This article is part of a series responding to an article titled "THE BIBLE VERSUS THE CHURCH OF CHRIST" by James L. Melton. The original article is no longer available at av1611.org as it once was. Reading a response without access to the original writing can be frustrating. Having the context of quotes is important. You can download Mr. Melton's article here.
by William J. Stewart
Melton calls the idea of “a GENERAL resurrection and judgment” for all mankind a “perversion of truth.” Has Melton never read John 5? Notice what the Lord said:
Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29).
If that’s not “a GENERAL resurrection and judgment” I’m not sure what it is. Jesus said ALL will be resurrected, both the good and the evil, and they will ALL receive either eternal life or condemnation.
In his next few paragraphs, Melton mentions the 1000 year reign almost a dozen times. He states, “True Bible-believers take the Pre-Millennial view, which is the correct view, according to the word of God.” I’d be delighted to discuss the pre-millennial theory at length with anyone who wants to do so. But, let me state this—Revelation 1:1 says the message has been “…sent and signified…” One must understand the figures and images we encounter in Revelation are signs and symbols. They are not to be taken literally. When we read about strange creatures in the book, when events happen, when numbers are used—they are not literal, they are signs. It is faulty to look for literal fulfillments of what has been symbolically presented. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe only 144,000 people will go to heaven, because they have taken the number given in Revelation 7:4 & 14:2 literally. And yet they fail to take the rest of the details about 144,000 literally (male, Jewish, virgins). Those who take the pre-millennial position are guilty of the same. They make the 1000 years of Revelation 20 literal, and either ignore or misrepresent what the rest of the Bible says about the reign of Christ in favour of their doctrine.
Speaking before a crowd in His day, Jesus plainly revealed when His reign would begin. He said, “…there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9:1). His reign would not begin two millennia or more in the future, but would begin in the first century (see Acts 2:30-36; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 10:12-13). If the reign of Christ was a literal 1000 years, then it would have ceased in 11th century (ie. 1030 AD), since according to Jesus, Peter and Paul, the Lord began to reign in the 1st century (ie. 30 AD).
Melton cites a Grover Stevens publication, The Rapture, Tribulation, and Pre-Millennialism, which states “the day of the Lord” in 2 Peter 3:10 is “the day of his coming.” Immediately the accusations fly. Mr. Stevens is “perverting 2 Peter 3:9-10.” Mr. Stevens “IGNORES verse 8 and quotes verse 9 and 10 OUT OF CONTEXT.” Melton explains to us why brother Stevens “ignored” verse 8, it is “because verse 8 INCLUDES the 1000 year reign!!” Does it? The verse reads:
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)
Seriously? Melton thinks this is a reference to the 1000 year reign of Christ? True, the phrase “thousand years” is found, but that doesn’t make it a reference to the millennial reign of Christ. If so, does that mean that Psalm 90:4 and Ecclesiastes 6:6 are also references to the millennial reign? Foolishness!
It is Melton who has ignored the context! Let’s summarize it briefly. Scoffers will come in the last days (v 3, cf. Hebrews 1:2), who will mock the idea that Jesus is returning (v 4) for judgment (v 7), claiming that “all things continue as they were from the beginning.” Peter says they “willfully forget” (v 5) about the judgment (v 6) which came in Noah’s day by the flood. The final judgment, which involves the destruction of the heavens and earth, is coming (v 7, cf. v 10-12).
Verse 8 is not about the 1000 year reign of Christ. If that were the case, what’s the point of comparing it to “one day”? If it is a literal 1000 years, then it is not one day. Nowhere in the Bible is the 1000 year reign compared to or referred to as “one day.” So, what is Peter’s point? The apostle is alluding to Psalm 90:4, “…a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.” The scoffers of his day may have objected, “It’s been 40 years—he’s not coming.” Scoffers today might contend, “It’s been 1987 years—he’s not coming.” They mock because it’s taking too long. They jeer because they don’t believe it’s going to happen. Peter’s retort—time is nothing before the Lord. We are subject to days and years and centuries and millennia—the Lord is not bound by the clock or the calendar. The final judgment will come when it comes, when the Lord deems the time right. God will not fail to keep His promised judgment (v 9), but is patiently waiting for people to turn to Him.
What does Melton do with 2 Peter 3:8? He says, “one day is as a THOUSAND YEARS in God’s eyes, so the ‘day of the Lord’ can very well INCLUDE the 1000 year reign!” To make room for his premillennial theory, Melton ignores the contextual meaning of 2 Peter 3:8, and conveniently redefines the “day.” The Bible doesn’t speak of the 1000 year reign as “one day” that lasts for a 1000 years.
Melton disparagingly infers that Revelation 20:5 “is NEVER quoted by the Church of Christ.” Overstatements and lies are not becoming. The discussion of the first resurrection spans Revelation 20:4-6. The first resurrection is not a literal resurrection, as Melton believes. It is a figure used to refer to spiritual life (John 5:24-25; 11:26; Ephesians 2:1-5; 5:14; Colossians 2:13). Those who obey the Lord have received the first resurrection. Revelation 20:6 says the second death (eternal destruction, hell) has no power over them. However, Revelation 20:5 says the rest of the dead (spiritually dead) are not raised, that is, they do not have spiritual life. They have no part in the first resurrection which is affected by obedience to the gospel.
Melton ends this topic with one final accusation, “…the Church of Christ OMITS the Millennium altogether, making the First Resurrection and the Second Death one and the same.” Absolutely not! The first resurrection is about rising to “newness of life” (Romans 6:3-5), it is a reference to spiritual life. The second death is the condemnation that will come to the wicked at the final judgment. They most certainly are not the same thing.