The Millennium

Prof. Johan Malan, University of the North, South Africa

Abstract: The biblical teaching on the thousand-year reign of Christ after His second coming.

Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible except where otherwise indicated. Only very archaic terms have been substituted, between brackets, with correlating terms from the New King James Version (NKJV). All pronouns referring to the Godhead are capitalised. Edited by Bernard and Kathleen Reeves of London.

Dispensations in the Bible

The Bible clearly teaches a future, one thousand year reign of Christ from the restored throne of David in Jerusalem. This coming dispensation is referred to as the Millennium. It will be the sixth dispensation in the divine history of humanity, to be followed by eternity in the completely new heaven and new earth, which will be created after the Millennium.

The divine history of humanity is ordered within the framework of seven dispensations. It commences with the creation of Adam and Eve in Eden and culminates in the new heaven and new earth where an eternal, perfect existence will prevail. The seven dispensations are:

1.    The dispensation of innocence in Eden.

2.    The dispensation of the conscience after the Fall.

3.    The dispensation of the law in the Old Testament.

4.    The dispensation of grace in the church age.

5.    The dispensation of the Antichrist’s reign.

6.    The dispensation of Christ’s millennial kingdom.

7.    The dispensation of perfection in eternity.

The beginning and end of a dispensation are always marked by dramatic events associated with the unfolding of a new aspect of God’s plan for the ages. They are also accompanied by intensified demonic activities as Satan then tries everything in his power to disrupt God’s plan. The main characteristics of the seven dispensations are as follows:

1. The dispensation of innocence

The very first dispensation in which Adam and Eve found themselves was that of innocence in Eden. God had forbidden them to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and warned that they would surely die should they eat of its fruit (Gen. 2:17). They were innocent, as they had no knowledge of good and evil and were not ashamed of their nakedness (Gen. 2:25). With great cunning Satan deceived Adam and Eve into rebelling against God by disobeying Him. They foolishly heeded Satan’s advice and yielded to his evil influence, thus becoming sinners. Spiritual death immediately set in, while they also physically became mortal. The dispensation of innocence ended with the Fall, which was the result of Satan’s deception.

2. The dispensation of the conscience

For a long time after the Fall humanity had no law and could only distinguish between good and evil by way of the voice of conscience. Various people pursued righteousness in accordance with their inner convictions and whatever personal revelations God gave them. Some of them, like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph became preachers of righteousness. At times during this dispensation evil was so intense and pervasive that God’s anger was kindled against humankind. During the Flood all but eight people were destroyed. Through the calling of Abraham, God started to prepare a special people of His own, the nation of Israel, to live in accordance with His laws.

At the end of the dispensation of the conscience, when Israel were about to receive the law of God and move into a new dispensation, Satan launched an incredible attack against them from the kingdom of darkness. He employed all his powers of deception to avert the next unfolding of God’s divine plan for humanity. While Moses was with God on Mt. Sinai to receive the law, Israel were deceived into rebelling against Him by practising idolatry, thereby rendering them unfit to receive His law. God said He would destroy them, but Moses interceded for them. He was so shocked at the sight of the golden calf that he broke the tablets on which the law was written, but God graciously wrote them again.

3. The dispensation of the law

With the introduction of the dispensation of the law a much clearer distinction was made between good and evil. Not only in the Ten Commandments, but through a great number of other laws and decrees, God defined righteousness and sin. Satan concentrated on Israel to induce them to sin, in an effort to subvert and nullify their calling as a special people of God. His efforts were greatly intensified when the time came for the Messiah to be born. Satan must have been extremely infuriated with the announcement from heaven that the Messiah’s Name would be Jesus and that He would save His people from their sins (Mt. 1:21). Satan then took possession of Herod and incited him to massacre all male children under the age of two years in an effort to destroy Jesus. When this evil plan failed Satan then tried to tempt Jesus to sin in the wilderness and afterwards relentlessly attacked Him through the hostile leaders of Israel. He wanted to eliminate Jesus and obliterate the gospel of the kingdom of God. But the devil’s plans backfired on himself because, through His death, Jesus destroyed “him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14 NKJV). God’s divine plan proceeded unaltered.

4. The dispensation of the church

With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit the church age was ushered in. The Holy Spirit was given to guide people into all truth, to convict them of sin and righteousness, to regenerate them, and also to endue them with power from on high to serve Christ in a spiritually dark world. The knowledge of good and evil was increased through spiritual discernment (we have enlightened eyes of the mind), but still not to its fullest extent: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part” (1 Cor. 13:9). Despite Christians now having a strong weapon against Satan, his efforts to thwart God’s plan intensified as, for many centuries, he has conducted an all-out war against Christ’s church using Roman emperors, the medieval Roman Catholic Church and, later, secular humanism, communism, the interfaith and new age movements, in an attempt to destroy it – which has also failed.

