The religious world has bought in to a great extent to various false doctrines one of which is called Premillennialism which Webster’s defines as “the view that Christ’s return will usher in a future millennium of Messianic rule mentioned in Revelation.” Additionally, this doctrine includes the “Rapture” and “Tribulation.” Various questions arise as a result of this definition. What is a millennium, and where does Revelation speak of Christ’s returning to rule?
The word millennium comes from the Latin word mille which means one thousand. Various verses in Revelation 20 speak of a period of 1000 years in which Satan is bound and Christ reigns. The first problem with creating this literal 1000 year period is that the book of Revelation is highly figurative. In that same chapter, there is an angel with a key, a dragon, and a bottomless pit. We know that these are symbolic. For instance, the dragon is identified as Satan. If these things are figurative, what makes us think that the 1000 years is literal? If so, how do we know what aspects of Revelation are figurative and which are literal?
The second insurmountable problem is that the rest of the Bible clearly teaches that Christ will never set foot on earth again. Notice that 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 clearly says that the dead in Christ will rise first and “then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” After He descends from heaven, the Lord is in the air. 1 Corinthians 15:22-23 says “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” Immediately following, Christ will return the kingdom (which already exists, see Mark 9:1) to God. This is the end. And Peter says that all that we know will burn up, 1 Peter 3:10-13. There is no earthly reign of Christ.
As a result of a mistaken understanding of Revelation 20, proponents go back into the Old Testament and “find” additional support for their beliefs. One of these cases is the last nine chapters of Ezekiel which are a very detailed description of what he calls “something like the structure of a city.” He does not recognize this place, merely that it is in Israel. Remember that Ezekiel is in captivity in the land of Babylon, at this point, after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. It is true that the elements of this “city” do contain a temple, the elements of the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple.
Eventually, the captive Israelites are allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and its walls; but the temple they build is nothing like the temple of Ezekiel’s vision. His temple has never been built. The assumption is made, however, that it was meant to be built, even though there is no command to build it. It must, therefore, remain to be built. Chuck Missler is very matter of fact about it, “The final chapters, 40-48, climax with a remarkably detailed description of the Millennial Temple to be rebuilt” even though the word millennial is never used. It must be the millennial temple even though Revelation never speaks of a millennial temple. Similar to Ezekiel’s seeing “something like the structure of a city,” John says in Revelation 21:10, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. In fact in that city, Revelation 21:22 states, “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”
We would have to ask the question of why there are sacrifices, especially sin offerings, Ezekiel 46:20, in this “city” if Jesus has already died before the temple has been built. The attempted explanations of this anomaly range from the merely mistaken to the outright laughable. The New Testament makes clear that Jesus was the last sacrifice needed and the only one that actually takes away sin, Hebrews 7:27, 9:12, 10:10, Titus 2:14. Also, why would there still be the keeping of Passover, Ezekiel 45:21? Jesus is our Passover, 1 Corinthians 5:7.
Why does Ezekiel describe a re-dividing of the land among the tribes of Israel that also never happened when the tribes returning from Babylonian captivity were primarily of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi, Ezekiel 47:13ff? How is it possible to set aside a district for the Lord which is 25,000 cubits by 10,000 cubits, Ezekiel 48:9? These measurements would amount to a tract of land over 70,000 square miles when Israel is only over 8,000.
We would have to ask the question of what possible purpose Ezekiel would have to talk to his audience of the 500s BC about a temple to be built over 2500 years later. Did it have no meaning to the people to whom he spoke? Of course it did. The mistake made, here, is that this “city” is a vision. It is just like the vision of John in Revelation of the New Jerusalem. In fact, if we compare Ezekiel’s description to John’s, there are many similarities. One is the water flowing out from the east gate in Ezekiel 47:1ff and Revelation 22:1ff. It is the contention of this author that the “city” Ezekiel sees is the symbolic representation to him of what John sees in Revelation as the “holy city coming down out of heaven” which is the kingdom, the body of Christ (compare again Ezekiel 40:2 with Revelation 21:10). If so, then it makes sense that Ezekiel would give this symbolic picture of spiritual restoration not only to the returning remnant but also to those of us to come. Ezekiel’s “city” is John’s city, the New Jerusalem, spiritual Israel.