The Bible clearly teaches a future, one thousand year reign of Christ from the restored throne of David in Jerusalem. This coming dispensation is referred to as the Millennium. In Revelation 20:1-7 the thousand-year reign is mentioned six times.
A future kingdom on earth
When the Lord Jesus comes back to earth it will be as “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16) to set up a kingdom for the entire world (Rev. 11:15). In a major end-time prophecy Daniel likened Christ’s Second Coming to the effect of a great stone smiting the kingdoms of the world, pulverising them to chaff carried on the wind, then becoming a great mountain filling the whole earth, replacing them with His kingdom (Dan. 2:34-35; 44-45). Zechariah says that He shall be King over all the earth (Zech. 14:9). This is similar to the prophecy about the Lord Jesus reigning as King, which was given before His birth to Mary (Luke 1:31-32). The throne of David is not in heaven but on earth. Jesus does not reign in a literal sense from the throne of David now as this throne has, since the Babylonian captivity, been temporarily in suspension. Christ will restore this throne at His Second Coming and then reign from it (Acts 15:16-17).
The elders in heaven (the glorified saints) are aware they will return with Christ and reign with Him in His earthly kingdom (Rev. 5:9-10; cf. 2 Tim. 2:12). It is therefore clearly evident that the events of Revelation coincide with a strong proclamation of the Kingship of Jesus Christ (Rev. 12:10). When Jesus, our High Priest who now intercedes for us at the throne of the Father, returns to earth, the power and influence of Satan here will be broken and the kingdom of Christ established. The devil will then no longer be the ruler and god of this present evil world (John 14:30; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 6:12; 1 John 5:19).
A further proof that the millennial reign is not in heaven is that in this dispensation there will still be inherent carnality and disorderliness among the nations, which will necessitate that they be ruled with a strong hand. Although Satan will be bound and prohibited from deceiving the nations into committing rebellious deeds, they will still have fallen natures that need to be disciplined. In Revelation 12:5 and 19:15 it is plainly stated that Christ will rule the nations with a rod of iron. His faithful servants will also share in this rule (Rev. 2:25-27).
During the Millennium, the throne of the Lord Jesus in Jerusalem will be meeting-point between heaven and earth, and therefore a centre of divine wisdom, authority and a government of righteousness (Isa. 2:2-4; 24:23; Zech. 8:22). A situation such as this, in which no wars are waged, no military training is done and no weapons are manufactured, has never before prevailed on earth. It can only apply to a future reign of peace. Since the devil will be bound during the thousand-year reign of Christ he will be unable to deceive the nations, and there will be neither violence nor warfare. Other forms of sin will also vanish and the whole world will recognise and practise the Christian religion exclusively (Isa. 11:9). Even the animal creation will benefit and predation will cease (Isa.11:6-7). Jerusalem will be spontaneously recognised as capital of the world by all people, and no hostility or political tension will prevail between individual nations (Jer. 3:17).
Laxity will be the only form of misconduct that will occur as some nations will neglect their duties to serve the Lord as they should. It will still be a matter of “the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). Their neglect will give rise to rebukes from the King and punitive measures (Zech. 14:16-17).
During this time there will be an unsaved remnant of the nations on earth who will be mortal people of flesh and blood. Due to their sinful nature they will still have to be saved to truly belong to the Lord Jesus. According to Zechariah 14:16-17 they will survive the great tribulation and the battle of Armageddon. Although they did not receive the number of the Antichrist they also do not belong to Christ until they have received Him as their Saviour. The Bible indicates that a small remnant of Israel and the nations will be saved directly after the Second Coming of Christ (Zech. 12:10-14; 13:1,9; Matt. 24:30-31).
That means that the Millennium will begin with a first generation of Christians. Because mortal people will still have their Adamic nature which is inclined to sin, new generations will, as now, be born unsaved and will need to be born again spiritually to become children of God. To evangelise them, will be the task of the Jewish evangelists of Israel who will also be mortal but saved people. They will gather a harvest for the kingdom of God among all nations (Isa. 27:6). A study of Revelation 20 clearly reveals that in course of time fewer members of the upcoming generations will be saved. When the devil is released after his captivity of one thousand years, millions of unsaved people will be drawn to him and fall into his power (Rev. 20:7-9).
The first resurrection
The doctrine of the two resurrections is also clearly related to the Millennium. Only those who have part in the first resurrection (Luke 14:14; 1 Thess. 4:16), including O.T. believers and those saved during the tribulation, will rule with Christ. The resurrection of the just must occur before the millennial reign of Christ. To be worthy for it will be a great blessing and something worth exerting yourself (Rev. 20:6; Phil. 3:11-12). The rest of the dead are the unsaved multitude of all centuries, and they will not be resurrected until the thousand years have ended (Rev. 20:5). They will then appear before the great white throne to be judged and condemned to the eternal lake of fire.
