Welcome to the Millennium

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2007-07-08 PM
  • Systematic Theology
  • Sermons

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Well, tonight we come to the next issue on the timetable of the next event on the timetable of God's prophetic calendar in our study together. We've completed the Second Coming (last) over the last couple of weeks, and we move ahead to the Millennium.

Tonight, is really just an introduction to that basic event. We'll look in more detail over the next several weeks because this is a very complex issue. And it's my goal by the time we're done to have made it simple enough to have understood. Now, stay with me tonight because we will sort of uh get an overview which is my goal. We'll come back and fill it in and give you a little more information over the next several weeks so that hopefully by the time we're done you'll understand the different positions about this issue, what they use to defend their view and how you can answer those views as well.

It was on September 2, 1945 that the Japanese government offered its formal surrender aboard the battleship Missouri. War in the Pacific was done. After the documents had been signed, General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of all the Allied forces in the Pacific, spoke these timeless words. He said,

The entire world is quietly at peace. [Remarkable really that there was a time in history when that could be said.] He said, Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always. [He went on to say,] Men, since the beginning of time have sought peace. We have had our chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door.

His wish for peace, his prayer for peace of course has gone unanswered. Today, some have estimated that at any one time more than 40 countries of the world are at war either in internal strife and civil war or at war with each other. And yet, man longs for, man desires for peace. Starting of course on the level of his own soul and its relationship to God reflecting out to just those in his immediate family and those with whom he lives and of course eventually rading, radiating out to countries as well. A passage found in both Isaiah 2 and Micah 4 describing swords being beaten into plowshares interestingly enough even appears on the wall of the UN headquarters in New York; but peace in our day is an illusion.

I'm reminded even as I think about the illusion that peace is and people cry for it constantly reminded of the story about PT Barnum, the great showman of Barnum and Bailey fame. He had one exhibit that he loved to show to pastors or ministers as he called them. It was called, "The Happy Family". In the exhibit there were real lions and real tigers and real panthers, and they lay or sat next to a real lamb without so much as a smack of the lips. When a pastor once asked Barnum if the group had ever caused any trouble Barnum reportedly said this, "You know, apart from replenishing the lamb now and then, they get along pretty well together."

We cannot create utopia; a time when both men and animals are able to live together in peace. But the Bible promises that such a time is coming to the very earth on which we live. The earth and planet that we inhabit today will enjoy that at a future time. And it will come during a period of time theologians call, "The Millennium".

Now, let me remind you where we are in our survey of what the Bible teaches about last things. That's what "ordos salutus" means; it's an "order of the last things". Sweeping from left to right on my little slide here, of course the next thing on the agenda for most of us is death and the intermediate state, that is what happens between our death and the return of Christ. Then comes the Rapture followed by seven years of tribulation when God pours out His wrath upon this earth. At the end of that seven-year period Christ will return to earth in an event called, "The Second Coming" or the "Revelation of Jesus Christ" which we completed studying last week.

Following the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the Bible teaches that there will be a period of time, a thousand year period of time, in which Christ will set up an actual kingdom in this world in which we live; a renewed earth, but nevertheless this earth, and He will reign with a rod of iron. It's that thousand-year period, the Millennium, in which we find ourselves tonight.

Now, the key passage on this issue of the Millennium is found in Revelation 20. We will eventually get to that passage and study it , the key verse then in that passage is this in Revelation 20:4, "Then I saw thrones and they sat on them and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God and those who would not worship the beast or his image ..." "so we're talking about those now who were during the Tribulation period and did not submit to the worship of Antichrist; had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand. They came to life, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. They reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Our word "millennium" grows out of this text because the Latin word for thousand is "mille" and so "millennium" describes a future period of time that will last for a thousand years.

But the key question is this: Is the thousand years of Revelation 20 merely symbolical? Or is it a literal thousand-year period of human history? That is the question on which theologians have been divided down through the centuries. In a couple of weeks, Lord willing, we will look in exegetical detail at Revelation 20:1 - 6 because it is absolutely paramount that we understand that. (Excuse me. My allergies are still bothering me.) But tonight, I want to introduce you to the issue and to what is really the heart of the debate. So tonight, consider it an introduction, and we'll look at the various arguments for all of these views in coming weeks because it's important I think in this issue (as it was in the Rapture) not only to understand and be able to defend our own views, but also to understand the other views of brothers in Christ and know both the weaknesses and strengths of those views.

