This Verse Settles It. No Millennial Kingdom!

SHARE THIS POST:

 

Introduction

Acts 3:21 is our key verse. The whole context is Acts 3:18-25, as well as Acts 2:29-36. Both passages are spoken by Peter. He preached the first part on the day of Pentecost. The second part he preached on another occasion (healing of the lame man at the temple), but both are part of the same context and same subject, which is the Kingdom of Christ and the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21).

 

Note: I wrote a two part commentary on Acts 2:29-36 and you may read it here. It serves as a good introduction or follow-up to this study.

 

This passage should settle the argument about whether there is a coming millennial kingdom. However, premillennialists (especially dispensational premillennialists) place so much emphasis on the nation of Israel that I believe it prevents them from seeing the broader picture of Scripture. Because of their OT Israel-centered focus, they tend to see all of Scripture – both OT and NT – through the lens of Israel. Israel is always in the forefront of their minds, even when studying the NT. An Israel-centered focus is the wrong guide to understanding the Bible. To interpret Scripture accurately, we must have a Christocentric hermeneutic. To understand Israel we have to understand what Christ came to accomplish. That begins with Genesis 1-3, particularly Genesis 3:15. That’s where we must begin, not with the birth of the nation of Israel through Jacob (via Abraham and Isaac). Dispensationalists will always tell you that they have a Christ-centered hermeneutic, but the way they interpret Scripture, particularly when it comes to eschatology, that’s not actually how it’s worked out in their interpretations. Sure, their interpretations are always in the context of Christ, but they always have Israel in clear view, because they believe Israel still has a central role in the plan of God, yet to be fulfilled. They believe that the Israelites are still the people of God, whereas, the NT makes it clear that the true people of God under the New Covenant are all who are in Christ through faith in Him—both Jews and Gentiles (Ga 3:16,19,28-29; Ro 2:28-29; Ro 9:6-8; 1 Pe 1:2:4-10; etc). A natural reading of the NT would never lead a person to the conclusions Dispensationalism does. A natural reading of the NT would never see Israel in the same way dispensationalism does. A natural reading of the NT sees the true offspring of Abraham as spiritual offspring and as a spiritual nation—not as physical, of natural descent (Ga 3:16,19,28-29; Ro 2:28-29; Ro 9:6-8; 1 Pe 1:2:4-10; etc). Furthermore, a natural reading of the NT also sees the Kingdom of Christ as spiritual, not as an earthly kingdom of this world—as Jesus Himself said (Jn 18:36).

Dispensational theology is a barrier to understanding these things; it always brings one back to the OT nation of Israel. This is exactly the misunderstanding the Apostle Peter was correcting in Acts 2 & 3. As long as we isolate Israel from the Church – placing them into two different spheres, into two different plans of God – then there will always be division—a division of theology that prevents a consistency from OT to NT, which sees its culmination in Christ and His Church.

I can say these things about Dispensationalism, because I was a dispensationalist for most of my Christian life. It’s a very confusing theology, and for good reason—because it lacks a consistency from OT to NT, and it always leaves you wondering what applies to Israel and what applies to the Church. It’s especially confusing when you get to end-time prophecy, because inconsistency abounds. That’s why I’m an amillennialist; it’s a very straightforward and consistent theology. It’s a theology that makes sense. On the other hand, there’s so much about Dispensationalism and Premillennialism that doesn’t make sense.

We must not only have Christ as our context, but we must always lead with Christ and those who are in Him (the Church). To properly interpret Scripture, we must keep our focus on Christ, and to do that we must begin with Genesis 1-3, especially Genesis 3:15. This is where we find Christ and all who are in Him. The focus there is not Israel, but Christ, and all those who place their faith in Him throughout the history of the world to the very end of the world. Sure, Israel is part of the history, because they were the chosen vehicle to bring Christ into the world to redeem His elect people. But they were never God’s primary focus. They were never intended to be an end in themselves. Christ is always central, from beginning to end, from before the foundation of the world (Acts 3:20; 1 Pe 1:20-21). This includes those who are in Him (Eph 1:4).

