Kingdom Come: the 7th Dispensation

Kingdom Come: the 7th Dispensation

The final dispensation is that of the Kindgom. We will begin with some material from gotquestions.org and then move into our lesson on the 4 views of the Millenium…

“In classic dispensationalism, there are seven dispensations. It is important to remember that dispensationalism is a theology inferred from Scripture rather than an explicitly taught doctrine of God’s Word. The value of dispensationalism lies in its systematic view of history’s different eras and the various ways in which the Ancient of Days interacts with His creation.

The seventh and final dispensation brings about the culmination of life on Earth and the closest thing yet to how God really wanted to live with us on this planet. As its name suggests, the Millennial Kingdom of Christ will last for 1,000 years.

The Millennial Kingdom is the seventh dispensation (Revelation 20:1-10).

Stewards: The resurrected Old Testament saints, the glorified Church, and survivors of the Tribulation and their descendants

The Period: From the Second Coming of Jesus Christ until the final rebellion, a period of one thousand years

Responsibility: To be obedient, remain undefiled, and worship the Lord Jesus (Isaiah 11:3-5; Zechariah 14:9)

Failure: After Satan is loosed from the Abyss, sinful man rebels one more time (Revelation 20:7-9)

Judgment: Fire from God; the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:9-15)

Grace: Jesus Christ restores creation and rules righteously in Israel, with all saints assisting (Isaiah 11:1-5; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20)

The Millennial Kingdom will be a time characterized by peace (Isaiah 11:6-7; Micah 4:3), justice (Isaiah 11:3-4), unity (Isaiah 11:10), abundance (Isaiah 35:1-2), healing (Isaiah 35:5-6), righteousness (Isaiah 35:8), joy (Isaiah 55:12), and the physical presence of Christ (Isaiah 16:5). Satan will be bound in the Abyss during this period (Revelation 20:1-3). Messiah Jesus will be the benevolent dictator ruling over the whole world (Isaiah 9:6-7; 11). The resurrected saints of all times will participate in the management of the government (Revelation 20:4-6).

The Millennial Kingdom is measurable and comes after the Kingdom of God (embodied in Jesus Christ) came to man during the dispensation of Grace. On Jesus’ first visit to the earth, He brought grace; at His Second Coming He will execute justice and usher in the Millennium. Jesus mentioned His glorious return at His trial before the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:62), and He was referring to the Millennial Kingdom when He taught His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10, KJV).

The rebellion at the end of the Millennial Kingdom seems almost incredible. Mankind will have been living in a perfect environment with every need cared for, overseen by a truly just government (Isaiah 11:1-5), yet they still try to do better. Man simply cannot maintain the perfection that God requires. Mankind follows Satan any chance he gets.

At the end of the Millennium, the final rebellion is crushed, and Satan will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). Then comes the Great White Throne Judgment where all the unrighteous of all of the dispensations will be judged according to their works and also cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

After the final judgment, God and His people live forever in the New Jerusalem on a new earth with a new heaven (Revelation 21). God’s plan of redemption will have been completely realized, and the redeemed will know God and enjoy Him forever.”

The “Millenial Kingdom” is the thousand-year period in Revelation 20:1-6. From days of old, orthodox Christian interpreters have been divided over the nature and timing of the millennium relative to Jesus’ second coming. There are 3 dominant views: Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Amillennialism. In premillennialism, Jesus returns before his thousand-year reign on earth. In postmillennialism, Jesus returns after an earthly golden age. In amillennialism, the millennium is a symbolic time frame between Jesus’ ascension and his return, when deceased believers reign with Christ in heaven. We will treat those a little more below.

Postmillennialism

Definition:

The postmillennialist believes that the millennium is an and not necessarily a literal thousand years during which Christ will reign over the earth, not from a literal and earthly throne, but through the gradual increase of the Gospel and its power to change lives (emphasis mine). After this gradual Christianization of the world, Christ will return and immediately usher the church into their eternal state after judging the wicked. This is called postmillennialism because, by its view, Christ will return after the millennium.

Features and Distinctions:

  • Favored method of interpretation: covenant-historical.
  • Israel and the church: the church is the fulfillment of Israel.
  • Kingdom of God: a spiritual entity experienced on earth through the Christianizing affect of the Gospel.
  • The Millennium: a Golden Age previous to Christ’s second advent during which Christ will virtually rule over the whole earth through an unprecedented spread of the Gospel; the large majority of people will be Christian.

