Theology Posts

RickNotes: The Anatomy of a Disciple

I have been asked by countless people, “How would you summarize The Anatomy of a Disciple?” Here is how I might describe it to someone:

  1. Most Christians hear bits and pieces about the Christian life from sermons, books, blog posts, Facebook chatter and the like, but few could ever describe the dynamics of the Christian life. All of the things people hear and read about the Christian life are like puzzle pieces. The Anatomy of a Disciple is the box top that shows how all the pieces fit together into a beautiful, wonderful mosaic.
  2. God is working to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ, to become like Him, to become mature like He is mature. He is changing us, more and more, to be like Him.
  3. All the change in the life of a Christian begins with God initiating that change. It continues with God sustaining that life change, and God will complete it. It is so arrogant for us to think we can make ourselves like God. That is Satan’s aspiration: to make himself like the Most High God. God is the life-change agent, not us.
  4. God is working to change us, not to just modify our behavior so we will look and act more like Him. He is truly changing us at the core of our being to be more like Him, from the inside out.
  5. God begins by changing our hearts to be more like His heart. The heart is the seat of the essence of our being. It is the taproot that determines who we really are. It is the home of the Holy Spirit for all believers. God is working on our hearts so we will increasingly become more Humbly Submitted to Him as the Lord and Master of our lives.
  6. God is also changing our minds, through His Word and His Spirit, to increasingly have His perspective and understanding – of Him and ourselves, the world around us, life as He designed it, how we are different from Him and how He is changing us day by day. The heart and the mind form the core, the engine of all other life change. The core is the focus of God’s work to change us to be more like Him.
  7. As God is changing our hearts and minds to be more like Him, it will eventually start changing the choices we make in life. We will increasingly become more Sacrificially Generous, like Him, more Morally Discerning, like Him, and more Relationally Healthy, like Him.
  8. Also, as God is changing our hearts, minds and choices, that will impact our compassions for others in the world around us. We will increasingly become more of an Intentional Blessing to others in the world, like Him, more Culturally Engaged in the world, like Him, and practice more Inclusive Community, like Him.
  9. So if God is doing all this in our lives, what role do we play? Our role is not to replace what God is doing with our own efforts. What God does call us to do and helps us to do is to pay attention to where He is working in our lives and then get in step with Him and what He is doing. This is an act of faith – that God knows what He is doing.

That is the essence of The Anatomy of a Disciple. God is changing you to be more like Him in your heart, your mind, your choices and your compassions. Your role is to look for and pay attention to what God is doing in your life and get in step with Him. And when you mess up – and you will, because we all do – you admit it, lift your eyes up to see what He is doing in your life, and get in step now. That is the life of a disciple who is becoming more like their Master.

Who Am I Going to Vote for to Be President?

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When considering all of human history, having the opportunity to vote is a rare privilege. Many of the world’s population today, and most of it historically, had no say in who would be their national leader. To vote at all is a special gift God has allowed us to take part in.

Understanding that, I am concerned when I hear people, many who I know and respect, say they are just not going to vote. This seems to be at best ignoring or at worst a thumbing of the nose at God’s blessing and gift to choose through a vote.

People often complain they don’t like or agree with any of the candidates. Welcome to a cursed and fallen world. Will there ever be candidates I “totally” agree with or trust? No. There is only one person I could totally agree with and trust: God. I could list GOD on my ballot as a write-in candidate, but I really don’t believe a majority of the country will write in GOD as their candidate of choice. Or anyone else we could write in for that matter.

Elections are just that: elections, not “statements.” Write-in candidate votes are usually statements, not votes. They are statements of wishful thinking, not related to reality. They are the equivalent of not voting at all – which is a vote. A vote for letting others choose the president for me.

I hear a great deal about people not liking the morals or language or character of candidates. I agree these are definite considerations. But how do I know the morals, language and character of any of the candidates off camera? I don’t. I would prefer to have a president who is above reproach in morals, language and character. I would prefer that their stance on every issue aligned with the Bible, that they would value what God values. But I also know God can use totally immoral and unethical leaders (such as Nebuchadnezzar and Nero) to accomplish His purposes.

I want to vote for a potential president who will do their part and work hard to perpetuate the freedoms of our country – so the gospel is freer to be communicated. And someone who will protect our security as a nation from those, both within and outside our country, who would seek to destroy our freedoms – so the gospel is freer to be communicated.

I plan to vote for a person who will make the best president of the United States. Not a teacher for my children. Not a pastor or elder in my church. To do so, I can’t live in a dream world that I wish were true, but in the world as it is: fallen and full of evil. According to the biblical text, I am a visitor, an alien and stranger in this world. It is not my home. But I happen to live in a country that gives me, along with every citizen, the privilege to vote for the leader of this country.

I plan to vote, and not stick my head in the sand. I plan to vote in a way that will make the most difference possible, and not ignore my God-given opportunity to make a small difference for the future spread of the gospel.

Socratease: On the Existence of God

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The famous philosopher Socrates lived in Greece from about 470-400 B.C. Stories of his teaching are plentiful in students like Plato and Aristotle. Socratease is my fictional, modern-day version of a Socrates-like character using his same ironic, dialogic form of teaching and applying this method of teaching to today’s issues.

Ben is an acquaintance of Socratease who likes to think of himself as a thoughtful and deep person.

Ben: Socratease, I’m wrestling with whether I believe in a God or not.

Socratease: Who or what are you wrestling with? Are you wrestling with God, the existence of God or with the implications for your life if there is a God?

