A Short Study of Revelation 20's 1,000 Years (Part 2)
April, 1996 by Larry Wilson
In our last study, we examined three important points about the millennium. Briefly, they were:
2. Each presentation on the millennium is based on suppositions or axioms that the expositor believes to be true. In my case, the doctrine concerning the state of man in death is integral to my understanding of God’s purpose for the millennium. The doctrine of man’s mortality, when integrated with the four rules that govern apocalyptic interpretation, describe a twofold purpose for the millennium. First, the saints will be granted time to review the pre-Advent judgment process. They will be able to see how Jesus determined why some people are unfit for eternal life. Second, the saints will review the deeds of the wicked and determine appropriate restitution for the evil acts they committed. The golden rule will be applied at the end of the 1,000 years. This rule states that it will be done unto the wicked as they did unto others — plus interest!
3. There are seven groups of people that Jesus must deal with at the Second Coming. The special resurrection before the Second Coming, the resurrection at the Second Coming and the resurrection at the end of the 1,000 years reveals how God deals with these groups of people. The seven groups are:
I hope this brief review has been helpful since today’s study is based on certain details presented in Part I. (If you don’t have Part I, you may want to call the WUAS office and order the March, 1996 issue of Day Star.)
The Role of Israel During the Millennium
The New Testament teaches that God has an “Israel.” However, God’s New Testament Israel is not the same nation as Israel of the Old Testament! In fact, the Israel mentioned in Revelation's story is not the nation of Israel founded in 1948. Please remember this point as you read the rest of this article because the role of Israel is pivotal to the understanding which many Christians have on the millennium.
Here are three reasons why the Old Testament nation of Israel is not to be confused with the New Testament nation of Israel:
#1: Jesus established a new nation.
When Christ came to Earth the first time, the nation He had chosen to herald His coming rejected Him. (John 1:11) So, He established a new nation, also called Israel. The apostles considered themselves to be members of this new nation made up of twelve tribes. (See James 1:1 and James 2:1.) This new nation is not limited to people of any particular biological descent. On the contrary, this new nation is comprised of all people who put their faith in Christ and “are born again in the Spirit”. (John 3:5) Ephesians 2 and Galatians 3 confirm this point. In Ephesians 2, Paul tells the Gentile converts in Ephesus that Jesus Himself dissolved the two nations (Jews and Gentiles) and made a new nation [a new Israel] out of the two. Carefully read what Paul said (my remarks are enclosed in brackets [ ]):
Ephesians 2:10-22 “For we [all human beings] are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by [natural] birth and called “uncircumcised” by those [the Jews] who call themselves “the circumcision” ([but it is only] done in the body by the hands of men) — remember that at that time [before Christ came to Earth] you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in [the nation of] Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near [reconciled] through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace [union], who has made the two [nations] one and has destroyed the [religious] barrier, the dividing wall of hostility [that religion causes], by abolishing in his flesh the [constitutional] law [of Israel] with its [endless number of] commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two [nations], thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility [so that God and His salvation are the same for both of us].
He came and preached peace to you [Gentiles] who were far away and peace to those [of us Jews] who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens [as our Jewish constitution once declared], but [you are] fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
In him the whole building [house or nation] is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
When Jesus came to Earth, He removed an enormous barrier to salvation which was erected by the leaders of Israel. Understand the problem, for it is quite logical. Israel’s leaders knew the special covenant given to Abraham and his descendants. What they did not understand was the premise underlying the covenant. The basic premise for salvation has forever been faith. But, it is the nature of man to “justify” himself in God’s sight by fleshly works. So, it was just a matter of time until the Jews wrongfully concluded that salvation was only possible for the offspring of Abraham since the covenant excluded foreigners or Gentiles. (A point that Paul emphasizes in the text above.) In other words, at the time of Christ, the leaders of Israel believed that salvation came through lineage rather than faith. Therefore, any Gentile wanting salvation first had to become a “son” of Israel. With this in mind, you can now understand the words of Jesus to the Pharisees. He said: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Matthew 23:15)
The Jews were to be a means to salvation. But, they became an obstacle to salvation due to their narrow and exclusive thinking. This is the reason why Jesus established a new nation when He was on Earth, also called Israel in the New Testament. Citizenship in this new nation continues (as always) to come through the faith experience. This might be confusing at first, but consider this point: Salvation has always come through faith. (Genesis 15:6; Romans 1:17; Ephesians 2:8) When God established the first nation of Israel at the Exodus, he intended to have a nation of “faith-full” helpers to tell the world about His goodness and mercy, His justice and wrath. He chose the nation of Israel to be trustees of the gospel. However, because of national apostasy, Israel came to view itself as the beneficiary of the gospel rather than its trustee. So, Israel became intolerant, exclusive and arrogant, ignoring the needs of the Gentiles. When Jesus came to straighten this matter out, He could not budge the self-righteousness of the religious leaders nor would they relinquish religious control over the people.
