Viewpoints on the Millennium
The term ‘millennium’ (Latin for 1,000) does not appear in the Bible, but it is synonymous with the 1,000 period referred to six times in Revelation 20. Why six times if this period is not important? There are differing viewpoints here. At Christ’s return some see the end of a millennial period on the earth and the start of a new heaven and a new earth (Postmillennialism). Others argue that the millennial period referred to in scripture is a symbolic description of the church age and that we are now in the millennium (Amillennialism).
A third viewpoint sees Christ’s coming as the start of the millennium and the ushering in of a very real and glorious state of this present earth (Premillennialism). This is the so-called thousand year reign of Christ over the earth – the Kingdom Age.
Interpreting Bible Prophecy
The prophecies of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah and Revelation contain much detail. Of course, interpretation of any particular book of prophecy varies significantly.
For example, when it comes to the book of Revelation, it is claimed that there are four main views, link, link. The book can be viewed as idealist (the spiritual view), preterist (it has all already happened), historicist (a symbolic representation), futurist (the past, the present and the future).
There are also differing views of Ezekiel chapters 40-48 and the temple details, link. Some believe that what Ezekiel predicted was fulfilled when the exiles returned and re-established themselves in the land. Some interpret Ezekiel spiritually and maintain these predictions are fulfilled in a spiritual sense in the church. A third view is that Ezekiel 40-48 describe a literal future fulfillment, but accept that some of the descriptions have symbolic significance as well as literal reality.
The Main Point: Whilst interpretations of individual books vary, taken together, the different prophetic books strongly support the Premillennial view. Taken together, they provide a consistent and amazing view of man’s future on this earth, and also shed light upon today’s world. So here we take the Premillennial view.
Premillennialism: The 1000 year reign of Christ
Here we take a literal future fulfillment of Ezekiel 40-48, including a future temple, again because of the abundant detail which readily adapts to the land of Israel. Consider just two examples. The future western border of Israel is ‘the Great Sea (the Mediterranean Sea)’, (Ezek 47.20). This must refer to a millennial earth and not the new earth, which has no sea (Rev 21.1). For a second example, ‘living waters’ flow from the new temple and wherever they flow they give life. Half of the waters flow east towards the ‘eastern sea’ (Zech 14.8) and a glance at the map shows the latter to be the northern end of the Dead or Salt Sea (Ezek 47.8, Josh 3.16). The effect is to remove the salt and enable ‘very many fish’ to live there – enabling fishermen to work from Engedi (about half way down the sea shore) to Eneglaim, whilst the southern end of the sea is ‘left for salt’ (Ezek 47.8-11). Why such detail if it is purely symbolic?
God’s Purpose for the Millennium
Why should God plan such a dispensation? It could be seen as the ‘coming of age’ of God’s creation. And it represents the last (the 7th) and best stage of man’s struggle through progressive spiritual phases and revelations. Nevertheless it is not perfect and falls short of the glory of life in the New Earth (Rev 21). The reasons for a millennial age could be seen as follows:
- To exalt Christ amongst the nations and to usher in His kingdom upon the earth (Zech 14.9). The Lord’s prayer ‘Your kingdom come … on earth’ is fully realized
- To provide a forum for the fulfillment of the unconditional covenants: Abrahamic, Davidic, Palestinian and New Covenants: Israel becomes a great nation, Christ sits on David’s throne, the land of Israel becomes very fruitful and God writes His Law on the hearts of both Jew and Gentile
- To restore Israel to her intended place as His servant and witness amongst the nations (Isa 43.10)
- To provide a period of perfect communion between the saints of the first resurrection and their Lord (Rev 20.4-6)
- To enable millions of Gentiles to come to know the Lord. The Lord’s people will not only be Israel, rather, they will come from many nations (Zech 2.11)
- To provide a ‘day of rest’ for nature. Not only will mankind be in near-perfect communion with the Lord, but also will nature. It is probable that imperfect aspects of nature, such a drought, locust, earthquake and flood will be removed (except when ordained as judgement on a nation). Nature will be at peace (Rom 8.21)
Millennial Israel: God’s Witness and Servant
Let’s expand on Israel’s role in the millennial world, as God’s witness and servant. Note that today’s true church will no longer be on earth in the flesh: she will have been taken to be with Christ at His coming (the first resurrection) and returns to earth with Christ as immortal beings (saints). So it is left to remnant Israel (that Jewish remnant from the tribulation) to be God’s witness in the world, and the spiritual blessings of millennial Israel will be the same as those of the present-day church.
