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Life in the Millennium

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Isaiah 2:1-4

Life in the Millennium

“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the Lord

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be lifted up above the hills;

and all the nations shall flow to it,

and many peoples shall come, and say:

‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.’

For out of Zion shall go the law,

and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,

and shall decide disputes for many peoples;

and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war anymore.”[1]

I believe that Jesus Christ was crucified and that He was buried in a borrowed tomb; and on the authority of Scripture I believe that He was raised from the dead on the third day. I believe that He was seen by witnesses whom God chose before hand and that after fifty days He ascended into Heaven where He is now seated at the right hand of the Father. Moreover, I am convinced that Jesus will return to this earth as He has promised and that He shall reign from Jerusalem for a thousand years. I believe that all who are saved during this present Church Age are appointed to reign with Him throughout that glorious time known as the Millennium. This is the Faith I have received from my spiritual forebears.

Within Christendom are numerous professing believers who deny that Christ shall physically reign on the earth. Even among evangelical Christians are a surprising number that deny that He will reign for a thousand years. I confess that I am a naïve literalist when it comes to Scripture. When the Bible makes a declaration, I see no reason to discount what is taught. Therefore, when I read the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse, I accept that Satan will be bound and Christ will reign for a thousand years.

John recorded the glorious revelation, “I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

“Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” [Revelation 20:1-10].

The word “millennium” is derived from the Latin phrase mille anum, which means “thousand years.” Those who believe there will be a Millennium are sometimes referred to as millennialists or chiliasts (from the Greek term chília, for one thousand). When people dismiss belief in the Millennium because they say that the term only occurs in Revelation 20, the appropriate response is that though the statement is true on the face, in that one passage there are six references to the thousand years. Moreover, the concept of Messiah reigning on earth occurs repeatedly throughout Scripture. And it is one of those references that serves as a text for our studies this day.

Why Will there be a Millennium? Before we consider what the Millennium will be like for those who are living at that time, it will be beneficial to ask what God’s purpose is in planning the Millennium. Though the text does not directly address this question, the answer is provided through consideration of Scripture in its entirety. Though we are not privy to all God’s thoughts, we are privileged through reading the Word to think God’s thoughts after Him. In other words, through studying what God has provided through His Word, we can understand in a measure what He has done and why He has done it.

Throughout Scripture, God demonstrates His longing to redeem His fallen creature. Our first parents rebelled, choosing to exercise their free will to disobey the Creator, resulting in death for the race and plunging the whole of creation into ruin. Man is now incapable of making himself acceptable to God because he is totally depraved, every facet of his being contaminated by sin. God’s interaction with man since that disastrous rebellion has been more than merely introducing divine covenants, God has systematically addressed every conceivable objection mankind could raise to obeying Him as Creator. A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.[2]

Dispensationalism endeavours to establish a unity in Scripture through focusing on the grace of God. Although dispensationalists recognise differing dispensations whereby man was placed under trust by the Lord, they agree that response to God’s revelation in each dispensation is by faith. Salvation is always by grace through faith. Dispensationalists hold two primary principles: maintaining a consistent literal method of interpretation, and maintaining a distinction between Israel and the church.

Although there is some question about the number of dispensations, modern dispensationalists commonly speak of seven dispensations, each of which concluded in judgement. Man was created and placed in a perfect environment. Therefore, no individual can say that if only they lived in a perfect environment they could please God and serve Him acceptably. Our first parents lived in such an environment and they rebelled, bringing judgement upon themselves and the entire creation. The Dispensation of Innocence [Genesis 1:28-3:6] ended in judgement as Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden.

Perhaps there are those who argue that we should let our conscience be our guide. During the Dispensation of Conscience [Genesis 4:1-8:14], covering the period of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden to the Flood, mankind lived in precisely that situation, and the dispensation ended in judgement as God sent the Flood to destroy the earth.

Undoubtedly, there are individuals who contend that if only there were authoritative voices to tell them how to live, they could please God, living in such a way that they honoured Him. The Word of God teaches us that at one time the nations of the world were first united under Nimrod to oppose God. This Dispensation of Human Government [Genesis 8:15-11:9] ended with judgement at the Tower of Babel.

The Dispensation of Promise [Genesis 11:10-Exodus 18:27] covered the period during which the patriarchs provided counsel to the peoples of the earth. Their walk with God and the failure of mankind to heed their words or their teaching, concluded with judgement at Sinai.

Some people argue that if only God told mankind what He wanted, they would obey Him and please Him. Of course, throughout the Dispensation of Law [Exodus 19:1-Acts 1:26], mankind did have a perfect Law and they failed to keep it. The judgement of God at the Cross of Christ demonstrated man’s inability to satisfy the just demands of Holy God.

