The Millennium (part 2)
Turn to Revelation 20. And I want to strongly recommend that you have an outline in front of you, and that even if you don’t take notes normally, you might want to today. I’ll explain why in a moment. Last week I began the message telling about a group of our singles who flew out to Colorado a couple of weeks ago to go skiing. And as a part of that, a smaller group of that group did some CAT skiing, which is where a snow CAT takes you above the lifts, and you get to ski in untouched powder. This is a skier’s dream. And they’re up there (these are pictures from the group), and the scenes are stunningly beautiful. You can see this one is taken by one of our skiers. Look at how steep it is and how untouched. I’m drooling right now. Picture this beautiful scene (we talked about this last week), and everybody’s ready to cut the powder, and all of a sudden one of the members of the group (not from our church, fortunately) let go of their board, snowboard, accidentally. So, snowboard is gone. Snow CAT leaves, by the way, when it drops you off. You’re now at the top of what looks like Mount Everest and have no snowboard or ski, which is, by the way, why you should ski rather than snowboard. But that’s another topic. You’re up there and the stunningly beautiful scene suddenly seems less beautiful, because now you’re standing waist deep in powder, and you’re having to find a way to crawl, fall, avalanche down the mountain to find your board somewhere way down there that hopefully didn’t kill someone.
I compared this to the study of Revelation 20 (which the average mind might consider a stretch, but my brain is warped), because when you come to this chapter, the scenes are beautiful. We talked last week about those three big ideas in Revelation 20, and those are gorgeous scenes, promises, stunningly beautiful that we can’t wait to experience. But when we get to Revelation 20, sometimes the beauty can turn into something that is not stunningly beautiful but frustratingly petty because there’s so much controversy that surrounds this chapter, like losing your snowboard and having to crawl down a mountain. And so, what we tried to do last week is, could we get up to 10,000 feet and just take in the scene before we talk about the details.
Can we talk about truths from this passage that any believer with the aid of the Spirit can open Revelation 20… You don’t need a code to unlock the truths. It’s right there. We talked about 3. Do you remember what they were? Satan is going down. Satan is going down. That’s huge in this passage. Christ is reigning with his resurrected heirs, jumps out of this passage. And then the last one is a little more subtle, but very much a part of this section. God is not in a hurry, because you have Satan being bound and then released. Why? Why not just get on with it and eliminate this dude? But God is not in a hurry. He is methodically carrying out his plan. And then Satan is released and then ultimately destroyed. But there is this sense, when you come to Revelation 20, why aren’t we in 21 yet, the new heaven and the new earth?
And so, our goal today, now that we’ve looked at this from 10,000 feet, all believers are going to agree with those three things, no matter what interpretation. Even an “a-miller,” which we’ll talk about in a moment, can wrestle with. God, why? Why the thousand years?” Even if you just take that symbolically as a long period of time, why is it so long? Why are your ways so slow? Why is one day as a thousand? So, last week we looked at the big picture. Last week I promised we would come back today and talk about the details. I was counting on the end of the world sometime this week or something like that. But we’re going to jump right in to more of the controversy today.
Before we do that, let me just outline the chapter. You can explore this on your own. Normally, I would just walk through this outline, but we’re not going to have time to unpack all of that and cover the controversy. So, number 1, preparing for the millennium (1-3). Number 2, living in the millennium (4-6). Number 3, coming out of the millennium (7-10). By the way, what does the word millennium mean? Yeah, 1000 years, Latin word for 1000 years. By the way, the Greek word is chilioi. So early millennialists were called chilliasts. Just sounds cold, so, we’ll stick with … sorry, we’ll stick with millennium. So, here is the warning on the outside of the package for this message. It is going to be more technical than we normally have in our sermons. So, if you’re visiting today, could I apologize up front? And I know, I get it, some of you are going to be “Finally! This is what I long for! Let’s go deep. Let’s get more technical, cut the stories.” Others of you are going to need a long snorkel and just feel a little bit overwhelmed. So, that’s one of the reasons I recommended you to take notes, because they’re going to be things you’re going to hear that you’re not going to have time to process, that you can go back or get online, listen to it again, listen to it again. That’s what I have to do when I’m trying to process things that for some of us are going to be new. Others of you have wrestled with these things intensely. So, it’s going to feel very superficial to you. But wherever you are, one of my prayers has been (and we prayed about this last night for our day today in our prayer meeting) that this message would help all of us grow in our ability to think critically. Now, what do I mean, think critically? I don’t mean have a critical attitude. I mean think critically, which usually requires three things. One, a certain level of curiosity. I want to know. I want to learn. Second, a humility that acknowledges, I can learn. I don’t know everything. And I actually might be wrong about something. I’m willing to hear perspectives that don’t fit my own or that might not coincide with the way I’ve been taught — humility. And the third one is sanity. And by sanity, I mean, its most basic definition is sound judgment, the ability to discern, wisdom to weigh the strengths and weaknesses.
