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10. The Millennium

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What is the millennial kingdom? The term millennium comes from two Latin words “mille,” meaning “thousand,” and “annum,” meaning “year.”1 The term refers to Revelation 20 where John refers to Christ’s ruling on the earth for 1000 years six times. Revelation 20:4 says:

Then I saw thrones and seated on them were those who had been given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. These had not worshiped the beast or his image and had refused to receive his mark on their forehead or hand. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

As mentioned in earlier chapters, there are different views on this. For amillennialists, the millennial kingdom is happening now in the sense that Christ is ruling in heaven and in the hearts of believers on earth. At the end of this time period, Christ will return to usher in the eternal state. For postmillennialists, the millennial kingdom will happen sometime during this age. The world will get better and better until a golden age of righteousness occurs, which will be the millennium. At the end of that age, Christ will return to usher in the eternal stage (Rev 21-22). However, for premillennialists who take a more literal understanding of prophetic prophecies about the millennium, the millennium is the intermediate kingdom between the present age and the eternal age. At the end of this present age, Christ will return to usher in the millennium. Some believe the millennium will be a literal 1,000-year period, while others believe 1000 years is figurative for a long time (cf. Ps 50:10). In the beginning of the millennium, Satan will be bound so he can no longer tempt the nations (Rev 20:1-3). Christ will rule with believers over the entire world from Jerusalem (cf. Rev 20:1-6, Zech 14:17-19). This understanding of the millennium is developed by considering future prophetic passages which neither fit in the present age nor in the eternal age (cf. Zech 14:17-19, Is 11:4, 65:20, Rev 20:1-10, etc.). We will look at some of these below, as we consider names for the kingdom, inhabitants of the kingdom, and characteristics of the kingdom.

Names

What are some names of the millennial kingdom?

1. The Kingdom of God

Mark 1:15 says, “He [Jesus] said, ‘The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!’”

2. The Kingdom of Heaven

In Matthew 5:3, Christ said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” The kingdom of heaven was probably a name Matthew used to not offend Jewish sensibilities. Jews revered the name of God so much, they aimed not to say it as to not take it in vain.

3. The New World (ESV) or Renewal of All things (NIV)

Matthew 19:28 (ESV) says, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

4. The World to Come

Hebrews 2:5 says, “For he did not put the world to come, about which we are speaking, under the control of angels.”

5. The Time All Things Are Restored

In Acts 3:21, Peter said, “This one [referring to Jesus] heaven must receive until the time all things are restored, which God declared from times long ago through his holy prophets.”

Inhabitants

Who are the inhabitants of the millennial kingdom?

1. After returning from heaven to judge the disobedient at the end of the tribulation, Christ will rule the earth as king during the millennial kingdom (cf. Rev 20:4, 6).

Zechariah 14:9 and 16 says,

The Lord will then be king over all the earth. In that day the Lord will be seen as one with a single name … Then all who survive from all the nations that came to attack Jerusalem will go up annually to worship the King, the Lord who rules over all, and to observe the Feast of Tabernacles.

2. Believers who survived the tribulation will enter the millennial kingdom.

When Christ returns at the end of the tribulation period, he will send unbelievers to hell and allow believers to enter into his kingdom. This is illustrated in many parables about the kingdom which Christ gave. In the parable of the weeds and the wheat, the weeds are thrown into the fire while the wheat goes into the barn (Matt 13:36-43). In the parable of the net, the bad fish are burned while the good fish are not (Matt 13:47-50). In the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt 25:31-46), the goats are sent into eternal fire, while the sheep inherit the kingdom. Only believers will enter into the kingdom. This will include Jews converted at Christ’s return (Zech 12:10, Rom 11:26-27). In Matthew 25:31-34 and 41, Christ said:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world … Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels!

3. Believers who survived the tribulation will give birth to many children during the millennial kingdom.

There are several verses that mention these children. For example, Isaiah 11:6-8 says,

A wolf will reside with a lamb, and a leopard will lie down with a young goat; an ox and a young lion will graze together, as a small child leads them along. A cow and a bear will graze together, their young will lie down together. A lion, like an ox, will eat straw. A baby will play over the hole of a snake; over the nest of a serpent an infant will put his hand.

