THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM
Prophecy Studies - No. 11
The Millennial Kingdom brings us to the end of present history. It concerns the Kingdom Age, or what is also known as the Millennium. “Millennium” is the English form of the Latin words mille annus, meaning a thousand years. This designation is taken from Revelation 20:4, where John observed the saints living and reigning with Christ “for a thousand years.” What is in view is the earthly reign of Christ, which comes after Armageddon, and before the beginning of the eternal state.
It is well to remind ourselves at this point that no interpretation of Bible prophecy can answer all the questions, or completely explain every passage of Scripture on the subject. We “know in part” (I Cor. 13:12). However, a careful and literal interpretation of the Bible will provide a logical and consistent view of future events that is correct in all the essential details. For simplicity’s sake, we have not dealt much with opposing views, in this series. But one of the areas on which there is disagreement is the Millennium. Here are the three main positions.
Postmillennialism teaches that Christ will not come back until after the Millennium. That it is up to Christians to conquer the world for Christ, and as we do, things will get better and better, until society is “christianized.” Then the Lord will return and claim the kingdom His servants have prepared for Him. Postlmillennialism was quite popular in the 1800's, when it seemed like a golden age might be just around the corner. Two world wars have done much to dim this hope, and there are few postmillennialists today–though their numbers have had a recent resurgence. God’s Word does not tell us the world will get better and better. It says “in the last days perilous times will come....[and] evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse” (II Tim. 3:1, 13).
Amillennialism teaches that there is no such thing as a millennium, no earthly reign of Christ yet to come. Most of those who are liberal in theology are amillennialists. (They also deny Christ’s virgin birth, and His bodily resurrection, so it is not surprising they reject His coming again to reign.) However, there are also evangelicals who hold this view of prophecy. They come to this conclusion by rejecting the distinction between Israel and the church. Israel, to them, is simply the “Old Testament church.” And all the great covenants God made with Israel, and the many promises, are simply symbolic, and are to be fulfilled by us in a “spiritual” sense. The great problem with this latter view is that it interprets some Scripture literally, and other passages are spiritualized. But this puts an understanding of God’s Word at the whim of the interpreter. Who determines which verses are only meant in a “spiritual” or symbolic way? Such an approach to the Bible is truly dangerous. If the plain text does not actually mean what it says, we can make it mean almost anything!
Premillennialism (the view followed in this series) teaches that Christ will return before the Millennium and set up a literal kingdom on earth. The Scriptures teaching about this future time are extensive. Many passages clearly predict an earthly kingdom of peace and plenty, ruled over by the Messiah, and in which Israel is specially blessed. Isaiah says, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder....Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom...(Isa. 9:6-7).The angel Gabriel confirms that Christ will be given “the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob” (Lk. 1:31-33). It is an unjustified leap to turn the throne of David into God’s throne in heaven, and Israel into the church. (Especially when Christ Himself says that, seated at the right hand of the Father, He is not yet seated on the throne that has been promised to Him, Rev. 3:21). Israel is not the church. God has His specific plan for each.
INSIGHT: As we compare Scripture with Scripture, three distinct purposes can be seen for the Kingdom Age, or the Millennium. First, there is a purpose related to the physical seed of Abraham, the nation of Israel.
1) What promise did the Lord make to Abraham (Gen. 15:18)?
2) How long was this possession to be theirs (Gen. 17:8)?
3) Centuries later, what did the prophet Amos predict (Amos 9:14-15)?
INSIGHT: Though Israel has been cast out of her land by the Lord several times, He has not forgotten His promise. Her final regathering has begun, and restoration will take place when Christ returns to put down Israel’s enemies, when “in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives” (Zech. 14:3-4). “The Lord shall be King over all the earth,” and Zechariah describes the literal rebuilding of Israel at that time, saying, “No longer shall there be utter destruction, but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited” (Zech. 14:9-10). This hasn’t happened yet. But if God keeps His promises to Israel, it will happen.