When Jesus went to the cross, He broke down the wall of exclusivity that Israel had built around salvation. Jesus reaffirmed the condition of salvation: faith. (John 3:16) Because Israel corporately refused to change, Jesus had no alternative but to establish a new kingdom upon the experience of faith. The trustees of this new nation are those who receive the Word of God and live by faith in Christ. It no longer matters whether one is born a Jew or a Gentile!
Citizenship through faith stands in stark contrast to the heavy hand of obedience that Israel’s leaders required. Because faith, not biological heritage determines membership in the family of Abraham, Paul states that in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile. Paul also claims that every Gentile who receives Christ shall inherit (that is, receive) all that was promised to Abraham. (See below, Galatians 3:22-29.) His statement eliminates the exclusive focus on modern Israel that so many claim today, because the Israel that will be saved (according to Paul in Romans 9-11) comprises all people who have been grafted into the covenant and promises given to faith-full Abraham. Yes, the modern nation of Israel will participate in end-time events, but so will the Australians and the Canadians. Revelation does not specifically mention any nationality except the spiritual nation of Christ, the New Testament Israel. Again, the Israel of the New Testament is not determined by one’s family tree. Instead, citizenship in Spiritual Israel is determined by faith. Notice what Paul says:
Galatians 3:22-29: “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised [by God to Abraham, namely, salvation and complete restitution], [is now] being given [or offered] through faith in Jesus Christ, [so that everyone] might be given [the promise] to those who believe [in salvation through Christ rather than to those who are born as biological descendants of Abraham and depend upon His righteousness].
Before [the understanding of] this faith came, we were held prisoners by the [constitutional] law [that governed immigration into Israel -- the world was], locked up until faith should be revealed. So the [constitutional] law was put in charge to lead us [Jews] to Christ [by constantly revealing our need of a Savior so] that we [Jews] might be justified by faith.
Now that faith has come [and Christ has clearly shown that citizenship in Christ’s kingdom is through faith], we are no longer under the supervision of the [constitutional] law [to determine who shall constitute Israel]. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus [just like those Jews who have received Him through faith], for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ [and what better garment of righteousness do we need?].
[Because the constitution of Israel has been made void] There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you [Galatians] are all one in Christ Jesus [just like believing Jews]. If you belong to Christ, then you are [reckoned as] Abraham’s seed, and [as such, you are] heirs according to the promise [that God gave him].”
The fundamental point in Ephesians 2 and Galatians 3 is this: God established a new nation of people based upon faith in Christ because of Israel’s failure. Israel failed to produce the fruit that God wanted. Jesus told the Jews, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43) Just before His crucifixion, Jesus signaled His rejection of Israel by saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.” (Matthew 23:37,38) Because God abandoned Israel, He made void its constitution. (Colossians 2:13-17) While it is true that the spiritual nation of Israel shares certain similarities with the Israel of flesh, there are some important dissimilarities and knowing the difference strongly affects my understanding of Revelation and of course, the millennium.
Note: Some people have accused me of being anti-Semitic because I present an unfavorable picture of Israel from the Bible. I am not anti-Semitic at all. If I present the Biblical record concerning the Babylonians, Egyptians or Hittites, and the Biblical record is unfavorable in each case, am I anti-Babylonian, anti-Egyptian or anti-Hittite? No. The historical record speaks for itself. The facts are all in the Bible. As mankind goes, the Jews are human beings like the Egyptians, Hittites, Babylonians and all other races. We have all been endowed with certain inalienable rights and privileges.