This is why a study and understanding of the Covenant promises are so important. And this is why I’m a strong proponent of Baptist Covenant Theology. The promises essentially tell the whole story. They give us a birds-eye view of God’s plan of redemption. From that overhead view, we see the canopy of Christ, who is Head of His Church. Thus, we see Christ and His Church over all. Under that canopy, we see the nation of Israel, along with the rest of the world. Israel is not the canopy itself, but merely part of the picture under the canopy of Christ and His Church. If we make Israel the canopy, or even Christ and Israel the canopy, we’re going to miss seeing how God’s Divine program is carried out from beginning to the end—from the sinlessness of Adam and Eve and the perfect garden of Eden to the cross of Christ  to the Eternal Kingdom of the new heaven and new earth of Revelation 21 & 22.

Unless we understand that Christ is central—truly central—that He is the fulfillment of all things, that His Church is part of that fulfillment as those who are in Him, then we’re going to miss it. We’re going to end up with erroneous interpretations of Scripture, especially as it relates to Israel and end-time prophecy. If you make Israel your focus (using an Israel-hermeneutic), then you will tend to see Israel everywhere. When you always have Israel in the forefront, then it will completely influence how you interpret the Scriptures (and most damaging, the NT), as did the early Jewish Christians, which is why Peter’s sermons in Acts 2:14-36 and Acts 3:12-26 are so important. Before Pentecost, he had the same focus, the same understanding as the rest of the Jews, and as dispensationalists still do today—as well as all premillennialists regarding the Kingdom of Christ; both are looking forward to a restored earthly kingdom (having this in common with unregenerate Jews should serve as a red flag). We see a major change of Peter’s understanding from Acts 1:6 to his sermons in Acts 2 and 3 after the coming of the Holy Spirit. But once Peter’s spiritual eyes were opened (having received and being filled with the Holy Spirit), he proceeded to correct their own misunderstanding regarding the kingdom.

Yet, dispensationalists still interpret Peter’s sermons through the lens of OT Israel—and premillennialists do the same thing regarding the Kingdom of Christ. That’s what this study is about—understanding what Peter was teaching his fellow Jews. As I mentioned in the beginning, I’ve already written about Acts 2:29-36 (see above link), so I will not be going into the same detail with that passage here as I did in that study. My primary focus here is Acts 3:18-25.

 

Acts 3:18-25

18 But the things which God announced by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, so that there may come times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that he may send Christ Jesus, who was ordained for you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God spoke long ago by the mouth of his holy prophets. 22 For Moses indeed said to the fathers, ‘The Lord God will raise up a prophet for you from among your brothers, like me. You shall listen to him in all things whatever he says to you. 23 It will be that every soul that will not listen to that prophet will be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24 Yes, and all the prophets from Samuel and those who followed after, as many as have spoken, they also told of these days. 25 You are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘All the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring.’ (WEB)

 

Key Verse

(Acts 3:20-21) – 20 and that he may send Christ Jesus, who was ordained for you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God spoke long ago by the mouth of his holy prophets.

 

Our key verse is Acts 3:21, but I include verse 20 because it’s part of the same sentence and line of thought. Rather than keeping you in suspense by waiting until the very end to deal with this key verse, we’ll deal with it from the start. We’ll go right to the heart of our discussion and talk about the main point of this study. I’ll fill in the overall picture afterwards.

In verse 20 Peter says that God will “send Christ Jesus.” This refers to His return—His second coming. Which means He’s in Heaven now sitting upon His throne at His Father’s side, ruling as our King. A throne is always a throne of rulership. He reigns over all the universe, but more specifically, as it relates to our subject, He reigns over His people, for we dwell in His kingdom now, which is a spiritual kingdom (Col 1:13; Eph 5:5; He 1:8).

Peter then says that “heaven must receive him until the times of restoration of all things.” In other words, Jesus will not leave Heaven until the time comes to restore all things—or to be more precise, to complete the process of restoration that began at the cross, at His first coming. Jesus will stay in Heaven until it’s time for the full restoration of all things, which doesn’t occur until we’re in the new heaven and new earth of Revelation 21 & 22. Jesus will not leave His throne in Heaven until that time. That means, there cannot be an earthly millennial kingdom on this present earth as long as there is sin and the curse (Ge 3:17; Ge 5:29; Rev 22:3).

 

And there you have it. That’s how we can be certain there cannot be a millennial kingdom upon the return of Christ, where the curse and sin and death will still exist. Jesus will not return until it’s time to restore all things to its original, sinless and perfect state.