Miscellaneous:

  • Higher degrees of interpreting First Century events in the light of prophecy; preterism often goes hand-in-hand with postmillennialism.
  • Of the several versions of postmillennial eschatology, the reconstructionist’s seems to be gaining the most popularity in the world today.
  • Major proponents: Rousas J. Rushdoony, Greg L. Bahnsen, Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., David Chilton, and Gary North.

 Synopsis:

There are several different versions of postmillennialism, but one of the views gaining the most popularity, is that of the theonomists. Generally speaking, the postmillennial theonomist viewpoint holds to a partial-preterist interpretation of Revelation and the various judgment prophecies in the Gospels, believing that the majority of those prophecies were fulfilled in 70 A.D. at the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

The postmillennialist sees the millennial kingdom as the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that he would become “a great nation” and that “all peoples on earth would be blessed” through him (Genesis 12:2-3). This holy reign will come about via gradual conversion (rather than premillennialism’s cataclysmic Christological advent) through the spread of the Gospel — this incremental progress is drawn from many pictures found throughout Scripture (e.g., Deuteronomy 7:22 and Ezekiel 47:1-12).

Postmillennial optimism is also nurtured through many of prophetic psalmody. The Psalms often speak of all nations fearing Him, salvation being known among all nations, the ends of the earth fearing Him, et cetera (e.g., Psalm 2:1-12; Psalm 22:27; Psalm 67:2, Psalm 67:7; Psalm 102:15; Psalm 110:1). Another passage that well feeds this earthly optimism is Isaiah 2:2-3 in which the nations will stream to the righteousness of God.

In light of current world events, I must reject the idea that the preaching of the Gospel is ushering in any kind of “Golden Age” for the church. Instead, it is my considered opinion that we are living in a time of unmatched wickedness. The advent of social media has enabled all manner of wickedness to spread like an insipid virus throughout the souls of mankind.

Some would ask, “Can’t social media be used to usher in the Kingdom?” Of course it could but it is not. Many of the largest and most influential “ministries” belong to false teachers and I find that to be indicative of the problem.

I do not, presently, see any indication that the world is becoming more Christlike, holy, peaceful, or prosperous.

Amillennialism

Definition:

The amillennialist believes that the Kingdom of God was inaugurated at Christ’s resurrection (sometimes called “inaugurated millennialism”) at which point he gained victory over both Satan and the Curse. Christ is even now reigning at the right hand of the Father over His church. After this present age has ended, Christ will return and immediately usher the church into their eternal state after judging the wicked. The term “amillennialism” is actually a misnomer for it implies that Revelation 20:1-6 is ignored; in fact, the amillennialist’s hermeneutic interprets it (and in fact, much of apocalyptic literature) non-literally.

Features and Distinctions:

  • Favored method of interpretation: redemptive-historical.
  • Israel and the church: The church is the eschatological fulfillment of Israel.
  • Kingdom of God: a spiritual reality that all Christians partake in and that is seen presently by faith, but will be grasped by sight at the consummation.
  • The Rapture: The saints, living and dead, shall meet the Lord in the clouds and immediately proceed to judge the nations with Christ and then follow Him into their eternal state.
  • The Millennium: inaugurated with Christ’s resurrection. In an “already/not yet” sense, Christ already reigns over all and is already victorious over Satan.

Miscellaneous:

  • Higher degrees of interpreting prophecy in light of Christ’s advent, death, resurrection, and glorification.
  • Relies heavily on a two-age theology.
  • Major proponents: Meredith Kline, Richard Gaffin, Robert B. Strimple, Gregory K. Beale, and John Murray.

 

Synopsis:

Eschatology is the study of the eschaton; the eschaton is equated with “last things.” While other views focus on the final days of humankind on earth, amillennialism sees “the last things” as having been initiated at Christ’s resurrection and so, being applicable from the earliest days of the Christian church (cf. Acts 2:16-21; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 1:1-2; and 1 Peter 1:20). The amillennialist perspective sees the whole of God’s redemptive revelation as twofold – promise and fulfillment; it also emphasizes that a strict-literal interpretation of Old Testament is not necessarily the most accurate way of determining what the text means.

