PMW-2021-061 Kenneth L. Gentry,
Postmillennialism and amillennialism are closely related. In fact, they are both “post” millennial in that they believe the current age (the Church Age, if you will) is the “millennium,” and that Christ will return “post” (after) the millennium.
Both Post- and Amillennialists note that the “thousand year” reign of Christ occurs in only one passage in Scripture, Revelation 20:1–6. We further observe that it appears in the most symbolic book in all of Scripture. In Revelation we see a seven-headed beast, fire-breathing horses, locusts with the faces of men and the teeth of lions, a woman standing on the moon, and many more symbolic features. Consequently, we prefer that eschatological discussion begin elsewhere in more didactic portions of Scripture, and that it be controlled by passages other than the apocalyptically-charged, highly-wrought symbolic images in Revelation
The millennial passage in Revelation 20 is prominent in contemporary eschatological discussion today. Indeed, it has given us the eschatological nomenclature highlighting our distinctive eschatological positions as millennial views. Yet I agree with James Blevins in the Mercer Bible Dictionary when he complains: “The millennium becomes the tail that wags the dog.”
He Shall Have Dominion
(paperback by Kenneth Gentry)
A classic, thorough explanation and defense of postmillennialism (600+ pages). Complete with several chapters answering specific objections.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
As a postmillennialist I do not see Revelation 20 as a key text for eschatological discussion. I do believe it is an important text for the story-line of Revelation. But biblical eschatology begins far earlier than in one of the last books of the Bible. And it is exhibited more clearly in those earlier passages.
In fact, by definition “eschatology” emphasizes end-time events. But Revelation is tied to the first century. John introduces and closes his remarkable vision with clear, near-term expectation statements:
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.” (Rev 1:1)
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Rev 1:3)
“And he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true’; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.” (Rev 22:6)
“And he said to me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.’” (Rev 22:10)
Besides this, Revelation 20 (the famed millennial passage) is actually the answer to the cry of the first-century martyrs mentioned earlier (and throughout Revelation). It has nothing to do with all Christians throughout Christian history. We can see this in the shared words and parallel assertions found between Revelation 6:9–10 and Revelation 20:4:
“When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” (Rev 6:9–10)
“Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Rev 20:4)
Thine Is the Kingdom
(ed. by Ken Gentry)
Contributors lay the scriptural foundation for a biblically-based, hope-filled postmillennial eschatology, while showing what it means to be postmillennial in the real world.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
We should note that according to the direct statements within Revelation 20:4, John is dealing with those Christians who had been slain because of their commitment to God’s word (thus, he sees “souls” and he declares they were “beheaded”). He also adds that they “had not worshiped the beast” (whom I believe to be Nero Caesar, the first imperial persecutor of the church). Both of these facts fit within the time-frame designates of Revelation, i.e., that the events must “soon take place” (Rev 1:1; 22:6) because “the time is near” (Rev 1:3; 22:10). Both of these facts also militate against a future, earthly millennial reign of all the saints on earth.
Consequently, we must understand that biblical eschatology deals with the larger question of cosmic history, rather than narrowly focusing on the trials of the first-century church. Hence, postmillennialists go elsewhere to develop our eschatological outlook.
(To be continued in the next article.)