In our present day the religious world is enthralled with millennial theories, each claiming to represent the true biblical interpretation of yet unfulfilled prophecy. Arguments go back and forth about how many raptures there will be, whether Christians will endure the Great Tribulation or not, and when and how the millennial reign of Christ will occur. The variations on the predominant interpretations: Pre-millennial, Post- Millennial, A-millennial, et al, are numerous as demonstrated by the number of books on the bookstore shelves dealing with the subject of biblical eschatology (study of last things). This confusion is the cause of bewilderment for the average individual. Those inside and outside the world of organized religion must wonder how a plan devised by an omnipotent, omniscient God to deal with mankind’s sin problem could be so seemingly incomprehensible and protracted. Haven’t men been arguing about the “what next” of Christianity for the entire two millennia since Christ’s earthly ministry ended?
Some even go so far as to claim that questions about the lack of fulfillment of all God’s promises are actually prophetic. They go to II Peter 3 and build their case, saying that the Bible predicted that some would question the fulfillment of the associated prophecies. In this circular logic, questioning the current day confusion about prophecy serves to fulfill that same prophecy. The Bible student is left to wonder how one is to study and understand without being accused of questioning God and denying the Bible. This kind of reasoning is exactly the source of much of the confusion. No one wants to deal with the real questions, least of all the clergymen and authors who sponsor their chosen theories.
The one glaring factor that most current day millennial theories share in common is that they imply that God’s redemptive work is incomplete. Satan still opposes God and seeks to destroy mankind, death has not been conquered, and men are still separated from God in some sense after physical death and must await a future resurrection. Under these conditions, the obvious question is this: In what way is mankind any better off spiritually now than he was prior to the 1st Century work of Christ? Abraham, Moses, and David all feared death and after their death awaited the future day when they would be judged and then enjoy restored fellowship with God. Their sins were atoned for under the Old Covenant sacrifices, which were a precursor of the ultimate sacrifice. If man is still in fear of death, the Devil is still at large, and men still go to the grave awaiting a future re-union with God, how is that an improvement over the state of Abraham? In what specific way is the New Testament forgiveness of sins more effective than the Old Testament Atonement in dealing with the consequences of sin? In the final analysis, all the popular millennial theories don’t just imply incompleteness in God’s redemptive work. They actually suggest that God’s work has not even really begun because all the promised blessings of salvation are still future. Some theorists apparently admit as much, claiming that the Jewish 1st Century opposition to the work of Christ actually led to a postponement of God’s previous redemptive plan.
Given the confusion and implications described above, is there any alternative to these popular eschatological theories, an alternative which honors the Bible and at the same time does justice to the sacrifice of Christ in terms of its real spiritual consequences for mankind? We believe there is. The alternative suggested is known variously as fulfilled eschatology, covenant eschatology, or more recently as Transmillennialism. This latter designation is most appropriate in that it suggests that mankind has moved beyond millennial theories and has transcended his former state of separation from God. Transmillennialism honors the Bible in that it recognizes that all eschatological fulfillment happened in the 1st Century, as clearly stated in numerous places in the New Testament (Rev 1:1,3). It also honors the sacrifice of Christ by seeing it as the immediate precursor to Christ’s return from the heavenly “Holy of Holies” to complete the sacrificial process and bring to fruition all the promised blessing of God’s long awaited redemptive process. These blessings included the conquest of sin, death, and Satan (See the entire book of Hebrews). The implied consequences of the Transmillennial understanding are profound and admittedly astounding. Transmillennialism defines no halfway, maybe now, maybe later salvation but rather a present day established fact based exclusively on the fulfilled promises of God and independent of any future act of judgment. It identifies a God whose magnificence is demonstrated in a level of love and mercy which boggles the human mind (Rom 13:33-36). This God is one who is not a mirror image of man, seeking judgment and retribution. This God cannot be thwarted in his expressions of love by any actions or shortcomings of man. This God truly transcends our ability to understand.
The incredibility of these implications is the reason many would give for denying the possibility of a fulfilled eschatology. If there is no future judgment, how will the evil people ever get their due punishment? Lost in this argument, is the fact that we are all evil people in the eyes of our fellowmen and, prior to Christ, in the eyes of our God. This is why no one should look forward to judgment. Thankfully, we don’t.
Others insist that death has obviously not been conquered since we still attend funerals. What seems obvious is that the death conquered by Christ has to correspond to the eternal life that he brings. Since few if any foresee eternal physical life here on earth, the eternal life must be spiritual. The corresponding death which is conquered should then be spiritual death. I Cor 15:56 indicates that when sin has been dealt with by God so has death.
You may ask how a fulfilled eschatology could be true when established orthodoxy denies it. How could innumerable scholars miss this understanding? It happened the same way the Jews missed their Messiah over 2000 years ago. They were looking at the temporal, physical world, expecting God’s work to be completed there. Instead God worked a miracle in the spiritual realm, and it has gone largely unnoticed in its broadest implications. The difference between what we now enjoy and what we could have is only a matter of recognition.
(Transmillennialism is a registered trademark. Used by permission.)