In “Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond” edited by Darrell L.Bock, Grand Rapids, 1999, it seems to be generally agreed that the reason why writers who claim to accept in common the authority of Scripture arrive at different conclusions regarding the millennium is that they have different presuppositions or preunderstandings (pp.214,264,267,285ff., etc.). There is little doubt in my mind that this is true. So, in rejecting outright a literal millennium, it is necessary for me to make my own preunderstandings clear.
First, I believe that the teaching of Christ and the apostles in the earlier part of the NT forms the foundation of our faith (Eph. 2:20, cf. 1 Cor. 3:11) and that the book of Revelation repeats it in symbolic and apocalyptic form. Therefore, it seems to me, despite the fact that a literal interpretation of Revelation 20:2-7 is exegetically possible, that
(a) the burden of proof lies heavily on those who claim that new truth about a literal thousand-year millennium is being taught, and that
(b) on its assumption a general consensus about what it involves must, in principle, be attainable. To my knowledge both proof and consensus have hitherto eluded us. Consequently, I am convinced that any attempt to read the book of Revelation literally without the confirmation of the rest of the NT is not only fraught with danger but also incapable of substantiation. Other considerations apart, the notion of a literal millennium must ever remain deeply suspect.
The Finished Work of Christ
Next, I believe that the notion of a literal millennium undermines the finished work of Christ. According to the book of Genesis, in order to achieve glory and honour man’s vocation was to exercise dominion over the temporal earth (1:26,28; Ps. 8:5f.), to keep the commandment (2:16f.) and to resist the devil (3:1-6). He failed. By contrast, the second Adam, as Hebrews 2:9, Matthew 3:17 and John 14:30f., for example, demonstrate, accomplished all three. Jesus’ resurrection, ascension, exaltation and heavenly session (Acts 2:24,33-36) put this beyond reasonable doubt. But more to the point, as Hebrews 2:9f. in particular indicate, Jesus’ victory was representative His achievement embraced all those who believed in him (cf. John 12:26;17:24; 2 Cor. 4:14) on whose behalf he came in the first place (Mark 10:45, etc.). According to the author of Hebrews he is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, and according to Paul we are already more than conquerors in him (Rom. 8:31ff.).
If this is true, then a return to earth on the part of Christ and his fellow believers is redundant. (See further my A Summary of Reasons Against the Return of Christ to Earth, Is Jesus Coming Back to earth? at www.kenstothard.com /) Since he has already overcome the world (John 16:33; 17:4f.; Heb. 2:9; Rev. 5:5,12f.), it is totally unnecessary. To posit its repetition is like going back to Egypt in denial of the exodus (Dt. 17:16; Acts 7:39). It detracts from his finished work and brings into question the entire plan of salvation. Any hint of repetition suggests imperfection, as the author of Hebrews is at pains to indicate (Heb. 7:27; 9:25-28, etc.). I therefore conclude that a literal millennium is an addition to and hence in effect a subtraction from the gospel that was originally received (Gal. 1:9). It is in its logical outworking another gospel (Gal. 1:7) and hence to be rigorously rejected. It is propagated only on pain of anathema (Gal. 1:9, cf. Rev. 22:18).
The Work of the Holy Spirit
On the face of it, it would seem that a literal millennium also undermines the effectiveness of the work of the Holy Spirit. As I understand it, Christ sent his Spirit into the world to apply his finished work or accomplished redemption to all subsequent believers “till the work on earth is done” (1* This is part of the refrain of the gospel song “There is a Redeemer” by Melody Green.) and the number of the elect is complete (Rev. 6:11, cf. Rom. 11:25f.). As Paul asserts in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 (cf. Eph. 1:20-22; 1 Pet. 3:22) our Saviour rules from his heavenly throne putting everything in subjection beneath his feet (cf. Mt. 28:18). There is no suggestion that the work of the Spirit requires supplementation by means of a literal millennium. Again I conclude that addition means inevitable subtraction.
