Monday, September 16, 2013

Sermon from Sunday: 1,000 Years

1,000 Years
            I have been so thankful for the energy that has surrounded this series on the book of Revelation.  If you have another idea or book of the Bible that you are interested in, please let me know because chances are if you are interested in it others probably are as well.  We have two more weeks after this of being in the book of Revelation…next Sunday we will talk about the 144,000 thousand and then on the 29th James-Michael Smith is slated to preach on new creation from Revelation 21 and/or 22.
             But today we are focusing in on the number 1,000.  The theological idea is called the millennium because the word Millennium means 1,000 years.  What you believe about the millennium will determine a lot of your other belief’s about the end of the world.  About how it all happens.
            Do you remember the Hoopla surrounding the date change from 1999 to the year 2000.  Let me take you back with a 1 minute video.  

You survived Y2K!  I will not ask how many of you went out and stocked up on water and food and other provisions before the date change.  It was a big deal wasn’t…however, like so many predictions about the end of the world, those who thought that 2,000 meant the end of the world were proven wrong.
            When the Calendar went from the year 999 to the year 1,000 it was a big deal as well.  Especially for Christians who believed in the literal millennium.  Just try to imagine believing that at the end of 1,000 years after Christ was on this earth that the end of world would begin.  I think it was probably even more scary or exciting (depending what you believe) when that happened over 1,000 years then it was when we hit the year 2,000.
            Anyway, there’s all kinds of belief’s about this millennium so lets get into the text and then I want to step back and share with you the three dominant views of the millennium and then we will step right back into the text.  Our scripture is Revelation 20:1-8.  READ.
So several times in verses 1-8 we see this idea of 1,000 years emerge.  There are three main views that have been popular over the years and so I want share those three views with you and then tell where I land and why I land there.