We are at the very end of the church dispensation and it is once again a time of increased demonic activity with a great falling away in many churches: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1). Satan intends to pervert the church of Christ, tries to prevent the virgins getting oil (type of the Holy Spirit) in their lamps and lulls them to sleep before the Bridegroom comes at midnight (Mt. 25:1-13). By establishing a false church (an ecumenical alliance of degenerate Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches with the non-Christian religions), and the promotion of a culture of sin (i.e. amorality of all kinds, e.g. promiscuity, homosexuality, abortion and crime) a climate is created which is conducive to the advent, acceptance and worship of the Antichrist as universal messiah and “man of sin” (2 Thes. 2:3).

5. The dispensation of the Antichrist’s reign

When the one who withholds – i.e. the Holy Spirit indwelling the true Church – has been taken out of the way during the rapture, the Antichrist will be revealed (2 Thes. 2:6-12). Strong delusion will prevail on earth and the masses will blindly believe the lies of the Antichrist. Evil will develop to its fullest extent and there will be no limits to blasphemous and sinful conduct. The second half of the Antichrist’s reign of seven years will be a time of unprecedented demonic activity: “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Rev. 12:12 NKJV). Towards the end of the seven years of tribulation the Antichrist and the false prophet will, under the instigation of Satan (Rev. 16:13-14), muster a great multinational force to fight against Christ when He descends to Jerusalem to defend and rescue Israel at His Second Coming. This battle will not be a long one as the Antichrist and the false prophet will be captured and cast alive into the lake of fire. The devil will be chained and confined to a bottomless pit for one thousand years (Rev. 19:19–20:3).

6. The dispensation of the millennial kingdom

During the Millennium the glorified believers will rule with Christ. They will have perfect, immortal bodies, perfect joy and perfect knowledge. But the end of this dispensation will also be characterised by tremendous demonic activity. Satan will be let out of prison to make a last desperate attempt to thwart the completion of God’s master plan. He will then act as a catalyst to the rebellious, unsaved people (and there will be many) living during the Millennium, whom he will deceive into joining him in his final battle against the kingdom of light. This vain effort will lead to the final doom of Satan, his hordes and all unsaved people of all dispensations on the Day of Judgement (Rev. 20:7-15).

7. The dispensation of eternity

This dispensation will be endless. In the new heaven and on the new earth “there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of life” (Rev. 21: 27 NKJV). The lake of fire where Satan, his demons and all lost people will be confined, will also exist for all eternity.

Methods of interpretation

The prevailing confusion among many Christians about biblical dispensations results from using wrong methods of interpreting Scripture, which often do not recognise the true meaning of the prophetic word. By so doing, they relegate many of the clear pronouncements about the future to the status of mere symbols and abstract concepts with no literal meaning, so spiritualising literal prophecies.

The thousand-year reign of peace that will, according to Revelation 20, be inaugurated after the Second Coming of Christ is, despite the evidence that has been cited, still a subject of great controversy. In terms of their divergent views, Christians are grouped into different doctrinal schools. Those who interpret the book of Revelation in a literal, dispensational way, are called millennialists. This term is derived from the Latin word for thousand which is mille. It refers to Christians who believe that there will be a literal thousand-year reign of peace on earth after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. A synonym for the term millennialist is chiliast, which is derived from the Greek word for a thousand, chilios. People who do not believe in a literal thousand-year reign are called amillennialists or antichiliasts. They are also inclined to change the meanings of many other biblical statements and concepts by spiritualising what is clearly meant to be taken literally.

Because of these controversies a number of different principles of exegesis (interpretation) are applied in regard to the book of Revelation. Some of them deviate so far from the basic meaning of the text that it seriously compromises the divine inspiration of the book. The following are the four most common ways of interpreting the book:

1. Historic Premillennialism (AD 33 – 400)

Until about the end of the 4th century, this was virtually the only view of end-time events. It held that a literal Antichrist would emerge in the end-time and that the church would go through the tribulation period. This would end with Christ’s Second Coming to raise believers who have died and catch them up with living believers, in glorified bodies, to meet Him in the air. He then immediately returns to earth with them to rescue the remnant of Israel who receive Him as their Messiah, destroy the Antichrist and his armies and establish His kingdom to rule from Jerusalem for 1 000 years. All but one church father who wrote on prophecy held this premillennial view; indeed Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) even stated that to teach otherwise was heretical!

2. Amillennialism (AD 400 to date)

This is the practice of extensive spiritualisation of biblical statements using a method of interpretation devised by the Alexandrian school of theology, led by Origen, in the third to fourth centuries. It regarded the entire Bible as an allegory to be interpreted non-literally, but Augustine (AD 354-430) restricted this method to the end-time prophecies only, Revelation being interpreted as a chronicle of the spiritual conflict between God and Satan during the present church age. A current liberal variation of this view considers Revelation as merely a symbolic representation of the concept of God’s ultimate victory over Satan, evil and human sin.

Amillennialists do not believe in a literal Millennium but spiritualise biblical statements, deny their literal meanings and replace them with other meanings. This is also called replacement theology in terms of which Israel can be taken to mean the church (a claim made by many churches), Jerusalem can become anyone’s home-town, Babylon can be applied to America or Rome, the 144 000 saved Jews of the tribulation can be applied to the millions of Christians of all ages, while the thousand-year reign of Christ, with the seven-year tribulation period, is equated with the entire church dispensation of almost two thousand years. In this way, vital Scriptural truths are often argued away to fit in with amillennialist concepts.

