Q. I adhere to the teachings that Jesus will return at the end of a 7-year tribulation, put an end to this period of increased misery and judgement, reign for 1,000 years, and then, after the final judgement, He will create a new heavens and earth.
If this understanding is correct, what kind of life will those who live during the Millennium experience? Jesus is reigning in Jerusalem. He is living here on earth! Will country- & state-level governments still exist, with budgets & taxes, armies, police, health care, welfare and social security? Will there be businesses, stock markets, and the continued development of new technology? What will we do with our time? After all, He created us to work. Will there be a need for law enforcement, health care & surgery, and poverty alleviation organizations, either like the World Bank or World Vision? Will the drug trade, production of violent films, and sex trafficking finally come to a halt?
We don’t really know what life will be like once the new heavens & earth are created. (Eye has not seen, nor ear has heard…. ). It is taught that we will come back and live on the new earth (and not stay in heaven). Since no one will die, and He is the Lord who reigns, it seems to me that after the millennium, in Eternity, there will be no more armies, police, health, or businesses centered around sin, either.
What would an amillennialist say? What will life be like once Jesus returns during His earthly reign? Speaking as student of economics, it seems to be that there will be some massive shifts in the labor market!
Thank you for your excellent and thought-provoking question. Let me begin with the issue of terminology, since you spoke of an “amillennialist,” and not all readers may know what you mean by that.
Christians tend to have one of three understandings of the timing of the return of Jesus in relation to the Millennium, that is, the thousand-year reign of Christ that the Bible describes:
Premillennialists believe that Jesus will return before the Millennium. Implicit in their view is the idea that only the return of Jesus can bring about the changed set of earthly conditions that will characterize his thousand-year reign. So in this view, the Millennium comes over against history. Premillennialists accordingly tend to emphasize evangelism.
Postmillennialists believe that Jesus will return at the end of the Millennium, when, as one theologian put it, he will have something to reign over. Implicit in this view is that the influence of the gospel and the Holy Spirit in the world will bring about a changed set of earthly conditions within history. Postmillennialists accordingly tend to emphasize the socially transforming effects of the gospel.
Amillennialists believe that Jesus will return without a Millennium. They see the biblical description of a thousand-year reign as depicting Jesus’ spiritual reign in heaven or his reign in the hearts of believers. So they see the Millennium as something that happens apart from history. Amillennialists accordingly tend to emphasize worship and sacrament. However, they do believe that there will be a changed set of conditions in the new earth, that is, in the new creation, as you describe.
I actually did much of my doctoral research on this topic, and to state the matter briefly, I find that there is actually some truth in all of these views. Obviously there will either be a Millennium or there won’t, and if there is one, Jesus will come either before or after it. So the views can’t all be right in that sense. But in another sense, it is true that the reign of Christ will come and is coming both against history, within history, and apart from history. So I think that Christians of good will, whatever view they hold, could affirm the truth and the emphases of the other views, seeing themselves as working together with Christians of all persuasions on a comprehensive range of activities that all contribute to God’s ultimate purposes for the world.
And here is the bottom line: We express our faith in the coming reign of Jesus—however we understand the timing of that—by working in our own day towards the things that we believe will characterize his reign. I believe his reign will certainly be characterized by, as you describe, an end to the drug trade, the production of violent films, and sex trafficking. So we should lend our voices and our efforts now to oppose those things. I believe that the reign of Jesus will be a time of peace, health, and prosperity, and we can express our faith in his coming reign by working to end poverty, disease, and conflict. Even if we do not believe that such efforts on their own can bring about millennial conditions without the return of Jesus, we want our master to find us about his business when he returns.
I think the reign of Jesus will be an active time, as you also suggest. We won’t be sitting around doing nothing. There will be new discoveries, new inventions, new ways being worked out of living as a more just, fair, prosperous, and peaceful human community. I believe we will also have greater spiritual insights. (Jonathan Edwards, on whom I wrote my dissertation, wrote that during the Millennium, people from different groups all over the world would write excellent theological treatises imparting new insights to all believers.)
I think this perspective of the Millennium as an active time also has implications for us today. Jesus is going to want his people to be doing certain kinds of things during his reign—active, energetic, positive, productive things. And he is going to want to find us already doing those things when he returns. So, as another Puritan theologian, John Owen, put it, “Up and be doing, ye who are about the work of the Lord!”
So it’s a great question for all of us: What do you think things will be like during the Millennium? How can you express your faith in that today?