What does the Bible tell us about the future? - Part 6 - ‘The Church and the Millennium’
Ian Jackson, Eastbourne, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
The millennium, the one thousand year period of Christ’s manifested reign, is described in the New Testament as:
‘the regeneration’; descriptive of a new state of things in which everything shall be brought into conformity with His will, Matt. 19. 28;
‘the times of restitution of all things’, in which everything which has broken down in man’s hand will be restored in Christ’s hand, into which the Father has given all things, Acts 3. 21; John 13. 3;
‘the dispensation of the fulness of times’, which will be the last of the series of ‘times’ which have constituted human history and in which everything will be under one head, even Christ, Eph. 1. 10;
‘the reconciliation of all things’ in which everything in heaven and earth (though not things under the earth) will be reconciled unto Himself, Col. 1. 20;
‘the world [aion] to come’ which stands in contrast to ‘this present evil world’ [aion], Heb. 2. 5; Gal. 1. 4.
The age to come has been put in subjection to man, rather than angels, Heb. 2. 5. Angels shall then be servants who will carry out the righteous judgements of the saints, 1 Cor. 6. 3. The administration of that millennial age is pre-eminently in the hand of Christ, the heir of all things, Heb. 1. 2, but it is also in the hand of saints, as linked with Him. At this present time, in anticipation of the exercise of His dominion in the age to come, when all things will be seen to be under His feet, He is now crowned with glory and honour, 2. 9.
In Revelation chapter 20 verse 4, three companies of people are seen connected with the heavenly side of that kingdom, who ‘reigned with Christ a thousand years’.
- There are those on thrones, the twenty-four elders, who are seen now not so much in relation to worship in heaven, as in Revelation chapter 4, but in relation to the administration of the earth.
- A second company consists of saints who, in the first half of the tribulation period, were beheaded for the word of God and for the testimony which they held as to the coming of Jesus, Rev. 6. 9-11.
- The third company consists of saints who, in the second half of the tribulation, do not bow to the beast or receive his mark, 13. 15-17, refusing to share in either his political or religious interests.
The church is included in the first of these companies. When our Lord is revealed from heaven, ‘he shall come to be glorified in his saints’, 2 Thess. 1. 10, and ‘admired in all them that believe’. The church shall then reign over the earth with Christ, from a heavenly location. Saints of this church age ‘rejoice in hope of the glory of God’, Rom. 5. 2, knowing that He is ‘bringing many sons unto glory’, Heb. 2. 10. These references to ‘glory’ are not to be limited to heaven; they speak of all that we shall share with Christ in the glory of His manifested kingdom. Our Saviour spoke of this when He said, ‘And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one’, John 17. 22. In a distinct manner, the church shall share in the manifested glory of Christ.
In Revelation, there is an unbroken chronology from chapter 19 verse 1 to chapter 21 verse 8. This covers the marriage of the Lamb, the coming again of Christ as the warrior king, the binding of Satan, the millennial reign, the final rebellion of Gog and Magog, the great white throne and the eternal state. Then, from chapter 21 verse 9 to chapter 22 verse 5, John describes the character of the church in the period of the millennial kingdom.
Under the figure of a city, which in scripture represents not only a system of social life but also the activity of government, John describes the bride of the Lamb in governmental and millennial blessing. The angel said to him, ‘I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife’ and shewed him ‘that great city, the holy Jerusalem’, Rev. 21. 9, 10. It seems clear, therefore, that the city is not to be thought of as literal but in this book of signs, it is that which declares the character of the church at that time.
In Revelation chapter 21, the city is twice seen by John coming down from heaven; as to its sphere, and from God, as to its source. It is in contrast to mystery Babylon, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth. The origins of that city are in man, Gen. 11. 1-9, its sphere is the earth and it is developed in the latter days by Satan. In verse 2, ‘the holy city, new Jerusalem’ comes down ‘prepared as a bride adorned for her husband’ following the judgement of the Great White Throne; this is connected with eternity. In verse 10, however, the bride, the Lamb’s wife, is seen as ‘that great city, the holy Jerusalem’ coming down after the Judgement Seat of Christ. This is connected with the millennium. It has often been pointed out that she is called the Lamb’s ‘wife’ at the beginning of the millennium but His ‘bride’ a thousand years later. Nuptial joy never diminishes for the Lamb and His bride.
The city has the throne of God and of the Lamb, 22. 1. It is one throne, symbolic of the public, millennial government of God, of which this whole passage speaks. The church is associated with God in the government of the millennial world. God, supreme, reigns in might and majesty and the Lamb in grace and meekness administers the power and authority of the throne.
The number ‘twelve’ is a number closely connected in scripture to the thought of administration and is prominent in connection with the city. It has twelve gates, signifying the perfection of administration on earth. Twelve angels are at the gates, servants waiting to do the bidding of the saints in their administration of the world. On the gates are the names of the twelve tribes of Israel who, in the millennium, will be judged by the twelve apostles of the Lamb, Matt. 19. 28, whose names are inscribed in the twelve foundations, which are twelve pearls. Its equal length, breadth and depth is twelve thousand furlongs, so that the city is foursquare. From whatever angle you look at it it is perfect and complete, signifying the fact of the unity, perfection and symmetry of the church in glory. The tree of life ‘bare twelve fruits’, yielding her fruit every month.
That throne upholds and strengthens the city and from it proceeds a river of fullness of life and gladness. This river of blessing is always flowing through the heavenly city and, as with all else there, it is bright as beautiful crystal. There will be no more curse. Biblical history has seen many curses, but in the heavenly city, the church, there will be not be any curses, nor the ill effects that accompany them. His servants shall perfectly serve Him. They shall see His once-marred face and be marked as belonging to Him by having His name in their foreheads.
The millennium provides the opportunity for God to display His glory publicly to the world. The city, the church, has the glory of God, v. 21. 11, and radiates it to all the world. This is not the essential glory of God, which no man can look upon and live, but is that glory which He is able to share. Her ‘light’, or her ‘shining’ was ‘like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal’, v. 11. The jasper stone is mentioned three times in connection with the city, in verses 11, 18 and 19. Perhaps the jasper and the other precious stones, mentioned in connection with the foundations speak of the communicable glory of God known by the church.
The city has no temple, v. 22, because the ‘Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it’. A temple in a city has always implied that some would be nearer than others to God but this is not so in the holy city. The Lord God Almighty, in His unrivalled greatness, has acted and ruled throughout history, working all things according to the counsel of His own will; He is now revealed in glory, by the Lamb, equally in every part of the huge city of gold. It is a temple city in which all shall serve in the immediate presence of God and His glory.
The light of the sun and the moon is not required because of the glory of God. He is the source of the city’s light, whilst the Lamb is the lamp of divine glory, diffusing that light through every part of it. Darkness is dispelled, for there is ‘no night there’, v. 25. Remarkably, the church will be the medium of that light to the world. The city shall be one great body of glory and light, having glory that shall never fade and light that shall never grow dim. The nations of the saved will walk in its light, and kings and nations will bring their glory and honour to it, vv. 24, 26. The rule of the heavens is, therefore, acknowledged in that day.
There is no defilement in that city, nor anything that makes either an abomination or a lie, v. 27. Only those are there whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. They shall reign unto the ages of the ages, for so long as Christ is on the throne. The millennial kingdom is set up on earth to manifest the fulfilment of the counsels of God, but His reign over all creatures, being eternal in its character and independent of change, shall never cease.
‘And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me’, John 17. 22, 23.