The Return of Jesus and the Golden Age

In the first article, I pointed out that of all the doctrines that divide Christians, eschatology—the doctrine of last things—is the most contentious. And yet, despite the differences, there is one belief that all Christians have in common: that Jesus Christ will return to the earth. The problem that divides everyone is when and to what purpose?

At the center of this issue is the question of the great Golden Age predicted in scripture. Because Revelation 20 mentions that Jesus will rule for a thousand years, this age is often referred to as “the millennium.” According to prophecy, it will be a period of great blessing, peace, prosperity, and glory. Examples of prophecy about the millennium include: Isaiah 2: 1-4; Isaiah 4: 2-6; Isaiah 11; Joel 3: 18-21; Amos 9: 11-15; Revelation 20: 4; and many, many more.

From the time of the early church fathers (just after the last apostles of Christ died), a great debate arose about what the Bible means when it talks about this great Golden Age, how Jesus’ return factors in, and how such an age relates to the church. Basically, three major ideas emerged. They are called premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism. Let’s take them in reverse order.

Amillennialism—the belief that there will be NO millennium—is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church, and its most famous proponent was St. Augustine. Although Augustine first embrace premillennialism, in later life he adopted the belief that all the prophecies about the Golden Age were allegorical and not intended for literal interpretation. According to amillennialism, human history will just go on and on without any direction until the day that Jesus returns. And when he comes back, he will return for one major purpose—to conduct the final judgment.

A related but different belief is called postmillennialism. This is the official stance of some Protestant churches—most famously the Presbyterian Church. The postmillennialist believes that Jesus will return AFTER the Golden Age is concluded (hence, “post-” millennialism). Adherents to this framework believe that Jesus will bring about the Golden Age by working through the church (the Body of Christ on earth). For the postmillennialist, human history is getting better every year. The world is slowly—through the influence of the church—getting more godly, more peaceful, more righteous, etc. Eventually, the church will lead the world into a glorious period of peace and prosperity. After that, Jesus will return. And just like the amillennialists, the postmillennialists believe that he will return for one purpose—to conduct the final judgment.

This brings us to the third idea—premillennialism. This is the position of many evangelical churches. This framework takes Bible prophecy literally–I.e., at face value. It teaches that Jesus will return BEFORE the Golden Age, and that, indeed, it is his arrival that causes the Golden Age. It further teaches that Jesus will rule the world for a thousand years (the Millennial Kingdom, the Kingdom of Christ, or the Kingdom of God). In other words, when Jesus arrives, he will fight to destroy his enemies and establish himself as King of Kings. He will then rule, along with his saints, bringing peace and prosperity to the world. At the end of his reign, there will be one final, massive rebellion against him—the so-called Gog/Magog Rebellion described in Revelation 20: 7-10. After destroying the rebellion, Jesus will then conduct the final judgment. For the premillennialist, human history is getting WORSE every year. People are getting more sinful, more violent, more racist, more hateful. As the church age winds down, it will finally lead to the very worst period of human history—the seven-year Tribulation. Then, at the end of the Tribulation, Jesus will return in glory “to judge and make war.” (Revelation 19:11).

The Goliath Code series is written from a premillennial perspective. As I will discuss in the next article, the story unfolds in the wake of the rapture of the church during the seven-year Tribulation. The characters are anticipating the arrival of Jesus Christ, and they are encouraged by their knowledge that, according to prophecy, he will arrive exactly on time after the devastating events of the Tribulation.

So now you know what the term “premillennial” means. In the next article, we will discover the associated term “dispensational”, so that you fully understand the theology and eschatology behind the novels.

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