5. The Transition Between the Ages
Ephesians 2:5: even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6. and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7. that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus; WEB
2 Thess 1:5: This is an obvious sign of the righteous judgment of God, to the end that you may be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, for which you also suffer. 6. Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay affliction to those who afflict you, 7. and to give relief to you that are afflicted with us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, 8. giving vengeance to those who don't know God, and to those who don't obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, 9. who will pay the penalty: eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10. when he comes to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired among all those who have believed (because our testimony to you was believed) in that day. WEB
There are a number of competing schools of thought about the process of the establishment of the Kingdom of God. These mainly relate to the treatment of the time period known as the “millennium”. The millennium concept arises primarily from a short passage in Revelation, which speaks of a particular period of 1000 years. However, other sections of the Bible also may be understood in relation to this.
Pre-millennialism states that there will the return of Christ will occur before a 1000 year period referred to in Revelation. Proponents may or may not see this as a 1000 literal years, but little importance can be placed on this, as there are no other events recorded that are necessary to place it against.
This is the natural view to arrive at by simply reading Revelation. Chapter 19 and 20. In Chapter 19, we see Word of God riding on the white horse, representing the returned Jesus,
Rev 19:11: I saw the heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it is called Faithful and True. In righteousness he judges and makes war. 12. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has names written and a name written which no one knows but he himself. 13. He is clothed in a garment sprinkled with blood. His name is called "The Word of God." WEB
Immediately following that in Chapter 20, we see a description of a resurrection and the 1000 year period.
Rev 20:4: I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as didn't worship the beast nor his image, and didn't receive the mark on their forehead and on their hand. They lived, and reigned with Christ for the thousand years. 5. The rest of the dead didn't live until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over these, the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with him one thousand years. WEB
Traditional pre-millennialism claims that this is a resurrection only of the righteous prior to the millennium, and that there is a second resurrection for the unrighteous at the end of it. An alternate view is that verse 5 instead claims that the rest of the righteous ones to live during the millennium would not be resurrected until the end of the millennial period.
There is also a statement here that the raised people would be rulers during the millennium period. One could expect that this would be over mortal subjects of the kingdom at that time.
Post-millennialists claim that the millennium period is in effect now, and that the culmination of the new age and return of Jesus will occur at the end of the millennium. There is a focus among this theology that political, social and economic righteousness before must be achieved by Christians before the end comes.
It is then considered the victorious mission of the church to bring this revolution about. This view gained popularity in response to seeing that there was still evil preset in the millennium period described, and so it was thought to be in the “present age” rather than the “age to come”
This view had some popularity before the 1st world war, when technology was appearing to bring prosperity to the world, but has been all but abandoned in more recent years, as people see such a human-led moral victory to be impossible, and can see little support for it in the scriptures.
Amillennialism is the view that there is no millennium as such. This requires a spiritual view of Revelation, and the 1000 years is considered synonymous with the church age. This view is quite popular, but is difficult to fit in with literal readings of the scriptures.
The primary difference between this and post-millennialism is that it is not considered the role of the church to transform the secular order. However, Christ is considered to be reigning in the world now though the church, and as such the kingdom exists now. One passage showing this idea is in Ephesians, where the present tense is used of the believers sitting in heavenly places,
Eph 2:4: But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, 5. even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6. and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7. that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus; WEB
Note though, that there is still the element of future tense with the ages to come, where the riches of grace would be shown.