What we’re going to be talking about today, these things are not fundamental doctrine. In other words, Christians differ on these things and can be gracious to one another. Now, the coming of Christ is a fundamental doctrine. All Christians believe Christ is coming, and we need to be ready, and there will be a judgment and resurrection and new heaven, new earth. All those things are fundamental to the Christian faith. But there are timing aspects, nature of those things that Christians agree to disagree on. And so, we can critically, with curiosity, humility and sanity, look at perspectives that might not be our own. And hopefully we can come away with perhaps seeing something, even if we don’t agree with the whole position, and say that’s a really good point. I need to consider that. That could benefit me, as from the Lord.
The way we want to do this, I’m going to just look at three major interpretations of Revelation 20:1-10. And the way we’re going to do that is by looking at six aspects of each — who were some of the advocates, how did they interpret the 1000 years, what about the binding of Satan, resurrection, what are some weaknesses, and what are some strengths. Are you in? Some of you are like, “Do I have a choice? It’s really awkward to leave at this point.” What I’m going to do is I’m going to pray. So, if you need to “go the bathroom,” you can do it during the prayer, and there’s no shame, okay? Let’s pray.
God, we ask that you would help us. Some of us are functioning on a little less sleep from last night. Some of us have never wrestled with these things. Others of us have to a great detail. But we’ve all come today in your presence, under your Word to be taught by your Spirit. And so, we know you have something for us. And we pray that we would not let our exhaustion or some other distraction or just feeling overwhelmed because we don’t know everything cause us to not learn anything. We pray that you would speak to us and that even if we don’t get everything, we will get something, that your Spirit would meet us right where we are and tell us something about yourself. As we look at the details, may we be willing to learn. Give us curiosity and humility. Help us with sanity so that we can make sound judgments. And Lord, we pray that in the end we could see more clearly your way of working and give you glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.
View number 1, postmillennialism. Postmillennialism teaches what? Jesus will return when? After, hence the word “post” — after the millennium. The most famous advocate is probably Jonathan Edwards. Also, Charles Finney. And this, by the way, will be the only time you will ever see those two up on the same slide regarding theology. Who else? Remember a famous president who was postmillennial? Woodrow Wilson, I believe was postmillennial.
A thousand years is interpreted by postmillennialists as a long time of gospel transformation, kind of golden age of gospel transformation and expansion. Some believe that it is from the resurrection to the return. Others believe that it begins at an unknown time and then increases to Christ’s return.
Verse 2, what is the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:2. The binding of Satan, according to a postmillennialist, means Satan cannot destroy the church or prevent the gospel from spreading to the nations.
Verse 4 speaks of a resurrection. How does a postmillennialist interpret the resurrection? Some view it as a spiritual renewal, revival kind of resurrection. Others, the future triumph of the church, kingdom of God.
What are some weaknesses of postmillennialism? And obviously these are subjective. These are from my perspective. The flow of Revelation 19-20 can be a weakness because some postmillennialists believe that Revelation 19:11-21 is not referring to the return of Christ but is referring to the destruction of the enemies of God. And so, it just makes, despite the recapitulation theory, it just makes the flow a little rough there. Another weakness could be passages that speak of spiritual decline, increasing opposition. Do you follow what I’m saying here? If the postmillennialists believe there is going to be an increase of spiritual expansion and life, what about the passages that seem to speak of a decline?
