Interpreting the Millennium: Navigating Diverse Views

May 6, 2024

This past week at Mercy Hill, the preaching team tackled one of the most difficult passages of scripture. In fact, American theologian Grant R. Osborne in his New Testament commentary on Revelation stated: “This is easily the best-known portion of the book as well as one of the most divisive passages in the Bible.” As one of the pastors preaching this passage, I agree. This is why we made the decision to preach on the Millennium without interpreting it.

What is the Millennium?

First – let’s get this out of the way: what is the Millennium? In a general sense, the term millennium simply means a celebration of 1,000 years. In the biblical sense, the author of Revelation 20:1-6 writes that there will be 1,000 years where Satan will be sealed in a pit, and during those 1,000 years, those who came to life during the first resurrection will reign with Christ.

How Could You Not Interpret It?

I mean, isn’t the main job of a preacher to interpret the word of God? Yes, a preacher’s main job is to interpret the word of God – but not simply for interpretation’s sake. Our goal as preachers is to not only interpret the scriptures, but to also interpret the scriptures concerning Christ (Luke 24:27). In addition to revealing Christ in all of scripture, our desire is to shepherd our church in a way that builds unity.

As stated earlier, this passage is one of the most divisive passages in the Bible due to the many interpretations of what the Millennium is and its relevance to our day. As a teaching team, we made the decision not to teach exactly how to interpret the Millennium. As a church, one thing that is primary is the unity of the church. Instead of telling our church how they should believe about a tertiary topic, we want to equip them with the tools to determine for themselves that they may become “firmly convinced in their own minds” (Romans 14:5b).

In other words, how a Christian interprets the timing of the Millennium, or the 1,000 years, is what our lead pastor, Andrew Hopper, calls a non-essential doctrine. For more information on how our church thinks about the difference between essential and non-essential doctrines, check out this sermon “Unity and God’s Church.

So What Did You Preach?

We preached that the events during the 1,000 years are true. We preached that Christ rules with authority in the end. No matter when you believe the Millennium will come, we hold that all scripture is God breathed, profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Since we believe scripture to be true, we must wrestle with its impact on our day-to-day living. What we must not do is divide over our individual interpretations.

Various Interpretations of the Millennium

Below are the major interpretations of the Millennium held by godly men and women found within orthodox Christian beliefs. Each of these descriptions are selected quotes from Views of the Millennium by Alan S. Bandy. However you choose to interpret this passage, be firmly convinced in your own mind. Our encouragement to you is this: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things charity” (Augustine).

Amillennialism – the belief that the Millennium is a present occurrence. The present reign of the souls of deceased believers with Christ in heaven. They understand the binding of Satan…as being in effect during the entire period between the first and second comings of Christ, though ending shortly before Christ’s return. They teach that Christ will return after this heavenly reign.

Postmillennialism – the belief that Christ will return after the Millennium. Postmillennialism maintains a gradual end to much of the Church’s suffering before Christ returns. They expect a golden age of righteousness on earth, the Millennium, in which the church experiences increasing prosperity and great influence on the culture. This golden age is what the postmillennialist understands as the Millennium.

Premillennialism – the belief that Christ will return before the Millennial reign of Christ and His followers. The present age will continue until a brief period of tribulation, after which, “Christ will return to earth to establish a millennial kingdom.” At the second coming, there will be a resurrection of believers and a public rapture. These resurrected believers reign with Christ, who will, “be physically present on the earth in his resurrected body, and will reign as King over the entire earth.”

Final Notes on the Millennium

I am now a master at spelling the word “millennium.” If there’s a spelling bee in heaven, you will most assuredly lose. You could call me the Spelling King, although, I suppose it won’t matter, as we will all reign with Christ.

– Neeko Williams (Clifton Road Campus Pastor)

Watch the full sermon from week six below:

Additional Resources

Views of the Millennium by The Gospel Coalition
This article delves into the different perspectives of the Millennium.

Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation by Dennis E. Johnson
In his book, Dennis E. Johnson guides you through questions about how to interpret Revelation and how it equips us today.

A Commentary on the Revelation of John by George E. Ladd
This exposition provides insihgt into the authorship, date and historical setting of Revelation, and the various methods of interpretation of the book.

Because the Time is Near: John MacArthur Explains the Book of Revelation by John MacArthur
In this book, John MacArthur explains how Revelation gives believers hope when talking about the end of the age.

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