Is the Present Age the Millennium? -- By: Jeffrey L. Townsend

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 140:559 (Jul 1983)
Article: Is the Present Age the Millennium?
Author: Jeffrey L. Townsend

Is the Present Age the Millennium?

Jeffrey L. Townsend

[Jeffrey L. Townsend, Assistant Director, Alumni and Church Relations, Instructor in bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary]

The word “millennium” comes from the Greek phrase χίλια ἔτη (“1, 000 years”), which is found six times in Revelation 20:2–7. Premillennialists generally point to these verses as strong support for their understanding that after the present age Jesus Christ will return to this earth and rule over the world from the throne of David in Jerusalem for 1, 000 years.

On the other hand amillenarians traditionally have identified the “1, 000 years” in Revelation 20:2–7 as the present age between the first and second comings of Christ. Recently this identification of the present age and the millennium has been put forth in a new way in a book that focuses on the implications of the revolt of the nations in Revelation 20:7–10. The book, The Dark Side of the Millennium: The Problem of Evil in Revelation 20:1–10, is authored by Arthur H. Lewis, professor of Old Testament at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Lewis claims that in looking to Revelation 20 for proof of the millennium, premillennialists have overlooked its “dark side.” In the words of the Preface,

For whatever reasons, premillennial commentaries on Revelation and books about Bible prophecy have paid meager attention to the fact that Revelation 20 presents the millennial society as a mixture of saints and sinners. The Gog and Magog nations revolt against the King at the end of the thousand years, but they exist as groups of wicked people throughout the entire course of the age.1

For Lewis the implications of this evil aspect of the millennium are crucial. “This aspect immediately raises a doubt about the

correlation of the millennium with the other kingdom passages in the Bible, which invariably speak of its glory and perfection.”2 Lewis’s purpose, then, is to show that the allegedly underemphasized aspect of millennial evil is sufficient reason to deny the identification of the 1, 000 years of Revelation 20 with the glorious future messianic kingdom of Jesus Christ.

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