3. Postmillennialism (mid AD 1600’s to date)

According to this school, the world will progressively become a better place through Christianisation, thereby ushering in the Millennium of the church age. At the end of this ‘golden age’ of the Christianised world, Christ will return for the final judgement, thus closing world history. According to postmillennialists there will be no 1000-year reign of Christ on earth as King of kings, with Jerusalem as His world capital.

4. Modern dispensational premillennialism (early AD 1800’s to date)

J.N. Darby (born London, 1800), an eminent British theologian, is credited with re-establishing dispensationalism in the church. In When the Trumpet Sounds (pp. 127-8), Prof. Floyd Elmore of Ohio, USA, says that John Darby had the greatest influence on the study of biblical prophecy during the last 150 years, and was a choice servant whom God used to make a profound impact upon the church’s understanding of biblical prophecy. He adds: “Darby is the acknowledged father of systematised dispensationalism and a key modern developer of the pretribulational rapture.”

This approach is followed by conservative scholars who hold that, except for the first three chapters, Revelation describes future events. Chapters 4-18 deal with the events of the last seven years preceding Christ’s Second Coming and particularly emphasise the great tribulation of the last 3½ years prior to it. Subsequent to that momentous event, Satan will be bound and the 1000-year millennial reign of Christ will be established upon earth.

Since Christ returns before the Millennium, this view of prophecy is termed “premillennialism.” Clearly, we are not now in the Millennium and Satan is, quite evidently, not yet confined to a sealed pit – not even in a symbolic sense! Premillennialism honours the literal meaning of Scripture, except when the context clearly shows that a particular concept must be interpreted symbolically. An example of symbolism is the red dragon with seven heads, which the Bible itself identifies as the Devil. But when Scripture speaks of Israel, the great tribulation, the Antichrist, the false prophet, the battle of Armageddon, and the binding and incarceration of Satan after the Second Coming, there is no justification whatsoever for trying to explain away their obviously literal meanings by allegorising or spiritualising them. The golden rule is: When the plain sense of the word makes common sense, then seek no other sense.

Evaluation of the various millennial views

To amillennialists and postmillennialists the prophetic message of Revelation has largely lost its literal meaning and relevance due to spiritualising it. Its chronology is disregarded, as Christ’s reign of 1000 years in chapter 20 is viewed as symbolic of the entire church age of about 2000 years between His first and second coming! During this period Satan is bound, but his influence is limited so he cannot stop the spread of the gospel or eliminate the church.

To amillennialists the Millennium is Christ reigning in heaven with glorified deceased believers during the church age. But to most postmillennialists the spread of the gospel will Christianise the whole world, and the Millennium is the resulting golden age of righteousness and peace on earth with Christ reigning from heaven. Amillennialists say the Millennium coincides with continuous tribulation during the church age, that it intensified for Jews in AD 70-145, and will greatly intensify prior to the return of Christ. To postmillennialists the tribulation of Matthew 24 and the apostasy of 2 Thessalonians 2 are already past, so Revelation is largely irrelevant to our generation.

Neither amillennialists nor postmillennialists believe in the physical or spiritual restoration of Israel as a nation in accordance with Old and New Testament prophecies since they allege the church has replaced Israel, but Jews can be saved by becoming Christians. The significance of important signs of the times, such as Israel’s partial re-gathering in its ancient, promised land, Jerusalem no longer being trampled by the Gentiles, trends towards a globalised, cashless monetary system, a one-world government and a multi-faith, one-world religious body as precursors for the Antichrist’s bid for global political and religious power are played down. As a result even otherwise sound, exemplary Christians fail to recognise these signs and, lacking a biblical perspective on the unfolding fulfilment of end-time prophecy, they follow only a secular assessment of current events. So, their expectation of Christ’s imminent return as the heavenly Bridegroom and their spiritual vision of Him as “the bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16) is often dimmed or lacking.

The premillennialist view places strong emphasis on the reliability of the inspired Scriptures as revealing God’s plan for the future of the world. Christians who hold this view interpret world affairs in the light of prophetic Scriptures, and seek to have spiritual discernment to understand the signs of the times in the unfolding of current events. They avoid the complacency resulting from assuming that the devil is either partly or fully bound, or the disillusionment that will inevitably follow the pursuit of the unrealistic view that they can succeed in Christianising the world before Christ’s coming, or that Christ’s coming to judge the nations is only a far distant event. Instead, they see themselves as strangers and pilgrims in a world that “lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 Jn. 5:19 NKJV), and therefore expect the struggle between the powers of light and darkness to intensify as Christ’s imminent coming draws ever nearer.

Premillennialists are aware of the extreme solemnity of the times in which they live and convinced that the church age is rapidly drawing to a close, so opportunities to fulfil the Great Commission are running out. This knowledge, and the awareness that the awesome events and judgements of the tribulation are imminent, gives real urgency and zeal to their evangelism, as they warn others of “the wrath to come” and the need to repent and believe the Gospel. They also seek to be ready to meet the Lord, the heavenly Bridegroom, when He comes to take them to His Father’s house, by seeking to live by biblical standards of holiness and by total commitment to serving Him faithfully.

