I have continually been surprised at the amount of media attention that the Mayan calendar phenomenon has been getting. What is even more surprising is the number of Christians who are able to somehow connect a misinterpreted pagan artifact to biblical eschatology.
But don’t be misled! Tomorrow is not the end of the world.
Since 1989, when I first began studying biblical eschatology, I’ve become increasingly convinced of the historic view of the church prior to the 1900s. This view, which can be described as either amillennialism or postmillennialism, states that the millennial prophecy of John in Revelation 20 is realized. A minority of Christians in history prior to the last century held to a classical premillennial view that put a literal one thousand year reign of Jesus Christ in the future.
In 1830, J.N. Darby, a former Anglican priest who became involved with the “Brethren” movement in northern Ireland, proposed a system that became known as “dispensational premillennialism.” This view was popularized through C.I. Scofield, a pastor from Texas. The Scofield Reference Bible appeared in the late 1800s and helped to spread dispensationalist teaching worldwide in the 20th century.
In general, dispensationalism is a comprehensive theology that counters the covenantalism of the Reformers and contradicts many orthodox teachings of the Church throughout history. The errors of dispensationalism run from teaching that there are two people of God, Jews and Gentiles, with two ways to salvation – to frequent date-setting for the Second Coming by many of its proponents. Of course, this is in direct violation of the Lord’s command in Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”
The historic view is that most biblical prophecy had audience relevancy. The immediate hearers understood the time frame for fulfillment. The timing for the Second Coming, however, is hidden. We are told exactly why in the next verse, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The tenor of Luke’s account of Jesus’ ascension as well as the rest of the Mount Olivet Discourse in Matthew 25 deals with the concern Jesus has for his servants to fulfill the Great Commission through evangelism and advancing the kingdom of God into all areas of life.
If we view John’s “thousand years” described in Revelation 20 as a metaphor for the kingdom of God, then we will begin to see that the millennium, far from being a future event, is here among us. The kingdom is “already/not yet.” The kingdom of God was on earth when Jesus first began to preach that it was “at hand” (Matthew 3:2). The kingdom of God is violently expanding throughout history (Matthew 11:12). The kingdom of God is also like a mustard seed that grows gradually and won’t reach it’s fulfillment until the Second Coming when Jesus returns to reward the righteous and punish the wicked (Matthew 25:1-46).
The “thousand years” of Revelation 20, is simply John’s way of expressing a very long time period in which this kingdom expansion takes place. Christ is pictured seated on a throne in heaven ruling over the nations with a rod of iron (Psalms 2:9; Revelation 19:15). At the end of the millennium is the Second Coming, the General Resurrection and the Final Judgment. So while Christ is already ruling over the nations from heaven, His reign won’t be realized in its fulness until He returns.
Unfortunately, some Christians wanted to predict the coming of the millennium as occurring in 2000, for no other reason than (according to the Gregorian calendar at least) it was a big round number year. Then we heard predictions of the Second Coming on 7/7/07 and now 12/21/12.
In 1999, at the height of “millennial madness,” I produced a video entitled, The Beast of Revelation: Identified, which presents the postmillennial preterist interpretation of Revelation chapter 13 as well as a few other key passages of scripture.
A couple of years after that, I co-authored a book, The Four Keys to the Millennium, in which I presented the postmillennial position and rebutted three other authors who took the amillennial, classic premillennial and dispensational premillennial viewpoints.
I’ve also written a commentary on the prophetic chapters of Daniel entitled, In the Days of These Kings … The Book of Daniel in Preterist Perspective. Here I lay out the case that most of the prophecy of Daniel is fulfilled. A correct understanding of Daniel is the key to interpreting both the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation. I hope to expand this work and publish it in the future as a paperback and downloadable e-book, but for now the separate parts are available at our website.