Fourth, the NT makes it clear that the incarnation involved the transformation of the Word of God from previous glory (John 1:1f.,14; Phil. 2:6; 1 Tim. 3:16). In order to achieve as man for man the purpose of God, Jesus, the second Adam, had to be born of woman, that is, made flesh (Mt. 1; Luke 2; Gal. 4:4) as a true son of the first Adam (Luke 3:38), but only for a little while (Heb. 2:7,9). In the words of Paul, he had to empty and humble himself in order to take on the likeness of men (Phil. 2:7f.). But once he had accomplished his mission and proved victorious in the flesh (cf. Rom. 8:3, etc.), it was necessary for him as flesh to undergo transformation once more (cf. John 20:17; 1 Cor. 15:51ff.) – back to the divine glory and perfection he had enjoyed before (John 17:5,24). For flesh and blood can no more inherit the kingdom of God than the impermanent (corruptible) can inherit the permanent (incorruptible, 1 Cor. 15:50). Thus, at his ascension, he was transformed and passed through the heavens (Heb. 4:14) permanently separate(d) from sinners (Heb. 7:26) and made perfect forever (7:28; Eph. 4:10). Like his heavenly Father, on whose throne he sat (Heb. 1:3; Rev. 3:21), he ruled in the world to come (Eph. 1:20-22; Heb. 1:6; 2:5). It is at this point that Jesus’ full humanity and divinity coincided (cf. John 10:30); the divine had permanently assumed the human. In heaven the throne is that of the God and the Lamb (Rev. 5:13; 6:16; 7:10,17).
From this we are forced to draw certain conclusions. First, Jesus will never be flesh again. To be so he would have to enter his mother’s womb again (Luke 1:35, cf. John 3:4). But this, even if it were necessary or possible, would mean that his mother who, like David, experienced corruption (Acts 2:29) would also have to re-enter the womb of her mother who has also been subject to corruption. Thus we are involved in a process of regression which cannot logically terminate till the earth itself has been re-created. But where does a literal millennium fit into this scenario? The question hardly requires an answer.
Second, if Jesus has now regained the glory of God he shared before the foundation of the world, he cannot dwell on the earth (1 K. 8:27; Acts 7:49f.). In view of this it is not at all strange that Paul denies his return to earthly corruption in any form (Acts 13:34). (2* See further my No Return To Corruption, No Going Back. This belies Ladd’s assertion, p.236, that the consummation means nothing less than the descent of the heavenly Jerusalem to earth, a contradiction in terms if ever there was one. He refers to Revelation 21:2 which fails to mention earth at all – not surprisingly, since it has already passed away as 20:11 and 21:1 indicate. Ladd then informs us that God will finally visit men to transform a fallen order and dwell among men on a redeemed earth. This is a clear indication that his thinking is governed by the worldview of Augustine, on which see my The Biblical Worldview, Worldview. He seems to have forgotten that God visited the earth briefly, Heb. 2:7,9, in Christ not to redeem it but men from it, cf. my Escape! Earth by its very nature is visible, temporary and corruptible. It is therefore paramount for us to be rescued from it as the Israelites were from Egypt.) When he returns (3* I become increasingly convinced that the term ‘return of Christ’ is overworked and misleading. While acknowledging that Jesus himself says he will come again (palin erchomai, John 14:3, cf. Acts 1:11; Tit.2:13, etc.), the word parousia strictly means presence and, according to Dunn, is never used in the NT in the sense of return, p.296 n.11. In light of the fact that Jesus tells his disciples that he will be with them to the end of the age, Mt. 28:20, the other two words used in this connection with the second advent, epiphaneia or appearing and apocalypsis or revealing, suggest that his present invisibility will give way to visibility, cf. Michaels in comment on 1:7 in WBC 1 Peter, 1988, p.32, at which time creation will flee away, Rev. 20:11; 21:1, cf. 6:14; 16:20. Clearly, more needs to be said in this connection.) it will be in the glory of the Father (Mt. 16:27; 25:31; 26:64; Luke 9:26) not to deal with sin again (repetition) but to rescue his people (Mt. 13:27; Heb. 9:28; 1 Cor. 15:51f.). He will thus bring them transformed in his moral and generic likeness (1 Pet. 4:6; 2 Pet. 1:4) into the heavenly presence of God as his children (2 Cor. 4:14; Heb. 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:18).