Now, when you look at the Millennium there are essentially three distinct views. I've borrowed these charts, I've show, showed them to you when we set up our "ordos eschatos" at the beginning of our study of eschatology, but let's walk back through them again. There is A-Millennialism, there is Post-Millennialism and there is Pre-Millennialism. Of Pre-Millennialism, there are two forms: historic, or Classic Pre-Millennialism and Dispensational Pre-Millennialism but essentially three distinct views. A Millennium ... you can figure that one out ... "a" being a negative; "no" thousand-year period. Post-Millennium being "after" the Millennium Christ returns and Pre-Millennial being Christ returns "before" a millennium and establishes it on earth. So, that gives you the sense of what these views mean. Now, let's look at them in a little more detail.

First of all, A-Millennialism; you can see the cross, that represents Jesus' coming and His death, and that's true on each of these slides. What follows (and all would agree), what follows is what could be called the Church Age; that is, the period in which we live. The period between the cross and the end, the Church Age. A Millennialism (those who reject the idea of a literal thousand-year millennium on earth) say, "No, whatever millennium there is going to be is happening right now. It is the spiritual reign of Christ in the hearts of those who are His followers, and that is the Millennium." It's right now as well as in one sense the Tribulation period and of course there is some variety in this view. Some would say all of those events happened in conjunction with 70 A.D. and the destruction of Jerusalem. Others would have different viewpoints, but don't miss the big picture.

The big picture is the Millennium is here and now, and it's not a physical millennium. It's not that Go, Christ sets up a political kingdom instead; it's that there is a spiritual kingdom over which He rules. That is the extent of the reign of Christ on the earth. Then He will have the Final Judgment, the Second Coming; the Final Judgment and that will be followed simply by the eternal state, by eternity. There is no other event after the Second Coming except eternity itself after the Judgment.

The second view is Post-Millennialism. The Post-Millennialist also sees the Millennium as occurring during the Church Age related to the Church Age, but the Post-Millennialist is an optimist. This view flourishes when things are good in the world; when there's peace when a lot of good things are happening Post-Millennialism often comes to the forefront. It's not big right now as you might guess. But there are those who are eternal optimists who say what's going to happen is: as time goes along the gospel is going to make further and further inroads into the world and into the culture; things are going to get better and better until we will actually sort of stroll into the Millennium as it were, and by millennium they don't mean a literal reign of Christ on the earth they mean a time of wonderful spiritual advancement on earth.

And at the end of that time of wonderful spiritual advancement when the gospel is heard and believed and received and the gospel spreads across the world and there's a great revival at the end of that time, then Christ will return. And there will be the Final Judgment and eternity. So, Christ will return only after this millennium but by millennium they mean something different than we mean. They mean a period of wonderful spiritual advancement and progress.

Then there is Historic Pre-Millennialism. Remember, I told you there were two kinds of Pre-Millennialism that is before the Millennium, Christ returning before an actual millennium? First of all, Historic or Classic Pre-Millennialism. They believe there is only one return of Christ. They believe everything that you and I believe with this one exception: There is no Rapture before the Tribulation. Instead, we as the church if we are alive at the time of the end, we will enter the Tribulation period, and at the very end of the Tribulation there will be one Second Coming of Christ in which the church will be raptured up at that moment into the air with Christ and then come immediately back to earth with Him as Revelation 19 describes. So, just imagine our position minus the Rapture, and you have a pretty good feel for Historic Pre-Millennialism. They believe that Christ will return only once at the end of the Tribulation in the Second Coming.

Then there is Dispensational Pre-Millennialism. This view differentiates between Israel and the church. (Excuse me.) And so, it has at the end of the Church Age, at the end of the period in which we live, Church Age being the period between the cross and the end. At the end of that period there will be the Rapture in which the saints are caught up into Heaven with Christ to be with Him. We will not endure then the following seven-year period of tribulation that will be poured out on the earth. We'll be in Heaven during that time. Christ then will return with us at the end of that seven-year period in the Second Coming. That will be followed by the Millennium, and then the Millennium will be followed by the Great White Throne, the Final Judgment, and then eternity begins.

