Series: “Christ’s Kingdom” (post #5)
“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.'” (Matthew 6:9-10, N.I.V.)
This quote from Jesus is a part of the so-called “Lord’s Prayer,” which should more correctly be called “the model prayer.” In the prayer, Jesus lists certain spiritual principles (building blocks, foundational elements) that ought to be a regular, systematic part of the prayer life of the Christian (the “kingdom citizen”). It’s not that we should recite the exact words of the model prayer verbatim, as people so often do. The point is that we should frequently talk to God the Father about these things when we pray. And, interestingly, one of the spiritual principles that Jesus includes is the request for God the Father’s kingdom to come.
Obviously, since God the Father and God the Son are one (John 10:30; 14:7-11), God the Father’s kingdom is the same kingdom, Christ’s kingdom, that we’ve been dealing with in this series. Therefore, Jesus wants Christians to keep bombarding God the Father’s heavenly request box with the request, “Bring your heavenly kingdom down to planet earth.” By regularly making this request, we Christians not only obey Jesus’ teaching concerning prayer but also keep ourselves reminded that there really is coming a time when God’s will is going to start getting done on this earth the same way it is currently getting done in heaven.
When will this time be? Revelation 20:4-6 speaks of a era when Christ’s followers will reign with Him for 1,000 years. This same promise, without the citing of the exact number of years, is also made in Revelation 2:26-27. Actually, God’s promise of a glorious kingdom age was first made to the nation of Israel. The scores of Old Testament prophecies in which God promises Israel that a Messiah will one day lead them into a idyllic era in which a revitalized Jerusalem will serve as the capital city of a revitalized earth are too numerous to list. If you know your New Testament, you know that this “kingdom age” is what Christ’s chosen 12 apostles kept looking for Him to establish during His earthly ministry.
I should mention that there are some who attempt to downplay the literalness of the 1,000 years of Revelation 20:4-6 by interpreting the years as being merely symbolic of a period of time of unspecified length. Those who hold to this interpretation cite Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 — two verses which describe how a thousand years are as one day with God — as proof texts. At first glance, this interpretation seems to make sense.
However, the interpretation comes up lacking upon closer inspection of The Revelation as a whole. I say that because despite the fact that some parts of the book do involve symbolic language, the book frequently uses specific numbers that are plainly meant to be understood literally. Even a cursory reading of the book proves this.
For example, Jesus speaks to 7 specific churches — not to some unknown number of churches — in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. In Revelation 5:1, the scroll that He takes from the hand of God the Father has 7 specific seals, 7 seals that are chronologically opened in Revelation 6:1-17 and 8:1. In Revelation 7:1-8, 144,000 Jews (12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel) are chosen. In Revelation 21:9-21, the eternal city of New Jerusalem is described by means of highly specific numbers. The city’s wall is 144 cubits. The wall features 12 gates: 3 on the east, 3 on the north, 3 on the south, and 3 on the west. The wall is also anchored with 12 foundations. As for the city itself, it is laid out in a square that is 12,000 furlongs in length, breadth, and height. These are just a few of the many, many instances where The Revelation uses specific numbers very literally.
One passage that showcases both the symbolic language and the literal language of the book is Revelation 13:1-10. In those verses, the “beast rising up out of the sea” is symbolic language for the world ruler known as the Antichrist. But what does the passage say about how long the Antichrist will be granted authority to speak? It says that he will be granted that authority for 42 months. If God wanted to convey that the Antichrist will be granted authority to speak for a unspecified duration of time, He surely wouldn’t have listed the number of months as 42. The number 40 would have worked better for symbolism.
In light of all this, it seems clear that we should interpret the number 1,000 in Revelation 20:4-6 to mean just that: 10 centuries. Because the Latin word mille means “a thousand” and the Latin word annus means “year,” Christ’s 1,000 year reign upon this earth is often referred to as “the millennial reign.” It is also commonly called “the kingdom age.”
Jesus will usher in this age as part of His Second Coming when He returns to this earth and walks it again. His Second Coming will end the seven-year period of tribulation that is prophesied to come upon planet earth. Christ’s Second Coming is most vividly described in Revelation 19:11-21, a passage that explains how He will end the tribulation period’s final, climactic battle (the Battle of Armageddon) by slaying all of the soldiers of all the armies involved and casting the Antichrist (the beast) and his right-hand man (the false prophet) into the eternal lake of fire. Following this resounding victory, three things will take place. They are:
- Satan and all the other fallen angels will be imprisoned in a place called “the bottomless pit” for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-3; Isaiah 24:21-22). After all, you can’t very well have Christ’s kingdom upon the earth if you’ve still got Satan and his army of fallen angels running around causing trouble.
- Concerning all the people who lived through the tribulation period, Jesus will send out angels to divide them up into the categories of “saved” and “lost” (Matthew 24:29-31, 36-44; 25:31-33). The “saved” (the “elect,” the “sheep”) will be welcomed into Christ’s kingdom on earth (Matthew 24:45-47; 25:34). Conversely, the “lost” will be put to death and thus removed from the earth altogether (Matthew 13:47-50; Matthew 24:48-51; 25:30-40; 25-41-46; Luke 19:11-27; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
- The bodies of certain groups of saved people will be resurrected, glorified, and reunited with the souls that once inhabited them. Those groups will be:
- the saved believers (Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, David, Jeremiah, etc.) from the Old Testament age (Daniel 12:1-3)
- the saved believers (Simeon, Anna, John the Baptist, etc.), from the pre-church New Testament age
- the people who become saved believers during the tribulation period and either die or get martyred (Revelation 20:4-6)
There is much more to say about Christ’s 1,000 year reign upon the earth, and I’ll say a bit more about it in my next post. For now, though, let me wind up this post by going back to my introduction. The main thing to understand about Christ’s 1,000 year reign is that it will at last be the fulfillment of the untold number of instances in which Christians have prayed to God the Father, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” You see, Christ’s 1,000 year reign is the great merging of heaven and earth. It is when Jesus will be able to rightly say, “My kingdom is of this world” rather than, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). And speaking for myself as a Christian who is already a full-fledged citizen of that kingdom, I look forward to this time with great anticipation.
Come, LORD Jesus. ________________________________