Let me show you a couple examples. Matthew 24:7,
“For nation will rise against nation, [Jesus said] and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
That does not sound optimistic, does it? There is an increasing opposition — lawlessness will be increased, many will be hated and fall away. But notice also embedded in there is, there will be an increase of expansion as well. The gospel will be preached to the nations. There’s a tension in those words. 2 Timothy 3 describes the last days as a time of difficulty. 2 Timothy 3:13,
“Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
Jesus asked in Luke 18:8,
“When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
That does seem like an odd question for Jesus to ask if he were a postmillennialist. Another possible weakness is the imminent return of Christ.
Strengths. Postmillennialism seems to reflect some parables — the mustard seed, the leaven parable. Matthew 13:31,
“He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown, it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’ He told them another parable. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.’”
These parables seem to describe a kind of expansion that could fit a postmillennial perspective.
A second strength of postmillennialism is it cultivates Great Commission optimism. Great Commission optimism. When Jesus said,
“‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’” And by the way, I’m going to be with you always, to the end.
So, there’s so much authority and confidence and optimism in the words of Christ, that a postmillennial would say, “Yes, that’s what we’re here to do.” And by the way, one other aspect of that is, most postmillennialists are really good at engaging culture. You’ll never find a postmillennial who says, “Hey, the world’s just going to burn, no use doing good. No use looking out for the common good.” This this is one of those points that I think, whatever your view, you can go away from that saying, “That’s something I can learn from my brothers and sisters that is really, really important.” I’m teaching a class all week on the church and culture so perhaps that is really big in my mind. How do we view the common good? A postmillennialist gets that.
Number 2, Amillennialism, amillennialism. Jesus will return (sort of) after the millennium. But notice the millennium is in quotations because “a” means no. No millennium. But most amillennialists don’t like to be called amillennialists, more like “realized millennialism” or inaugurated millennialism. Advocates include Roman Catholics since Augustine, mainline Protestants, reformers (THE reformers), as well as conservative reformed denominations today and many evangelicals.
Thousand years is symbolic for a long period of time, from Jesus’ resurrection to his return. And the argument from an “amill” perspective is, Revelation has a lot of symbolic numbers. Why would we start interpreting them literally in chapter 20?
The binding of Satan, Satan was bound at the cross. That’s really important. From an “amill” perspective, what you’re seeing described in verses 1-4 of chapter 20 is a recapitulation back and a description of the binding of Satan at the cross so that the gospel spreads to the nations. You say, is that referred to anywhere else? Good question. Matthew 12:29 Jesus said,
“How can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man?”
And in the verse before that he said, “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God is come upon you.”
So, Jesus connected his coming kingdom with the binding of Satan so his kingdom would come, and he related that to his casting out of demons, demonstrating his power over the enemy. So, whatever your view of the millennium, I think this is another one of those morsels we can look at, even if you’re not “amill,” and say, “Yes, there is a way in which Satan was bound at the cross” that is vital for us to see.
Verse 4 talks about a resurrection. According to “amill,” believers who die reign with Christ in heaven. So, this resurrection is a spiritual resurrection. And that is why, according to an “amill” perspective, verse 4 calls these people “souls,” highlighting the spiritual aspect of this resurrection. Some amillennialists, like Augustine, believed that the resurrection equals regeneration. And they would turn to passages like Ephesians 2:6, God “raised us up with him [Christ] and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
So, what are some weaknesses of amillennialism? Satan does not seem to be bound today. See, if we are experiencing the millennium today in heaven and lived out on earth, is Satan’s condition as described in verses 2 and 3, where Satan is seized, bound, thrown into a pit that is shut and sealed so that he might not deceive the nations any longer? Yet you have passages like Revelation 12:9 where the enemy, Satan, is described as the deceiver of the world. He is currently, 1 Peter 5:8, prowling in order to devour. Acts 5:3, he is lying. 2 Corinthians 4:4, he is “blinding the minds of unbelievers” to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel. And even more significantly, 1 John 5:19, written by the same (I believe) author as recorded these words in Revelation.
“We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
An “amiller” has to reconcile a statement like that with Revelation 20, which is describing the enemy as in a sealed, shut pit so that he cannot deceive.
Second possible weakness of amillennialism is, the action is on earth. Most amillennialists emphasize that resurrected believers are reigning with Christ in heaven (verse 4). Yet 20:1 describes the angel “coming down from heaven,” and all the action after that seems to be describing, culminating in verse 9. This battle on the “plain of the earth” seems to be describing something that’s happening on earth rather than just in heaven. The resurrection described also seems to be a bodily resurrection. They lost their heads rather than just a spiritual resurrection. We can talk about other flow difficulties with chapter 19 and 20. We’ll get to those later.