Characteristics of the millennial reign
The following are the most important characteristics of the future Millennium:
God will rule on earth through His King of kings, Jesus Christ (Luke 1:31-33; Rev. 19:15; Isa. 11:5-16). The throne of Christ will be in Jerusalem (Zech. 8:22; Isa. 2:2-3; 24:23). His government will be characterised by righteousness (Isa. 1:26-27; Jer. 23:5-6). There will be no warfare (Isa. 2:4; Micah 5:4). Satan will be securely bound so that he cannot deceive the nations (Rev. 20:1-4). The saved remnant of Israel will rejoice in the Lord and evangelise the entire world (Isa. 12:3-6; 27:6; 40:9). They will make the world fruitful (Isa. 27:6) and God will be honoured (Isa. 28:5; Zech. 8:20-23). The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:9-10; Hab. 2:14). There will be no disease (Isa. 33:24). People will live healthily to a great age. A 100 year-old person will be regarded as a child (Isa. 65:20-23). Nature will be set free from the bondage of corruption into glorious liberty (Rom. 8:19-22; Isa. 41:18-20). Times of economic prosperity will dawn (Amos 9:13-14; Joel 3:18; Isa. 65:21-23). Harmony will prevail in the animal kingdom because the Lord will make a new covenant with them (Isa. 11:6-9; 65:25; Hos. 2:18).
Israel’s position in the Millennium
Israel’s position during the coming Messianic era is frequently described in the Old Testament where it is specifically related to the day of the Lord. It will be a time of great blessing, abundance, joy in the Lord and peace on earth. Israel will fulfil its original destiny and potential as a people of God and be a nation through whom He will bless the whole earth. Paul says of them: “Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! … For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11:12,15). Through Israel’s fall, by rejecting and crucifying their Messiah, the gospel of reconciliation with God has been offered not only to Jews but to Gentiles also. What a tremendous blessing that is to the Gentiles! How much more will Israel be a blessing to the world in the Millennium as they proclaim the Messiah’s praises among all nations! This will be the long-delayed, but grand consummation of this unique nation’s destiny and calling as the chosen people of God.
The following are examples of promises about Israel’s restoration and glory in the coming Messianic era: Zech. 8:23; Isa. 27:12; Jer. 31:6-7,31,33; Mal. 3:17; Amos 9:11-12,14-15; Micah 7:11; Jer. 31:38,40; 33:6-9,14-16; Isa. 62:6-7; Joël 3:17; Isa. 11:10,12:4, 17:7, 26:1-2, 27:6, 28:5, 30:23,25; Zeph. 3:9. These and many other blessings will be characteristic of the Millennium when the Messiah reigns from the throne of David in Jerusalem. His glorified saints will rule with Him and righteousness will prevail on earth. Israel will play a leading part in world affairs and will be God’s special representative nation among all the nations of the world.
Let us eagerly expect the Millennium that will commence after the coming of the King, Jesus Christ. Only He can save the remnant of Israel and of the nations (Zech. 12:10; Matt. 24:30-31), bind and incarcerate the devil (Rev. 20:1-3), restore the throne of David (Acts 2:29-30; 15:16-17) and change everything on earth for the better. If we are prepared to suffer now and serve the Lord in the face of much opposition (Acts 14:22), we will accompany Him during His triumphant return (Zech. 14:4-5) and reign with Him on earth (2 Tim. 2:12).
Above all, the most important thing about the millennial reign is that our Lord Jesus will be completely vindicated and glorified on this very earth where He “went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil” (Acts 10:38), yet was so disgracefully humiliated, despised, rejected, cruelly cast out as worthless and crucified by the fallen creatures that He, as Creator, had made. God’s answer to this is that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess Him as Lord (Phil. 2:6-11).
I believe the promise of a future millennial reign of peace on earth, and for that reason I am not disappointed that similar conditions do not prevail on earth during the present dispensation of the church. I fully realise that now we are strangers and sojourners in a world which is to a large extent dominated and manipulated by evil powers. For that reason, we are not kings but soldiers of the cross. We are looking forward to the time when the Lord Jesus will return to earth as King of kings, when we will be revealed with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). By then, the restored Israel will all be saved and serve the Lord with a pure heart among all the nations. Like Abraham, we have a vision of the city which has foundations (the new Jerusalem), whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). What a heavenly expectation to embrace, and how much more should we be dedicated to serving the Lord and doing works that have value for eternity!
1. When does the Millennium start and how long will it last?
2. What does the Bible say about the future kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth?
3. What will the position of Jerusalem be in the Millennium?
4. What will be the most important task of the saved Israel in the Millennium?
5. What will the glorified Christians do during the Millennium?
Prof. Johan Malan