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WHAT ON EARTH IS THE MILLENNIUM? (Revelation 20:1-10)
(by Royce Ross)


During the Millennium, peace will rule the earth - including the animals.  Christ’s kingdom will be characterized by peace, prosperity, purity, prolonged life, and personal joy.

Few people realize that “Joy to the World” is not a Christmas hymn.  This great hymn more accurately describes the coming Millennium when Christ will rule over the earth at His second coming, not His first.  The Millennium will be a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom that is to follow.  Millennium is a Latin word make up of two words - mille means “thousand“, and annum means “years“.  The word millennium does not appear in our English Bibles, but the reference to a thousand year period of time does - six times in the Book of Revelation 20:1-10.

THREE PERSPECTIVES ON THE MILLENNIUM

Post-Millennialism is a belief system in which its adherents believe that Christ’s second coming will occur after the Millennium.  A Unitarian minister by the name of Daniel Whitby originated this view in the mid-seventeenth century.  This view suggests that the church will saturate the world with the Gospel.  Its impact on people and culture will be radical, transforming the earth into a place of peace and prosperity where the worship of God is universal.  Christ will then return to inherit the peaceable kingdom that His Gospel has brought about.  This is still another attempt of man to bring peace to the world despite our Lord’s assurance that we can’t do it.  World Wars I and II shattered the notion that mankind could ever bring about universal world peace.  Yet, the UN and other organizations continue to maintain that they can.

A-Millennialism means there will be no literal Millennium, no thousand year period of time.  The thousand years in Revelation 20:1-10 is purely symbolic according to this view.  Proponents of this view believe that the events described in the aforementioned verses - Revelation 20:1-10 - are happening right now.  We - the church - are reigning with Christ right now.  The peace and prosperity assigned to the Millennium is a spiritual peace and prosperity, not a literal one.

Pre-millennialism states that the Millennium will be literal and that it will occur after Christ returns to earth.  When He returns, He will defeat His enemies at the Battle of Armageddon and establish a thousand year reign of peace and justice on the earth.
 
The pre-millennialist has a specific timeline for end time events.  He believes, as do I, that they will be as follows:
  • the Rapture - when Christ returns in the air to remove His church from the earth (dead believers are resurrected and living believers follow them into the air where they meet the Lord);
  • the seven year tribulation period follows the Rapture and is concluded by Christ returning to earth and defeating His enemies at the Battle of Armageddon;
  • the thousand year reign of Christ begins after the Battle of Armageddon;
  • at the conclusion of the Millennium, the Great White Throne judgment takes place and the unbelieving dead, the devil and his angels are thrown into the lake of fire;
  • the earth is renovated, the New Jerusalem descends upon the earth, and the eternal state begins.

The pre-millennial view affirms that all the promises made to Israel in the Old Testament are fulfilled, and believing Jews are returned to their homeland in Israel to serve their Messiah, Jesus Christ.

This is the view that I hold and is the view held by most evangelical Christians.

FOUR PURPOSES OF THE MILLENNIUM

1) To Reward the People of God

The Bible contains many promises about the rewards that are to be given to the Lord’s people in return for their faithful service (Isaiah 40:10; Matt. 16:27; Colossians 3:24; Revelation 22:12).  In Matthew 25:34, Jesus assures us that a kingdom has been prepared for those blessed of the Father as an inheritance.  This reward is different from the crowns discussed in the previous lesson on rewards.  The Millennial Kingdom is a reward by which we will reign and rule with Christ over this earth for a thousand years (Matt. 19:28; 1 Corinthians 6:2; Revelation 20:4).  The twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones “judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28).  Our responsibilities in the Millennial Kingdom will be based on our faithfulness in this life (Matt. 25:14-30).

2) To Respond to the Prophets’ Predictions

A second reason for the Millennial Kingdom is to fulfill the words of the Old Testament prophets.  Without the Millennium, many of the Old Testament prophecies are left open-ended and unfulfilled such as these:

Psalm 72:11 - Kings and nations must worship Christ
Isaiah 9:7  - The Messiah’s government must be established on David’s throne
Isaiah 60:21 - Israel must turn to righteousness and inherit her land forever
Zechariah 9:10 - The nations must live in peace under Messiah’s rule
Luke 1:32-33 - Christ must rule over Israel as her Messiah in an unbroken rule

The kingdom that the apostles were looking for in Acts 1:6 will come to pass for a thousand years.

3) To Receive the Answer to the Disciples’ Prayer (Matthew 6:10)

That prayer, prayed innumerable times through the centuries of church history, remains unanswered.  However, with the Millennium will come the kingdom of God on earth along with the answer to the Disciples’ prayer.

