The Millennium (3): Its Citizens and Conditions
by Mark Sweetnam, Truth & Tidings May 2013
In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, having just learned of his father’s murder and the rottenness that lies at the heart of the state of Denmark, laments that “the times are out of joint.” There can hardly be anyone who has not, at one time or another, shared Hamlet’s feelings. Man’s inhumanity to man, his failure in the stewardship of creation, and the vicious violence that marks a nature, red in tooth and claw, all blazon the truth that we live in a disjointed world. Humanity’s awareness of this has led many men and women to attempt to imagine and inaugurate their own millennial utopias. Their efforts have always met with failure, and, not infrequently, with disaster. Man’s fallen mind cannot devise, nor his sinful character implement, a perfect world. But a perfect world will be inaugurated, designed by divine wisdom, enforced by divine authority, and enabled by divine power.
Citizens of the Millennium
The millennial kingdom will be unique in history in that it will include among its citizens those who have died and been resurrected. Revelation 20:6 tells us that all who have had a part in the first resurrection will live and reign with Christ. This first resurrection will take place in a number of stages. Christ’s resurrection provided the prototype, and He, as firstfruits, will be followed by the saints of this dispensation, at the Rapture, and subsequently, by the Old Testament saints, and then by those who have been martyred during the Tribulation. At the commencement of the Millennium the first resurrection will be complete, and all who, throughout the ages, have been justified by faith will live and reign with Christ.
The kingdom will also include those who have never died. After the manifestation of Christ, the judgment of the living nations will take place. There, the sheep will be separated from the goats. The sheep, by their refreshment of God’s persecuted remnant, will have given evidence of their faith in Christ, and will “inherit the kingdom” (Matt 25:34). Resurrected saints and those who have never died will join together in their enjoyment of the presence of Christ.
Thus, all who enter into the millennial kingdom have been born again. During the 1000 years, however, human generation will continue. Those who are born will possess a same fallen nature and they will need to be born again. No doubt many will, but, notwithstanding the evidences of the goodness of God and the perfections of Christ’s reign, there will be many who will not believe. Disobedience to divine law will bring immediate punishment, and so they will feign obedience, but ultimately they will furnish ample evidence that they never possessed divine life.
Conditions of the Millennium
Two vitally important conditions will mark the Millennium. Christ will reign, and Satan will be bound. The administration of Christ and the absence of the tempter will utterly transform life on earth. Beyond this, Scripture provides an enormous amount of detail about the conditions that will mark the Millennium.
Ecologically, the Millennium will be marked by the reversal of the effects of Adam’s fall. Creation will be “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom 8:21). Christ’s return to earth will be attended by seismic transformation (Zech 14), and the parched deserts of the world will be transformed. “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” (Isa 35:1-2). “In the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water” (Isa 35:6-7). Food shortage will be a forgotten concern as earth will be marked by fruitfulness never seen since Eden. “There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon” (Psa 72:11).
Prosperity will go hand in hand with peace. The violence and death of the food chain will be halted, and predator and prey will coexist in perfect harmony. “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid … and a little child shall lead them. … The lion shall eat straw like the ox. … They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain” (Isa 11:6-9).
Governmentally, too, the reign will be marked by peace. For the first time in history, the nations will be ruled by One Who has both the power and authority to reign and His reign will be one of justice and equity, and of unchallenged authority. “And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa 2:4). In contrast to the governments of men, His policies will not be swayed by lobbyists or pressure groups. Rather, “He shall judge the poor of the people, He shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor” (Psa 72:4).
Spiritually, the Millennium will see the restoration of some of the service of the temple. In Ezekiel 40-48 we find the details of the service that will be carried on when the glory of God, once again, fills the house. “And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and His voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with His glory … Behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house” (Eze 43:2, 5). Animal sacrifices will be offered once again on the altars; not now for the putting away of sin, but for cleansing from ritual defilement. The temple will no longer be open to the Jews alone. Now it will be the global center of worship, and annual attendance at the Feast of Tabernacles will be mandatory for all peoples (Zech 14:16-19). For the first time in her history, Israel will perform the purpose that God intended, to be a kingdom of priests.
The processes of secularization have inexorably squeezed religion out of our world, banishing it from public life and forcing it to the margins in every way possible. In the Millennium, the worship of God will permeate every aspect of life, and the secular will become sacred. “In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD … Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts” (Zech 14:20-21). The darkness of ignorance, and the delusion of error will be banished from every corner of creation, “for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14).