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The Millennium of Revelation 20 (From Chapter Four of "House Divided")

House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Four

The Eschatological Madness of Mathison or How Can These Things Be?

Part 12 – The Millennium Revelation 20 

 Michael J. Sullivan

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The Millennium

 

Mathison writes: “ . . . [T]he hyper-preterist interpretations of the millennium

fail to take seriously the long-term time text involved. . . . When the

word thousand is used in Scripture, it refers either to a literal thousand or

to an indefinite, but very large, number” (209).

 

Response:

 

Psalm 50:10 is often cited, usually by postmillennialists, to teach that “a

thousand” symbolizes literally “many thousands or millions.”

For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand

hills. (Ps. 50:10)

 

Postmillennialists reason that God owns the cattle on every hill;

therefore “a thousand hills” symbolizes or represents “many thousands

or millions of hills.” Thus, they reason, we are led by Scripture to interpret

the “thousand years” in Revelation 20 to mean “many thousands or

millions of years.”

 

That reasoning sounds solid at first glance. However, the context of

Psalm 50:10 does not lead us to a principle that a symbolic “thousand”

always signifies “many thousands.” It leads us to the principle that a

symbolic “thousand” signifies “fullness.” The “thousand” of Psalm 50:10

is interpreted for us two verses later:

 

The world is Mine, and the fullness thereof. (Ps. 50:12b)

 

In Psalm 90:4, a “thousand years” is as “yesterday” and as “a watch

in the night.” In 2 Peter 3:8, a “thousand years” is as one “day.” In those

verses, a “thousand” (and “yesterday” and “a watch” and a “day”) is used

to teach us that to God, a small piece of time is no different than a fullness

of time. (Compare Job 7:7; Ps. 39:5; 90:2; 144:4; Heb. 13:8; Jms.

4:14.) Thus in Psalm 105:8, a “thousand” corresponds with “forever”:

 

He has remembered His covenant forever, the word that he commanded

to a thousand generations. (Ps. 105:8)

 

In scriptural usage, a symbolic “thousand” can be likened to “one”

(day / yesterday / a watch in the night), or used in reference to millions

of hills, or to eternity (“forever”). A “thousand” can be likened unto or

used to represent a number lesser or greater than a literal thousand.

Only its context can determine its literal numerical meaning, but the

basic idea that is communicated by the number is “fullness.” As G. K.

Beale wrote, “The primary point of the thousand years is probably not a

figurative reference to a long time . . .”[1]

 

How one interprets the thousand years in Revelation 20 depends on

one’s eschatological framework. The passage does not interpret itself,

but must be interpreted by the overall eschatology of Scripture. Within

the preterist interpretive framework, the biblical-eschatological context

of Revelation 20 should lead us to interpret the “thousand years” to

signify the time of the Christological filling up of all things (Eph. 1:10;

4:10). That time was from the Cross of Christ to the Parousia of Christ

in AD 70. That was the time during which “the [spiritual] death” which

came through Adam and was magnified through “the law” was in process

of being destroyed. The literal timeframe of the “thousand years”

was roughly forty years.

 

Mathison admits that he does not know if there were any rabbis

who used the number 1,000 to symbolize forty years (210). Reformed

theologian G. K. Beale tells us that some Jews considered the length of

the intermediate messianic reign to be forty years. He also states that

one Jewish tradition made an anti-type connection between Adam’s

lifespan (almost 1,000 years) and a reign of Messiah for a (possibly

symbolic) thousand years.[2] Many Christians have attempted to make

this connection and have also paralleled the thousand years of 2 Peter

3:8 with John’s thousand years in Revelation 20:2–6.

 

Adam falling short of the 1,000-year lifespan by 70 years (Gen. 5:5)

may represent his being created a mortal being and perishing in sin

outside of God’s presence. If this is the case, then it is more than reasonable

that the number 1,000 took on the symbolism and representation

of Christ’s and the church’s victory over Death in contrast to Adamic

man’s vain existence apart from God’s salvation (Eccl. 6:6).