INSIGHT: A second purpose of God in the Kingdom Age is the earthly exaltation of His Son. In the same place where Christ was once rejected and crowned with thorns, He will be exalted and His rule will be obeyed. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed....[But God says] “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion” (Ps. 2:2, 6). He will receive the nations as His inheritance, and rule them with a rod of iron (vs. 8-9). Then it will be said, “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ” (Rev. 11:15).
INSIGHT: The third purpose of the Millennium will be discussed in a moment. First, consider some of the things the Bible says about conditions during this time. One of these concerns the removal of the curse placed upon creation in Genesis 3:17-19.
4) What are some things this will mean in terms of changes in nature (Isa. 11:6-9)?
5) What else will happen in the natural world (Isa. 35:1-2)?
6) How will human age spans differ in the Millennium (Isa. 65:19-20)?
INSIGHT: There are several things worthy of note in this passage. The meaning is that if someone dies at the age of a hundred, he will be seen as merely a “child.” Death will be uncommon, and will mainly result from the Lord striking down an individual for doing evil. Otherwise, many may live right through the entire Millennium. (Remember that in the beginning the age spans approached a thousand years. Adam lived to be 930, and Methuselah 969, Gen. 5:5, 27.) The reality of death--even under unusual circumstances--reminds us that those who are on earth as the Kingdom is ushered in are still in their mortal bodies. This is confirmed by the fact that many children will be born during the thousand years (Isa. 65:23; Ezek. 47:21-22; Zech. 8:4-5; 10:8). Earth’s population will rapidly recover from the seven years of terrible Tribulation.
INSIGHT: With Israel once more in possession of her land, and unmolested by her enemies, a Millennial temple will be constructed. There the Jews will worship somewhat according to the Old Testament pattern, including the use of animal sacrifices. However, with this difference: the ceremonies, instead of pointing forward to the cross, will look backward to it, in remembrance and praise (much as the Lord’s Supper does for us now). This temple is described in detail in Ezekiel 40:1--47:12. Unlike the temple of New Testament times that had become “a den of thieves,” or the temple of the Tribulation that will be desecrated by the Antichrist, the glory of the Lord will be seen in this Millennial temple (Ezek. 42:4).
7) What kind of reign will Christ have, according to the following verses (Isa. 9:7; Ps. 46:8-10)?
8) Who will assist Christ in His rule over the earth (Rev. 5:9-10; 20:4)?
INSIGHT: Some of the details here are yet unknown. We of the Church Age will be in our resurrection bodies, and yet have responsibility over mortals still on earth. We know that after the Millennium, and after the creation of the “new heaven and new earth,” the heavenly city will descend to the earth (Rev. 21:1-2). Some believe that during the Millennium the New Jerusalem will be brought into position over the earth (perhaps above the earthly Jerusalem) hovering there as a huge satellite city. While this is only a theory, it is certainly possible. Then, the glorified saints would have their residence in the “many mansions” (Jn. 14:2), but have access to the earth to carry out their responsibilities there. Christ certainly carried out a ministry on earth in His glorified body--following His resurrection (as did Moses and Elijah, briefly, Matt. 17:1-3).
INSIGHT: At the beginning of the Millennium, there will be weapons of war scattered across the earth. The Bible speaks in terms of bows and spears--weapons known in ancient times. It is possible that, with the mass devastation of the Tribulation, there will be a return to these former weapons. Or perhaps we are to understand these things as representing the modern day equivalent--bullets and nuclear bombs.
9) What is one thing that will be done with the weapons of war?
9b) And for how long (Ezek. 39:9-10)?
9c) What practical purpose could this serve (compare Rev. 8:7)?
10) What else will be done with these weapons (Isa. 2:4)?
INSIGHT: This age of unparalleled peace will also be a time of abounding material prosperity (Jer. 31:12; Ezek. 34:26; Zech. 8:11-12).
