Nov 6, 2015

Repopulating the Millennial Kingdom

Tony Garland

Dr. Tony Garland

Q. Much earlier in the year a Christian friend sent around an email promoting the DVD Left Behind or Led Astray? They said they had become convinced of the pre-wrath position. I wrote a pretty strong criticism of what I saw in the DVD trailer. It was sufficiently strong for the person to retract their view which probably means they didn't hold so strongly to the pre-wrath position after all. ☺

However I have just seen Dr Paul Wilkinson's critical response to the DVD and I note there is a response to his response.

Something that caught my eye related to a response Joe Schimmel gives to the question of re-populating the millennial kingdom.

Much of what he says here is fine. Certainly Jews will be saved at the second coming and these will enter the millennium but what about the Gentiles in the millennium?

He writes this:

How are people allowed into the kingdom at this time? We can look to Moses and the generation that entered the Promised Land in the Old Testament. Jews were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the Promised Land. So who else went with them? Those who had not yet reached the age of accountability. The Lord said that anyone who was 20 years or younger could go in with them. They would have been too young when the nation of Israel (adult Jews) sinned, therefor those 20 years or younger were not held accountable. Likewise, when the antichrist is reigning and people (adults) are taking the mark of the beast, young people will not be taking the mark, they're too young. (And even if they did, they would not be held accountable for it because they are too young to know what their parents are making them do.) So there will be many young people who will enter into the millennium who do not have the mark of the beast and are under the age of accountability.

So according to him the source for populating the kingdom is people under the age of accountability.

I suppose we could say that in the judgements (Noahic deluge and Sodom and Gomorrah) the age of accountability was not a factor but if entering the Promised Land is a type of the millennial kingdom then the age of accountability could explain things.

Does this mean that the question regarding who is left to populate the millennial kingdom can be satisfactorily addressed by those who reject a pre-trib rapture and that pre-tribbers can't use this as an argument against these other positions?

wolf and lamb

Who Enters the Millennial Kingdom?

A. May the Lord bless you for doing your part to bring to light the erroneous claims made by Left Behind or Led Astray? It sounds like your friend benefited from what you had to say (2 Ti. 2:24-25).

The issue at hand, as I understand it, is: "Who enters the Millennial Kingdom in a natural body to provide a reproducing population during the 1,000 year reign of Christ on Earth?" Pre-tribulational rapture proponents point to the problem with a post-tribulational rapture: if all those in Christ receive a glorified body at the rapture and if the rapture takes place at the return of Christ, then who is left to enter the kingdom in a natural body? Hence, this novel suggestion which posits a group of individuals who are neither fit for the rapture (too young to believe) nor fit for judgment (too young to have had the mark applied, or too young to be accountable if they did).

Some thoughts in response to what you've shared:

  • Who is to say that entering the promised land is analogous with those who enter the millennial kingdom? Some, if not many, of those who were prohibited from entering the promised land were undoubtedly believers. One notable example should suffice: Moses. Arguing in support of a theological position based on assumed analogies or types is generally precarious and highly subjective. It seems to me that failure to enter the promised land is more about God's chastisement for disobedience (whether upon believers or unbelievers) than establishing a clear boundary between the saved and the lost.

  • Most dispensational teachers understand the sheep and goat judgment of Matthew 25:31-46 as being the primary passage dealing with the separation of believers and unbelievers following the return of Jesus in judgment—determining who will enter the millennial kingdom to follow. Do we see anything in that passage that indicates that the "sheep" are made up of underage people who were clueless—lack faith and may have even taken the mark of the beast? It would not appear so: instead, Jesus identifies the actions of adults among the nations who demonstrated their belief through their faith-based actions. To say that the millennial kingdom is populated primarily by children, some of whom may have even taken the mark, but are under the age of accountability, ignores what the passage clearly teaches: the sheep who find entry clearly acted upon faith-based convictions and were accountable for their actions. Here's another red flag: believers have read that passage for hundreds of years and who ever saw it as speaking about children under the age of accountability, some of whom get into the kingdom even if they had the mark?

  • For anyone with the mark to enter the kingdom runs contrary to the divine warning of the angel in Revelation 14:9-11. I suppose someone could argue that children with the mark didn't actively receive it, but that would seem to be splitting hairs in view of the seriousness which the angel attaches to having the mark. (Schimmel suggests that most children of beast worshippers won't have the mark simply because they are young. This seems unlikely in view of what history records concerning the readiness of adults to subject their young children to rites which prematurely identify them with their parents. Consider infant baptism.)

  • The assumption that, during the tribulation, young people won't have the mark imposed upon them or those who may take the mark are automatically going to be saved anyway runs contrary to the many indications in Revelation that the "earth dwellers" are hardened beyond repentance. It also seems to ignore the historical situation where youngsters in the land of Canaan were not spared from God's judgment just because they were young (Num. 31:17; Deut. 2:34; 3:6; 7:16; Jos. 6:21; 10:40; 11:11-14; 1 S. 15:3, etc.). Although the "age of accountability" is a large subject with considerable subtlety, it seems it is often appealed to by those who don't like the fact that God could condemn young people based upon His knowledge of their destiny: their response to Him if they had lived longer. My own view is that not all young people are automatically saved just because they are young. After all, children are simply "adults which haven't yet grown up." I don't see a clear indication in the Bible that children are uniquely immune from God's electing purpose any more than the adults the children grow up to be. If all children below the age of accountability are universally saved, we are left with a rather strange evangelical reality: people are better off dying young, certain of obtaining eternal life, than to continue living beyond the age of accountability and risk eternal damnation if they reject Christ.

The proposal does have one thing going for it: ingenuity. But, in all seriousness, which is more plausible?

  1. The rapture occurs before the Second Coming such that those who subsequently come to faith are available, upon the return of Christ, to enter and populate the kingdom.

  2. The rapture occurs simultaneously with the return of Christ such that all true believers are glorified at that time. Since no believers are left in their natural bodies, God grants all unbelieving children, [1] who are too young to exercise faith or to be condemned—even if they have the mark—entry into the kingdom.

If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on the first. ☺


[1] We know they don't believe or they would have been glorified with all other believers at the rapture.