Full Text for American Religious Scene- Volume 17 - Millennialists (Video)

No. 17. >> I hope I'm not taking us too quickly in a new direction. But I want to ask about millennialism. What are the problems and dangers of millennialism? And are all millennialists the same? >>DR. THOMAS E. MANTEUFEL: Well, there are certainly different kinds of millennialists. And they are not all the same. Millennialism in general is the doctrine that there will be a period of glory and political power for the people of God before Judgement Day. And this is thought then to be the meaning of the reign with Christ, which is spoken of in Revelation 20 which uses the word thousand there, that he reigned for a thousand years with his saints. And the word millennialism simply comes from the Latin word for thousand and also the Latin word for year, millennialism. There was amillennialism or non-millennialism which denies that there will be any period of glory or political power for the believers before the coming of Christ. But rather, it is taught by amillennialists that they shall endure tribulation until the end. As Matthew 24 portrays. And then also there is the passage in John 18:36 which is very important in this -- in considering this matter: Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world." That is his kingdom doesn't have the same nature as the kingdom of this world. It doesn't originate by political and military maneuvers and does not operate by means of political powers. So then this is the teaching of amillennialism. And I'll talk about that for a little while. That is to say amillennialism takes the position that the thousand-year reign with Christ is actually going on right now. It refers to the period of church history when Christ is, in fact, reigning through his church or reigning with his church. Sharing his power at the right hand of God with his people. Welcome back to that later. But the point is that during the time of the millennial reign as understood by amillennialists, we can say that the Old Testament promises that were made to Israel in the Old Testament have actually been fulfilled in the church. The millennial really is the life of the church. And that means that the church is really the new Israel. That's shown by a number of passages of Scripture like, for example, I Peter 2:9. Where Peter uses words from the Old Testament referring to the Old Testament Israel and applies them to the Christian church: You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a special people. And Galatians 3:7 is a passage where Paul refers to the believers in Christ as the spiritual children of Abraham, therefore, the spiritual Israel, where he says: All who believe are the children of Abraham. And that's why in the book of Galatians at the end of the book in Chapter 6 he refers to the church as the Israel of God. And so the church is the new Israel. And Peter in his Pentecost sermon makes that very clear. That the prophesies of messianic times were being fulfilled as he spoke in the beginning mission work of the Christian church and in the events that were there taking place. And James does the same thing in Acts 15 in his speech at the Apostolic Council where he quoted from Amos 9 which talks about the coming building up of the tabernacle of David and the Gentiles seeking the Lord. And James pointing out that this was coming to pass in the mission work of the church. Ephesians Chapter 2 and Galatians Chapter 3 make it clear that the Jews are united with the Gentiles in the kingdom of Christ. The Jews are not a separate class that have an independent destiny under God, an independent destiny to rule and so forth. But rather, they are united with the Gentiles in the kingdom of Christ. That is to say in the church. Galatians 3:28 says there is neither Jew nor Greek or Gentile if you are all one in Christ. Now, I said that there were different kinds of millennialism. One is called postmillennialism. And that comes from the Latin word post which means after. And it means that the second -- it's the teaching that the second advent of Christ will occur after the millennium of righteousness and peace that has been brought about by the political and religious work of the church throughout the world. So according to this teaching, Christ himself will not appear visibly to inaugurate this reign of Christ. But rather, Christ will stay in the background and will work through his church. Modern postmillennialism began in the 18th Century. And it reached its heyday during the 19th Century and was a very prominent teaching in the churches of that time. And it's still held by some people today. But it's not the most common millennial teaching certainly. There's diversity among the postmillennialists in teaching this thousand-year reign of Christ. Some take the number literally and some take it as a long time or symbolically as, in fact, the amillennialists do. And some expect the millennium to commence in the future. And some say it's already begun with the ascension and coincides with all of the church's influence. So that again is that -- that version of postmillennialism is much like amillennialism. In any case, the Old Testament promises of the messianic kingdom are said to be fulfilled in the Christian church, according to amillennialism as well as in postmillennialism. All of the postmillennialists agree that the reign of Christ must include sooner or later the Christianization of the world and political dominion for Christians. And that Christ will not come again until all of these things have happened. So while there are similarities between the non-millennialists and the postmillennialists, this