When it comes to the work of God on Earth, the Bible indicates that a corporate opportunity was granted to the descendants of Jacob (Israel). They were to be a light for the Gentiles. (Acts 13:47; Isaiah 43:10) But, according to the Bible, they failed. After the crucifixion of Christ, that corporate opportunity was transferred from biological Israel to those who believed in Christ. (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 11:23)
So, Christians are forever indebted to Old Testament Israel for numerous reasons. However, Jews and Christians part company over the issue of salvation as it relates to Jesus Christ. The transition from the Israel of flesh to the Israel of faith is an important study and it goes beyond the scope of this brief look at the millennium. For further study, the reader is encouraged to read the chapter, “Promises that could not be kept”, page 205 and onward, in my book, 18 End-Time Bible Prophecies and/or to obtain the first four audio tapes of seminar #125 presented at last year’s seminar in Durango, Colorado, 1995.
#2 The covenant given to Abraham will be fulfilled.
The second reason we should not confuse Old Testament Israel with New Testament Israel is stated in the original covenant given to Abraham.
Abraham found favor in God’s sight because Abraham was willing to walk humbly with God and be His faithful servant. (Gen. 12) The covenant God gave to Abraham involved three things. First, God promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations (notice the plural). (Gen. 17:4) Second, God promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the “Beautiful Land” forever. (Gen. 17:8) Last, God informed Abraham a full year before Isaac's birth that he would perpetuate His covenant through Isaac, not Ishmael. (Gen. 17:19)
These three points require some explanation. First, God intended that Abraham would be the father of many nations. This shows that God was looking beyond the biological reproduction of Abraham’s offspring. Can a man be a biological father of many nations if he is limited to one nation that flows through Isaac? Isn’t Abraham the father of the Arabs through Ishmael also? Absolutely. The promise God gave to Abraham related to the “adoption” of other nations who were not part of Abraham’s lineage by birth. God included these other nations as part of Abraham’s offspring because they would love God as Abraham did. This point is crucial. Abraham was to be the father of many nations — not one. (Incidently, this covenant will be fulfilled after the resurrection at Christ's second coming when Abraham sees the global harvest of souls who have faith in Christ.)
Second, the promise that the descendents of Abraham would inherit the “Beautiful Land” forever shows that God was looking beyond the physical borders of Canaan. Yes, physical Canaan was a beautiful land, but that beauty was marred by sin. God promised Abraham a glorious land where righteousness would exist forever. That is what Abraham wanted. (Hebrews 11:10) If the descendants of Jacob (Israel) had fulfilled all that God wanted, the whole plan of salvation would have been quite different than we now understand it!
Last, when God gave the covenant to Abraham, Isaac was not born. Abraham could not love an unborn Isaac at that time. Instead, he loved Ishmael and he pleaded with God to make Ishmael the one through whom His promises would be fulfilled. (Genesis 17:18) However, God chose Isaac, and by this choice He demonstrated that His covenant would be perpetuated through children of faith, not of human works. Notice that God did not reject Ishmael because he was inferior to the unborn Isaac — not at all. Instead, God wanted to make it radiantly clear that His covenant with man, through Abraham, was contingent on faith. The contingencies of faith were then renewed and reviewed with the offspring of Jacob (Israel) from time to time as centuries passed. (Leviticus 26:14,15; Deut. 28; Joshua 24:15)
So, how do these three points demonstrate the difference between the New Testament Israel and the Old Testament Israel? All that God promised Abraham will certainly come to pass. We will see the fulfillment of this covenant when people from all nations (the new Israel) enter the eternal Promised Land (the new Earth) as a result of placing their faith in Christ (because the covenant belongs to those who live by faith).
#3 Jesus will create a perfect kingdom in the New Earth.
