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The Millennium - The Thousand Year Reign of Christ

Lamb and Lion

When Jesus returns after the Tribulation, He will set up a kingdom on Earth. Revelation 19-20 show that this kingdom will last for a thousand years, and then eternity will begin. Christ will gather all things in Heaven and Earth under His rule during this thousand-year period, also known as the Millennium:

Ephesians 1:10 - ...that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth - in Him.

Scripture reveals that there will still be people living in mortal bodies during Christ's earthly reign (Zechariah 14:16-21, Revelation 20:7-10). As discussed in the "The Pre-Tribulation Rapture" study, the people who enter the Kingdom are believers who survive the Tribulation and Christ will rule over them and their descendants with a "rod of iron" (Psalm 2:9, Revelation 2:27, Revelation 12:5, Revelation 19:15).

What does it mean to rule with "a rod of iron"?

Isaiah 9:6-7 - For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

In this messianic prophecy, we see that Christ will rule with "judgment and justice." Therefore, to rule with a rod of iron would mean that His rule will be just, and punishment will be swift and harsh:

Micah 4:3 - He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; 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.

Christ will deal with rebellion promptly in the Kingdom, and peace will prevail during this time (Isaiah 9:6-7).

The role of the saints

The resurrected saints from all the dispensations before the Millennium will rule and reign with Christ in His kingdom:

Daniel 7:18 - But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.
Revelation 5:9-10 - "...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."
Revelation 20:6 - Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

The following scriptures describe the saint's role in "ruling and reigning" during the Millennium:

  • The saints will co-rule as kings: Job 36:7

The Tribulation martyrs will have a special place as servants in God's temple (Revelation 20:6), and the believers who survive the Tribulation will become the local governors and mayors of the Kingdom (Matthew 25:23, Luke 19:16-19).

Though the saints will rule and reign on Earth, their home is still the New Jerusalem, as we learned in the last study. The New Jerusalem will stay in Heaven until after the Millennium (Revelation 21:2). Many prophecy teachers believe that the New Jerusalem will orbit the earth like a satellite, or moon, and will be visible from Earth. Being in resurrected, glorified bodies, presumably the saints will be able to effortlessly travel between the New Jerusalem and Earth.

So where will the saints dwell during the Millennium?

Revelation 20:9 - They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.

In the passage above, we find that the saints have a "camp" on the earth during the Millennium. At the beginning of the Millennium the human population will likely be small, so the saints probably will not have much work to do initially. I envision that the most mature saints would take the first "shift" of Kingdom work. The rest of the saints would then stay in the New Jerusalem, preparing for their work in the Kingdom. It would be sort of like missionary work, where the saints leave home during their mission, but then return home on sabbatical. By the end of the Millennium, the human population will have filled the Earth, so most of the saints will probably be needed on Earth to govern the Kingdom. Until that point, the saints will probably spend most of their time in the New Jerusalem, while returning to Earth intermittently to help govern the Kingdom.

One might ask how some saints could be on Earth and some in the New Jerusalem, when we will always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17). And how can Christ continually be with millions of Christians all the time and at the same time? I believe the answer is that Christ, being part of the Godhead, is omnipresent, being anywhere or everywhere at the same time.

How will the Earth change during the Millennium?

God will lift the curse He put on the earth after the fall of Adam and Eve and restore the earth before the Lord's thousand-year kingdom begins. There is an exhaustive description of this thousand-year period in Isaiah 11, 34-35, 60-66, Ezekiel 40-48, Micah 4, Zechariah 8&14, and other brief mentions in other passages. I believe the following passage concisely describes the earth's restoration after the Tribulation:

Isaiah 65:17-19 - "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying."
Isaiah 65:20-22 - "No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. 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; for as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, and My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands."
Isaiah 65:23-25 - "They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. " It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain," Says the LORD.

Earth will go through a major transformation at the end of the Tribulation in preparation for the thousand-year reign of Christ, as follows:

  • A great earthquake will divide Jerusalem into three parts (Revelation 16:18-19). The earthquake will occur when Jesus touches His foot on the Mount of Olives. Water will flow out from the city after the great earthquake. (Zechariah 14:4-8). The millennial temple will stand over this river (Ezekiel 47:1-12).

  • Jerusalem will be the highest point on the earth during the Lord's earthly reign. In fact Isaiah 2:2 tells us that the rest of earth, in comparison, will be no more than hills. The great earthquake at the Second Coming of Jesus will level the mountains and make the islands disappear (Revelation 16:20, Isaiah 40:4-5).

  • Great hailstones will pound anything remaining to a pulp (Revelation 16:21). The rapid melting of the hail stones will likely aid in the cleanup of the land in the form of flash flooding. The "grapes," or God's enemies are "trampled" by these large hail stones that rapidly melt, so it is no wonder that the river of blood flowing from the last battle will reach as high as the horse's bridle (Revelation 14:20).

  • Mountains have a large impact on the earth's weather patterns. With the removal of the mountains, the earth's weather will become tranquil. Mountains can form deserts by blocking rain clouds (source). Interestingly, there will be only one mountain that Jerusalem will sit on during that time. So it makes sense that the area to the east of Jerusalem will be a desolate place (Isaiah 34).