Third, Scripture makes it abundantly clear that so far as man is concerned there is a progressive movement from flesh to spirit (1 Cor. 15:46) or from ground to glory. This movement is epitomized in Jesus’ earthly career which ended with his ascension to heaven. Thus, the idea that this process should be reversed when Jesus returns to this earth in the flesh is contrary to the gospel, as Paul makes clear in Galatians 3:3, for example. In any case, Paul banishes the notion in Acts 13:34 where he tells us that Christ’s resurrection (4* I take it that Paul is using the word resurrection in this passage to include ascension, exaltation and heavenly session, as the second part of the verse implies.) precludes any possibility of a return to earthly corruption.
Our Heavenly Call
The initial call of mortal man in Genesis 2:16f. (cf. 3:1-6), which is also implied in Genesis 1:26-28 (cf. Ps. 8:5f.; Rom. 2:7,10; Heb. 2:9; 1 Pet. 1:7), is to gain eternal life and incorruption. This call is strongly underscored in the NT by references such as John 3:16,36, 20:21, 1 John 2:25 and 5:11-13. Paul (Phil. 3:14; 1 Thes. 2:12), Peter (1 Pet. 5:10) and the author of Hebrews (3:1) also stress that our call is a heavenly call to glory. It is almost superfluous to add in the light of this evidence that Christ is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27) which we shall share with God (Rom. 5:2; 2 Cor. 4:17). And just in case we have any illusions that this hope is earthly both Paul (Col. 1:5, cf. Rom. 8:20,24f.) and Peter insist that it is heavenly (1 Pet. 1:3f.). We are thus forced to conclude that an earthly millennium is not on the horizon, and, not surprisingly, believers who have trimmed their lamps go directly to the marriage feast (Mt. 25:10, cf. Luke 20:34-36). (It might profitably be added here that once we are married to Christ, there will be no divorce!)
Sin the Only Problem?
The hidden assumption of premillenialism, like so much of Western theology, is that all our problems stem from sin. Thus, it is almost universally held that the sin of Adam brought death not merely to himself but to the entire universe! The sin-obsessed Augustine, whose erroneous thinking still governs us even in the 21st century, failed to recognize that, as Genesis 1:1 implies, a temporal creation is necessarily subject to corruption (cf. Ps. 89:47). God made it that way in hope (cf. Rom. 8:18-25). The truth of this is underlined by the paradox of Jesus himself who on the one hand as a man of dust, a true son of Adam (Luke 3:38), had a beginning, grew older (Luke 2:41ff.; John 8:57) and hence was ready to vanish away (2 Cor. 4:16; Heb. 8:13), but on the other hand possessed indestructible life (Heb. 7:3,16). In other words, as flesh, a product of the corruptible earth, he was necessarily mortal even apart from sin; it was only as spirit that he was immortal and incorruptible. So while he died in the flesh, he continued to live in the spirit (1 Pet. 3:18) which he committed to his Father even as he died on the cross (Luke 23:46). To object here that Jesus did not see corruption after his death but rose again in the flesh is beside the point. In dying for others he was not earning wages on his own account. His resurrection, which demonstrated the efficacy and validity of his death on our behalf (Rom. 4:25) and clearly underscored the return of his spirit to his lifeless body (cf. Luke 8:55; James 2:26), did not obviate the necessity of his ascension, transformation and glorification (John 20:17). For how else could he inherit the eternal blessings promised to David (Acts 13:34, cf. Luke 1:32f.).
The premillennial assumption seems to be that Christ must return to earth to demonstrate man’s dominion subverted by Adam’s (imputed) sin and a universal curse on the earth. But as has already been made clear, the victory of Jesus as the second Adam over a sinful world and a recalcitrant creation was representative and does not require repetition. A literal millennium achieves nothing that has not already been achieved. Christ’s work was both a finished and victorious work (John 16:33; 17:4f.; Heb. 2:9; Rev. 5:5,12f.).