11) What blessing will restored Israel experience in the Millennium (Ezek. 36:27-28; and 39:28-29)?
INSIGHT: In Zephaniah 3:9 the Lord says He will “restore to the peoples a pure language.” Some see this as a removal of the judgment of Babel, so that all the peoples of the earth can serve the Lord in unity, and worship Him with one voice.
12) What will be the spiritual character of Israel during this time (Isa. 60:21)?
INSIGHT: This will also be true of the Gentiles nations (Ps. 22:27-28; Mal. 1:11).
13) What about people’s knowledge of the things of God, at this time (Isa. 2:2-3; 11:9)?
INSIGHT: All peoples will enjoy a unique revelation of the presence and power of God on earth, in that day (Isa. 60:1-3; Zech. 2:10-11).
14) What will be the prevailing mood of the age (Isa. 9:3; 52:9; 61:7)?
15) What else will characterize the Millennium (Zech. 14:16)?
16) The feast of tabernacles was originally a celebration of what (Lev. 23:34, 42-43)? (The “booths” were temporary shelters of branches and grass, etc.)
17) Why do you think this celebration will be kept during the Kingdom Age? (Possible clue: Rev. 12:13-14.)
INSIGHT: Note that “all nations” are involved. Though Israel is specially blessed, in keeping with God’s promises, all peoples will be included in worship. No more will the temple be exclusively a Jewish centre. In that day, God’s house “shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isa. 56:7). The Lord will even use some Gentiles as priests and Levites (Isa. 66:20-21).
18) What will happen to any who refuse to worship the Lord or keep the feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:17-18)?
INSIGHT: This is an example of the way Christ will rule with a rod of iron. Obedience will be mandatory (but that does not mean each heart will be transformed).
19) What will become of the devil during the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-3)?
INSIGHT: The Millennial Kingdom fulfils God’s covenants with Israel, and fulfils His purpose to exalt His Son as King over all nations. But this period has a third purpose. It is God’s final test of mankind’s willingness to obey and serve Him.
Only believers will enter the Kingdom Age (since all God’s enemies will be destroyed). But millions will be born during this time. As with all who have been born on earth, they will need salvation through faith in Christ. Many will trust in Him. But others will refuse. Christ’s “iron rule” will keep these people in check, but they will not be truly born again. In the Church Age, Satan, “the god of this age,” has blinded the minds of unbelievers (II Cor. 4:4). During the thousand years, they will not be able to blame the devil for their condition, so this removes the final excuse of unbelievers, “The devil made me do it!”
20) What will happen when Satan is released from his prison, at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:7-9)?
INSIGHT: Those who have remained unregenerate will seize the opportunity to rebel against Christ, but the rebellion will quickly be put down. “Gog and Magog” are spoken of in Ezekiel 38--39, where Magog seems to represent Russia and her allies, and “Gog” is the ruler of this people. Ezekiel describes a battle which takes place before Armageddon, in which Gog and Magog are destroyed. This is not the same battle as John describes in Revelation 20:8-9, where all nations are involved. The use of the terms Gog and Magog in Revelation is not explained. But perhaps it recalls the earlier defeat, much the same as we sometimes talk about people reaching their “Waterloo,” recalling Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon.
INSIGHT: Thus the utter depravity of the human heart will be displayed for the final time on earth. The philosophy that man is “naturally good” will be repudiated forever.
21) There is a point that God has been seeking to make with man since the very beginning. Based on the following verses, what is it (II Cor. 3:5; Phil. 4:13; or see Jn. 15:5)?
INSIGHT: The Millennial Kingdom is virtually an ideal earthly environment, though because of the presence of fallen human beings, it is not perfect. Even so, many of the conditions evident in the Millennium will continue on into the eternal state. The experience of the saints within the New Jerusalem will be that heaven has already begun for them. Nevertheless, there are a couple of matters to be dealt with before eternity is ushered in. These will be discussed in the next and final lesson in this series.