CHAPTER 28: WHAT WILL THE MILLENNIUM BE LIKE?
Personal Relationships In The Kingdom
We have shown earlier
that there will be a degree of hierarchy in the Kingdom. Yet this should
not let us imagine that there will be any awkwardness of relationship
between us and other saints who are 'above' us. Our Lord uttered a difficult
saying in Lk.12:42: " Who then is that faithful and wise steward,
whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household...he will make him ruler
over all that he hath" . We each individually have this promise of
being made ruler over all that Jesus has. The " all things"
refers to the believers; a concordance study of these two words gives
fair testimony to this. The ecclesia is the body of Christ, "
the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph.1:22,23). Let us
pause to exult in this fact; that Jesus exists for no one else
except the believers. Each of us is promised by Him that He will make
us ruler over " all that he hath" , i.e. all the saints. We
will each rule over each other because we will each be so closely identified
with the Lord Jesus; yet in another sense there will be a hierarchy of
spiritual glory in the Kingdom.
We have the great comfort
of knowing that we will see dead believers again in the Kingdom. But we
must not think that we will meet them in exactly the same physical form
as we now know each other. The aged brother whom I only knew as a wizened
old man, the chronically deformed sister...if I were to meet them as they
were in their prime, or without their present physical maladies, then
I would probably fail to recognize them. We must be careful not to see
the Kingdom in too human terms. It will not just be a continuation of
the pleasant Christian life which we now experience, but with no end in
sight. We will share the dynamism and un-human power of God's nature,
both physical and mental. We will not have the same human relationship
as we now have. For example, we will not be male or female, there will
not be marriage as we now know it.
Yet there is no doubt
that we will recognize our loved ones in the Kingdom, in some form.
We will see Abraham in the Kingdom. Of course, we will not physically
recognize him; he won't have a placard on him saying 'Abraham'. But we
will know him through seeing his spiritual characteristics of faith etc.
This is how a loving husband will recognize his sister-wife in
the Kingdom. On account of the deep appreciation of her spirituality which
he has, he will be able to know her again, and rejoice again in the joy
of each others' company. The whole basis of their relationship then will
be around the things of the Spirit, as it would have been in this life.
It must be said that it is frighteningly easy to have a very non-spiritual
relationship with our brethren and sisters, especially among the believing
members of our family. The depth of our eternal togetherness is dependent
upon the degree to which we now have a spiritual closeness.
Our relationships in the truth must not be just 'physical', as members
of the same religious body.
The relationships which
we may now have to sacrifice for the sake of the Lord will blossom fully
in the Kingdom. Consider how Hannah offered Samuel to God, when she would
have dearly loved to keep him at home with her. She is described as lending
him to the Lord. Yet she never received him back in this life; so she
must do in the Kingdom. It is interesting to reflect upon the future relationship
between Jesus and Mary in the Kingdom. The closeness which they sacrificed
will then be revived.
We will relate to each
other in terms of our spiritual characteristics. We will each have a name
or character which is individual to us (Rev.2:17). We will relate to each
other not by names as pieces of language, but by reason of the characteristics
which they speak of. To relate to each other for ever as we do now, in
human terms, would be totally unfulfilling. There is an urgent need for
us to develop a spiritual aspect to our relationships now, especially
between husbands and wives, parents and children.
The Millenium: How Different?
We must bear in mind
that the curse will have not been fully lifted in the Millennium; the
seeds of rebellion which openly manifest themselves at the end of it will
always be there. There will be no compulsion on the mortals to respond
to our preaching; and seeing that human nature will not have been changed
one bit, it is to be expected that there will be a fair degree of rejection
of our message, or failure to live up to its standards among those who
do accept it.
There are ample hints
that the Millennium will not be universal bliss; evidence of the curse
will not be lacking. The cloud of glory over Zion will be " a tabernacle
for a shadow in the day-time from the heat, and for a place of refuge,
and for a covert from storm and rain" (Is. 4:6). The evidently symbolic
application of all this will presumably be re-inforced to the mortals
by the simple practical lesson that the glory of Yahweh brings shelter
from the vaguaries of the climate, which will still, by implication, not
be ideal for mortals. Ez.46:4 warns that the burnt offering in the future
temple must be of unblemished animals- showing that there will still be
blemished animals in the Millennium. The Prince, the Lord Jesus, will
physically be in the temple to offer these sacrifices every Sabbath, the
record says. Whilst we will have the power to be present where we wish
at a moment's notice, there is a fair degree of emphasis on the physical
presence of Christ being mainly in Jerusalem. " When the Prince (Jesus,
Dan.9:25 etc.) shall prepare a voluntary burnt offering...voluntarily
unto the Lord" (Ez.46:12) shows that Jesus will at times voluntarily
offer an offering. Even Jesus will have freewill in His choice of service
to God. Even in His exalted status, Jesus will chose of His own
volition to express His love of the Father in this way. And how much more
for us too? Our glorifying of God will not be mandatory or automatic in
any sense. " The prince shall not take of the inheritance by oppression"
(Ez.46:18) is the language of Ps.72 about Jesus; " he shall give
his sons inheritance out of his own possession" . The " sons"
of Jesus are the believers, his spiritual children. This indicates that
there will be a concept of property in the Millennium and the Kingdom
too. We will have a largely sedentary existence, rather than constantly
being on the move. This would also match the typology of our taking over
the role of the priests under the Old Covenant.