Views of the church fathers

To confirm that the Millennium is not merely symbolic, but a literal period of future history, it may be helpful to establish what John the Apostle taught about the Revelation during his ministry in Asia Minor after his release from Patmos. The writings of various early church fathers who were his students throw light on this subject and confirm that it was often discussed. The following are statements made by some of them on the Millennium and related matters:

Papias, the bishop of Smyrna, was a student of John and learned firsthand about the author’s own interpretation of the book of Revelation. The teaching of this church father is very important as he is the link between the millennialist view and the apostles. Papias taught that after the resurrection of the dead there will be a reign of Christ on earth for a thousand years when He will personally sit on the throne. The earth will experience a time of unprecedented fertility and there will be great prosperity under Christ’s beneficent rule with His saints. Early in the second century, Justin Martyr wrote: “A certain man among us, whose name is John, one of the apostles of Jesus, prophesied in a revelation that he had that those who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ will be in Jerusalem for a thousand years.”

Another church father, Polycarp, who was one of the youngest students of the apostle John, was a very devoted Christian who also died as a martyr. On the authority of John he taught that the earth will be very fertile during the Millennium and yield abundant crops. Another view of significance is that of Irenaeus who was a student of Polycarp. He said that the reward of the just would be that they will be resurrected from among the dead when the world is renewed and made fertile. His view was that each of the six days of creation indicates a thousand year period, and that after six thousand years of world history have expired it would be followed by the seventh day, which would also be a thousand years.

This last-mentioned view was entertained by various church fathers, among them Cyprian, Barnabas and Lactantius. In this regard, the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia says that the general view of the fathers was that the Lord will appear at the end of the sixth millennium to establish His kingdom on earth. The general view was that this kingdom, which correlates with the Sabbath of Creation, will continue for one thousand years.

Persistence of the allegorical interpretation

Despite the clear testimonies of the apostle John, the early church fathers and the Bible’s own, very obvious message, the allegorical interpretation of biblical prophecies has permeated virtually the entire church. Theologians have deprived churches of the literal message of the Bible by wrongly interpreting it. Hamilton, an amillennialist himself, admits this problem in his book, The Basis of Millennial Faith: “Now we must frankly admit that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies gives us just such a picture of an earthly reign of the Messiah as the premillennialists picture.” The critical question is not whether the Bible teaches such an earthly kingdom – because it clearly does – but how the relevant prophecies should be interpreted.

McDonald (Dictionary of the Christian Church) defines an allegory as follows: “The use of language to convey a deeper and a different meaning from that which appears on the surface.” An allegorical interpretation must be clearly distinguished from a symbolic interpretation. The Bible often makes use of symbolic language, including in prophecy. A symbol always has a literal anti-type as it is used to explain something about a specific person or event. From the way in which it is used, it is clear that a symbol means something else. Examples of symbols to describe certain characteristics of Christ are the lamb, the lion, the light of the world, the bright and morning star, the true vine, etc.

In cases of allegorical interpretation, the relevant Scripture has a clear and obvious meaning, but for ulterior reasons the reader feels he must read something else into it, thereby assigning a figurative meaning to the Scripture. The allegorical interpretation, therefore, does not subject itself to the authority of the Bible by deriving its meaning from it, but approaches Scripture with a preconceived idea by reading that meaning into the Bible.

Angus & Green (The Bible Handbook) also refer to this danger when they say: “There is an unlimited scope for fancy, if once the principle be admitted, and the only basis of the exposition is found in the mind of the expositor. The scheme can yield no interpretation, properly so called, although possibly some valuable truths may be illustrated.”

Bernard Ramm (Protestant Biblical Interpretation) adds to this caution: “To state that the principal meaning of the Bible is a second-sense meaning, and that the principal method of interpretation is spiritualising, is to open the door to almost uncontrolled speculation and imagination. For this reason we have insisted that the control in interpretation is the literal method.”

O.T. Allis, who himself spiritualises the Bible, is keenly aware of the negative results that it may yield when he says: “Whether the figurative or spiritual interpretation of a given passage is justified or not, depends solely on whether it gives the true meaning. If it is used to empty words of their plain and obvious meaning, to read out of them what is clearly intended by them, the allegorising or spiritualising is a term of reproach which is well merited.”

One of the great proponents of allegorical interpretation was Origen (AD 185-254). He was strongly influenced by the Greek philosophy of Plato and tried to synthesise the Bible with abstract philosophical thinking. He identified the following three levels of Bible interpretation: (1) The somatic or literal interpretation, which is sufficient for the simple-minded. (2) The psychological or moral interpretation for the more advanced. (3) The pneumatic or allegorical interpretation for those who have wisdom. Such people should be able to find their way through all the symbols and ascend to the level of the mysterious. It is not difficult to see how this approach paved the way for various kinds of deception and metaphysical speculation. For example, Origen taught that “in the end not only will all human beings be saved but even the devil and his demons” (A.A. Hoekema: The Bible and the Future). It is obvious why he did not believe in a literal kingdom on earth and became the founder of allegorical exegesis and amillennial thinking. Like Augustine almost two centuries later, he regarded the church age as the dispensation of the kingdom.

