My last post discussed problems with the current (and historic for that matter) expositions of Revelation Chapter 20. I noted how the fact that there remains nations in need of, and receiving, healing from the New Jerusalem in Revelation Chapter 21 places that city outside the confines of eternity (which by definition is past the point of healing). So the various premillennial schemes, including the rather recent newcomer—Dispensationalism, fall by the wayside. At best they could only posit that the Millennium would be only stage one in a two stage earthly existence where mortals remain on the earth. I have heard no leader in that faction declare such a eschatological sequence.
Though in the varieties of theologies out there, perhaps someone has. If readers are aware of such a proposed premillennial process please let me know and send me the references, links, or literary sources.
However, my concentration is going to be on what is, in my opinion, the strongest contender in the prophecetic boxing ring today: Full Preterism. However, as I noted before, their interpretation of the Millennium is their soft underbelly that invites a one-two punch attack. In their schema, the Millennial rule of Christ supposedly starts at the ascension and ends just prior to the Jewish Revolt of A.D. 67 or before. As a result, their 1,000 year reign gets discounted to less than 37. That calculates to a discount of over 96%. You couldn’t get a deal like that on eBay!
Nor am I the only one to notice this weakness. Keith Mathison made this very point (perhaps his only good argument, in his contribution to the anti-Preterist diatribe, When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism:
The most serious problem is that their [the Preterists'] ‘Millennium’ is too short…Full preterists chide futurists for not taking seriously biblical language that denotes a short period of time…However, whether literal or figurative, “a thousand years” denotes a vast period of time. To suggest that “a thousand years” is symbolic of one generation of 40 years or less, I believe, stretches credulity to its breaking point. …I would suggest that “comprehensive preterists,” with their doctrine of the millennium, are not taking seriously enough Biblical language which clearly indicates a long period of time. I believe this is nothing but hermeneutical arbitrariness. We must take all time frame indicators seriously, those that point to short periods of time and those that point to long periods of time. (pg. 241)
Though I hate to side with Mathison against the Preterists, the fact that the Preterists make the 1,000 year reign of Christ last less than 40, is a problem. Nor is Mathison alone finding this glaring weakness. In his website, Joseph R. Balyeat (author of Babylon: the Great City of Revelation) also rather gleefully sends an uppercut to this same interpretive issue:
[I]t seems to me that full preterism at times suffers from the same chronological blindness which preterists are so quick to criticize futurists for. I agree with you that it is quite ridiculous for futurists to claim that “soon” means 2,000 years and “the time is at hand” means 2 millennia. Yet, elsewhere in the book of Revelation (chapter 20), we read about events which were not to happen “soon”, but rather “at the end of 1,000 years”. These events include: the release of Satan for a short time to gather the remaining ungodly from the dark corners of the earth; the final judgment and second death of the wicked, etc. While I agree that the 1,000 years was not meant to be literal, it certainly does indicate a very long period of time. Yet the full preterist position argues that even these events were fulfilled in A.D. 70 or shortly thereafter (i.e., the Bar Kochba rebellion in A.D. 135). “Consistent” preterists become very in-consistent when they rail on futurists for saying “soon could mean 2,000 years”, while they themselves say “1,000 years could mean soon”. Are the time indicators relevant or aren’t they?
So how do the Preterists defend themselves on this hermeneutical problem without falling on the ropes? How do they support their contention that 1,000 years can be compressed into 37? To their credit, at least they don’t ignore the issue hope it goes away. I quote from Alan Bondar‘s book, Reading the Bible Through New Covenant Eyes. Building on Mathison’s admission that the number 1,000 is used symbolically, Bondar then notes..
If “a thousand” is to be taken figuratively, then why must the work “years” be taken literally? In other words, couldn’t it be just as well that John is not defining a literal period of time at all, whether it is actually one thousand exactly or a longer period of time? John could just as well be figuratively describing the perfect accomplishments of Christ that no earthly king could possibly accomplish. In fact, if “the figure…is the number of quantitative perfection,” then John is figuratively defining the prefect reign rather than a length of time….The thousand-year reign of Revelation 20 is not about how long Christ would reign with His saints. The thousand-year reign of Revelation 20 is about what would be perfectly accomplished during those forty years.
Well, no. If it is a symbol of quantitative perfection, as Bondar admits, then it must remain a quantitative symbol. It should not then be changed to a qualitative symbol. That is switching the category of the ultimate meaning of the symbol midstream.
At least the full preterist, Kenneth J. Davies, in his response to Mathison, maintains the 1,000 years of the Millennum as a quantitative symbol. In his post, entitled rather inflammatorily, A Response to the False Witness of Keith Mathison: as Found in His Presentation Named Playing With Fire:
The period from AD 30-70 is too short a time period to fit the symbol of “1,000 years” found in Rev. 20, according to Mr. Mathison. It seems that to more than double the number of years this symbol represents is perfectly acceptable to Mathison, but not to “shorten” it!
Well, yes. Again, I have to agree with Mathison. For those in the first century and not in our inflationary times, a “thousand” was a very large number. Most people would not live to see a thousand of anything in their presence. Barring the main city of Jerusalem, the other major cities barely would have 1,000 residents. Even the title of the rather popular collection 1,001 Arabian Nights, published much later than the first century A.D. kept this association. According to one reviewer “At first the title was merely indicative of a large number of stories; later editors dutifully provided editions with the requisite 1,001 tales.”
So does a 40 year, from A.D. 30 to A.D. 70 or the 37 year period from 30 to 67 meet the definition of a large number of years? Does it seem reasonable to use a symbol of 1,000 years to represent this number? It simply has to represent a larger number than a 37 or 40 year period. A perfect number, certainly; at symbolic number, admittedly; but a larger number of years than 40, necessarily!
If the Preterists hold on to this interpretation, then time statements of any kind, their beloved “soon” passages, especially as they are referenced within this same “symbolic” book, also fall into the black hole of meaninglessness. They will be knocked right out of the Prophetic Arena because of their Millennial glass jaws. They will, like the line from On The Waterfront, be taken out of the Prophetic ring, only to declare to anyone who would bother to listen, “I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am..”