But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. (1Co 15:23-26 NKJ)
This passage rules out postmillennialism, for it has Jesus’ millennial rule operating in order to put down enemies. In a postmillennial scheme, the millennium happens after the world has been largely Christianized; the enemies have all pretty much been put down already. The premillennial likewise sees the rule of Christ happening after the enemies have all been defeated, and also has it happening after Christ’s second coming, in direct contradiction to this passage, which says that the rule of Christ happens until His second coming.
Both of these views suffer from externalizing the rule of Christ, making it something to be seen with the eyes. Jesus said, My kingdom is not of this earth, else would my servants fight. In addition, they misunderstand the nature of this rule as it works on the present age. It is the rule of the rod of iron, and a rod of iron is a weapon for punishing the disobedient. Psalm 2 sees the Messiah ruling with a rod of iron, dashing his enemies to pieces, until all are put under His feet, and according to 1 Corinthians 15 quoted above, the completion of the destruction of all Jesus’ enemies, by the power of the gospel, coincides with His second coming. Postmillennialism and premillennialism see this rule as exercising an already established reign of Christ over a conquered world, instead of seeing the millennial rule as the means by which that conquest is established, as Psalm 2 and 1 Corinthians 15 has it. It is the process of extending that rule over the world which is spoken of in Psalm 2 and 1 Cor 15. The end of the millennium, the second coming of Christ, comes at the point when that process is finished, culminating with the final confrontation between Christ and the devil spoken of in Revelation 19-20.
So amillennialism is our best understanding of the passage quoted above, as well as the other passages we have mentioned. The rule of Christ is the process by which He brings saints under His rule by His Spirit, and the process by which He casts down every false philosophy and religion erected in opposition to Him. Revelation 19-20 reveals a final time when Satan in his rage and defeat throws off every mask and disguise and comes against the people of God in open warfare and is finally destroyed forever by Christ in His triumphant return.
So we are now in a time of spiritual warfare, advancing the truth of the gospel against every false idea erected against it. We can do so confident of success, for it is Christ fighting the war through the power of His Spirit, working through His people.
7 thoughts on “The Millennium”
Just to clarify, the postmillennial historicists I have read have a differing view, ie. that the millennium starts after the destruction of Antichrist and is the time period during which the world is largely Christianized. So they would agree with your statement that the millennium is “the means by which that conquest is established, as Psalm 2 and 1 Corinthians 15 has it. It is the process of extending that rule over the world which is spoken of in Psalm 2 and 1 Cor 15. ” Your view is compatible with the postmillennial historicist view. See, for instance, John’s Revelation Unveiled by F.N. Lee, available at the Historicism Research Foundation or W.J. Mencarow’s Sermons on Sermon Audio.
Just looking at the FN Lee book you cited, and without reading the whole thing, but looking at his commentary on Revelation 20, it seems that he has the millennium happening in the future, after the “mopping up” is done, that is, after all the enemies are defeated. He says, p. 252, “As to its fulfilment, this event seems yet future. From both the broader
context849 and the narrower,850 this seems to refer to an event which only
starts commencing after849 the termination of the mopping-up operation851
just mentioned immediately prior to it.852”
So that doesn’t sound like the millennium is happening now, but is yet to happen. And it doesn’t sound like it involves putting enemies down, because the enemies are already put down.
Thanks for your comment!
Just to clarify my comment a little bit- I do think there’s a lot of overlap between more moderate postmillennialism and an optimistic amillennialism. The issue, I think, is that postmillennialism posits the golden age, which is the fullest manifestation of the millennial reign of Christ, as happening in the future and characterized by a complete lack of opposition to Christianity, a total victory. That does not seem to me to be how 1 Cor 15 or Psalm 2 characterizes the millennial reign of Christ, in addition to other problems I have with postmillennialism. The millennial reign of Christ is one of putting down enemies and destroying opposition, and when that opposition is all destroyed, then the millennium is over. I think this matters because it drives our expectations for what the life of the Christian will be like- one of struggle against enemies and the hostility of the world as we advance the kingdom of God in all the ways He tells us in His word. If we see this as basic to the Christian life, then we won’t try to avoid it. In a postmillennial understanding, though, a great many Christians, really most Christians, will never experience that conflict because there won’t be any opposition to Christianity during their lifetimes in the Golden Age. Therefore, even for us now, conflict and opposition would not be fundamental to the Christian life since the Christian life can function just fine without that conflict. Postmillennialists, in my experience, show this- they can often swing between triumphalist institution-building and angry despair when their institutions fail to deliver. Amillennialism, the expectation that such conflict and opposition will always be with us and is, in fact, the engine of much growth in the Christian life, gives one a patience and a more long-range view that better enables staying the course until the end.
