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This is part of a series of articles about premillennial teaching. To see a list of all the articles, please click here.
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The Old Testament frequently predicted the coming of the Messiah who would reign as king over his kingdom. Jews throughout history have looked for the coming of this Messiah.
It claims that Christ must establish an earthly, literal, civil kingdom like David's. Since this does not now exist, they claim the kingdom was not established in the first century, but when Jesus returns He will establish such a kingdom and reign on earth 1000 years.
While there is much variety among those who hold such views, in some form this doctrine is taught by nearly every fundamentalist group including Baptists, Adventists, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God, and some "churches of Christ."
The importance some attach to this doctrine is shown by the following quote:
"It is not too much to say that millennialism is a determining factor in Biblical interpretation of comparable importance to the doctrines of verbal inspiration, the Deity of Christ, substitutionary atonement, and bodily resurrection" - Millennial Kingdom, p 16 (quoted by McQuiggan, slide #4).
We believe He came to earth to establish His kingdom and has been reigning as king since the church began on Pentecost. To say that Jesus is not now reigning as King would be to deny or belittle many major Bible truths. In particular, it belittles Jesus' pre-eminence as King.
The contrast between this and premillennialism is made clear in these quotations:
"David's son, the Lord Jesus Christ, must return to the earth, bodily and literally, in order to reign over David's covenanted kingdom. The allegation that Christ is seated on the Father's throne reigning over a spiritual kingdom, the church, simply does not fulfill the promises of the covenant ... A literal earthly kingdom must be constituted over which the returned Messiah reigns" - Pentecost, Things to Come, pp. 114,115 (via Miller, p. 98).
"Had the people received Him, He would have fulfilled the kingly prophecies in their day in addition to the ones regarding the suffering Messiah. But when the Jewish nation as a whole rejected Christ, the fulfillment of His kingship was postponed until the final culmination of world history" - Lindsey, There's a New World Coming, p. 30 (via McGuiggan & Jordan, slide #188).
"...even though Christ has the right to rule the earth, He isn't exercising this authority over kings and kingdoms at this time" - Hal Lindsey, There's a New World Coming, p. 206 (via McGuiggan and Jordan, slide #206).
Since such an earthly kingdom does not now exist, the consequence of the doctrine is that Jesus is not now King, at least not in the sense promised in Old Testament prophecy. It is our purpose to show that He is King exactly as God ever intended Him to be. To understand the Bible teaching, consider the following:
Luke 1:31-33 - The angel promised to Mary that her Son Jesus would receive the throne of David, reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom would have no end. Surely this was promised to Mary because Jesus would do this the first time He came to earth when He was born as Mary's son. Who would think the angel meant Jesus would come to earth again some 2000 years later to do this?
Matthew 2:2 - The wise men said Jesus was born King of the Jews. But He was born the first time He came, not the second time. It was His first coming that would result in His being King. [cf. v6]
John 1:49 - Early in Jesus' ministry, Nathanael said to Him, "You are the King of Israel." Jesus did not deny it or rebuke him. [cf. John 6:15]
Many premillennialists agree that these passages show God intended Jesus to become King at His first coming, but later the Jews rejected Jesus so God had to change His plans and make Jesus King at His second coming. This means God and Jesus failed to fulfill express predictions. Their prophecies did not come true!
Matthew 21:5,9,15f - Furthermore, late in His ministry Jesus still spoke as if He came the first time to be King. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilling the prophecy of how the king would come (v5; cf. Zech 9:9).
The people called Him "Son of David" (v9,15) (meaning heir to David's throne), and the king of Israel (John 12:13; cf. Luke 19:38). When asked to rebuke the people for these statements, Jesus refused but instead defended the people (Luke 19:38-40; Matthew 21:15,16).
Matthew 27:11; John 18:37 - Even when on trial before Pilate, Jesus admitted he had come to be a king. ("Thou sayest," means "It is as you say" - NKJV. Cf. Luke 22:70,71; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3. See Thayer.)
Matthew 28:18-20 - Jesus claimed He had all authority in heaven and on earth, so all nations must be taught to obey all His commands.
By definition "king" means: "sovereign or monarch; a man who holds the chief authority over a country and people ... a person or thing pre-eminent in its class" (RHCD).
If Jesus now has all authority, by definition He is a King! How could Jesus ever have greater authority on earth than He has now? To affirm that He will someday have a higher earthly position is to belittle His present authority!
Further the Great Commission, by which we are saved from sin, is based on Jesus' present authority. To belittle His position is to undermine the validity of the basis of our salvation!
