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I was exposed to the now popular futurist teaching as a young person and accepted it as being true for many years. I did not know an alternative was available, and being biblically ignorant, saw no reason to question what I was taught. However, I did not like the impact it had on the leaders who taught it. They often seemed to be caught up in it to the point that they lost perspective of the average person’s needs for practical help in trying to live a spiritual life in a pagan society. They were more intrigued by trying to figure out dates and events of the end times than about how the world could be evangelized for Christ. My present opinion is that people have become materialistic to the point that they cannot envision anything good apart from this earth, including heaven! Also, the futurist teaching appeals to the emotions because of its “mysterious” elements, and many people are looking for mystical fancy rather than biblical fact.

The modern “end-times” prophets obviously focus much on their interpretation of biblical prophecy in both Old and New Testaments. Some groups, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have set many dates for the return of Christ, and once these dates had passed, they spiritualized the “return” in some way in order to save face. The apocalyptic style of the Book of Revelation has especially been twisted it into some bizarre doctrines. For example, the JWs interpret the 144,000 of Revelation 7 and 14 as being literally descriptive of an exact number of highly spiritual people who will go to heaven (which, by their own admission, does not include most of the Witnesses!). All of the end-times folks also take the “1000 year reign” mentioned in Revelation 20 as being literal, and assume much about that passage that is not even mentioned there – such as Christ being the one reigning. I will include more on numerology later on in the article.

The idea that Christ will reign on earth as a physical king is a widespread belief that crosses nearly all denominational lines. Not all groups believe exactly the same things about it, but the general outline they all accept. This system of interpretation, usually called “premillennialism,” was once rejected by many religious groups who have now come to accept it. The reasons for the current acceptance of the doctrine are not biblical ones, as we shall show. The doctrine of premillennialism, briefly stated, is the view that Christ will come back to earth at some future point and reign for a literal thousand years. A large segment who hold this view believe that, seven years before this return, the righteous will experience a rapture (catching up) from the earth while those left on earth will experience a great tribulation. The concept of such an earthly reign supposedly finds its foundation in Revelation 20:1-10. But in approaching this or other difficult passages, several fundamental rules of interpretation need to be kept in mind.

  1. Truth does not contradict itself. If two verses seem to do so, there is either a misunderstanding of one of the verses, or possibly both of them.
  2. Doctrine cannot be based on difficult passages without due consideration of less difficult passages on the same subject. To establish a theory on symbolic passages forces you to completely ignore literal passages which contradict it, and also forces you to apply figurative interpretation to obviously literal Scriptures.
  3. One does not have to know exactly what a difficult passage means in order to know what it does not mean. For example, a person could be unsure of the exact interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29, but at the same time, be absolutely sure that it does not teach proxy baptism for the physically dead. Too many plain passages render that explanation impossible. In a similar way, one could be somewhat uncertain of the precise meaning of some of the symbolism in Revelation, while rejecting the doctrine of premillennialism itself.

When I began to study the Bible in depth on premillennialism, I soon saw the vast inconsistencies in the teaching. I have read many writings on all sides of the issue, and have no doubt that my earlier indoctrination in premillennialism was not correct. Exciting it was, but accurate it was not! This view removes the book from its original setting of Christians being persecuted and killed in the early centuries of the church. What comfort would a “twenty-first century newspaper” type of prophecy bring to people being killed for their faith? Such an approach is filled with distortions of Scripture and fanciful interpretations cooked with a “dash” of Ezekiel, a “shake” of Daniel, “scoops” of Revelation and “pinches” from other New Testament books. In spite of its popularity, the view has little to commend it from a biblical perspective and many reasons to reject it.

Important Principles in Interpreting Revelation

To begin, God would not include a book in his word that could not be understood. To do so would be contrary to the very purpose of Scripture (Ephesians 3:2–5). Revelation, properly viewed, is an incredible book of impact. Because of its style and content, it is often called the “grand finale” of the Bible. Revelation’s literary structure, beautiful imagery, majestic visions, mysterious symbols and dramatic presentation of eternal truths make this book distinctive from all other books of the Bible.

