“For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” John 5:22-30
In previous parts of our study about God’s Judgment we saw how God the Father has given all judgmental authority to Jesus Christ – Who is the Son of God, Son of Man, and Son of David.
In the last part of our study we looked at the Parables of Christ that pertain to His Second Coming. If you have not read the first seven parts of this study, we invite you to do that now for the Scriptural background to Christ as Judge.
Questions About Future Judgment
The timing and location of those future judgments are often questions among people who discuss such things. We know Jesus Christ will judge the nations, Israel and His Church at a future time, but when will He do that and where?
We began answering the question about when in the last two studies. Let’s continue by seeing what is meant by the words “thousand years” found in Revelation 20 –
“Then 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. And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. 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. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:1-15
The Messianic Millennial Reign
The Hebrew word for ‘thousand’ is ’ă-lā-p̄îm (אֲלָפִים֮). The Greek word for ‘thousand’ is chilia (χίλια). The Hebrew word is not used in the Old Testament to describe the period of time that Messiah will reign, even though Jesus, angels and prophets were clear that Messiah would have a physical Messianic rule on earth.
When Gabriel announced to the virgin Mary that she would conceive in her womb and bring forth a Son and call His name Jesus, the angel added this prophecy –
“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:32-33
In one of His first sermons, Jesus said that the meek are blessed, “for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Jesus told His disciples that “when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes or Israel.” (Matthew 19:28) Luke records Jesus as saying, “And I bestow on you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:29-30) When answering His disciples’ question about the sign of His coming and the end of the age, Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” (Matthew 25:31)
After the resurrection, the Lord’s disciples asked Him if He would restore the kingdom to Israel at that time. Their question came from an understanding that Jesus would establish a physical Kingdom.
“Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:68
Here is what two angels said to the Lord’s disciples while they watched Jesus ascend from earth to Heaven –
“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11
The disciples saw Jesus ‘physically’ ascend to Heaven from earth and the angels said He would “come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” That means Jesus will ‘physically’ descend from Heaven to earth.
In Zechariah 14 we see the prophecy of the coming ‘Day of the Lord’ where God will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem. Notice the ‘physical’ description of how and ‘where’ the Lord will fight “in the day of battle.”
“Then the Lord will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.” Zechariah 14:3-4
According to Zechariah’s prophecy the Lord will descend from Heaven to stand on the Mount of Olives “which faces Jerusalem on the east.” The Lord’s ‘feet’ will stand on the mountain.
In Acts 1 we see that following Jesus’ ascension the disciples “returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey” (Acts 1:12).
That fits well with what Luke (the author of Acts) wrote in his Gospel account –
“And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.” Luke 24:51-53
The Book of Acts is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke written to the same person (Theophilus). We would expect the two to fit together well and they do. The Mount of Olives faces Jerusalem on the east and Bethany is located nearby on the southeast slope of Mount Olivet. The distance would also fit into the description of “a Sabbath day’s journey.”
In what might be viewed as an undesigned coincidence, Luke used two descriptions of the same location for where Jesus ascended to Heaven from earth. Both serve as confirmations of Zechariah’s prophecy concerning the Messiah standing on the Mount of Olives on the “day of the Lord.” We know ‘where’ Jesus will return to earth to take His ‘stand’ in His battle with the nations gathered in opposition to Israel.
What happens after Jesus returns to the earth to “go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle”? Jesus will begin His earthly reign. Here are some of the highlights from Zechariah 14 of what follows the Lord’s defeat of the nations:
- Living waters will flow from Jerusalem
- The Lord will be King over all the earth
- All the land from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem will be turned into a plain
- Jerusalem will be raised up and inhabited in her place from Benjamin’s Gate to the place of the First Gate and the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses
- Jerusalem will be safely inhabited
- The wealth of all the nations surrounding Israel will be gathered together in great abundance
- Everyone who is left of all the nations which come against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles
- Whichever of the families of the earth that do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King will not receive rain from God
- God will send a plague on Egypt and any other nation that does not come to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles
Zechariah’s prophecy makes it clear that the Lord’s reign as King will be on earth with Jerusalem as His capital city. The nations of the earth will be expected to make a physical journey every year to Jerusalem to worship the King and keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Any nation that does not obey the King will receive no rain from God and any other plague God determines to use as discipline to bring the nations into obedience. That is a reminder of what John wrote about Jesus’ return to earth to “strike the nations” –
“And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.” Revelation 19:15
The prophecies of the Old and New Testament prophets tell the same story. The Messiah, Jesus Christ, will rule and reign on earth from the City of Jerusalem and He will rule the nations with a rod of iron.