 

Some Evangelicals and Reformed theologians along with some

preterists such as Milton Terry do not understand the long lifespans in

the early chapters of Genesis to be literal.[3] They believe that the lifespans

were symbolic and contained numerological elements. But even

if Adam’s lifespan was a literal 930 years, this does not exclude an antitypical,

symbolic 1,000 years in Revelation 20.

 

When Messiah came as “the last Adam,” His reign in and through

the church for a symbolic thousand years brought the church not to

the dust of the earth separated from God’s presence, but to the Tree of

Life and into the very presence of God (Rev. 20–22:12). Through faith

in and union with Christ as the Last Adam (the Tree of Life and New

Creation), Christians have achieved what Adam could not. The church

was clothed with “immortality”; it attained unto the “fullness” of life in

AD 70; and it will never die for the aeons of the aeons (2 Cor. 1:20; 1 Cor.

15:45–53; Rev. 21–22; Jn. 11:26–27).

 

All of the authors of WSTTB understand that the Second Coming

is the event that brings the millennium to its consummation. However,

the only future coming of Jesus discussed in the book of Revelation is the

one that would take place shortly (Rev. 3:11; 22:6–7, 10–12, 20). Both

Mathison and Gentry concede that this imminent coming of Christ took

place in AD 70. But then they err in assuming that the imminent coming

of Jesus in Revelation was not His “actual second coming” (182).

 

To conclude my section on the millennium of Revelation 20, please

consider the following exegetical, orthodox, and historical points:

 

1. Kenneth Gentry informs us that the book of Revelation is

about things which were past, present, and “about to be” fulfilled

in John’s day (Rev. 1:19 YLT). There is no exegetical evidence

that Revelation 20 does not fall within these inspired

parameters.[4]

 

2. As G.K. Beale has said, the symbol of the thousand years does

not have to be taken as describing a long period of time (i.e.,

thousands of years).

 

3. It has also been acknowledged by Reformed theologians that

many Rabbis believed that the period of Messiah was to be

a transitionary stage between “this age/world and the age/

world to come.” These Rabbis (such as R. Adiba), understood

this transition period to be forty years, based upon how long

the Israelites were in the wilderness before inheriting the land.[5]

This type/anti-type understanding is developed for us in the

book of Hebrews (cf. Heb. 3-4; 10:25, 37; 11—13:14, YLT).

And as we have noted from Reformed partial preterists such

as Joel McDurmon or Gary DeMar, it is within the realm of

Reformed orthodoxy to believe that Jesus’ and Paul’s “this

age/world” was the old covenant age, and that “the last days”

were the days of transition between the old covenant age and

the new covenant age (AD 30 – 70).

 

4. Reformed partial preterists such as Keith Mathison, Kenneth

Gentry, and James Jordan teach that the content of Revelation

1-19 and 21-22 was fulfilled by AD 70, at which time there

was a judgment and resurrection of the dead and arrival of

the new creation. And amillennialists such as Simon Kistemaker

teach that Revelation 20:5–15 recapitulates the same

judgment and consummation scenes that are depicted in

chapters 1–19 and 21–22. Full preterists hold to both of these

Reformed and “orthodox” positions in interpreting the book

of Revelation.

 

5. In criticizing the premillennial view, which often seeks to

isolate Revelation 20 from the rest of the NT, amillennialists

and postmillennialists hold that Revelation 20 falls within

the “already and not yet” of the “last days” period in the New

Testament, and that this transition period is depicted in the

parable of the wheat and tares, or in Matthew 24–25. But as

we have seen, it is “orthodox” to believe the “last days” ended

with the old covenant age in AD 70, and that the harvest/

gathering and coming of Christ in Matthew 13 and 24–25

was fulfilled by AD 70.

