June 23, 2010

Hello,

I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!

This will be the second part to the teaching that we shared last time on, The Coming Kingdom. When we speak of the Coming Kingdom, we are referring to the literal reign of Christ on the earth, which according to Revelation 20:1 – 6 will be 1,000 years in duration. During this time the Bible tells us that Satan will be bound. It will be a time of peace, prosperity, and true security on the earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords rules the nations with a “rod of iron”.

I am going to take a little different direction this week than I had intended to. Following the posting of last week’s teaching at https://pastorkj.wordpress.com, I received a comment from one reader basically stating that my premise concerning the 1,000 year reign of Christ, commonly referred to as the millennium; was incorrect since the kingdom had already come in the Church. According to this person’s view, Christ was already reigning on the earth through His Church. In this view we believers are already in the Kingdom, so we need not look for a literal kingdom age. Needless to say, this sent up some red flags for me. I feel I must address this in connection with our teaching last week concerning the millennial, or 1,000 year reign of Christ.

First, I want to make it clear that I understand that among other things, the Church is God’s kingdom on the earth. As believers we are in the kingdom. Jesus’ ministry began with His following in the footsteps of His forerunner, John the Baptist, preaching the gospel of the kingdom. [See Matt. 4:17] In Acts 8:12 the people believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God, and responded by being baptized in water. Then Paul writes to the saints in Colasse that Christ has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. [Col. 2:13 NKJV] Then Paul wrote in his epistle to the Ephesians, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. [Eph. 2:6 NKJV] So, I understand that positionally we are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. I understand that Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is the King of His kingdom, and we reign with Him in that kingdom, the kingdom of God, right now. Our King sits on the throne of our hearts in the person of the Holy Spirit. The kingdom of God has come. The kingdom of heaven will come.

I also want to mention that I see, and many theologians and scholars would agree, a clear line of demarcation between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. As I stated above, the kingdom of God has come. The kingdom of heaven is yet to come. The kingdom that will come, I submit to you, is the literal 1,000 year reign of Christ spoken of in Revelation 20:1 – 6. This literal understanding of the 1,000 year reign of Christ was the predominant view of certainly the early Church, and most theologians for the first 300 years of the Church. This view was known as, chiliasm (from the Greek word for a thousand years). Augustine translated this word into Latin where it became, millenarianism.

The view that the 1,000 year reign of Christ is actually occurring now is known as Amillennialism. This view basically states that there will be no literal 1,000 year reign of Christ. The inseparable Latin prefix, a means “no” and the term millennium is Latin for “1,000 years”. So, amillennialism literally means “no 1000 years.” It should be noted that the term Amillennialism is a reactionary title in that it denies the presence of a future literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth that premillennialists affirm. However, Amillennialists do in fact believe in a millennium; what they reject, though, is the idea of a future literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth after the second coming of Christ.

According to this view, the millennium of Revelation 20:1–6 is being fulfilled spiritually in the present age before the return of Jesus Christ. So, in this particular theological view we are in the kingdom age now. According to the Amillenialist, Satan is already bound and Christians are now enjoying the benefits of the millennium. To say this particular school of eschatology is a stretch would be an understatement. Who believes this? The amillennial view is the predominant view of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as Reform theologians such as B.B. Warfield, Oswald T. Allis, and more recently this view has been defended by Anthony A. Hoekema and Robert B. Strimple. It has been given wide exposure also by Hank Hannegraff, radio’s The Bible Answer Man. Amillennialism is enjoying a resurgence in popularity among some Churches and Christian ministries, but it certainly is nothing new.

To teach the amillennial interpretation of scripture of necessity requires some fancy theological foot work. One has to ignore the clear language of scripture and reject a literal interpretation of the Bible. This is exactly what one particular early theologian did.

Origen, (185 – 254) popularized the allegorical approach to interpreting scripture, and in so doing laid the foundation for the view that the promised kingdom of Christ was spiritual and not earthly in nature. Origen’s allegorical method of Biblical interpretation can also be traced to the rise of anti-Semitism among early theologians and to adherents of so-called, “Replacement Theology”. Another early theologian, Eusebius (270-340), an associate of Roman Emperor Constantine, believed that the reign of Constantine was the “Marriage Supper of The Lamb”, and he held to anti-premillennial views. Tyconius, an African Donatist of the fourth century, was one of the earliest theologians to challenge the idea of a literal 1,000 year reign. He rejected the eschatological and futuristic view of Revelation 20. Instead, he said that the millennium was being fulfilled in the present age and that the 1000 years mentioned was not a literal 1000 years. Tyconius also viewed the first resurrection of Revelation 20:4 as a spiritual resurrection which was the new birth. Again, you have to ignore plain language and the literal meaning of the Biblical text to arrive at these conclusions.

Augustine (354-430), who is often referred to as the ‘Father of Amillennialism,’ popularized the views of Tyconius. He rejected a literal and futuristic interpretation of the prophetic Word because of what he considered to be the excesses and carnalities of this view. Augustine was the first to identify the Catholic Church in its visible form with the kingdom of God. For him, the millennial rule of Christ was taking place in and through the church, including its sacraments and offices. His book, City of God, was significant in the promotion and acceptance of Amillennialism. It has come down through to the present time and is again, the pre-dominant view of the Roman Catholic Church, and is also held by many Lutherans and Reformed theologians.

Amillennialism, while perhaps not heretical in and of itself, I believe has given rise to some heretical theology, especially “Replacement Theology”. While I respect the brethren who hold to this view of Bible prophecy, I respectfully disagree with them. Even though clearly the kingdom of God arrived on the earth on the Day of Pentecost 33 A.D. with the “birth” of the Christian Church, this does not negate the fact that there is still a future kingdom, the kingdom of Heaven; yet to come.

Christ is not literally reigning on the earth today, but He will when the kingdom comes. Satan is not presently bound, but he will be when Jesus comes to rule and reign for 1,000 years. There is not universal peace, prosperity, and tranquility on the earth right now, but there will be in the kingdom age. This is the time yet to come! Personally, I can’t wait!

The Weekly Word is found in Revelation 20:1 – 6. Here the Bible says,

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. [Rev. 20:1 – 6 NKJV]

Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD.

Pastor Kevin E. Johnson

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