The following is from a biblical Q & A site. I stumbled across it, and found myself clicking on the question “What is the purpose of the thousand-year reign of Christ?”, mainly because, well, I have been wondering about that very question myself for some time now. As I read through the answers provided, it made me begin to suspect perhaps there is a connection between my ongoing, unanswered questions surrounding the millenium, and my own views regarding the whole debate surrounding things like “Replacement theology”, the fulfillment of Covenants, the true identity of Israel, etc… But anyhow, first, here is the Q & A, then I’ll say my piece afterwards…
Question: “What is the purpose of the thousand-year reign of Christ?”
Answer: The Millennium (also known as the millennial Kingdom) is the 1000-year reign of Jesus after the Tribulation and before all the people of the world are sent to heaven or hell. Jesus will reign as King over Israel as well as all the nations of the world (Isaiah 2:4; 42:1). The world will live in peace (Isaiah 11:6-9; 32:18), Satan will be bound (Revelation 20:1-3) and, at the beginning, everyone will worship God (Isaiah 2:2-3). The purpose of the 1000-year reign is to fulfill promises God made to the world that cannot be fulfilled while Satan is free and humans have political authority. Some of these promises, called covenants, were given specifically to Israel. Others were given to Jesus, the nations of the world, and creation. All of these will be fulfilled during Jesus’ 1000-year reign.
The Palestinian Covenant (Deuteronomy 30:1-10)
God has already fulfilled the personal aspects of the Abrahamic covenant; Abraham did go to the Promised Land, he did have many descendants, and he is the forefather of many nations. Several hundred years after Abraham, Joshua led the Israelites to claim ownership of the Promised Land. But Israel has never possessed the specific boundaries that God promised in Genesis 15:18-20 and Numbers 34:1-12. Not even Solomon ruled over this particular area (1 Kings 4:21-24). Although he did reign from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates, he did not hold the area from Mount Hor to Hazarenan (Numbers 34:7-9)—into present-day Lebanon and Syria. In addition, the covenant God made with Abraham was that he and his descendants would have the land for eternity (Genesis 13:15; 17:8; Ezekiel 16:60). The current Israeli state may be a step in this direction, but they still do not possess the boundaries God laid out.
The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7)
God’s covenant with David was that his line would never die out and that David’s heir would sit on the throne of Israel forever (2 Samuel 7:16). Biblical scholars agree that Jesus is the fulfillment of this covenant—one of the reasons His genealogy is given for both His step-father (Matthew 1:1-17) and His mother (Luke 3:23-38). The Jews understood this when they laid down palm branches and their cloaks as Jesus rode into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-17). They expected Him to be a military/political leader that would liberate them from the Romans and make Israel a great nation again. But they didn’t understand the nature of Jesus’ work at the time was for the New Covenant, not the Davidic Covenant. The 1000-year reign will be the beginning of Jesus’ eternal reign over Israel and the earth (Revelation 20:4, 6).
The New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
The work of the New Covenant—Jesus’ death and resurrection to reconcile hearts to God—has been accomplished. But we have not yet seen the complete fulfillment. Jeremiah 31:33 says, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Ezekiel 36:28 gives more specifics: “You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” Isaiah 59:20-21 explains that this covenant is possible because of the Redeemer, and the reconciliation He provides will last forever. This covenant does not mean that every Jew will be saved. But it does mean that Israel as a nation will worship their Messiah. The Old Testament prophets who spoke of this covenant, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Ezekiel, all wrote that it will be fulfilled in the future. From their time on, Israel has yet to be an independent nation that worshiped its Messiah (Romans 9-11). They will be in the 1000-year reign.
Those are the covenants God made with Israel that are to be fulfilled in Jesus’ 1000-year reign, but the Bible lists other promises that will be fulfilled. God promised Jesus He will make His enemies a footstool, and that Jesus’ followers will worship Him freely (Psalm 100). God promised the nations of the world that they would live in peace with Jesus as their ruler (Daniel 7:11-14). And He promised creation that the curse would be lifted (Romans 8:18-23), animals and the earth would be restored to peace and prosperity (Isaiah 11:6-9; 32:13-15), and people would be freed from disease (Ezekiel 34:16). These, too, will be fulfilled during the 1000-year reign.
The main purpose of Jesus’ 1000-year reign is to fulfill the prophecies given to Israel and the promises made to Jesus, the nations, and the earth. God’s covenants were voluntary and one-sided. He promised He would bless Israel and restore the world in specific ways, and He will.
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Alright, so according to this, the purpose of the Millenium period has a whole lot to do with God fulfilling promises made to Israel, i.e., the Jewish people, and more specifically those people in the context of being a Jewish nation/state. Of course, many, many Christians are quite fixated on all that pertains to the modern state of Israel, because of the pervasiveness of the kinds of covenant interpretations we see being articulated above. In fact, I was raised with more or less that type of perspective, a perspective which comprises the main driving force behind so much of the current political support of the people, government and military of modern Israel by “evangelicals”…
But I was forced to stop and re-examine this perspective, after I finally just sat down one day and read through the entire book of Hebrews. Suddenly I found myself being unable to ignore what felt like a good number of inconsistencies within the whole mindset that there is a “duality” amongst all these covenants, the idea that God’s promises to “Israel” are simultaneously addressing eternal/spiritual issues (for the gentiles) as well as earthly/temporal/political ones (for the Jewish people). What I find in the book of Hebrews, and many other places, really doesn’t seem to back this idea at all. Now, I am very much aware that the term “replacement theology” tends to carry a lot of pejorative baggage in such circles of eschatological perspective. But the fact remains that nowhere in the New Testament have I ever found any of the biblical authors (who almost all had a Jewish heritage, although yes, I know that people question whether Luke was, but regardless) giving so much as a hint that they were looking forward to some future time when Jesus would be hailed as a political ruler of Israel as a political entity…
I find these verses in Hebrews to be particularly explicit…
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5 “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.