Augustine (AD 354 to 430) perpetuated the serious exegetical and amillennial errors of Origen in his Confessiones and his book on the kingdom of God – De Civitate Dei. He also studied and accepted neo-Platonist thought. Augustine has the doubtful honour of having been highly regarded by prominent reformers such as Calvin and Luther, while also being venerated as the most eminent Christian scholar by the Vatican. The latter celebrates a feast to his honour on 28th August every year!

The modern church is still profoundly influenced by the heathen (Platonist) philosophy of the inter-testamental period and also by its similarly mistaken interpretational methods of spiritualising and allegorising the Bible.

The literal method of interpretation

Fortunately, there is a growing group of evangelical scholars in modern times who are reverting to sound principles of interpreting the inspired and inerrant Word of God. Dwight Pentecost (Things to Come) gives the following definition of the literal method of interpretation: “The literal method of interpretation is that method that gives to each word the same basic meaning it would have in normal ordinary customary usage, whether employed in writing, speaking or thinking. It is called the grammatical-historical method to emphasise the fact that the meaning is to be determined by both grammatical and historical considerations.”

The strongest proof of the literal interpretation is the way in which the New Testament makes use of the Old Testament. Good examples are the many prophecies about the birth, life, work, death and resurrection of Christ that were all literally fulfilled in the New Testament.

Despite this overwhelming evidence about Jesus as the promised Messiah, the Pharisees and scribes decided to suppress the truth and lie to the people. Why did they do that? Hal Lindsey says that any person who does not realise that his most important problem is an inward, spiritual problem, prefers a political above a spiritual saviour.

It is still the same today. Many churches openly disregard the Bible’s literal message and engage in an ecumenical process of uniting church to society – inadvertently preparing for the world’s false political ‘saviour’, the Antichrist. The spiritualisation of biblical prophecies is clearly a trick by Satan to prevent people from being aware that the return to earth of the great spiritual Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ (Jn. 4:42), to defeat God’s enemies, save the remnant of Israel and establish His millennial reign is now imminent!

At Christ’s first coming most Jews, especially the hierarchy, ignored the many prophecies about Him, so failed to recognise their true Messiah. Israel paid dearly for their neglect of prophecy: “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Lk. 19:43-44 NKJV). Christ’s prophecies have and will all come true – literally!

A similar situation prevails concerning His Second Coming. Literal prophecies of His coming are either ignored or wrongly interpreted, thus depriving Christians of their proper future expectation – often leading to some focusing attention on political and social ideals. Jesus Himself said it will be as in the days of Noah and Lot. Those not truly born again will pay a very heavy price in tribulation and divine wrath by being left behind to endure the Antichrist’s reign of terror after Christ comes to take away the saints at the rapture.

To those who remain true to the Lord Jesus and expect His coming imminently, there is the real hope of returning to this troubled world with Christ when He establishes His millennial reign on earth after the tribulation period.

Prophecies about the Millennium

In Revelation 20 there are various references to the one thousand-year reign of Christ when Satan will be bound: “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. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison…” (Rev. 20:1-7).

When the Lord Jesus comes back to earth it will be as “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16). He will set up His one-world government with Jerusalem as capital: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).

In a major end-time prophecy Daniel likened Christ’s Second Coming to the effect of a great stone smiting the kingdoms of the world, pulverising them to chaff carried on the wind, then becoming a great mountain filling the whole earth, replacing them with His kingdom (Dan. 2:34-35; 44-45), so “the Lord shall be King over all the earth” (Zech. 14:9). This is similar to the prophecy about the Lord Jesus reigning as King, which was given to Mary before His birth: “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David” (Lk. 1:31-32).

The throne of David is not in heaven but on earth. Jesus does not now reign in a literal sense from the throne of David as this throne has, since the Babylonian captivity, been temporarily in suspension. Christ will restore this throne at His Second Coming and then reign from it: “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 NKJV).

The elders in heaven (representing redeemed Jews and Gentiles) are aware they will return with Christ and reign with Him in His earthly kingdom, since they explicitly sing: “Thou… wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10; cf. 2 Tim. 2:12).

It is therefore clearly evident that the events of Revelation coincide with a strong proclamation of the Kingship of Jesus Christ: “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down… he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Rev. 12:10,12).

When Jesus, our High Priest who now intercedes for us at the throne of the Father, returns to earth, the power and influence of Satan here will be broken and the kingdom of Christ established. The devil will then no longer be the ruler and god of this present evil world (Jn. 14:30; 2 Cor. 4:4; Gal. 1:4; 1 Jn. 5:19), but Christ as “king shall reign in righteousness” as “Ruler in Israel”, and “have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth” (Is. 32:1; Mic. 5:2; Ps. 72:8).