Likewise, Isaiah 65:20 and 23 says,

Never again will one of her infants live just a few days or an old man die before his time. Indeed, no one will die before the age of a hundred, anyone who fails to reach the age of a hundred will be considered cursed… They will not work in vain, or give birth to children that will experience disaster. For the Lord will bless their children and their descendants.

4. Raptured and resurrected believers will enter the millennial kingdom (cf. 1 Thess 4:13-18, 1 Cor 15:51-54).

Revelation 20:4 says:

Then I saw thrones and seated on them were those who had been given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. These had not worshiped the beast or his image and had refused to receive his mark on their forehead or hand. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Many struggle with this. They say, “There will be glorified saints walking around with people in unresurrected bodies? Sounds like something from Star Wars!” However, this probably should not surprise us so much, since this has happened before. After Christ resurrected from the dead, he visited his disciples for forty days (cf. Acts 1:3)—eating and drinking with them and teaching them about the kingdom of God. In addition, after Christ died and was resurrected, some believers were raised from the dead and visited people in Jerusalem. Apparently, they had glorified bodies just like Christ did. Matthew 27:50-53 says,

Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart. And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.)

The resurrected Christ and other glorified saints visiting believers on the earth was just a picture of the coming kingdom.

Characteristics

What are characteristics of the millennial kingdom?

1. The millennium will be a time where Christ rules the world from Jerusalem, and the nations will worship and submit to him.

Christ’s reign on the earth will be a fulfillment of God’s promise to David, that he would have a seed who would have an eternal reign (cf. 2 Sam 7:12-13). Luke 1:32-33 describes this when referring to Christ before he was born:

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.

Also, many Old Testament prophesies describe his reign and how the nations will submit to him. Isaiah 11:9 says, “… For there will be universal submission to the Lord’s sovereignty, just as the waters completely cover the sea.” Zechariah 8:22 and 14:9 says,

Many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord who rules over all and to ask his favor.

The Lord will then be king over all the earth. In that day the Lord will be seen as one with a single name.

Isaiah 2:3 says,

…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.

2. The millennium will be a time where saints judge and rule with Christ.

Again, Revelation 20:4 says:

Then I saw thrones and seated on them were those who had been given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. These had not worshiped the beast or his image and had refused to receive his mark on their forehead or hand. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Likewise, Revelation 2:26 says, “And to the one who conquers and who continues in my deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations.”

Many other verses also describe believers judging and ruling. In 1 Corinthians 6:3, Paul talked about believers judging angels, and in Luke 19, Christ talked about his faithful servants ruling cities in the kingdom (v. 17, 19). Charles Ryrie said this about the government in the millennium:

Authority over the twelve tribes of Israel will be vested in the hands of the Twelve Apostles (Matt. 19:28). Other princes and nobles will likewise share in governmental duties (Isa. 32:1; Jer. 30:21). It seems too that many others of lesser rank will have responsibilities in various departments of the kingdom government. The Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11–27) indicates that those who have proved their faithfulness will be given much authority. The church, too, will have a part in governing the earth (Rev. 5:10). Though many of the normal procedures of government will be carried out by subordinates, Christ will be King over all.2

3. The millennium will be a time where the Jews will be a blessing to the world by obeying and worshiping Christ and leading the nations to worship him in Jerusalem.

In Romans 11:11-12 and 15, Paul said this about the effects of the Jews’ current rejection of God and their future acceptance of him:

I ask then, they did not stumble into an irrevocable fall, did they? Absolutely not! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make Israel jealous. Now if their transgression means riches for the world and their defeat means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full restoration bring? ... For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

Zechariah 8:23 says,

The Lord who rules over all says, ‘In those days ten people from all languages and nations will grasp hold of—indeed, grab—the robe of one Jew and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

As a part of this, Jerusalem will experience various topographical changes which will allow it to be the center of worship for the world. Zechariah 14:4, 8, 10-11, and 16 says:

On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which lies to the east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west, leaving a great valley. Half the mountain will move northward and the other half southward… Moreover, on that day living waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it will happen both in summer and in winter… All the land will change and become like the Arabah from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem will be raised up and will stay in its own place from the Benjamin Gate to the site of the First Gate and on to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the royal winepresses. And people will settle there, and there will no longer be the threat of divine extermination—Jerusalem will dwell in security… Then all who survive from all the nations that came to attack Jerusalem will go up annually to worship the King, the Lord who rules over all, and to observe the Feast of Tabernacles.

