E W Rogers, Oxford
It is strange that, although the phrase a “thousand years” occurs six times in Revelation 20. 1-7, there are those who deny that there is to be any such time to come. We do not understand how this conclusion is reached. Most surely the devil is not bound now; he is very much active. Those who deny the millennium appear to have insuperable difficulty in this section.
There is such a time of peace to come, following on the Lord coming out of heaven, and “triumphing gloriously”, delivering His godly earthly people and destroying Gentile civilisation. He will prove to be the stone “cut out of the mountain without hands” of which Daniel spoke in chapter 2 of his book. The longed-for boon of world-wide peace will then be realised and the intolerable burden of arms accumulation will have gone; see Psalm 72; Isa. 2. 4; 9. 7.
Before going into details, we may remark that such passages as Isaiah 11; 35; 65. 17ff all speak of this time. The “whole creation”, which today “groaneth and travaileth in pain together”, “waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God”, issuing in the creation being “delivered from the bondage of corruption” under which it now lies; see Rom. 8. 19ff. The passages in Isaiah should not be read as mere picture-language or poetry with no substantial reality behind them. The fact is that the curse of the fall will then have been removed, and conditions will be similar to, though better than, those prior to Adam’s fall. With the return of the Lord Jesus to earth, there will be global disturbances such as are spoken of in Zechariah 14. 3ff and Ezekiel 47. 6ff, for whatever spiritual lessons these chapters have (and they have many), their literal significance cannot and should not be dismissed. The geographical changes which are to take place in the area of the Dead Sea are such as will make Jerusalem a political centre, a position that it has never before enjoyed, not even in the heyday of its history.
This kingdom will be introduced with judgement just as was the case with Solomon’s kingdom; see I Kings 1-3. This judgment is spoken of in Matthew 25.31 ff and must not be confused with the judgment of the Great White Throne. It is a mistake to group all the various future judgments together, as if there were to be one final assize. We have already spoken of the judgment of sin when Christ died on the cross. Then there is judgment which “must begin at the house of God” and that goes on today; see 1 Cor. 11. 32. Later there is to be the judgment-seat, of which we have already spoken in this series. That will take place in heaven, prior to the return of the Lord to earth. But now we are thinking of the judgment that He will introduce when He comes back to earth. Matthew 25. 34 clearly shows it takes place at the commencement of the millennial kingdom, into which the blessed are to enter. It is a judgment on earth, and will have as its criterion the manner in which persons have acted towards the brethren of the Lord. These as we have seen are chiefly, though not exclusively, the faithful Jewish remnant who will witness during the last unequalled troublous times. This assize differs from that of the Great White Throne in its time, in its place, in its criterion and in its procedure. Moreover there is no resurrection in Matthew 25 :32; these are persons living on earth at that time.
At the commencement of this millennial kingdom the Lord will take steps to regather the scattered of Israel, to bring them back to their land, and to re-unite the divided ten and two tribes, unifying them as one nation over which He will be their King. We ask the reader to read Ezekiel 37 and to say whether or not this is not its plain meaning. The wise words of Hooker come to mind at this point, applying to Ezekiel 37 and other passages:
“I hold it for a most infallible rule in exposition of sacred scripture that where a literal construction will stand, the farthest from the letter is commonly the worst. There is nothing more dangerous than this licentious and deluding art which changeth the meaning of words as alchemy doth or would do the substance of metals, making of anything what it listeth and bringeth in the end all truth to nothing”.
The wildness of the beasts is one product of Adam’s fall. The crown of authority fell from his head, but when the “last Adam”, “the Lord from heaven” shall assume His rights as “Son of man” on earth, then the “wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fading together; and a little child shall lead them”, Isa. 11. 6. Whatever spiritual lessons may be gleaned from this chapter (and “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning”), do not allow such applications to nullify the plain meaning of the passage. The passage tells of the character of the King, the beneficent effects of His presence on the animal kingdom, the recovery of the nation of Israel after their age-long dispersal, and even the transformation of the delta of the Nile, v. 15.