“Revelation” is the English translation of the Greek word apokalupsis, meaning “to reveal or uncover that which has been hidden.” Revelation is classified as “apocalyptic” literature by scholars. Such literature was popular for about 200 years before Christ and for about 100 years after him. It has the following characteristics:

  • It addresses those undergoing some form of persecution.
  • It addresses the reader in the nuances and style of the language and time period in which it is written.
  • It is dramatic and highly symbolic (expressed in visions and symbols).
  • It is sometimes predictive, although the basic message is focused

The book of Revelation is similar to parts of Old Testament prophetic books such as Ezekiel and Daniel. In fact, much of Revelation cannot be understood without a basic knowledge of the Old Testament and its phraseology. But this relationship should not cause us to think that Revelation is the fulfillment of OT prophecy. Rather, it uses a similar style to describe the ultimate downfall of heathen nations and the exaltation of God’s kingdom. Similar symbols may be used in the OT books, but they are describing very different events – events separated by hundreds of years.

Apocalyptic language is used to create a dramatic effect. It appeals to the imagination more than the intellect. In times of persecution, those who are suffering need inspiration from hearing about God’s conclusive triumph over evil far more than academic pronouncements of doctrine. With this in mind, understanding symbolic language is much like understanding parables – get the main points and avoid over-analyzing the details. If more commentary writers and theologians followed this approach, sensationalistic interpretations would be greatly reduced, thus limiting the abounding confusion about Revelation.

No book in the Bible has resulted in more contradictory interpretations than the book of Revelation. It is likely that more false ideologies have arisen from a misunderstanding of this book than from any other portion of the Scriptures. In studying such a book, we would be better off to first consider what it does not teach rather than what it does teach! One rule must be remembered when studying any book in the Bible, namely that an easily understood passage must not be explained by a difficult or symbolic passage. We must let the “easy” passage interpret the “difficult” one. Therefore, Revelation should be studied in close harmony with the rest of the Scriptures.

The Use of Numbers in Revelation

I will use a section of my book, Prepared To Answer, that addressed the prophetic teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to clarify how numbers are to be viewed as symbolic and not literal. Most of the images in Revelation are also to be viewed as symbolic, since that is the very nature of the book. The explanation of numerology regarding the teachings of the JW’s will then help us understand Revelation 20 better.

To the Jewish mind, numerology was very important. Many numbers had well-defined meanings, and they conveyed spiritual lessons. For example, the number “1” carried the idea of unity. Think of the series of “ones” in Ephesians 4:4-6. The number “2” carried the idea of strengthening. Jesus sent out his early preachers two by two. Revelation 11:3 mentions God’s two witnesses. Then, the number “3” was the divine number (Father, Son and Spirit). Next, “4” was the cosmic or world number. In Revelation 7:1, you find four angels, four corners of the earth and the four winds of heaven.

Combine the divine number and the world number and you get “7,” the number of perfection. Thus, in Revelation 4:5, the seven spirits most likely refer to the Holy Spirit in his perfection. The number “6” was an evil, sinister number because it fell short of the perfect number. In America, many of our hotels do not designate a 13th floor. In that Jewish setting, they would not have had a designated sixth floor. The “666” of Revelation 13:18 carries with it the idea of evil and failure. The next significant number was “10,” which signified completeness (all fingers or all toes). You find this number often in the Revelation. A multiple of that number would be 1,000, denoting ultimate completeness. The 1,000 years in Revelation 20 show this kind of completeness, as a look at the references mentioned earlier will demonstrate.

The number of organized religion was “12,” calling to mind the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. In Revelation 7, the twelve tribes are connected to John’s mention of the 144,000. If you take the organized religion number, multiply it by itself, and then multiply it by 1,000, the number of ultimate completeness, you come up with 144,000. Therefore, if you understood the way that numbers were used symbolically, you would expect this number to signify the ultimate number of a religious group. And we will see that this is precisely what is being done in Revelation 7. Finally, the other key number in Revelation is “3 1/2,” found as three-and-a-half years, forty-two months, 1,260 days, and from Daniel, a time, times and a half a time. This number, in whatever form, symbolized the period of persecution itself, an unstable time, but one with an end to it.

What about the 144,000?