4. The millennium will be a time of blessing on all people, as they experience peace, righteousness, justice, and good health.

Isaiah 2:4b and 11:9 describe how there will no longer be war:

… They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will not take up the sword against other nations, and they will no longer train for war.

Isaiah 2:4

They will no longer injure or destroy on my entire royal mountain. For there will be universal submission to the Lord’s sovereignty, just as the waters completely cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:30

Isaiah 2:4 and 9:7 describe the justice experienced when the messiah judges cases involving nations or individuals.

He will judge disputes between nations; he will settle cases for many peoples…

…He will rule on David’s throne and over David’s kingdom, establishing it and strengthening it by promoting justice and fairness, from this time forward and forevermore. The Lord’s intense devotion to his people will accomplish this.

Finally, many verses describe the supernatural health people will have during this period of time: Isaiah 29:18 says, “At that time the deaf will be able to hear words read from a scroll, and the eyes of the blind will be able to see through deep darkness.” Isaiah 33:24 says, “No resident of Zion will say, ‘I am ill’; the people who live there will have their sin forgiven.” Also, Isaiah 65:20 says,

Never again will one of her infants live just a few days or an old man die before his time. Indeed, no one will die before the age of a hundred, anyone who fails to reach the age of a hundred will be considered cursed.

5. The millennium will be a time of blessing over nature.

In Romans 8:21, Paul said creation will be set free from the “bondage of decay,” which no doubt means the removal of all types of disarray which happens in nature as a result of the fall (v. 22). There will probably be no more decay happening amongst the grass, plants, and trees. They will be evergreen. Deserts and barren places will become fruitful and prosperous. Isaiah 35:1-2 and 6-7 says

Let the desert and dry region be happy; let the wilderness rejoice and bloom like a lily! Let it richly bloom; let it rejoice and shout with delight! It is given the grandeur of Lebanon, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the grandeur of the Lord, the splendor of our God. … for water will flow in the desert, streams in the wilderness. The dry soil will become a pool of water, the parched ground springs of water. Where jackals once lived and sprawled out, grass, reeds, and papyrus will grow.

It will be a time of continual harvest. Amos 9:13 says,

“Be sure of this, the time is coming,” says the Lord, “when the plowman will catch up to the reaper and the one who stomps the grapes will overtake the planter. Juice will run down the slopes, it will flow down all the hillsides.

Also, the blessing on nature will include how animals will submit to humanity and will no longer hurt one another. Isaiah 11:6-8 says,

A wolf will reside with a lamb, and a leopard will lie down with a young goat; an ox and a young lion will graze together, as a small child leads them along. A cow and a bear will graze together, their young will lie down together. A lion, like an ox, will eat straw. A baby will play over the hole of a snake; over the nest of a serpent an infant will put his hand.

6. The millennium will be a time where people have a unified language so they can both serve and worship together.

Apparently, the world will return to pre-Babel conditions (cf. Gen 11). Zephaniah 3:9 (ESV) says, “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord.” Also, Isaiah 66:23 says, “‘From one month to the next and from one Sabbath to the next, all people will come to worship me,’ says the Lord.”

In addition, people will apparently come to Jerusalem to offer animal sacrifices to God (cf. Jer 33:15-18, Zech 14:16, 21, Ez 43:18-27). Ezekiel 43:18-27 is the most extensive treatment on this. It is given in the context of the millennial temple which Christ will build (cf. Zech 6:12-13, 2 Sam 7:12-13). Verses 18-19 say,

Then he said to me: “Son of man, this is what the sovereign Lord says: These are the statutes of the altar: On the day it is built to offer up burnt offerings on it and to sprinkle blood on it, you will give a young bull for a sin offering to the Levitical priests who are descended from Zadok, who approach me to minister to me, declares the sovereign Lord.