The amillennial perspective emphasizes that the coming of the Kingdom ofGod is a two-part event. The first portion dawned at Christ’s first advent (John the Baptist proclaimed at this time, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” — Matthew 3:2). At the cross, Christ won final victory over death and Satan. And then He ascended to reign upon the throne of David forever (Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:30-31). Now because we “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18) — because of this, the amillennialist sees the final things already accomplished, though not yet seen by sight, but by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).

An important note is the amilleniallist’s view of the church in this world: a role of suffering. The Christian will be hated by all, just as was Christ (Matthew 10:22), for a servant is not greater than his master. Seeing this as the church’s role on earth — to suffer as did Christ — the amillenialist can hold no hope for an earthly exaltation and longs for the fulfillment of the second stage of the coming of the Kingdom.

This second stage of the amillennial perspective is the final consummation of all the heavenly promises. The Christian will no longer see by faith alone, but by sight. All the shadowy things will pass away and our eternal reign with Christ will begin. The amillennialist, expecting no earthly glory for the church, places all his hope on this heavenly glory.

Of course Christ is victorious over Satan. That being said, If Satan is bound, I think that he probably did not get that memo. 2 Thessalonians 2:6 mentions a “restrainer” that many have identified as the spirit filled church. The context of the text does not really allow for that but, at the same time, it is evident that there is a direct Agent restraining the evil that is in the world. Said Agent, is the Holy Spirit. How do I come to this?

By mere elimination, the Holy Spirit must be the restrainer.  All other possibilities fall far short of meeting the requirements of one who is to hold in check the forces of evil until the manifestation of Antichrist.  Some of the alternate suggestions are out of harmony with the basic text itself.

The Wicked One is a personality, and his operations include the realm of the spiritual.  The restrainer must likewise be a personality and of a spiritual order, to resist the wiles of the Devil and to hold Antichrist in check until the time of his revealing. Mere agencies or impersonal spiritual forces would be inadequate.  Moreover, the masculine gender of II Thessalonians 2:7 requires the restrainer to be a person.

To believe all that is to be accomplished, the restrainer must be a member of the Godhead.  Of necessity He must be stronger than the Man of Sin, and stronger than Satan.  In order to restrain evil down through the course of the age, the restrainer must be eternal, for Satan and his workers of iniquity have made their influence felt throughout the entire history of the Church.  Likewise, the sphere of sin is the whole world, making it imperative that the restrainer be one who is not limited by time or space.  Such an one is the Holy Spirit of God, for He is omnipotent, eternal, and omnipresent throughout the universe, and therefore preeminently qualified to hold in check all of the Satanic forces of darkness.

I will not go so far as to say that He is using the true church to restrain evil though it is possible; His methodology is somewhat of a mystery as it is not directly revealed in Scripture.

What is certain, though, is that while Satan is not currently bound, he certainly is severely restrained by whatever method it is that the Holy Spirit is using.

Historical Premillennialism

Definition:

Historical premillennialists place the return of Christ just before the millennium and just after a time of great apostasy and tribulation. After the millennium, Satan will be loosed and Gog and Magog will rise against the kingdom of God; this will be immediately followed by the final judgment. While similar in some respects to the dispensational variety (in that they hold to Christ’s return being previous the establishment of a thousand-year earthly reign), historical premillennialism differs in significant ways (notably in their method of interpreting Scripture).

Features and Distinctions:

  • Favored method of interpretation: grammatico-historical.
  • Israel and the church: The church is the fulfillment of Israel.
  • Kingdom of God: present through the Spirit since Pentecost – to be experienced by sight during the millennium after Christ’s return.
  • The Rapture: The saints, living and dead, shall meet the Lord in the clouds immediately preceding the millennial reign.
  • The Millennium: Christ will return to institute a thousand-year reign on earth. The Millennium will see the re-establishment of temple worship and sacrifice as a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice.
  • Major proponents: George Eldon Ladd, Walter Martin, John Warwick Montgomery, and Theodore Zahn.

 

Synopsis:

The historical premillennialist’s view interprets some prophecy in Scripture as having literal fulfillment while others demand a semi-symbolic fulfillment. As a case in point, the seal judgments (Revelation 6) are viewed as having fulfillment in the forces in history (rather than in future powers) by which God works out his redemptive and judicial purposes leading up to the end.