  • Since God will lift the curse from the earth, people will be able to live longer like they did before the flood. Isaiah 65:20 suggests that people will have a hundred years to make a choice for Christ. In other words, if they reject Christ and stay in their sin, they will die by their hundredth birthday. This also suggests that death will not come to followers of Christ during His reign on the earth. So those who survive the Tribulation might live in mortal bodies for over a thousand years.

Worship during the Millennium

Jerusalem will be the center of worship during the earthly reign of Christ:

Zechariah 14:16-19 - 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 rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

The passage above shows that it will be mandatory for representatives of all the nations to attend the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem every year. If a nation doesn't attend, they will suffer from drought. So, we see that just because God lifts the curse on the earth at the beginning of His kingdom, He will still use plagues as punishment against nations that rebel against Him. Egypt will be such a rebellious nation. This shows that humans will fail the test of living up to God's standard, even during the thousand years.

Ezekiel 40-48 also shows that God will re-institute temple worship and sacrifices in the Millennium. Many believe that the purpose for the sacrifices is to commemorate the sacrificial work that Christ did on the cross, since sacrifices are no longer needed as a covering for sin. During the Millennium, death and violence will be rare. Sacrificing animals will likely serve as a stark reminder of the penalty Christ paid in dying for our sins:

Hebrews 10:3 - But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

What is the purpose of the Millennium?

One purpose of the Millennium is to fulfill the promises God made to Abraham and his descendants concerning inheritance of the land:

Millennium land divisions
Genesis 15:18-21 - On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates - the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites."
Ezekiel 47:13-17 - Thus says the Lord GOD: "These are the borders by which you shall divide the land as an inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph shall have two portions. You shall inherit it equally with one another; for I raised My hand in an oath to give it to your fathers, and this land shall fall to you as your inheritance. "This shall be the border of the land on the north: from the Great Sea, by the road to Hethlon, as one goes to Zedad, Hamath, Berothah, Sibraim (which is between the border of Damascus and the border of Hamath), to Hazar Hatticon (which is on the border of Hauran). Thus the boundary shall be from the Sea to Hazar Enan, the border of Damascus; and as for the north, northward, it is the border of Hamath. This is the north side."
Ezekiel 47:18-21 - "On the east side you shall mark out the border from between Hauran and Damascus, and between Gilead and the land of Israel, along the Jordan, and along the eastern side of the sea. This is the east side. "The south side, toward the South, shall be from Tamar to the waters of Meribah by Kadesh, along the brook to the Great Sea. This is the south side, toward the South. "The west side shall be the Great Sea, from the southern boundary until one comes to a point opposite Hamath. This is the west side. "Thus you shall divide this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel."

Not only will the Jews receive the physical blessing of the land, but the Lord will also bless them spiritually when they return to Him:

Deuteronomy 30:1-3 - "Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God drives you, and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you."
Deuteronomy 30:4-6 - "If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then the LORD your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live."

God says in the passage above that He will circumcise their hearts to have a love for Him, and "all Israel will be saved" as a result (Romans 11:26). People from other nations will follow after Israel because they see that God is with them (Zechariah 8:23).

The following passage shows another purpose of the Millennium:

Revelation 20:1-3 - Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

It is clear from this passage that God will test man, as He has done since the beginning of time:

1 Chronicles 29:17 - I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness.
Jeremiah 17:9-10 - "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings."

Thus far, men have not been able to live according to God's standards. Adam and Eve blamed Satan for their temptation when they rebelled against God. During this thousand-year period, Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit and not be able to tempt or destroy (Revelation 20:2-3). Neither will men be able to blame unbelievers for leading them down the wrong path, as God will have eradicated all unbelievers before the thousand-year reign of Christ begins (Revelation 19:21, Matthew 25:31-46). Also, Jesus will rule on the earth in the flesh, so there will be no more foolish unbelief of God. Men will either choose to follow God, or they will follow their own rebellious heart and carnal mind:

Romans 8:6-8 - For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Even without the excuse of Satan's influence, no excuse of unbelief, and no excuse of environmental factors like geophysical and geopolitical turmoil with a restored earth, and with Christ ruling over them with a "rod of iron" to maintain a peaceful and prosperous world, men will still not be able to live up to God's standards. In other words, it is not external circumstances, but internal enmity with God that is the universal issue across the dispensations (Romans 8:6-8). Before eternity begins, God will deal with the rebellious heart of men. Here is how the final moments of the Millennium play out:

Revelation 20:7-10 - Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

After the thousand years comes to an end, God will give man over to their rebellious hearts and release Satan from the bottomless pit. It won't take long for Satan to amass an army against Christ too large to count. God's patience with man's rebellious heart will end here. This army of rebels will promptly be consumed by fire. God will prove that man can never meet His standards.

Only a repentant heart that accepts the covering of the blood of Jesus will make a man righteous in the sight of God. Once the last test of the Millennium proves that man can never live up to God's standards, He will resurrect those who rejected Christ to face judgment, the second death, and eternity in the lake of fire:

Revelation 20:11-15 - Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

At this point-in-time God will finally live in harmony with man and eternity will begin:

Revelation 21:3-4 - And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

In the last study on Heaven, we will take a closer look at our relationships with our Creator and other people in eternity.

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