Bible Prophecy in Chronology series (post #23)
The phrase “thousand years” occurs six times in Revelation 20:1-7. We call these thousand years Christ’s Millennial Reign. The word “millennium” comes from two Latin words: mille (“thousand”) and annum (“year”). Therefore, Jesus’ thousand-year reign upon the earth is His Millennial Reign. Another name for it is “the kingdom age.” When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” He knew the ultimate fulfillment of that prayer will be His millennial reign.
In a previous post (post #4), I explained that the seven-year tribulation period is God finishing up some unfinished business He has with Israel. That period is the final seven years of 490 years of Israel’s history that God prophesied through Daniel long ago (Daniel 9:20-27). Well, in the same way, Christ’s millennial reign is God finishing up even more unfinished business with Israel. Through scores of Old Testament prophecies, He has promised Israel a glorious kingdom age. This age will see the Jews completely restored to their land of Canaan and living in peace and prosperity under the reign of their Messiah.
For the record, this is why many of the Jews wouldn’t accept Jesus as their Messiah when He came the first time. In their eyes, His claims to be their promised Messiah rang hollow because He didn’t create the changes the Messiah was supposed to create. He didn’t lead the Jews in a military overthrow of Rome. He didn’t heal the land and make it abundant like the garden of Eden. He didn’t establish a throne. He didn’t wear a crown. He didn’t make Jerusalem the most important city on earth.
Of course what they didn’t understand was that Jesus would come twice. His first coming dealt with spiritual matters, and His second coming will deal with material matters. His first coming was about servitude, and His second coming will be about sovereignty. His first coming took Him to a tree, and His second coming will take Him to a throne.
The prophecies that offer us glimpses of the coming kingdom age are numerous and scattered throughout the pages of the Old Testament. J. Vernon McGee wrote: “In Scripture there is more prophecy concerning the Millennium than of any other period. The kingdom was the theme of the Old Testament prophets.” I won’t even try to offer an exhaustive list of the Old Testament prophecies in which God promises Israel a kingdom age, but here are a few: Isaiah 4:3-6, Isaiah 11:11-16, Ezekiel 36:22-38, Ezekiel 37:15-28, Daniel 2:31-45, Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel 7:27, Micah 5:2-4, and Zechariah 2:10-13.
But what will life in Christ’s millennial reign actually be like? Well, that’s a big subject, one upon which entire books have been written. However, for the purposes of this post, I’ll attempt a descriptive overview. Ready? Here we go.
1. Jesus will reign as King of the world from Jerusalem.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary and informed her that she would conceive a son, Gabriel said of the son, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30-33). Gabriel’s word of prophecy will be fulfilled in the kingdom age as Jesus rules over the world from His Davidic throne in Jerusalem. As Isaiah 24:23 says: “For the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem.” Other relevant passages are: 2 Samuel 7:16, Psalm 2:1-12, Psalm 72:1-20, Psalm 89:20-37, Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 11:1-16, Isaiah 16:5, Isaiah 42:1-4, Jeremiah 23:1-8, Jeremiah 33:19-21, Micah 4:6-7, Micah 5:2-5, Zechariah 2:1-5, Zechariah 2:10-11, Zechariah 8:3, Zechariah 14:9, Zephaniah 3:14-17, and Revelation 19:16.
2. David will reign as a prince/vice-regent to Jesus.
Like the bodies of all the believers from the Old Testament era, David’s body will be resurrected, glorified, and reunited with his soul at Christ’s Second Coming (see post #22). David will then serve as what we might think of as a “second-in-command” (especially concerning the Jews) under Jesus during the millennial reign. In reference to this time, God says in Jeremiah 30:9, “But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.” Other relevant passages are: Ezekiel 34:23-24, Ezekiel 37:24, and Hosea 3:5.