Okay, I think I see what you’re saying. On page 259 of his book, F.N. Lee says first Babylon (Rome and those allied with her) will be destroyed, then over the course of 75 years the nations will be converted (the marriage supper of the Lamb; a missionary mop-up operation per page 261), and then the official millennial time of blessedness starts. F.N. Lee says (still page 261) this will not be a time of “universal faithfulness” or “total sinlessness” but a time where there will be, in general, a worldwide Christian civilization. So, as I understand it, sin will still remain as well as unconverted individuals, although societies in general will reflect a Christian worldview.
Then, during the millennium, it seems F.N. Lee agrees with Warfield that there will be an increasingly “sanctified Earth” as sin is increasingly conquered (per Warfield on p. 262 – I assume this is to the end of presenting a bride without spot or blemish to Christ?). I guess what I’m not understanding is that, if the millennium is a time of sanctification for the church (if I’m understanding Lee/Warfield correctly), how would that not fit with the above-mentioned understanding of 1 Corinthians 15? If sin, and presumably things like unbelief, false doctrine, etc. continue to exist but are increasingly subdued, where “the Church more and more fully conquers the World and all the evil of the World” (Warfield-page 262), then wouldn’t there still be enemies for Christ to conquer during the millennium so envisioned?
Regardless, one good thing is that it seems F.N. Lee would agree that the Christian life is characterized by conflict and opposition:
“The sword (deeply symbolically yet very really) proceeds out of the Saviour’s mouth. Thus it is clear that the very nature of the saints’ warfare against Christ’s enemies, is not to be fought belligerently with many swords of steel. It is rather to be waged spiritually with the unique sword of Christ’s Spirit which sword is the Word of God.
Nor is the battle to be fought just once and for all whether only at the time of our justification at Calvary; or whether only at Christ’s Final Coming. No! Instead, the battle is to be fought repeatedly and all the time from Christ’s glorious ascension and royal enthronement onward, right down to the time of His yet-future advent in Final Judgment. (page 257)”
If only more Christians today understood the inevitable conflict instead of increasingly withdrawing and handing society over to unbelievers!
Yes, I agree with your last few paragraphs. There is significant overlap between many amils and postmils. As long as a postmil recognizes that the battle is fought by the spread of the gospel, I see little air between their position and mine, as far as the way we view our work in the present age.
But where I see the real difference lie is that this struggle against the enemies of Christ is presented Scripturally in the context of persecution and suffering, of official institutional hostility to Christianity. The post-mil understanding has a lot of that defeating of enemies happening in a context when Christians will suffer no risk or persecution from the enemies of Christ, and where the power of government and culture can be brought to bear to eradicate those enemies. That changes the way you view that struggle happening. Biblically, I believe, the struggle against the enemies of Christ is fought from a position of cultural and political weakness, and it’s in that position that the church is actually strongest. History bears this out- the church always loses its vitality and power when it gets into a position of outward strength in a culture. But if you believe post-millennialism, this is precisely the position where the church will do most of its work- a position of strength and power. So this is what post-mills typically seek, and why I believe post-millennialism so often ends up undermining the very mission it is striving to promote.
As far as withdrawing and handing over society to unbelievers, I believe that’s happening whether we want it to or not. The present state of the evangelical church in America is happening on the heels of a few decades of “religious right” type activity, where Christians did seek for cultural and political influence, with the result that the common perception of Evangelical Christians today is that they’re only interested in gaining political power so that they can boss people around. So while I’d never advocate withdrawing, I also think we need to be a lot more clear on what our goals actually are. We say our goals are the advancement of the kingdom, and we’ll capture and build institutions and political organizations for that purpose, but it is so easy for the institutions and the organizations to end up taking over our thinking, so that it is the defense and support of those institutions which come to serve its own ends. We lose sight of what we were trying to do in the first place.
Scripturally, I see the kingdom built through the spread of the gospel, supported by people loving their neighbors and taking care of their families, being faithful in their callings and supporting and building faithful churches. This is what Scriptures actually exhort us to do (think Romans 12ff, Eph 4ff, etc). I think if Christians all focused their attention on those things, in the light of the Scriptures, I think the country’d be in very different shape than it is. Doing those things is hard enough. It should be plenty to occupy the attention of every Christian man and woman. Raising families, supporting churches, loving neighbors, being faithful in our callings. And through it all, looking for opportunities to share the gospel with others. That’s hard. And that’s what changes cultures.
Thank you so much for answering my questions. I don’t have a firm millennial perspective between amill and postmill yet but a lot of commentators I have read lean postmill. If historicism is right, then the choice is between a golden age or a sooner second coming. Of course, if another framework is right, then that might change things. In the meantime, I will continue to pray for more widespread repentance and reformation…and will keep reading your blog :-).
My pleasure, and thank you for reading and commenting! I enjoyed the edifying discussion.