In modern times, people have defined their eschatology around Revelation Chapter 20. This tends to be a very narrow working of what the Bible talks about as a whole. The scriptures, beginning with the books of Moses, have always been forward looking. This view would drive them to always be looking ahead to something better. This became especially prominent during the days of Israel’s exile. I think to be faithful to the scriptures we should stop defining ourselves around the Revelation 20, but instead have a fuller view of how the Kingdom of God is established. It is for this reason i prefer not be define myself within the categories of pre-, a- or post-millennialism. But for the sake of discussion within the pop-Christian sub-culture, i describe myself as leaning towards a-miilennialism.
In the NT even after the Resurrection of Jesus, Peter and Paul had an apocalyptic view of the world which defined them. In the book of Acts from the very beginning we see Jesus spending his last days on earth teaching his disciples about the Kingdom of God. The disciples see the need to select a 12th disciple based on their reading of Messianic Psalms. (Every time I use the term Messiah or Christ or their derivatives, I am talking of the final King of the Jews, whose Kingdom shall not end.) Peter sees the pouring of the Holy Spirit as a sign of the “last days”, Acts 2:17, and therefore entering a new era of the Kingship of David being restored, Acts 2:25-36. In Acts 15, the Church as a whole sees that David’s kingdom is being rebuilt Acts 15:15-18. with the difference being that Gentiles will be part of the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God is being built. This was the perspective that the disciples had in Acts. They saw themselves and God as the ones who were doing the building. “Being built” implies a present continuous action as well a future final action when the building is completed. throughout the New Testament you will see that the Kingdom of God is spoken of both in present continuous as well as future. It is not a contradiction but there is a process of building that kingdom taking place.
In Romans 1:1-3, Paul introduces Jesus as a King. Pauls call him, the Christ/Messiah and son of David. If we understand the Old Testament prophecy properly, Messiah is not just any King, but the King that will save Israel. For a Jew in the first century, it means that the Messiah would overthrow the Romans and setup an Israelite kingdom. In 2 Timothy 2:8, Paul describes his gospel as Jesus who is risen and is also the son of David. In the gospels and Revelation, Jesus calls himself the descendant of David, meaning he is a King. In Matthew 1:6, David is specifically called, “the King”. So calling Jesus a son of David is saying that he is “the King”. Every time in the New testament, Jesus is called Christ, he is being called a King. Paul in 1 Timothy 6:15 calls Jesus King of Kings. So why is recognizing Jesus is king important? Well in Biblical times to be called King means that the person was reigning. Unlike now, we are capable of imagining a person to be King but not really reigning, in Biblical language, this concept did not exist. In Paul’s perspective, Jesus is reigning, In fact Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:25, Jesus must reign.
Why stress the reign of Christ is present? Well i am sure those that are A-millennial and post-millennial will be seeing the connection, but it will become clear when we get to Revelation 20. Another important aspect of Jesus’ reign is that we reign with him. In 2 Timothy 2:12, it says we reign with Christ. In Ephesians 2:4-7, Paul not only says we reign with him but that we were also resurrected with him. While the word reign is not there in the Ephesians 2:4-7, it does say we are seated with him in heavenly places, which means that we are reigning with him.
It is necessary to understand properly what the past and present age is like, before we can actually understand the future. One of the big events the writers of the New Testament looked forward to, is Jesus coming. Paul in 1Corinthians 15:23 mentions it. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Paul expects Jesus to come. This coming will be marked with a trumpet, a resurrection of those who are dead in Christ and together with them, those who are alive will be with Christ forever. In all of the verses so far, notice the coming of Jesus is always singular and final, which means he comes with wrath, judgment and reward. There is no mention of an in-between time. In 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12, Jesus coming will be in Judgment and to be glorified among the saints, notice they happen at the same time. The judgment is complete, 2 Thessalonian 1:9, and not wait for something else to happen in the future. All of this happens at one coming.
Finally Peter in 2 Peter 3: 1-13 also looks forward to Jesus coming. His view is very similar to Paul’s. Jesus comes like a thief in the night. When he comes he will judge all things and establish the New Creation. Notice also in Peter, he mentions no in-between time. Jesus coming is final or the end of the age. After Jesus comes we expect the New Creation, not some in between “millennial kingdom”.
Before we get into Revelation, there is a need to talk about hermeneutics. One of the important principles is that we let scripture interpret scripture. If scripture has an interpretation, no matter how outlandish it may feel to us, we should accept it and not have any other interpretations of our own. Also we should let the clear passages interpret the vague passages. This is why when talking of the present and future, I did not use much of Revelation.
The book of the Revelation is an epistle/letter to seven churches, which means, this book was very relevant to them. It is also of the apocalyptic genre, meaning it uses figurative language as a means of description. Revelation also gives us a big picture of the past, present and future. The function of images in such kind of literature is to allow us to fill in or interpret the images with what we already know. This is another reason why we should first understand the past, present and future from other books of the Bible before reading Revelation. What you get out off the book of Revelation depends on what you take in with you.
A common mistake people make is that assuming that everything from Revelation chapter four is futuristic. This is easily disproved by reading Revelation 12, where it talks about the birth of Christ which is in the past and Revelation 17:10 where it talks of five kings that have already fallen. Also a lot of people assume that Revelation is one single vision. It really is a series of visions. Each vision has a different focus but span or overlap the same periods of time as other visions.
Another mistake people make when reading Revelation is thinking that numbers are a measure of accuracy. This is disproved by 2 Peter 3:8.
There is only one place in the Bible where the millennial kingdom is mentioned is Revelation 20:1-6. So let us see how this Kingdom and it’s times are described.
First we have Satan being bound up. According to Jesus in Matthew 12:24-30, the devil has been bound up. This is why Jesus is able to save people. Even in Revelation 20:2-3, the bounding is described as not being able to deceive the nations anymore. This is happening now, that we see people from all nations/Gentiles getting saved. They are no more being mislead.
The second description of this time is that Jesus is reigning. This is happening now. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus says that all authority has been given to him. Compare this to Matthew 4:8-9. Jesus has taken over the reigns of power from the Devil. It also says that during this time, Christians will reign with Christ. This too is happening now.
After the thousand years Satan is released and then we have the great battle more commonly known as Armageddon. The problem with pre-millennialism is that there would need to be two two great battles, one before the millennial kingdom and one after. In the same way you need two coming of Jesus, unless you are pre-trib, then you need three comings of Jesus.
I hope by now you see that the millennial kingdom started when Jesus said “All authority is given to me”. When it ends, the New Creation will begin and the Kingdom of God will be fulfilled and God’s dwelling will be with man, Revelation 21:3.