3. Christ’s 12 apostles will sit on thrones with Him and serve as judges over the 12 tribes of Israel.
In the kingdom age, the city of Jerusalem will be enlarged and raised up topographically from its surrounding land (Zechariah 14:10). The city will also be surrounded by walls, within which will be 12 gates (Ezekiel 48:30-35). Furthermore, each of the 12 tribes of Israel will have an allotted section of Canaan (the land of Israel). The borders of these sections are meticulously recorded in Ezekiel 48:1-29. Jesus Himself promised His chosen 12 apostles that they will serve as judges over the 12 tribes of Israel during His reign (Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:29-30).
The only question is, Who will take Judas Iscariot’s place among the 12? We know that Matthias was the man chosen to take Judas’ place as a member of the group (Acts 1:15-26), but we also know that Paul became the most famous apostle of them all (with the possible exception of Peter). So, will the 12th apostle in the kingdom age be Matthias or Paul? Most commentators dodge the question altogether, and I can’t say that I blame them. I myself kind of pull for it to be Matthias simply because he gets forgotten by history while Paul writes half the New Testament and becomes the leading spiritual authority on virtually all matters.
4. Christians will reign with Jesus.
In Revelation 5:10, we read a quote that comes from twenty-four elders that John sees in heaven. These twenty-elders represent the entirety of the church in heaven following the Rapture. And what do these elders say to Jesus? They say, “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and WE SHALL REIGN ON THE EARTH.” Other relevant passages are: Daniel 7:18, Daniel 7:27, Matthew 5:5, 1 Corinthians 6:2, 2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 2:26-27, Revelation 3:21, and Revelation 20:4-6.
5. Christians will be given varying degrees of responsibility based upon their level of service rendered in life.
In Luke 19:11-27, Jesus tells an interesting parable. It begins with a certain nobleman going into a far country to receive a kingdom. Before he leaves on the trip, he gathers together ten of his servants and gives each one a mina, along with the command, “Do business till I return.” (A mina was an amount of money that was equivalent to three months salary.) When the nobleman returns, he finds that one of the servants has taken his one mina and through good business turned it into ten minas. The nobleman says, “Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.” Another servant’s profit of five minas is rewarded with him being given authority over five cities. But one servant does nothing to invest his mina. Instead of investing it, he places it in a handkerchief for safekeeping. So, upon the nobleman’s return, the nobleman has the one mina taken from that servant and given to the servant who has ten minas. If we are right to apply this “kingdom” parable to delegated responsibilities in the kingdom age, it means that Christians who render the most fruitful service in life will be awarded the greater responsibilities in the millennial reign. Other relevant passages are: Matthew 13:12, Matthew 25:29, Mark 4:25, and Luke 8:18.
6. There will be worldwide peace.
Isaiah 2:4 says of the millennial reign: “He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” A plowshare is the cutting blade of a plow. A pruning hook is a a long-handled instrument with a curved blade that is used for pruning plants. The teaching is that warfare and military pursuits will be replaced by agricultural efforts. Another relevant passage is Micah 4:1-3.
7. The earth itself will be restored to a pristine condition.
After Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden, God told him, “Cursed is the ground for your sake…” (Genesis 3:17). God’s curse ruined the pristine natural conditions that existed before Adam’s sin. Romans 8:18-22 elaborates on this idea by saying that creation was “subjected to futility” and now exists under “the bondage of corruption.” It “groans and labors” like a woman who is ready to give birth. This explains why the earth is filled with such things as weeds, briars, and deserts. But Christ’s millennial reign will feature in large part a worldwide return to nature’s once idyllic conditions. For example, the “desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose” and “waters shall burst forth in the wilderness” (Isaiah 35:1-10). Other relevant passages are: Isaiah 32:14-15, Ezekiel 34:26-27, Zechariah 8:11-12, Joel 3:18, and Amos 9:13.
8. All the earth’s fierce creatures will become tame and docile.
Isaiah 11:6-8 says that in the millennial reign: the wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the kid goat, the calf will lie down with the young lion, the cow and the bear will graze together, the lion will eat straw like the ox, and deadly snakes will not strike. In other words, all the carnivorous beasts and dangerous creatures will stop their killing and their flesh eating. Other relevant passages are: Isaiah 65:25, Ezekiel 34:25-28, and Hosea 2:18.