Again, the only difference between this view and Historic Pre-Millennialism in its heart, in its core, and I'm sort of over simplifying, but it is this idea of the Rapture. We embrace the Rapture before the Tribulation. Historic Pre-Millennialism would say no that's not true. We will live through the Tribulation and be caught up at the end.

Now, I've given you these two different views. I think it's important that you understand a little bit about Dispensationalism. I can't figure out a better time to do this. This doesn't relate directly to what we're talking about tonight, but I think you need to understand when I say "Classical Dispensationalism" that's something different really than where we as a church are. Let me give you the distinctives of Classic Dispensationalism. And these are not, these are not all inclusive, but they give you an idea of those distinctives.

Classic Dispensationalism of the Scofielian variety; many of you grew up with the Scofield Reference Bible as I did. Or perhaps you were taught the theology of Louis Barry Chafer or of Wolvoord or any of the men out of DTS. Then essentially you would have embraced Classic or have been taught Classic Dispensationalism. These are the distinctives of Classic Dispensationalism. First of all, they would say that Christ, when He came in His first coming, made a legitimate offer of the kingdom at the triumphal entry. In other words He said, "Look, here I am as King; if you accept Me then we'll usher in the kingdom right now." And of course, they didn't.

Classic Dispensationalism would also say that the church is really a parenthesis in God's plan. That it's caused in a sense by Israel's refusal to accept Jesus as king at the triumphal entry. Classic Dispensationalists would say that some of the quote unquote "Kingdom Teaching of Christ" is not for us; in fact, some of them will not teach the Sermon on the Mount for believers, for New Testament believers. They would say there is a difference (that many of them anyway would say that there is a difference) between the kingdom of God and the gospels and the kingdom of Heaven. Those two expressions. Some of them would say that there are different ways of salvation between the Old Testament and the New Testament and how different varies. But different, nonetheless. They would say that there is little or no continuity between the testaments, the Old and New Testament, and that Israel will always maintain a distinct future remaining the earthly people of God while the church is the spiritual people of God. Those are the distinctives of Classic Dispensationalism.

Now, I personally (and I believe our elders reject) those views for what could be called and is called often "Progressive Dispensationalism". That is, we would stand to say this: Christ came in order to die, and He had no intention of establishing an earthly kingdom at that time. The church has always been part of God's plan; although certainly, the result of Israel's disobedience. All Scripture is intended for us, and none of it is to be excluded as kingdom teaching. The kingdom of God and the kingdom of Heaven are synonymous; both describe some realities that we'll discuss in just a moment.

There has always been only (that should say) one way of salvation. Always one way of salvation and that is through the promised seed and faith in Him alone. From Genesis 3, from Adam and Eve through the entire Scripture, there's only been one way and that is faith alone in the forgiveness God would bring through the promised Redeemer. They may not have understood all the details of Who that Person would be; that it would be the second Person of the Godhead and so forth. But they understood more than we give them credit for.

I'm often reminded of Moses. I love Hebrews 11 where it says, "Moses forsook Egypt and he did so willing to turn his back on the pleasures of Egypt ..." and it says, "because he considered the reproach of the Messiah greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." Moses, 1400 years before Christ, made a decision to leave the opportunity to be the next pharaoh of Egypt ... by the way you saw his mother's, his adopted mother's mummy, was just found Hatshepsut ... but he chose to leave all of that because of his love for and commitment to the Messiah. So, don't short sell them. There's always only been one way of salvation. There is more continuity between the Old Testament people of God and the New Testament people of God than there is discontinuity.

In other words, there's more similarity than there is difference; they weren't the church. We are the church. But they were the true believing people of God. They were saved the same way. There were many, many similarities. They had the Spirit of God although the Spirit takes on some new operations in the New Testament; nevertheless, all of those things were similar. Although there are promises that are yet to be fulfilled to the ethnic descendants of Abraham that will be alive at the time of the Tribulation and the Millennium the distinctions (listen carefully), will be distinctions of roles not some essential difference before God. It's like the role of men and women today. Paul says all the distinctions have been erased, and yet, our roles are different. God has assigned men certain roles and women certain roles. Our equality before God is the same. The same will be true, I believe, with Israel in the future. Their role will be different, but the equality will be the same. They're not an earthly people of God and we a spiritual people of God.