- Millennial Israel will be the sons of God (Hos 1.10) – just like today’s true church
- Millennial Israel will be under the mediatorship, sacrifice and priesthood of the New Covenant, where God’s law is written on their hearts (Jer 31.31-34, Rom 11.26,27, Heb 8.8-12) – just like today’s true church
- Millennial Israel will be God’s witness in the world and evangelize the Gentile nations – just like today’s true church (Isa 66.18-21)
- Millennial Israel will be raised for eternity (Isa 66.22, Rom 11.22-26) – just like today’s true church will be raised at the first resurrection (1 Cor 15)
It is surely time that the institutionalized church recognized the significance of national Israel and started to see her in her true light – as a future ‘church’ to the millennial world – the embodiment of a ‘millennial Christianity’.
Millennial Israel: the Center of the World
Prophecy is very explicit here; in the millennial age Israel will become the focus of the nations. Consider:
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 (Isa 2.2, NKJV)
The term ‘mountain’ is a translation for the Hebrew ‘har’ meaning ‘mountain, hill, hill country’, link. But the meaning here is clearly symbolic – a literal mountain cannot be ‘established on the top of the mountains’ barring some cataclysmic geological event. The same symbolism referring to the same event is used by the prophet Daniel:
The stone (Christ) that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth (Dan 2.35)
So Isaiah’s prophecy is saying that God’s kingdom will become more important than (i.e. raised above) the kingdoms or nations of the world (symbolized as ‘hills’). Nations will be drawn to the mountain or kingdom of the Lord. But whilst this kingdom embraces the whole world, it will have a definite center:
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 (Isa 2.3)
The worldwide kingdom of God (mountain of the Lord) will be centered at Jerusalem! Note: whilst Mt Zion is currently the highest geological point in Jerusalem at 765m, it is possible that future geological changes could raise the whole area (see sidebar).
Life on the Millennial Earth
Combining many prophecies paints a picture of life on the millennial earth (this earth) under the theocracy and monocracy of the true Jewish Messiah, the LORD Jesus Christ. Yes – it will be a time of peace and no hurt and the lion will eat straw like the ox (Isa 11.6-9). But detailed study reveals that the true character of this dispensation is more complex than that usually portrayed. It is not perfection. But first, let’s answer a key question: Where is Satan at this time?
Life without Satan
Today, God allows Satan to operate in this world within the boundaries God has set for him. In that sense Satan is still “ruler or god of this world” (Jn 12.31, 2 Cor 4.4, Eph 2.2). His influence affects the lives of individuals, world governments, philosophies, education, and commerce. At the same time we must remember that God has given Satan rule over unbelievers only. Followers of Christ have authority over all the power of the enemy (Lk 10.19) and are delivered from the power of darkness (Col 1.13). The good news is that, at the start of the millennial age Satan is prevented from influencing anyone!
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the abyss and a heavy chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent—that is, the Devil, or Satan—and chained him up for a thousand years. (Rev 20.1-2)
So, in the absence of Satan, is millennial life perfect? No. The millennium is still a time of sin, death, rebellion and harsh judgement (Isa 65.20). Its true character seems to fall between the present age (the “church age”) and the future sinless coexistence of the redeemed in the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21). With reference to death in the millennial age we read:
No longer will babies die when only a few days old. No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life. No longer will people be considered old at one hundred! Only the cursed will die that young! (Isa 65.60, NLT)
Some take Isa 65.20 to mean that believers will not suffer death in the millennium, only those who reject Christ. Others see the return of the longevity man enjoyed in the patriarchal age (Genesis 5 and 11). They maintain that life will not be prematurely cut off by pestilence and war, but man will live long, like the days of a tree (Isa 65.22, Zech 8.4). The age of a hundred will be thought of as dying young; even the sinner, dying before his time as the penalty of his guilt, will live out 100 years. With this view the effect of human sin will be reduced, but not eradicated. Death will still exist. Only in the New Earth will God finally wipe away all tears (Rev 21.4). Man’s sinful human nature will also result in national rebellion against Christ’s rule, and will be firmly dealt with (Zech 14.17-19).