9. Life will return to simpler times.
In a previous post (post #11), I said that I agree with those who believe that Revelation 9:16-19 is the apostle John’s description of modern warfare. However, even assuming that my take on that passage is correct (and it might not be), it is undeniable that many of the descriptions of life in the tribulation period involve far less sophisticated weapons of war. First, the Russian invasion of Israel that is recorded in Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 (see post #7) speaks of horses, horsemen, bucklers, shields, swords, bows, and arrows (Ezekiel 38:4, 39:3,9,10). Second, the description of the commercial items that are being bought and sold in the city of “Mystery Babylon” (Rome I believe, see post #19) in the last half of the tribulation period features horses and chariots. Third, the description of the warfare that is raging in the city of Jerusalem at Christ’s Second Coming mentions the horses, mules, camels, donkeys, and cattle of the foreign armies (Zechariah 14:15). Fourth, the description of the battle of Armageddon speaks of literal horses being used in the battle (Revelation 19:18). We know the horses are literal because the birds of the air eat their flesh after the battle.
So, what are we to make of all this? Frankly, I don’t know, and I’ve never read or heard anyone else who does. My best guess is that somewhere along the line in the tribulation period or possibly even before it our computerized, mechanized, modern technology will take a serious hit. For years now we’ve heard reports of weapons being invented that can be aimed toward manufactured devices and render them immobile or inoperative. Perhaps such weapons will factor into the equation. Maybe the events of the seal judgments or the trumpet judgments will take out the worldwide electrical grid. Maybe some kind of terrorist act will take down the world’s computers with a computer virus. Maybe the intensified sun of the fourth bowl judgment will fry all our satellites up there orbiting around. Maybe the rivers being turned to “blood” as a part of the fourth trumpet judgment and the third bowl judgment will decimate the world’s hydroelectric power systems. Or maybe that great earthquake of the seventh bowl judgment – the quake that causes the cities of the world to fall – will play a key role in reverting society back to the middle ages. I’m just throwing out some random ideas here. All I know is that if we take certain prophetic passages literally, the world of the future sounds more like the world of the past.
I’m mentioning this now because the Bible’s descriptions of Christ’s millennial reign consistently teach that life on earth in those days will be a return to simpler times. Isaiah 61:5 speaks of flocks, plowmen, and vinedressers. Isaiah 65:21 speaks of vineyards. Jeremiah 31:12 speaks of wheat, new wine, oil, flocks, and herds. Joel 2:18-24 speaks of grain, new wine, oil, open pastures, fruit-bearing trees, fig trees, vines, and threshing floors. Amos 9:13-14 speaks of plowing, sowing seed, reaping, making gardens, planting vineyards, treading upon grapes, and drinking wine from them. Micah 4:4 and Zechariah 3:10 both speak of grapevines and fig trees. Zechariah 2:4 speaks of livestock. Zechariah 8:12 speaks of seed, vines, and grounds giving their increase. Again, I can’t say for sure exactly what happens in this world’s future that reverts everything back to simpler times (even regarding warfare), but that is precisely what the Bible foretells in passage after passage.
#10. Jesus will provide physical healing for the tribulation-period survivors who go into the millennial reign in their earthly bodies.
Earth’s inhabitants during the 1,000 years of the kingdom age will be a mixed assortment of believers existing in eternal, glorified bodies and believers existing in normal, earthly bodies. Concerning the believers (Jewish and Gentile) who live through the tribulation period and go into the millennial reign in their earthly bodies, Jesus will heal them of all their physical infirmities at the beginning of the 1,000 years. Isaiah 35:5:-6 says of that time: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing…” Jesus will heal those people of their diseases, infirmities, and sicknesses as easily as He healed people during His first coming.