2 Samuel 7:12,13 - God promised David that, when David had died, God would set up his descendant, establish his kingdom, establish his throne. Some of this was fulfilled in Solomon, but all agree (and the New Testament confirms) that some of it is Messianic.
Psalm 132:11; 89:3,4 - David repeated that God had sworn, "I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body." As quoted above, Premillennialists expressly deny this has happened.
Psalm 110:1-4 - A Psalm of David that all agree refers to the Messiah [cf. Matt.22:41-46]. He would sit on God's right hand and rule in the midst of His enemies. "Right hand" means a place of authority and honor (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69).
Hence, the prophecies said the Messiah would be a descendant of David, rule as king on David's throne, at God's right hand. If we know when Jesus began to sit at God's right hand, we will know when He became King!
Peter was preaching to the people about Jesus. He quoted a prophecy made by David but not fulfilled by David (v27-29; cf. Psalm 16:8-11).
V30 - David knew God had sworn to set his descendant on David's throne.
V31 - Foreseeing this would happen, David spoke of the resurrection of Jesus. The prophecy of Christ on David's throne was fulfilled in Jesus' resurrection, not at the second coming!
Vv 33,34 - Peter quotes Psalm 110:1 and said Jesus is now exalted at God's right hand (position of authority). But he was to rule at God's right hand. Hence, He is now king at God's right hand, just as Psalm 110:1,2 prophesied.
V36 - The conclusion is that Jesus has been made both Lord and Christ. "Lord" means ruler, one possessing authority. "Christ" means "anointed one." Hence, Peter is claiming Jesus has been anointed to be ruler. And the proof of this is David's prophecies fulfilled by Jesus, including the prophecy of reigning at God's right hand.
To deny Jesus is reigning as King now, as premillennialists do, is to unintentionally deny that Jesus is Lord and Christ!
As in Psalm 110, Jesus must rule at God's right hand till all enemies are put under His feet. That will be completed when the last enemy is put under His feet, and that will happen when death is defeated at the resurrection. So Jesus must necessarily reign before His second coming, not beginning with the second coming!
God made Jesus sit at His right hand when He raised Him from the dead (v20). This confirms Acts 2:30-36. Jesus sat at God's right hand when He arose from the dead. Hence, that is when He began to reign as king (Psalm 110:1,2).
What is His position at God's right hand? Far above all principality, power, might, dominion, and every name named in this world or that to come. All things are subject to Him and He is head of all things to the church.
If this does not describe a king, how could one be described? Premillennialists say He is not king now but will be in the "world to come." But the Bible says He already has a name greater than any in the age to come. If He is not king now, He never will be!
In arguing for Jesus future exaltation, premillennialists belittle His present position.
[Cf. Colossians 1:13-18; 2:10; 1 Peter 3:21,22]
V3,4 - Jesus sat down at God's right hand when he had purged our sins - i.e., after He died on the cross, just as in Acts 2 and Ephesians 1. What does His position involve?
v8,9 - He now has a throne and a scepter of His Kingdom. He has been "anointed" above His fellows. If that does not describe a king, how would you describe one?
V13 then quotes Psalm 110:1, "Sit at My right hand." The reference in v3 to sitting at God's right hand is talking about the fulfillment of Psalm 110. When was it fulfilled? Not at the second coming but after Jesus made purification for sins.
Jesus is now ruler of the Kings of the earth (hence, "King of kings"). How could He be a greater King in a future kingdom? [Cf. 17:14; 19:16; 1 Timothy 6:15]
In denying Jesus is now King, premillennialists deny Jesus' true exalted position.
[Romans 15:12 and Isaiah 11:1-10; 1 Timothy 1:17; Revelation 3:21 an 1 Kings 2:12; 1 Chronicles 29:23]
Another consequence that follows from premillennialism (though most of them do not realize it) is that Jesus is not now and never will be our high priest.
Consider the book of Hebrews:
2:17 - Jesus became High Priest to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
7:24,25 - By His priesthood He is able to save us to the uttermost because He ever lives to make intercession for us.
9:11,12 - As High Priest He entered the Holy Place to obtain eternal redemption by offering His own blood as our sacrifice (cf. 9:24-28).
Without the shedding of blood there is no remission (9:22). Animal sacrifices could not forgive sin (10:3,4). If Jesus did not become High Priest to offer Himself as sacrifice, we would have no forgiveness of sins!
