Many books have been written about the future of the world and of the Christian Church.
The global panic about climate change, pandemics, famine, warfare and international migration is the secular equivalent of a similar panic among religious people. This panic is not surprising to those who know the Christian Bible.
“The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first”1Th 4:16
This form of biblical misinterpretation believes that before there can be peace on Earth at least two things must happen: 1. Jesus must come back from heaven to reign upon the Earth at Jerusalem and 2. when He does so the saints will be raised from the dead as suggested in the text quoted above. Only after a long reign of 1000 years will the rest of the dead be raised at the Day of Judgment.
There are multiple variations upon this theme, which are collectively known as pre-millennialism because Christ returns before ‘pre-‘ the Millennium.
However, in my experience there are two significant texts of Scripture altogether absent from these panic narratives in many books, sermons and YouTube videos.
The teaching that Jesus Christ will return physically and bodily to reign in Jerusalem is a misinterpretation of the biblical teaching on Christ’s coming.
Let us look at these biblical passages that pre-millennialists consistently overlook and do not discuss.
The Last Day
Jesus tells us repeatedly that He will raise up the saints “at the last day” Jn 6:39-40,44,54. If it is the last day then there are no other days after it. They are raised at the final judgment of the last day, not a thousand years before the end of the world. The text mentioned above, which the pre-millennialists have misunderstood, tells us that Jesus will return bodily, physically and visibly when He raises His people from the dead, that is “at the last day”, not before the biblical Millennium. Jesus comes after the Millennium. The Bible teaches post-millennialism.
Jesus will come at the last day after the biblical Millennium.
Reiging from heaven
What is the next text ignored by pre-millennialists, who insist that Jesus will come to Earth for the purpose of reiging from Jerusalem? Along with Isa 6:10, it is one of the two commonest Old Testament texts, outside the Ten Commandments, quoted in the New Testament! How is it that pre-millennialists have so consistently overlooked or at least ignored its teaching?
This text is Ps 110:1 which was quoted by Jesus in His disputes with the Jews Mat 22:41-46, so that there is no excuse for overlooking this text. It is quoted in Mat 22:44, Mk 12:36, Lk 20:42, Act 2:34 and Heb 1:13.
“A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.”Psalm 110:1
The text teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is invited by God the Father to sit at His right hand until the enemies of His Gospel of peace on Earth and goodwill towards men have been subdued.
So Jesus is reiging even now over the Earth at God’s right hand and this will not end part of the way through Earth’s history. He will not come back physically and bodily to reign upon the Earth, at Jerusalem or anywhere else. It says nothing about coming back to reign from Jerusalem. In fact, it says the exact opposite.
It is a sad feature of religious discussion that then the going gets hot with regard to the exegesis of any given text, then the protagonist will move on to another text before admitting that he’s actually lost his argument out on that text.
This is my common experience. It happens with sects such as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it happens also with Christians. It is not confined to religion and the same thing happens with ‘the facts’ among historians reinterpreting history and among social scientists, economists and political pundits. Human beings do not like their prejudicises being exposed and shown to be lacking in substance.
Pure science makes progress because it has a rigorous scientific method, but even scientific debate can be fudged by confusing the data and the interpretation of the data, sometimes deliberately in the interests of reputation or finance. The result of poor debate, going off topic, changing the topic, etc., is lack of progress and going round in circles. It is time for Christianity to make progress.
A recent experience of debate going off topic happened when I drew attention to two texts in debate. My conversationalist acknowledged that he had not really thought about them and that he would need to do so, but he went on immediately to refer to another text, asking the meaning of “the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” Act 3:19. I pointed out 1. that moving on to another text does not deal with these ones and 2. it is a principle of exegesis to use easier texts to explain more difficult texts, and the two texts that I have mentioned are much easier to understand. We do not need extensive examination of more difficult texts in order to see what these easier ones are saying.
In short, Christ will not come back to reign bodily upon the Earth from Jerusalem, far less building a temple to dwell in. He reigns spiritually from heaven and the commonly misunderstood premillennial coming of Christ is explained here.
Avoiding awkward verses
It is common to hear sermons and read whole books about eschatology without hearing such verses being mentioned even once, far less integrated into their eschatology.
There are other matters similarly ignored. For example Revelation 22 is frequently interpreted as heaven, without any explanation how there can be months and nations in eternity Rev 22:2 and how anyone can be banished out of the holy city Rev 22:19 if this chapter is describing heaven or the eternal state.
The usual excuse is that they cannot go into details but are ‘simply’ giving an overview of the Book of Revelation, but a glove does not fit if only four out of five fingers fit.
One should pay attention not only to what a person says but also to what they do not say. However, this requires a broad knowledge of a subject, showing why a young person’s opinion is likely to be unbalanced and why one needs to become a zugologist.