The third reason for separating Old Testament Israel from New Testament Israel is based on Jesus' promises to His disciples. As written earlier, Jesus confirmed the presence of a new kingdom when He was upon Earth. Immigration into Christ’s kingdom is based on the work of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:14; Hebrews 12:22,23; John 3) If a person responds to the Holy Spirit and lives by faith, the Holy Spirit completely transforms that individual. When Jesus comes the second time, He will only gather up people who have lived by faith. Your biological lineage will be of no value (even if your father and grandfather were great preachers). (Ezekiel 14:20)
Notice how the process works. If we are willing to live by faith now, the Holy Spirit will create a clean heart and renew a right attitude within us (Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26-29). During the Great Tribulation, after a test of faith, the righteousness of Christ will be imparted (the sealing is the restoration of Adam’s nature before the fall). When Jesus comes, He will change our old bodies into a new creation so that we can inhabit the new kingdom! This kingdom has been in the works since sin began. Notice these texts:
John 18:36, “Jesus said [to Pilate], “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
Who will live in the house [or kingdom] of Christ? Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50) Again, Jesus assured His disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3)
Consider this point: When the faith-full from all nations are gathered into the kingdom of Christ at the time of the Second Coming, there will be a period of adjustment! Just because two people are faith-full doesn’t necessarily mean they will see everything eye-to-eye! Remember the divisive problem that separated Paul and Mark? (Acts 15:37,38) So, notice this text: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” ( Revelation 22:1-2) Did you notice that last sentence? What is “the healing of the nations” that comes from the leaves of the tree of life? I do not think the leaves are used to produce an herbal tonic — this would be unnecessary with perfect bodies and perfect fruit. Instead, I believe this language points forward to the time when “Abraham’s children” from all nations, languages and cultures will gather each month to eat from the tree of life. When they get the fruit, they will sit under the shady leaves of the Tree of Life, learning to know and love each other. Love brings healing and a person cannot love someone he or she does not know. We may have love for those we do not know, but truly loving someone requires a personal relationship. I anticipate that eating the fruit (or juicing as some of my friends in Texas prefer) will be a wonderful experience in days to come. The end result will be a new kingdom of one family with millions and millions of new brothers and sisters!
All Israel will be Saved
Paul concludes that at the end of time, the true Israel will be saved because God’s promise to Abraham will be fulfilled. “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.” (Romans 11:25,26) Some Christians manipulate this verse and interpret it to mean something entirely different than what it says. They believe that Paul means when a certain number of Gentiles are converted to Christianity, then the nation of Israel will repent from its rejection of Christ. This, many preachers claim, happens the day after the rapture occurs. But, a deeper analysis reveals that this is not the meaning of this verse.
Notice two things: First, Paul has already made the point that all of the believers in Christ are grafted into the root of God’s promise to Abraham. This proves that the promises to Abraham are passed on only to those who live by faith. Paul clearly states: “If some of the branches [Jews] have been broken off, and you [Gentiles], though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others [believing Jews] and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those [dead or abandoned] branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted [most of Israel has failed]. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you [too, may only] stand by faith [in Christ]. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural [biological] branches [of Abraham], he will not spare you either.” (Romans 11:17-21)
So, what does Paul mean in this verse? “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” In plain language Paul is saying to the Gentile believers in Rome: “Understand how God has transformed a lemon into lemonade. God took Israel's rejection of Christ and used it to glorify Christ. Even though Israel rejected Him as Messiah, God will accomplish all that He intended to do from the beginning. When the full number of Gentile believers has been reached that God is waiting for, the end will come. Thus, a multi-national Israel will be saved.
Note: Incidently, the description of the 12 tribes in Revelation 7 (the 144,000) proves this point. The 144,000 will be people from every nation, kindred, tongue and people. They will be the leaders of spiritual Israel during the Great Tribulation. They are the first fruits of a worldwide harvest.
It is most important to distinguish between the two nations of Israel. This subject is widely distorted among Christians. If we ignore all that Paul writes on the subject of the two nations, we can eagerly anticipate things that the Bible does not predict at all. Since this is actually happening today, a great delusion is forthcoming. The devil will appear on Earth personating Christ and he will fulfill the things that people believe is Biblical. The devil's deception will be complete!
The Baker’s Dozen
In our previous study, I listed these questions for your consideration. Here are my responses to the questions. Hopefully, the answers will prompt further study.
