MILLENNIUM: An Eschatological View

My Eschatological View of the Millennium – by John Dunn

In the OT Scriptures, the vision of the Day of the Lord is often presented as a singular cosmic event, in which Messiah both saves his people and issues cataclysmic destruction upon the wicked. However, the mystery of the New Covenant Age is that Messiah’s coming is fulfilled in two parts. He came the first time in lowliness and servanthood to die on a cross, to save. The second time he will come as a consuming fire to judge and destroy the wicked.

In this way, the Day of the Lord can be understood as an eschatological Age. It has begun in salvation (Messiah’s Incarnation), is presently coming (by the Spirit), and will be finally consummated at Christ’s visible return in fiery judgment. We are living in the age of the Day of the Lord, which is “as a thousand years”, as Peter confirms:

“But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the DAY of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”. (2 Pet. 3:7-8, see also Ps 90:4)

In this way, I believe the “thousand years” in Revelation 20 is referring to the eschatological age of the Day of the Lord in which we are presently living, an indeterminable period which is “as a thousand years”, and in which the elect are being saved and the ungodly are presently storing up wrath for themselves for the Day of wrath. (Rom 2:4-5)

Jesus himself indicated as much in Luke 4:17-21 when he proclaimed that he had fulfilled Isaiah 61:1-2. But he immediately closed the scroll and sat down in mid-verse, precisely before finishing the rest of verse 2, “ and the Day of vengeance of our God.” The proclamation of the Good News and the Day of vengeance are intimately united in the same eschatological event known as the Day of the Lord. But Jesus indicated here that the vengeance was yet to come. The Day of the Lord has come in Messiah’s full salvation. But the Day of the Lord’s final vengeance is yet future.

Newness: of New Covenant

Richard Gaffin on Fullness of Revelation and Redemption in Christ, the New Covenant:

“From the viewpoint of redemptive history – covenant history in its ongoing, epochal movement toward consummation – there is the most radical contrast. In this respect I will yield to no one in stressing the absolute, “dispensational” difference before and after Pentecost. Before Christ – before his climactic coming in “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:10), “at the end of the ages” (Heb. 9:26; cf. 1:2) – there is nothing, nothing of substance, only anticipatory, evanescent (Heb. 8:13) shadows cast in advance (Col. 2:17; Heb. 8:5; 10:1). With and after Christ’s coming there is everything; he is, without precedent, God’s (finally) revealed “fullness” (Eph. 4:13; Col. 1:19; 2:9) … (Preincarnate) Christ and the Holy Spirit are surely active throughout the old covenant (e.g., I Cor. 10:3-4), but only anomalously, “out of season,” in advance, and, above all, on the basis of who the last Adam was to become, “the life-giving Spirit.” In the redemptive-historical sense … the “not yet” of John 7:39 is to be taken at face value; it is absolute, unqualified.” (Pentecost: Before and After, p. 12)

Kingdom: Left, Right, or Neither?

Lee Irons has commented on a work by Seyoon Kim, Christ and Caesar

 

1)   It is not the timing of the eschaton but the nature of the eschaton that conditions their [Paul and Luke’s] stance toward political issues. If the eschaton is going to bring about a radical change in the conditions of life such that the glory of the age to come totally transcends our present existence, then it matters little whether they viewed the eschaton as imminent (within their lifetime) or as far off in the future.

 

a.    The eschatological state, for the New Testament writers, is not continuous with the present state. Paul says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor 15:50).

b.    The eschatological state will be characterized by a glorified creation and glorified bodies to inhabit that glorified creation. The glorified state is one of incorruption and immortality. It is not merely the eternal continuation of our present fleshly state.

c.    Thus, for the New Testament writers, political questions, tied as they are to the fleshly state of this passing age, are necessarily secondary in importance.

d.    Furthermore, as a part of the fleshly state, political arrangements are not capable of being transformed or taken up into the state of glory, whether in its “already” state (experienced proleptically by the indwelling of the living Christ through his Spirit) or its “not yet” form (the glorified creation/body).

 

2)   Second, I do not understand what Kim means by “the materialization of Christ’s Lordship” or “materializing the redemption of the Kingdom of God politically.” These sound like nice words, but what do they mean in practical terms?

 

a.    For those on the left it means increasing government funding for social welfare for the poor. Others on the left would say it means ending war in some sort of commitment to pacifism. Those on the right would say it means banning abortion, or having the constitution amended to exclude same-sex marriage, or reducing the size of government and government controls on the free market.

b.    A related problem is that, even if we were to agree on a specific agenda, how do these things relate to Christ’s Lordship or the redemption of the Kingdom of God? In other words, why should any of the above items, left or right, be viewed in such exalted spiritual terms, as the materialization of the reign of Christ?

c.    In my view, the above policies can be debated pro and con, and perhaps some are pragmatically better for society than others, but none are distinctively Christian, and certainly they should not be characterized as the political materialization of the kingdom of God.

Two: Covenants, Communities, and Stages

Meredith Kline once wrote:

“They [two covenantal canons] are bound to one another in organic spiritual-historical relationship. They both unfold the same principle of redemptive grace, moving forward to a common eternal goal in the city of God. The blessings of old and new orders derive from the very same works of satisfaction accomplished by the Christ of God, and where spiritual life is found in either order it is attributable to the creative action of the one and selfsame Spirit of Christ. …The continuity between them is evident even in the area of their distinctive formal polities. For when we reckon with the *invisible* dimension of the New Testament order, specifically with the heavenly kingship of the glorified Christ over his church, we perceive that the governmental structure of the New Testament order is like that of the old Israel is a theocratic monarchy.

“Nevertheless, at the level of its *visible* structure there are obvious and important differences between the new covenant community and the old organization of God’s people. …When the full weight is given to these differences, the Old and New Testaments, which respectively define and establish these two structures, will be clearly seen as two separate and distinct architectural models for the house of God in two quite separate and distinct stages of its history. The distinctiveness of the two community organizations brings out the individual integrity of the two Testaments which serve as community rules for the two orders.  

Canonicity: Distinct Canons

Meredith Kline once wrote:
“Together the old and new covenant canons share in redemption’s eschatological movement with its pattern of renewal, of promise and Messianic fulfillment, the latter is the semi-eschatological and consummate stages….As polities for two different covenant orders, the Mosaic and the Messianic, the two covenantal canons stand over against one another, each in its own individual literary-legal unity and completeness.

Covenant: Context of

William Dumbrell is said to have uttered:

“[T]he Sermon on the Mount is a ‘covenant recall to Israel’ which ‘recalled Israel to the covenant and had the reconstitution of scattered Israel in mind.'”

EXACTLY, and others have likewise concluded the same.

The Sermon on the Mount is not for the Church of Jesus Christ to assume as a direct ethical prescription.  To miss the covenantal framework in which this passage is set, is to miss the heart of what Christ was declaring as the Last and Greatest Prophet of Israel.  The majority view has long been one of assuming Christ is here conveying the ethical scheme the New Covenant Community would live and die by, when in reality it is the Scheme Christ himself would live and die under.

Unfortunately, this (the majority view) is nothing more than an abstract, a-covenantal reading of the text.