The Kingdom of God
Fifth, Jesus told Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). In light of this he did not pose a political threat to the rule of Rome. Pilate seemed to be convinced by this, though many of Jesus’ followers were not (cf. John 6:15; Acts 1:6). In any case, the kingdom of God to which Jesus frequently refers is in Matthew’s gospel usually designated the kingdom of heaven wherein righteousness dwells (Mt. 5:6,20; 6:10,33, cf. Rom. 14:17; 2 Pet. 3:13).
When reflecting on the kingdom, it is vital for us not to forget that Jesus was a Son of David who was promised eternal rule (2 Sam. 7; Ps. 89). Luke tells us that the Lord God will give Jesus the throne of his ancestor David and that his kingdom will be endless (1:32f.). Apart from other teaching along the same lines (e.g. Acts 2:34-36; 13:34; 15:16f.), it is hard indeed to see how Jesus can (cf. Acts 7:49f.) and why he should return to reign on a temporal earth.
The author of Hebrews also lays stress on Jesus’ heavenly rule (1:6; 2:5) and priesthood (5:6; 7:17). In both cases their everlasting or eternal nature is underscored, as it had been long before in 2 Samuel 7:13 and Psalm 89:27-29,36f. (cf. Luke 1:32f., etc.). Since this is so, a temporal earthly rule of a mere thousand years is not on the horizon.
This Age or the Age to Come
This raises the question of the age to which the millennium belongs. As we have just seen, it cannot occur in the eternal age to come. And since dormant sin re-appears at the end of the thousand years when the devil is released, it must belong to the present age. This of course should be evident from the fact that the saints are in the flesh which derives from a temporal earth. Again, however, we are confronted with a re-incarnated Jesus. Just how he can be flesh again after ascending transformed to his Father in heaven without, as suggested above, re-entering his mother’s womb is more than a little difficult to explain. (It might be remembered at this point that some premillennialists argue that 1 Corinthians 15:50 refers only to sinful flesh. Behind such thinking seems to lie the Augustinian idea of an originally perfect and hence immortal Adam!)
But this by no means brings our difficulties to an end. For if Jesus and the saints who like David have already seen corruption are going to return to earth in the flesh, then they are also going to be subject to aging and corruption once again. One premillennialist writer whose book is on my shelves avers without batting an eyelid (on video) that Jesus is going to return in the flesh just as he was when he ascended, and still 33 years old! While he apparently recognizes that in heaven Jesus’ aging process was suspended despite his still being in corruptible flesh (!), he fails to realize that once he comes back to earth his biological clock will begin to tick again. Since this is so, at the end of the millennium Jesus will be 1033 years old, putting Methuselah, who was only 969, in the shade. Even if, however, we reject the notion that individuals such as Adam, who is clearly both individual and community, achieved such stupendous ages, there will inevitably be marriage and birth during the millennium (contrast Luke 20:34 and cf. Heb. 7:23). I humbly suggest this is a highly unlikely scenario. As I shall insist further below, apart from the fact that an intermediate earthly kingdom is unknown to Scripture, the very idea is based on a fundamental misconception. But in any case, we are yet again faced with the problem of repetition. If the literal millennium is all it is said to be, then Jesus’ victory in the flesh (John 16:33; Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:9, etc.) prior to his death and resurrection is an illusion. On this assumption, Paul should never have written Romans 8:31ff. (cf. Rev. 3:21, etc.).
As intimated above, it is Augustinian theology that forms the background of premillennial thinking. Augustine fostered the notion that God originally created the world and its inhabitants Adam and Eve perfect and as a result had to posit a calamitous fall and a consequent cosmic curse. But the idea that creation was originally perfect is belied by the very first verse of the Bible. Only God is perfect and he has neither beginning nor end (Isa. 57:15, cf. Heb. 7:3). While heaven is his throne, earth is his footstool (Isa. 66:1; Mt. 5:34f.). In light of this it comes as no surprise that the Creator and his creation are distinguished throughout Scripture (Ps. 90:2; 102:25-27; 103: 15-17; Isa. 40:6-8; 51:6,8; Heb. 1:10-12, etc.). The one is to be worshipped but the other not (Dt. 4:19; Rom. 1:25, etc.). Perfection (maturity, completion, Jas. 1:4) is the goal of man made in the image of God (Lev. 11:44f.; Mt. 5:48); he alone of all flesh has both the vocation and the concomitant capacity to attain to the divine likeness and be perfected as Jesus himself was (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28). The material creation, like the flesh, is a law to itself and achieves its own fleeting perfection before its ultimate demise.