With this explanation in mind, let’s look at the passages in Revelation 7:4-8 and 14:1-5. A careful consideration of how they are misapplied by the JW’s will help us see the fallacy of trying to make numbers (or other symbols) literal.

[4] Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

[5] From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000,

[6] from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,

[7] from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,

[8] from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000 (Revelation 7:4-8).

[1] Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. [2] And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. [3] And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. [4] These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. [5] No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless (Revelation 14:1-5).

In chapter 7, the 144,000 are used to represent the church during the time of persecution. Earlier in this chapter, all of them were “sealed,” showing God’s protection of them. See Ezekiel 9:4 for this usage. Since the persecutors were often Jews, or were aided by Jews, it should be obvious that the twelve tribes were not literally the twelve tribes of the Jews. The ones being sealed, or being guaranteed God’s protection, were the Christians, those who were now a part of the new Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). When you look closely at the listing of these tribes, it becomes even more obvious that the list has been “spiritualized.” For example, the fourth tribe (Judah) is mentioned first, because that was the tribe out of which Jesus came (Genesis 49:10).

Also, we find Levi in the list, although that tribe was not normally listed, because they did not inherit a land area in the OT. But, since all Christians are priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9), Levi here is to be identified with spiritual Israel, the church. Furthermore, Dan and Ephraim were excluded from the list, because Dan and Bethel (in Ephraim) were centers of calf worship under King Jeroboam. Therefore, they were excluded here. Finally, Joseph’s name is added, even though, in the OT, his sons were the tribes listed and not Joseph himself. But to the Bible reader, this name has only good connotations.

After the 144,000 are thus described in chapter 7, the next section (verses 9-17) goes on to talk about a great multitude that no one could count. This great multitude was composed of those who “have come out of the great tribulation” and are now before the throne of God (verses 14-15). Therefore, the 144,000 showed the church on earth during the persecution, and the symbolism taught that God knew every one of them and would protect them spiritually, even if they had to die physically. Therefore, the great multitude did not need to be counted, because they had passed from time to eternity. The lesson of the chapter was that God would be with them and ultimately get them to heaven.

In Revelation 14, we simply find a description of Christians, the 144,000 (all of the redeemed). They were not defiled with women (literally, virgins), showing spiritual purity (2 Corinthians 11:2) as opposed to spiritual adultery through idol worship (Jeremiah 3:6; James 4:4). They followed the Lamb by keeping his words (John 10:4-5). They were purchased by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28). As such, they were the first-fruits to God. Just as the first of all physical harvests was to be set apart for God (Deuteronomy 26:1-11), Christians are likewise set apart for the service of God (James 1:18). No lie was found in their mouths, but lying was one of the chief characteristics of pagan Rome and emperor worshippers (see Revelation 21:8).

Now, once we understand biblically who the 144,000 actually are, what should we say about the Jehovah’s Witnesses interpretation? Simply this: if they insist on making the 144,000 a literal number, then you insist on making their description literal. When you do that, the 144,000 would have to all be Jewish (from the twelve tribes), and they would have to be male virgins (had not defiled themselves with women). No Witness would agree to those things, but if the passage is to be taken literally, these points would have to be accepted, because the wording itself is quite clear.

What About Revelation 20?

The actual examination of Revelation 20 reveals some important facts: first, the text does not mention a number of things that people assume are taught there. The second coming of Christ is not mentioned. Christ is not mentioned as being on earth. No mention is made of anyone reigning on earth. A bodily resurrection is not mentioned; and finally, no one living in modern times is mentioned in connection with this 1,000 year reign. The persecuted of the early church are the ones who sit on thrones and reign with Christ. How can a passage which mentions none of these things be said to teach all of them?

Second, this passage is full of figurative symbolic language. If we insist on making the 1,000 years literal, why are not the key to the abyss, the great chain, the beast, etc. also literal? Actually, the Book of Revelation employs apocalyptic language, as it portrays (by means of symbols) the victory of God’s persecuted people over the Roman Empire. This type of writing was well understood in its day, although it may well be unfamiliar and strange to people today. The book dramatizes the victory of good over evil to bring hope to the persecuted saints of the first century. If the book really taught what many people advocate, it would have been of scarce comfort to those in the early church who were dying for their faith!

