A Question I Was Asked:

Is Matthew 19:28 Millenial?

Is the "1,000 years" on Earth - or in Heaven?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Is Matthew 19:28 Millenial?

Some have claimed that the principle of a 1,000-year earthly 'millenium' can be found in Matthew 19:28. But can it?

'Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.' (Matthew 19:28. NIV throughout).

So here we see the Apostles receiving authority to rule/judge "the twelve tribes of Israel." Dispensationalist supporters of a literal (rather than figurative) millenium tend to pounce on verses like this because so few New Testament verses ever seem to give any support to their schema.
Matthew 19:28 receives corroboration in Luke 22:

'You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.' (Luke 22:28-30).

Notice that Jesus will confer on certain people a kingdom, "just as my Father conferred one on me." Of course that was a spiritual kingdom, in fact Jesus confirms this for us:

'Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."' (John 18:36).

So these verses picture Christians in the kingdom of God being given authority to judge. When, it might be asked, does this happen? Do any other Scriptures picture Christians being granted authority to judge? Because if so, we need to consult them to help us get a clearer picture. Yes, there are one or two; let us check them out:

'To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.' (Revelation 3:21).

The plot thickens! Again, some will insist that this is millenial, but let us continue with our mini-study:
Revelation 4, as is every Bible student knows, gives us a vision of God's very throne in Heaven; the scene which is described is spectacular and wondrous but let us notice this:

'Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.' (Revelation 4:4).

So here we find a sort of heavenly 'board' of senior saved Christians known as the '24 Elders.' Without question, this board of Elders (who are, presumably, the souls of saved believers awaiting the full resurrection) are operating in Heaven right now! The group is perhaps representative of the Church on earth through the ages, undoubtedly the Apostles are among this group. Maybe this is the group which will judge under Christ because 'thrones' are always associated with judgment in Scripture. Then, in Revelation 20, we are again given a vision of Heaven. Let us notice what we find there:

'I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.' (Revelation 20:4).

Notice two things here:
1. This scene is certainly set in Heaven (verse 1).
2. There are thrones there which seat those who are "given authority to judge."

In this Scripture, we see the 'souls' of those who had been true believers in this present life coming before those appointed to judge . Why "souls"? Because this is in Heaven and the resurrection of the body is yet future. The souls 'came to life' in Heaven and reigned in Heaven with Christ for the figurative '1,000 years' ('1,000' is never a literal number in Scripture). Contrary to premillenialism and taking everything else in Scripture into account, the strongest interpretation of the text is that this all takes place in Heaven with the '1,000 years' the symbolic period in which the Church labours upon the earth, and deceased saints rest in Heaven. There is judgment here and the saved, it seems, have a part in it. But this is possibly a preliminary judgment and apparently only affecting true believers. This takes nothing away from the Great Judgment apparently administered by Almighty God alone. That comes right at the end of the Church Age (Revelation 20:11-15). So it seems possible that true believers do not rise in that particular judgment but receive the earlier judgment. In fact, true believers have no need to stand in the Great Judgment:

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24).

Concerning our eventual stature among the saved (the only area in which we need to be judged), our present lives are things which the judging panel of the saints are currently looking at:

'For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?' (1 Peter 4:17).

We have already looked at Revelation 20:4. I really think that we cannot leave it there without looking at verses 5-6:

'(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.' (Revelation 20:5-6).

First of all notice that these verses start with a parenthetical comment, so 'this is the first resurrection' must refer to what was stated before. We thus learn that the 'first resurrection' is what John calls the believer's entry into Heaven (some of those who would agree with our overall argument believe that 'first resurrection' refers to the believer's regeneration upon earth. That would not affect the overall outline which I depict, but - overall - the believer's entry into Heaven at their demise seems to be a stronger interpretation) . John makes it abundantly clear that these people are saved - nothing can now come between these saved souls and Christ, they are full inheritors of the promises of Romans 8. They 'reign with Him' both as believers while upon this earth during the '1,000 years' (the age of the Church), after all, believers receive the kingdom of God right now, but also in Heaven. Verse 5 had started with the parenthetical comment, 'the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.' This confirms that the resurrection of the dead will follow the Church Age and the Great Judgment will follow that. Incidentally the dead in Christ will rise, of course, in the full resurrection of soul and body at Christ's return but they will have rested in Heaven in the interim. Another part of Revelation reveals the souls of the saved residing in Heaven but longing for the full resurrection of soul and body:

'When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. (Revelation 6:9-11. NIV throughout).

So I think that all of this is the strongest interpretation of those texts which we considered, but it is not entirely without problems. The question could be asked: If Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:28-30 only concern the judgment of believers which is taking place in Heaven at the present time, why would Jesus describe this as the time of "the renewal of all things"? (Matthew 19:28). But we have to understand that the fact that God's kingdom rules in Heaven right now, means that it can be seen as a picture, witness, or evidence, of the final renewal of all things when the Eternal State, which will affect both Heaven and earth, finally arrives.

'Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' (Matthew 6:10).

So those certain believers, including the Apostles, who judge with Christ are in Heaven. Biblically, 'thrones of judgment' are always pictured in Heaven. Incidentally, 2 Corinthians 5:10 remains correct:

'For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.' (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Judgment comes to all, but believers start to be judged now and have further judgment when entering Heaven, but this is about rewarding - not condemnation!

The overall view of Revelation 20 described earlier has been the general view of all sections of the Church - Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant - for over a thousand of years. Only certain of the cults and sects and dispensationalism have departed from it, mainly from the 19th century onwards.
Robin A. Brace. March 29th, 2010.

The reader may also wish to consult: Paradise? It's Closer Than You Think!