Yet we are told that
what He gives them will remain theirs by " inheritance" (Ez.46:16).
Seeing that we will not have literal children, what can this mean? It
seems that the record of the future temple is to some degree written in
human terms so that it was comprehensible to those of Ezekiel's time.
It would have been possible for the temple prophecies to have had
a primary fulfilment at the time of the restoration; hence the use of
such human language. Our possession of the land by inheritance would therefore
refer to our eternally having the land. Earlier Ezekiel speaks of Gog's
invasion of Israel in the latter days with many horses and spearmen clearly
using the language of the day to describe modern weaponry.
" The priests shall
not eat of anything that is dead of itself or torn" (Ez.44:31) indicates
that the animals will die, and even fight each other (" torn"
). Yet the mind flies to Is.11:9: " They (the context includes animals)
shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain" . The
resolution of this lies in the recognition that the conditions of the
Kingdom will be more intensely seen in the mountain of the Lord, i.e.
" mount Zion which He loved" where the temple will be. Yet this
mountain will spread (Dan.2:44) to fill the whole earth. This is one of
many indications, to be discussed fully in a later chapter, that the curse
will be especially lifted in the Jerusalem area, although those blessings
will spread throughout the earth in accord with the spread of acceptance
of the Gospel.
There has always been
some objection to the idea of animal offerings in the Millennium. Yet
in terms of responsibility to God, there is no difference between the
offering of animals or vegetables. The fact that animals will die and
be torn in the Millennium is not out of keeping with the fact that the
curse will not have been fully lifted. There will be mortal priests, the
literal sons of Zadok, who " shall not gird themselves with anything
that causeth sweat" (Ez.44:18). Yet it seems that Adam before the
fall did not sweat; the curse was that in the sweat of his face he would
have to produce food for himself. The sons of Zadok will therefore be
still under the curse. They will not be allowed to marry a divorcee (Ez.44:22);
showing that the pain of broken relationships will still occur, even among
the families of the mortal priests.
The land of the priests
is not to be exchanged or sold (Ez.48:14); surely implying that there
will be the possibility of commercial transaction in the Millennium. Unless
God's ways are forced upon men, there will continue to be some degree
of trading and financial currency amongst the mortals. The priests under
the Law had no mandate to get involved in the control of this kind of
thing, and it is doubtful if the saints will in the Millennium. Neh.9:23-25
says that Abraham's seed will possess houses full of good things, the
riches of the Gentiles, as Israel did in the primary fulfilment of the
Abrahamic promises. It may be that to some degree the possessions of the
world will come under the control of the saints, or more likely that of
natural Israel ; although it must be remembered that there will be massive
physical destruction of such things in the latter day judgments.
The Kingdom prophecies
imply that there will arise a specific vocabulary associated with the
worship of God in the Kingdom, similar to how we speak of 'fraternals',
'memorial meetings' etc.- phrases which only make sense to believers.
" They shall call thee, 'The city of the Lord', 'The Zion of the
Holy One of Israel'" (Is.60:14) is an example of this; instead of
saying 'We're going to Jerusalem', the mortals will speak of 'The
city of the Lord'. Is.61:6 is another example: " Ye shall be named
'The priests of the Lord', men shall call you 'The ministers of our God'.
This all indicates a new way of thinking and speaking among the mortals
who respond to our message. This will truly be a change from the present
attitude of the world towards Israel, both natural and spiritual.
" The fruitful
field will be reckoned as a forest" (Is.32:15)- i.e. there will be
much less emphasis on the need to produce food, so great will be the change
in the fertility level of the earth. This is an aspect worth bearing in
mind when considering the extent to which the Millennium will be different
from our present experience. Fruitful trees will grow wild, without the
need for constant tending. The release of time will therefore give the
mortals the opportunity to consider God's ways. Lack of time due to the
pressures of the daily round is the most common excuse given for lack
of response to the Gospel.
Sin In The Millennium
" Remember ye not
the former things, neither consider the things of old" (Is.43:18)-
i.e. the things of the preceding verses, which speak of Israel's sinfulness
in Egypt. It seems from this that all the things related to sin will be
expunged from our consciousness. Yet what we have learnt from the experience
of sinful flesh will go with us for eternity. Jesus, depsite the moral
splendour of Divine nature, is still able to be touched with the
feeling of our infirmities as He intercedes for the forgiveness of our
sins (Heb.4:15). As we counsel distressed sinners in the Millennium, we
too will have the same degree of empathy with them as Jesus now has with
This leads to the question:
" To what degree will sin be present in the Millennium?" . The
devil being bound for 1000 years may well refer more to the lack of expression
of sin in a political form, rather than human nature itself being somehow
altered for all the mortal inhabitants, regardless of their response to
the Gospel. Being aware of the judgments that came upon the earth at Christ's
return, many mortals will doubtless respond to the Gospel from a motive
of fear, sensing that this is what they ought to do, rather than
doing so from a true love of God's righteousness. It is highly significant
that in a number of the prophecies about the nations submitting to Christ's
rule, a Hebrew word is used which means feigned obedience. Ps.66:3
speaks of " all ye lands" saying to God " How terrible
art thou in thy works! through (on account of) the greatness of thy power
shall thine enemies submit themselves ('yield feigned obedience', Heb.)
unto thee" . Ps.81:15; 18:44 are similar examples.