Now, we are in the Dispensation of Grace [Acts 2:1-Revelation 19:21], during which time God calls man to respond to His grace. Even a cursory review of the world in which we live reveals that mankind is not generally pleasing God, nor is mankind disposed to find out what pleases God. Rather, man is focused on gratifying his own desires, ignoring the will of God. This present dispensation will conclude with judgement as God removes His people and pours out awful judgements on mankind throughout the Tribulation period.

Systematically, God has removed objections that people might raised to His call for faith. Man, placed in perfect environment and in absolute innocence, is inclined to disobey God while pursuing his own will. Our consciences are unreliable and we are unable to please God when we attempt to let our conscience guide us. Strong government is not an answer to finding what pleases God. Lord Acton was correct, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Living in light of the promise of God is no solution to the problem of man’s sin. Neither is a perfect law capable of inducing obedience to the Law Giver. Similarly, responding to God’s grace and goodness is insufficient to lead man into obedience.

This leaves the objection that if only God Himself would rule over the earth, man could please Him. Throughout the Millennium, Christ Jesus, very God in human flesh, will reign from Jerusalem. Man will have opportunity to live under the perfect rule of the Son of God. Though we might imagine that everything will be perfect during that time, the Millennial Dispensation [Revelation 20:4-6] concludes with rebellion and judgement as the Son of God brings in the final judgement and at last removes sinners from His presence forever.

Throughout the dispensations, God will have removed every objection and mankind will be compelled to confess that salvation can only be by faith. Man must be transformed; he is incapable of changing himself.

Characteristics of the Millennium — The next dispensation, which is also the final dispensation, is the Millennial Kingdom of Christ the Lord. For one thousand years, Jesus shall reign over all the earth. Our text speaks of the spiritual conditions that will mark the Millennial reign of Christ the Lord. Weigh what Isaiah has written.

“In the future

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will endure

as the most important of mountains,

and will be the most prominent of hills.

All the nations will stream to it,

many peoples will come and say,

‘Come, let us go up to the Lord’s mountain,

to the temple of the God of Jacob,

so he can teach us his requirements,

and we can follow his standards.’

For Zion will be the center for moral instruction;

the Lord will issue edicts from Jerusalem.

He will judge disputes between nations;

he will settle cases for many peoples.

They will beat their swords into ploughshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nations will not take up the sword against other nations,

and they will no longer train for war.”[3]

Isaiah speaks of Jerusalem as the centre of government and of worship for the entire earth. This, and similar passages, teach us that the Millennial Kingdom is both a spiritual kingdom and a political kingdom. The spiritual nature of the Kingdom dictates the political nature of the Kingdom. Geophysical changes will have occurred prior to the Millennium. Isaiah says that the mountain on which the House of the Lord (the Millennial Temple that Ezekiel describes [Ezekiel 40:1-46:24]) is situated, is elevated above all the high mountains of the earth. Therefore, we anticipate that there will be dramatic geological changes, likely having occurred during the Tribulation period as the judgements of God were poured out on the earth.

Zechariah speaks of those changes, as well, when he writes, “The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses” [Zechariah 14:10]. Jerusalem will be much larger than it is now, but the city will include some of the ancient landmarks, such as the Benjamin Gate [Jeremiah 37:13] as well as some other gates mention by Zechariah.

We should take note both of the spiritual conditions that will prevail during the Millennium. Today, Christ reigns in the hearts of those who follow Him as redeemed people; during the Millennium, He will reign visibly from Jerusalem. The entire world will be able to see His glory [see Matthew 24:30]. In one of the Psalms ascribed to Solomon, mention is made of the fact that “the whole earth [will] be filled with His glory” [Psalm 72:19]. The reference appears to be to His reign during the Millennium.

Jesus the Messiah will serve as King of Kings and Lord of Lords [Revelation 19:16]. During this period He will fulfil the promise that He will sit on David’s throne over the House of Israel [2 Samuel 7;16; Psalm 89:20-37; Isaiah 11:1-16; Jeremiah 33:19-21]. According to the Word, Jesus was born to rule over Israel [Luke 1:32, 33]; however, the people of Israel rejected Him as their king [Mark 15:12, 13; John 19:15; cf. Luke 19:14]. On His cross, at Pilate’s insistence it was posted that He died as a king [see Matthew 27:37]. Therefore, it is consistent with the promise of God that when He returns Jesus shall come to rule over the Davidic Kingdom [Revelation 19:16]. However, in addition to reigning over the Kingdom of David, He is King over the entire earth. This includes, of course, the Gentile world. This is in keeping with the words of the Psalmist, who speaks of Messiah as having “dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” [Psalm 72:8].

