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. 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. Here we take the Premillennial view simply because of the amazing detail given in prophecy.
The prophecies of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah and Revelation contain much detail, and taken together we can formulate a possible millennial scenario. Of course, prophetic interpretation varies and particularly for 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.
A Literal Interpretation: 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?
Why the Millennium?
Why should God plan such a dispensation? It could be seen as the ‘coming of age’ of God’s creation. 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)
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. 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.
Consider: 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 time that the 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’.
Life on the Millennial Earth
Combining many prophecies paints a picture of life on a millennial earth under the theocracy and monocracy of Christ the King.
Government from Jerusalem – A Difficult Concept
As prophesied, 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). This suggests an imperfect earth in that the nations sometimes need chastening. Detailed study reveals that the true character of this dispensation is more complex than that usually portrayed. For example, the millennium is also a time of sin, death, rebellion and harsh judgement (Isa 65.20, Zech 14.17-19), and its true character seems to fall between our age of grace and the future sinless coexistence of the redeemed in the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21). The good news is that the corrupt end-time world government will have been crushed and Christ’s kingdom will embrace the whole earth (Dan 2.35).
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, 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 Christ 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
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 40-48 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.
Changes to be Expected
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).
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)
Nevertheless, as already mentioned, it 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). There will still be sickness needing healing (Ezek 47.12) and there will still be death. Yes – there will still be mortal death, although there will be a change in man’s life expectancy. After the Flood man’s life expectancy gradually dropped from hundreds of years to about 70 years. A possible reason for this is a significant increase in radioisotopes in the atmosphere after the Flood, see human aging. But in the millennium it seems that these environmental effects are partially reversed as people live to a ‘great age’, to at least 100 years (Zech 8.4, Isa 65.20).
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).