Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Millennium: A Closer Look

June 1, 2013
If you were to ask a majority of confessing Christians today if they believe that Christ will return to earth to establish a kingdom for a thousand years, many would say yes. If you were to ask them where this doctrine is supported in holy scripture, they would most likely refer you to Revelation 20 verses 1-5, where it reads:

1) And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2) And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3) and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
4) And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5) But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

Do these verses from Revelation 20 support a literal future thousand-year earthly reign of Christ? Will a future Temple be rebuilt in Jerusalem where Christ will then assume King David's throne? In what way is Satan bound for a thousand years? And what is meant by the term, “first resurrection”? This blog is Part One of a study that will examine those questions and others. In this blog I will attempt to present close examination of scriptures that will debunk many of the aspects of a widely known teaching among evangelicals called Dispensationalism (Dispy). I will present my case by properly interpreting Revelation 20.

Before I address the first five verses of Revelation 20, I want to comment on the Book of Revelation itself, and a few key verses. The Book of Revelation, I believe, is the most challenging book in the Bible. There is much hope in obtaining a fruitful study. The hope lies in doing a detailed study of the Old Testament (OT), especially of the prophetic language used in the OT prophesies. This may involve the use of a concordance a good study Bible, (the KJV and ASV are better suited for an in depth study of Revelation), and plenty of prayer and patience. I have changed my views on several aspects of Revelation, many times in my life. The more I study the OT, the more things come together. One of the most important keys to understanding Revelation is what it says about itself. It begins this way:

1) The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified* it by his angel unto his servant John: Rev 1:1

The recipients of this letter, written by John were to understand that the unfolding of this message was to, “shortly come to pass”. Make no mistake, shortly means what it implies. I've come to believe that this book was written around 66-68 AD, and that much of this book describes, in the Old Testament figurative language, the destruction of Jerusalem by the 1st Century Roman army. In fact, Revelation expounds upon the Olivet Discourse given by Jesus in Matthew 24. As I will show, Jesus alluded to several events in Revelation during his earthly ministry.

I would like to clarify the meaning of "signified". According to Strong's Greek to English Dictionary It means to give a sign, to indicate, The word signified is easy to understand because of its root word “sign”. In the OT, circumcision was for a sign (Gen 17:11). It was covenant symbol that pointed toward a greater reality. In the New Testament (NT), Jesus performed miracles that were signs. The miracles he performed validated who He was – the prophesied Messiah. So I believe the inclusion of the word "signified" is a clear indicator that Revelation can only be understood in light of other scripture, specifically in the OT. Instead of looking to understand everything written as literal, we should seek to understand what the signs meant in OT scriptures to have a proper understanding.

Identification of the angel.
Let us begin examining verse one of Revelation 20.

1) And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2) And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,

First, I want to present the case that the Angel spoken of here is the Lord Jesus Christ. This would not be the first time in scripture the Son of God was referred to as an angel (or messenger). Here are verses from the OT as proof. In Exodus 23, Jehovah God gives Moses theses instructions:

20) Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
21) Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.
22) But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. Ex 23-20-22

The Angel spoken of is none other than the pre-incarnate Son of God. Take notice this Angel/ Messenger has the ability to forgive sins. Only God can forgive sins. Consider these verses also. Hagar's encounter with the Angel of Jehovah in Genesis 16:

9)And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
10) And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.

Also vs. 13

13) So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "You are a God of seeing," for she said,"Truly here I have seen him who looks after me."

Notice this Angel is no ordinary messenger. He has the ability to multiply Hagar's seed (or offspring). Most scholars agree that the personage known as the Angel of the Lord in the OT was a pre-incarnate appearance of the Son of God. Did you catch the divine name attributed to this Angel in verse 13? The name she called out to was the divine name Yahweh.

You may ask why is it important that the angel*** who binds Satan in Rev. 20 is the Lord Jesus. I believe scriptures support the view that the earthly ministry of Jesus ushered in a reign that overthrew Satan's kingdom (or house), and that Christ's ultimate victory over Satan took place at the cross.

June 2, 2013
The Binding of Satan

In the Gospels, Jesus referred to a binding of Satan and to it being a prerequisite for the growth of his kingdom. Allow me to set the stage for Matthew 12. Jesus had healed a demon- possessed man who was blind and dumb. The man received the abilty to see and speak. Many were amazed, and some said, “Is this man not the son of David?”. The pharisees, being full of hatred, accused Jesus of casting out devils by the Beelzebub. Pay close attention to verses 28-29.

28) But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. 29) Or else, how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.

Christ was not simply casting out demons to show his authority over demonic forces. This was a sign and indication of the overthrow of Satan's house. Satan's house was being plundered, and this was done by Satan being restrained of power (or bound) from doing anything about it. The Gospel of Luke sheds a bit more light on this subject (Luke 11:20-23).

20) But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. 21) When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: 22) but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armor wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. 23)
He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.

*Verses that use a form of the word Signify
Acts 11:28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be a great famine over all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius.

1Pe 1:10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
1Pe 1:11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

** Amillennialism defined
Amillennialism (Greek: a- "no" + millennialism) is the view in Christian eschatology which states that Christ is presently reigning through the Church, and that the "1000 years" of Revelation 20:1-6 is a metaphorical reference to the present church age which will culminate in Christ's return. It stands in contrast to premillennialism, which states that Christ will return prior to a literal 1000 year earthly reign; and postmillennialism, which states that Christ's return will follow a 1000 year golden age ushered in by the church.

***There is a possibility the "strong angel" of Revelation 10 is Christ (cf. sun, pillar of fire Rev. 1:15-16).

Rev 10:1 And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:
Rev 10:2 And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth,
Rev 10:3 And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices.

Rev 1:15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
Rev 1:16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

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