A further proof that the millennial reign is not in heaven is that in this dispensation there will still be inherent carnality and disorderliness among the nations, which will necessitate that they be ruled with a strong hand. Although Satan will be bound and prohibited from deceiving the nations into committing rebellious deeds, they will still have fallen natures that need to be disciplined. In Revelation 12:5 and 19:15 it is plainly stated that Christ will rule the nations “with a rod of iron.” His faithful servants will also share in this rule: “But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of My Father” (Rev. 2:25-27).

The Lord (Yahweh) declares in Psalm 2:6: “Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion.” During the Messianic reign the throne of the Lord Jesus in Jerusalem will represent heavenly rule and therefore be a centre of divine wisdom, power, authority and righteousness. Micah says: “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into [ploughshares], and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Mic. 4:1-3; cf. Is. 24:23).

Beating “swords into ploughshares” means re-using the same metal, which can only refer to earth – there are no swords in heaven, nor ploughs needed there! A complete absence of weapons, military training and war is unprecedented in history and can only refer to God’s kingdom coming and His will being “done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). The devil will, at last, be securely bound and unable to deceive, and sin will be restrained during Christ’s thousand year “rod of iron” rule. Even the animal creation will benefit and predation will cease: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:9).

Jerusalem will spontaneously be recognised by all peoples as world capital and no hostility or political tension will exist between individual nations: “At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the [stubbornness] of their evil heart” (Jer. 3:17).

Laxity will be the only form of misconduct, as some nations will neglect their duty to go up to Jerusalem to worship the King. It may still be a matter of the spirit being willing but the flesh weak (Mt. 26:41). Their neglect will provoke a rebuke and disciplinary measures from the King: “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even 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 whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain” (Zech. 14:16-17).

At the beginning of the Millennium, the remnant of the nations who survived the great tribulation and the battle of Armageddon will honour the Lord (Zech. 14:16). However, the upcoming generations will increasingly manifest their fallen nature which they will inherit from their first ancestor, Adam. These peoples will be evangelised by Israel, who will all serve the Lord with one accord, and many will be saved: “[The Lord] shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit” (Is. 27:6; cf. Zech. 8:23).

The doctrine of the two resurrections is also clearly related to the Millennium. Only those who have part in the first resurrection (Lk. 14:14; 1 Thes. 4:16), including O.T. believers and those saved during the tribulation, will rule with Christ. We should “examine” ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5) and ask God to “search” us (Ps. 139:23-24) to be quite sure we are born-again so as to qualify for the first resurrection: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath 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 are the unsaved multitude of all centuries, and they will not be resurrected until the thousand years have ended (Rev. 20:5). They will then appear before the great white throne to be judged and condemned to the eternal lake of fire (Jude v. 7).

Characteristics of the millennial reign

Remembering the words of the prayer the Lord Jesus taught us, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10), the following are the most important characteristics of the future reign of peace on earth:

·       God will rule on earth through His King of kings, Jesus Christ. A theocratic world government will, therefore, be established (Lk. 1:31-33; Rev. 19:15; Dan. 7:13-14).

·       Christ will reign on David’s restored throne in Jerusalem and Israel will be the hub of the world (Ps. 2:6-12; Zech. 8:22; Is. 2:2-3; 24:23; 33:17,20-22; Dan. 7:27). His government will be characterised by righteousness and equity (Is. 1:26-27; 32:1-2; 16-17; Jer. 23:5-6).

·       Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, “the city of our God”, “the city of the great King”, will be the centre of worship for the whole world and all nations will converge there to worship God through Christ the King of kings (Ps. 48; Zech. 14:16-20; Is. 66:18-23; Rev. 19:16).

·       The saved remnant of Israel will rejoice in the Lord and evangelise the entire world (Is 12:3-6; 27:6; 40:9; 51:11). They will make the world fruitful (Is. 27:6) and God will be honoured (Is. 28:5; Zech. 8:20-23).

·       Satan will be securely bound so that he cannot deceive the nations (Rev. 20:1-4).

·       Peace will prevail everywhere. There will be no more war or military training and weapons will be recycled for peaceful uses (Is. 2:4; 9:7; Mic. 5:4-5; Hos. 2:18).

·       The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Is. 11:9-10; Hab. 2:14).

·       There will be no disease (Mal. 4:2; Is. 33:24).

·       People will live healthily and actively to a great age – like the antediluvians. A 100 year-old person will be regarded as a child (Is. 65:20-23).

·       Nature will greatly benefit since the curse of Genesis 3:17-19 will be lifted and the whole of creation, which since then has been groaning, will be set free from the bondage of corruption into glorious liberty (Rom. 8:19-22; Is. 55:12-13; Joel 3:18).

·       An agricultural or horticultural way of life is indicated and the earth will produce food so prolifically that planting the next crop will take place before the previous one has been fully harvested! (Mic. 4:3-4; Amos 9:13-15; Is. 65: 21-23; Ps. 65:9-13).

·       Harmony will prevail in the animal kingdom. The wolf will lie down with the lamb and the lion will eat straw like an ox – they will “not hurt nor destroy” each other – because the Lord will make a new covenant with the animals that will change the physiology and aggressive nature of the carnivorous predators into the physiology and gentle nature of herbivores (Is. 11:6-9; 65:25; Hos. 2:18).