Now to a brief explanation of the passage: the binding of Satan (verse 2) was to stop him from deceiving the nations (verse 3). The text does not suggest that he would be tied in such a way as to be totally inactive (1 Peter 5:8). The nations as a whole had been deceived into emperor worship (see chapter 13:11-18), but the binding of Satan would limit this blasphemy for a thousand years (symbolic of a long period – see Deuteronomy 7:9; Job 9:3; Psalm 50:10, 90:4).

In verses 4-6, the persecuted Christians in the early church are promised a victory. Their cause looked as if it had been defeated, but here God assures them that Christianity would be vindicated. Their cause would be raised from the dust of defeat into a resurrection of victory. The souls under the altar (6:9) are now elevated to thrones as their cry has been heard and answered. See Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Isaiah 26:13-19 for the idea of a resurrection of a cause in victory. Revelation 20:5 calls this the “first resurrection” to avoid confusion with the general bodily resurrection at the end of time (1 Corinthians 15).

“The rest of the dead” in the first part of verse 5 (which is a parenthetical statement) are the non-Christians, the persecutors. Their cause lies in defeat for a long time-period (1,000 years symbolizes this period), but it will briefly arise at some future date (verses 7-10). Fortunately, this renewed deception of the nations is short lived, as Christ brings his judgment upon the wicked (verses 9-15).

Although this explanation seems logical to me, I claim no infallibility in my interpretation. The passage is a difficult one, and dogmatism is not urged in such cases. However, in spite of how Revelation 20 is to be explained in its various details, it assuredly does not teach the doctrine of premillennialism.

 The Reign of Christ

The premillennialists claim that Jesus will not begin his reign until the time of his return (second coming). He will then reign on a literal throne in a literal Jerusalem for a literal one thousand years. When this concept is examined in light of Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah and its New Testament fulfillment, the idea is shown to be false. Zechariah 6:12-13 is one of the key passages disproving the validity of premillennialism. For clarity, we will quote from the more literal New American Standard Bible (NASB):

Then say to him, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD.

Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.’”

The New Testament makes it clear that Jesus built his church, and that his church is God’s temple (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:11, 16; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:19-22). Now look back at the Zechariah passage in light of the church being the temple of God.

Christ would sit on his throne (Zechariah 6:13), and Acts 2:1, 32-35 says that he began occupying that throne on the Day of Pentecost when the church was established. He was to be a priest on his throne (Zechariah 6:13), and he is a priest now (Hebrews 4:14). This Branch was to rule on his throne while sitting (Zechariah 6:13), and he began sitting on this throne nearly two thousand years ago (Acts 2:32-35). Therefore, he is ruling on his throne now. Since he was said to be a priest on his throne, and he is a priest in heaven (Hebrews 4:14), his throne must be in heaven. In fact, he cannot be priest on earth, for Hebrews 8:4 says, “If he were on earth, he would not be a priest.” Therefore, his throne cannot be on earth.

Psalm 110:1, 4 also speaks of Christ ruling as a priest. In this case, his rule will last until his enemies are conquered. In 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 the Bible says, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Therefore, Jesus is reigning now and will continue to do so until the resurrection of the dead, at which point he will cease to reign over the Messianic kingdom as heaven begins. This truth is exactly opposite to what the premillennial doctrine teaches. They say he will begin reigning at his return, and Paul says he will cease! It should be mentioned that as a part of Deity, he reigns over heaven and all of its subjects, which includes all of the redeemed from all ages.

It should be obvious that Jesus is reigning in his spiritual kingdom now. In his earthly ministry he claimed that the kingdom was near, with a fulfillment of prophecy in mind (Daniel 2:44; Mark 1:15; Hebrews 12:28). This kingdom would come in the lifetime of some of the apostles and it would come with power (Mark 9:1). Power came when the Spirit came at Pentecost (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). Therefore, the kingdom of the prophesied New Covenant was established on the day of Pentecost (although it was present in its preparatory phase when the King himself was present during his earthly ministry). After this time, the kingdom is spoken of as a present reality (Colossians 1:13; 4:11; Revelation 1:6). Furthermore, the kingdom is inseparably connected with the church in Matthew 16:18-19. Any future view of the kingdom is of necessity referring to the heavenly state after the church has been delivered up to the Father by Christ (1 Corinthians 15:24).

