The millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus is the subject of many of the prophecies in the Old Testament. The last words of David—"He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God: and He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun ariseth, even a morning without clouds" (2 Sam. 23:3-4), can refer to no one in their fulness save Him who is David's Son, the Lord Jesus, and to no period of time save His coming Millennial reign. The period of this glorious reign is to be for "a thousand years," as we learn from Rev. 20:4. This is why it is called "the Millennium" or thousand years. Commentators and expositors who "spiritualize" all the prophecies concerning the reign of Christ, must find some difficulty in accounting for this precise statement concerning its duration and limit. If as they say, the reign of Christ is not to be literal, but spiritual: not over Israel and the world, but "in His people's hearts," why should it be for "a thousand years?" Surely His people's hearts will not cease to be His throne then, will they? No; but while now He dwells in their hearts by faith, and rules over them by His Word, the world rejects Him and refuses to own His sway. In that bright era yet to come, the whole earth will own the sceptre and the word of the once-crucified and still rejected Jesus of Nazareth, and acknowledge Him as the King.
Let us see how this wonderful period will be introduced, and seek to learn some of its characteristics. When the Son of Man appears in glory, He bears the Name of "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" (Rev. 19:16). He will have been invested with this title in heaven, and is seen coming down to earth to establish His kingdom. The destruction of His foes, especially of the Beast and his prophet will immediately follow His descent to earth (Rev. 19:19-21). And this will be followed by the binding of Satan, the great usurper, who from that day in which he caused the fall of man in Eden, has been the prime mover in all sin and rebellion against God and His Christ. He is cast, with all his names branded upon His brow, into the bottomless pit, and sealed up there for "a thousand years." What a change that will make on earth, to begin with! The ringleader gone. the great deceiver absent, the adversary shut up, men will be at liberty to listen to God and His Word. There will be no thief to steal the seed then as there is now (Matt. 13:19): no enemy to sow tares (Matt. 13:39): no god of this world to blind the mind (2 Cor. 4:4). God will have His way, and that way will be a way of judgment. From the very moment that the Lord comes to the air, and the saints are caught up to heaven, judgments begin to fall upon earth. From Revelation Chapters 4 to 19, covers a period of judgment. First the seals, then the trumpets, finally the vials, all these precede the Son of Man's return to earth, and all are of a retributive character. And when He comes forth, having taken to Himself His Kingly power (Rev. 19:6), He treads "the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." There can be no more half-measures then, but fierce, unmingled vengeance meted out without mercy, by the will of Him who was once crucified at the hands of wicked men at Calvary. Following this warrior judgment, in which He acts alone (Isa. 63:3), there will be a sessional judgment (Matt. 25:31), when He will sit on the throne of His glory as "the King," and gather the nations of earth before Him for judgment. This is referred to in Joel 3:2, 12-21. Those who have treated His earthly brethren (the Jews) well, will be welcomed into His earthly kingdom (Matt. 25:34), while those who had neglected them, are cast into everlasting punishment—where the Beast and the prophet already are—in the lake of fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels, and where they also will be at the close of the Millennium.
In this way the kingdom of the Son of Man is set up. He will go on subjugating and bringing men and things into conformity to God and His will, until the oft-repeated prayer shall be fulfilled—"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven?" This will not be brought about as we have been told, by the preaching of the Gospel as we preach it now, nor by the progress of science and education, but in judgment administered by the Son of Man when He appears in glory. The glories and characteristics of the kingdom of Christ are largely dwelt upon in the prophets ant the Psalms. What glowing descriptions of that coming day of righteous rule are given in Psalm 72! What descriptions of its peace and prosperity in Isaiah 35! How the grandest pageantry of this world's glory pales before it! Earth has never seen since the day of her fall, such a sight as she shall see—
"When her King cometh down, with His people to reign,
And His presence will bless her with Eden again."
The Heavenly and Earthly.
The millennial kingdom will have its heavenly and its earthly departments. In the present day, God is calling out a people from earth for heaven. They are partakers of the heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1). Their citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). They are strangers and pilgrims on earth (1 Pet. 2:11). When the Lord comes to the air, he will bring from earth and the grave the sleeping and waking of His saints, and gather them all to Himself in heavenly glory. Heaven is their home. There they will be glorified with Christ, and publicly acknowledged as the Bride, the Lamb's Wife. During the millennium, the heavenly people are represented as a glorious city, the New Jerusalem, which is seen at the beginning of the millennial reign, "descending out of heaven from God" (Rev. 21:10). This is not to be regarded as a literal city, but as a figure of the heavenly people, the glorified saints, who have already been received in the Father's house, reviewed before the Beema of Christ, and rewarded according to the measure of their faithfulness to Christ in earthly days. Now they appear in all their varied glories, and in the places they are to occupy in the "heavenly kingdom" (2 Tim. 4:18) of the Lord Jesus. In figurative language the glories of that kingdom are here described. And what a description it is! How incomparably grander than the glitter of earth's royal courts and kingly palaces!
