8. The Kingdom of the Messiah and the New Creation

The return of Christ

In the climax of the battle of Armageddon, on the last day of the great tribulation, Jesus will go to battle on a white horse, accompanied by His heavenly armies:

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:11-16).

After the enemy has been defeated and the Antichrist, the false prophet and their followers have been judged (Rev. 19:20-21), the Devil will be imprisoned and kept in custody for a thousand years:

“And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season” (Rev. 20: 1-3 KJV).

The description of the binding of the Devil is an extension of the scenario of Revelation 19 and is therefore a direct result of the return of Jesus. It follows immediately after the final judgement on the Antichrist and the false prophet, and is therefore not an event that can be estranged from this context and applied to the present dispensation of the Church.

At the cross, victory was indeed gained over the Devil. We can accept this fact in faith and lead a life of victory over the enemy. But that does not mean that Satan was removed from the scene after Calvary and imprisoned somewhere. On the contrary! Peter says that he still goes around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can destroy (1 Pet. 5:8). This warning is given to Christians so that they may remain sober, watchful and clad in the armour of God. We can live in the victory of Calvary if we consistently stay near to our Saviour and resist the Evil One:

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7 KJV).

The peace of God that we as saved ones experience, does not suggest that we are already in the millennial age (the thousand years of peace). The present battle with the Devil and his evil powers can in no way be associated with a situation in which he is bound, shut up and sealed so that he cannot mislead the nations. We do not yet find ourselves in a position where peace reigns. Instead, we are involved in a spiritual battle that extends right through the dispensation of the Church:

“Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:11-12).

About our position in this evil world, Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Mt. 10:34). In the present dispensation the peace of God reigns in our hearts and strengthens us for the struggle against adverse forces in a hostile world: “We know positively that we are of God, and the whole world around us is under the power of the Evil One” (1 Jn. 5:19 AB).

In the great tribulation, Satan’s efforts will be intensified (Rev. 12:12). He will instigate the nations of the world to take up arms, advance to the Middle East, attempt to eradicate Israel and even risk battle against Jesus and His armies. John describes this incitement as follows:

“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:13-14 KJV).

It is only during Christ’s return that the power of the satanic triumvirate will be destroyed. Two of them, the beast and the false prophet, will be confined to the lake of fire. The dragon will be sealed up in a bottomless pit and given over to chains of darkness, where he is to remain for a thousand years.

Judgement of the nations

Matthew describes the judgement of the nations when Christ, on His return, will sit on His throne of glory:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Mt. 25:31-32).

This judgement of Christ will be accompanied by an international rearrangement. The nations will, among others, be given their position or forfeit it on the grounds of their past relationship with Israel.

The wedding feast of the Lamb

After the return of Christ, the wedding feast of the Lamb will be celebrated on earth. By then, the marriage will have been consummated in heaven but the feast will still have to be celebrated. John says:

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb! And he said to me: These are the true sayings of God” (Rev. 19:7-9).

During His secret coming before the tribulation, Jesus will be united with His bride. She will immediately be caught up to be with the Lord in heavenly places. Now, seven years later, the public revelation of Jesus and His bride will occur. The glorious occasion of the marriage feast of the Lamb will be the venue for many guests. They will include the remnant of Israel who will just have accepted Jesus as their Messiah.

Because Jesus will bring His bride with Him from heaven and introduce her to the world, the promise made in Colossians 3:4 will be fulfilled: “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” His bridal Church will share with Him His greatest moment of triumph – to return as King of kings to the world where He suffered and died, to break the power of the enemy and establish a kingdom of righteousness in its place.

The two resurrections

The doctrine of the two resurrections is clearly exemplified in the events of Revelation. Only those who have had a part in the first resurrection (Lk. 14:14, 1 Thes. 4:16), including the martyrs of the great tribulation, will rule with Christ.

“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 (Rev. 20:6). ...the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:5).

The millennial kingdom

During the millennial age, the Church of Jesus Christ will reign with Him on earth. The elders, who depict the glorified Church around the throne in Revelation 5, are looking forward to the time when they will return with Jesus to the earth to be appointed as kings in His millennial kingdom. When they sing their song of praise to Him, they also assume their new positions:

“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” (Rev. 5:9-10; emphasis added).

