things that are going to happen on earth.

However, what is very clear here at the end of Revelation is that this escapist mentality is not what is described in the vision that is given to John.  In fact, it is not what has been shown for us throughout the whole of Scripture.  When sin entered the world, all of creation was affected, and the effect was systemic.  From that point on, God has been working His will through the people that He has called, to bring about the restoration of all creation, so that all things would be reconciled to Him.  How do we see this?  Because what is described to us in these final chapters is that of Heaven coming to a renewed and restored creation.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.  The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

There are several characteristics of this New Heaven and New Earth that we see here.  We hear the voice from heaven saying that “The dwelling of God is with men.”  More than this, in the words that follow John describes the New Jerusalem as being without a Temple.  This is interesting because the Temple was THE center of Jerusalem and the center of all religious life for the Hebrew people.  However, when the New Heaven and the New Earth are present, and God is dwelling with people, there is no need for a center of Worship because God will be the center of worship.  Jesus is the light and there is no need for the sun.  In short, God is the source of everything, the sustaining force of all that will be present in this new Eden.  I think this is even more interesting because this has been the Hebrew view of reality all along.  God is the center, the source, the completion of all being.  As John writes, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

From the beginning to the end, all things have been and continue to be through God.  He is the sustaining force of all creation and at the same time is working to redeem it, restore it, and reconcile it back to Himself.  This is the end of the story, the true end of all things… the conclusion of our journey both through Scripture and in life.  This is the fulfillment of the Covenant, the completion of the people being God’s people and He being their God.  This too is the truest and fullest realization of the Kingdom of Heaven as it comes to earth when the true King comes in all of His glory, splendor, and majesty on the day that only the Father knows.  Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

(I would like to mention, that the articles that I am referencing as “related” are those that have been suggested by wordpress and do not necessarily support of coincide with the beliefs that I hold or write about.  I neither cast my unknowing support to them nor do I say that they are wrong, simply conversational partners in this journey through the Scriptures.)



Day 363: Revelation 13-16; The Beasts, The Mark, and the Bowls of Wrath

Today we get the dubious pleasure of meeting more beasts and seemingly crazy images that John is being shown in this vision.  Right off the bat we meet two beasts.  The first one is a beast the arises out of the Sea and has many of the same features as the dragon from yesterdays reading.  In fact, the dragon gives in the power that it has and “his throne” on earth.  There have been many interpretations about what this image means.  Some have interpreted it as a symbol of the Roman empire and its rule in the world.  At this time the Roman empire was heavily persecuting Christians throughout the known world, times were rough and the empire itself probably seemed like a beast of sorts, trying to stamp out the Christian movement while it was still in its infancy.

Other’s have seen this beast as the antichrist, a false messiah that will show up in the world speaking great words and drawing many to himself as he has great authority on the earth.  This has been interpreted to signify a particular human or perhaps a government and perhaps even a corporate institution that will both wield authority and also set itself up as a sort of “savior” of the world.  Like we have held all along though, this Scripture is not meant to point out any one specific thing as being exactly what John is seeing here, but rather to serve as a warning, like Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, that there would be those that would come that would try to draw people, especially believers away from God.

We also meet the second beast today, one that rises out of the land.  Where these beasts come from are rather significant in the Hebrew worldview.  Remember that water symbolizes death and chaos, from the time before creation was created.  It was out of the swirling waters of nothingness that God created everything and it is out of this same chaos that the first beast comes from.  However the second beast is one that arises from creation itself, from the land that has been long plagued with sin.  Perhaps this represents a different nature to this second beast.  It is clearly seen that this second beast has a direct impact on the relationships of people as well as commerce and even the ability to live and make a living.

Together these three, the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the earth have been called the “unholy trinity.”  This is a direct opposition to the Triune nature of God, and these three directly oppose God.  In some ways this makes sense in that the dragon is seen attacking the woman, trying to thwart the overall plan of God, the beast from the Sea comes from the same place that we see John talk about Jesus, the Divine Word made Flesh, coming from in the very beginning.  The second beast then would be in contrast to the Holy Spirit, working within the hearts of humanity, working against their relationships with each other and with God.  While this is an interpretation, the number that is given for this seems to coincide with this a bit.  John gives the number 666 as the mark of the beast, but also says that understanding this number calls for wisdom.  It could mean a lot of things, but the significance of the three numbers that are all one less than seven, a number representing the divine, does seem to suggest something.  The three numbers often represent God, the three persons of God, and the number seven represents wholeness or completeness.  It would stand to reason then, that God’s number could easily be 777.  With that being said, the number 666 represents imperfection, only an attempt to be divine, to have any sort of power.  It is only with the One True God that the fullness and completeness of Divine power, love, and grace and be seen.

Finally today I want to draw our attention once again to the working of God’s wrath in Revelation 16.  These are very powerful images that come to us, visions of God’s wrath being poured out on the earth from bowls.  In some ways it is very difficult to even read about and these images bring to our minds questions about how the God of Love could do such things.  Once again I think it is important to remember that God’s love is actually the source of God’s wrath.  When sin entered the world, all of creation was corrupted and set on a path of sin.  From that time on, oppression and injustice were present.  We see this throughout history and especially when it comes against the people of God, the wrath of the Lord is kindled.  This isn’t judgment out of anger, it is the deep deep passion of God’s love for His creation that has been aroused to righteous anger.  The Lord is indignant because all He has created which He loves so much is being torn apart by sin.  As we read about these bowl judgments we see that it is said time and again that people would not turn to God, that instead of repenting they would curse God and not worship Him.  Ultimately this is the goal of God’s wrath and judgment upon creation; it was when He was judging Israel, it is now, and it will be when these come to pass in whatever form they come in.  God is trying desperately to get the attention of those who refuse to follow Him and in so doing He is also punishing the sin that has plagued all of creation.

