“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” (Isaiah 65:17)
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea” (Revelation 21:1)
There are many people today who would like to believe that some-day there will be a golden age to come where sickness, suffering, sorrow, war and death itself will be eliminated. Such a concept has been promoted through the media over the years, especially through the movies and there are possibly many New Agers who still believe and like to think this will happen. There are peace movements today that are working for a global peace and racial harmony between different ethnic races. Back in the sixties of course among the ‘peace-loving’ hippies it was the “Age of Aquarius.”
When you look at the disasters, the wars, the famines, the diseases, the earthquakes and the racial and religious hate ravishing our planet and when you see the injustice and cruelty of men to each other you can well image that an idea of a new era of peace, prosperity and racial harmony would appeal to many. According to God’s Word the Bible there will never be any lasting peace until the Prince of Peace the Lord Jesus Christ comes back to earth to rule and to reign from Jerusalem. In that day we are told that the nations that have survived the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Also called the Great Tribulation) will have their disputes settled and their weapons of war abolished.
The prophet Isaiah wrote; “Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.” The Law will go out from Zion, the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:3-5)
Whenever we look at any doctrine in the Bible we must always look at both the Old and the New Testaments side by side. The New is in the Old concealed and the Old is in the New revealed. All New Testament truth is based on Old Testament truth. If our knowledge of the Old Testament is lacking then we will not be able to fully understand or even comprehend many truths revealed in the New Testament itself. Of course understanding Bible Prophecy is no exception.
In order to understand most of the teaching in the New Testament regarding prophecy we must look at what the Old Testament has said regarding those passages of scripture that focus on the Second Coming of Christ. Furthermore when you look at a book like Revelation it is full of quotes and references to many Old Testament passages especially from the book of Daniel. The Millennium itself is mentioned in the Book of Revelation chapter twenty. Some see it as symbolic of the period of time from the cross to the Second Coming while others believe it is a literal 1000 years. There are four basic views…
1. Post Millennialism
The First view is “Post Millennialism.” This view sees the Millennium commencing sometime at the end of this age culminating in the Second Coming of Christ. Post Millennialists believe the world will get progressively better, that the Church will eventually take dominion over the nations and at the end present renewed and transformed nations to Christ at His coming. The problem with this view is it diminishes the role of Israel, makes no allowance for the Great Tribulation, the coming of the Man of Sin, the apostasy or the breakdown of society to the point where Christ must come back to stop the world annihilating itself. The Lord Jesus Himself said this would be so, “For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equalled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” (Matthew 24: 21-22) The conditions He described in the world just prior to His Second Coming completely nullify the Post Millennial position.
Kingdom Dominion and Kingdom advocates now people lean heavily towards Postmillennialism. They say that the Second Coming of Christ depends on their movement taking kingdom dominion, converting the nations and presenting them to Christ when He comes back. They have to side with those in the replacement theology camp because they see their movement as the one that ushers in the Second Coming of Christ and do not like the idea that Israel is God’s time-piece for the nations and not their movement. Many in the New Apostolic Movement hold to a Post Millennial view.
Furthermore, in Daniel chapter seven we are clearly told that the Kingdom will only be handed over to the saints after the Antichrist and his empire have been annihilated and not before. “But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey Him.”(Daniel 7:26-27)
The Second view is “Amillennialism” This view sees the 1000 year reign as a symbolic period of time that began at the cross where they say Satan was bound and that the gospel went forth to the nations. They do acknowledge that the world will progressively degenerate to the point where Christ must come back to save the world from annihilation. They acknowledge the Great Tribulation, the Antichrist, the Apostasy and some do acknowledge Israel to a degree, however, most of them basically hold to replacement theology saying that the Church is now the “New Israel” and that God’s prophetic promises primarily apply to and are fulfilled in the Church. The problem with Amillennialism is that they have to “spiritualise” many of the Old Testament passages of scripture that describe a literal restoration of Israel in the Last Days as well as a literal period of time when the Messiah reigns from Jerusalem. They are really hard-pressed to “allegorise” and “spiritualise” the many Old Testament passages that describe a literal restoration of Israel with their Messiah ruling from Jerusalem for a literal thousand years.