 

6. If it is true that a).  the invisible coming of Christ in both

Matthew 24 – 25 is referring to the AD 70 judgment as

Mathison and other partial preterists are now proposing and

if it is true that b).  “John’s version of Matthew 24-25 is

found in the book of Revelation” and if it is true that

c).  Matthew 24:27-31—25:31ff. is descriptive of the one end

of the age Second Coming, judgment and resurrection event

(the classic amillennial or creedal position) then d).  the

authors of WSTTB? have some explaining to do in that their

views form the “this generation” forty years millennial

view of full preterism:

 

Matthew 24-25

Revelation 20:5-15

Resurrection and judgment Matt. 24:30-31 (cf. Matt. 13:39-43/Dan. 12:2-3) Matt. 25:31-46 (cf. Matt. 16:27)

Resurrection and judgment Rev. 20:5-15 

De-creation heaven and earth pass/flee Matt. 24:29, 35 (cf. Matt. 5:17-18)

De-creation heaven and earth pass/flee Rev. 20:11 (cf. Rev. 6:14; 16:20; 21:1)

Christ on throne to judge Matt. 25:31

God on throne to judge Rev. 20:11

Wicked along with Devil eternally punished Matt. 25:41-46

Wicked along with Devil eternally punished Rev. 20:10, 14-15

 

7.  If it is true that a).  the judgment (opening of the book)

and “hour of the end” resurrection of the dead in

Daniel 12:1-4, 13 was fulfilled by AD 70 (per Gentry)

and if it is true that b).  the judgment (opening of the book)

and “hour of the end” resurrection of the dead in

Daniel 12:1-4, 13 is the same eschatological time of the end

events described for us in Revelation 20:5-15 (classic

amillennial view) and if it is true that c). “John in the book of

Revelation picks up where Daniel leaves off” with “parallels”

between Daniel 12 and Revelation 20 being hermeneutically

valid to make, then d).  once again the authors of WSTTB?

have some explaining to do in that their views form the

“this generation” forty years millennial view of Full Preterism: 

  

Daniel 12:1-2

Revelation 20:5-15

Only those whose names are written in the book would be delivered/saved from eternal condemnation Dan. 12:1-2

Only those whose names are written in the book would be delivered/saved from the lake of fire Rev. 20:12-15

This is the time for the resurrection and judgment of the dead Dan. 12:1-2

This is the time for the resurrection and judgment of the dead Rev. 20:5-15

 

Therefore, the reader should be able to discern that the full

preterist view of the millennium is: 1) consistent with the

teaching of Revelation, 2) falls within the “orthodox” views

the Reformed church, 3) is in harmony with the analogy of

Scripture, and 4) has historical support from Rabbis who

saw a forty-year transition period between the two ages. Our

view on the millennium is exegetically sound and orthodox.

It is not as “difficult” as Mathison attempts to portray it.

 

Partial Preterist Mr. Gary North, has said that if one side of the debate ceases to respond to the others arguments then the one who has responded last (thus silencing the other) in essence has won the debate (my paraphrase).   He has also written of dispensational scholars and their inability to keep up with postmillennial works and critiques, “Like a former athlete who dies of a heart attack at age 52 from obesity and lack of exercise, so did dispensational theology depart from this earthly veil of tears.  Dispensational theologians got out of shape, and were totally unprepared for the killer marathon of 1988.” (Greg L. Bahnsen, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., HOUSE DIVIDED THE BREAK-UPOF DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGY (Tyler, TX:  Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), Publishers Foreword, xx.).  In the same book DeMar claims that “Any theological position divided against itself is laid waste” and “shall not stand” and is guilty of “Theological Schizophrenia” (Ibid. 349-350).  Apparently Mr. Mathison was not prepared for the killer marathon of 2009 and since that time has been too busy engorging himself from the profits P&R provided him and is simply too scared and out of shape to open our book let alone read and respond to my critique and response to him?  And we document the “House Divided” “Theological Schizophrenia” and contradictory approach Reformed eschatology has sought to use against us let alone the contradictions (and yet at the same time progressive views moving towards Full Preterism) that are within Mathison’s writings alone. 

Therefore, I have decided to post my chapter response to his online (in small parts) in hopes that both the Futurist and the Full Preterist communities will contact him for an official response.  If no response continues to come, then I will allow him to be judged by the same standard that his own postmillennial partial preterist colleagues have set up, and accept that he is unable to respond and has lost our debate.



[1] G. K. Beale, The New International Greek Testament Commentary:  The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 1018.

[2] Ibid., 1018–1019.

