“Imminence” as related to our Lord’s return indicates uncertainty as to time, but possibility of nearness. “Take ye heed, watch, for ye know not when the time is” (Mark 13: 33). Such statements rebuke those who have brought the doctrine into disrepute by announcing dates for “the end of the world,” and by setting times for the coming of Christ. So, too, they suggest caution to those who assert that the age is now drawing to its close; it may be, but of this there is no certainty. These Scriptural exhortations to watch seem to contradict, also, those who teach that a “Millennium,” a thousand years or a protracted period of righteousness, must intervene between the present time and the advent of Christ.
Those who hold this view are commonly called “Post-Millennialists” to distinguish them from “Pre-Millennialists,” who hold that the return of Christ will precede and usher in such an age of universal blessedness.
The great objection to the Pre-Millennial position is the apparent prediction of 2 Peter 3, that at the coming of Christ, in “the day of the Lord,” the earth will be destroyed; there could then be no place for a Millennium. The difficulty in the Post-Millennial theory is the repeated description of this present age as one of mingled good and evil, in which iniquity, as well as righteousness, continues to develop uninterruptedly; there is thus no time for a Millennium before the Lord returns. As to the passage from Peter, it is obviously no more subversive of one of these theories than of the other. No one can possibly review the picture which the Apostle draws in his two epistles, of the apostasy and skepticism and godlessness already prevailing and surely deepening as “the day of the Lord” draws near, and find any place for a previous Millennium before “that day.” The predictions of fiery judgments and consequent “new heavens and new earth” must be read in connection with Isaiah 65 and 66, from which Peter is quoting. It will then be seen that these expressions are in-so-far figurative that the earth still continues with its life, its nations, its progress, after these judgments are over. Terrific convulsions, and governmental, social, and cosmic changes, only introduce a new and better age. So, too, “the day of the Lord” is a familiar phrase, and as we read Zech. 14 we see that while, in that day, the Lord comes amidst appalling portents, His coming and the day itself are followed by a scene of great blessedness on the same earth; the Nile is still flowing in its course and the nations are going up to Jerusalem to worship. (Note also that in 2 Peter 3: 10 the most ancient manuscripts do not read “burned up” but “discovered.”)
There are other positive statements of Scripture which intimate that the Millennium follows the coming of Christ.
According to Daniel, it is after the Son of Man comes with the clouds of heaven that He is given “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him,… and the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven,” are “given to the people of the saints of the Most High;… and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (Dan. 7: 13, 14, 27). According to the Psalms, the appearing of the Lord, in flaming fire upon His adversaries, prepares the way for the establishment of His glorious kingdom, as “He comes to rule the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity” (Psa. 96, 97, 98, etc.). According to Paul (2 Thess. 1 and 2) the advent described by Daniel is not to an earth which is enjoying Millennial peace, but it is “in flaming fire” to destroy an existing “Man of Sin” whose career is the culmination of lawlessness already manifest and to continue until the personal coming of Christ. According to our Lord Himself, His return is to bring “the regeneration,” not the destruction of the world (Matt. 19: 28; Luke 22: 28-30). But this rule of blessedness is preceded by judgments that come “as a snare on all the earth” (Luke 21: 29-36). According to Peter, “seasons of refreshing” and “the restitution of all things,” not an annihilation of the globe, will come with the return of Christ (Acts 3: 19-21). According to John, the coming of Christ (Rev. 19) precedes the Millennium (Rev. 20).
However great the divergence of views among students of prophecy may seem to be, and in spite of the many varieties of opinion among the representatives of the two schools which have been mentioned in passing, the points of agreement are far more important. The main difference is as to the order, rather than as to the reality of the events.