So, what do we share in common? What does Progressive Dispensationalism share in common with Classic Dispensationalism? Why do we even call ourselves Dispensationalists? Well, there are two reasons. We share these two things in common. We believe there is yet a future for ethnic Israel. That is, God has promises yet to be fulfilled to the physical descendants of Abraham. And secondly, we believe in a literal hermeneutic that is a method of interpretation; a literal method of interpretation when we deal with prophecy. Those are the two things primarily that we share in common with our Classic Dispensationalists brothers.

Look again at those three main views regarding the existence of a Millennium. Let me take you back (now that I gave you that sort of brief thumbnail sketch of the differences). Let me take you back to the three views regarding the Millennium. There's A Millennialism, no Millennium; it's a spiritual rule now. Post-Millennialism, that is things are going to get better and better and better. It will become a millennium on earth; a great time of spiritual advancement and spiritual progress at the end of which Christ will return. And then Pre-Millennialism, that is Christ will return before a millennium.

Now, all of those views believe there is some future form of a kingdom. But they disagree on these things. They disagree about its nature. For example, A-Millennialism says there's a spiritual kingdom now and there's an eternal kingdom, eternity coming in the future. Post-Millennialism says there's not a literal physical reign of Christ on the earth but an age of great spiritual advancement, that's what the Millennium is. Pre-Millennialism says no, it is a literal kingdom on a renewed earth in which Christ is the unquestioned Ruler. So, when you look at these three views understand they're not even talking about millennium the same way. They're interpreting it differently.

A-Millennialists are saying you're talking about spiritual now and eternity; that's it. Christ comes back and eternity begins, boom. Post-Millennialism says no, no we're talking about something different; we're talking about a time, an age of great spiritual advancement that's what the Millennialists, Millennium is. And then the Pre-Millennialists comes along and says no, it is a literal kingdom on a renewed earth in which Christ is the unquestioned Ruler.

They also disagree about the timing of this event. A-Millennialism says it's now, in the spiritual sense, and it's in eternity when Christ rules over everything, the eternal state. Post-Millennialism says it's now until Christ returns, or whenever that spiritual that age of advancement begins, and that varies depending on the Post-Millennialists. Pre-Millennialism says no, no it's future after the Second Coming but before the eternal state, before eternity begins, before God makes a new Heaven and a new earth. It's on this earth.

Now, why is there such great disagreement? The confusion is related to a large amount of data about a coming kingdom. The debate isn't about the fact of a future aspect of the kingdom; all three views believe there is some future aspect of the kingdom. The debate is about what that future aspect that will be.

Now, let's look then quickly at the nature of the kingdom. Normally, what do we mean when we say there's going to be a kingdom? Normally when we speak of a kingdom, we mean a territory or a realm over which a king rules. But biblically the kingdom is simply the rule of God. It's the rule of God. That's what we mean by kingdom. It's His rule. And when we use it, we're really talking about two distinct realities. We're talking about the fact that God universally rules everything, that's His kingdom. His kingdom is right here, right now because God is in control of everything. But we also mean it when we use it to describe the messianic or mediatory rule of God, God's rule through His Messiah, through His Son, through the Mediator.

Now, this rule was hinted at as early as Genesis 3. And the concept sort of continued to refine itself throughout the Old Testament; the idea of a kingdom over which the Messiah would rule. In Genesis 3:15 we learn of a Conquering Person Who would come, the Seed of the woman Who would crush the head of the serpent. That's the only hint we're given.

Later in Genesis that's filled out a little more for us. In Genesis 49, we're told that the scepter, a sign of rule, will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler staff from between its feet until Shiloh comes. That is, the One Whose right it is, and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples. So, we get a little more idea that this coming Seed of the woman is going to come to the tribe of Judah, and He's going to be a Ruler. He's going to have a scepter.

Psalm 2, turn there for a moment. In Psalm 2, I've taken you here before, but I think this passage makes this very clear. You get this idea of a reign even more clearly. Verse 7, Jesus here is speaking; the Son, the Anointed One,

"I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD. He (that is God the Father) said to Me, the Son, 'You are My Son; today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance and the very ends of the earth as Your possession'.." [and notice what this gift will look like; it will be political in its nature.] Verse 9, "You … [will] break them with a rod of iron, You … [will] shatter them like earthenware. Now therefore, oh kings [of the earth,] show discernment....''

