Is the “age to come” a millennial kingdom, where upon the return of Christ, He sets up His kingdom on this present earth and rules this world as its King? Or is the “age to come” the Eternal Kingdom (eternal state) of the “new heaven and new earth” (Rev 21:1-2), which we enter directly upon the return of Christ?
The idea of an earthly 1000 year kingdom of this world is the position that premillennialists hold. While amillennialists do not believe the Bible teaches such a kingdom, but that we go immediately into the Eternal Kingdom upon our resurrection, which occurs at the time of Christ’s return. In other words, Amillennialism teaches that there is no millennial kingdom between the return of Christ (and judgment of the world) and our eternal state (Rev 21 & 22).
Up until a few years ago, I was a dispensational premillennialist. Through a lot of intensive study, I’ve come to recognize the shortcomings of both of those positions. I say both, because most premillennialsits are also dispensationalists, as I was. I’m now convinced that neither of those positions reflect a true New Testament understanding. I’ve done a lot of teaching on these doctrines (on this website), and in regard to the so-called millennial kingdom that is associated with Premillennialism, there are a large number of passages of Scripture that convincingly refute such a kingdom. Among those passages are four that I discuss in this study.
28 Peter began to speak to him, “Look, we have left everything to follow you!” 29 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much—homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (NET)
Here Jesus reveals that “this age” is life in this world, and that the “age to come” is eternity in God’s presence. He speaks as though there are only two ages. To place a third age (millennial kingdom) between the two has to be assumed. We can’t build our doctrinal positions on assumptions.
As believers, we have eternal life now, but here Jesus is referring to the full possession of it in the afterlife (Heaven). This refutes the idea of an earthly, millennial kingdom upon the return of Christ. In this one verse Jesus reveals that upon His return, and our associated resurrection, we go directly into eternity—into the Eternal Kingdom of the “new heaven and new earth” (2 Pe 1:11; Rev 21:1-2).
34 So Jesus said to them, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are regarded as worthy to share in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. (NET)
This is one of the most clearly stated verses regarding the identification of “this age” and the “age to come.” “Marrying and given in marriage” of “this age” obviously refers to life in this present world. Now note what Jesus says about the age to follow: The “that age” (“age to come”) refers to the next life upon our “resurrection.” I think it’s clear that Jesus is referring to two consecutive ages, and gives no hint that there is an age in between those two ages. Furthermore, there is only one resurrection:
(John 5:28-29) – 28 “Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and will come out—the ones who have done what is good to the resurrection resulting in life, and the ones who have done what is evil to the resurrection resulting in condemnation. (NET)
[Also Jn 6:44; Jn 11:24; Matt 25:31-34, 41, 46; 1 Cor 15:50-52; Rev 20:11-15]
Again, this eliminates the idea of a millennial kingdom on this present earth. When Jesus returns, we’re resurrected and then go directly into our eternal state of Revelation 21 & 22. Otherwise, if there was a millennial kingdom, there would have to be another resurrection for those who died during that time. The idea of multiple resurrections is not taught in the Bible—not even a hint. Such an idea has to be assumed based on a positional bias.
20 This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms 21 far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (NET)
This verse also eliminates the idea of a millennial kingdom—because the rule of Christ doesn’t stop with a so-called 1000 year reign on earth. If there was such a coming kingdom on earth, why would Paul refer to it as though Christ’s rule didn’t go any further than that? No, Paul has the Eternal Kingdom in mind.
3 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father, (NET)
I think this passage completely settles any notion of a millennial kingdom. From my perspective, it removes all doubt.
To be “delivered from this present evil age,” means primarily to be rescued from sin, as Paul refers to in this same verse. That’s what our salvation does for us. That’s why Jesus died, to pay for our sin debt. It not only delivers us from the penalty of sin, but from the presence of sin in the next life. This “present evil age,” is characterized by sin. This present age is life in this world of sin. If this age means anything at all, it’s an age that is associated with sin. That is primary. That means the “age to come” refers to the age without sin, which is the Eternal Kingdom of the “new heaven and new earth” (Rev 21:1-2; 2 Pe 1:11). That means there can be no millennial kingdom, because even with Jesus on the throne, there is still the presence of sin and sinners.
Again, I believe this verse obliterates the idea of a 1000 year earthly kingdom, which is an age of sin, just like the one we’re in now. An earthly kingdom would just be an extension of this one, except with Jesus as its Ruler. In such a kingdom, there would be control of crime, where there’s peace and order, but sin would still be present, and still very active. This verse leaves absolutely no room for such a kingdom as Premillennialism teaches. There are only two ages, the one we’re in now, and our eternal state where there is no sin (Rev 21:1-8).
These are just four passages of Scripture that reveal only two ages—the one we’re living in now, and our eternal state. These are also just four passages of Scripture where premillennialists must insert a third age in order to support their position. Premillennialism is built, in large part, based on assumptions. We cannot build credible doctrinal positions in such a manner.
What Premillennialism does is that it begins with an Old Testament understanding, and it then brings that forward to interpret the New Testament. We cannot do that. The NT interprets the OT, because the NT fulfills the OT. We must allow the NT to shine it’s light upon the OT, not the other way around—because that results not only in an erroneous understanding regarding the Kingdom of Christ, but also of the NT overall.
I go into much greater detail about this subject in many, many other studies that I’ve posted on this website—including a thorough explanation of the 1000 year kingdom of Revelation 20:4-6. You can find that in the links below:
Key Passage That Disproves a Millennial Kingdom
Commentary on Revelation 20:1-10
What is the Thousand Years of Revelation 20?
This age = life in this world throughout history.
Age to come (“the one to come”) = eternity with Christ.