4) To Reemphasize Man’s Depravity and the Necessity of Christ’s Death

Satan will be bound during the Millennium (Rev. 20:2-3).  However, he will be released for a “little while” at the end of the thousand years, at which time, he will again lead a rebellion against Christ (Revelation 20:7-9).   We often forget that during that thousand years on earth, the righteous believers who enter the kingdom will bear children - but righteousness is not inherited.  The sin nature of man will still be alive and well, and some will not submit to the rule of King Jesus then any more than they will now.  With Satan being out of the picture for a thousand years though, the sin nature of man will not be enticed as it is now.  However, when Satan is released, he will stir up rebellion against God just as he did in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.

This rebellion and its subsequent result of so many following Satan in his fight against the Lord will once and for all prove that sin is man’s fundamental problem - not the environment, training, education, influences, or genetics.  Even with Christ on the throne in a righteous world, some will choose to rebel.

FIVE PROFILES OF THE MILLENNIUM

1) It will be a time of great peace (Micah 4:3; Isaiah 11:6-9).

2) It will be a time of great prosperity (Ezekiel 34:26-27; Amos 9:13; Isaiah35:1).

3) It will be a time of Purity (Isaiah 11:9; Zechariah 8:23)

4) It will be a time of prolonged life (Isaiah 65:20).  If a person 100 years old is viewed as a child, then it appears life spans will revert to pre-flood lengths of seven, eight and nine hundred years long.  The Millennium will restore longevity to all inhabitants of earth.

5) It will be a time of personal joy (Isaiah 14:7; Philippians 2:10-11).  The inhabitants of earth will spontaneously break forth into singing at any time and any where because of their joy.

WHAT ABOUT THE CHIDREN

Dr. Jeremiah gives us four reasons for us to believe that our children are in heaven:

1.  The Character of God - He is called “Father” in the Bible (Romans 8:15).   That is our first glimpse into how He regards the helpless and innocent among us.  He is also gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth (Psalm 86:15).  He is also good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works (Psalm 145:9).  These traits of God tell us that He would never judge anyone unjustly or unfairly, such as children who don’t have the ability to understand the Gospel.  This does not include adults who have not heard the Gospel because Romans 1 and Psalm 19 tell us that the evidence of God in nature surrounds them and holds them accountable.  However, babies are different.  They have no ability to understand language, reason, or the evidence in nature.  Just as the Israelite children were not held accountable for not trusting God to give them victory going into the Promised Land, so children today are not held accountable for not understanding the Gospel and accepting Christ as Savior and Lord (Deuteronomy 1:39, “Moreover your little ones and your children…who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it”).  He also spared Nineveh partly because there were 120,000 people, many of whom were children for sure, because they could not discern between their right hand and their left hand (Jonah 4:11).  While children are born into sin like everyone else, their sins are not deliberate, willful and premeditated.

2.  The Condition of Salvation - Babies and small children do not have the ability to understand that an affirmative response to the message of the Gospel, that Christ died for their sins so they must repent and accept Him as their Savior and Lord, is the condition for salvation.  They just don’t know what they must do to be saved (Acts 16:30-31).  Since the condition for salvation is accepting the Gospel, the inability to do so spares one the judgment of not having done so.

3.  The Compassion of the Savior - Matthew 19:13-14 and Mark 10:13-14 are two excellent illustrations of how much Jesus loved “little” children.  He had compassion on them and deeply loved them.  In Matthew 18:14, Jesus says, “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish”.  This verse makes it quite clear that Jesus is not willing for any of the “little” ones to be lost.  That raises the question about children lost through miscarriage, abortion or who are still-born.  Since I believe that life and personhood begin at conception, all persons conceived but not born live into this world are still persons none-the-less and are taken to heaven when they die from miscarriage, abortion or are still-born.  The same holds true for children who, due to mental impairment, never develop fully to the point where they can understand and receive the Gospel message of salvation.

4.  The Child of David - (2 Samuel 12) - The story of David and Bathsheba is very familiar to everyone.  We know that the child born to them died shortly after birth - within seven days.  While the child was alive, David fasted and prayed for the Lord to spare his life.  When the Lord chose not to, David says this, “Now he is dead, why should I fast?  Can I bring him back again?  I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23).  This is conclusive proof that young children who have no understanding about the requirements of the Gospel message go home to be with the Lord.

THE CHALLENGES REGARDING CHILDREN
 
What About the Age of Accountability?