Throughout Scripture are multiplied references, not least of which is the text before us, that lead the unbiased exegete to anticipate a literal reign of Christ the Lord over the literal earth [e.g. Isaiah 9:6, 7; 11:1-10; 16:5; 24:23; 32:1; 40:1-11; 42:3, 4; 52:7-15; 55:4; Daniel 2:44; 7:27; Micah 4:1-8; 5:2-5; Zechariah 9:9; 14:16, 17]. The twelve Apostles will somehow share in this reign of the Messiah, for the Master promised them “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” [Matthew 19:28].

Jesus will rule over the whole earth, thus fulfilling multiple texts that speak to this rule [Psalm 72:8; Daniel 2:8; 7:14; Micah 4:1, 2; Zechariah 9:10]. Since He will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Millennial Kingdom will be an absolute rule, and His rule will entail judgement on any who oppose Him [Psalm 2:9; 72:9-11; Isaiah 11:14]. All this fulfils the prophecy found in the Second Psalm.

“‘As for Me, I have set My King

on Zion, My holy hill.’

I will tell of the decree:

The Lord said to Me, ‘You are My Son;

today I have begotten You.

Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your heritage,

and the ends of the earth Your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron

and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”

[Psalm 2:6-9]

The Kingdom of the Reigning Christ will be characterised by righteousness and justice, in contrast to this present world. The concluding verses of the Second Psalm speak of His wrath against unrighteous and ungodly rulers. Isaiah assures us that the poor and the meek will receive justice and be treated righteously.

“His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

or decide disputes by what his ears hear,

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,

and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

[Isaiah 11:3-5]

Remember, that all those who enter into the Millennium are either resurrected saints who had been killed during the Great Tribulation or they are people who chose to believe in the coming Messiah during that awful time of judgements and yet survived to see His return. Thus, during the early stages of the Millennial Kingdom, there will be a righteous manner of life throughout the entire world. This is something that has never been witnessed to this present time.

During this period, full knowledge of God and of His will ensure that righteousness prevails. Isaiah reminds readers that “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord” [Isaiah 11:9]. Jeremiah tells us that all people will know the facts concerning Jesus the Messiah [Jeremiah 31:33, 34]. As Jesus reigns, the righteous will flourish and peace will abound according to what is written in the Psalms [Psalm 72:7].

Since righteousness will characterise the Kingdom, it should not be surprising that peace prevails because of the righteous nature of the Kingdom. In our text, we read

He shall judge between the nations,

and shall decide disputes for many peoples;

and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war anymore.”

[Isaiah 2:4]

When righteousness and peace mark the world, the peoples will be joyful. Isaiah speaks of that joy in a later chapter. “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:

‘Give thanks to the Lord,

call upon His name,

make known His deeds among the peoples,

proclaim that His name is exalted.’”

[Isaiah 12:3, 4]

Also, the Spirit will work in power during the Millennial Kingdom as is prophesied repeatedly [e.g. Isaiah 32:15; Ezekiel 29:29; Joel 2:28, 29].

I have spoken of political and spiritual characteristics of the Millennium, but the Bible also speaks of the social and economic characteristics of that time. Only saved people enter into the Millennium, but those born during the Millennium still need to be saved. Because Satan will be bound throughout the Millennium, and because of the knowledge of the Lord, many people will be saved. Because righteousness and peace prevail, this will be a time of general prosperity [Jeremiah 31:12; Ezekiel 34:25-29; Joel 2:21-27; Amos 9:13, 14].

Sickness will be greatly diminished during the Millennium [Isaiah 29:18; 33:24] and longevity will be the rule for those who are alive during those days. Isaiah writes,

“No more shall there be in it

an infant who lives but a few days,

or an old man who does not fill out his days,

for the young man shall die a hundred years old,

and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.”

[Isaiah 65:20]

Moreover, the birthrate will accelerate so that the voices of children will be generally heard. Jeremiah writes of that time:

“Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving,

and the voices of those who celebrate.

I will multiply them, and they shall not be few;

I will make them honoured, and they shall not be small.

Their children shall be as they were of old,

and their congregation shall be established before me,

and I will punish all who oppress them.”

[Jeremiah 30:19, 20]

The most wonderful part of the Millennium is that Christ shall reign. Evil shall be put down and rebellion will be dealt with promptly. This will indeed be a golden age. However, because it permits God to exposes vividly the human condition, the Millennium ends in judgement. Do you recall the brief vignette provided in the passage from Revelation with which we began this study?

“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” [Revelation 20:7-10].

The reign of Christ concludes with rebellion and judgement. Jeremiah pegged our condition precisely when he wrote:

“The heart is deceitful above all things,

and desperately sick;

who can understand it?”

