The case for Premillennialism does not begin in Revelation 20—it starts in Genesis 1. How so? Remember that Premillennialism consists of four elements: (1) a future kingdom; (2) an earthly kingdom; (3) a kingdom of the Messiah who represents man; and (4) a kingdom that is 1000 years in duration.
To see how Premillennialism relates to Genesis 1 we need to look at Genesis 1:26–28:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
What is described in this passage relates to points 1, 2, and 3 above—a future kingdom, an earthly kingdom, and a kingdom of man who rules as God’s mediator. In short, Genesis 1:26-28 teaches that man, as represented by Adam, is to “fill,” “rule,” and “subdue” the earth. The concepts of “rule” (radah) and “subdue” [kabash] have strong king and kingdom implications. These are forceful terms used of kings in the Old Testament. Man is tasked to by God to forcefully rule the earth. The command for Adam and Eve to “fill the earth” means that the commands to rule and subdue will also apply to the descendants of the first couple.
So what does this mean and how does it relate to Premillennialism? God created man in His image to rule and subdue the earth as God’s mediator. To be more specific, man was created to rule from and over the earth. Man was not created to reign from heaven over heaven or from heaven over a spiritual realm. Nor was man tasked to reign over the earth from heaven. No, man was created to rule from the earth and over the earth. We could call this a “boots-on-the-ground kingdom.” Psalm 115:16 states, “The heavens are the heavens of the LORD, but the earth He has given to the sons of men.”
Adam, as representative of mankind, sinned and failed the kingdom mandate (see Gen. 3). Man can only rule successfully for God’s glory while being in a right relationship with God. But that was ruined with the Fall. Man’s destiny to rule the earth was not removed, but he cannot do it successfully while alienated from God. Man cannot succeed with sin and the curse present.
Mankind ever since, including the theocracy of Israel, failed to rule and subdue the earth successfully. But God never abandoned His plan for man to rule the earth rightly. A successful mediatorial kingdom reign of man as God’s mediator over the earth must happen! Psalm 8:4-8 reaffirms that even in a fallen world man’s right to rule the earth and its creatures remains. Hebrews 2:5-8 also says man is destined to rule “the world to come” even though now we do not yet see that occurring.
So how does this kingdom mandate happen? Jesus, the Last Adam, and perfect representative of mankind, will make it happen. He is destined to successfully rule from and over the earth to fulfill the kingdom mandate. Jesus is worthy to rule the earth because He is perfect and because of His atoning death (see Rev. 5:9-10). No other person can accomplish this.
When Jesus returns He will establish His kingdom (Matt. 25:31; Acts 3:20-21; Rev. 19:15) and rule the earth. And so too will those who are united to Jesus (see Rev. 5:10; 20:4).
In short, Jesus will succeed from and over the realm where Adam and mankind failed. This means a successful mediatorial kingdom. When this successful reign occurs Jesus will hand the kingdom over to God the Father and the Eternal State will begin (see 1 Cor. 15:24-28). Man’s task will be successfully completed and the Eternal State will commence. This is the ultimate “Mission Accomplished!” in human history.
To come back to our original assertion—Genesis 1 is connected with Premillennialism. It does not mention “1000 years” but this passage reveals that man is destined to rule from and over the earth, which is at the heart of the premillennial view. Jesus is the One who will make it happen!
The premillennial view does indeed have roots in Genesis 1!
Michael J. Vlach is a seminary professor and author. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeVlach