Volume Three: The Millennium and Beyond
Volume 3: Introduction
The Millennium and Beyond
I take great comfort in the fact that the revelation of Biblical prophecy doesn’t conclude with the Tribulation—with the Battle of Armageddon, the defeat of the Antichrist, the incarceration of the devil, and the end of the reign of evil in our world. To have done so would have been tantamount to defining “peace” as the absence of war—and as anyone who has ever experienced personal, inner turmoil can tell you, there’s a whole lot more to it than that. God’s plan is not merely to suppress wickedness in this world. It is to provide genuine peace—expressed with the familiar Hebrew word shalom: completeness or wholeness, soundness, welfare, peace, happiness, health, prosperity, or safety. It’s an entirely positive concept that only incidentally implies the absence of evil.
Such shalom has been experienced only sporadically since the fall of Adam—just enough to give us a taste of what it might be like to have it all the time, implanting a longing in our souls for “how it ought to be.” This state of affairs did not come as a surprise to our Creator, who, if we were astute enough to realize it, told us this would be the case even before we sinned. He informed us—in blatantly symbolic language—that He “worked” for six days creating our universe, and then set aside the seventh day for “rest.” He repeated (and codified) the principle in the law of the Sabbath (the Fourth Commandment), and reinforced the six-plus-one formula in a myriad of other ways throughout scripture. If there is a numerical expression for the plan of God for humanity, this is surely it: perfection—six of one thing, followed by one of another.
And so it is that the Bible speaks of a time when the resurrected redeemed will live and reign with Christ for a thousand years. This “Millennium,” as it turns out, is the last of seven millennia since the fall of Adam. After six thousand years of “working it out” in our sinful state, mankind will enjoy a final Millennium of “rest” in Christ. Yahweh’s six-plus-one pattern, it turns out, is the key to His timeline for the redemption of man.
The Millennial reign of King Yahshua will be a time unlike anything the world has ever seen (especially since we left the Garden of Eden). It will be characterized by everything man ever said he wanted: perfect peace, prosperity, health, and longevity—freedom from fear and want, and eventually from death itself. Modern man, of course, would like to have all of those things without the inconvenient, convicting presence of the God who created them and provides them to us. But after trying his best for the past six thousand years, man has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is woefully incapable of helping himself—that left to his own devices, he invariably becomes the problem, not the solution.
The final age of man on the earth will begin with our Creator “judging” it. This, in Biblical parlance, has less to do with condemnation (as it sounds in English) and more to do with judicial deliberation—the separation of the good from the bad, the faithful from the godless, the solution from the problem, or as Yahshua put it, the sheep from the goats. As it was in the days of Noah, no one will enter the Messianic Kingdom who isn’t a child of Yahweh. But if you’ll recall, a few generations after the flood, mankind—Noah’s descendents—had once again rebelled against God: Nimrod’s Babylonian legacy haunts us to this day. Can that happen again? No. Here’s why:
First (and most obviously), God Himself—in the person of Yahshua the glorified Messiah—will rule the earth personally, with a rod (or scepter) of iron. Although this sounds harsh (and will be to those who rebel against the King) please recall that the rod is a shepherd’s implement; it is used to guide the sheep in the path of provision (as the “staff” is used to get the sheep out of trouble). Remember Psalm 23:4? “I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff comfort me.” If we are Yahweh’s “sheep,” His “rod of iron” will bring us comfort, provision, restoration, goodness, and mercy, even if we’re not too bright. The Shepherd King will reign in Jerusalem over the whole earth, and after Yahweh’s four thousand year on-again, off-again relationship with Abraham’s children, they—Israel—will at last find themselves at perfect peace with God, reconciled and restored, just as the prophets predicted.
The second fundamental difference between the post-flood era and the Millennial Kingdom is that it will be populated by two human races. Those deemed “sheep” at the close of the Tribulation, as well as the newly repentant remnant of Israel (one third of their original number, if I’m reading Zechariah correctly) will enter the Kingdom as mortals, with souls and spirits within bodies of flesh like you and I now have. But think back to the extensive body of scriptural information we’re given concerning the rapture. Before the Tribulation even begins, the church (up through the Philadelphian permutation) as well as the redeemed of all previous ages—Jews and gentiles—will have been “caught up together…in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:17) “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (I Corinthians 15:51-53) That’s the second human race: the immortals. By the time the Millennium commences, another group of transformed redeemed immortals—the martyrs of the Tribulation, the church of repentant Laodicea, and the slain of believing Israel—will join us: “Then I [John] saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4; cf. Revelation 6:9-11)
So dead or alive, mortal or immortal, everyone since Adam who had placed his or her trust in Yahweh’s promise (which we later came to understand was the saving blood of His Messiah) is found here, populating the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. Two human races, living side by side, will experience what it is to dwell in a perfect world. I have a feeling that we immortals will take on the role of mentors and counselors to the Millennial mortals. And, if I may read between the lines, I suspect that we might also serve as “beat cops,” patrolling the world and confronting crime before it has a chance to happen. Because mortals will still populate the world, bearing children until the “earth is replenished,” it seems certain that some of those mortal offspring will choose not to honor the King or obey His instructions. For the sake of the law-abiding mortals, the sins of these rebels will not be allowed to flower in the Millennial Kingdom (as they do today). Who will prevent the sins of the new generations from taking root? Although we aren’t told, it seems logical that King Yahshua might assign the task of “peacekeeping” to the immortals (perhaps with a little angelic backup), since we will no longer be burdened with a sin nature ourselves.