Whilst thinking of sin
in the Millennium, it is worth reflecting upon the place of the rejected
saints in the Millennium. Rev.14:11 speaks of the smoke of torment ascending
up " for ever and ever" in the presence of the Lamb and His
Holy Angels. This going on throughout the 'aion of the aions' would suggest
that there will always be the reminder of the condemnation of sinners,
certainly for the duration of the Millennium. How this will be achieved
in practice is hard to envisage. But in some way, there will always be
a reminder of the rejection and judgment of the unworthy saints of this
present dispensation. This will serve as a powerful reminder to the mortals
of the Millennium age; it may well be something which we use to remind
them of the seriousness of sin.
2 Pet.3:7 speaks of
the heavens and earth being reserved unto " the day of judgment
and perdition of ungodly men" , and then goes straight on to point
out that " one day is with the Lord as a thousand years"
. Whilst the judgment seat itself may last a very short time, does this
read as if the day or era of judgment will in some way be the 1,000
years of the Millennium, even though the wicked individuals themselves
will probably die fairly quickly? The Millennium will be the period in
which the earth will gradually be cleansed of the results of the sins
of " ungodly men" .
It is reasonable to
assume that there will be about three generations in the Millennium. A
child will die at 100 years old (Is.65:20), whereas today a child would
be considered anything from five to 15 years old. If a child will then
be thought of as 100 years old, then life-spans will be increased by about
10. The average life of a mortal believer would then be around 700; it
is for this reason that we suggest that there will only be three generations
in the Millennium. We have noted earlier that apostacy is usually evident
in the third generation after a revival of the truth. It seems that this
same tragic pattern will be observable in the Millennium. Ez.37:25 speaks
of how Israel would dwell in the land, in the Kingdom, " they
and their children, and their children's children"
, under the rulership of " David their prince" ; again hinting
at three generations? Compare this with " to you and you children"
in Joel 2:28 (cp. Acts 2:39), possibly referring to the two generations
who had the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost. That
prophecy has a future fulfilment in the Kingdom- in the first two generations
of natural Jewish believers having the gifts in order to support the spread
of the Gospel? They will be heavily involved in preaching in the earlier
stages of the Millennium.
The rebellion comes
from " Gog and Magog" . The rebellion may be from the same geographical
region as the Gog of Ez.38; or (more likely), the Gog/Magog invasion of
the last days will be typical of the rebellion at the end of the Millennium.
Their motive will be to take a great spoil, to capitalize on the weak
defences of what seems to them like a paradise on earth. These same motives
will be seen in the final rebellion. Notice that they come up against
Jerusalem; as if the conditions and blessings of the Kingdom are particularly
manifest there, as compared to the rest of the earth. This rebellion has
support in " the four corners of the earth" (Rev.20:8); it will
be widespread. 'Satan' does not just mean abstract diabolism; it is sin
manifested in something, either an individual or an organization. It seems
that such a movement, collectively embodying the diabolism of the flesh,
will gain support in the Millennium. They are described as being as numerous
" as the sand of the sea" - immediately shouting for comparison
with the true seed of Abraham having the same description. This connection
may imply that the rebels are apostates from the true seed of Abraham-
they outwardly appear as the seed, yielding 'feigned obedience' to the
Gospel, and then apostacizing.
The rebellion happens
" when the thousand years are expired" (Rev.20:4). "
The rest of the dead" did not live again " until the thousand
years were finished" (Rev.20:5). This conscious connection
between the 1000 years expiring and being finished may suggest that the
rebellion is in some way associated with " the rest of the dead"
who are resurrected and judged at the end of the 1000 years. It may be
that those who are rejected at the second judgment, having the outward
appearance of the seed of Abraham, will be associated with this rebellion.
Notice that it is after
the end of the Millennium and the second resurrection/judgment that the
" nations" are gathered to rebel. Who are these " nations"
, seeing the second judgment is passed, and the Millennium has ended,
by the time they are gathered? Presumably they must refer to the rejected
responsible of all nations, who have been sent back to their various geographical
homes to live for a while. As the rejected responsible of the first judgment
may see part of the Millennium (cp. Moses seeing the land, the rejected
Jews seeing Abraham enter the Kingdom, the goats seeing the sheep accepted),
so those of the second judgment may exist a fraction into the glorious
ages of eternity. There are many problems with interpreting these verses
in Rev.20. These are just suggestions!