[Jeremiah 17:9]

Children born during the Millennium will still need to be converted. Though they live during a time of universal knowledge of the will of God, a time of righteousness and peace, many will nevertheless be rebels to grace. And given opportunity by the release of the wicked one from his Millennial incarceration, they will unite in rebellion against God. Peace and righteousness do not convert the heart. Prosperity does not make one obedient to grace. They, as is true of all who are now living, need to be transformed by the power of God’s Spirit. Unsaved people are rebellious people under sentence of death; they will seek to dethrone God in a heartbeat

Why Study the Millennium? Wonderful though our anticipation may be, the knowledge that the dispensation ends in rebellion and judgement is sobering. It raises the question why we should learn of that time. After all, it is in the future. We of this present dispensation will not be directly affected by the events as we will reign with Christ from the New Jerusalem that appears to be hovering over the earth. Why study the Millennium at all?

Perhaps the primary reason for studying the Millennium is because God speaks so much of that time throughout Scripture. Since He focuses so intently on that time, we should desire to learn what He has planned in coming days. It is a truism that knowing the plan of God and the power of God encourages the people of God. When we understand this dispensation it makes us compassionate toward those who are yet outside the Faith. Since they have not received the salvation offered in Christ at this time, we know that should they die they are lost and that they will never see the Saviour’s reign. We also know that those who are unsaved and living at the time of the Rapture must enter into the Great Tribulation, and we are moved with compassion to do all that is necessary to keep them from those judgements, and that includes informing others of God’s plan for the world. However, we should study the Millennial reign of the Saviour for other reasons as well.

It should be the aspiration of each Christian to witness the majesty and power of Christ our Lord during that time. To imagine a time of righteousness, with the attendant peace and joy that will characterise the Millennium, should encourage each heart. God has not abandoned His creation to man’s ruinous hand, but rather He intends to ensure that we will witness what life should have been throughout history through reigning in righteousness over the whole earth.

Knowing the righteousness that shall prevail, we do not lose heart before the wickedness of this present age. Today, young men and women imagine that they demonstrate love for one another when they eschew commitment for casual sex and permit marriage to fall into disfavour. People imagine that their own comfort is the highest good, and therefore they are not alarmed at the sacrifice of unborn children. An increasing number of people throughout the world appear convinced that they should never be inconvenienced by any unpleasantness, so they test for genetic mutations in the unborn and sacrifice those deemed imperfect to their own illicit desires. They cannot believe that an imperfect child, or an elderly relative, can be a blessing, so they are prepared to jettison such burdens without considering the implications of their actions. They are eager to end their own lives, rather than trusting the God is at work even in their weakness.

Nations pursue destructive incursions against neighbouring countries and destroy their own economies as they worship the creation rather than the Creator. Wicked people promote their own perverted desires as good while rejecting godliness and censuring anyone who dares speak for what is good and holy. Even Christians appears to love the world more than righteousness and often pursue their own comfort rather than obedience to the Word of God. In such an environment, it is easy to lose heart and despair. However, knowing that God shall reign in righteousness, we are encouraged and continue to serve Him in the midst of a darkened world.

We also study the Millennium in order to witness the grace of God as He redeems lost mankind. God seeks to fill heaven with redeemed people. It is wonderful to realise that even as He judges the earth during the Great Tribulation, God receives those who turn in faith to the Messiah they have rejected before. The same thing is true in this day. All who look to Christ Jesus the Lord, receiving the life that He offers, are born from above and into the Family of God. Each one who believes receives the forgiveness of sin and the salvation which He purchased by His death, adoption into the divine family and the promise of heaven.

Finally, I suggest that it is profitable to study the Millennium in order to be reminded of the depravity of mankind. All mankind is under sin [see Romans 3:9]. In fact, the Apostle bluntly informs us that God has consigned all mankind to disobedience, so that He may have mercy on all [Romans 11:32]. Man is without excuse, however. Every excuse for sinful behaviour will have been systematically demonstrated to be false. Man cannot claim that environment is the cause of his condition. Neither can he lay the blame for his sinful choices at the feet of another. He cannot blame government or parents or even God for his fallen condition. Each person is a sinner by birth and by choice.

However, God has made provision so that no one need die because of his sinful condition. The Son of God has given His life as a sacrifice for sin and then demonstrated that He was indeed the Son of God in power by the resurrection from the dead. Therefore, the Word of God now proclaims that “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ believing in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. It is with the heart that one believes and is declared right with God, and with the mouth that one confesses and is saved.” The Word of God boldly declares that, “Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:9, 10, Author’s translation].

And that is our invitation to you. Believe the message of grace and be saved. Accept God’s mercy and receive the grace that is now extended to you so that you may enjoy that glorious dispensation known as the Millennium. Amen.


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[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] Scofield Reference Bible (Oxford University Press, New York, 1945)

[3] NET Bible, Biblical Studies Press, 2006

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