One of the most revealing facets of Millennial eschatology is developed at length in the latter chapters of the book of Ezekiel. Here we are given a detailed description of the Millennial temple, its design, structure, and service—including the reinstituted temple sacrifices. That one puzzled me for a while: why would Yahweh reinstitute Torah-style blood sacrifices, when the Messiah they were designed to predict is standing right there for all to see, reigning in power and glory?
The answer is in the demographics, the culture, and the environment of the Millennial world. Though born with the same sin nature that has plagued everyone since Adam, the Millennial mortals born during the Kingdom age will have a terrible time comprehending what Yahweh’s Anointed One did for them. Living in a perfect society, where the consequences of guilt are hidden to a large degree by the very swiftness of the wheels of justice, the concept of the Innocent giving His life to atone for the sins of the guilty (so that he might stand vindicated before a holy God) will be as opaque as anything in their experience. So the temple sacrifices will be reinstituted—for roughly the same reason they were mandated in the first place: to reveal the incredible lengths to which God went on our behalf in order to reconcile us to Himself. The Torah looked forward to the Messiah; the Millennial temple service will serve as a retrospective of what He achieved.
The scriptures don’t have too much to say about the celebration of the Torah’s seven holy convocations of Yahweh—the so-called “feasts of Israel”—with one notable exception. The seventh and final appointment with God, the Feast of Tabernacles, is specifically said to be a mandatory holiday, one to be celebrated by the entire world. The reason for this is patently obvious: this “feast” is being fulfilled before their very eyes by the Millennial Kingdom itself. As described in Leviticus 23, the Feast of Tabernacles (or Sukkot) requires the building of temporary booths or shelters in which the celebrants are supposed to “camp out” for the entire week of the holiday in “the place where Yahweh chooses to make His name abide.” The imagery is that of God Himself leaving heaven and “camping out” among men as the glorified Messiah-King for a thousand years.
The convocation is unique in one other respect: it is an eight day feast. Seven is the number symbolically indicating completion or perfection in Yahweh’s plan, so we can logically surmise that the first seven days of the feast symbolize the Millennium—the whole thousand-year reign of Christ upon the earth. This, of course, compels us to ask: what does the eighth day stand for? It (like the first day of the feast) is a designated Sabbath, telling us that it is a time to rest in Yahweh’s completed provision. Moreover, eight is the number of new beginnings. The eighth day represents the eternal state—the “everlasting life” God’s love was designed to give us, as we’re reminded in John 3:16.
In other words, it’s not over for the human race when Christ’s Millennial Kingdom has run its course. For one thing, since mortals cannot endure the direct presence of Yahweh, all believers—i.e., those mortals who lived during the Millennium—will be transformed (one word for it is “translated”) into the immortal state, just like the raptured and resurrected saints before them.
Not surprisingly, the Bible has quite a bit to say about the eternal state, for it is the goal, the point, of Yahweh’s entire creation process. I get the distinct impression (though we’re not told plainly in scripture) that the only reason Yahweh built a physical universe at all was to provide temporary, mortal bodies for the human race—bodies in which we, having been given free will, could choose (if we wished) to reciprocate the awesome love our Creator showed us. We’d have our whole lives (however long or short) to decide what to do with God’s gift of life. Some of us (I’m sure He knew) would choose poorly, opting to deny and betray the very God who made us for no other purpose than to share a life together. Others (the vast majority, I’d venture) wouldn’t choose any destiny at all, preferring to imagine (if they thought about it at all) that people are just smart animals, with no spiritual component. The theory is that this mortal life, as miraculous as it is, is merely an incredible cosmic accident—actually, an unending string of them. How wrong you can be.
But some of us would indeed notice how infinitely unlikely our life is without a Designer; we’d discern that the awesome universe in which we live must have an equally awesome Creator—Someone to whom we owe our very existence. And we’d heed the only remotely plausible written communication that has ever surfaced among men that purports to be a message from the same Creator Deity who made us, the world, and the cosmos.
Being finite, mortal humans, none of us would grasp the significance, the scope, or the sheer immensity of what the Creator did for us. But like small children relating to their parents, we would use what little we could comprehend to form our “world view” based on the reality of their love. Yes, like infants, we are needy, helpless, demanding, and woefully unprepared for the wide world. We require round-the-clock care, and we smell funny. And like parents, Yahweh is okay with that, for He loves us unconditionally. He created us knowing our penchant for getting into trouble. But He (having given the whole “infant” thing a dry run) also knows that if we choose to make good use of the privilege of free will He’s given us, we have the potential to grow in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man. That process need not be confined to these mortal lives, either, but can—and will—continue throughout eternity.