The Millennium (2): Its Character
by Mark Sweetnam, Truth & Tidings Apr 2014
The term “Millennium” does not appear in Scripture, yet the truth of the earthly reign of Christ occurs throughout the canon, and the term accurately describes a period that extends for 1000 years. There are, however, a number of other terms used in Scripture to speak of the reign of Christ. Each one unfolds particular truth about the character and consequences of that reign.
“Ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt 19:27-28).
The course of world history, morally, ideologically, financially, and militarily, is marked by revolution and counter-revolution, by decline and revival, by meteoric rises and precipitous falls. But even the most dramatic and far-reaching revolution does little to change the overall course of life on earth. Not so the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. The Lord Jesus describes it as “the regeneration,” or rebirth. The word is used in only one other place in Scripture (Titus 3:5), where it refers to the new birth of the believer. The Millennium will not be a revival, it will be a rebirth. The planet will be born again, and the change will be as dramatic and fundamental as that which salvation brings to the individual.
Times of Refreshing and Restitution
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord … until the times of restitution of all things”(Acts 3:19-22).
Speaking on the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter used two beautiful expressions to describe the effects of Christ’s return to earth from heaven, and His ensuing reign.
“Refreshing” is literally “a cooling” (the Latin Vulgate translates the word with the familiar-looking refrigerium). The idea of a refreshing and restoring coolness in a hot and arid climate eloquently conveys what the Millennium will mean for this parched and weary earth. Worn out by injustice and oppression she is sorely in need of the refreshment of the Messiah’s manifestation. In the language of Psalm 72, “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth” (v6).
The Millennium will also be a time of restoration. This is the dominant idea in the phrase “the times of the restitution of all things.” Notice the comprehensiveness of Peter’s statement, “all things” will be restored in that day. So much was lost in the fall. Humanity was debased and depraved, and with it all of creation was “made subject to vanity” and brought into “the bondage of corruption” (Rom 8:20-21). In this bondage, it groans and travails in pain to the present day. Adam’s disobedience caused far-reaching devastation. But at Calvary, the Savior “restored that which [He] took not away” (Psa 69:4). The restoration accomplished by His work at the Cross has yet to be fully realized, but, as the Redeemer is revealed, and we are manifest with Him, the creation will be delivered from this bondage, “into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom 8:21).
But the Holy Spirit, through Peter, extends the scope of “all things” beyond the restoration of a fallen creation to the Abrahamic covenant, and its Millennial fulfilment: “Ye are the children of … the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, and in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed” (Acts 3:25). At the time when Peter spoke, Israel had fallen to a low point, but here, a few decades later, she would fall even further. They would learn the bitter reality of the burden they had so lightly assumed when they cried “His blood be upon us and on our children” (Matt 27:24-25).
The great wonder of God’s program for the nation is that, in spite of their rejection of the Messiah, they have not “stumbled that they should fall” (Rom 11:11). Rather, “blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved” (Rom 11:25-27). We cannot allow the pernicious doctrines of Replacement Theology to erode our appreciation of the faithfulness of God. The Church has neither replaced nor displaced Israel, and the time will come when all will be restored, and she will be “the head, and not the tail” (Deut 28:13).
This time of restoration was long promised “since the world began.” It is exceedingly precious to know that the first prophecy of restoration and of a ruler, the proto-evangelical promise of the seed of the woman Who would bruise the serpent’s head (Gen 3:15), is made even before God pronounces His curse on humanity and on creation. From that point onward, Scripture echoes with glorious words of promise, affirming and reaffirming that there will be a time of restoration when all that is wrong will be put right, and all that has been lost will be recovered.
Dispensation of the Fulness of Times
“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ” (Eph 1:10-11).
The first advent of the Lord Jesus was the climax of history, taking place at “the consummation of the ages” (Heb 9:26, Darby). Though this dispensation is the climax of history, it is not its completion. God’s purpose for the nations, for Israel, for the Church, and for His Son awaits its full accomplishment at the “fullness of times.” The word “fullness” conveys the idea of order and completion. It is the word used for a ship, when the full complement of its crew is on board, with every man at his station. It beautifully conveys the conditions that will exist in the Millennial kingdom, when God’s purpose will be seen in full operation, and when the nations, Israel, and the Church will occupy their rightful places, and fulfil their ordained functions. Over it all, heading up all things, will be the Lord Jesus Christ, at last acknowledged and obeyed by all. Its greatest glory will be the vindication and glorification of the long-despised Jesus on the earth where He was rejected.
These Scriptures outline for us the character of the coming kingdom. Rebirth, refreshment, restoration, and completeness will all mark those 1000 triumphant years of vindication and victory when “He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne” (Zech 6:13).