Great Babylon, the false church, is described in Rev. 17, in all her worldly glory, and this is quickly followed by her fall. Here the Holy City, descending from God and bearing His glory, shines out in all her beauty, and takes up her place over the earthly Jerusalem in the cleansed earth. Time forbids us lingering over the description here given of this wondrous city. Its light, like a precious stone, clear as crystal (Rev. 21:11), shines down upon earth, and the nations walk in its light. The earthly Jerusalem, which will be rebuilt, in great magnificence and beauty, will be illumined by the light of this heavenly city (Isa. 60:1), streaming through its crystal walls. In Israel's land there will be a temple, built according to the plan given to Ezekiel (Chaps. 40-45), in which there will be commemorative sacrifices offered—not to atone for sin, but as memorials of the one great Sacrifice of Christ, as the Lord's Supper is its Remembrance Feast now. In the heavenly city there is "no temple"—
"God and the Lamb shall there, the light and temple be,
And radiant hosts for ever share, the unveiled mystery."
The transfiguration scene on the holy hill was a foreshadowing of this blessed time (Luke 9:28). Moses and Elias were with their transfigured Lord in heavenly glory, talking with Him. Peter, James, and John were on earth in mortal bodies, yet within sight and sound of the heavenly company. Moses prefigures the dead saints who have been raised, Elias, the living who have been changed, and are now glorified with Christ. Peter, James, and John tell the place of restored and converted Israel on earth, basking in the beams of heavenly glory. The earthly Jerusalem will be the world's metropolis, and there a lineal descendant of the house of David, called "the prince" (Ezek. 46:2, 10), will be the representative of Messiah, and have his dwelling upon Mount Zion, from which will go forth the law (Isa. 2:3). The effects of Christ's benign rule will be felt and owned in every part of His dominions. Earth, after her six thousand years of sin and sorrow, will enjoy her Sabbath rest. Righteousness, which suffers now (I Pet. 3:14), will then reign (Isa. 32:1), and the righteous shall flourish (Psa. 72:7). The poor and the needy, now crushed beneath the heel of the rich and the great, will then have the Prince of Peace as their Protector (Psa. 72:4-12). The kings of earth shall bring their presents and lay them at His feet. "All kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him" (Psa. 72:11), and He who hung on Calvary rejected and despised of men, shall have dominion from sea to sea. Yes, blessed be God, our eyes shall see Him crowned with all this wealth of glory, and with thrilling hearts His saints shall say—
"Bring forth the royal diadem.
And crown Him Lord of all."
Blessed as it will be to be among those over whom He will reign as King, there is something better. That is, to sit with Him on His throne. And such shall be the portion of His saints, of those who have been fellow-sufferers with Him in His rejection (Rom. 8:17). They shall sit with Him upon His throne (Rev. 3:21). They, with others who had suffered unto death during the reign of Antichrist, shall reign with Christ in His Millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:4). The effects upon earth itself will be marvellous.
Creation's groan will cease. When Adam fell, he dragged his inheritance with him. Since then, the curse has been upon it. The thorn and the thistle are still with us, and neither the progress of science nor the onward march of civilisation can root them up. Day by day the groan of human misery arises from every corner of earth. But when its rightful King is on the throne, when the government of its affairs is in the hand once pierced, its groan shall be hushed, it shall be delivered from the curse and the bondage of corruption, and creation ushered into "the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21).
The earth will yield its increase (Psa. 67:6). Now, the wail of want arises, and the hungry beg their bread. Then, the earth shall yield such plenitude, that the plowman shall overtake the reapers (Amos 9:13). The desert shall blossom as the rose (Isa. 35:1), and in its great Saharas, streams shall break forth.
The Beasts of prey shall be changed. "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock" (Isa. 65:25). "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion, and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them" (Isa.11:5-6). Such peace, such harmony, earth has never seen since the days of Eden.
Human life will be prolonged. From Isa. 65:17-20, we learn that
death will be the exception during the Millennium, perhaps only in direct
judgment on sin. When one dies at a hundred years now, he is counted
very old: then he will be only a child.
Wars shall cease. "They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Micah 4:3) Wars of conquest and for power will cease, and Peace will hold her sway. Thus shall all things in heaven and on earth be reconciled (Col. 1:20), and gathered together in one, in Christ (Eph. 1:10). And when all has been subdued, and brought into subjection to God, and under the feet of Christ, then we are told He shall "deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father" (I Cor. 15:24). All in due order, all as God would have it. Blessed be His Name! His Kingly rule shall thus be as perfect as was His obedience on earth as the Lamb.
Perfect in obedience, in His humiliation, when all forsook Him; perfect in His obedience to God as King when all bow before Him. Of Him alone we sing: "Worthy is the Lamb."