The Perfection of the Creature
So far as man’s flesh is concerned, it achieves perfection (maturity, completeness) in this world. As the lamb becomes a sheep, so a baby becomes a man or woman. Then in accordance with the law of its creation (Rom. 8:20) it declines in subjection to its natural corruptibility and entropy (2 Cor. 4:16, cf. Mt. 6:19f., etc.). On the other hand, what is spiritually perfected (Heb. 2:10; 5:9) remains perfect forever (Heb. 7:28), while the imperfect passes away (cf. 1 Cor. 13:10). Acts 13:34 apart, I conclude that Jesus’ return to a corruptible earth is out of the question. Perfection once achieved does not return to imperfection. Retrogression in Scripture is a sin (Dt. 24:16; Jer. 7:24, etc.), while progression to spiritual maturity seen in terms of both destiny and destination is of the essence of the gospel (Eph. 4:8-16; Col. 1:28; 4:12; Jas. 1:4). As intimated above, Paul makes this especially clear in Galatians. While in 1 Corinthians 15:46 the apostle indicates that man moves from flesh to spirit (and from law to Spirit, Rom. 7-8), in Galatians 3:3 he remonstrates with those who seem intent on reversing the process. After being born again by the Spirit, ending in the flesh is inherently contradictory. Again in 4:9 and in Colossians 2:20 he is implicitly saying the same thing. Going back results inevitably in curse and death as it did in the wilderness (Jer. 7:24; 1 Cor. 10:5; Heb. 3:17, etc.); going forward leads to blessing and life (Jer. 32:39-41; 1 Pet. 2:11f., etc.). Spiritual and corporeal (somatic) perfection are attained in heaven not on earth.
It is one of the ironies of history that premillennialists who are so hotly critical of Augustine’s opposition to chiliasm are nonetheless so profoundly governed by his worldview. (See further my Worldview, The Biblical Worldview.) They readily accept the traditional but radically unscriptural dogmas of original perfection, Fall, original sin and a universal curse on creation, yet it is precisely these that give rise to what they see as the need for a millennium. Once these are excised, as they should be, from our thinking, no amount of exegetical ingenuity and hermeneutical expertise will elicit a literal thousand-year millennium on this earth. The entire Bible is opposed to it. Or is it?
This brings us to covenant theology. As I have described elsewhere, many years ago I ran into trouble trying to understand traditional covenant theologies and eventually concluded that both the Reformed and the Dispensational varieties were flawed. It is impossible to go into detail here, but one of my main conclusions was that while old and new covenants are to some degree ethically continuous, they are nonetheless essentially different or discontinuous (cf. my Covenant Continuity and Discontinuity). The old covenant is oriented to this material world and not unnaturally emphasizes the rule of law which, being transient and provisional (2 Cor. 3:11, etc.), operates only so long as the world exists (Mt. 5:18, cf. Rom. 7:1). The new covenant relates essentially to heaven (cf. Mt. 6:10) or the world to come and remains forever (Mt. 24:35). It existed here on earth only as a promise (Jer. 31:31-34) until it was inaugurated, like the kingdom of God, by Jesus (cf. 2 Tim. 1:10). It is essentially spiritual and is dictated by the Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 3).
