Theologian and Desiring God founder John Piper is tackling a debate that has divided Christians for ages: How soon will Christ return?
In response to questions he's received about the 1,000 years spoken of in Scripture in relation to the second coming of Christ in tension with the repeated warnings that the Lord is returning "soon," Piper explained in his Desiring God podcast on Wednesday that Revelation 20 is where "a thousand years" is spoken of explicitly.
Authored by John on the island of Patmos, Revelation 20: 4–6 reads:
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They[a] had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands.
They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
This specific period of 1,000 years must be considered in this context, Piper said, and three views of this exist within the Church.
"Some say that 1,000 years, the millennium, is a reference to the period of time where we are right now as Christ reigns in Heaven today until he puts all of his enemies under his feet," Piper explained, noting this perspective is called "amillennialism" and indicates that there is no future 1,000-year period for which Christians wait.
What is known as a "postmillennialist" view of the End Times holds that the 1,000-year period is literal and that Jesus will come back after a season of great triumph for the Gospel, he says.
Piper, however, said he believes in the third category, which known as "pre-millennialism," meaning Christ will come back before this 1,000 years.
So my answer is that Christ may not be 1,000 years off at all, because a millennium does not have to come first. That is my view. It comes after Christ's return. So, Christ could come very, very quickly.
"I pray He does," Piper added.
"I have really good friends who hold all three of these positions. And so, I am not going to withhold my fellowship or friendship over these kinds of disagreements."
Piper further emphasized that it's important to understand just what "the first resurrection" refers to in Revelation 20:4–6 because that signals the start of the millennium. They came to life and reigned with Christ for 1,000 years.
"I think that resurrection is the resurrection at the coming of Christ — the second coming — and that is when the millennium begins," he said.