Now let us briefly glance beyond this period of millennial bliss and prosperity, for "the thousand years" is not the end of time. One last glance of man must yet come before us, ere he pass for ever off the scene, and ere the earth, which has been the theatre of his sin, shall pass away, to make room for a new creation. Man's last trial will be at the close of the millennial reign.
Satan will be Loosed
from his prison (Rev. 20:7), at the close of the millennium. Immediately, he sets himself to his old work of deceiving sinners—very likely offering them something better than the rule of the Prince of Peace had given—repeating his Edenic tactics. From the corners of the earth he gathers a host, greater than any he had formerly led, to go out to battle against the Lord, His saints, and His city. Where did these deceived multitudes come from? In two millennial Psalms, there is more than a hint, that although all will bow to the sceptre of Christ, all will not be converted. Hypocrisy will lurk beneath their apparent submission. "The sons of the stranger shall yield feigned obedience unto Me" (Psa. 18:43, 44, margin). Again in Psa. 66:3, "Thine enemies [shall] submit themselves unto Thee" (margin—"lie, or yield feigned obedience"). When the kingdom is set up, all are evidently converted, but those who will be born during its course, will require then as now to be "born again," in order to enter the true kingdom of God (John 3:3). Many will be, but others act the hypocrite. They dare not show open hostility to the reigning Christ, but immediately Satan is loosed they rally around him. This shows what they are, and how utterly ruined and bad, man is by nature. After a thousand years of manifested glory, in which men will see heaven open, and its glory-beams streaming down upon earth, they turn round to the devil and join him in his last great rebellion against God, His earthly people, and His beloved city. Once more the enemy attacks Jerusalem, either to seduce its dwellers from allegiance to Christ, or to destroy them, and sweep the last testimony to God and His Son from earth. But "fire comes down from God out of heaven and devours them." They utterly perish, and their baffled leader, "the devil that deceived them," is cast into his final abode, beside the Beast and false prophet—the trinity of evil—in "the lake of fire." Then follows the passing away of the present heavens and earth, the resurrection of the dead in sin, the judgment of the great white throne, and the final doom of the wicked in the lake of fire.
The New Heavens and New Earth.
Beyond all these scenes of judgment, beyond the millennial reign of Christ, after time has run its course, and man has finished his history, lies the Eternal State. A brief glance of it is given in Rev. 21:1-8. At the beginning of the millennium, the earth had been purged and the curse removed, but here the freshly-created heavens and earth are seen. The glory and beauty of this new creation will far exceed the old. In the new earth the New Jerusalem takes up her abode, and become the tabernacle of God, His earthly dwelling-place among redeemed men. This is the Sabbath rest of God and His people, into which no lurking serpent will ever steal, but where God—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—shall be ALL IN ALL.
The Eternal state will be more glorious than the millennial kingdom had been, and the new heavens and earth will excel the glory of the old, even as the second Man the last Adam, excels the first. All therein will be of and according to God.
[Note:The "new heaven" of Rev. 21:1, does not include the "heaven of heavens," the immediate dwelling place of God, for we have no intimation that man's sin or Satan's devices have penetrated there; but "the heavens" in which fallen angels sinned, and the "heavenly places" in which wicked spirits fight (Eph. 6:12), are "not clean in His sight" (Job 15:15). They therefore must "pass away " and give place to others, worthy of Him who shall then fill all His vast creation with His glory (Psa. 8:1). And as that glory will fill celestial regions and reach to all creation, it will surely include those great star-worlds, which He formed to be inhabited (Isa. 45:18).]
In the new earth there is no more sickness or death, no more sin in man, and no more sea. In the millennium all these exist. But now "the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:4). To this sinless earth, the New Jerusalem descends in all her loveliness and beauty," as a bride adorned for her husband." During the thousand years of her millennial reign, she has gathered no grey hairs, no wrinkles on her brow. In that fair resurrection state, there is no decay. God has stamped Eternal on all His work. It shall stand through eternal ages to show His praise. And the closing word of the great "Revelation of Jesus Christ" is the sweetest of all. After the glories of the redeemed have been described, and the doom and destiny of the lost has been fixed for ever, the Lord and Lover of our hearts Himself appears, to give His last most precious Word of promise to His waiting, watching people. It is just as we might expect, concerning Himself—"SURELY I COME QUICKLY" (Rev. 22:20). This is the very last word from the throne in the heavens. The next will be His "shout" of triumph, when He comes, in the joy of His heart to call together around Himself His own from every land. No date is given, no hour is named. "Quickly" is the last and latest echo of His voice. May the joyful response of our hearts ever be "Come, Lord Jesus,"
"Come quickly, blessed Saviour, come,
With one accord we cry to Thee;
Long have we hoped that Thy return
Would bid the night of darkness flee:
O open Thou again the skies,
O leave again for us The throne:
O Well-Beloved, once more arise,
Come, to Thyself receive thine own."
From The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus, with Subsequent Events in Heaven and on Earth by John Ritchie. 3rd ed., enl. Kilmarnock, Scotland: John Ritchie, .