Rather than the belief of an imminent return of Christ, it is held that a number of historical events (e.g., the rise of the Beast and the False Prophet) must take place before Christ’s Second Coming. This Second Coming will be accompanied by the resurrection and rapture of the saints (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18); this will inaugurate the millennial reign of Christ. The Jewish nation, while being perfectly able to join the church in the belief of a true faith in Christ, has no distinct redemptive plan as they would in the dispensational perspective. The duration of the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:1-6) is unsure: literal or metaphorical.

Dispensational Premillenialism

Definition:

Dispensational premillennialists hold that Christ will come before a seven-year period of intense tribulation to take His church (living and dead) into heaven. After this period of fulfillment of divine wrath, He shall then return to rule from a holy city (i.e., the New Jerusalem) over the earthly nations for one thousand years. After these thousand years, Satan, who was bound up during Christ’s earthly reign, will be loosed to deceive the nations, gather an army of the deceived, and take up to battle against the Lord. This battle will end in both the judgment of the wicked and Satan and the entrance into the eternal state of glory by the righteous. This view is called premillenialism because it places the return of Christ before the millennium and it is called dispensational because it is founded in the doctrines of dispensationalism.

 

Features and Distinctions:

  • Favored method of interpretation: strict literal.
  • Israel and the church: views church and Israel as two distinct identities with two individual redemptive plans.
  • The rapture of the Church: The church is raptured before a seven-year tribulation (the seventieth week of Daniel – Daniel 9:24-27). This tribulational period contains the reign of the AntiChrist.
  • Millennium: Christ will return at the end of the great tribulation to institute a thousand-year rule from a holy city (the New Jerusalem). Those who come to believe in Christ during the seventieth week of Daniel (including the 144,000 Jews) and survive will go on to populate the earth during this time. Those who were raptured or raised previous to the tribulational period will reign with Christ over the millennial population.

 

Miscellaneous:

  • Higher degrees of interpreting present-day events in the light of end-times prophecy.
  • The Millennium will see the re-establishment of temple worship and sacrifice as a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice.
  • From the millennium-ending “white throne” judgment (by which Satan and all unbelievers will be thrown into the lake of fire) Christ and all saints will proceed into eternal glory.
  • Major proponents: John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, Louis Sperry Chafer, J. Dwight Pentecost, Norman Geisler, Charles Stanley, Chuck Smith, and Chuck Missler.

Synopsis:

A strictly literal hermaneutic is foundational to the dispensational premillenialist viewpoint. Interpreting Scripture in this manner will in fact demand such perspectives unique to dispensationalism as:

  • an earthly kingdom of God from which Christ will reign
  • a future redemptive plan for national Israel
  • a seven year period of great tribulation
  • the rejection of prophetic idiom

 

Dispensational premillennialism holds that a seven-year tribulation (forseen in Daniel 9:27) will precede a thousand-year period (Revelation  20:1-6) during which time, Christ will reign on the throne of David (Luke 1:32).

Immediately previous to the time of great tribulation, all the dead saints will rise from their graves and all the living members of the church shall be caught up with them to meet Christ in the clouds (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17); this is known as “the rapture.” During this time of tribulation, there will be three-and-a-half years of world peace under an AntiChrist figure (Daniel 7:8; Revelation 13:1-8) who will establish a world-church (Revelation 17:1-15), followed by three-and-a-half years of greater suffering (Revelation 6-18). At the end of this period, Christ will return (Matthew  24:27-31; Revelation 19:11-21), judge the world (Ezekiel 20:33-38; Matthew 25:31; Jude 1:14-15), bind Satan for one thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3), and raise the Old Testament and tribulation saints from the dead (Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:4).

At this time, the millennial reign will begin and Christ will reign politically over the earth at this time from His capital in Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3). Throughout His reign, there will be no war (Isaiah 2:4) and even the natures of animals will dwell in harmony (Isaiah 11:6-9). At the end of this era of peace, Satan will be released and instigate a colossal (but futile) rebellion against God (Revelation 20:7-9). After this fated battle, Satan and the wicked are cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10), while the righteous proceed into their eternal state in the realm of the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:1ff).

 

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