So, we're talking again about a Ruler, a geopolitical Ruler is the image that we get from Psalm 2. In Psalm 110:1, David writes "The LORD [that is Yahweh] says to my Lord .... " and you remember Peter and the apostles in Acts use this verse to argue the deity of Christ; David is saying that Yahweh says to my LORD, the one over David, "Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." There's a picture in that image of a Ruler; One who will have a kingdom.

Daniel 2:44, you remember the prophecy that was delivered to Nebuchadnezzar as he saw the (golden image or I'm sorry the) image with a head of gold that represented him. We're, we have described for us there in Daniel 2 several earthly kingdoms; and the final kingdom it says, "In the days of those kings the God of Heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed." So you have these four earthly kingdoms followed by this fifth kingdom, "... which will never be destroyed and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure…."

When you turn to Daniel 7 you discover that this is the kingdom of the One who takes it from the Ancient of Days, the description the Son of Man, none other than Jesus our Lord. You see it again in Isaiah 9, that prophecy that we quote often at Christmas time reminds us of the government will be upon His shoulder that He will rule. In Micah 5 you get a similar picture as well. So, in the Old Testament this messianic rule, this kingdom of that Messiah will have seems to be primarily physical and political.

And so, it shouldn't surprise us that when Jesus came that's exactly what many of the Jews thought; that's what they were expecting Messiah to bring. That's why they were so grossly disappointed with Jesus. Why isn't He doing all those things? It's clear when you read Luke 17:20 that even the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming. If You're the Messiah, where is it? We've read about it. We know Messiah is going to rule. So, when are You going to do it? When are You going to start with the Romans?

In Acts 1 the disciples understood this when they'd come together, this is after the Resurrection and right before Jesus' ascension; the disciples were asking and saying, "Lord is it at this time that You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" They understood there was going to be a political kingdom and (by the way) this is after 40 days of Jesus teaching them, and Jesus doesn't say to them, "How ridiculous. What are you thinking?" He says no. It's not for you to know the times or the epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.

Now, what began clear with the ministry of Jesus was that this kingdom idea was more complex than most people thought it was at first glance. It was one kingdom, but there were two different aspects: a present aspect and a future aspect. The present aspect is very clear. You and I enjoy it right now. It's pictured in Colossians 1:13. He rescued us from the domain of darkness God did and transferred us to the kingdom of His Beloved Son. Notice it's already happened. He's already transferred us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His Son.

John 18:36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world My servants would be fighting so I would not be handed over to the Jews…." But My kingdom is not about this realm. Right now, He says, My kingdom is not a geopolitical kingdom. I'm not here to rattle swords with you, Pilate.

So, what is this present aspect of the kingdom? The present aspect of the kingdom is simply to enter into salvation or eternal life, and I'm not going to belabor that because we looked at that when we looked at the kingdom back when we studied the church. We could define the present aspect of the kingdom as the people over whose hearts Christ rules. If you are a believer, you are in the kingdom of His dear Son as Colossians says. You are in the spiritual kingdom over which Christ rules today. So, there is a kingdom now until the end of the age. It is a spiritual kingdom over which Christ rules.

There will be an aspect for a manifestation of the kingdom in the future. And that's where I want us to go with the time we have remaining, the future kingdom. What does the Bible have to say, not about the present kingdom but about this future kingdom? Although the kingdom had and has a present aspect, the thrust of the New Testament teaching about the kingdom focuses on this future kingdom, on a future reign of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself talked about it. He promised a future kingdom. He taught us to pray about it, didn't He, in Matthew 6 in the Lord's prayer. The second petition is Your kingdom come; may Your kingdom come.

In Matthew 7 Jesus (at the end of the Sermon on the Mount) says that in that day in verse 22 Matthew 7:22, He's speaking about the Day of Judgment. He says, "Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord," but not everyone who says that to Me is going to enter the kingdom of heaven. So, entering the kingdom there's a sense in which it's still in the future at the Day of Judgment.

