Written by Cornelis P. Venema |
Wednesday, December 28, 2022
The risen and ascended Christ has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). People from every tribe, tongue, and nation are being redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. The risen Christ will reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet, including the last enemy, death itself (1 Corinthians 15:25–26). As the Gospels remind us, Christ came to bind and plunder the strong man’s house (Matthew 12:29; see Luke 10:17–18). In the words of Christ Himself, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:31–32).
The topic of the millennial reign of Christ often provokes intense debate among contemporary Christians. When the subject is broached, it doesn’t take long for the debate to degenerate into arguments about the three predominant views: premillennialism (in both its historic and dispensational forms), amillennialism, and postmillennialism. The unfortunate feature of these debates is that they fixate on questions regarding the exact timing of the millennium. Does the millennium occur before or after the second coming of Christ at the end of the present age in redemptive history? Does the resurrection of believers occur before or after the millennium? Though these questions are important, they can easily detract from the main point of the vision in Revelation 20. They also tend to encourage an interpretation of Revelation 20 that is isolated from the testimony of the New Testament as a whole.
Yet when we approach the vision of the millennium of Revelation 20 within the framework of the book of Revelation in particular and the New Testament in general, we are able to capture the grand theme that Christ’s reign has already commenced and will ultimately triumph when Christ comes to receive His bride, the church, in its glorified state (Rev. 21–22). To borrow the title of Dennis Johnson’s fine commentary on the book of Revelation, the present and future aspects of the story of redemption involve nothing less than the triumph of the Lamb of God, who is also the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5–6).
To appreciate the significance of the vision of the millennium in Revelation 20, it is important to remember the purpose and structure of the book of Revelation as a whole. Revelation’s purpose is to comfort and encourage the seven churches of Asia Minor (Rev. 2–3), its original recipients, and all the churches of Jesus Christ throughout subsequent history whom these churches represent. This means that all the visions of the book, including the vision of the millennium, should be viewed from the standpoint of this question: How would this vision encourage the original recipients of the book?