In one of the Apostle Peter’s early sermons, he told a Jewish crowd in Jerusalem –
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3:19-21
The “restoration of all things” is what God spoke to the Jews by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. We don’t have time to share all those prophecies in this brief article, but here are several to consider –
- Psalm 2
- Psalm 72
- Isaiah 2
- Isaiah 9
- Isaiah 11
- Isaiah 24
- Isaiah 25
- Isaiah 49
- Isaiah 62
- Isaiah 65
- Jeremiah 23
- Jeremiah 30
- Jeremiah 33
- Ezekiel 34
- Zechariah 8
- Zechariah 9
- Zechariah 14
- Micah 4
- Hosea 3
The Greek word for millennium (chilia) is used several times in Revelation 20.
Here are the highlights from Revelation 20 –
- Satan will be bound and cast into a bottomless pit for a thousand years
- Satan not be allowed to deceive the nations until the thousand years are finished
- The souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands, lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years
- Those souls will be part of the first resurrection and will be priests of God and Christ and reign with Him for a thousand years
- The rest of the dead won’t live again until the thousand years are finished
- Satan will be released from his prison at the end of the thousand years and will go out to deceive the nations and gather them together to battle against Christ
The battle will not go well for Satan and the people he will lead to fight against Christ and the souls who reigned with the Lord for a thousand years. Fire will come down from God out of Heaven and devour them. Satan will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone and be tormented day and night forever and ever.
That event leads directly to Christ judging the dead, small and great, according to their works. Death and Hades will be cast into the lake of fire and anyone whose name is not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire.
The next event following Christ’s judgment will be the new heaven and earth – “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1) – followed by the New Jerusalem “descending out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:10). Those who enter the new Heaven and new earth will reign with Christ “forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).
It would appear from Revelation 20 that the ‘thousand years’ is the last event to occur before what is known as the Great White Throne Judgment of Christ and the establishment of the everlasting Kingdom of God in the world to come.
Primary Views About The Millennium
You won’t find the word ‘millennium’ in the Bible. The word comes from the root Latin word ‘mille’ – ‘a thousand’. The word ‘millennium’ combines the words ‘mille’ and ‘annus’ (annual) to mean ‘a thousand years’ – millennium.
However, the words ‘millennium’ and ‘millennial’ have been used by Christians for centuries to describe the thousand-year period we just read about in Revelation 20. Here are three primary views about that thousand years –
Christ will come “in the air” to take (rapture) His Church (living and dead) to Heaven before** He begins His judgment on the people living on earth at the time. That period will last seven years, then Christ will return to earth to establish His one-thousand-year reign.
[** There are three primary views of when the rapture will occur: Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, Post-Tribulation. We will look at those views later in this series.]
The ‘millennium’ is an era and not a literal period of time. Christ will reign over the earth through the gradual strengthening of the Gospel. Once the world has become more Christian, Christ will return to the earth to reward Christians and judge the wicked.
The reign of Christ began with His resurrection from the dead. That’s when He won the victory over Satan and the curse of sin and death. Christ is reigning now at the right hand of the Father. Christ will return to the earth when this present age has ended and will reward Christians and judge the wicked.
We will take an in-depth look at all three of the primary Millennial views as our study continues, but we first want to first address an important aspect of interpreting the Book of Revelation. We’ll do that in the next part of our special series “God’s Judgment: How It Works.”
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.