It seems that life will be prolonged to that which obtained in the days of the patriarchs. If a child should die, being reckoned but a child when one hundred years old, what shall be said of man? The best way to know what the millennium will be like is to read the relevant passages. Isaiah 65. 17ff is one such. The state of Israel may be flourishing today but it is destined for God’s ultimate judgment. Yet God’s eye is and ever has been on “the pleasant land”, “a land flowing with milk and honey” and He intends to redeem His promise and give it to Abraham and his seed, free from the foot of the invader, and in the condition in which Abraham looked for it, for he desired “a better country, that is, an heavenly”, namely not heavenly in location but in condition.
The whole of the area surrounding Palestine is to undergo a change. Ezekiel 37 is not the only passage bearing on this. Zechariah 14. 4ff speaks of it. The “living waters” of verse 8 mean just what is said, else what can be made of the “former sea” and the “hinder sea”? This, coupled with the healing of the Dead Sea, and the earthquake, v. 4, shows that the Middle East is to be the scene not only of terrible war, but frightening seismographic disturbances.
God’s Promises Realised
Jerusalem will become, in fact, the “city of the great King” and all nations which are left for the millennial kingdom will send their delegates annually to worship the King of kings and the Lord of lords, “the King, the Lord of hosts”; see Zech. 14. 16. It will be the great centre to which “all nations shall flow” in order that they may be taught the ways of the God of Jacob, so that they may walk in His paths, Isa. 2. 2-3. The twelve apostles will have administrative authority over the twelve tribes of Israel, Luke 22.30. The King will be seen then, not as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” whose “visage was so marred more than any man”, but as the “King in his beauty”, Isa. 33. 17. To this Psalm 45 refers. In that kingdom the believer of the present calling will “reign with him (Christ)”, 2 Tim. 2. 12.
God magnifies His Word above all the honours of His name, and unconditional covenants made by Him will be fulfilled. Hence the covenant made to Abram, so specific in Genesis 15. 18-21, is sure to be literally fulfilled. This defies spiritualising, and Ezekiel’s vision of the division of the land throws much light on what God will do in implementing His word, Ezek. 48. Similarly in David’s case; God assured him “thy throne shall be established for ever”; see Psalm 89. 34-37 true that everything is both to be realised in, and to be effected by Christ risen from the dead, but the future fulfilment of God’s promise is certain; God “cannot lie”, Titus 1.2.
Israel’s Place in the World
Owing to Israel having broken the word of the Lord, they have long been the “tail” of all nations. But later, when God has purged and renewed them, they will again be the “head” as envisaged in Deuteronomy 28. 13. They will then be the dominant world-power under the rule of their Messiah. The nation, though apparently long since dead, will be brought to life again (see Dan. 12. 2; Ezek. 37), and their teachers will turn many to righteousness, Dan. 12. 3 marg. The writer cannot regard Ezekiel’s vision from chapter 40 onwards as anything else but that yet to be literally fulfilled. It is not proper to spiritualise one part and to read literally another part. Consequently, it would appear that the Dead Sea is to be healed; the land in its full promised extent is to be apportioned out to the tribes of Israel; the temple is to be built with significant differences from Solomon’s temple; the sacrifices are to be resumed commemoratively as before they were anticipative. Then will have come to pass the full significance of the feast of tabernacles, “Every man shall dwell under his own vine and under his own fig tree”. Spiritually, politically, socially and economically He who was born of Mary, but whose goings forth have been from of old, from eternity, will do what none other has ever been able to do - He will put things right on earth for the glory of God and the good of man. What of the Church in that day? Then “the saints shall judge the world”; “we shall judge angels”, 1 Cor. 6.2-3. Just as now the administration of earth’s affairs is in the hands of principalities and powers (see Daniel 10) so then, under Christ, it will be in the hands of the saints, who will reign over the earth, Rev. 5. 10.