A watch in the night

December 2, 2011

In an article on Premillennialismat the Rapture Ready site, Daymond Duck lists three major views about how the Second Coming of Christ relates to the Millennium: (1) Premillennialism;  (2) Postmillenialism; and (3) Amillennialism.

What are these three major views? At least two of them, and possibly all three, must be wrong, and in that case, those incorrect views are merely the opinions of Gentiles, who, in the words of Jesus, “trample upon the holy city.”

The government of Jesus
Checking biblical references
Who reigns with Christ?
Satan bound with a great chain
Binding the strong man
The meaning of the thousand years
The futility of a literal millennium
The lake of fire
Begging the question
The thousand years and the seventy weeks
A watch in the night

Jesus said, “they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” [Luke 21:24] If he referred to the Church, which is the real holy city, of which the earthly Jerusalem was a type and a shadow, the saints are scattered among tens of thousands of sects and denominations where they are captive to all sorts of different interpretations. This may be portrayed in Zechariah 14:1-3, where the armies of the nations come against the holy city, and half of the city goes into captivity. The “spoil” divided in the midst, includes the promises of God that belong to the Church.

If the holy city is the church, the heavenly Jerusalem, those who promote incorrect views on the Millennium may be identified with armies that lay siege to the city. The variety of flawed opinions tend to divide and separate the saints from each other, and scatter the flock.

Besides the views listed by Duck, my interpretation, which is not equivalent to any of the three he discussed, says that the thousand years of Revelation 20 is symbolic, and represents part of the lifetimes of individual Christians, that portion in which they reign with Christ, in the present age. In this view, the thousand years represents an individual and personal period; a stage in the development of a Christian, prior to the eternal state. On the other hand, in each of the three views listed by Duck; the thousand years is viewed as universal.

Duck writes:  “We believe Premillennialism is the right view for many reasons,” and he lists as the first one:

1. Isaiah prophesied the birth of Jesus (it was a literal birth) and that the government will be upon His shoulders (Isaiah 9:6).

Jesus reigns today on the throne of his father David. He said, in his message to the church at Philadelphia, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.” [Revelation 3:7]

The key of David represents authority over Jerusalem, and Israel. Jesus is king in the heavenly Jerusalem. Only those whose minds Christ has opened, can really his reign upon the throne of David as king, and know that he is Lord over all. In Revelation 20:4, those who are figuratively beheaded, and who do not worship the beast, reign with him.

The government of Jesus

Duck states:

2. The Bible prophesies an earthly reign or earthly government of Jesus (Jeremiah 23:5-6; Zechariah 14:9).

King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed, which he related to Daniel. The lesson that God taught to Nebuchadnezzar in his dream, and by him suffering a strange affliction afterwards, was that “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men.”[Daniel 4:16-17]

Having ascended to heaven, to God’s throne, Jesus now reigns in the throne of God, and over the nations of mankind. He said to his disciples, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” [Matthew 28:18]

Paul said of Jesus:

Colossians 1:15-17
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

Premillennialism, on the other hand, calls into question the authority of Christ.

Checking biblical references

Duck wrote:

3. The Bible teaches that the believers who are killed during the Tribulation Period will reign on the earth in the future (Revelation 5:10)…

On checking his reference, and the context, we find:

Revelation 5:7-10
And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.
And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

This is referring to the four beasts, and 24 elders. It is quite a stretch, to conclude that Revelation 5:10 refers to believers who killed during the future Tribulation that is imagined by the Premillennialists and dispensationalists. But, this does provide an example of the sort of flawed “scholarship” that characterizes Premillennialism. The article by Duck, intended to support Premillennialism, actually seems to discredit that position, as the Scripture references cited do not support what was claimed.

Who reigns with Christ?

Duck continued:

It teaches that these Tribulation Period saints will reign with Jesus for 1,000 years after Satan is seized, bound and chained (Revelation 20:1-4).

This is another questionable statement; in fact, only the ones who are beheaded reign with Christ; not people devoured by lions in the arena, not the people who died by crucifixion, or torture, or who were burned. Not the people who died of disease, or famine, or old age. That is what John says, literally; nothing about “Tribulation Period saints.” Unless… they were also “beheaded” in the sense John meant, which could apply to any of these.

To be beheaded should be interpreted spiritually, as referring to someone who “mortifies the deeds of the body” as Paul said; “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” [Romans 8:13] “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:” [Colossians 3:5]

Both these examples, of course, are figurative; how much more John’s use of “beheaded” in Revelation 20:4 where he refers to it in a prophecy!