1. Where are the saints during the 1,000 years?
They will reign with Christ in Heaven. This conclusion is based on four concepts: First, when Christ appears at the Second Coming, He kills all the wicked. (Revelation 19:15-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:8) Second, the righteous people who have died and the righteous people who are still alive will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Important point: Christ does not walk upon the Earth at the Second Coming, rather He calls the saints up to meet Him in the air. (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17) Third, the devil is put into the Abyss for 1,000 years so that he cannot deceive anyone. The Abyss is the spirit realm from which Satan was released during the fifth trumpet. If the saints are in Heaven for 1,000 years, and the wicked are sleeping in the grave, there is no one for the devil to deceive. Furthermore, he cannot go anywhere else and tempt the inhabitants of the universe because he is “chained” to his Earthly prison. (Revelation 20:1-3) Last, it appears that the saints descend from Heaven to Earth in the Holy City at the end of the 1,000 years. (Rev. 21:2-22:5)
2. Where are the wicked during the 1,000 years?
All of the wicked are dead. Waiting for the second resurrection and the white throne judgment scene. (Revelation 20:5; 20:12,13)
3. What are the saints and wicked doing during the 1,000 years?
The saints will have the responsibility of determining the appropriate punishment for wicked people and Satan’s angels. (1 Corinthians 6:1-3) The wicked are in the sleep-like state of death.
4. Did God specifically pre-decree a precise period of 1,000 Earth-years or should this time-period be interpreted as a general statement?
If God wanted to say “about” 1,000 years, He could have said so. I do not believe the time-period to be more or less than 1,000 years. (See Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8.)
5. Should the 1,000 years be reckoned as literal time or should this time-period be calculated as 360,000 (360 x 1,000) years using the day/year principle?
I believe the Jubilee calendar closed at the Spring equinox in March, 1994. If the Jubilee calendar is no longer functioning, there is no reason to calculate prophetic time as a day for a year after March, 1994.
6. Does the millennium occur before or after Christ sets up His kingdom on Earth?
On the basis of the material presented in these two studies, I am confident that Jesus will gather up His children to meet Him in the air and then take them to Heaven at the beginning of the millennium. Then, during the 1,000 years, He allows the saints to conduct the business of determining restitution. At the end of the 1,000 years, the Holy City and the saints descend to Earth. At that time, the wicked are resurrected to behold God’s offer of salvation and why He could not save them. Then, punishment begins and ultimately, the Earth is cleansed of every impurity. Hallelujah! After 7,000 years of sin, a new heaven and a new Earth are created. Finally, we can say, the kingdom of God is fully established on Earth.
7. How does the 1,000 years relate to the other parts of Revelation’s story?
Basically, the time-period of 1,000 years is important, for it allows us to see the big picture of God’s plan before it comes to pass. Knowing that the 1,000 years is part of His plan helps us to determine the contents of the plan!
8. What event marks the beginning of 1,000 years?
The Second Coming.
9. What event marks the end of the 1,000 years?
The descent of the Holy City and the resurrection of the wicked.
10. Will the 1,000 years of Revelation 20 be the seventh millennium since sin began, in effect, a sabbatical rest for Earth?
Yes. I find it interesting how God worked six days to create this world and He rested on the seventh day. (Genesis 2) Consider the parallel: Sin works its evil for 6 millennial days, but God has declared a temporary rest for 1 millennial day so that Earth can be put back into proper “working” order for the beginning of eternity (the 8th day)!
11. What is God’s overall purpose for the 1,000 years?
In addition to the purpose stated in Question 10, it is a time-period for the saints to investigate all that God has done and why He did things the way He did. Also, it is a time when the saints can assure themselves that God’s character and government are altogether righteous before He destroys any loved one.
12. Even though the 1,000 years are only mentioned in Revelation 20, do other Bible writers indirectly speak of this time-period?
Some people say that Jeremiah 4:23-27 contains veiled language about the millennium. However, I do not think any details of the millennium were released in the Old Testament. God's original plan was to rescue Earth from sin through the efforts of Israel. This plan did not require a 1,000 year respite from sin. I believe the millennium is another example how God takes the failures of man and makes them beautiful.
13. What will the devil and his angels be doing during the millennium?
They will reflect daily on the non-sense of rebellion against God and they will churn with anxiety over their coming destruction -- especially the restitution phase.
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