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As we have been studying the book of Revelation on Sunday afternoons at The Church at Sunsites, the text seems to indicate that Jesus is currently conquering the world, and the world is currently being renewed. The New Jerusalem is currently coming down (Cf. Revelation 3:12), beginning with Jesus’s incarnation and perpetually coming until His second appearance. The book of Revelation seems to indicate a different progression of end-times events than the view that has become popular in our day; It indicates that the world is coming more and more in conformity to Christ rather than getting worse and worse until some final judgment. I believe that Christians can stand united in Christ and in the Gospel despite differing eschatological positions. I want to, here, present some statistics to keep in mind as we continue to study the book of Revelation based on questions that have been asked during our study. These questions, which concern the nature of the millennial kingdom, come up weekly. My goal is not to tell anyone what to think concerning the millennial reign of Jesus Christ but, instead, to simply provide information as we wrestle with the nature of the kingdom and Christ’s conquering. First, I want to summarize the three views and their implications concerning the progression of world-history.
The Premillennial View: We live before Jesus’s millennial kingdom on the earth. This view implies that the world will get worse and worse until Jesus comes to reign at some point in the future. No one knows the day or the hour.
The Postmillennial View: We live after Jesus millennial kingdom was inaugurated on the earth, and we are currently in that millennial kingdom as Jesus builds His church. This view implies that the world will become more conformed to Christ and that Christ is currently renewing the world.
The Amillennial View: Jesus millennial kingdom was inaugurated in heaven at His death, resurrection, and ascension and is coming down to the earth as time progresses. This view implies that the world will become more conformed to Christ and that Christ is currently renewing the world.
Those who take the premillennial position usually teach that the world has been getting worse and will continue to get worse until Christ returns and judges while those who take the postmillennial and amillennial positions usually teach that the world has been getting better since either Christ’s ascension or the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. On Sunday’s, we are contenting ourselves to walk through The book of Revelation. These extrabiblical statistics can, though, help each one wrestle with the text and think about the veracity of the three millennial positions as we continue to work through the text. We are not claiming that the following statistics support any of the three views. As we think about our own positions concerning the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ, we must consider it in light of world events. In 2,000 years of history since Christ announced He was coming in His kingdom, has Christianity spread like Christ said it would? Has violence increased or decreased on the earth? Are pandemics more or less severe? Are life-expectancies increasing or decreasing? Let’s look at the numbers.
Violence, death, and wealth are key factors in seeing how our interpretations of Scripture correspond to reality. According to the premillennial worldview, violence and mortality rates will grow in their intensity until they peak during the 7-year tribulation. Jesus will finally judge the world and establish His millennial kingdom following the 7-year tribulation and do away with all violence. According to the amillennial and postmillennial views, Jesus has inaugurated His millennial kingdom and is currently conquering the earth, renewing it, and bringing peace to the world for the Father’s glory and good of His church.
Christianity has, over the last 2,000 years after starting in the midst of a small Jewish nation, become the most prominent religion in the world.
Since COVID-19 is fresh on our minds, it is important to point out that the mortality rate of the current pandemic is .9-2.2% depending on the source while the plagues of the First Millennium AD (e.g. the Plague of Justinian) and middle ages (e.g. the Black Death) had mortality rates reaching up to 90% in some years and regions. So, there has been an obvious and significant downward trend in viral mortality rates. Here is what we learn from these statistics:
- Violence in the world is decreasing.
- Fatality rate as a result of war has remained about the same since the Fifteenth Century AD.
- Mortality rates around the world are decreasing.
- Extreme poverty rate is decreasing.
- Jesus’s church is overtaking the world.
- Life expectancy is increasing.
- Literacy rate is increasing.
Everything Jesus promised is being worked out before our eyes. Why this present darkness within the church of Jesus Christ? Why the negative outlooks concerning the state of the world? Why this present depression? I realized this week that the generation that popularized the premillennial view saw the world wars in the 1900s. That was the worst thing they knew of and it seemed like the world was getting worse and worse even though, overall, violence and wars are decreasing. They did not have the ready information we have available today. Further, when we look around at the world, we tend to notice the negative more than anything else. News outlets and social media make prominent everything negative and unjust. If that is the only thing we see, to greater degrees the more we watch the news or look at the negative social media posts, we are left to develop a false perception of the world and her trends. We fool ourselves into thinking that the world is getting worse and worse, and that affects our interpretation of Scripture. Keep in mind, I have still only looked at a fairly recent history here.
Concerning the interpretation of Scripture—we should strive as best we can not to interpret the text according to what we see in the world. Instead, we look through the biblical lens, strive to understand the authorial intent, and then see whether our interpretation corresponds to reality. That is how we can be confident that we believe the truth—our beliefs (i.e. interpretation of Scripture) are coherent and correspondent. As you wrestle with your views concerning the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ, remember that it’s about seeing what the Bible says. As we understand the Bible more and more, we keep in mind the trends on this earth. By paying attention, we can see the hand of God moving history. We can be optimistic about the future because God is in control.
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