Israel’s position in the Millennium

Israel’s position during the coming Messianic era is frequently described in the Old Testament where it is specifically related to the day of the Lord. It will be a time of great blessing, abundance, joy in the Lord and peace on earth. Israel will fulfil its original destiny and potential as a people of God and be a nation through whom He will bless the whole earth. Paul says of them: “Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! … For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11:12,15 NKJV).

Through Israel’s fall, by rejecting and crucifying their Messiah, the gospel of reconciliation with God has been offered not only to Jews but to Gentiles also. What a tremendous blessing that is to the Gentiles! How much more will Israel be a blessing to the world in the Millennium as they proclaim the Messiah’s praises among all nations! This will be the long-delayed, but grand consummation of this unique nation’s destiny and calling as the chosen people of God. The following are examples of promises about Israel’s restoration and glory in the coming Messianic era:

·       “And I will bring again the captivity of My people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them… And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them…” (Amos 9:14-15).

·       “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city…” (Is. 52:1).

·       “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Is. 60:1-3).

·       “And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the foreigner shall be your ploughmen and your vine-dressers. But you shall be named the Priests of the Lord, men shall call you the Servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory you shall boast. Instead of your shame you shall have double honour, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs. For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering; I will direct their work in truth, and will make with them an everlasting covenant. Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed” (Is. 61:4-9 NKJV).

·       “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34).

·       “And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in My judgments, and observe My statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and My servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And the [nations] shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezek. 37:24-28).

·       “And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the Lord shall be king over all the earth” (Zech. 14:8-9).

·       “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment” (Is. 32:1).

·       “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for Mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon” (Hos. 14:4-6).

·       “For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the Lord our God. For thus saith the Lord; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: [proclaim] ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save Thy people, the remnant of Israel… Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: …this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days… I will put My law in their [minds], and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer. 31:6-7,31,33).

·       “Behold, I will bring [the city] health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth. And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against Me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against Me. And it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them; and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it” (Jer. 33:6-9).

·       “…ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Is. 62:6-7).

These and many other blessings will be characteristic of the Millennium when the Messiah reigns from the throne of David in Jerusalem. His glorified saints will rule with Him and righteousness and equity will prevail on earth (Is. 32:1; Ps. 98:9; Is. 11:4; Rev. 20:6b). Israel will play a leading part in world affairs and will be God’s special representative nation among all the nations of the world.

Proofs that the Millennium is future

Irrefutable evidence that the millennial dispensation is still future is provided by the following very distinctive features of the Millennium which still await literal fulfilment:

Prophecies of Israel’s blessings not yet fulfilled!

Divine prophecies of Israel being re-gathered to their land, spiritually revived, elevated above all nations and abundantly blessed (Deut. 28:1-14; 30:1-4; Ezek. 36:24-28; Is. 60:1-22; Hos. 14:5-8; Rom. 11:26-27) have never been fulfilled. On the contrary, no nation has suffered and survived anything like the prolonged world-wide dispersion, disdain, persecution, hatred and genocide which the people of Israel have during the past two millennia. God’s promises never fail – they will be honoured in the Millennium.

A literal 1000 years!

The amillennialist claim that the six-fold mention in Revelation 20 of “a thousand years” represents the Christian era of circa 2000 years is untenable. Without doubt it is still future and will be literally fulfilled, just as the prophecy of the Babylonian captivity of 70 years was literally fulfilled (Jer. 25: 11-12). A thousand-year reign of Christ would have ended circa AD 1033, followed by Judgement day!

The binding of Satan

At Christ’s appearance the devil will be bound so “that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled” (Rev. 20:3). We know from Job 2:1-6 that Satan is ultimately limited by the supreme authority of God and can only act within the restrictions imposed on him. According to amillennialists Satan is bound and Messiah has been reigning as Prince of Peace for the past 2000 years! If those years have been peaceful we may well ask, what on earth will happen after Satan’s release? If Satan is indeed bound in prison why are we warned against his devices (2 Cor. 2:11), subtle deception (2 Cor. 11:3), wiles (Eph. 6: 11), fiery darts (Eph. 6:16), temptation (1 Cor. 7:5), snares (1 Tim. 3:7), power (Acts 26:18), persecution (Rev. 2:10), and efforts to devour us (1 Pet. 5:8)?

Kingdom theology

One of the major reasons for the theological confusion and apostasy in the end-time church is its lack of dispensational discernment. Prophecies about a future kingdom on earth are allegorised, or spiritualised, and applied to the church. In that way, the Millennium is equated with the church age and some Christians feel justified in developing and practising kingdom theology. The door has thereby been opened for the following false doctrines to be brought into the church:

Dominion theology

It is asserted that we should rule as kings, even as little gods, and take control over the world now. Because of the authority vested in us we have the power to change things in the material and spiritual realms by our words – called positive confession or word of faith. Christians will soon occupy leadership positions in politics and other areas of public life, thereby obtaining the authority to legislate for society in accordance with Christian principles.

