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The Coming Millennium

The Coming Millennium
To be precise, the word “millennium” does not appear in the Bible. It comes from two Latin words, “mille” and “-ennium,” which together simply mean “a thousand years.” The term has been used by many Christians to designate the thousand-year period mentioned in Revelation 20, where the expression “thousand years” occurs six times in verses 1 through 7.

Today there is much divided opinion in the Christian world over the events associated with the beginning, duration, and ending of the millennium. For this reason, we will carefully examine what the Bible really says about this important era of time ...

When Jesus returns, the righteous dead are resurrected and, along with the living righteous, meet Jesus in the clouds and are transported to heaven. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17.) At that time, the living unsaved are destroyed by the brightness of His coming, and the unsaved who are already dead simply stay that way.

What remains, then, is a desolate earth. “At that day the slain of the Lord shall be from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall become refuse on the ground” (Jeremiah 25:33; see also 4:23–26). Obviously, life on earth for humans during the thousand years is not possible.

Notice how the Bible describes what happens next:

“I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while” (Revelation 20:1–3).

While the saved are in heaven and the unsaved lie dead on the earth, the devil will be bound to the planet for 1,000 years. It will not be a place you’d want to be! The world is described as a “bottomless pit,” which is the Greek word abussos, meaning “dark, waste, desolate region, and state of chaos.” It is the equivalent of the Old Testament word used in Jeremiah 4 and also in Genesis 1:2 when describing the earth before creation as being “without form, and void.” The second coming of Jesus reduces the world to a state of disorder as it was before the creation.

Is Satan held to the earth with a literal chain and thrown into a literal pit? No. Fallen angels are not bound by physical chains. The reason Satan is limited to the earth is that “he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.” The only way to prevent his evil work is to remove all people from him and to confine him to a place no one else will be. It is the circumstances of an empty world that bind the devil.

While Satan is a captive on earth, the people of God reign with Him in heaven. This is what Jesus spoke of when the disciple Peter asked Him, “Lord, where are You going?” (John 13:36). Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” What place will the followers of Christ go?

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1–3).

The apostle John also described where the saved will be: “They lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4). These saints are “with Christ” in heaven, which is the New Jerusalem, and will come down to the earth at the end of the millennium (see Revelation 3:12; 21:2).

John further explained, “I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them” (Revelation 20:4). The saints will not determine who will be saved or lost. This work will have been accomplished by God already. Rather, the work of judgment during the millennium involves the redeemed going over the case of every evil angel and lost human so that no question remains in the mind of the redeemed concerning God’s justice and mercy.

During the 1,000 years, the saints will “judge” wicked angels and men. Paul described this review of the books in heaven: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?” (1 Corinthians 6:2, 3).

Imagine being in heaven and discovering that a loved one you expected to be there is missing. You would naturally wonder why. God provides an opportunity for every question to be asked and answered. All doubts will forever be laid to rest.

What happens at the end of the thousand years? The Bible says, “Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations” (Revelation 20:7, 8).

The reason the devil can once more deceive people is because the wicked are raised from the dead. This is explained in verse 5, which says, “The rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.” The righteous dead were resurrected at the coming of Jesus, so the “rest of the dead” refers to those who were not raised—that is, the lost. Jesus refers to this as the “resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29).

Christ and His people now descend to the earth, where He will at long last end the great cosmic controversy with Satan and begin the millennial judgment. But first, the devil is “released for a little while” (Revelation 20:3) to perform his last act of deception. He rallies the wicked to surround “the camp of the saints and the beloved city” (verse 9). Instead of entering the New Jerusalem through the salvation of Jesus, they are determined to storm the city and capture it by force.

At this time God sets up His great “white throne” of judgment. The entire human race, all who have ever lived, stand before the Lord.

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:11, 12)

The redeemed are safe inside the city while the unsaved are outside. The apostle Paul also spoke of this time when he said, “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10). Jesus described those who reject Him as “weeping” at this moment and said there will be “gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28). Why have the wicked been raised to stand before God’s throne? Just as the redeemed confirm the justice of God during the millennium, so the wicked—including Satan and his angels—will agree with the righteous decisions of the Lord. Paul’s prediction is fulfilled:

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11, emphasis added).

When the books are opened, every sinner who has refused the grace of God brings to mind every sinful act he has committed. Then, revealed to every man and woman is a grand review of the entire plan of salvation. All will see every act God made in seeking to save humanity from death. From Adam’s temptation and fall, to the cross of Christ, and the whole history of God’s people being persecuted, each person knows the part he played in accepting or rejecting the mercy of the Lord.

Finally, all will acknowledge with one voice: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!” (Revelation 15:3). The loving and just character of the Creator will be affirmed by everyone who has ever lived. Satan’s great accusations against God—that He is unjust and unmerciful—will fall like ashes.

Now, as one final effort is made to attack the city, God moves on the behalf of His people. “Fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them” (Revelation 20:9). “Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (verse 15). The wicked do not burn forever, for “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Jesus affirmed that this fire of hell “is able to destroy both soul and body” (Matthew 10:28). The “everlasting fire” is an unquenchable fire with permanent results that will completely consume the wicked and cleanse the earth of all sin. (See page 19 to learn more about hellfire.) The Bible says,

“ ‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘That will leave them neither root nor branch’ ” (Malachi 4:1).

When all has been consumed and the pollution of sin has been removed from the earth, God will recreate the planet as it was in the beginning. “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1). “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’ ” (verse 5).

The great battle between good and evil is finally over! Sin is no more. From this point onward, all of God's people will be forever filled with joy and gladness in the presence of her loving Creator, who will wipe every tear from her eyes.
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