It would be so wonderful if we could establish an age at which all children are accountable to understand the Gospel message. However, the age at which children are able to understand and comprehend the message of salvation is as different as the children themselves.  This varies even within the same family.  Since they are human, they are conceived in sin as we all are.  However, they are covered by the blood of Christ (John 1:29) until they can understand their sin and resulting guilt before God.  Isaiah 7:16 confirms the fact that there comes a time when a child is able “to refuse evil and choose the good” - so there is a time when every child crosses that line.  Unfortunately, the Bible does not give a specific age at which that happens.  Parents need to be sensitive to their children's questions and responses to Sunday school lessons and messages to determine when a child is beginning to understand the Gospel message.  That is the reason that we have infant dedication.  We are really dedicating the parents who are committing themselves to raise their child to know, love and serve the Lord.  Baptism should only take place when the child can understand and explain the Gospel message themselves; when they can express an assurance of their salvation.  This holds true for participation in the Lord’s table as well.

How Old Will Children Be in Heaven?

What I am about to share is pure speculation at best.  The Bible is not clear on some subjects for sure.  One of those subjects is how old our children who died at birth will be in heaven.  However, some conclusions are logical even if they are proven later to be untrue.  When a child dies, especially as an infant (and certainly those who never reach full term and are born), will that child be a child in heaven or a mature adult.  If an infant dies at too young an age to understand God and His message of salvation here on earth, how will they be able to enjoy and appreciate God in heaven as an infant.  Alister McGrath suggests the following rather interesting perspective: “As each person reaches their peak of perfection around the age of thirty, they will be resurrected as they would have appeared at that time - even if they had never lived to reach that age…The New Jerusalem will thus be populated with men and women as they would appear at the age of 30...but with every blemish removed”.

Yet another perspective is that children in heaven will be allowed to grow until they reach maturity at around the age of thirty - then sort of “frozen” in time. 

A third perspective is that of J. Vernon McGee: “I believe with all my heart that God will raise the little ones such that the mother’s arms who ached for them will have the opportunity to hold them. The father’s hand which never held the little hand will be given the privilege.  I believe that little ones will grow up in the care  of their earthly parents, if the parents are saved.”

To summarize then: we do not know with a certainty about the age of children in heaven.  The Bible simply does not say.  Whatever God’s answer to this question is, we know it will be a wholly satisfying one to parents who have lost small children whom God has taken to heaven.  What we do know is that a baby is not lost when you know where it is, and babies who die at an early age are with Jesus.

TOUGH-MINDED ABOUT HEAVEN (2 Peter 3:10-13)

Man has a saying that is all too true about Christians in their regard of heaven - “Out of sight, out mind”.  This statement is all too true.  Christians, who think little about heaven, are very lax in their preparation for it.  That does not change the fact, however, that Christ is coming, and we must exercise ourselves to be ready for that day.

One of the central concepts in Scripture is that what we think about heaven has a great deal to do with how we live on earth.  Heaven is meant to be the anchor to which we are tied, and it should be pulling us through the present into the future.  In his second epistle Peter gives a rather graphic description of how the earth is going to be renovated by fire at the end of the age.  He concludes by asking a piercing question in 2 Peter 3:11, “Therefore since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be …”?  In other words, in light of God’s plan for eternity, how should we be living our lives in the present?  Peter then proceeds to answer his own question which will be the focus of this final installment of the study of heaven.

In his first epistle, Peter encourages his readers (us) to “gird up the loins of their mind” and to “be sober” (1:13).  Applied to the mind, Peter is saying, “Don’t be sloppy in your thinking.  Don’t be casual.  We’re in a battle and have to prepare ourselves for victory”.  If we as Christians don’t take these warnings seriously, we will absorb the thinking of the world system that is so anti-God and His plan for our lives now and into eternity.  We will start believing that this world’s system is all that there is - that there is no future, no heaven, no rewards, no eternal worship of God, and no service of God in the new heavens and the new earth.  By staying focused on heaven, this hope in the future will purposefully pull us through this world enabling us to maintain our edge spiritually.

FIVE WAYS WE NEED TO REMAIN TOUGH-MINDED IN LIGHT OF HEAVEN

1.  Tough-minded about purity - (2 Peter 3:11)  The word “holy” in this verse means “set apart” - and specifically set apart for God’s service.  In Chapter 1 verses 15 and 16, Peter reminds us, “As He who called you is holy, you be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy , for I am holy’”.  Paul tells Timothy and us in 1 Timothy 4:7-8, “Exercise yourself toward Godliness.  For…Godliness is profitable for all things…”.  What Paul is saying here is that Godliness, like physical fitness, does not just happen - we have to work at it.  The spiritual exercises that we must work at are: Bible study, prayer, self-control, discipline in what we watch, read and listen to, accountability, fellowship, worship, service, and giving.   The opposite of pursuing Godliness is Paul’s admonition to Titus in 2:12, “Denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously and Godly in the present age.”  Pursuing Godliness and denying ungodliness are not theoretical concepts, they are actionable ideas - hands-on goals to pursue.  Anyone who does not engage in the “pursuing” and “denying” exercises will get caught up in the things of this world for sure.  The Bible makes a distinct connection between the pursuit of Godliness and the return of Christ throughout the entire New Testament.