Let’s talk about some strengths of amillennialism. I think the biggest strength is simplicity. All major events occur when Christ comes, and then the age ends. Makes for a beautiful eschatology chart. Simple — Christ returns, final battle, resurrection, judgments, new heavens, new earth — which some passages seem to communicate that simplicity and clarity. Second strength is, no other text clearly teaches a 1000-year millennium. There are other texts that might refer to, many that refer to the millennium, but “amillers” would argue that no other text clearly teaches a 1000-year millennium.
Third, the New Testament seems to teach one resurrection rather than two. John 5:28, Jesus talked about “an hour is coming” and then described the resurrection, so one. And then as Schreiner points out, many “millennial texts” from the Old Testament are not alluded to, referred to, in Revelation 20. So, follow me here. Many millennial texts from the Old Testament, which you would think would be referred to in chapter 20 as describing the millennium, but are actually used, referenced, alluded to in Revelation 21-22, which is describing the new heaven and the new earth. So, most amillennialists would say all those passages in the Old Testament that you keep referring to as to the millennium, they would, most “amillers” would put them in the new heaven and the new earth as passages like Isaiah 60, Ezekiel 40-48, which are referenced in Revelation 21 and 22, which is describing the new heaven and the new earth. If “amillers” were wrong, you would think they would be referenced in Revelation 20. Have I totally lost you? You guys are doing well. You get spiritual cred for this.
Number 3, premillennialism, last one. Jesus will return when? Before, “pre,” before the millennium. While all these positions (post-, a-, pre-) have various versions, I need to highlight a distinction, because at this time in our country there are two versions of premillennialism that are both quite popular. The first one is dispensational premillennialism, which teaches a secret rapture occurs preceding a seven-year tribulation that culminates in Jesus’s return to inaugurate the millennium. This position focuses on the fulfillment of promises to Israel and a strong distinction between Israel and the church. The millennium, according to dispensational premillennialism, is all about land, seed, blessing, promises being fulfilled in the millennium to Israel. This position was popularized by Plymouth Brethren in the 19th century and is held today I would say by many, if not most evangelicals and charismatics would be dispensational premillennialists. Men like John MacArthur, Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord — many of these would be dispensational premillennialists.
The second version of premillennialism is what we could call historic or historical, not hysterical. Jesus returns to inaugurate the millennium. And this position was held by most of the church fathers, including Papias. The reason he’s a big deal is he sat under the Apostle John. He was buddies with Polycarp. John, the one who recorded Revelation. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Peter Hubbard. Did that just slip out? So, I’m telling you, I’m not an objective source. I fit into that version.
So, premillennialism in general, what does it teach about the thousand years? Usually, most premillennialists believe that the thousand years are a literal 1000 years. Not all, but most. The binding of Satan, Satan is seized, bound, thrown into a shut and sealed pit, not able to deceive the nations. There’s a period where he is not active on this earth. Resurrection equals believers are raised to reign with Christ. So, this is the first resurrection described in verse 5, and it is a bodily resurrection. Unbelievers are raised later to stand in judgment as described down in verses 5 and 6, described as vulnerable to the second death.
So, what are some weaknesses of this view? One of the big challenges for premillennialists is you have unglorified and glorified people living together in the millennium. That raises big questions. What’s going on there, where people who have been glorified through the resurrection and people who have not yet received their glorified bodies are living together in the millennium. Second possible weakness, Jesus’ return does not end death. Death continues after he returns (which can be a challenge to some verses) and bring judgment and reward. Judgment, reward, death don’t all happen when Christ returns, as some passages like Matthew 25 seem to imply.
What are some strengths of “premill”? One is the flow of Revelation 19 through 21 — super clean. Throughout Revelation, we have seen a lot of what we’ve called a recapitulation. That is restating the same thing from a different angle. There are many passages that go back and cover. It’s not, in other words, all chronological. So, the question now is, is Revelation 19 and 20 another example of recapitulation (in other words, covering the same material), or is it chronologically, is it moving the scene along? And I would argue that Revelation 20 has so many time and transition markers that seem to move us chronologically that this would not be … Or let me say a premillennialist would not view this as a place for recapitulation. Let me show you what I mean. Chapter 19:11, Christ returns. The beast and false prophet are destroyed at the end of the chapter, but you’re waiting for that third member of the unholy trinity. You’ve got the beast, the false prophet. Where is Satan? Why is he not destroyed? Chapter 20, he is. He is bound. Verse four, “after that, he must be released for a little while.” And then in verse 7, he was released when the thousand years were ended. So, the flow is very tight and clean and makes logical sense in Revelation 19 and 20.