The parable in Luke 19:11-28 also refers to this reign of the Lord Jesus with His saints. The man of authority who went to a far land to receive his kingdom, and then to return, points to Jesus. He is the nobleman who, at His first coming, was not recognised and accepted as King. As a humble Servant and the Lamb of God He laid down His life for sinners. After that, with His ascension, He went to a far land where God gave Him a name above every name and highly exalted Him (Phil. 2:9).

When He returns to exercise His kingship, He will also appoint His servants as kings. The one will be given authority over ten cities, the other over five cities, while the unfaithful servant who has not fulfilled his duty and appears before Him empty-handed, will not be entrusted with authority in His kingdom.

Many people wrongly assign this reign to heaven. The Lord must also reign on earth, on the throne of David in Jerusalem, to do justice to all the prophecies in this regard. Before the birth of Jesus, the angel said to Mary:

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord will give Him the throne of His father David” (Lk. 1:31-32).

The throne of David is not in heaven, but in Israel, in the city of Jerusalem. Christ’s millennial kingdom will, however, not be confined to Israel alone, but extend to the uttermost parts of the earth. Although His kingdom will be characterised by peace and tranquillity, strong discipline will still be needed because of the presence of unsaved people born of parents who survived the great tribulation. In heaven there can’t be a situation that will require people to be ruled with a rod of iron. We must therefore accept the fact of a future dispensation of the kingdom of Christ on earth before the perfect and sinless conditions of the new heaven and earth will prevail.

When Jesus Christ comes again, “the government will be upon His shoulder” (Is. 9:6). His coming as King will coincide with the sounding of trumpets and an announcement from heaven: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15).

Revelation 12:15 states that Jesus will rule all the nations with a rod of iron, and in Revelation 2 Jesus says to His faithful servants:

“But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations – He shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the potter's vessels shall be broken to pieces – as I also have received from My Father” (Rev. 2:25-27).

In the book of Acts there is a clear promise that Jesus will restore the throne of David during the visible manifestation of His kingdom:

“After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down. I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things” (Acts 15:16-17).

During the Messianic kingdom on earth, the throne of the Lord Jesus in Jerusalem will be the point of contact between heaven and earth. It will be the centre of divine wisdom, authority and a reign of righteousness. Isaiah gives the following exposition of this reign:

“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Is. 2:2-4).

A situation like this, where no wars are waged, no military training is given and no weapons are manufactured, has never before prevailed on earth. It still awaits fulfilment in a future dispensation after the Prince of Peace has come and taken the government upon His shoulders. When doing so, He will first bind the strong man of the present age, called the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4) who, with his large force of demons, are the rulers of the darkness of this age (Eph. 6:12). Because the Devil will be bound during the millennial rule of Christ, he will not be able to deceive the nations as he presently does (Rev. 20:2-3). Consequently, there will be no crime or war. All forms of rebellion against God will disappear and the whole world will acknowledge and practise only the Christian religion:

“...the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:9).

Jerusalem will be spontaneously accepted as the capital city of the world. Hostilities and tensions caused by political differences, will not exist:

“At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem; they shall walk no more after the stubbornness of their evil heart” (Jer. 3:17).

The only form of misbehaviour will be laxity among some nations in giving honour and worship to the Lord, as befits His subjects. For this reason they will be ruled with a rod of iron, while punitive actions may also be instituted:

“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” (Zech. 14:16-17).

From this statement it is evident that although the Devil will not be present to tempt sinful persons, they will still have a carnal nature in need of discipline to maintain a positive relationship towards the things of God. They will be mortal beings of flesh and blood who do not have glorified bodies. Because of their fallen nature, they will need to have a spiritual experience of salvation in order to belong to the Lord.