If this is so, it is almost inevitable that premillennialists, especially those of the dispensational variety, who are governed by a literal interpretation of the OT entertain the largely materialistic hopes of the OT. Even a scholar of the calibre of G.E.Ladd, a classical premillennialist who rejected dispensationalism, was earth-centred in his eschatology. Like so many others, he was conditioned by the Augustinian worldview. He failed to recognize that this material world, of which man in the flesh is a part, was created temporal (Gen. 1:1) and naturally corruptible but in (invisible) hope (Rom. 8:18-25). Thus the plan of salvation involves our escape from it (Gen. 2:17, cf. Rom. 8:20,23). This present (temporal) age must give way to the (eternal) age to come. And since we, the children of dusty Adam (Ps. 103:14, etc.), are incapable of meeting the condition of our escape, that is, a sinless life in the flesh (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Dt. 32:46f. Ezek. 33:15, etc.), it has been achieved for us by Christ (Rom. 8:3). Our own undeniable sins (Rom. 3:23; 5:12; 6:23) have been covered by his death and we are saved by his life (Rom. 5:10).
The plain truth is that the old covenant is spiritualized in the new covenant. An obvious example of this is the non-literal inheritance of Abraham in Hebrews 11. (Strictly speaking, it is literal as opposed to allegorical, spiritual as opposed to material. Like the temple, it is real or true as opposed to shadowy.) The city or land he looked for was invisible and therefore heavenly (Heb. 11:8-16; 12:22; 13:14, cf. Phil. 3:20). Like Jesus’ kingship (John 18:36), it was not of this creation (Heb. 9:11). The tragedy of premillennialism is that it attempts to pour new wine into old wineskins with the result that the significance of the true gospel is largely lost (Mark 2:21f.).
Biblical covenant theology points to another matter of basic importance. I have argued at some length in my Covenant Theology, Covenant Theology in Brief (cf. Did God Make a Covenant with Creation? Covenant Continuity and Discontinuity, that proper study of the Bible evinces three dispensational covenants affecting the race – one each respectively with Noah, Moses and Christ (cf. Rom. 1-3). While the first two continue to operate in this world, they are inherently provisional pending the end of history and of the material creation (cf. Mt. 5:18; Rom. 7:1). Only the Christian covenant is permanent (Mt. 24:35, cf. the promissory Abrahamic and Davidic covenants). But it needs to be recognized that since the individual recapitulates the history of the race, these covenants are miniaturized and epitomized in the individual, not least in the second Adam who is thereby fitted to become universally representative (cf. 1 John 2:2). This is made especially plain in Galatians 4:1-7 where Jesus is shown to be first a child or slave of nature (Gentile), second, a son of the commandment (Jew), and, third, the beloved Son of his heavenly Father and archetypal Christian (Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35). (So far as Paul himself was concerned, see Romans 7-8.) If this is true, on premillennial presuppositions we ought to expect a mini-millennium in the life of Jesus himself. But we do not. What we do see is increasing opposition and hostility culminating in his death. And we see precisely the same in the eschatological experience of his people as a whole, as non-millenarians (amillennialists) have frequently testified. All of us go through (the) tribulation in one form or another (Acts 14:22, cf. Gal. 5:16f.; 1 Pet. 2:11). But those who are alive at the end of the present dispensation can expect not a golden age but persecution of a particularly vicious kind when evil achieves its own maturity or perfection (Gen. 15:16; 1 Thes. 2:16; Rev. 13). And with the rejection of the gospel in the West and intense opposition to it elsewhere, one cannot help but wonder if that end is drawing close (Rom. 13:11—14). One thing is clear: nature itself is beginning to manifest more obvious birthpangs than usual (Mt. 24:8). (Not to mention recent earthquakes and tsunamis, I write this on a day when Victoria in Australia in the grip of drought is ablaze.)
On the basis of my preunderstandings of the Bible, a literal thousand-year millennium under the rule of Christ in the flesh and on the earth is out of the question. It reflects a basically unbiblical worldview and anthropology. Furthermore, it is an addition to Scripture which Scripture itself severely condemns (Rev. 22:18). It should be rejected out of hand and its devotees called on to repent on pain of divine judgement (cf. Gal. 1:6-9).
ADDITIONAL NOTE on Historic Premillennialism
Since writing the above I have read with immense interest and profit A Case for Historic Premillennialism, ed. Blomberg and Chung. Short of writing an extended separate critique along the lines of the above, I here append some comments on Gnostic dualism.