Paul also said, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” [Romans 6:6] If we are all in a sense “crucified,” why not also understand “beheaded” as a metaphor with a spiritual meaning? Paul said,

Galatians 2:20
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Was Paul literally crucified? No, it is figurative.

The reign of the saints who are figuratively “beheaded” corresponds to the time when Satan is bound; this must be something personal and individual, even as it was for Jesus.

Satan bound with a great chain

Duck wrote:

4. Since Satan will be bound, chained and cast into the Bottomless Pit for 1,000 years at the Second Coming (Revelation 20:2-3), the Millennium won’t start until the Second Coming takes place.

His article omits any mention of the rebellion at the end of the thousand years which John identified with Gog and Magog, by deceived people who come against the camp of the saints, and the beloved city, which is an obvious reference to the Church.

Are we to imagine that deceived people on earth will assault the saints who possess immortality who reign in the Millennium? Duck does not say.

When John refers to the thousand years, it is associated with the period for which the beheaded saints who do not worship the beast reign with Christ. It is also the time when Satan is bound in the bottomless pit. John mentions the bottomless pit in chapter 9:1-2, where smoke like the smoke of a great furnace comes from the bottomless pit, and in vs. 11, the king of the horrid scorpion-locusts is the “angel” of the bottomless pit, who most consider to be Satan.

In Revelation 11:7, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit makes war with the two witnesses and kills them. In Revelation 17:8, “The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition.” In Revelation 20:3 Satan is bound by an angel who came down from heaven, and cast into the bottomless pit.

Binding the strong man

The last reference speaks of Satan being cast into the bottomless pit; the previous ones are about the beast ascending out of the pit. The beast who ascends from the pit in Revelation 11:7 and 17:8 is Satan, identified with the serpent in Revelation 20:2. He was cast into the pit, before he ascended out of it. Jesus referred to binding the strong man, when the scribes accused him of casting out demons by Beelzebub or Satan. [Mark 3:22-27] The “strong man” alludes to Satan, and his being bound relates to Revelation 20:1-2, where Satan is bound with a great chain by an angel from heaven.

While Jesus described Satan being bound, and implied that he had “bound the strong man,” and said that he saw him fall from heaven like lightning, [Luke 10:18]  these are things that were true for him personally. In the rest of the world, Satan continued to function as usual.

Evidently, the binding of Satan and his being cast out of heaven applied to Jesus, and to his disciples, on a personal and individual level. Note that Satan still entered into Judas, when he betrayed Jesus to the Jews. [Luke 22:3] Satan also influenced Ananias, when he lied to the apostle Peter. [Acts 5:3] Was Satan bound, for Ananias, when be believed the gospel? I think so. But Ananias “loosed” Satan from the pit, and allowed him to ascend to heaven, in his mind, to the place of God, and Ananias followed Satan when he lied to Peter.

Paul spoke of delivering certain people unto Satan.

1 Timothy 1:19-20
Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.

The point is that for Paul, Satan was bound, but he was loosed for Hymenaeus and Alexander who were “delivered unto Satan.” The status of Satan must be something that applies on an individual level. This was true for Jesus, Peter, and Paul. And I believe that it is what John describes in Revelation 20, where he describes the binding of Satan.

When Satan is “loosed a little season” at the end of the thousand years, this also applies on an individual level. For those who remain faithful, he is never loosed. It only applies to those for whom the thousand years come to an end. This “thousand years” is an expression that we would normally take to indicate far more than a normal life span, yet in Genesis, there are many names of people who are said to have lived almost that long. None of the lifetimes exceeded a thousand years. For a Christian, who reigns with Christ, for whom Satan is bound, his life here in the earth is a foretaste and a prelude for the eternal future state. A thousand years is tiny compared to eternity.

The meaning of the thousand years

In Scripture, a thousand years is also related to a portion of a human lifetime.

Ecclesiastes 6:6
Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?

For the Psalmist, a thousand years is identified with “yesterday when it is past.”

Psalm 90:4
For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

This is of special interest to Christians, as once we are given immortality, the whole of our present lives will seem like “yesterday when it is past.” I suggest this meaning fits the expression “a thousand years” better than the idea promoted by Duck and Foster, that it means a future Millennium that ends in worldwide rebellion.