We haven't entered it yet. We will enter it then. But not everyone will. And so, there's an aspect now; but there's also a future aspect, and we will yet enter it. Matthew 19:28 … Jesus said … "Truly I say to [those of] … you who followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also will sit upon twelve thrones judging, the twelve tribes of Israel." Jesus tells the disciples there is a kingdom coming in which they will rule. In Matthew 20:21, James and John's mother got it. She said…, "[I want You to] Command [Lord] that in Your kingdom ..." which isn't yet " ... in Your [future] kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left."

So, in the ministry of Jesus they were anticipating a future aspect of the kingdom that wasn't here during the ministry of Christ. One in which there would be thrones and reigning and ruling. This is what Jesus had apparently taught them; that there would be this future kingdom because He doesn't correct her here about the kingdom idea; He corrects her about thinking that her boys are capable of sitting in those positions of honor.

In Mark 14:25 at the Last Supper Jesus tells this tells the disciples this, "I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." He says there's a future kingdom coming, and in that kingdom, we will drink together of the fruit of the vine. It hasn't yet been fulfilled, and so it's still future. There is a future kingdom in which Jesus will celebrate with us.

In Luke 19 there is a very important passage. Turn there with me. Luke 19, there was this misunderstanding on the part of the Jews about all of this. And so, Jesus responds to it ... Luke 19:11. "While they were listening to these things Jesus went on to tell a parable because he was was near Jerusalem and ..." watch this here was the occasion for this parable "... they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately." They thought the geopolitical kingdom where Christ set up a little throne reigned over the earth was going to happen right away. And so, Jesus tells them this parable in response to that.

He said verse 12, "A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself and then returned." Now, it's basically saying our Lord will leave the earth to receive the kingdom and then return. The image would have been very familiar to the first century hearers; very common in the first century even with the Roman government. Roman governors and kings of provinces were actually went to Rome to receive their kingdom authority and then returned to their provinces to rule. This even happened with Herod the Great who was the Herod who sentenced those babies two and under to die. You remember after the birth of Christ. Herod had to get to Rome and receive the authority, the kingdom authority to rule, and then he returned to Palestine to actually set up and establish his rule. So, this was a very familiar picture and Jesus is saying this is what's going to happen in My case. Jesus said it's going to happen like this.

Now, don't miss the big point here. In response to those who thought He was about to establish a kingdom then, He said no, I'm going to leave, and I'm going to receive the authority for kingdom rule, and then I will return to take possession of the kingdom. Folks, that's where we find ourselves right now. Jesus was here. He has gone to receive that authority for kingdom rule from His Father, and one day He will return again and establish that kingdom authority here. So, we find ourselves in between His leaving and His return. Now we'll come back to this parable in a few minutes.

In Luke 21:31, Jesus says when you see signs of the Second Coming, then you will know that the kingdom of God is near. Think about that for a moment. The kingdom of God in its future aspect comes after (according to Jesus) the Second Coming. So, Jesus taught about this. But not only did Jesus talk about this future kingdom idea, but the early church focused on the future kingdom as well. In Acts 8:12 we're told that we could summarize Phillip's preaching as the Good News about the kingdom of God.

In Acts 19:8, Paul here enters into Ephesus, and we're told that he entered the synagogue in Ephesus, and he continued speaking out boldly for three months reasoning and persuading them about what? The kingdom of God. In Acts 20:25 He tells those same Ephesians, the Ephesian elders here, He says you know that I went about preaching the kingdom to you.

Acts 28, we're told that in Rome He did the same thing. He was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God from morning to evening and you see the same thing in verse 31 of the same chapter over those two years he was in prison in Rome, the first imprisonment he preached the kingdom of God and taught concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness unhindered.

You say well, wait a minute ... all of those passages could be about the spiritual reign of Christ here and now. Did the early church embrace a future kingdom? Yes, they did. I already read to you Acts 1:6, the disciples certainly understood that; that there was going to be a future political kingdom to be established. Jesus corrected their understanding about the timetable, but in Acts 14 the apostle Paul returns to the churches he had established, and we're told that he strengthened the souls of the disciples so these people were already Christians. They've already entered spiritually into the kingdom. Christ already rules over their hearts. He encourages them to continue in the faith saying through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. You haven't entered it yet, he said, even though they were already believers. So, he was talking about a future kingdom.