Psalm 110:1-4 - Jesus would sit on God's right hand (v1), ruling in the midst of His enemies (v2). He would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek (v4). Melchizedek was King of Salem and priest of God (Genesis 14:18). So the Messiah would be king and priest at the same time!
Zech. 6:12,13 - The man called the "branch" was the Messiah (3:8; Isaiah 53:2; 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Romans 15:12). He would rule on his throne, and be a priest on his throne. Again, King and Priest at the same time.
Premillennialism denies Jesus is now King on His throne. It follows that Jesus must not be priest now. That means He did not offer the sacrifice for our sins, and we are therefore all still lost in sin! Premillennialists unintentionally deny the grounds of salvation!
On the other hand, if we can prove that Jesus IS now priest, then we have proved He is also King, and that disproves premillennialism.
We have already quoted passages in Hebrews showing that Jesus offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins, but to do that He had to be High Priest. Also:
Hebrews 6:20; 7:1 - Jesus has become High Priest after the order of Melchizedek (both king and priest). [Cf. 5:6-10; 7:17]
Hebrews 8:1 - The main point of the passage is that we HAVE a High Priest seated at the right hand of the throne of Majesty in Heaven. But this is exactly what Psalm 110 predicted: a priest ruling as king at God's right hand. [4:14]
Hebrews 10:12,13 - When did Jesus sit down at God's right hand? When He had offered sacrifice for sin, just as stated in Acts 2 and Ephesians 1! He is now waiting till all enemies are made His footstool, as in Psalm 110:1ff!
Jesus could not be High Priest without a sacrifice, but He would be King when He became High Priest at God's right hand. This happened after His death. Jesus is now High Priest. Therefore, He is King. Therefore, premillennialism is wrong.
These consequences follow from premillennialism, though its believers do not accept them:
Premillennialists say Jesus came to be King, but He could not become King because the Jews rejected Him and killed Him. Therefore, Jesus is not now King.
But we have seen that Jesus would be Priest and King at the same time. Premillennialism says He is not now King, therefore He is not now Priest and we are still in our sins.
Hebrews 8:3 - Every priest must have something to offer, so it was necessary for Jesus to have something to offer. But the sacrifice He offered was His own blood (see above). If the Jews had accepted Jesus and not killed Him, as premillennialists say God expected, then Jesus would have no sacrifice to offer. Therefore, He could not have been our High Priest or our sacrifice if the Jews had accepted Him!
Hebrews 8:4; 7:12-14 - Jesus could not be a priest under the Old Law because He was of the wrong tribe. The only way He could become priest would be for the law to be changed.
Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 9:16,17 - But in order to remove the old law and bring in the new law, Jesus had to die. But had the Jews accepted Him, as premillennialists say God expected, He would never have died and the old law would never have been removed!
Hence, if the Jews had accepted Jesus, He could not have become High Priest both because He would have no sacrifice and because the old law would still have been in effect. But the premillennialists say He is not king because the Jews rejected Him and killed Him. But if He is not King then He is not priest.
So whether the Jews rejected Him or accepted Him, the consequence of premillennialism is that He would not be High Priest and we are lost in sin!
Premillennialists say He will become king then, but that is 2000+ years after the sacrifice was offered! According to the passages we studied He acted as High Priest when He offered the sacrifice. When he comes again it will be too late to become High Priest.
According to premillennialism, He cannot be High Priest now because He is not King now. But when He comes again it will be too late to act as High Priest. So the consequence of premillennialism is that Jesus is not our High Priest, never was, and never will be!
Premillennialism is a system without a high priest and therefore without a sacrifice for sin! They love to talk about the wonderful future reign of Christ on earth, but the price they pay for that kingdom is they have no forgiveness! What a price to pay for a future kingdom!
Premillennialism is not just idle speculation about future events. It is a doctrinal system that belittles and undermines the fundamental authority and glory of Jesus.
The only way to have hope of eternal life is to reject premillennialism and accept the Bible teaching that Jesus is now our King and our High Priest. Salvation is free to all through Him.
This is part of a series of articles about premillennial teaching. To see a list of all the articles, please click here.
Copyright 2003, David E. Pratte; www.gospelway.com
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& Jesus' Kingdom
Does Jesus Reign as King & Priest?
Does Jesus' Kingdom Now Exist?
Is Jesus' Church the Same as His Kingdom?
Is Jesus' Kingdom Earthly or Spiritual?
What Is God's Plan for the Future of Israel?
The Second Coming of Jesus
Millennium, Rapture, Matt. 24, Rev. 20 & Jesus' Return
Predictions of the Gospel & Jesus' Death
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.