Christ Governs from Jerusalem – A Difficult Concept
And in that day … living waters shall flow from Jerusalem … and the Lord shall be King over all the earth (Zech 14.8,9)
This is an amazing prophecy which many believe will happen in the foreseeable future. As Jesus said, when we observe certain signs then expect His return to be “at the doors” (Mat 24.33). The LORD will be King over all the earth, the government will rest on His shoulders and He will rule the nations with a ‘rod of iron’ from Jerusalem (Isa 9.6, Zech 14.9,17, Rev 2.27). As already discussed, this suggests an imperfect earth in that the nations sometimes need chastening.
At this time Christ will physically walk the earth, but His home will be heavenly, just as when He first walked the earth. The Jews of the day found the concept of God walking with man an impossible concept, even blasphemous (Jn 8.48-59). But does modern man with all his scriptural knowledge and hindsight find it any easier? Probably not! Like the Jews, most of us find the concept of Jesus Christ, partner in creation, ruling the earth in person from Jerusalem and simultaneously ruling the heavens (Eph 4.10) too much to handle. Yet, prophecy paints such a detailed picture that it is difficult to argue otherwise. Remember that God descended to Moses on Sinai, but He never relinquished His heavenly throne, and God dwells with man in the New Jerusalem (Rev 21.3).
A New Temple in Jerusalem
The prophet Micah looked toward the millennial age when he said ‘the law goes out of Zion’ (Mic 4.2). In the Old Testament Zion came to mean Jerusalem, and the temple area in particular. This implies that Christ will rule from some future temple and it’s surrounding area. We find incredible detail of such a temple in Ezek 40-46 and Ezekiel 45.2 defines a square plot of land (the sanctuary) comprising outer and inner courts, temple and altar. The inner court will be a most holy place and only the Levitical priests are permitted to enter this area in order to minister to the LORD (Ezek 44.15-17).
Messianic Jews expect such a temple to be built in the near future. For instance, the goal of The Temple Institute is to see Israel rebuild the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, in accord with the Biblical commandments.
The whole area around Zion will reflect the glory of the LORD, and nations will stream to Jerusalem to worship:
I will make the place of my feet glorious … the sons of those who afflicted you shall come bowing to you (Isa 60.13,14)
The nations will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore (Ezek 37.28)
It will be a beautiful, glorious place that attracts the nations; a place of rivers and canals (Isa 33.21), and a place of beautiful trees like the juniper, box, and cypress (Isa 60.13). It will be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD (Isa 62.3), a place of praise and rejoicing for both man and his God (Isa 62.5,9). At last, the nations will acknowledge that Israel is God’s chosen nation, His witness to the world.
Jewish Life Continues: Ezekiel describes how Jewish life continues into the Millennium. The laws and statutes given by God to Moses will still be kept (Ezek 44.24) and Levites will still minister to the LORD in the temple (Ezek 44.15). God’s Sabbaths will be kept, as will God’s feasts like the Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Feast of Taberbacles (Ezek 45.21, 25).
A key point: perhaps surprisingly, animal sacrifices by priests will still be a fundamental part of Temple worship (Ezek 43-46). Why, when the New Testament clearly states that Christ sacrifice replaced animal sacrifices once and for all (Heb 10)? Remember that the Millennial age sees the holy Christ literally dwell with sinful and mortal man. Christ says there will literally be just “a wall between them (sinful man) and Me (the most holy God)” (Ezek 43.8). On the other hand, the whole area surrounding the Temple is declared “most holy” (Ezek 43.12). So it seems that a cleansing of the Temple area will be needed. Whilst Christ’s perfect sacrifice for mankind will be understood, it seems that because of sin (even unintentional sin) it will still be necessary to “make atonement for the Temple altar” (Ezek 43.26, 45.20).