Part of the preaching of the kingdom was about a future kingdom. You see the same thing in (the apostle,) the epistles. The primary emphasis in the epistles is on this future aspect of the kingdom. You see it in our future inheritance; we're going to talk about our inheritance on Sunday morning here in a few weeks. In our future inheritance. We're going to inherit a kingdom! First Corinthians 6, ... understand that the unrighteous is not, the unrighteous person will not inherit the kingdom of God. And he gives a list of those that will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Jet future .... we're going to inherit a kingdom, but not those who live lives like unbelievers because they show by that that they are not truly believers. You see the same thing in Galatians 5:21. He gives this list of sins, and then he says, "... things like these I forewarned you that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." You're not going to gain that future kingdom. Ephesians 5:5, "For this you can know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." You're not going to get into that kingdom. In James says the same thing in James 2:5, [We are] "... heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him." We haven't received it yet, but we are heirs; and some day we will receive it. He was looking to the future.

You see this same thing when you think of this future aspect in terms of our hope. Listen to Paul in 2 Timothy 2:12; this is the very end of Paul's life and ministry, he says, "If we endure, we also will reign with Him…." Paul was looking forward to a time when he would reign with Jesus Christ, a kingdom in which he would reign. And it's always future for Paul. He died with it still future just as it's future for us as well.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:12, we're to walk in a manner worthy of a God Who calls us into His own kingdom and glory. By the way, in the Greek text "kingdom" and "glory" share the same Greek article which means that Paul intended to join them together, so the kingdom and the glory come together ... speaking of the glory of Christ here. There's only a kingdom of Christ when there's glory for Christ which occurs when He returns.

Second Timothy 4:1 Paul says, "I solemnly charge you [Timothy] in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing...." and [notice this what is in conjunction with His appearing and judgment?] His kingdom, His kingdom.

Now, you say, ok I understand all that, but the key question is this: What exactly is this future kingdom? You see when you look at those Old Testament kingdom prophecies, they seem to point to one coming of the Messiah. But of course, when you come to the New Testament the New Testament makes it clear that the kingdom prophecies will be fulfilled in two comings of the Messiah. The present aspect of the kingdom (that we talked about already), that spiritual aspect was fulfilled with the first coming. It's what theologians call the "already aspect" of the kingdom. We're already in the kingdom, spiritually. Christ already rules spiritually. In it its spiritual for the kingdom has already come. It came with Christ. We're right now part of the spiritual kingdom over which He rules.

But there's a future aspect, and the future aspect or the future consummation will be fulfilled in the future and that's what theologians call the "not yet". So, you have the already, the kingdom's already here in one sense in a spiritual sense but not yet in the great political sense. So, the debate then is really over when and what will the future manifestation of the kingdom be. It really can be brought down to this. This is the simple debate.

The A-Millennialist says there is one future aspect of the kingdom, and that is eternity. The eternal kingdom, the eternal state. That's it. Jesus comes back, and boom we're into eternity, and that is the future kingdom that Christ promised. Whereas the Pre-Millennialist says no, there are two future aspects of the kingdom. There is a millennial kingdom a thousand years on this earth, and then there is the eternal kingdom or the eternal state in which God rules, Christ rules.

So, the crux of the issue that's debated has to do with really the Millennial kingdom. We agree on an eternal kingdom. The crux of the issue is that thousand-year reign of Christ on this renewed earth. Will it happen? Does the Scripture support the idea that between this age and eternity there is a literal reign of Christ over this earth for a thousand years? Come back next week.

Now, before we leave though I want you to turn back to Luke 19. I promised you we'd come back to this parable. There's a great spiritual lesson for us here. Luke 19:11. You remember Jesus said I'm not going to establish the kingdom now. No, I'm going to be like this nobleman who goes out (of the) into a distant country to receive the kingdom and then returns. But notice what He says about what happens in the meantime. Verse 13, before he leaves,