[3] Carol A. Hill, Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis (http://www.asa3.org/aSA/PSCF/2003/PSCF12–03Hill.pdf).
Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 62.
[4] Even Poythress understands that if the imminent time texts are to point to AD 70 as Mathison, Gentry and full preterists are proposing, then “everything” in the book would be fulfilled not some or most – But 1:3 and 22:10 are like bookends enclosing the whole prophecy of Revelation. The fulfillment of everything, not just a part, is near.”  Vern S. Poythress, THE RETURNING KING A GUIDE TO THE BOOK OF REVELATION, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing Company, 2000) 34.
[5]
Beale, Revelation Ibid., 1018-1019.  See also A. Cohen, Everyman’s TALMUD, (New York:  E.P. Dutton, 1949), 356.

 

Views: 337

Comment by Doug Wilkinson on July 5, 2013 at 11:17pm

My problem with the Full Preterist timing of the Millennium is that it claims to be based on preconditions that could only have existed in the events associated with the Parousia. 

Rev 20:4  Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
Rev 20:5  The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.
Rev 20:6  Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

Those who are seated at the time of the judgment have just been resurrected.  They were those who were killed by the Beast during his function in the book of Revelation, the beginning of which was only 3 1/2 years before 70AD.  Unless the Millennium was 3 1/2 years long, and the First Resurrection began at the initiation of it, then those seated could not have been killed during the reign of the Beast.

DougW

Comment by MoGrace2u on July 7, 2013 at 11:05am
Doug: My problem with the Full Preterist timing of the Millennium is that it claims to be based on preconditions that could only have existed in the events associated with the Parousia.

But in the very next verse you cited it refers to those who were beheaded for their witness of Jesus - would this not include John the Baptist who announced the arrival of Jesus as the Lamb of God?
Comment by Doug Wilkinson on July 7, 2013 at 3:44pm

I don't know if it would include John the Baptist or not because the passage doesn't refer to him by name.  We know that others such as Paul were beheaded in that generation, so there is no particular reason to say that John the Baptist is in view.  But, if for the sake of argument we said that he was, are you then saying that the function of the Beast and the mark of the Beast was ongoing in 30AD? 

DougW

Comment by MoGrace2u on July 8, 2013 at 1:10am
What we may know from other sources certainly can't discount what the gospels have to say about the ONLY beheading they record. As for the beast and false prophet who were already at work in 30AD - we only need look to the cross to know it.
Comment by Doug Wilkinson on July 8, 2013 at 9:55am

I'm not discounting that John the Baptist's head was cut off.  I am saying that it was not cut off in 66AD (which is when the 3 1/3 year/42 month/1260 day window begins, as far as I've ever heard anyone argue).  There is no indication from Revelation (where the term Beast is defined) that he wad responsible for the crucifixion of Christ.

The Beast is a character who shows up in Revelation to apply 3 1/2 years/42 months/1260 days of persecution around the time of the parousia/erchomai.  He does so partially by requiring the mark of the Beast.  In order for this to have happened to John the Baptist you have to be agreeing with Loomis that all of this happened in 30AD. 

DougW

Comment by MoGrace2u on July 8, 2013 at 10:42am
There is a 3 1/2 yr period that marks when the millennium began the reign of Christ and a 3 1/2 yr period that marks its end over earthly Israel - which is also according to Daniel.
Comment by Doug Wilkinson on July 8, 2013 at 10:52am

So, you are saying that the 1260 day function of the Beast was in 30AD?

Comment by Doug Wilkinson on July 8, 2013 at 12:15pm

I should have added, could you provide the specific references you're using for the time periods you're talking about?

Comment by MoGrace2u on July 9, 2013 at 3:28pm

Dan 9:24-27; ch 12

Comment by Doug Wilkinson on July 9, 2013 at 4:46pm

You'll have to help me out with your points on Daniel 9 and 12.  I realize that the 70 Weeks prophecy has to do with the events leading up to the sacking of Jerusalem, but I don't see any mention of the 30 AD time frame with the Beast function and the 3 1/2 years in it.  As far as Daniel 12 goes, I'm not aware of anyone who sees the events of this chapter as apply to the period of 30 AD.  I don't see your point.

DougW

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