Another piece of writing that sparked my interest regarding the end times is a tract published by the Church of God in Christ Mennonite, entitled Does Revelation 20 Teach a Millennium? This is actually a small pamphlet, 32 pages in length. Whoever wrote this article should be ashamed. The amount of deception contained therein, subtle and not-so-subtle, is significant. If a person does no other study, and is inclined to believe every word that comes forth from the mouth of the church, a reading of this tract would satisfy all questions and and cause one to set oneself above every other Christian in the world and feel very satisfied with oneself. However, as is so often the case, things are not so simple as they seem.
The tract starts out by quoting the 20th chapter of Revelation and then in the first part proceeding on to make an erroneous explanation of the thousand years. In order to make a clear explanation of the thousand years, I am going to quote at length, later on, in another post, from a writer by the name of Dr. Stephen Jones. He is a Bible scholar who teaches at length on Old Testament history and the significance of the feasts in prophecy. A study of the end times is incomplete without a thorough understanding of the feasts.
Quoting from the Holdeman tract, we read this: “What is meant by the period of a thousand years mentioned six times in this chapter? We must choose one of two things, either accept these words in a literal sense, as denoting so many years of 365 days each, or in a figurative sense, as denoting a longer period of time. That question, whether a passage is to be taken in a literal or a figurative sense is usually determined by the context. In what sense is it to be taken here? We note that the number 1,000 occurs in a chapter replete with figurative terms of a symbolical meaning. Material, visible things are employed to make us familiar with things of the invisible world. Mention is made of an angel having a chain in his hand; we are told of a dragon and a bottomless pit into which he was cast, and where he was shut up as in a dungeon, and upon which a seal was placed: and all of this for a period of a thousand years. If anyone should be able to prove conclusively that the angel that came down from Heaven had a real, material key dangling from his side, and that he carried in his hand a real material chain, made up of a number of huge heavy iron links, that he found somewhere on a earth a live monster, called a dragon, and literally bound him with this chain, and that there was at hand a large opening in the earth through which he cast the dragon into the bottomless pit and then shut it up and set a seal upon it, we would be constrained to accept the thousand years in a literal sense also.”
First of all, let us examine one of the most obvious weaknesses in this logic. I won’t quote all of Isaiah 53 here, but the same arguments could be made about this Messianic prophecy. In Isaiah, Christ is depicted as a lamb being led to the slaughter. Here we have a time in the future that is being spoken of. The Messiah is being depicted. What if a Holdeman writer had gotten hold of this passage back in that time and tried to claim that it is all “figurative.” Figurative language is being used to depict an actual future event. The chapter tells us in verse 2 “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” If we were to use the Holdeman method of exegesis, we could laugh at the literal interpretation of this passage and say “do you really think there is going to be an actual plant growing out of the literal ground?” In this way we could discard the meaning of this passage and entirely overlook the coming of the Messiah.
Remember, the Bible uses figurative language to depict actual events. The Holdeman writer claims just the opposite, that material things are used to depict spiritual events.
Look at verse 5: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Could we say “do you really think he is going to be a striped sheep, and somehow these stripes are going to heal us?” It is important to not mock the Bible and make light of the words found therein. All of the Messianic prophecies were fulfilled, and of course looking back, the Holdeman can see that they all made perfect sense, and that they are in fact very beautiful. The prophecies of the end time are the same, except for the fact that they are not beautiful. They are apocalyptic, depicting a time of terrible tribulation.
In Mark 14:58 his accusers, no doubt the Scribes and Pharisees, mocked the words of Jesus. “We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.” They laughed at the thought that he would destroy the temple and in three days build it back up again. In this manner they acted just like the Holdeman writers of today; mocking prophecy simply because they did not understand it. This is a dangerous thing to do.
Now let us continue as the tract demolishes any possibility that the thousand years speaks of a literal thousand year space of time.
The writer continues on by commenting on the book of Daniel; the seventy weeks, the ten days, and other figurative language. Never mind that the Holdemans also have an incorrect interpretation of Daniel; we will get to that at another time. The thousand year period is what concerns us here. However, the writer tries to take as proof that the number language in Daniel is figurative, and therefore the thousand years spoken of in Revelation must also be.
The next argument is that if the thousand year period is literal, then there should be an exact time when it began, and since there is no general consensus in Christianity as to when the period begins, then it must not be literal. The fact that many writers and theologians have had it wrong does nothing to add to or to subtract from the validity of the facts. This is extremely poor logic, the kind that Holdeman himself employs when tracing the lineage or proving pouring as the mode of baptism. This is the flimsy foundation that all Holdeman theology rests upon. Faulty logic. There is another useless point made on page 7 of the pamphlet. “If we disregard for the moment the end of the period…treated later on…can we find any period of time in the history of this world of such marked distinction that we can point to it with certainty and say: Here it began? Is there any time which the Bible points out as being clearly distinguished from the rest of the world’s history as an era which a great deliverance shall be brought and heavenly blessings bestowed abundantly? There is, beyond all the possibility of doubt. All scripture with one accord points to just such an era, and what is conspicuously absent is any mention of a particular section of one thousand years characterized by a blessedness superior to that of this period in general. All prophecy,from Genesis to Malachi, without a dissenting voice, points to the coming of the Messiah as the beginning of an era of unprecedented blessedness for all nations, to continue as long as the sun and moon shall endure.” Here we see the writer slipping into the tendency to spiritualize. All of the prophecies indicate a time of spiritual blessedness, but never a time in which the actual conditions in the world are addressed. Furthermore, there are specific periods of time addressed in prophecy which have come to pass. I will address them in the comments after this article.
This is the problem with this assertion. Although it is true that the gospel era is a time of peace for Christians, the peace is in their hearts. The world around us continues to deteriorate into chaos, war and utter insanity. This is not a time of unprecedented blessedness for all nations. Furthermore, there are may prophecies that have not yet come to pass in this presumed wonderful age of unprecedented blessedness. Consider this one in Zechariah 10:6; “And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them.” This would seem to speak of a time when the Jews will be gathered together again and God will bless them as his people. This has not happened. They have been restored to the land of Israel, but it is not yet as though God had never cast them off. What do we do with this prophecy, which has not been fulfilled and which is not expected by the Holdemans to have any literal fulfillment? One answer might be that they now see themselves as spiritual Israel and this time of God drawing them to his bosom means the Holdeman people, in the gospel era.
There is another one in the 14th chapter of Zechariah; The prophet is speaking of a time when all nations will come up to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of the Tabernacle. How can we say this is the millennial age when prophecies such as this have not taken place? It would be tempting to discard this prophecy, as it is hard to imagine the manner in which it will be fulfilled, but we simply cannot do that which is easy and fits our agenda. I say this to point out that claiming that the gospel era represents the thousand years leaves us with a number of unanswered questions, of which I have only presented two.
I know that this is a lot to digest. I will continue in another post, and in the comments after this one.