WHAT IS THE MILLENNIUM? (3 of 3)
Prophecy Series ❧ Part 14
When we began this series on biblical prophecy almost five months ago, I planned on giving nine, maybe ten messages. Well, today we’re on message number fourteen and we’re still not finished! Prophecy can be addictive. Sometime ago I came across a brief article titled: The Top Ten Ways to Know If You’re Obsessed with Prophecy. I thought you might like to hear a few of them. 1) You always leave the top down on your convertible in case the Rapture happens. 2) You refuse to cash a tax refund check because the amount comes to $666. 3) Barcode scanners make you nervous. 4) You believe the phrase “church fathers” refers to Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. 5) You get goose bumps when you hear a trumpet.
While we may not be obsessed with biblical prophecy, but we should be very interested in it, especially when you consider that more than one-fourth (almost 30%) of the Bible is devoted to prophecy. Many are not aware that of the 1000 or so prophecies in the Bible, about 500 of them have already been fulfilled down to the smallest detail. One of the major characteristics that sets the Bible apart from any other book is its ability to tell the future with flawless accuracy. We shouldn’t be surprised though. Prophecy in the Bible is not a product of human guesswork. Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God (2 Peter 1:20-21, NLT). When the Bible tells us the future it is completely accurate because it came from God. Someone good with numbers and probabilities figured out that it would require 200 billion earth’s populated with 4 billion people each to come up with one person who could achieve 100 prophecies accurately without any errors in sequence (Evans, The Best Is Yet to Come, p.18).
This morning we’re going to wrap up a three-part message on what is commonly referred to as the Millennium. A little boy once asked his father, “What is the Millennium?” His father replied, “Don’t you know what the Millennium is? It’s just like a centennial, only it has more legs.”
The Millennium refers to a thousand-year period of time when Christ will literal reign here on Earth. Recorded history tells us people have longed for a world where there are no more wars, no more crime, no more violence. Paradise restored. A return to the Garden of Eden. The Bible and witness of history are clear sin-fallen mankind can never produce such a utopic world. Only Christ can and one day the Bible says He will do just that. I want us to look at three important questions about the Millennium this morning: 1)Why is Satan bound during the Millennium and then released? 2) Why is the Millennium part of God’s plan? 3) Why is the Millennium literal, not figurative?
I. Why is Satan bound during the Millennium and then released?
A. To totally restrain him. The Bible teaches Satan is the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4).
He is the personification of evil, the archenemy of God, God’s people, and God’s plans. He is the father of lies, a thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy (Jn. 8:44; 10:10). Sin, pain, suffering, and death entered the world through him when he deceived Adam and Eve (Gen. 3). At one point, he was one of God’s highest angels until he attempted to usurp God’s throne as was cast out of Heaven to Earth (Isa. 14:12). Jesus says he is the ruler of this world who has temporary and limited power (Jn. 12:31). During the Millennium he will be completely restrained. Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time (Revelation 20:1-3). For one thousand years Satan will be totally restrained unable to deceive the nations. No one will be able to say, “The Devil made me do it.” He’ll be completely removed from the picture. Yet, it will prove that man left to his own devices will still sin. What’s more, when Satan is released, people will still reject Christ and follow Satan! Unbelievable, yet true.
B. To show that he will not change. When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations (Revelation 20:7-8). Even after being in solitary confinement for a thousand years, Satan will be unchanged. He will be just as rotten to the core with evil as he was a thousand years earlier. He will never learn. The point of releasing Satan temporarily is to show that he will not change no matter what. He is utterly and hopelessly evil. There is the story of a lady who never spoke ill of anybody. “I believe you would say something good even about the devil,” a friend told her. “Well,” she said, “you certainly do have to admire his persistence.”
Satan will be bound for a thousand years so that he cannot tempt or deceive the world and then released temporarily to demonstrate unequivocally that he will never change.