3. Pre-Tribulational (Dispensational) Pre-Millenniasim
The Third View is “Pre-tribulational (dispensational) Premillennialism.” This view believes in a literal thousand year reign of Christ on earth. They believe that the rapture happens before the Great Tribulation. Secondly they make a radical separation between Israel and the Church. Their main contention with the other theological positions is their view of the timing of the rapture. Some go to great lengths with their wall charts of prophetic events. Unfortunately to a great degree they are “locked in” to a system of Eschatological interpretation. They have everything worked out and often many of them will take a contentious stand against other Christians who believe otherwise. However, they have much in common with the fourth view.
The Fourth View is “Post-Tribulational Pre-Millennialism.” This was the predominant view of the early church including the Apostles who when writing scripture understood prophetic events in light of the Old Testament prophecies. No-where in the New Testament do we see the Apostles teaching a “spiritual Millennium” Even Peter and John speak of a New Heaven and a New Earth and they were Jewish and understood the Old Testament with a Jewish mind and not with a western mindset. Israel’s hope has always been the coming of the Messiah to rule from the city of Jerusalem. No one denies that Christ now rules and reigns at the right hand of God His father in heaven over all principalities and powers both in the heavenlies as well as on the earth and under the earth. However, to be Israel’s conquering King and to fulfil His role as the Son of David and Israel’s Messiah He must come back to Jerusalem to reign over the nations as Israel’s king. Spiritually He is already on David’s throne, however, from the Jewish perspective He must return to Jerusalem to physically sit on the seat of David as the conquering King.
When will the restoration of the Kingdom Occur?
Just before His Ascension the apostles asked Him whether He would restore the Kingdom to Israel. The Lord Jesus did not say that He would not restore the kingdom to Israel but did tell them that they would be empowered to witness for Him. In fact in Matthew chapter twenty four the Lord Jesus also said that this gospel of the kingdom would be preached as a witness to all nations and then the end would come. The gospel of the kingdom includes the gospel but also includes His Second Coming to judge the nations and to inaugurate His Millennial reign. In the New Testament the preaching of the gospel is always connected to the Second Coming of Christ.
A harbinger of what is to come
When you look at Isaiah’s description of the New Heaven and the New Earth he mentions that people still die even though longevity of life is the norm. “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.” (Isaiah 65:20) In the New Heaven and earth described in Revelation and associated with the New Jerusalem all sickness, imperfection, sin and death itself will be completely eradicated. The Millennium on earth will be the harbinger of the New Heaven and earth to come that will usher in the final and eternal state.
In the character of King David
In the gospels the Lord Jesus was often called “the Son of David” and that He is, however, in His first coming He was the “son of Joseph” the suffering servant, however in His Second Coming He will be revealed as “the Son of David” the all-conquering King. In Revelation we see Him coming back to earth on a white horse followed by the armies of heaven. John describes this vision. “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron sceptre. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-21)
The same event is described in Isaiah. Listen to what he said. “Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with His garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendour, striding forward in the greatness of His strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with Me. I trampled them in My anger and trod them down in My wrath; their blood spattered My garments, and I stained all My clothing. For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and the year of My redemption has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so My own arm worked salvation for Me, and My own wrath sustained Me. I trampled the nations in My anger; in My wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground.” (Isaiah 63:1-6)
The interesting thing is that Isaiah actually mentions the nation Christ is fighting. He mentions Edom which today would be southern Jordan but includes Saudi Arabia the Home of Islam. In Ezekiel chapter twenty five Edom is mentioned as stretching from Teman to Dedan which is in Saudi Arabia itself. So then Revelation chapter nineteen fits like a glove with Isaiah chapter sixty-three. There is no need to “spiritualise” the texts. In fact we see in other passages of scripture Christ fighting nations that are specifically named and they are all Islamic nations today.