is the important difference, that is that two-fold difference that I just stated. That is there is to be a Christianization of the whole world. And there will be political dominion for Christians. And they then teach that there will be a little season of Satan as Revelation 20 portrays. And there will be a visible second advent. And then there will be a general resurrection of all people at that time and a general judgement of all people. And verdicts of either eternal life or eternal damnation will then be rendered. And then there is another kind of millennialism. Namely premillennialism taken from the Latin word pre meaning before. This is the teaching that Christ will return before the thousand-year kingdom begins. That is he will come to set it up upon the earth. Premillennialism in one form or another has existed since the very beginning of the church's history. And we can read about it in various early church writings. Like Justin Martyr, for example, writing in the Second Century. He himself was a premillennialist. And states that. But he also says there were others that disagreed with him that denied there will be a millennium of a political nature. In other words, these were amillennialist or non-millennialists that he was talking about here and complaining about. So there's a long history to both of these views. And we often speak of historic premillennialism which has a long history going back to the beginning of the history of the church. But then there is also a special kind of premillennialism called dispensationalism. And that's a version of premillennialism that began in the 19th Century with a man by the name of John Nelson Darby. We'll speak more about dispensationalism a little bit. But here I want to point out that there are some definite problems with millennialism. You ask: Are there problems or what are the problems with millennial teaching? There are a number of them. First of all, there is the problem that is connected with the verse that I quoted before, the words of Jesus in John 18:36: My kingdom is not of this world. That is -- that saying that Jesus' kingdom does not have the same nature as the kingdoms of this world and we should not be looking for the kingdom of Jesus to be taking this form. It does not originate from political and military maneuvers and doesn't operate by means of political power. Now, millennialists who believe in a thousand-year political reign of Christ agree that this is what Jesus does mean in this passage, John 18:36. But they base their view upon the word "now" that appears later in this verse. That is that word "now," which is gennao in the Greek, comes up in this sentence of the words of Jesus. "Now my kingdom is not from hence." And their argument then is that this word "now," that Jesus uses implies that his kingdom is not now of this world. But it will be of this world at a future time. But amillennialists disagree with this interpretation of this text. That is amillennialists point out that the word "now," that is the word gennao in Greek, is used in two different ways in the Greek of the New Testament. Sometimes it can have a chronological meaning which is the way that dispensationalists are using it in this instance with regard to this text. But it also has a logical meaning. And when it has a logical meaning, then it is to be translated with some words like this: As a matter of fact. Or as it is in the real world which here and now exists. Or instead. Without any implication about whether a change is to come about in the future. So what Jesus means according to that in this passage is this: If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight. That's an unreal condition that he stated here. Because he says -- goes onto say: As a matter of fact, my kingdom is not from here. That is from this world. Jesus' kingdom is in operation right now. We know that. And I'll point that out again in a moment. Jesus' kingdom does not await its existence in the future. That is in some time of some new and improved world system. But rather, it exists right now. And Jesus' description has to do with what its nature is right now. Now, one problem, which I just referred to, with millennialism has to do with the form of millennialism called dispensationalism. Dispensationalism makes the claim that there is no kingdom of Christ now at the present time. And there will not be a kingdom of Christ until the time of the millennium. This is because of their view that Jesus originally came to set up his kingdom during his lifetime. That is to set up his thousand-year reign. But he could not do that because the Jewish people as a whole would not accept him and would not follow him and cooperate with him in setting up this kingdom which has been promised in the Old Testament to the Jews. A kingdom will rule the earth. And so because of that, Jesus had to postpone the setting up of his kingdom until a future time, until a future dispensation as the dispensationalists say. And so what they say is that what Jesus did instead was to set up his church, which is not his kingdom. And that his kingdom will not exist until he comes to set up his kingdom in the millennium. Non-millennialists disagree with this. Find a problem with this assertion. Because it's not what the Bible teaches. Colossians 1:13 says that God has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son. That is to say it exists now. And we have been brought into it. And in Acts 2, Peter tells how God has sworn with an oath to raise up Christ to sit on his throne. And he says in his Pentecost sermon that now that has happened. It has been fulfilled at the ascension of