Second strength of “premill” is, the Bible only needs to say things once, a “premill” would argue. So, only one time is a thousand-year reign specifically mentioned, but yet other events like the Tower Babel and others are only mentioned once. That doesn’t make them less significant. “Premillers” would argue that there are many passages that refer to a time that would be characterized as the millennium. For example, Revelation 2:26,
“The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.”
So, what a “premill” would argue is, there are passages like this that seem to indicate that there is a ruling over unregenerate people and that doesn’t fit in the new heavens and the new earth. Where does that fit in? Possibly a millennium.
Another strength is, Jesus lived on earth with a glorified body with his disciples who had unglorified bodies. Now, granted, it was only for how many days? Forty days. But it does respond to the argument that that is unheard of, unthinkable, unreasonable. It has happened. Grudem highlights number 3, there are passages that fit the millennium but not the eternal state. Let me just give you one example. Isaiah 65:20,
“No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.”
So, this seems to be describing a time when there will be no infant mortality, no untimely mortality/death, and yet sin, which seems to be a transitional time. That’s not true now yet won’t be true in the new heaven and new earth. Is there a possibility it’s referring to the millennium?
Let’s go back to the three big ideas we started with. What we’ve tried to do so far is just, could we look at the three major views? And now we’re going to step back and look at the three big ideas we talked about last week but move in a little closer to those ideas to answer the question “Why?” Why a millennium? And most of the answers I’m giving now are shaded by a “premill” perspective. The reason I’m doing that, not just because that’s the position I hold, but our church’s official teaching position is premillennialism. Now, we have made clear in the past, and I will do it again, that we have even elders who hold different positions on the millennium. So, you’re welcome here if your post-, a-, pre-. This is not an area, as I said, that we divide with one another. We unite in preparing for the coming of Christ, even if we don’t all agree on all the details surrounding his coming. Are we clear on that? He is coming, and that’s the part we unite on. But as a teaching position, our church teaches premillennialism.
So, how do we understand the purpose of the millennium from this perspective? And let me give you three ways flowing out of those three big ideas we talked about last week. The first one is Satan is going down, but he seems to go down incrementally. Why doesn’t Jesus just destroy him with the beast and the false prophet? Look at verse 3 for a clue. “After that he must be released for a little while.” Now, must be released for a little while is more than just telling us Satan’s to-do list. “That must” is a theodicy statement in Revelation. What is theodicy? Theodicy is the vindication of God and his ways. There’s something about the downfall of Satan that tells us something about us and about God which is important to see.
Well, what is that? Well think about the book of Revelation. People have had an opportunity all throughout the book of Revelation, specifically in chapter 9, chapter 16, opportunity to repent and many have refused to repent. And so, according to Grant Osborne,
“And now, many of them are forced to experience the reign of Christ for a thousand years … without a devil to deceive them. Yet, when he is released, they all flock after him in a millisecond and once again join the rebellion against God. One of the purposes of this passage is to justify the necessity of eternal punishment.”
