What the King Said
Premillennialism is the doctrine that Jesus will one day return and reign on earth for a thousand years. The theory says that Jesus came to establish His kingdom 2,000 years ago but postponed it when the Jews rejected Him. Nevertheless, He will be successful next time. Following a horrific war, the battle of Armageddon, He will transform the earth into a utopian society.
These elaborate predictions are the product of overflowing imaginations and a handful of out-of-context Scriptures. Such false conclusions could easily be avoided by simply listening to Jesus, the king, discuss the kingdom. After all, who knows the subject better than He?
The Nature of the Kingdom
“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36). Does that sound like it is ushered in via a great war with saints fighting for Christ?
“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21). Why, then, do so many insist that “signs of the times” point to the kingdom’s imminence?
Jesus likened the kingdom to a mustard seed: small in its beginning, yet growing larger than others (Matthew 13:31-32). How can a kingdom initiated by His return in world conquest be described as growing from a small beginning?
At the conclusion of another parable, in which Jewish rejection of Him is central to the story, Jesus clearly said, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you [the Jews] and given to a people, producing the fruit of it” (Matthew 21:43). Yet contrary to that plain declaration, premillennialists argue that Israel as a nation is still central to God’s kingdom plans.
The Time of the Kingdom
Early on, Jesus preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matthew 4:17). In the final year of His ministry, when Jewish rejection of Him was evident, the message was still the same (Luke 10:10-11).
Mark 9:1 is unmistakable: “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” If the kingdom is still future, where are all these 2,000-year-old people?
The Setting of the Kingdom
Several of Jesus’ parables address the setting of the kingdom.
The parable of the tares makes the point that “sons of the kingdom” live side-by-side with “sons of the evil one” in the world. Separation does not come until the end (Matthew 13:24-20, 36-43). There is no hint of a renovated, utopian earth.
In the parable of the pounds or minas, Jesus likened Himself to a nobleman going away into a far country to receive a kingdom (Luke 19:11-27). Jesus said He has now taken His seat on His throne (Revelation 3:21). It is in heaven, at God’s right hand, not in Jerusalem or any other earthly capital.
The Kingdom’s Entrance Requirements
How does one become a citizen in Jesus’ kingdom? “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). That changed character is depicted in the Sermon on the Mount, in which the king vividly describes the attitude and conduct of His disciples in contrast with contemporary standards.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). The new birth requires baptism as well. All of this points to the spiritual nature of Jesus’ kingdom.
Did Jesus tell the truth about the kingdom? If He did, popular millennial notions are completely off base. It makes no sense to ignore these straightforward statements from the king himself while weaving fantastic theories based on more obscure passages. Do not interpret Old Testament prophecy so as to contradict Jesus’ teaching.