Here are some representative scriptures and their ideas:
  • 1 Corinthians 1:7-8 - Being blameless (holy) when Christ returns
  • Colossians 3:4-5 - Put to death unholy practices in light of Christ returns
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 - Having blameless (holy) hearts when Christ returns
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23 - Being blameless (sanctified) when Christ returns
  • 1 John 2:28 - Not being ashamed at the time of His coming
  • 1 John 3:2-3 - Purifying ourselves in light of Christ’s appearing

Being tough-minded about Godliness means making hard decisions about what we spend our lives doing in the present in light of our future with Christ.

2. Tough-minded about His promises (2 Peter 3:12)  Far too many Christians believe that studying the scriptures about the return of Christ and the inauguration of heaven is a waste of time.  If that is true, the New Testament writers wasted an awful lot of their time and effort focusing on it as much as they do.  Christ promised that He was going to return to earth, so we need to be tough-minded about that promise, and in spite of the scoffing we face from unbelievers (2 Peter 3:3-4), live in light of it.  However, we must always keep in mind that God doesn’t keep time the way we do (2 Peter 3:8).  

Since all the prophecies in the Old Testament that concerned Christ’s first coming have been fulfilled, we must be tough-minded and continue to believe that all those that concern His second coming will be as well.

Here are four N.T. exhortations concerning the return of Christ:
  • Philippians 3:20 - Wait for Him eagerly
  • Titus 2:13 - Watch for His coming
  • Hebrews 9:28 - Eagerly wait for His coming
  • 2 Timothy 4:8 - Love His appearing

We need to be tough-minded about Christ’s promise to return and not let the world lull us into apathy and ungodliness.

3.  Tough-minded about Our Purpose (2 Peter 3:14)  In this verse, Peter speaks for the first time about being “diligent”.  He says, “Looking forward to these things” (the coming of Christ and the future renovation of the earth), we are to be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot or blameless.  We are to be diligent about our purpose as believers (living holy, Godly lives) while we await Christ’s return.  

We have also been given one or more spiritual gifts.  We must be diligent in exercising those gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ and to the glory of God.  There are specific works/tasks that He saved us to do.  We must be diligent about accomplishing those tasks (Ephesians 2:10).

We consistently have opportunities given to us, that are good in themselves, on how to invest our time, talent and treasure.  However, we must be diligent in turning any of those down that do not mesh with our fulfilling our God-given tasks.  The apostle Paul gave us excellent advice on how to deal with the opportunities (Philippians 3:13-14).

4. Tough-minded About Our Progress (2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen”).  As far as we know, these are the last words ever penned to the church by Peter.  His final concern was that we would grow and mature in the grace and knowledge of our precious Savior. 

There are four ways that we make progress in our spiritual growth:

a)    Growth comes through the will of God - This growth is a life-long process, continuing until we meet Jesus in the air.  We should all be different than we were six months to a year ago.  If we aren’t, we aren’t growing, and it is our fault.  Since it is God’s will for us to grow spiritually, He will make it happen if we cooperate with Him.  We are assured that it is God’s will for us to grow because Paul writes in Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will complete it”.

b)    Growth comes through the watchfulness of prayer (1 Peter 4:7, “…the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers”).  For many of us, prayer will take more tough-mindedness than any other aspect of our spiritual life.  Prayer is one of the disciplines of the Christian walk that we do out of obedience.  When we obey, we find that the Lord meets us there and fills or heart with love and excitement along with desire to pray again.  To pray is a tough-minded choice in the first place, but a choice that will lead to growth.

c)    Growth comes through the Word (Revelation 22:7, “Behold I am coming quickly!  Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this Book.”  Revelation is the only book in the Bible that promises a blessing for reading and obeying its teaching.  In the previous verse, we see that Jesus said He was coming quickly so we need to hold onto the words concerning His coming.  If we do, we will grow spiritually.  If we don’t we will stagnate in our excitement about God’s plan for the end of the age.

d)    Growth comes through the work of the church (Hebrews 10:24-25 say that we are to meet together regularly “in order to stir up love and good works…exhorting one another as [we] see the day approaching.”)  The “Lone Ranger” mentality that is so prevalent in the church today will not result in growth.  We are designed by the Lord, like other cells and organs in the body, to work together.  We must be tough-minded about being in church, small groups, as well as other settings where we can be “stirred-up” and “exhorted” by other fellow believers.
 
Dr. Jeremiah closes this study with a quote from C. S. Lewis, and I have made the
same choice.  C. S. Lewis: “If you have read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next world.  It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this world.”

(Adapted from a study on the Millennium by Dr. David Jeremiah)