Ask A Pastor: The Millennium and the Rapture?
Hi, I was looking into the book of Revelation recently and was wondering if you could give me some insight and clarification on the Millennial Kingdom and if it should be taking literally or metaphorically, and also some biblical refute on the theory of the rapture?
Thanks for the question. To be clear, you are asking two questions:
1. Should we interpret Revelation’s mention of a millennium (“a thousand years” – Rev. 20:4,5) literally or metaphorically?
The short answer is – metaphorically. Helpful is the summary of Derek Thomas as found in his book Let’s Study Revelation (RBS, RHB). Thomas writes: “Given the use made of number patterns in the book of Revelation (for example 3, 4, 7, 10, 12, 666, 144,000) it would be fitting that a symbolic use of thousand is intended here also. In that case, 1000 (=10 x 10 x 10) is a combination of the ‘ideal’ numbers 3 and 10. Rather than seeing the ‘thousand years’ as referring to a time at the end of the age (either before Christ’s return – as in postmillennialism, or after Christ’s [initial] return – as in premillennialism), it should be understood as a figurative expression denoting the period of time from the first to the second advents of Christ. We are therefore living in this millennial (one-thousand-year) period” (p. 161). I also take the view that the Millenium is a symbolic, metaphorical way to describe the whole time between Christ’s coming.
2. How do we biblically refute the theory of the rapture?
This question probably needs more clarity. For example, you could say that 1 Thessalonians 4:17 does indicate a rapture, that is to say, a meeting of believers with the Lord in the air. And all true Christians and the whole church of Christ looks forward to that. Some people, however, (specifically those who hold to a form of premillennialism) teach that there will be a secret rapture of believers prior to the final return of Christ and this secret rapture will happen so that the believers at the time can avoid the great suffering that will come on the earth. If this is “the theory of the rapture” that needs to be refuted, it is quite easy to refute:
There is no passage of Scripture that explicitly teaches it; at best, those who hold to such a theory as a secret rapture prior to Christ’s final coming do so only the basis of various inferences from various texts. Meanwhile the clear teaching of Scripture is that believers will continue to live in this world until the day the Lord Jesus returns and takes all His own to Himself (1 Thess. 4:15-17).
I hope this helps,