WHAT IS THE MILLENNIUM?
Prophecy Series ❧ Part 12
Years ago, famed American Economist Edgar Fiedler penned what have been dubbed: Fiedler’s Forecasting Rules. 1. It is very difficult to forecast, especially about the future. 2. He who lives by the crystal ball soon learns to eat ground glass. 3. The moment you forecast, you know you’re going to be wrong—you just don’t know when and in which direction. 4. If you’re ever right, never let them forget it.
For the past number of weeks, we’ve been exploring a number of predictions the Bible makes about the future. God wants us to know about the future and He is the only absolute authority we can rely. Sadly, many are in the dark when it comes to understanding what God says about the future. Many either don’t try to understand it or they avoid it altogether. Phillip Brooks likened the Bible to a telescope. He said, The Bible is like a telescope. If a man looks through his telescope, he sees worlds beyond; but if he looks at his telescope, he does not see anything but that. The Bible is a thing to be looked through to see that which is beyond; but most people only look at it and so they see only the dead letter. If we’re going to know the future, it’s not enough to look at the Bible, we must look through the Bible. God does not want us to be in the dark when it comes to knowing the future. This is especially true when you consider God has dedicated almost one-third (28%) of our Bibles to informing us about the future. Most of the topics we’ve covered are highly controversial. Take the rapture for instance. Not everyone agrees when the rapture is going to take place. That it is going to happen is not a question, but many don’t agree when it is going to happen. Much the same is true when it comes to other topics such as the doctrine of the Tribulation, the Second Coming of Christ, or Armageddon. Though the Bible clearly teaches these things, not everyone agrees how to interpret them.
The truth is people are hungry to know about the future. They’re looking for hope. They’re looking for answers and there are a lot of folks more than willing to help. Adrian Rogers once quipped: We have a lot of soothsayers, prognosticators, and astrologers today – a lot of so called prophets. But they’re not prophetic; they’re pathetic. God’s Word is the sole reliable authority when it comes to telling us about the future. There is no other. Much of the reason we’ve spent the time we have looking at biblical prophecy is so that you’ll know what God says about the future. The Bible tells us we’re to Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, but answer in a gentle way and with respect (1 Peter 3:15-16, NCV).
We’re going to launch into another controversial topic today known as the Millennium. There are seven questions I want to try and answer about the Millennium. My purpose is to strengthen your faith in God’s Word and increase your boldness to tell others about your hope in Christ. We’ll look at two of them today and five in another message. 1) What is the Millennium? 2) Why is it necessary?
I. What is the Millennium? The word millennium comes from Latin (mille = thousand and annum = year). It refers to a literal thousand years when Christ will physically and visibly reign over the whole earth. John, in the book of Revelation is the only one who tells us that His reign will be a thousand years. He mentions it six times in Revelation 20:1-7 A thousand years… [6x’s] (Revelation 20:1-7).
In 2002 The Millennium Project was commissioned by the United Nations Secretary-General to develop a concrete action plan for the world to achieve the project’s development goals of reversing the grinding poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination effecting billions of people by 2015. The goal was to improve human life on earth creating a utopia, a paradise.
While these goals are noble, they’re not new. People have always dreamed of making Earth a utopia. But the Bible tells us, and history reminds us, sin-fallen man will never be able to achieve such a society. Former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger came to this conclusion in a statement he made over thirty years ago: More than at any time in history, mankind faces a crossroads—one path leading to despair and utter hopelessness, the other leading to total destruction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.
However, the Bible tells us one day the Earth will be a utopia. It will happen after the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus will establish a thousand-year reign of glory, peace, and righteousness unlike any the world has ever known (Rev. 20:1-6). We’ll look at this in detail in another message.
II. Why is the Millennium necessary? Well-known pastor and author Tony Evens answers: The Millennium is the perfect way to end time. Only God could have conceived a program that brings His creation called time to an end in such a way that everything messed up by sin and Satan is restored, God’s promises are fulfilled, His righteousness is fully vindicated and displayed, and every legitimate human longing for peace and justice is met. All of that and more when Jesus Christ establishes His thousand-year kingdom on earth.
I want us to see there are two important reasons for God’s Millennium. There are other reasons we’ll look at in another message. The first two reasons are, one to fulfill God’s covenant promises to Abraham, David, and Israel. Second, is to fulfill God’s promise of the Messiah’s triumph on Earth.
A. To fulfill God’s covenant promises. God made three unconditional, unilateral, and eternal covenants. He made them to Abraham, to David, and to Israel. All three find their final fulfillment in the Millennium.