Why do Premillennialist writers, defending the literal thousand year reign, frequently avoid the Gog and Magog invasion at the end of the thousand years? Duck’s list of arguments supporting premillennialism is partial, and therefore deceptive. He selected portions of what John wrote, avoiding the rest. He also ignored the fact that John specified only those who are “beheaded” as those who reign with Christ. John did not say “martyrs.” He did not mean martyrs. He meant “beheaded” in a spiritual sense; equivalent to a “circumcised heart.” Moses said, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.” [Deuteronomy 10:16]

Paul said,

Romans 2:28-29
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

He identified believers of all nationalities with the true circumcision.

Philippians 3:3
For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

He said it is a circumcision “made without hands.”

Colossians 2:11
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

The beheading that John describes is spiritual or metaphorical, like the circumcision that Paul refers to. The thousand years is symbolic, and applies to every believer on a personal and individual level. Revelation 20:1-3 does not support the idea of a future Millennium that ends in general rebellion of humans all over the earth.

The futility of a literal millennium

The big problem with the theory of a literal Millennium is that it ends in general rebellion. This is inconsistent with what is said of the world’s future, and the time of “restitution of all things.” That phrase, “restitution of all things,” implies that there will be no more deception, no more general rebellion. Think about it; when the saints are immortal, reigning on the earth, how can deceived nations from all over the earth gather to attack them? That only makes sense in the present world. Even then, it applies spiritually. The weapons are primitive. And the destruction that comes upon them makes little sense, if taken literally. How can birds and beasts eat their corpses, which generate a great stench, and drink their blood, if they are all buried in the valley of Hamongog? [Ezekiel 39:11] Why are horses and chariots on the menu?

And, before all this, they are rained on with “overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.” They fight themselves, “I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD: every man’s sword shall be against his brother” [Ezekiel 38:21].

And all this, it is claimed, if it is the same event that John describes, happens at the end of the thousand year reign, when “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” [Isaiah 2:4] Of course, the ideas contradict.

The idea of a thousand year earthly reign, before the judgment, contradicts a number of scriptures.

Hebrews 9:27-28
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

It does not say: “as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the thousand year reign, followed by the judgment.”

At the seventh trumpet, we read:

Revelation 11:17-18
Saying, We give thee thanks, O LORD God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.

The idea of a general rebellion a thousand years after this, seems too much of a stretch; it boggles the mind!

The lake of fire

In Revelation 20:7-9, John says:

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

The fire coming down from God is not literal fire; the word of God is called fire, in several scriptures.

Jeremiah 23:29
Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?

Jeremiah 5:14
Wherefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.

Fire from heaven falls upon those who hurt the two witnesses:

Revelation 11:4-6
These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.

The prophecy of Isaiah about the knowledge of the Lord filling the earth as waters cover the sea, combined with Jeremiah’s metaphor of the word of God being a fire, leads naturally to the concept of a “lake of fire.”

And the lake of fire is mentioned in Revelation 20:10, after the destruction of the hordes of Gog and Magog. It is “fire” for those who don’t know God, but those reigning with Christ are not hurt by it.  [vs. 6]

Begging the question

Duck wrote:

5. In Daniel chapter 2, the Rock (Second Coming of Jesus) will destroy the final Gentile world kingdom BEFORE the Rock fills the whole earth (Jesus will return and destroy the world government of the Antichrist before He establishes the Millennial Kingdom).

The argument seems to beg the question, and assumes what the author trues to prove. Furthermore, it misrepresents the prophecy of Daniel 2. Here, the stone was cut out without hands smote the image upon his feet. In the days of the fourth kingdom or empire, that consists of iron and clay, God sets up his kingdom. This fourth kingdom is identified with the Roman empire by most commentators.

Daniel 2:42-43
And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.
And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

The words “in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom” clearly show that Christ’s kingdom is contemporary with those kings; it has existed since the day of Pentecost after his resurrection. It is what Peter referred to when he said to the Jews, “God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” [Acts 2:36]

The thousand years and the seventy weeks

Duck wrote:

6. Israel must complete all seventy weeks of her punishment BEFORE she stops rebelling against God and before the kingdom of everlasting righteousness is established (Daniel 9:24). Since the seventieth week will end with the Second Coming of Jesus, this means the Second Coming of Jesus will be BEFORE the Millennium.

The final week includes the ministry of Jesus as the first half week, and the last half week, the time, times and a half, is the whole age of the church. Jesus confirms his covenant with many for the entire 70th week. Below is a graphic illustrating this view of the 70 weeks.