 

But we need to elaborate on this. Here in Acts 3:20-21 Peter is restating what he said in Acts 2:34-36—except he provides a little more information:

 

(Acts 2:34-36) – 34 For David didn’t ascend into the heavens, but he says himself, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit by my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ 36 “Let all the house of Israel therefore know certainly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (WEB)

 

What Peter is telling his fellow Jews is, first of all, that Jesus is reigning now: “sit at my right hand.” Jesus is sitting on His throne of power as our king right now (Col 1:13), which is the Church. The Church is the kingdom of Christ. The Church age continues on into the Eternal Kingdom (2 Pe 1:11) when it’s in its complete glorious form.

We also see that Christ will not leave His Father’s side in Heaven until “I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (vs. 35). A parallel passage to this is in 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul says the same thing Peter does, but provides even more information:

 

(1 Cor 15:22-26) – 22 For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he has brought to an end all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be eliminated is death. (NET)

 

This is a highly significant passage. The context is the resurrection of those who are in Christ, in the context of Christ’s own resurrection. Our resurrection takes place “at his coming.” In regard to “the kingdom,” I believe Paul is referring to Christ’s complete kingdom when all believers throughout history have been resurrected and His kingdom is then complete—because our resurrection is the context. At that point Jesus “hands over the kingdom to God the Father,“ as if to say, “My mission is now complete, and all our people have been redeemed and resurrected.” Following this, once the unsaved have been judged, we will enter into the Eternal Kingdom of the new heaven and new earth, and the Father and Son will reign together over their kingdom (Rev 21:1; Rev 22:3-5).

Paul reveals that Christ reigns over His kingdom now in Heaven (Col 1:13; Eph 5:5; He 1:8), and that He will do so “until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” The “last enemy to be eliminated is death.” In other words, Jesus will not leave His throne until it’s time to defeat all of His enemies, which is everyone who is not among His followers. This takes place at the time of His return (Rev 19:11-21; Rev 20:11-15; Rev 21:4). Included among the enemies of Christ, is death. This is both physical and spiritual death. In this life, we all die. In this life we are all spiritually dead in our sins, unless and until we have our sins forgiven through faith in Christ. Therefore, there cannot be a 1000 year earthly kingdom, where Christ rules this present world. Why? Because there will still be sin, the curse, enemies of Christ, and death itself in this earthly kingdom put forth by Premillennialism. As long as these things still exist, Jesus will not leave His throne in Heaven. He will stay there at His Father’s side until it’s time to defeat His enemies and restore all things to its original and sinless state. When He returns, it will not be to continue to deal with sin, but to provide complete salvation from it (He 9:28).

Premillennialism places a millennial kingdom between verses 23 & 24. However, that’s a grand assumption. We can’t take such liberties with God’s Word and expect the right outcome. That’s not interpreting Scripture, that’s conforming it to one’s theological position. They have to do that in order for this passage to fit into their eschatological position. Otherwise, this passage completely destroys their premillennial interpretation, along with the two passages in Acts. Peter and Paul are saying the same thing. Furthermore, to squeeze in a millennial kingdom in Paul’s passage, means you have to do the same thing in Peter’s two passages. But I think that’s a bridge too far to cross. A natural reading of these passages together does not even hint of an earthly kingdom of this world.

 

Let’s go back to our key verse again:

 

(Acts 3:21) – 20 and that he may send Christ Jesus, who was ordained for you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God spoke long ago by the mouth of his holy prophets.

 

Premillennialists assume this passage is referring to the millennial kingdom, which they believe will be set up on earth upon the return of Christ (“that he may send Christ Jesus”), where He will reign for 1000 years. They view the “restoration” to be the restoration of “the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6), the same misunderstanding the Apostles had before Pentecost. That’s because they still had an OT Israel-centered focus. They believed the nation of Israel was still central in the plan of God. But a careful look at this full passage (Acts 3:18-25) reveals that’s not what the restoration is all about. The restoration is first of all spiritual:

“that your sins may be blotted out, so that there may come times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, (vs. 19), which comes through Christ: “that Christ should suffer, (vs. 18). The “times of refreshing” are now, in the age of grace under Christ of the New Covenant. It’s during the current Church age that we experience this spiritual refreshing.