            The Pre-millennial view is the belief that Jesus will return to earth before the millennium starts.  Before Jesus ushers in 1,000 years of peace on earth he will return to earth.  Pre-mill, ”pre”- means before, so before the millennium Jesus will have returned to earth.
            You see on the chart two different types of pre-millennialism based on what that person believes about the tribulation.  There’s pre-mill post-tribulation and pre-mill pre-tribulation and it’s not on the chart but there’s also pre-mill, mid-tribulation.  Now, for our purposes and for the text we are looking at, the main belief is that there is a literal 1,000 year period that happens when Jesus comes back. 
            The Left Behind people believe this perspective.  This idea is the John Nelson Darby idea I shared last week and C.I. Scofield made it popular here in the US and then of course Tim Lahaye and the Left Behind people continue to make it popular.  John Hagee is a premill guy if you like him.  This is probably the most popular belief in the U.S. right now.
            The second view is the post-millennial view.  The post-mill view people say that Jesus will return after the 1,000 year period of peace on earth.  The word “post” means after so it’s post millennial.  I really hope you don’t think I’m insulting intelligence, this stuff just gets confusing.  The post-mill view says that the 1,000 year reign on earth will be established by the advancement of the church.  That when we have brought the gospel to every single people group and once we have established the church on earth which the post-mill people say is possible and even not just possible but that it will happen eventually…then Jesus will come back after that. 
            This view isn’t as popular today as it was at one time in the U.S.  This view was popular here in the U.S. by many pastors and scholars including John Owen in the 17th century, John Edwards in the 18th century and Charles Hodge in the 19th century.  There was a time in the U.S. when the church was really booming.  It was growing exponentially.  And the pastors that saw this thought if this continues then we will be able to usher an age of peace on earth where all people have accepted Christ as Lord.  Now, post-millennialism is not as popular today because things like the Revolutionary War, WW1 and WW2 and the Civil war and many other wars happened.  And once those things happened and as wars continue to happen post-millennialism is increasingly not as popular.
The third view of the millennium is the amillennial view.  This view states that the book of Revelation is written in a way that we aren’t to take everything in it literally.  Therefore, 1,000 years is not literal.  It is symbolic.  It’s a metaphor for a very long time.  It’s a symbolic way of speaking about the time we are living in now.  It started when Jesus rose from the dead and it will end when Jesus comes again to establish the new heavens and new earth.
            The idea is that once Jesus rose from the dead, he started the ushering in of the Kingdom of God on earth.  And since God ushered in the beginning of the kingdom of God on earth by raising Christ from the dead we are now living in the time of the millennium and it is not a literal 1,000 years but it is a large amount of time when Jesus does finally return.  The 1,000 years is a way to convey to the readers of the book of Revelation that the time Jesus ushers in his kingdom, his presence on this earth will be a long period of time…not literally 1,000 years.  Jesus doesn’t literally reign during a time of peace on earth…he reigns in the hearts of people who have given their lives to him.  Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Wesley were all amellinial in their beliefs.  One of the few things that John Wesley and John Calvin had in common.  That’s why we as a Methodist church do not have an view on end times other than Christ is going to return triumphantly and victoriously. 
            And so, it all depends on how you read and interpret and understand the book of Revelation and end times theology as to how you understand what John is talking about when it comes to this idea of the millennium.
            Now let me share with you which one I believe and why I believe it and we will go from there.  Most of you at this point can probably guess which one I subscribe.  I believe that the most biblical perspective on the millennium is the Amillennial view that states this is not a literal 1,000 year period of time but that we are living in that time now and when Jesus returns it will be for a second and final time when he ushers in the fulfillment of the kingdom of God on earth, claims those who belong to him as His own and gives them a place in eternity in the new heavens and new earth. 
            Let me give you some reasons why I am amellinnial. 
            First, Mark 1:15 and Matthew 4:17 – Jesus’ purpose for coming was this: repent for the kingdom of God has come near, or is at hand.  Depending on how you translate it.  Now, whether the kingdom of God is here or near, the call to repentance to me means that Christ has started something new on this earth.  And if he has started something new on earth couldn’t that be this period of time that John is talking about.
            Second, when I think about the idea of covenant and the difference between the covenant of the jewish which was based on the law and the covenant of Jesus which is based on grace, I can’t help but think God is already doing a new work on this earth through the power of grace and how really maybe the reign of God before the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God is grace.  Hebrews 9:15.
            Third, lets look at the text itself from Revelation 20.  Lets start by remember that John wrote the book of Revelation in the form of apocalyptic literature.  What that means is that most of the book after chapter 3 cannot be taken literally.  And hopefully you’ve seen that the numbers like 666 and the number 7 mean more than just a number.  That tells me when John’s uses this number 1,000 alongside of images like a dragon and an abyss and great chains and thrones that just as those things are not literal this number is not literal.
            Fourth, the number 10 in Hebrew culture is symbolic of perfection.  The 10 commandments, the 10 plagues on Egypt, we see the term “God said” 10 times in Genesis 1.  10x10x10 = 1,000.  What John is doing is elevating the reign of Christ by using a numeric value that symbolizes greatness and perfection and God’s very will.  This numner in Hebrew is a lot like us saying, “there must’ve been a million there.”  The way we use a million for a large, not literally a million, would’ve been the way Hebrew used the term 1,000 in Hebrew.  In the Old Testament we see this idea, God owns cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10)…it’s a way to say all cattle.  God loves to 1,000 generations (Deut. 7)…it’s a way to say God’s love never stops.  So this number has meaning behind it other than a literal number of 1,000.  It is a metaphor…it is symbolic.
            I believe that the millennium is the reign of Christ on earth through His believers.  Which means we are responsible for expanding and enhancing the kingdom of God as his missionaries on this earth.  If Christ reigns within us we will do as Christ did on this earth.  What did Jesus, he led people to the truth about His father and about himself.  When is the last you led someone to the truth of who Christ is, because that’s what we are called to do.  It is not an option.  Jesus didn’t say “go and make disciples of all nations if you want to.”  Jesus didn’t say “go and make disciples of all nations when it’s convenient for you.”  Jesus didn’t say “go and make disciples of all nations if you are an ordained pastor.”  No, Jesus said to those who believed in him, “go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the father and son and Holy Spirit.”  Immersing in the truth of who God is, what Jesus has done and what it means that the Spirit is the very presence of God Himself on this earth and inside of those who believe in Him.
            Here’s what I’m telling you, regardless of what you believe about the end times, our calling as Christians is to lead people to Christ.  Period.
            Do you know why ordinary, common people like me and you can lead people to Christ, because Satan is already defeated.  Oh, I know we struggle with temptation, we have to deal with the grief when a loved one dies, we don’t understand the unbiased nature of often fatal and torturous disease like cancer and Alzheimer’s…Satan is still at work on this earth, no doubt.  But he is defeated.  It’s kind of like the Panthers before every season…might as well say, they aren’t going to win the superbowl…and I’m panthers fan. 
            Satan is done for we know how it ends.  The resurrection power of Jesus unleashed the Holy Spirit on this earth which means we are overcomers.  We are endurers.  We are the victorious ones.  We have power to do the biggest thing in someone’s life that anyone can do, which is to lead them to an eternal relationship with Jesus.  Not because we deserve it but by the grace and love of God in Christ because we don’t deserve it.
            Let me show you something about God’s grace.  Look at what happens after this.  I’m going to pick up at verse 10 and continue through the rest of the chapter to verse 15.  READ.
There are two books.  And these are referenced earlier in the book of Revelation.  There’s the book of deeds and there’s the book of life.  Now, I don’t believe literally that God holds two books in his hands…but I do believe the truth of the message behind the image of these two books.
            Verse 12 and in case you didn’t catch it the first time, verse 13 “The dead were judged according to what they had done.”  In the end everyone is judged according what they have done.  Scary isn’t it.  You are judged on what you have done both the good things and the bad things.  At this point you have to ask yourself, how do I stack up?  What side of the page am I on in the book of deeds…have I done more good than bad?
            If you are someone who loves Jesus and have been made new by His Holy Spirit in your life and if you are redeemed and forgiven and claimed by him…guess what…the book of deeds does not pertain to you.  Remember, there’s two books.  There’s also the book of life.  Verse 15 “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”  In verse 12 the book of life was opened.  So by implication if your name is found in the book of life, the lamb’s book of life it is called elsewhere in Revelation, if your name is there you are not judged by your deeds, you are covered by the blood of Christ and His grace is sufficient to save you from hell and bring you into the glorious presence of Christ for all eternity.  That’s the grace of God at work. 

            All of our names our found in the book of deeds, it’s there to show us we all fall short.  The book of life is there to display the glory and power and grace and justice and goodness of God.  It’s interesting to talk about the millennium and how it is all going to happen…but when the end comes, whether my personal end or the end of the earth, I want to be one those found in the book of life.  What about you?

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