The Earth and the Millennium

Jeremy asked an excellent question on the prior post and I don’t want to reproduce it here (go read it already!) but it was a good question and I’ll try to touch on it in this post.

Right off the bat I have to admit a few things. First, I don’t think there is a whole bunch of information in the Bible about the earth during the millennium. Unlike some, Historic Premillennialism doesn’t contain a bunch of detail about when things will happen and how it will all look. We must be content with the revelation God has given and the fact that there are some holes in the details.

Second, I haven’t read much on this aspect of Premillennialism yet either so I could be wrong.

I think the most important verse on this question would be Romans 8:19 “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” But frankly, it doesn’t help much. What does Paul mean by “the revealing of the sons of God?” Is it “creation” or “creature?” 1Linguistically it can be either though most translations have ‘creation’. If it is “creation” is it only living beings or everything? What about the rest of the universe, is that included? Yikes.

Intellectual and hermeneutic honesty here demands that I not bypass this verse for something “clearer” so let’s work at it a bit. First, the creation/creature is awaiting the apokolupsis of the sons of God; that is, their “revelation, manifestation, coming, appearing.” Currently the sons of God are hidden but at some point they will be uncovered. Frankly, that sounds a lot like the first resurrection. You won’t be able to miss the sons of God, they’ll be the resurrected and glorified ones ruling with Jesus! That sounds like the earth will be renewed at Jesus’ return but according to a Premillennial scheme, that won’t happen till the New Heavens and New Earth and frankly, that’s where I’d feel more comfortable keeping it.

Another idea here is that “creation” is really “creature” which means the individual who gets saved. That changes the meaning of all of this from the created order groaning under the burden of sin to the individual till their redemption. This is the position argued by J. Ramsey Michaels in his chapter in Romans and the People of God [Google Books]. I don’t buy it. I don’t understand why Paul would go all cryptic at that point in the letter. It doesn’t make much sense to me. Paul doesn’t seem to maintain the focus but broaden it to the Spirit and all of creation groaning.

So where does that leave us? Here’s where I think it leaves us. If Historic Premillennialism is correct then the “revelation of the sons of God” is not till after the millennium. How can that be? Simple, the resurrected saints do indeed reign with Christ on the earth but that is not yet the totality of the sons of God. Presumably, there will be those who are born and come to faith during the millennium as well. The resurrected saints are not all of the elect.

Okay, so the earth in the millennium is not renewed. But does that mean it continues the same? Not really. Keep in mind the difference between whose running the world now and who’ll be running it then. Fallen, mostly unredeemed man is running the world and doing it largely without or flat out against God’s principles are in charge now. But during the millennium Jesus will run things. The planet will be blessed by perfect, holy governance. This is God’s creation after all and therefore Jesus would handle it correctly.

So to Jeremy’s question. Is there anything endemic to Historic Premillennialism that speaks to working on environmentalism, social justice and political reform now? Does the Historic position help keep us from a “polishing brass on the Titanic” attitude about the present world order? Right off the bat I want to say that none of the eschatological positions should produce that kind of fruit. Even Dispensationism with its focus on the Rapture shouldn’t engender that kind of “let it burn” approach. It just violates so much of Jesus’ clear injunctions. So any eschatology that does produce indifference is probably eschatology misunderstood or mishandled.

Talk about really healing the planet! Next up I have a few thoughts on humanity during the millennium I might work on.

1 Linguistically it can be either though most translations have ‘creation’.
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  • I don’t understand why Christ would return to fix everything and rule, but then let it all fall apart and then burn it up. What’s the point? It just dosn’t seem to fit.

  • Sean, I was thinking this same thing but you could say the same thing about the Fall of Man. Whatever you believe about the Fall, God appears to embrace this process. We “sons of God” may not incur the results of this second fall (or third if you count Lucifer) but the argument that God doesn’t allow or use failings (that “it just doesn’t seem to fit”) seems inconsistent with our own history (and angelic history).

    Tim – Good pt re: Romans 8:19. Honestly, ever since asking the question I’ve had to wonder how much the contemporary emphasis among my peers for social justice etc. has increased that value in my life above its biblical merit. I want so badly to work for all aspects of the Kingdom now holistically but we do look forward to another city.

  • Sean, great question! Jeremy, great answer!

    Beyond what Jeremy has said, what I’ve been thinking is that what was the point of the period of the Judges? There were instructions for the king in the Law in Deuteronomy. Why didn’t God just seat someone on the throne of Israel after Joshua died? What was the point of the period of the Judges? Especially since Israel split in two after Solomon and then went into exile only to return without a son of David on the throne. So why bother with all of that mess?

    I need to flesh this out in my next post but let me say here that I think the Millennium is a fitting fulfillment to the Davidic Covenant and to the redeemed creation over all. There is a point to it since right now there is no King over the earth (beyond Jesus’ rule from heaven) and everyone does what is right in their own eyes.

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