The Place of the Nation of Israel

The common “end time” prophets typically place a good deal of emphasis on the role of the present nation of Israel. However, such an emphasis can easily be shown to be mistaken. One of the first questions needing an answer is this: Will there be a restoration of Israel in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy? The answer is negative, for several reasons.

  1. Christ is already on David’s throne (Acts 2:30-33).
  2. The tent of David has been rebuilt (Acts 15:14-17). The saving of the Gentiles is in fulfillment of Amos 9:11-12, according to James, the Lord’s brother. The argument in Acts 15 is clearly that the tent was to be rebuilt before the Gentiles were to “seek the Lord.” Therefore, either the tent here is spiritual in nature (the church), or Gentiles are yet in their sins and the Great Commission is nullified!
  3. God’s promises to Israel concerning the land inheritance have all been fulfilled (Joshua 23:14). Notice that the boundaries God specified to Abraham in Genesis 15:18 were reached by the time 1 Kings 4:21 and 2 Chronicles 9:26 were written.
  4. God said, through Jeremiah, that Israel could not be made whole again (Jeremiah 19:11).
  5. Jesus promised that the kingdom would be taken away from the Jews (Matthew 21:33-43).
  6. The last state of the Jews would be worse than the first (Matthew 12:43-45).
  7. God’s special people are spiritual Jews (Christians) and not physical ones (Romans 2:28-29; 9:6; Galatians 3:26-29; Philippians 3:3). Philippians 3:2-3 could not state the point any more directly nor bluntly, as Paul contrasts the physical and spiritual “Jews”: “Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.”

But What About Romans 11:25-26?

Does it not clearly state, “And so all Israel will be saved?” The larger context of the passage begins back in Romans 11:11. After establishing the fact that most physical Jews had always rejected God, Paul moves on to show how God intended to use even their wrong choices (Romans 11:11-24). Israel’s wrong choices and subsequent rejection has ended up being a blessing to the Gentiles. They had Jesus crucified, making salvation available. They drove Christians out of Jerusalem, which resulted in the Gentiles being able to hear the gospel. They rejected the message in each city to which the early missionaries preached, after which they preached to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). However, if the Jew’s rejection of the gospel ended up blessing the world, then how much more their acceptance would do for the world (Romans 11:15)!

Next, Paul expresses hope that the Gentile inclusion in God’s kingdom will provoke the Jews to envy, causing them to reconsider the message of Christ (Romans 11:13-14). This section concludes with a warning to the Gentiles not to be prideful and self-righteous. They had not been a part of the olive root (Judaism) in the first place; they had been merely grafted in by the grace of God. The Jews had been cut off because of their faithless rejection of Christ, but they can be grafted back in again if they turn to Jesus in faith. The means of how they might be motivated to respond in this way is discussed in the remainder of the chapter (Romans 11:25-36).

Israel’s hardening is stated to be only “in part” until the “full number” of Gentiles has come in (Romans 11:25). Since it is partial, it has the possibility of being reversed. The key to a reversal is the coming in of the “full number of Gentiles.” Paul likely was referring to the completion of his own ministry as the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7), resulting in more and more Gentiles in the church all over the world. In Romans 15:24, we find that his missionary plans were far from completion, for he planned to go all the way to Spain. Once this larger Gentile inclusion had occurred, all Israel could be saved in the sense being discussed in this context.

The word “so” in Romans 11:26 is from the Greek houtos, an adverb of manner, meaning “in this way.” “In this way” refers back to the envy-provoking process mentioned in Romans 11:13-14. (Paul refers to the same idea again in Romans 11:31). Therefore, when the Jews saw the growing number of Gentiles in the church of Jesus Christ, and the blessings from God that they were enjoying, those with good hearts would be envious enough to humble out and reconsider. In this way, they would be saved. The “all Israel” refers to those whose hearts would allow them to become humble and reconsider. It could not refer to every last Israelite coming to Christ at some future point – for a number of reasons.

