As our allies read John's book All Things New, some questions arise about the Millennial Reign of Christ and the timeline. There are many books written about the timeline of Revelation, but John's goal in writing All Things New was to offer truth and hope about the restoration of all things. However, it is an intriguing, and John has offered some thoughts:
Revelation is a difficult book; many theologians admit their lack of understanding here. In fact, Revelation is the only book Calvin didn't write a commentary on because as he said, he simply didn't understand it. So I think we need to be careful we don't let the wild narrative of Revelation throw us; the book is "apocalyptic" literature, filled with more imagery and allegory than it is filled with clear, obvious historical timelines. One example is that Revelation 12 takes place late in the book, and yet, it is referring backwards to the Christmas story. If we did not know that, we would be looking for the woman "clothed with the sun" in the future; but she is in the past. So you see we do have to be careful about looking for a linear historical timeline in Revelation. I point to Revelation 12 because it is a kind of "Rosetta Stone" for the rest of the boo––in this chapter we do know exactly what happened on earth, what it looked like, and when. Yet there are pieces in the account (again, apocalyptic literature) that don't seem to fit the Christmas story as given in the Gospels:
When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.
We know that Mary did not fly to Egypt literally on a pair of supernatural wings. We have also no record of a flood that nearly consumed her. This helps us understand we are not to take everything in Revelation literally. These portions are either a) allegory or b) what took place in the spiritual realm. It helps us know how to approach the rest of the book.
The folks at The Bible Project have an excellent overview of Revelation in these videos:
All that to say, I think it is very important that we ground our theology first with the clear and non-allegorical scriptures on the return of Jesus. Both Jesus and Paul make it very clear that the return of Jesus is a sudden event:
For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matt 24:27)
None of the teachings of Jesus on his return have anything like a Millenium to them. They speak very simply and straightforward about the return of the Son, and that evil is overthrown and banished. For example, the wheat and the tares—which Jesus offers us an interpretation of:For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God (1 Thes 4:16)
His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The 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. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matt 13:36-43)
No evil remains to remount an attack on God's people after a thousand years; evil is done away with at Christ's return. Which allows for the restoration of all things. This is our foundation; this ought to "anchor" us in the hope that is the anchor of the soul. Christ returns, suddenly, for all to see. Evil is consumed, banished, removed forever. And then the joy begins!!
The bottom line is this: Jesus said we will know things by their fruit. If the fruit of the doctrine of the 1,000 year "millennium" is diminishing your hope in any way in the return of Jesus, and the restoration of all things, then you know that this confusion is not from God. Dismiss it, and focus on the facts we have in very concrete terms...facts that are so beautiful and breathtaking, we must cling to them with all our heart!
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