Revelation 20 teaches that Christ will reign for “1000” years. The smarty-pantses have historically called that the “millennial reign of Christ” or “the millennium.” (From the Latin word for one thousand – “mille.”) Although theologians often debate what this millennium looks like, we should remember that the millennium is really only one small point in the book of Revelation, which is written to Christians in the first century to teach them how to suffer well as they witness to Jesus. Being a “faithful witness” is what Revelation is all about – allegiance to Jesus. (All the silly “prophecy conferences” would do well to consider that – don’t miss the point of John’s Apocalypse by looking for plane crashes, and blood moons, and whatever other timeline stuff you are preoccupied with.)
But the thing is, it’s important for people to think through the different views on the millennium – not as some academic exercise, but because having an idea of where you are headed gives hope for the journey. These are functional, practical truths.
That said, there are three main views for how this “millennium” is understood. The views on Jesus’ “reign” are named with respect to the timing of the return of Jesus. Pre-millennialism says that Jesus will return and then Jesus will reign on the earth for 1000 years, hence “pre” – Jesus retursn before his millennium. Post-millennialism says that Jesus is reigning on earth right now and then one day Jesus will return to kinda wrap it all up as a final conclusion (“post”). A-millennialism is a lot like post-millennialism with respect to the timing of Jesus’ return. Jesus is reigning now – but he is reigning “in heaven.” So the negating particle “a” in “amillennialism” is really not quite appropriate here. It’s not that amillennialism says there is no reign of Christ, it’s just that it’s spiritual. So a-millennialism spiritualizes the reign of Jesus.
My view is premillennialism (without all the goofy dispensational stiff about a tribulation and a hidden return of Jesus). I think it is abundantly clear that when you consider that Revelation was written to suffering saints in Asia Minor, then chapter 20 could only be understood as the physical reward, on earth, for their physical suffering, on earth. The martyrs are raised!
However, emotionally, I love postmillenialism the most. Postmillennialism says that Jesus is alive and reigning now. I think this view has so much to commend it. It aligns the millennial reign of Christ with the Kingdom of God that is advancing through the work (and even the suffering) of the church today. What is not to like about that? What is unbiblical about that? I LOVE postmillennialism! It’s triumphalist. It says Jesus is alive and his purposes are advancing right now on earth. It says that the reign of God is not some “spiritual” thing but that it actually affects matters pertaining to life, food, and public policy. The blessings of the future are reaching back onto the present because of Jesus rule! This is thoroughly biblical.
So there you have it. I’m postmillenial-ish premillenial. An “optimistic” premillenial. I woke up this morning thinking, “sweet – one day Jesus is coming back.” Then I remembered, “wait – the kingdom of God is both ‘already’ here and also ‘not yet’ here.” The kingdom is here and also coming. Present and future. Jesus is alive and well today. He is building his church. He is ushering in his reign. There is reason to enjoy and express his life-giving work right now, with a bounce in our step, even as we look forward to that future, visible millennium to come.
Oh – and here – for further study: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/an-evening-of-eschatology