11. The tribulation-period survivors will live to extended ages.
Some factor or combination of factors about the kingdom age will allow people in their normal bodies to live to incredible ages. Perhaps it will be the fact that Jesus heals those bodies completely at the start of the 1,000 years. Perhaps it will be the fact that the earth will no longer be under God’s curse. Perhaps it will be the return to the rural, agriculture-based society and diet. Perhaps it will be all of these factors working in unison.
At any rate, however it happens, Isaiah 65:20 teaches that if someone dies at the age of 100 it will be as if that person died as a child. Likewise, Zechariah 8:4 says that Jerusalem in the kingdom age will feature old men and old women who are of “great age.” I’m not ready to say that the average lifespan in the millennial reign will match the ages described in the pre-flood world of the early chapters of Genesis, but they will definitely be much, much longer than the lifespans to which we are accustomed today.
Please understand, though, that any tribulation-period believer who goes into the kingdom age in an earthly body will eventually die, even if it takes several centuries to do so. We must keep in mind that the tribulation-period survivors will still have the inborn, Adamic nature of sin coursing through them. This means that there will inevitably be a certain amount of sin in the millennial reign (I’ll say more about that in the next post), and sin ultimately leads to physical death for the sinner (Romans 5:12). So there will be deaths in the millennial reign as well. From all indications, however, the sinner’s body will be resurrected and glorified at the moment of the death, and the person will then become a member of the kingdom age’s other group of citizens: the ones who exist in eternal, glorified bodies.
12. The tribulation-period survivors will rebuild old ruins, build new houses, and rebuild cities.
The events of the tribulation period will lay waste to the houses, structures, towns, and cities of the world. The planet will be dotted here, there, and everywhere by ruins and rubble. It isn’t so surprising then that Isaiah 61:4 says of the millennial reign: “And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations of many generations.” Likewise, Isaiah 65:21-22 says: “They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat…And my elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” And then there is Amos 9:14, where God says, “I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them…”
All this means that there will be much building work done in the kingdom age. Most of us would assume that 1,000 years of “heaven on earth” wouldn’t involve any physical labor, but we would assume wrong. Going all the way back to Adam and Eve tending the garden of Eden, God’s plan for the human race has always included a balanced, healthy, productive dose of work.
13. The tribulation-period survivors will bear offspring in the kingdom age.
If men and women go into the kingdom age in their earthly bodies, have those bodies completely healed at the outset, and live lives of extended ages, the natural result will be lots of offspring. Isaiah 65:23 says that kingdom couples will not “bring forth children for trouble.” Likewise, Isaiah 11:8 speaks of nursing children and weaned children. Finally, Zechariah 8:5 says: “The streets of the city (Jerusalem) shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.” You see, the kingdom age will feature a population explosion.
It should be noted, though, that these children will be born sinners. As I said earlier, tribulation-period survivors will enter the kingdom age with sin still coursing through their bodies. Unfortunately, a sin-tainted father and a sin-tainted mother can only produce a sin-tainted child. Jesus will fix most things about life on earth for His millennial reign, but He won’t fix that basic genetic problem.
14. Jerusalem will be the spiritual capital of the earth.
Don’t get the idea that in the millennial reign everyone will live in or around Jerusalem. The fact is that kingdom-age citizens will populate the globe. No matter where they live, though, they will think of Jerusalem as the spiritual capital of the earth. Considering that Jesus will be reigning from His throne there, it only makes sense that the city will hold a unique place of prominence.
What the earth’s inhabitants will do is make periodic trips to Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:2-3 says of Jerusalem: “…And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
Similarly, Isaiah 60:1-18 goes into great detail about the wealth the Gentiles will bring into Jerusalem during the kingdom age. The passage describes multitudes of camels bringing gold and incense and covering the land (v.6). It also says of the city: “the sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you” (v.10). Furthermore, the city’s gates will be “open continually” that people may bring “the wealth of the Gentiles” to the city (v.11). Jesus spoke of all this when He said, “And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11). Other relevant passages on this subject are: Isaiah 11:9-10, Isaiah 62:1-12, Jeremiah 31:31-40, Joel 2:32, Micah 4:1-13, Zechariah 2:1-13, and Zechariah 8:1-23.