Many are bothered by this since Christ’s sacrifice removed the need to offer animal sacrifices, which were always shadows of his coming (cf. Heb 10:1-18). However, since these sacrifices will not point forward to his coming, they must therefore be a memorial—pointing back to his work on the cross.

7. The millennium will be a time where Christ rules the rebels with an “iron scepter” (Ps 2:9, Rev 2:27) and then ultimately destroys those who will not repent at the end of the millennium.

Several verses describe rebellion at times happening in the millennial kingdom. Since only believers will enter the kingdom, the rebellion most likely will come from their children. They will be raised to believe in Jesus and follow him; however, many will only give outward obedience and never truly be born again. Therefore, entire nations will at times rebel against Christ and therefore be disciplined by him. Zechariah 14:16-19 describes Christ judging rebellious nations:

Then all who survive from all the nations that came to attack Jerusalem will go up annually to worship the King, the Lord who rules over all, and to observe the Feast of Tabernacles. But if any of the nations anywhere on earth refuse to go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord who rules over all, they will get no rain. If the Egyptians will not do so, they will get no rain—instead there will be the kind of plague which the Lord inflicts on any nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and of all nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.

In the beginning of the millennium, Satan is bound to stop him from tempting the nations (Rev 20:1-3); however, at the end of the millennium, he is set free to again tempt them. It is not clear how long he will tempt the nations, but at some point, the nations will rebel against Christ and Christ will destroy them. Revelation 20:7-10 describes this:

Now when the thousand years are finished, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to bring them together for the battle. They are as numerous as the grains of sand in the sea. They went up on the broad plain of the earth and encircled the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and devoured them completely. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are too, and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever.

Some have asked, “Why would Satan be released after initially being bound?” As quoted by Harold Wilmington, Dr. J. Vernon McGee suggests one answer:

When the late Dr. Chafer (founder of Dallas Theological Seminary) was once asked why God loosed Satan after he once had him bound, he replied, “If you will tell me why God let him loose in the first place, I will tell you why God lets him loose the second time.” Apparently Satan is released at the end of the Millennium to reveal that the ideal conditions of the kingdom, under the personal reign of Christ, do not change the human heart. This reveals the enormity of the enmity of man against God. Scripture is accurate when it describes the heart as “desperately wicked” and incurably so. Man is totally depraved. The loosing of Satan at the end of the 1,000 years proves it. (Reveling Through Revelation, pp. 74-75)3

Conclusion

The millennial kingdom will be a time where Christ rules with his saints on the earth, mostly apart from Satan and his influence (Rev 20:1-6). It will be a time of rich blessing on people and creation. The earth will be full of peace, righteousness, justice, and the knowledge of the Lord. The nations will come to Jerusalem to worship Christ and hear his instructions. At the end of the millennium, Satan will be set free to tempt the nations. The nations will rebel against Christ and his saints—demonstrating the evilness of the human heart—but Christ will judge them, throw Satan into the lake of fire (Rev 20:7-10), and soon after usher in the eternal state (Rev 21).

Reflection

  1. What stood out most in the reading and why?
  2. What are the various views of the millennium and their distinguishing beliefs?
  3. What are some names of the millennium used in the New Testament?
  4. According to premillennialism (and its literal interpretation of millennial texts), what are some characteristics of the millennium?
  5. According to premillennialism (and its literal interpretation of millennial texts), who are the inhabitants of the millennium?
  6. What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2021 Gregory Brown

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1 MacArthur, J., & Mayhue, R. (Eds.). (2017). Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (p. 884). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

2 Ryrie, C. C. (1999). Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (pp. 593–595). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

3 Wilmington, Harold. Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible (Olive Tree Bible Software), 2011 Updated Edition.

Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come)

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