Comment: Dominion theology is derived from the promise that we will rule with Christ in the Millennium (Rev. 5:10; 20: 1-6). Those who wrongly assume that we are in the Millennium now, mistakenly try to live up to their claim to be kings.

The binding of Satan

It is claimed that the authority vested in us in this kingdom era, empowers Christians to engage in strategic spiritual warfare against the kingdom of darkness, pulling down evil strongholds, binding Satan and stripping him of his power. Peter Wagner, George Otis, Marches for Jesus, etc., promote this practice globally, claiming to liberate cities, regions and even entire countries from demonic bondage.

Comment: The devil will only be bound at the Second Coming of Christ when the millennial age begins. It is highly presumptuous to argue that we can bind the devil now and deprive him of his territory in this present evil age of which he is “the god” (2 Cor. 4:4). Demons can only be cast out of individuals now, not from geographical areas!

Christian reconstruction of the world

Proponents of kingdom theology have a vision to reconstruct, or transform, the world in accordance with Christian principles. They are advocating a process of social, political, moral and religious transformation aimed at creating a peaceful and just Christian world. They argue that when they have achieved this vision by preaching a mixture of the true gospel with politico-social reform, then the kingdom will have come – even before the King comes!

Comment: In the Millennium, spiritual deception, war, violence, injustice and immorality will indeed vanish from the scene (Jer. 3:17). However, we are not in the Millennium now, but in an evil world which is strongly influenced by Satan (Acts 26:18; Eph. 6:12). Sadly, most people are on the broad way to hell and prefer darkness to light (Jn. 3:19).

Prosperity gospel

Many Christians get carried away by the promises of economic abundance during the Millennium and jump to the unfounded conclusion that these promises are intended for the church age. They proclaim a prosperity gospel of name it and claim it, and suggest that all who have a strong faith should be very prosperous and free of any problems or hardships in life. If you are sick, bed-ridden, poor, unemployed and without a big house and large car of your own, your faith must be very weak!

Comment: Economic abundance will indeed characterise the Millennium (Amos 9:13-14). However, in the present age we have to be content with what we have (1 Tim. 6:8), not strive for material riches (Lk. 12:15) but prepared to be poor (2 Cor. 6:10; Jas. 2:5) and to suffer for Christ (Phil. 1:29).

Signs and wonders

The advocates of kingdom theology say that we should demonstrate our superior spiritual powers by performing great signs and wonders – including sensational healing miracles. Even the most weird, mystical manifestations such as hysterical laughter, jerking, falling down when “zapped”, making animal noises, and being “drunk in the Spirit”, are irreverently ascribed to the activity of the Holy Spirit.

Comment: The signs and wonders of the last days are explicitly associated with false prophets (Mt. 24:11,24). They are paving the way for the appearance of the Antichrist, whose coming will be “after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thes. 2:9). Biblical truth is not the norm, but new and dramatic experiences.

Uniting the world

Kingdom theology is aimed at the ecumenical unification of the world church in preparation for the coming of the King. Theologians and church leaders with this mindset advocate a global new world order of unity and peace. This a human-centred theology of creating a humanistic kingdom on earth before the coming of Christ. Ecumenicalists are devoted to social, political and economic change in the world, working hand-in-hand with New Age leaders.

Comment: The united world church mentioned in the Bible is described as an apostate organisation representing all the false religions. This body is identified as “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth” (Rev. 17:5). The true church of Christ cannot enter into association with non-Christian religions – nor with false teachers within the professing church.

The true Millennium

Let us eagerly expect the true Millennium that will commence after the coming of the King, Jesus Christ. Only He can save the remnant of Israel and of the nations (Zech. 12:10; Mt. 24:30-31), bind and incarcerate the devil (Rev. 20:1-3), restore the throne of David (Acts 2:29-30) and change everything on earth for the better. If we are prepared to suffer now and serve the Lord in the face of much opposition (Acts 14: 22), we will accompany Him during His triumphant return (Zech. 14:4-5) and reign with Him on earth (2 Tim. 2:12).

The deceivers and false prophets who are striving to establish a humanistic Utopia on earth before the coming of the King, are exerting themselves in a futile effort to achieve an unattainable humanist dream. There are conditions on earth that we simply cannot change before Jesus comes again! Instead we have a thrilling expectation for the future at His coming – we will not only escape the great tribulation (Rev. 3:10) by the rapture, but return seven years later to rule with Him during His millennial reign (Rev. 5:9-10)!

Above all, the most important thing about the millennial reign is that our Lord Jesus will be completely vindicated and glorified on this very earth where He “went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil” (Acts 10:38), yet was so disgracefully humiliated, despised, rejected, cruelly cast out as worthless and crucified by the fallen creatures that He, as Creator, had made. God’s answer to this is that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess Him as Lord (Phil. 2:6-11).

Jesus will also be vindicated in the eyes of that very nation which was so very honoured by His first coming, yet so dismally failed and sinned in that they did not recognise Him as their true Messiah, despite His clear fulfilment of their Scriptures. Pilate’s inscription above the cross will be vindicated and fulfilled in that Jesus will reign not only as “king of kings, and lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16) universally, but also as “king of the jews” (Mk. 15:26) in Jerusalem!