According to Zechariah 14:16-17, only a small remnant of the nations will survive the great tribulation and the battle of Armageddon without having accepted the number of the Antichrist or worshipped his image. They will probably all be saved after the second coming of Christ (Mt. 24:30). However, their children will be born with a sinful, Adamic nature and will have to be born again to become Christians. To evangelise them will be the task of the saved Israel, who will also be mortal but born-again people.

The final judgement

The Devil will not immediately after the coming of Christ be confined to the lake of fire, as will happen to the Antichrist and the false prophet. The reason for his binding before his final condemnation is because he will, at the end of the millennium, be released for a short while to uncover the latent evil of unsaved people. In this way a clear distinction will be made between them and the saved ones. The incredible fact will then become manifest that the majority of the people born on earth during the millennial reign of Christ will not truly repent and become saved people:

“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. And 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” (Rev. 20:7-10).

The dramatic end of the millennium will conclude the sixth of the seven dispensations in God’s plan for mankind. These are:

1.    The dispensation of innocence in paradise.

2.    The dispensation of fallen man, guided by his conscience.

3.    The dispensation of the law in the history if Israel.

4.    The dispensation of grace (the hidden kingdom) during the Church age.

5.    The dispensation of the Antichrist’s kingdom during the tribulation period.

6.    The dispensation of the revealed kingdom of God on earth (Christ’s thousand year reign of peace).

7.    The everlasting dispensation of perfection during eternity.

Throughout the ages those who chose to walk the narrow way, were a minority. This will also be the case during the coming millennial kingdom. Although people will enjoy the privileges of the messianic kingdom, the majority of them will not really humble themselves before the Lord to be born again. When the Devil is released at the end of the thousand years, all the unsaved people will be spontaneously attracted to him. Because of their unchanged hearts, Satan will be able to deceive and mobilise them for a final attack on Christ and His saints. After that rebellion, the eternal and dreadful night of horror for the Evil One and his hordes will ensue.

At the end of the thousand years of the millennial kingdom, a great white throne will appear in heaven. The second resurrection will occur and all those who lived without Christ will be judged and condemned to eternal death in the fires of hell. The narrow and the broad way will each reach its final and eternal destination – the one in the new Jerusalem with its pearly gates, and the other one in the lake of fire: “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15 KJV).

The Bright and Morning Star

In Revelation 22:16 the Lord says, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

Jesus is the Root and Offspring of David. As the Root of David His Deity is asserted – He is David’s Lord! As the Offspring of David His Manhood is involved (Lk. 20:41-44). He is the promised Messiah who was born from the house of David in the tribe of Judah – the seed of Abraham through whom all the nations would be blessed (Gen. 12:3). Throughout the centuries, Satan hated and persecuted Israel because of the promises made to them about the coming Messiah. Satan is still waging this war because the Messiah of Israel, who is also the Saviour of the world, is coming again to annihilate the Antichrist and his forces, and to reign as King!

As the Bright and Morning Star, Jesus Himself is the promise of a new day that will dawn over this troubled world. The morning star is visible only during the latter part of the night – just before and heralding the dawn. It is still night now and the world is sinking ever deeper into moral and spiritual darkness. The true believers will meet Jesus as the Morning Star during the rapture in the fourth night-watch of this dark dispensation. The darkest part of the night will then ensue on earth under the evil reign of the Antichrist. With His second coming Jesus will, as prophesied, “arise” as “the Sun of Righteousness… with healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2), dispelling all darkness and usher in His millennial reign as Prince of peace, King of kings and Lord of lords!

The new creation

Directly after the great white throne judgement the earth will be burned, the heaven will depart like a scroll that is rolled together, and a new heaven and a new earth will be created. The new Jerusalem, that wonderful city which Jesus prepared for those who love Him, will descend from heaven and rest upon the new earth.

The city and its streets are built of pure and transparent gold. The foundation stones of the wall are decorated with precious jewels that vary from crystal clear stones to deep red sardius, green chrysolite and sparkling blue sapphire. In the high walls that surround the city are twelve gates made of pearls – each gate is a single pearl. The idea of a tear is conveyed by a pearl, since its formation is associated with pain and suffering. When the oyster is injured, a shiny pearl is formed in the wound. When the feet and hands of Jesus Christ were pierced by the rough nails and He gave His life on the cross, the gates of paradise were again opened to fallen humanity. On the merit of His tears and suffering He became a precious pearl to us, which in itself is a gateway to the new Jerusalem. Through Him we can enter into the kingdom of heaven and delight ourselves in the glory of the Lord.