II. Why is the Millennium part of God’s eternal plan?
A. To fulfill the promises of God. In the OT, 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.
God’s covenant to Abraham. God made three promises to Abraham: descendants, a land, and a blessing to the entire world. When God made that promise, Abraham had zero children and zero chance of having children with Sarah his wife. His name when God mad the promise was Abram – exalted father. But God changed his name to Abraham – father of a multitude (Gen. 17:5), and that’s exactly what he became. His descendants became as numerous as the stars in the sky (Gen. 15:5). But, God also promised him a land. This land would include modern-day Israel, as well as parts of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq (Gen. 15:18-21). To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates (Genesis 15:18). They will possess the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified (Isaiah 60:21).
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.
God also told Abraham He would make him 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 to Abraham and his people.
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).
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. But 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.
B. To redeem God’s creation. When our first parents, Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God pronounced a series of five curses against the serpent (Satan), the woman, the man, and nature (Gen. 3:14-19). The world became a harsh and difficult place to live. Making a living had once been easy. Now there were thorns and thistles, crab grass and dandelions to contend with. It’s amazing to me how you can spend the entire Summer getting rid of all the dandelions in your yard and in the Spring they return with a vengeance. Mosquitoes and wasps are the same way. The Bible says not only do people look forward to God’s redemption, but so does all creation. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay (Romans 8:19-21, NLT). Animals will no longer eat each other, but will become plant eaters. In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all (Isaiah 11:6). During the Millennium all of creation will experience God’s redemption.
C. To reward God’s saints. The Bible teaches that our faithfulness to God now will be rewarded during the Millennium. Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them (Revelation 20:4). The “they” in this verse are those who were faithful in serving God here on Earth. They will placed in places of great authority and responsibility. Jesus illustrates this same truth in a parable in Luke 19. We will be rewarded with great authority and responsibility based on how we used our time, treasures, and talents for Christ here on Earth. We tend to think a reward for faithful work should be a long vacation, not a new vocation. A thousand years of basking in the warm sun on a beach in Hawaii or fishing in the trout-filled streams and lakes of North Idaho sounds great to me! God says, I’ve got something in mind you’ll enjoy a whole lot more. Trust Me!
Randy Alcorn gives us a right perspective here: Service is a reward, not a punishment. The idea is foreign to people who dislike their work and only put up with it until retirement. We think that faithful work should be rewarded with a vacation for the rest of our lives. But God offers us something very different: more work, more responsibility, increased opportunities, along with greater abilities, resources, wisdom, and empowerment. We will have sharp minds, strong bodies, clear purpose, and unabated joy (Alcorn, Heaven, p. 226). Can you imagine one day helping Jesus rule the world for a thousand golden years!
D. To reaffirm the total depravity of man. The Bible is clear, we are sinful both in our nature and in our behavior. In fact, theologians have a comprehensive description for our sin-fallen condition – total depravity. It does not mean you’re as bad as you could be, but that you are as bad off as you can be. Someone said it best when he suggested if depravity were blue, we’d be blue all over. Digging deeper, anther person said, “Cut us anywhere and we’d bleed blue. Cut our minds and you’ll find blue thoughts. Cut into our vision and there are blue images of greed and lust. Cut into our hearts and there’d be blue emotions of hatred, revenge, and blame” (Swindoll, Christian Life, p. 207). You get the picture. The Bible says, For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5, NLT). Total depravity doesn’t mean you’re as bad as you could be, but it does mean you’re as bad off as you can be. There’s nothing you can do to rid yourself of the disease called sin. It’s spread completely through your body and your mind. But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ (Galatian 3:22).
One of the purposes of the Millennium will be to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that regardless of our race, our pedigree, our circumstances, our environment, we are helplessly and incorrigibly sinful apart from Christ’s saving grace. We need a righteousness outside of ourselves to have a right relationship with a holy God. That righteousness (acceptance) can only come through Christ.