"… He called ten of his slaves, and he gave them ten minas...." [What's a mina? It's a Greek denomination of money. A mina was about a hundred days' wages or about 3 months' pay basically. And so, he gives them ten minas, about 30 months' pay or about (3 1/2 years pay, or excuse me) 2 1/2 years pay. Alright so, these servants then are left with some of their master's property to invest. Verse 13 says,] "'Do business with this until I come back.' But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him saying 'We do not want this man to reign over us.'" [This, of course is a reference to those who rejected Him; the Jewish people who rejected Him. But then verse 15 says,] "When he returned after receiving the kingdom ..." [now we're talking about the Second Coming, we're talking about judgment,] "... he ordered that these slaves to whom he had given the money be called to him so that he might know what business they had done. [And] The first appeared, saying, 'Master, your mina has made ten minas more.'" [So, he had a major return on the investment.] "And he said to him, 'Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing [you're to have] be in authority over ten cities.' The second came saying, 'Your mina, master, has made five minas.'" [Not quite as good a return, but nevertheless, a very healthy return on the money.] "And he said to him also, 'You are to be over five cities.' Another came, saying 'Master, here's your mina....'" [In other words, there's nothing. No interest to report. I'm giving you what you gave me.] "... I kept put away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down, and you reap where you did not sow.' He said to him, 'By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave...'". [By the way, he's not admitting that's true about him. That is not how our God is; He is very generous. It's not how Christ is. So, he's not saying that you're right in what you thought of me. He's saying, you can be judged on the basis of what you thought of me. On the basis of your own words.] Verse 22, "... '… [if you thought] I … [was] an exacting man, taking up where I did not lay down and reaping where I did not sow, then why didn't you put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?' … He said to the bystanders, 'Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.' And they said, 'Master, he has ten minas already.' I tell you, that to everyone who has more shall be given; but from the one who does not have, even what he does not have shall be taken away. But these enemies of mine who did not want me to reign over them bring them, here and slay them in my presence."

You have two groups here. You have the enemies who didn't want Jesus' reign, and when He returns to take His kingdom, He destroys them. We're talking about judgment; we're talking about the devastation that He will reap that we've already discussed.

But then there are these servants, and you have differing responses from these servants. They've each been given an investment. They have a resource, an opportunity to make a return on the master's investment. One of them does very well; another one does reasonably well. Those are called "faithful servants".

By the way, it's not the return that's the issue. It's not that one had ten and one had five, and one of them therefore was more faithful than the other. What they're rewarded for is their faithfulness; to try to use the opportunities to invest them for the master.

And then there's this worthless slave probably not a believer at all (if you para) if you look at another story similar but distinct, the parable of the talents, probably not a believer at all.

My point to you is this: We have been left here by our King Who will return and establish His kingdom. While we wait, we are to be like these slaves in the parable Jesus told, and we are to invest what He has given us to seek a return on behalf of the kingdom. And we will be rewarded based on our faithfulness to do that. Our reward (which is primarily a capacity for service) will be directly tied to our faithfulness here to invest what God has given us. The parable uses money. Certainly, money is a part of that, but I think it's much greater than that. It has to do with all the things God has given us to invest: our time, our money, our talents.

Every good gift the Master has given us we are to invest and to seek a return on that for His sake, a spiritual return for the kingdom. And when He comes, our faithfulness to do that will be evaluated, and we will receive an opportunity for service in the future in the Millennium and in eternity commiserate with our faithfulness here.

So, let me ask you this question. As you wait for the King to come back and exert His rule, how are you doing with investing what He's given to you? In all of those categories? He's going to evaluate you when He returns; what will He find?

Let's pray together.

Our Father, thank You for the wonderful reality that our Lord Jesus Christ is King with a kingdom. Thank You that by Your grace even now You have transferred us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Your beloved Son. That we even now live under His reign in our hearts.

Father, we look forward to the day when He will return. As we study it in more detail over the coming weeks, I pray that You would give us a longing. May our hearts burn for the day when our Lord will return, and when He will be vindicated, when He will defeat His enemies, when He will evaluate His servants, and when He will set up a kingdom which will not be destroyed.

Father, thank You that the day is coming when on this earth our Lord will establish a literal kingdom in which we will reign with Him. Father, we look forward to that not because of our participation, but because we look forward to a day when righteousness will reign upon this earth, when it will be renewed and regenerated, when it will be improved, and when it will be all that we want. And all that we long for in a world of war and bloodshed there will be peace. In a war of evil and wickedness, it will become a world of righteousness. Lord, we look forward to that day.

Help us until He comes to be faithful, to invest the resources that He's given to us, seeking a return on behalf of the kingdom. Lord, don't let us invest our time our energy our money our talents in just earthly things. Help us to give ourselves to the kingdom.

We pray in Jesus Name and for His sake. Amen.

Systematic Theology