Jesus. Then there's the whole matter of the Great Tribulation, which is certainly problematic within millennialism. Revelation 7:14 speaks of a Great Tribulation. That is it speaks of a great multitude arrayed in white which has come out of the Great Tribulation. Now, Lutherans and in fact, many other Christians take this to be referring to all of the trouble and tribulation throughout history by which Christians enter the kingdom of heaven. But the dispensationalists see the Great Tribulation as a period after Christ's coming for the rapture. That is it will be seven years during which tribulation gradually will come about. And dispensationalists will then use the old prophesy in Daniel 9 to determine the length of the Great Tribulation. That is to say it will be seven years. There's nothing in the Revelation passage in Revelation 7:14 about the length of time of the Great Tribulation. But dispensationalists derive that from Daniel 20 (sic), which speaks about the seven weeks or groups of years which have been designed by God for the purpose of bringing about reconciliation for sin and bringing in everlasting righteousness as the prophet says. So it's a prophesy of the coming of Christ to make atonement for sin. And this was then to happen at the culmination of these 70 weeks or groups of seven. What Daniel's prophesy says that after 69 of these sevens, the Messiah will be cut off. And then after that -- well then during this last week of seven, this last group of seven years, a covenant will be confirmed with many and he will cause the sacrifices to cease. There are a number of different explanations of this passage, Daniel 9 -- from Daniel 9. And I'll just mention two of them here. One is the dispensationalist interpretation of this passage, which we are referring to right here. And then I will also refer to the second interpretation, which is the amillennialist interpretation or that is to say the traditional messianic interpretation of this passage. Dispensationalism says that Messiah was cut off at the end of the 69th week. And so they say that last week of years, that last seven years was postponed because his kingdom was postponed as we have mentioned before in their teaching. And so then they say Daniel is describing events that were happening -- that are to happen, rather, just before the establishment of the millennial kingdom. So there's a period of seven years to come just preceding the millennium. That's the seven years which have been postponed along with the millennial kingdom itself. And in those years there will be a secular dictator, that is the anti-Christ, who will make a covenant or agreement with the Jews in Israel. And then he will renege on that covenant or treaty by attacking Israel and by destroying the temple that will be built in Jerusalem at that time. And in that way he will cause the sacrifices to cease. He will put an end to the ceremonial worship of sacrifices in that rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. We disagree as amillennialists with this interpretation. According to Daniel's words, the 70 sevens were to conclude with the accomplishment of reconciliation. Of the vicarious atonement. But in the dispensationalist interpretation, the atonement really does not take place in this last week of years, this last seven years. But rather, the vicarious atonement takes place in history long, long, long before those seven weeks come about because they've been postponed. So that's a definite problem with that interpretation of the Daniel passage. And also we don't agree that the kingdom of Christ has been postponed. It exists now we believe. And so we see no reason for a postponement of that last week of years. That is to say the postponement of the last seven years making it available for seven years of tribulation, to be called seven years of tribulation. That stands or falls with the postponement of the kingdom of Christ in the dispensationalist teaching. And if we reject the one, we also will have no reason for accepting the other. Now, the other point of view, the traditional messianic point of view is this: That the last seven of years in this 70 sevens is the seven within which the fulfillment of the promise of reconciliation comes about. And in which it did come about historically. And that is the period in which Messiah was actually cut off as Daniel says. And so the covenant which is to be made with many is made not by the anti-Christ but rather by Christ in this prophesy. It is the new covenant in his blood which Jesus announces in the Words of Institution for his Holy Supper. And he is the one that makes the sacrifices to cease by fulfilling the meaning of the Old Testament sacrificial system and bringing all reason for those sacrifices to a close because now he has brought the fulfillment to them. Another problem with the whole matter of the -- the whole teaching of dispensationalism is their view about the Old Testament sacrifices. They teach that the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem already during the time of the Great Tribulation and will continue then during the whole time of the millennium. And will be used for the Old Testament sacrifices to be performed. And the anti-Christ will make a temporary interruption in that sacrificial practice. But after Christ comes again and overthrows the anti-Christ then the sacrificial system will be put into operation once more. And will continue for a thousand years. Where do the dispensationalists get this idea? They get it from the book of Ezekiel. In the last part of the book of Ezekiel in Chapters 40 to 48, there's a description of a temple in which sacrifices are