Unfortunately, these are not things that we often here anymore.  We talk a length about the love of God and the compassion that He and stuff.  These are all well and good… however it leaves a lot of questions to be answered when we read of God’s judgment on creation.  The fact of the matter is that God is a God of love, but He is also a God of justice and we have to hold both of these things in His hand.  We like to think that everybody is just going to be happy in the end, but as that end approaches there will be those that won’t be happy about it, those that have chosen to reject God and oppose Him.  While there will be ample time for them to repent, with lots and lots of warnings as we clearly see here, there will be a time when the end will come and the choice to oppose God and refuse Him will be final.  Again this is unfortunate; my heart aches even as I write this, but it is the reality that we are presented with in Scripture… no matter how much we don’t want to hear it.  Jesus Christ offers us the hope of salvation by grace alone through our faith in Him.  All we need to do is accept Him as our Lord and Savior and believe in His Name.  We never know how much time is actually left which means that we need to be sharing the Gospel of Grace with everyone all the time!

(I would like to mention, that the articles that I am referencing as “related” are those that have been suggested by wordpress and do not necessarily support of coincide with the beliefs that I hold or write about.  I neither cast my unknowing support to them nor do I say that they are wrong, simply conversational partners in this journey through the Scriptures.)



Day 347: 2 Thessalonians 1-3; More on the Second Coming of Christ

People the claim that they know when the second coming of Christ is, or when the day of the rapture is going to happen, or even when the final judgment will begin often seem crazy to us.  Those folks like Harold Camping, and others that have sought to lead people astray by teachings these false doctrines are often the source of ridicule, mockery, and criticism from both inside and outside the church.  We may think that they are the first, today the world has survived over 150 documented predictions (thank you wikipedia) of the end of the world, ranging from hundreds of years before Christ to as recently as December 31 of last year.  If that comforts you, then just know that we only have about 20 or so more documented apocalyptic events to get through, the closest of which is supposed to happen on February 22 of next year, the farthest out being about 10 to the 100th power years away when the “heat death” of the universe takes place.  Clearly these predictors have not read or taken seriously the words of Jesus in Matthew 24, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.

You may think this inconsequential to the reading for today, but sadly it was to address confusion such as this that Paul writes this second letter to the Thessalonian church.  There was, apparently, a great deal of confusing surrounding the final judgment and it seems as though there might have been another letter than came to the church in Paul’s name claiming that the final judgment had already begun.  People quit their jobs, sold all they had, and just waited for Christ to return.  Sound familiar?  This is what the followers of Harold Camping did in the days and weeks before his predicted dates of Jesus’ return.  Sadly, and I do mean that in some ways, it did not happen.  As I have said many times before though, the Bible is the given revelation of God’s self by God Himself to His people and the world.  There is no hidden code that is contained within its pages.  It is the Gospel of God’s mercy and grace that is seen in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and that is testified to by the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s people.

2 Thessalonians is one of the books from which we get a great deal of pre-Revelation, post-Gospel understanding of the events of the second coming of Christ as well as other elements that will be part of this process including “the man of lawlessness.”  This person is commonly known as the “anti-Christ,” a figure who appears towards the end of time in opposition to Jesus Christ and the Church.  This figure, perhaps a single person or maybe a political or corporate entity, will exalt himself over God and all other gods, and will even proclaim himself to be God.

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.  Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.  Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?  And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time.  For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.  The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

A great deal of the end of time theology has been popularized in the Left Behind Series, an outcropping of pre-millennial dispensationalism.  This is a line of belief about the second coming of Christ that is drawn largely from a small amount of single verses that are woven together as proof texts to shallowly support a “doctrine.”  This line of belief claims a great deal of literal understandings of the final days of the earth, even drawing on the prophets as predictors of the future (which was not their primary function), and then drawing out a timeline from their reading of Scripture.  This includes a the popularized notion of a rapture, which comes from an interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17, which has basically no Scriptural support (or other Scriptural support) whatsoever.

Indeed, Jesus talks about a great number of people who will come in His name (recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21), and that these people will be those who try to lead the believers in Christ astray.  I think, when we take these whole passages, as well as some of the other discussions that are had on the second coming of Christ, what we see is that all of creation is moving towards this time, and has been since the fall.  God is always at work for the restoration of all things, and there are forces of evil at work in this world that are dramatically opposed to this work.  Many have indeed come as “men of lawlessness,” and some have even claimed to be divine.  Many of the Roman leaders were like this, at times the leaders of the Roman Catholic church have walked this line, and there have been many leaders (the most prominent of which was Adolf Hitler) who have sought to rule the world and have even co-opted the church and the Gospel to support their cause.  Paul’s warning, as well as Jesus’ words tell us that we need to open our eyes to the greater happenings of things in the world.  This isn’t an encouragement to look for conspiracies and plots, nor is it encouragement to look at all the natural disasters as signaling the end of the world, and neither is it encouragement to say that “wars and rumors of wars” are signals of the immediate coming of Christ.  All of these things have been happening since the fall of humanity.

So what should our response be?  Paul says stand firm in the face of it, holding to the hope that we have in Christ Jesus in the midst of uncertainty.

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

He also says that we need to not be idle.  The notion of selling all you have, quitting your job, and just sitting around and waiting for the coming of Christ is entirely antithetical to Biblical teaching.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.  For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.  It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.  For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.  For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”