Spiritual preparation

After the reader has been given a glimpse of the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 22, his attention is drawn back to the present. Equipped with new insight into the glorious destination of all Christians, as well as the terrible abode of the wicked, the reader is challenged with an unambiguous reaction and a genuine commitment on his part. The Lord expects from all Christians a readiness for the day of His return. We are clearly called to a life of dedication, godliness and separation from the present evil world:

“And he said to me, Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to give every one according to his work” (Rev. 22:10-12 KJV).

Paul has the same message to Christians, who are all called to a godly life of service to the Lord:

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Tit. 2:11-14).

In the book of Revelation, God also reminds us that we are not to follow the pattern of Babylonian thinking of unity at all cost. In terms of this ideology people are taught to go along with anything that comes their way, and to accommodate all religions and  their non-Christian traditions. In our dispensation, which is characterised by the presence of two opposing spiritual forces, the ideal of global unity is not feasible. We should rather, because of our faith in the Lord Jesus, be prepared for greater polarisation with an evil world. Such an attitude calls for spiritual as well as moral divergence from the mainstream of the permissive and corrupt life-styles that are the order of the day.

You cannot compromise and revert to the sinful practises and ideologies of this world that is in the power of the Evil One. Follow the straight and narrow road all the way. Do not deviate from God’s principles and don’t become concerned when the world, as well as the compromising, worldly churches, turn their backs on you. When Jesus was on earth, the religious leaders persecuted and rejected Him. He cautioned us that His disciples will have the same experience (Jn. 16:33). Nominal Christians who compromise with the world, will obviously not be judged and persecuted; but in the end they will pay dearly for this temporary advantage.

Because of the uncompromising attitude of fundamental Christians towards secular life-styles, polarisation will inevitably occur between them and the world. This is the reason why friendship with the world is emphatically branded as enmity against God (Jas. 4:4; 1 Jn. 2:15-17). No bridges can, therefore, be built between the two ideologies and life-styles. Each Christian must take an unequivocal stand on his convictions.

You are invited at this very moment, even should the tribulation already have begun, to turn from the pathway of darkness and iniquity to the Saviour, Jesus Christ. To everyone who truly wants to be saved, the Lord says in the closing chapter of the Bible: “And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17).

Don’t delay for another moment, but go down on your knees and confess your sins to Jesus Christ. His promise is that those who come to Him, He will in no way cast out (Jn. 6:37). He waits for you now: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Is. 1:18 KJV).

The Lord pardons abundantly (Is. 55:7). Even if you have backslidden time and again, you can still have the confidence to return to the Lord. Don’t allow the Devil to prevent your salvation or spiritual restoration with the idea that your sins are too big and even unpardonable. That is one of his many lies! Confess everything to the Lord and accept 1 John 1:9 as the promise of complete forgiveness and salvation: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). He delights in the repenting of a sinner who comes to Him with a broken heart.

Testify to others about your faith and take a public stand for Christ (Rom. 10:9-10), even though it may bring persecution. Do not be ashamed to acknowledge your Redeemer, and don’t keep quiet about the great things He has done for you. Read the first epistle of Peter, and rejoice even in the suffering you have to undergo because of your faith. The hardships in this hostile world don’t weigh up against the eternal glory that is shortly to be revealed to us (2 Cor. 4:16 - 5:1). Time is so short that not a moment can be wasted to get into the right relationship with the Lord. What you do now, or neglect to do, will be decisive for your eternal destiny.

At the conclusion of Revelation, the assurance is given that if we have been reconciled with God through the blood of the Lamb, the Holy Spirit will bring a deep longing for the return of Jesus in our hearts. The Spirit and the bride call on the heavenly Bridegroom: Come, Lord Jesus! His response to this is: Surely I come quickly! (Rev. 22:17, 20).