Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Lesson 6: Millennial Blessings for the Church (Part 5)

Note: This is the last of the posts on historic premillennialism. Those of you who have the outline will know that the next topic was supposed to be Covenant Theology. However, due to time constraints we will move directly into a discussion of postmillennialism. Furthermore, I was going to teach "vanilla" postmillennialism and, at the end of the course, discuss (partial) preterism. Time compression is also causing another change: Right out of the box I will combine the two topics and teach P4: postmillennialism from a partial-preterist perspective.

The bizarre nature of the millennium

If premillennialism is true, what are the implications for the nature of the millennium? This thread of reasoning, according to critics, leads to some peculiar conclusions.

Premillennialists assert (of necessity) that births will continue during the millennium. These new generations will include unbelievers, since we know there is to be a rebellion of unbelievers at the end of the millennium.

However, these new generations cannot be the descendents of resurrected saints, because they do engage in marital relations:

At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. (Matt. 22:30)

The only obvious solution is the presence of unresurrected unbelievers in the millennial kingdom. However, scripture denies the possibility of normal humans (let alone unbelievers) in the kingdom:
I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (1 Cor. 15:20)

More to the point, evil is excluded:
41The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matt. 13:41-43)

So again, the question is, where do these wicked who are to participate in the rebellion come from? According to Revelation 20, Satan, when released, deceives the nations, but these nations were already judged in Revelation 19:
From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. (Rev. 19:5)

The rebellion is ended by fire. (Rev 20:9). Who are these mysterious people who are deceived, rebel, and are destroyed by fire?

According to premillennialism, one group present during the millennium is the redeemed, raised from the dead and glorified. It is inconceivable that they are deceived. Nor can they generate deceivers, being of the resurrection. Therefore, it must be that there were present at the Second Coming normal humans who were not raised, glorified, or judged. They simply lived through the second coming. It must be this group that propagates the species.

This leads to the rather bizarre situation of the coexistence of resurrected saints, normal (sinful) humans, and Jesus Christ. Scripture does not mention such a possibility.

It is strangely reminiscent of the movie Alien Nation. Here you are a normal flesh and blood human, sinning, procreating, ailing, and aging (albeit, it would appear, to reduced degrees). Your next door neighbor has a glorified imperishable body. I wonder who has the nicer lawn.

How do some escape the judgment of the Second Coming? Consider that:
  • The righteous dead are raised

  • The righteous living meet Christ in the air and are also changed (1 Cor. 15: 50-55)

  • The wicked will be taken away (but not resurrected):

    37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day Noah entered the arc, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matt. 24:37-39)

Premillennialism, according to its critics, offers no good explanation for the identity of those who escape.

To summarize the problem:
  • The millennium begins with only the redeemed. The wicked, though not resurrected, are taken away (Matt. 24:39)

  • In fact, there should not be any normal humans period, including believers (1 Cor. 15:20).

  • In spite of this, there are born new, normal humans, ultimately from which a rebellion, led by Satan, is launched.

  • There is no credible explanation for where these people come from.

Amillennialist Kim Riddleberger puts it this way:
Therefore the apparent strength of premillennialism is actually its biggest weakness. If premillennialists are correct about their reading of Rev. 20, Jesus rules upon the earth over people in resurrected and unresurrected bodies during the millennial age. Our Lord's millennial age will end with a massive satanic deception of the nations and a revolt against Christ and His church after they have reigned on earth for a thousand years. If true, this millennial apostasy is tantamount to a second fall. 133

Another amillennialist Anthony Hoekema summarizes for many the discomfort with the premillennialist's millennium:

Why, for example, should believers be raised from the dead to live on an earth which is not yet glorified and which is still groaning because of the presence sin, rebellion, and death (Rom. 8:19-22)? Why should the glorified Christ have to come back to earth to rule over his enemies with a rod of iron and thus still have to endure opposition to his sovereignty? Was not this phase of His work completed during His humiliation? Is Christ not coming back in the fullness of glory to usher in, not an interim period of qualified peace and blessing, but the final state of unqualified perfection? 134

On that note, we end our discussion of historic premillennialism.

133 Riddleberger, Amillennialism, p. 233.
134 Anthony Hoekema, "Historic Premillennialism, an Amillennial Response", in Meaning of the Millennium, p. 59.

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