Changes to be Expected
Geological Changes in Israel
It seems that when Christ returns there will be great changes to man’s environment. In Israel a great earthquake splits the Mount of Olives to make a great valley (Zech 14.4). It is well known that the Jordan Valley marks the joint of a tectonic-plate fault, link, and an east-west fault runs through the Mount of Olives right next to the temple mount! As discussed, another major change will be in the partial refreshing of the Dead Sea (Ezek 47.8-11).
Peace and Prosperity
Under Christ’s rule the whole earth falls into a peace not unlike that of the Adamic world (Zech 9.10):
He shall speak peace to the nations (Zech 9.10)
The whole earth is at rest and quiet (Isa 14.7)
Israel will be at peace with her Arab neighbours (Isa 19.24,25) and non-Jews will live peaceably in Israel:
And they (strangers) shall be to you as the native-born among the sons of Israel; they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel (Ezek 47.22)
Even the animal kingdom reflects this as the wolf and the lamb graze together and the lion eats straw like an ox (Isa 65.25). In some respects, millennial Israel will be similar to the Garden of Eden:
I will call for the grain and multiply it … I will multiply the fruit of the tree and produce of the field … the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed … the mountains will drip sweet wine … and they will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden’ (Ezek 36.29,30,35, Amos 9.13)
As already mentioned, the millennial world will not be the perfect world of the New Earth. Some nations will be rebellious and need firm rule (Isa 60.12, Zech 14.17), and sickness will still need healing (Ezek 47.12). There will still be mortal death, although there will be an increase in man’s life expectancy resulting in people living to a ‘great age’ (Zech 8.4, Isa 65.20). The Bible records that after the Flood man’s life expectancy gradually dropped from hundreds of years to about 70 years (see graph), but it seems that in the millennium this trend will be reversed.
Human Aging: A major model of human aging is based on human cells and how the many proteins inside a cell coexist and interact. It is claimed that defective proteins result in aging and that ‘proper aging’ depends upon proper protein folding. Put another way, protein misfolding is strongly related to age-related degenerative diseases, link. Misfolding can arise from several external factors, such as temperature and electromagnetic fields, link. So were atmospheric changes after the Flood (dated c2500 BC to 2300 BC) responsible for a decrease in man’s lifespan?
One theory is that the Earth’s atmospheric pressure was considerably higher in pre-Flood days, providing the health benefits as obtained through modern Hyperbaric medicine (HBOT), link, link. Also, a denser atmosphere would give a reduction in the amount of harmful radiation (electromagnetic radiation, X-rays, gamma rays …) reaching the Earth’s surface. Another theory claims an increase in radioisotopes e.g. C-14 in the atmosphere after the Flood and these were absorbed by subsequent generations, generating defective protein molecules in body cells, link.
Man will still have his daily work but prophecy suggests that work will be biased towards husbandry (farming, Isa 61.5, 65.21, Ezek 48.18,19, Amos 9.13,14) and hunting (fishing, Ezek 47.10, Isa 60.5) rather than industrial manufacturing. It seems that the world (and especially Israel) returns to a pre-industrialized society, to a society where individuals are more self-employed and relaxed (Isa 65.22)(Mic 4.4), to a rural rather than an urban way of life.
Recall that the LORD will have destroyed the ‘commercial Babylon’ of this present age – a system based upon profit, self-gain and the survival of the fittest, and rarely upon love. Gone will be the massive arms industries (Isa 2.4)(Mic 4.3). Gone will be the takeovers and redundancies. Gone will be globalization and unjust trading. Gone will be the rape of the earth’s resources and environmental pollution. The millennial economy may well be a ‘zero-growth’, environmentally friendly economy based on trust and love of one’s neighbour and where any commercial transactions are just and fair (Ezek 45.9-12).