Ben: Hmm. Not sure I’ve thought about it like that. What’s the difference?

Socratease: Does your wrestling with the existence of God change the reality of whether there is a God or not? Doesn’t He either exist or not exist, no matter if you wrestle with it or believe it? It seems like your wrestling is futile, since it doesn’t change the reality one way or another.

Ben: Yes, that makes sense.

Socratease: How do you explain our existence?

Ben: I’ve always been taught about evolution. We came from a single cell life form that crawled out of the primordial ooze, and then we eventually evolved into human beings.

Socratease: If that’s what you were taught, then it must be true, of course. So the single cell life form came from the primordial ooze. That makes perfect sense. One question. Where did the primordial ooze come from?

Ben: I guess it evolved as well.

Socratease: Of course it evolved. From what?

Ben: Guess I never heard about where the ooze came from.

Socratease: That’s rather foundational, don’t you think?

Ben: Well, yes, I guess it is. I have been taught that the universe banged into existence from what they called infinite density.

Socratease: Yes, I’ve heard that too. What is infinite density exactly? I’ve known some people who are infinitely dense, but I doubt that’s what you’re talking about.

Ben: The way I’ve heard it described, the universe is expanding outward from a central point. If we could rewind the expansion of the universe, eventually it would all be condensed back into this infinitely dense mass.

Socratease: Infinitely dense mass. Could you explain that?

Ben: Well, I’ve heard that at some point all the universe was compacted even smaller than a microdot, not even visible to the human eye. Other scientists have said infinite density is a cloaked way of saying “nothing.” The universe banged into existence out of nothing.

Socratease: Very interesting. So if it banged into existence from something smaller than a microdot, where did the dot come from? If it banged into existence out of nothing, doesn’t that defy the natural science belief about cause and effect, that everything is an effect that comes from an equal or greater tangible source or cause? Isn’t something out of nothing supernatural?

Ben: Either way, something doesn’t match up, does it?

Socratease: So how do you explain the existence of the universe and everything in it now, Ben? Would the existence of a supernatural God be a plausible resolution to your logical dilemma?

Ben: I guess so. Maybe.

Socratease: Well that resonates with confidence. Why do you seem so hesitant, Ben?

Ben: It just seems like a big leap of faith to believe in a supernatural God.

Socratease: A big leap of faith, huh? But believing a single cell life form crawled out of some primordial ooze, that we can’t explain how it got here, as part of a planet called earth, that we can’t explain by natural means how it got here, isn’t a big leap of faith?

Ben: OK, sure. But there isn’t any proof for the existence of God.

Socratease: So you want proof. What kind and how much proof would you need, Ben? Again, is the issue that there isn’t enough evidence for the existence of God, or is it that you don’t want to believe in a God you would be subject to?

Ben: I want to say there’s not enough evidence. But down deep inside I also know it scares me that I would be subject to such a powerful, absolute authority like God.

Socratease: So how much have you searched for evidence for the existence of God?

Ben: Well, not at all, I guess. Why do you ask?

Socratease: From my experience, I rarely find what I haven’t even looked for. If you haven’t sincerely searched for evidence, why are you so surprised you haven’t found what you haven’t looked for? Which brings me to my original question: “Are you wrestling with God, the existence of God or with the implications for your life if there is a God?”

Meet Socratease

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The famous philosopher Socrates (pronounced saw-kruh-teez) lived in Greece from about 470-400 B.C. We actually have little to nothing written by him personally, but we have many stories about Socrates through four other philosophers, mainly Plato and Aristotle. Socrates is consistently portrayed in their stories as a particularly skillful teacher who took dialogue and questions to an all-new level of effectiveness.

If Socrates were alive today, dealing with current issues and events, he would assuredly use his teaching method to make people think more reasonably and logically about their beliefs. His dialogic questioning, salted with irony and sarcasm, would surely bring a smile to many a face, while making us think deeper and more profoundly about life and God and many other issues.

Since Socrates is not alive, and I don’t want to put words and beliefs into the ancient philosopher’s mouth, I am creating a modern day caricature to employ his same method of teaching to today’s world. Meet Socratease[1] and get to know him in the following interview.

Bob (the Interviewer): Good afternoon, Socratease.

Socratease: Is it?

Bob: Well, yes I think it is a good afternoon. I was just trying to be friendly.

Socratease: So how do you determine if something, like this afternoon, is good or not?

Bob: Well, I’m not sure I’ve thought about that before exactly. I guess since nothing bad has happened today, it must be a good afternoon.

Socratease: So you’re saying good is the absence of bad?

Bob: Well, I guess so.

Socratease: And I suppose you would define bad as the absence or opposite of good?

Bob: Sounds like I really haven’t thought this through very well. How would you define good and bad?

Socratease: It seems they are relative ethical terms the way we use them today. But relative to what?

Bob: I’m not sure I understand your question.

Socratease: Good and bad, the way I hear people using those words today, speak to the ethical value of something or someone. But what if I think you are bad but you’re friends think you are good? What was the basis for me saying you are bad, and what was the basis of your friends saying you are good? What is the standard for saying anything is good or bad?

Bob: Isn’t that relative to the person and situation? Depending on how someone looks at something.

Socratease: So what you are saying is each individual person determines what is good or bad, based on their own, individual perspective.

Bob: Well, yes. I mean, that’s what everyone I know says today. Everything is relative.

Socratease: So let me make sure I understand you. If I as an individual think you are bad, and I think your badness is deserving of death, then it is good if I kill you?

Bob: That’s crazy. