The 1,000-year reign can’t refer to an earthly kingdom
(John 18:36 ESV) 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
(Dan 2:44 ESV) And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,
Jesus declares plainly that the kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. And Daniel’s prophecy of the kingdom is clear that the kingdom to be established at the time of the Romans will last forever. There won’t be a second earthly kingdom that replaces the original spiritual kingdom. Nor do any of the numerous Old Testament prophecies about the kingdom speak of a transition from a spiritual kingdom to an earthly kingdom.
The resurrection of the righteous and the wicked is simultaneous, not separated by 1,000 years
(John 5:28-29 ESV) 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
John speaks of a single “hour” (singular in the Greek, too) when “all” the dead will hear God’s voice and be resurrected, some to life and some to judgment.
The scriptures speak of but one resurrection when addressing the end times —
(Act 24:14-15 ESV) 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
“A resurrection” is singular.
The second coming will be at a time unexpected
(1Th 5:2-4 ESV) 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.
These observations eliminate all Premillennial and many Postmillennial theories
The Wikipedia describes Premillennialism thusly —
Premillennialism in Christian end-times theology is the belief that Jesus will literally and physically be on the earth for his millennial reign, at his second coming. The doctrine is called premillennialism because it holds that Jesus’s physical return to earth will occur prior to the inauguration of the millennium. It is distinct from the other forms of Christian eschatology such as postmillennialism or amillennialism, which view the millennial rule as occurring either before the second coming, or as being figurative and non-temporal. Premillennialism is largely based upon a literal interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6 in the New Testament which adherents claim describes Jesus’s coming to the earth and subsequent reign at the end of an apocalyptic period of tribulation. It views this future age as a time of fulfillment for the prophetic hope of God’s people as given in the Old Testament. Others such as the Eastern Orthodox claim that this passage of Revelation describes the present time, when Christ reigns in heaven with the departed saints; such an interpretation views the symbolism of Revelation as referring to an invisible spiritual battle rather than a visible battle on earth. Premillennialism is often used to refer specifically to those who adhere to the beliefs in an earthly millennial reign of Christ as well as a rapture of the faithful coming before the tribulation preceding the millennium. Post-millennialism, for example, agrees with premillennialism about the future earthly reign of Christ and a preceding time of tribulation but maintains that there will be no rapture of the faithful before the tribulation.
The notion of an earthly kingdom in between a resurrection of the saved and a second resurrection of the damned is inconsistent with the rest of scripture. And if the Millennium is an actual 1,000 years, ending with the Second Coming, the time of the Second Coming won’t be much of a surprise.
The Wikipedia describes Postmillennialism thusly —
Although some postmillennialists hold to a literal millennium of 1,000 years, most postmillennialists see the thousand years more as a figurative term for a long period of time (similar in that respect to amillennialism). Among those holding to a non-literal “millennium” it is usually understood to have already begun, which implies a less obvious and less dramatic kind of millennium than that typically envisioned by premillennialists, as well as a more unexpected return of Christ.
Postmillennialism also teaches that the forces of Satan will gradually be defeated by the expansion of the Kingdom of God throughout history up until the second coming of Christ. This belief that good will gradually triumph over evil has led proponents of postmillennialism to label themselves “optimillennialists” in contrast to “pessimillennial” premillennialists and amillennialists.
Many postmillennialists also adopt some form of preterism, which holds that many of the end times prophecies in the Bible have already been fulfilled. …
Postmillennialists also diverge on the means of the gospel’s conquest. Revivalist postmillennialism is a form of the doctrine held by the Puritans and some today that teaches that the millennium will come about not from Christians changing society from the top down (that is, through its political and legal institutions) but from the bottom up at the grass roots level (that is, through changing people’s hearts and minds).
Reconstructionist postmillennialism, on the other hand, sees that along with grass roots preaching of the Gospel and explicitly Christian education, Christians should also set about changing society’s legal and political institutions in accordance with Biblical, and also sometimes Theonomic, ethics (see Dominion theology). The revivalists deny that the same legal and political rules which applied to theocratic state of Ancient Israel should apply directly to modern societies which are no longer directly ruled by Israel’s prophets, priests, and kings. In the United States, the most prominent and organized forms of postmillennialism are based on Christian Reconstructionism and hold to a reconstructionist form of postmillennialism advanced by Gary North, Kenneth Gentry, and Greg Bahnsen.
Obviously, the school of Postmillennial thought that expects the church to use the government to save the world deeply misunderstands the gospel.
Now, the problem I have with the Postmillennial interpretation is the theory of some that the Millennium doesn’t begin until sometime in the future. The rest of scripture just doesn’t have room for two-stage kingdom, with a second-stage that is an earthly kingdom. And as we considered in the To Change the World series, I can’t buy the argument that it’s the church’s job to bring the Millennium.
Indeed, any theory that merges church and state is, to me, very highly suspect — especially if the theory anticipates that the church will wield earthly power to gain control of the state. That idea entirely disregards the rest of the New Testament.
The Wikipedia describes Amillennialism thusly —
Amillennialism (Latin: a- “no” + millennialism) is a view in Christian end-times theology named for its rejection of the theory that Jesus Christ will have a thousand-year long, physical reign on the earth. This is in opposition to premillennial and some postmillennial views of chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation.
In contrast, the amillennial view holds that the thousand years mentioned in Revelation 20 is a symbolic number, not a literal description; that the millennium has already begun and is identical with the current church age, (or more rarely, that it ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 — see Preterism). Amillennialism holds that while Christ’s reign during the millennium is spiritual in nature, at the end of the church age, Christ will return in final judgment and establish a permanent physical reign.
Now, the term “Amillennialism” is a poor choice of terms, because it sounds like a denial of the teaching of Rev 20 altogether, which isn’t true. Rather, it’s a denial of an earthly reign of Christ for a literal 1,000 years. I think this is the most likely choice.
Revelation is chock full of symbolic numbers, and every theory finds the need to interpret most numbers non-literally. There’s no reason to imagine that 1,000 is exempt from being a figure of speech. Consider 144,000 —
(Rev 14:1-3 ESV) Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
144 is 12 x 12, that is, a combination of the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles, showing the unity of those saved under the Law and those saved under Jesus. 1,000 is 10 x 10 x 10, and 10 symbolizes completeness, and so we have a triply complete number, perhaps referring to the Trinity.
Having introduced us to 144,000, and the reader having presumably thought through the meaning of 10 x 10 x 10, the 1,000-year reign must be interpreted in the same light. It’s whatever number is needed to utterly, completely fulfill God’s purposes — just as the 144,000 redeemed people is however many people God chooses to redeem to fulfill his perfect, complete purpose.