7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. 10 That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,and they have not known my ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”
16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
“So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.” 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 3 – 4:8)
I suppose many people who hold a firm stance against the supposed ignorance of “replacement theology” might respond by saying “Well, the book of Hebrews was written to the Hebrews, of course! So you’re misapplying everything the author is saying here…” But I’m sorry, when you stop and actually read through the content of what is being said, that falls apart pretty quick… I began the quotation from where I did because we can clearly see who the author is addressing: “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus…” (Who are “those who share in the heavenly calling”? That is everyone who believes in Jesus!) But if that is not enough to convince someone that the message here is not for Jewish Christians alone, then you only have to keep reading, because in the following passages we see the author arguing strongly AGAINST the idea that going in and taking physical possession of the “Promised Land” amounts to the achievement of God’s “rest”. He says: “since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it“, and later “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience”.
So when the writer of Hebrews is urging his readers to “make every effort to enter that rest”, is he advocating that these Jewish believers in Yeshua strive on towards the goal of establishing an earthly government which encompasses all the original boundary lines promised to Abraham? I certainly don’t find it to say anything like that… But maybe that is where the millennial component comes in for many people, because they believe is that only Jesus’ return will be enough to establish that true Israelite nation? I don’ t know… I must confess I still don’t quite know what exactly to think about the millennium, but what I do know is that explanations like the ones above just don’t quite seem to fit. The issue of modern-day “evangelical” support for the (political) nation of Israel, to the point of almost absolute blind allegiance, feels more than a little suspect to me. But then, if to the inconsistencies I’ve just mentioned, we add more considerations, such as a look into the origins and significance of the symbol refered to as the “Star of David”, or the curious amount of involvement on the part of families such as the Rockefellers (ever taken a look at the Israeli Supreme Court building…?) we find even more reason to give some serious pause…
Personally, I really kind of chafe at the term “replacement theology”, because I honestly find it to be a rather misrepresentative term in the first place, a “straw-man” argument if you will… When I read through the Old and New testaments now, and see the “common thread” that strings it all together, that common thread is FAITH. (that’s actually what Hebrews is all about really…) Did God EVER really consider “His people” to be everyone with a Jewish heritage, regardless of whether they put their faith in Him, or say, in Molech or Baal or just themselves? No! That’s what Hebrews says very explicitly. I mean, this was undoubtedly a super controversial book when it came out! Not just this book, but the whole New Testament, the whole Gospel itself. It was offensive for Jews to hear someone saying “Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” The author is simply showing that rebellion against God = no entering the rest. He is pointing to moments in Jewish history which show that the promises to Abraham were never about taking possession of a piece of land, but about entering into His “Rest” with a capital R… Just like so much else in Jewish history (such as being delivered from slavery in Egypt) the historical event of entering the physical land of Canaan was really itself through divine orchestration an allegory of the grander conclusion, the eventual establishing of Christ on the throne, where He actually WILL rule over not jus the original boundaries promised to Abraham, but indeed the whole earth. That’s what really puzzles me about the whole argument against “replacement theology”, because it seems to wholly ignore the fact that before Jesus came, it was Faith in God that counted, just same as it was after He died and rose again! It always had been faith which defined a “true Israelite”, not one’s ancestry, a fact which is further illuminated by the realization when we stop and remember that non-Jewish people were allowed to become “citizens” of Israel from the very beginning, so long as they worshipped God and agreed to follow His commands…
Didn’t Jesus Himself look a bunch of Pharisees in the eye and make this same, controversial point?
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendantsand have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”
39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says.The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
Jesus says to them, “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants”, but then also, “If you were Abraham’s children then you would do what Abraham did”. Hmmmm… How can a group of people be physically descended from Abraham, but not one of his “children”…? Wouldn’t that mean that the Abrahamic covenant, and thus all the promises regarding “Israel”, was actually speaking to “children of faith” all along…??? If so, then we couldn’t really say that some new definition was “replacing” a previous one, but rather, Jesus was simply reaffirming the correct way to understand these things, as all being fulfilled in Himself. We certainly don’t dismiss Christ’s work on Calvary as being some form of “replacement theology”, as some new reinterpretation of the sacrificial system of the temple, but rather we understand the cross to be the true fulfillment of those things. The same thing goes for things like the Passover and the High Priest and so much more. It was always all about Jesus, and will all be completely fulfilled when He comes and sets up His kingdom on Earth. I still have my own questions about exactly what the “purpose” of the Millenium is (basically my main “sticking point” revolves around the question of why God doesn’t just go ahead and finish Satan off entirely after His return, but no matter…), that is one of those things where if I never “figure it out”, it really doesn’t matter all that much, because it’s going to happen anyways, and God’s purposes for everything are all going to be revealed in their due time. But for me, I personally find the questions which seek to understand what “Israel” is all about to have a much more direct impact on our lives today, not to mention the possibility of some pretty serious implications in the near future if we were to be confused on the matter….