As to the kingdom the Jews were expecting, it’s not what they were expecting. As Peter reveals, that kingdom is in a different form as they had imagined, and that we are in it now under Christ as our King—which again, is a spiritual kingdom (Col 1:13; Eph 5:5; 2 Ti 4:1; He 1:8). This is what Peter was referring to with these words:

 

“You shall listen to him in all things whatever he says to you.” (vs. 22; De 18:15)

 

We listen to Christ because He is our Lord and king. Thus, the Kingdom of Christ is now. Peter refers to this same kingdom in Acts 2:

 

(Acts 2:34-36) – 34 For David didn’t ascend into the heavens, but he says himself, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit by my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ 36 “Let all the house of Israel therefore know certainly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (WEB)

 

What Peter is telling his fellow Jews is that the OT prophecies about a kingdom are fulfilled during this current Church age. Jesus reigns from His throne in Heaven and rules over His people now—as “both Lord and Christ.” In other words, as our King. The Jews understood this kingdom to be an earthly kingdom because of the way it’s described in the OT, in books such as Isaiah. This is also the way premillennialists interpret those scriptures. But Peter is saying, “no, the kingdom you’re looking forward to has arrived.” This spiritual refreshing that we experience during the age of grace is part of the “restoration of all things.” Peter confirms this by telling them that this spiritual refreshing and restoration are happening “these days” (vs. 24). He couldn’t make it any clearer. What they were looking forward to, they were experiencing then, in those days, and throughout the Church age. Israel was merely a type and shadow of the spiritual Kingdom of Christ, and those who are in Him. In other words, the idea of a restored kingdom of Israel, was a physical type that pointed to the true kingdom, which is a spiritual kingdom, the Kingdom of Christ—which is His Church.

As further confirmation that this is not a Jewish kingdom type of restoration, in verse 25 (Acts 3:25), and in the context of “these days,” Paul refers to the covenant God made with Abraham, where He says to him: “All the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring.” This refers to all believers in Christ, both Jew and Gentile. This covenant with Abraham is being fulfilled during the Church age.

We’re still currently living in the days of restoration, until the restoration is complete. While all things haven’t been fully restored yet, it’s in the process of being restored now during this current Church age. This process will continue until the return of Christ, when we’re resurrected and enter the Eternal Kingdom of the “new heaven and new earth” of Revelation 21 & 22 (Rev 21:1). Peter refers to this Eternal Kingdom in 2 Peter 1:11.

The “restoration of all things” does not refer to an earthly Jewish kingdom, but to the Eternal Kingdom of of Revelation 21 & 22, where all things are truly restored as it was in the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve were sinless and the Garden (all the earth) was perfect, without the corruption of sin. The Apostle John refers to the Garden of Eden in Revelation 22:2-3 where he mentions the “tree of life” and there being “no more curse” (Ge 2:9; Ge 3:17). At that point, when there is no more sin and no more curse, then the “restoring of all things” will be complete. All things will finally be restored to their original state, as described in Genesis 1-2, when we’re all finally in perfect fellowship with God in our perfect and eternal resurrected bodies, and in a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1).

The earthly kingdom that the Jews were looking forward to, and the earthly millennial kingdom premillennialists are looking forward to, is actually on the sinless and perfect “new earth” (Rev 21:1), not on this present earth, in this present world of sin. Such a kingdom can hardly be called a “restored” kingdom, and it can hardly be the “restoration of all things,” where sin would be alive and well in that kingdom. Even with Christ on the throne of this kingdom, sin and the curse would still exist. The “restoration of all things” can only take place in a kingdom where sin and the curse no longer exist, as it did in the very beginning of creation.

 

Conclusion

This is why we know there will be no millennial kingdom between the return of Christ and the Eternal Kingdom of the “new heaven and new earth” of Revelation 21 & 22. Upon the return of Christ, and after we’ve stood before Him (2 Cor 5:10; Jn 5:28-29; Rev 20:11-15), we will go directly into our eternal dwelling, as Jesus Himself said:

 

(John 14:1-3) – 1 Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you. 3 And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too. (NET)

 

Does this really sound like an earthly kingdom that Jesus is talking about? Does this really sound like an earthly kingdom that we enter when He “comes again?” When we put it all together, does an earthly millennial kingdom of this world make sense? Where sin and death and the curse will still exist? And where OT animal sacrifices will be practiced again (as Premillennialism teaches)? Does this really sound like the “restoration of all things?”

You decide.

You may be wondering, what do we do with the thousand years of Revelation 20:4-6? I deal with that question in the following links:

What is the 1000 Years of Revelation 20?

Interpreting the 1000 Years

 

SHARE THIS POST: