Reformed Answers

by Third Millennium Ministries

 
 

What is the purpose of the millennium?

Question
What is the purpose of the millennium?
Answer
At Third Millennium, we are amillennialists, believing that the "millennium" is simply a metaphoric representation of the time period between the first and second advents of Christ. As amillennialists, we also believe that the Bible is not so specific or certain regarding its portrayal of this period so as to justify the postmillennial position.

From our perspective, the New Testament seems to indicate that the purposes of the millennium include delaying God's final judgment so that: more people may come to faith; the church may grow to maturity in Christ; God's glory might be increased; and the supernatural beings might see God's wisdom.

The Old Testament frequently spoke of the "Day of the Lord," the day on which God would finally and utterly destroy his enemies and bless his people (e.g. Isa. 13:6,9; Ezek. 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1,11,31; 3:14; Amos 5:18-20; Obad. 1:15; Zeph. 1:7,14; Mal. 4:5). The expectations established by the Old Testament teachings regarding the Day of the Lord were that God would accomplish all these blessings and curses immediately and at once, and that he would do so when he sent the Messiah. Thus, the Jewish view of history was one of two ages: the current evil age in which God has not yet destroyed his enemies and fully rescued his people, often called "this age"; and the age to come in which God will have done these things. The turning point between the two ages was to be the coming of the Messiah.

The New Testament affirms this two-age view of history, recognizing that we are now in "this age"  (e.g. Matt. 12:32; Luke 16:8; 20:34; Rom. 12:2; 1 Cor. 1:20; 2:6,8; 3:18; 2 Cor. 4:4; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:21; 2:2; 1 Tim. 6:17; 2 Tim. 4:10; Tit. 2:12), and that we look forward to the fullness of "the age to come"  (e.g. Matt. 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; 20:34; 1 Tim. 6:19; Eph. 1:21; 2:7; Heb. 6:5). But it does not affirm the idea that the shift from one age to the next is immediate. When Jesus the Messiah came, the complete end of the current age and its replacement by the age to come did not accompany his earthly ministry. God's enemies still were not completely destroyed, and his people we still not completely blessed. A previously unforeseen era came into existence, an era of transition in which the current age and the age to come simultaneously coexist. This era is the current age; it is the millennium.

During this time, aspects of both ages are realized. For example, Jesus has already begun to reign as king (Eph. 1:20-22), but his kingdom is still growing (Matt. 13:24ff.) and not all his enemies have yet been defeated (1 Cor. 15:24-26). We also have been given the Holy Spirit, who is the down payment (Eph. 1:13-14) and firstfruits (Rom. 8:23) of our inheritance in the age to come, but we have not yet received our full inheritance or the full harvest. We are also told that when Christ first came he began to renew the heavens and the earth, or the "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). But we still await the completion of this renewal (Rev. 21:1-5).

Some important reasons for this unforeseen age of the millennium are the salvation of more people and the maturation of the church. We see both these ideas expressed in the parables of the kingdom in Matthew 13, where the overlap of the two ages is a time in which God's wheat field grows and in which the mustard seed sprouts into a huge tree.

We also see the idea of increased numbers in the language of the end times harvest (Matt. 9:37-38; Luke 10:2), and in 2 Peter 3:1-10 where Peter explicitly addressed the reason God has delayed the return of Christ: "The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." The mass inclusion of Gentiles in salvation is also part of this purpose of increased numbers (e.g. Rom. 9:24-26; Eph. 2:11-22; 3:4-6). Further, the New Testament teaches that the elect include people from all nations, tribes, peoples, etc. (Rev. 5:9; 7:9). The delay is useful to ensure the proclamation of the gospel throughout the world.

The idea of maturation can also be seen in Paul's common metaphors of the body and of the temple. For example, he speaks of the church as growing and working together until we reach the maturity belonging to the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:11-16). Paul also portrayed the church's maturation process in terms of a building project (Eph. 2:19-22). In both of these metaphors, Paul expressed that the church undergoes a continuing process of maturation.

Another purpose for the millennium is the increase of God's glory, specifically through the increase of blessings to his people (Rom. 9:22-24), and the revelation of his wisdom to the supernatural beings (Eph. 3:10).
Certainly, God has other purposes for this time as well, but these are some of the more readily apparent ones in Scripture.


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Creative Delivery Systems at Third Millennium Ministries.