Why is the Millennium necessary to God’s plans? To fulfill God’s promises to Abraham, David, Israel. To redeem God’s creation, to reward God’s saints, and to reaffirm the total depravity of mankind.
III. Why is the Millennium a literal Kingdom? (3 Main Views) There are three main views or interpretations of the Millennium. Two of them say the Millennium is nonliteral. Jesus will not personally and visibly reign over the Earth during the Millennium. God is not going to literally fulfill His promises He made to Abraham, to David, or to Israel.
A. Postmillennialism – This is probably the least popular view. It says the time of peace and righteousness will be started by the preaching of the gospel by the church. Christianity will gradually make the world a better and better place. Jesus will rule spiritually through Christians. His second coming will be after this time of peace. The Millennium, according to this view is a long period of time, but not necessarily a thousand years.
There are a number of questions, as well as concerns I have with this view. If the world is going to gradually get better and better until Christ returns, we should see the evidence. Instead, we’ve seen two world wars, endless violence, unimaginable cruelty, increased global tensions, greed, and corruption. I’d say all this proves just the opposite!
B. Amillennialism – Of the three views, this is perhaps the most popular. It is the belief that the rule of Christ is happening now. It is not a future event. Christ’s rule is spiritual, not visible. The promises God made in His covenants to Abraham, David, and Israel are fulfilled spiritually in the Church. Or, that the promises don’t need to be fulfilled because they were not unconditional but conditional. That is, the conditions of God’s promises were not met by those whom He gave them therefore they did not happen. The 1000 years in Rev. 20:4-6 is understood as an undetermined period of time between the cross and the end of the age. The binding of Satan does not mean he is really bound but that he is not allowed to exercise his full power. What do you think?
C. Premillennialism – This is what we’ve been spending three weeks covering. The Millennium is literal and will begin at the second coming of Christ at the end of the seven-year Tribulation. At that time, Jesus will establish His personal and visible earthly reign for a literal thousand years. Israel will literally be restored becoming the spiritual and political center of the world. They will be golden years of peace, righteousness, perfect justice, and joy unparalleled to any time in human history.
What’s the main difference between the three views? Simply this, how they interpret unfulfilled prophecy. Let me explain it this way. Whether you are amillennial, postmillennial, or premillennial most agree in the authority of God’s Word. If the Bible says Jesus is God, they believe He literally is God. If the Bible says Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, they believe He was literally born in Bethlehem. If the Bible says Jesus was born of a virgin, they believe He was literally born of a virgin. If the Bible says Jesus died on the cross for our sins, they believe He literally died on the cross for our sins. In other words, they hold to a literal interpretation of Who Jesus is, where He would be born, how He would be born and why He died on the cross. All of these are prophesied truths given in the Bible. Yet when it comes to the unfulfilled prophecies we’ve looked at – a literal thousand years of Christ’s personal and visible reign here on the Earth, Satan’s literally being removed and bound for a thousand years preventing him from deceiving the nations, God’s covenant promises to Abraham, David, and Israel – they interpret them as figurative and not literal. In every other part of the Bible they use a normal interpretation of the Bible except when it comes to unfulfilled prophecy even though the Bible doesn’t give us a reason to do so.
Personally, I believe the unfulfilled promises of God regarding the Millennium are literal. I’m reminded of a story I read awhile back about a well-known seminary that is known to be a leader of premillennialism. One day a professor came into the classroom and abruptly announced he’d become an amillennialist. This came as a shock to the students.
“Let me explain what I mean,” he said. “Last night I was thinking about all of the problems in the world; the violence, the inequality, the suffering, the wars, the broken homes. As I was thinking about all of these things, I began to think about what the world will be like when Jesus comes back and takes over. When I thought about how wonderful it will be I leaned back in my chair and said, ‘Aaah, millennialism.’”
When you look at that way, I’m an “Aaahmillennialist” too. Won’t it be amazing when Jesus comes back and sets up His glorious kingdom?