1. God’s covenant to Abraham. First, God made a promise to Abraham. God promised Abraham three things: descendants, land, and a blessing. Remember, when God made this promise to Abraham and Sarah, they were both very old and unable to have children. They didn’t have any descendants. Abraham’s name at this time was not Abraham but Abram, meaning exalted father. In keeping with His promise, God later changed Abram’s name to Abraham, meaning father of a multitude (Gen. 17;5). God promised this old man unable to have children, I will make you a great nation Abraham. I’m going to do a miracle in your life and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky (Gen. 15;5; 22:17).
God also promised Abraham’s descendants a land that would include modern-day Israel, as well as parts of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq (Gen. 15:18-21). From the time God made this covenant promise with Abraham until now, Israel has yet to fully possess all the land. During the Millennium Israel will fully realize God’s promise for the first time (Isa. 60:21; Ezek. 34:11-16). God always keeps His promises.
A third covenant promise God made to Abraham was that God would be a blessing to the world. Up to this point, God has done just that through His Son Jesus Christ who came from Abraham’s linage. But this promise has only been partially realized. During the Millennium all the nations will fully realize this blessing when the Lord Jesus Christ physically and visibly reigns on Earth. The Millennium is necessary to fulfill God’s covenant promise of land to Israel.
2. God’s covenant to David. God also made an unconditional, unilateral, and eternal promise to David and his linage. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.
“He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13). Someone from David’s dynasty would sit on David’s throne in the coming kingdom and forever. God promised David a house, a throne, and a kingdom that would last forever (2 Sam. 7:12-16).
3. God’s covenant to Israel. A third covenant God made was with Israel. Eight-hundred years after Moses gave the Old Covenant, God promised to make a new one that would fulfill the old one. This is the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34. The fulfillment of the New Covenant became a reality when Jesus died on the cross. All of the sacrifices up to this point were a shadow where Christ’s sacrifice is the reality. The Bible says, The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves… For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. (Heb. 10:1;10, NLT). God’s New Covenant promises have never been fully realized by the nation of Israel but one day they will in the Millennium.
God has made promises that are unilateral, unconditional, and eternal to Abraham, David, and Israel that haven’t been fully realized. But one day they will in the Millennium. God always keeps His promises. God is not man that He should lie (Numb. 23:19). When G. Campbell Morgan was a young man, he visited two elderly ladies each week to read the Bible to them. When he read Matthew 28:20, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. He said, “Isn’t that a wonderful promise?” One of the ladies quickly replied, “Young man, that is not a promise. It is a fact!”
B. To fulfill God’s promise of Messianic triumph. In Psalm 2 God promises the
Messiah, His Son, authority to rule the earth in righteousness. I will surely tell of the decree of the
Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession (Psalm 2:7-8). Jesus did not see that promise fulfilled though He paid the price for it with His life. Fast forward now to Revelation 5. The Apostle John has been taken up to the throne room of Heaven. There he sees a scroll with seven seals, the deed of ownership to planet Earth. But to John’s dismay, no one is found worthy to open it and he begins to weep bitterly. Listen to what John says, Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it. Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered… He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. . . And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.” “Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever” (Rev. 5:16,7-10,13). For the next thirteen chapters John describes what happens when the Lamb, the Lion of Judah opens each one of the seven seals. With the breaking of each seal Jesus Christ is taking back His rightful inheritance, Earth, from the god of this world, Satan (Jn. 14:30) whose power Jesus came to destroy (1 Jn. 3:8). John says when Jesus’ finishes opening the seven seals; taking back Earth, He will establish His Kingdom on David’s throne. This was the very promise given by the angel Gabriel to Mary, He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end (Lk. 1:32-33). John says not only will Jesus rule on David’s throne, but those are saved reign with Him on earth. Has this happened yet? Nope, not yet. But it is going to! The fulfillment of this will be when Jesus triumphantly returns at His Second Coming and sets up His earthly kingdom (Rev. 11:15).
Why is Jesus earthly kingdom necessary? Isn’t it enough to know our sins are forgiven through our faith in Christ and our next stop is Heaven? Theologian Charles Ryrie answers this well saying, Did (Jesus) He not receive His inheritance when He was raised and exalted into Heaven? Is not His present rule His inheritance? Why the need for an earthly kingdom? Because He must triumph in the same arena where He was seemingly defeated. His rejection by the rulers of this world was on this earth (1 Cor. 2:8). His exaltation must also be on this earth. And so it shall be when He comes again to rule this world in righteousness. He has waited long for His inheritance; soon He shall receive it (Ryrie, Basic Theology, p.511).
God has made the promise and I believe it is true that one day believers will reign with Christ here on Earth. This life is not all there is. The future is not uncertain. God has told us. Charles Spurgeon’s perspective of faith is comforting: Be content to live unknown for a little while, and to walk your weary way through fields of poverty, or up the hills of affliction; for by-and-by you shall reign with Christ.