Now this is hard for us to swallow for a number of reasons. But it’s really significant because it tells us a lot about us and about God. Because many of us believe that if we had more time — let’s say a thousand years — or if we had more evidence — let’s say Christ was reigning right in our midst and you could see his pierced hand, hear his life-changing words, see the miracle of resurrection right before you — then we would all believe, then we would all follow. And yet Revelation 20 describes a very different scene, that there are people living under the reign of Christ who submit to Christ’s reign while he’s in charge. But then as soon as he permits the devil to deceive again, they turn and run after him once again. That is a magnifying glass on our hearts as fallen creatures, and it highlights the fact that our need is greater than just more visible evidence, more time to grasp the questions we can’t understand. Our need is deep. We need heart-changing miracles of God’s transforming grace. Otherwise, no matter how much evidence, no matter how many opportunities, we will turn away.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus illustrates this point. You remember that, where the rich man and Lazarus both died? Jesus told this story. And the rich man is pleading for Lazarus, if he could just dip his finger and touch my tongue with some cold water. Anything to soothe my torment. Again, this tells us so much. It’s like Jesus is giving us a little picture of the future. The rich man, even in hell, is still thinking that Lazarus, the poor man, is his servant. The rich man hasn’t changed at all. And Abraham says, “No.” There’s a gulf. Lazarus isn’t your slave anymore. And so, then the rich man said, well, then could you do me another favor? Would you send someone to warn my five, I have five brothers. If they saw someone raised from the dead who warned them, then they would surely not come and be in this (he uses the words) “place of torment.” And look what Abraham said. Luke 16:29,
“‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he [the rich man] said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
The millennium is populated with people, many of whom have been raised from the dead, Jesus reigning in the midst, and yet they’re still deceivable as soon as Satan is released. Perhaps one of the purposes of Satan going down the way he goes down is that we might all see now a warning of the irrationality of sin. Theologians call it the noetic effects of the fall. Even our minds are warped. We will not, apart from the grace of God, choose the most beautiful and the right and the true. And so, if anything, the millennium is an invitation. Come to me. My grace is being offered to you now. Don’t presume upon the fact that your intellect will reason your way out to salvation.
The second big idea is, Jesus is reigning with his resurrected heirs. And in the millennium Jesus does on this earth with his people what Adam did not do. Adam was put in the Garden of Eden to exercise dominion — to work and keep it, guard it. This is the calling of a priest of God. Israel is described as “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). We, God’s people, Christians, are called “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus, in Revelation 1:6 “made us a kingdom, priests to our God and Father.” As James Hamilton emphasizes,
“This angel [20:1] has done what Adam failed to do — Adam was to guard (keep) the garden. This angel has also done what Israel failed to do when they entered the land — to drive out all of its inhabitants. So, with Christ slaying his enemies and putting the beast and the false prophet in the lake of fire, and with this angel binding Satan and putting him in a shut and sealed pit for a thousand years, it is as though the land is finally cleansed of the serpent and his seed. Now the glory of God will cover the dry lands of this earth as the waters cover the sea.”
And with that in mind, it’s not a shocker that verse 4 describes thrones with rulers. Christ reigns with his resurrected heirs, his people, reigning.
And then finally, God is not in a hurry. Jesus is reigning with his resurrected heirs, not just in the new heavens and new earth, but on this earth redeeming this earth. Number 3, God is not in a hurry. For many of us, as we’ve wrestled with this passage, we have at times longed to skip from verses 1-3 where Satan goes down all the way to the great white throne and into the new heaven and the new earth. Why the millennium? But as Grudem summarizes,
“The entire scope of the Bible reveals to us that it is God’s good pleasure to unfold his purposes and reveal more and more of his glory gradually over time. The calling of Abraham. The birth of Isaac. Sojourn in Egypt. The exodus. Establishing the people in the promised land. The Davidic kingdom. Divided monarchy. Exile. Return. Faithful remnant. Coming of Jesus in the flesh.”
“God’s purposes were increasingly seen to be glorious and wonderful … All this to say that God’s way is not to bring to realization all of his good purposes at once, but to unfold them gradually over time.”
Perhaps the millennium is another example of the way God unfolds things, his purposes, gradually. He is not in a hurry. 2 Peter 3:8, “One day is as a thousand years.” He is gradually and faithfully working out his purposes.
Father, we have bitten off a lot today, and many of us can walk out of here today just feeling overwhelmed by a wave of information. But we pause now to say, “Lord, what were you saying to us — the way we think about you, the way we respond to you?” For some of us, you’re calling us to yourself. We’re waiting for a time when we have enough evidence or feel rationally convinced. The millennium is an invitation, just come to Jesus. Come to him now. He alone can work miracles of grace in our hearts to change us from the inside out. I pray for some of us who struggle with messages like this. We just want to know. And I pray that you would grow us in curiosity, humility, sound judgment, wisdom, discernment. And Lord, most of all, that you would just expand our vision of the way you work out your purposes, that even if we don’t understand it all, it just makes us adore you even more. Your steadfast love is upon us even as we hope in you. And we thank you in Jesus’ name, amen.