For one thing, the “narrow road” will never be chosen by a majority from any nation, race, or population group (Matthew 7:13-14). This was true of the Jews even during their heyday, as the early part of Romans 11 establishes forcefully. Two, Paul had already expressed his hope that some would turn to Christ by being provoked to envy (Romans 11:14). Three, even if some future generation of Jews in the majority were to accept Christ, what comfort would that be to the scores of generations that had already died lost? Centuries have passed in which millions of Jews have rejected Christ and been lost as a result.

The key idea of “all Israel” being saved is that of hopeful potential, much like Jesus expressed: “I…will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32, emphasis added) and “By this all men will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35, emphasis added). Note that the quote in Romans 11:26-27 refers to salvation in Christ, which became available at the cross and will continue to be available to anyone who will accept the gospel in faith. The only plan of salvation that God has and will have to the end of time is this plan, which must be accepted individually! (See Acts 4:8-12.) He still loves the rejecting Jews and desires to save them, for his promises made to the patriarchs still stand. But his salvation can be based on nothing less than the blood of Christ accepted by bowing our hearts and knees to his lordship.

The Second Coming of Christ

Our next consideration involves the second coming of Christ. When he comes, there will be only one bodily resurrection of the dead as good and bad are raised simultaneously to be judged (John 5:28-29). All nations will be gathered for this great day (Matthew 25:31-34). Note that this is a judgment of every person within all nations, not a judgment of entire nations as nations, as some premillennialists claim. (Compare the wording of 25:32 with Matthew 28:19 in this regard.)

As stated in the first chapter of this book, there simply cannot be two separate bodily resurrections. If the righteous are raised on the “last day” (John 6:40), and the unrighteous are judged on the “last day” (John 12:48), both must occur at the time. We must allow the last day to really be the last day! When the last trumpet sounds, the dead are raised and the living are changed – in the twinkling of an eye, no less (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). If the wicked are raised a thousand years later, they will not be awakened by the last trumpet, for it will have already sounded! When it does sound, the physical universe will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:10-12; Revelation 21:1). Note that the OT passages that speak of the earth remaining “forever” mean only that it is “age-lasting.” Ordinances such as circumcision and the Levitical priesthood with its sacrifices are also called “everlasting,” but they are simply age-lasting (which in that case was the Mosaic Age.) See in chapter 13 of my book, Prepared To Answer, the related discussion under the heading, “The Sabbath, a Perpetual Covenant?”

Even the “proof text” for the premillennialist view of the rapture falls far short of actually teaching it:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call   of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, emphasis added)

What about the passage would make anyone look for a rapture of the righteous to heaven for seven years, followed by a return to earth for a thousand years? The explanation seems simple enough – we will go to be with the Lord forever, rather than him coming to be with us on the earth. The futurists want him to come and be with them on our little planet, but Jesus wants his children to be with him in his amazing heaven.

Does It Really Matter How We View the End-Times?

A final consideration might be a look at the real dangers of the premillennial view. Surely no one would argue that salvation is based on a perfect understanding of biblical prophecy! However, accepting the premillennial theories has some serious implications.

  • Premillennial theory denies that Christ is reigning now, and therefore denies God’s eternal purpose in Christ (Ephesians 3:10-11).
  • It contradicts every passage that speaks of this present period as the last days (Acts 2:15-17; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 Peter 1:20).
  • It makes Jesus false to his promises when he said that the kingdom was near (Mark 1:15).
  • It alternates between Judaism and Christianity by reviving the OT sacrificial system during the thousand-year reign. However, that old covenant Jesus nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14; Ephesians 2:15).
  • It demotes Christ from the throne of his majesty to the earth, his footstool (Psalm 110:1).
  • It denies that Amos 9:11–12 is fulfilled and thus denies salvation to the Gentiles (Acts 15:14-17).
  • It is the same mistake that the first century Jews made by expecting an earthly kingdom that was political in nature.

Paul said in Philippians 1:23 that he wanted to go be with the Lord, but the premillennialists in essence say, “Lord, you come be with us; we like it here.” Jesus makes it plain in John 14:1-3 that eternal rewards have absolutely nothing to do with this earth:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”`