On page 129 Donald Fairbairn in a fine essay on Contemporary Millennial/Tribulational Debates tells us that at the heart of Gnosticism lies a profound dualism which he apparently regards as false, though see my Biblical Dualism. He maintains that it surfaces in four crucial areas.
First, he says it leads to the idea that the material world is evil and unredeemable. This however, from a biblical point of view is false logic, since from Genesis 1:1 the Bible depicts the material creation not as evil but as intrinsically temporal and corruptible (Ps. 102:25-27; Isa. 51:6; Mt. 6:19f.). Furthermore, to infer from this that salvation applies only to the soul and not to the body is again to err. Scripture clearly teaches the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:45-49) but certainly not of the flesh which derives from the naturally corruptible (Rom. 8:18-25), visible and temporary (2 Cor. 4:18) material creation which is destined for destruction (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50; Heb. 12:27, etc.).
Second, Fairbairn says that Gnosticism denigrates history. Perhaps it does, but to draw the conclusion from the destruction of the material creation which is clearly taught in the Bible that the panorama of history played out in the physical world is of little consequence is quite misguided. After all we are judged by the deeds we do in the body! The world is the testing ground in which we as those who are created in the image of God are called to exercise dominion (Gen. 1:26-28, etc.) with a view to our ultimately becoming children of the resurrection. Jesus as the second Adam achieved his victory on earth and in so doing ensured our own triumph (Heb. 2:6-13).
Third, Fairbairn contends that Gnosticism leads to a distinction between two competing gods – the lesser, material god of the OT and the higher, spiritual God of the NT. In the Bible, however, God is the God of both testaments. For all that, there is no denying that the old covenant in contrast with the new relates primarily to this material earth and to the flesh (Mt. 5:18; Heb. 7:16; 9:8-10 contrast Mt. 24:35, etc.). As scholars regularly point out the OT people were more earthly than heavenly oriented (e.g. Bruce, pp.298f.,339; Ladd,). Both Paul and the author of Hebrews insist on the limitations and defective nature of the law which, like the creation itself, is temporary and provisional (see e.g. 2 Cor. 3:11; Heb. 7:18f.).
Fourth, while it may be true that Gnosticism implicitly harbours a docetic view of Christ, this is not true of the Bible which clearly emphasizes the reality of the incarnation. If Jesus did not conquer in the flesh as the second Adam (Rom. 8:3), then he did not conquer at all (Heb. 2, etc.). But it must be promptly added that his victory in the flesh led not merely to his physical resurrection from the dead but to his transformation ascension and return to former glory (John 17:5,24). As Irenaeus, despite his premillennialism, once said, he became what we are so that we might become what he is, and that is certainly not corruptible flesh, which would make nonsense of Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58.
As intimated above, the problem with premillennialism of whatever hue is, first, its Augustinian worldview and, second, its lack of an adequate covenant theology.
(See further my essays on the redemption of creation and original sin including A Brief Critique of ‘Surprised by Hope’ by Tom Wright, A Brief Review of ‘The Mission of God’ by C.J.H.Wright. Note also Romans 8:18-25, Covenant Theology, Manufactured Or Not So, The Corruptibility Of Creation, Spiritualisation, The Biblical Worldview, Worldview, Did Jesus Rise Physically From The Grave?, Thoughts on the Redemption of Creation, etc. )
Christians are a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (1 Pet. 2:9) who rule on the earth (Rev. 1:6; 5:10). They also rule in heaven with Jesus (Rev. 3:21; 20:4,6, cf. 1 Cor. 6:2f.). The thousand years of Revelation 20 is clearly the Christian dispensation and there is no evidence whatsoever of an intermediate kingdom which in any case serves no discernible purpose. Christ has already conquered (John 16:33; Heb. 2:9; Rev. 5:5, etc.). Already in the process of putting his enemies under his feet, he is heading for the grand finale or consummation.
Craig L. Blomberg and Sung Wook Chung, eds., A Case for Historic Premillennialism, Grand Rapids, 2009.
F.F.Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Grand Rapids/London, 1964.
J.D.G.Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, London/New York, 2003 ed.
G.E.Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, 1974.
J.R.Michaels, WBC 1 Peter, 1988.