offered. And the dispensationalists say that this is the temple of millennial times, which then will be a new temple that will be built at this time in Jerusalem. Which does not now yet exist. But this -- all of this goes contrary to what the Bible actually says. Namely, that the ceremonial law of the Old Testament has been abolished now in New Testament times. It is part of the ceremonial law which has been abrogated. The book of Hebrews is very explicit about this. Hebrews 7:18 says that the old covenant with its ceremonial law of sacrifice has been abolished in the New Testament. This passage then says: The former regulation is set aside. And then in the next chapter, Hebrews 8 in Verse 13 there's a quotation from the prophet Jeremiah concerning the new covenant which is to come. And then this comment is made by the author of the book of Hebrews: When he says a new covenant, he has made the first one -- the first covenant -- obsolete. Now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away. So according to this, there certainly will not be a sacrificial system which is to be reestablished in future times. Besides this, there's another problem, too. That is if Ezekiel is to be taken as the proof text for the teaching of the new temple which is to come during the time of the millennium, then what should we do with Ezekiel 45:22 which says that in this temple the king will continually make sacrifices, first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. If this is a temple of the millennial times and the king of that time is Christ but Christ certainly does not have to make sacrifices for his own sin. So this doesn't fit that part of the prophesy. Then there's something else, also, which is a problem for dispensationalism. And also for other kinds of millennialism. That is to say it's the whole matter of the little season in which Satan is released and allowed to stir up a rebellion among the wicked for a short time until Christ puts an end to it. And all those who teach a literal millennium then also take this part Revelation 20 in a literal way. But there's a problem here which has been commented upon by certain writers. That is to say: Where do these wicked people come from whom Satan stirs up for such a rebellion? During the millennium, the people there are the saints, the resurrected saints who are glorified. They would not be wicked people who would be stirred up for a rebellion. And so dispensationalists have to try to explain this. And what they say is that there will be certain people living in the millennium who will not be glorified saints. That is to say they will not be resurrected people. They will be people that will have survived into the time of the millennium. They will not have died during the time of the Battle of Armageddon which takes place just before the millennium. So they will not have died. And therefore, they will not be resurrected and will not be glorified. So then they will still have the old sinful nature. And furthermore, they will not be people who will no longer marry as the resurrected will be as Jesus says. But rather, they will be people that will marry and have children. And they then will pass on their inherited sin to -- also to their children. So the children then of the people living in the millennium will be people that may, indeed, become sinners, sinful people and wicked people depending on how they live. Some will be converted because there will be conversions taking place during the millennium. And some will never be converted. And they will be these sinful people. And they are the ones who are said to take part in the little season of Satan. But this certainly is a problem. Because the Scripture really does not indicate that this will take place in this way. And then there's the idea of two resurrections and two judgments. Millennialism says that there is -- at least premillennialism says that there are to be two resurrections a thousand years apart. That is to say there will be a resurrection of the believers that will take place just before the millennium. And there will be a resurrection of the evil people that will take place at the end of the millennium. But that doesn't correspond with what Jesus says in John 6:40. That is to say he says there that he will give eternal life to the one that believes in Christ. And he says: I will raise him up at the last day. He won't raise him up a thousand years before the last day as premillennialism teaches. But he will raise him up at the last day when all the other people are raised up. And then the matter of the two judgments does not really fit with Scripture, either. In Matthew 25 we have the judgement of the sheep and the goats. And according to premillennialism, this is not the final judgement but rather, this is the judgement simply of the people who are still alive at the end of the Battle of Armageddon. And those people then will be judged. And people with a favorable verdict will then go in through the millennium and will then live in the millennium with Christ. And as we said before, some of them are said to have children if they are not glorified, resurrected people. But none of this really seems to be taking seriously the way the words read in Matthew 25. That is to say this is really describing a judgement in which certain people are damned and they go into everlasting punishment. And that certainly has an air of finality about it. That is describing the last judgement. And it's the judgement which really will involve all people, both living and those who are resurrected at the time when Jesus comes again. It is to be identified with the judgement of the last day.