In particular, the kingdom-age Gentiles from around the world will make trips to Jerusalem to observe certain ceremonies and feasts. These are described in Ezekiel 45:18-25. First, on the first day of the first month of the Jewish calendar, there will be a New Year’s ceremony that will be especially instituted for the kingdom age. This ceremony will feature the sacrificing of a young bull and will last for seven days (verses 18-20). Second, the traditional Jewish Feast of Passover will be held on the fourteenth day of that month (verse 21). Third, Passover will be followed by the seven days of the traditional Jewish Feast of Unleavened Bread (verses 21-24). Fourth, the traditional seven-day Jewish Feast of Tabernacles will observed in the fall of the year (verse 25).
In specific regards to the Feast of Tabernacles in the millennial reign, Zechariah 14:16-17 says: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no more rain.”
This passage might prompt us to ask, “But how will there even be a possibility of some Gentiles refusing to make the trip to Jerusalem for the required observance of the Feast of Tabernacles?” The answer involves the offspring of those tribulation-period believers. As the centuries of Christ’s thousand-year reign roll on, more and more of those offspring and their offspring will refuse to accept Earth’s King, Jesus, as their Savior and Lord. This rebellion will systematically grow like a cancer until it reaches full bloom at the close of the 1,000 years. That is when it will climax in a full-fledged coup attempt aimed at dethroning Jesus. (I’ll say more about that in the next post.)
15. There will be a millennial temple in Jerusalem where Jewish priests will offer up sacrifices from Jews and Gentiles.
Earlier I mentioned the ceremonies and feasts that will be held annually in the kingdom age. Just as in the days of the Mosaic Law, these ceremonies and feasts will involve priests offering up prescribed sacrifices. But in order for these priests to ideally offer up sacrifices, there must be a temple with an altar. That problem is addressed in Ezekiel chapters 40 through 48 as the prophet describes in the most precise detail imaginable the temple that scholars refer to as “the millennial temple.” John MacArthur, the prominent pastor and author, has said of these chapters, “…this section provides explicit details concerning Christ’s millennial reign which follows, giving more details about the 1,000 year kingdom than all other OT prophecies put together. It is the ‘holy of holies’ among millennial forecasts.”
This temple will NOT be the rebuilt temple of the tribulation period. Evidently that temple will be destroyed by either the great earthquake of the seventh bowl judgment (Revelation 16:17-21) or the warfare that is raging in Jerusalem at the time of Christ’s Second Coming (Zechariah 14:1-15). Whereas that tribulation-period temple will be built to suit the will of humans, the millennial temple will be built to suit the will of God. Other relevant passages on the subject of the millennial temple and the worship services that will take place there are: Isaiah 60:7, Isaiah 66:18-24, Jeremiah 33:14-18, Haggai 2:6-9, and Zechariah 1:16-17.
As you might guess, an entire series could be devoted to the subject of the millennial temple itself. I have no plans, however, to pursue that series at this time. Instead, I’ll just close this post by using a quote that provides a summed-up description of the temple. This quote comes from John Walvoord, who was nothing short of a legend when it came to teachers of prophecy. In his book Major Bible Prophecies: 37 Crucial Prophecies that Affect You Today, Walvoord wrote the following concerning the millennial temple:
The temple to be built in the Millennium will be much larger than any historic temple of Israel, being a square 875 feet (500 cubits) in width and length. Like previous temples, it will face east and will have an outer wall on the other three sides. The temple will have thirty rooms built on three levels. Except for the western wall, the other three sides will have a large outer court that will surround the temple itself with gates in each of the three walls….In connection with the temple, Ezekiel predicted that there will be a great river flowing from the temple to the south, having sufficient volume so that one will not be able to wade across (47:3-6). The river banks will be covered with trees (verses 7-9), and the river will have fish and other living creatures in it. Fresh water will apparently replace the salty Dead Sea, and the river will continue to flow to the south of Israel until it reaches the Gulf of Arabah.