The Biblical view
Now Post –Tribulational Pre-Mellenialists also believe that the rapture will occur at the end of the Great Tribulation and at that time Christ will return to overthrow the Antichrist and inaugurate His Millennial reign over the nations that have survived Armageddon. Also they believe in the literal restoration of Israel with their Messiah the Lord Jesus Christ reigning from Jerusalem for a thousand years. Furthermore they do not make a radical separation between Israel and the Church. Rather they see the Church as grafted into the Olive Tree which is literal Israel and that the faithful remnant that will rule with Christ will be both Jewish and Gentile believers in the Messiah.
There will be one flock and one shepherd in that day. The Lord Jesus said this would be so and had the Millennial Kingdom in view. “I have other sheep (future Gentile believers) that are not of this sheep pen (Israel). I must bring them also (into the Commonwealth of Israel). They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16) While this is true of the Church which does not distinguish between Jew and Gentile believers it does not negate the fact that in the Millennial Kingdom both faithful Jews and Christians will co-reign with the Lord Jesus on earth in that Kingdom. Israel will be head and not the tail and Israel will “possess their possessions.”
Both Testaments clearly teach that Israel and the Church will co-reign with Christ after He has come back to earth. The prophet Daniel wrote; “The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever”… Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey Him.” (Daniel 7:11, 26) As scripture also says; “…if we endure we will also reign with Him.” (2 Timothy 2:12) And again it is written; “To him who overcomes and does My will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— ‘He will rule them with an iron sceptre; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’ just as I have received authority from My Father.” (Revelation 2:26-27)
Those who suffer martyrdom for the Lord Jesus will definitely be included in those who reign with Christ on the earth after He has come back. As to those who have died without Christ they are resurrected to face judgement after the thousand years has ended. There is a period of time between the resurrection of the righteous to eternal life and the resurrection of the unsaved to eternal damnation. As the apostle John writes; “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ 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 are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4-5)
For the Post –Tribulational Pre-Mellenialists there must be a Millennium for the Lord Jesus to fulfil His promises to restore the kingdom to Israel. Both Israel and the Church are like two sides of the same coin, separate yet one. Some Pre-Millennialists believe in a Mid-Tribulation rapture while others hold to a pre-wrath rapture and there is definite Biblical merit for a pre-wrath rapture. However, Post-Tribulational Premillennialism hold much in common with Pre-Tribulational (dispensational) Premillennialists .
A literal Millennium
While the word Millennium is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible and the thousand years is only mentioned in the book of Revelation there can be no doubt that the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth is a literal period of time as much as the three and a half years of the Great tribulation is a literal period of time. Furthermore there are so many Old Testament passages that clearly describe a period of peace and prosperity that will come about as a direct result of Israel restored and under the reign of their Messiah our Lord Jesus Christ. The passages of scripture that describe the Millennium are numerous and specific and the structure of the texts themselves must be taken literally. Just to mention a few. (Isaiah 2:1-5) (Isaiah 4:2-6) (Isaiah 9:6-7) (Isaiah 11:6-9) (Isaiah 14:1-3) (Isaiah 49:8-26) (Isaiah 61:4-7) (Isaiah 65:17-25) (Jeremiah 31:1-14) (Jeremiah 31:31-40).
Prayers will be answered
In the next study we will look at the Millennium itself and the conditions that will exist during this period of time. There must be a Millennium for the earth to accomplish the original purpose for which it was created, namely, for man to live in complete harmony with His creator. Furthermore, the Millennium must occur for God to fulfil His promises to Israel to send their Messiah again to rule over the nations with His capital in the city of Jerusalem. Lastly, but not least, in the Millennium many of the prayers of the saints in this life that were left unanswered will be fully and completely answered in the Millennium. There will be many saints who will have a chance to do things that they were denied in this life for many and varied reasons outside of their control. Many dreams, prayers and longings will be completely fulfilled in the Millennium.
As Isaiah writes; “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9)