After finishing a week of Bible lectures on the book of Revelation at Camp Winema (Oregon), I am evaluating the aftermath in my own mind. I hope what I said was helpful, but I also realize that my views on this book are not always what people want to hear.
A good example of this is the whole issue of millennialism. In a post last week, I outlined the four most common millennial views, Traditional Premillennialism, Dispensational Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Amillennialism. All of these are interpretive positions concerning six verses in the book of Revelation (20:2-7). These verses mention a thousand-year period (a “millennium”) in regard to two things: a long-time but not eternal “binding” of Satan so that he may not deceive the nations and a thousand-year reign of Christ. These are presumably the same thousand-year period.
Sincere students of Revelation have long debated the meaning and significance of this. At one extreme you will find the “amillennialists” who believe this is all figurative for the period between Christ’s first advent and his second coming. At the other extreme are those who see this as a literal one thousand, countable calendar years. An extremist variation on this I have run across is to use a biblical formula found in the book of Daniel that sees one day as equal to one year, therefore there will be a literal reign of Christ on earth that will last 365,000 years.
I announced to the gathered listeners at Camp Winema that my position was what I call “Non-Millennial.” I realize that to premillennialists, this makes me amillennial, but that is not what I am advocating. And I am dead serious about this. I have seen millennial disagreements divide churches, drive people from ministry, and even cause some to question their faith. This cannot be the intent of Scripture or of God. Many people joke about this and say they are “Pro-millennial” (whatever it is, I’m for it) or “Pan-millennial” (it will all pan out in the end). Not funny.
A principle in interpreting the Bible that is often overlooked is that those things which are relatively unimportant to the Bible should be relatively unimportant to us. For example, there is one verse in the Bible that mentions “baptism for the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:29). To be honest, no reputable New Testament scholar claims to know what this is. There are theories, but these are only guesses. Should we be worried? Should we use this one verse as the basis for elaborate doctrine, even building temples where baptisms for the dead could be performed? Of course not. No reasonable Christian would think so. But we have done similar things with millennial theory, and while there may be a few more verses, the millennium is only found in one chapter of a Bible book that is notoriously difficult to interpret. Finding it elsewhere in the Bible is eisegesis plain and simple.
So, can we back down on the millennial hype? If we are not willing to let the word “millennium” fall into disuse, let’s recycle it to refer to the millennial generation, a wonderful group of people who desperately need to hear the Gospel and come to faith. May
God give us a burden for millennials rather than millennial speculation.
Nebraska Christian Church.