Timeline 3

The seventy weeks and the four periods of seven times of Lev. 26

The covenant includes the promise of a kingdom, [James 2:5] and that would seem to imply that the thousand years when the saints who are beheaded reign with Christ must be included in the last week. Daniel describes Christ’s reign as contemporary with the little horn of the fourth beast in chapter 7.

Daniel 7:9-10
I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.

When does this fiery stream proceed from before the throne? For the whole church age. Jesus said, “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?” [Luke 12:49]

Daniel 7:13-14
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Christ’s kingdom is eternal, but in the church age, individuals of every age reign with him, for a portion of their lives, which is a foretaste and an “earnest” of their eternal inheritance. Thus it is represented by the symbolic number, a thousand years. It signifies completeness, and a thousand is also associated with the dimensions of the holy city; 12,000 are sealed from each tribe; the width, breadth and height are 12,000 furlongs, etc. These numbers are symbolic, as they apply to a holy, spiritual, eternal city. [Hebrews 13:14]

A watch in the night

Duck wrote:

7. Jesus will send forth His angels to remove the wicked from the earth at His Second Coming (Matthew 13:36-43; 47-51). Since the wicked are removed before the kingdom of everlasting righteousness is established, the Second Coming will be BEFORE the Millennium.

The parable of the tares in Matthew 13 refutes Premillennialism,  as the parable says that the tares are to be gathered out of his kingdom. This implies the kingdom already exists, and in it there are both kinds of things, tares and wheat. At the end of the world the tares are gathered up, bundled, and burned.

Matthew 13:40-41
As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;

Duck wrote:

8. Jesus told Christians to watch for the Second Coming, but there would be no need to watch for the Second Coming if it is after the Church wins most of the world to Christ (Postmillennialism). No matter how long the Millennium is there is no need to watch for the Second Coming if the Church must convert the world first.

Dispensationalists say the rapture comes before the seven year tribulation, which is followed by the millennium. Do they watch for the Second Coming? Or the secret rapture? Or do they look for signs of the great tribulation? Or the rise of the Antichrist? Or a literal temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem? Or the rise in buzzard populations in Palestine? Or threats of an invasion by Russia, Iran, and other Arab nations on the Jewish state? Where did Jesus say to watch for the second coming? Jesus said,

Matthew 24:15-17
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:

The dispensationalists say that this applies to ethnic Jews. They will have to flee, when some sort of abomination appears, presumably in Jerusalem. They expect it to be a portent of something terrible.

But Jesus also said:

Luke 17:33
Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

Only very rarely do they mention this verse, in connection with Matthew 24:15. Jesus clearly was not saying to flee to save your own life, as that would contradict what he said in Luke 17:33. I suggest that Jesus meant flee to the things that mountains in Scripture represent, the promises of God. The mountains he meant are symbolic. David said:

Psalm 36:6
Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.

Psalm 72:3
The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.

The mountains represent God’s righteousness, and Jesus recommends that we seek his kingdom, and his righteousness. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” [Matthew 6:33]

The kingdom of God is a “mountain” that is to fill the earth. In Revelation 20:4, those who are “beheaded” reign with Christ. The kingdom of Christ is everlasting. The Psalmist said, “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.” [Psalm 145:13]

Daniel wrote:

Daniel 7:14
And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Dispensationalists who say that Christ’s kingdom is to last for a thousand years misread Revelation 20, where it says the saints who are beheaded reign with Christ for a thousand years; nowhere does it say that Christ reigns a thousand years. His reign is depicted as everlasting. A thousand years is a mere “watch in the night” compared to Christ’s reign. “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” [Psalm 90:4]

When Jesus said “watch,” was he referring to this “watch in the night”? Is it the “thousand years” for which the saints are reigning in their present lives? Indeed, we are said to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” [Ephesians 2:6] And we are also warned to watch, as that is equivalent to reigning with Christ! “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.” [Matthew 24:42]

Here are a few more warnings to “watch.”

Matthew 26:41
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Mark 13:33
Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.

Mark 13:35
Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:

Luke 21:36
Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

1 Peter 4:7
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

Revelation 3:3
Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

Dispensationalism misleads people, saying the kingdom is not yet. They put them to sleep! We need to wake up, and watch, because now is when we are reigning with Christ. Watch out that we are not found among the things that offend, tares that are to be uprooted and destroyed!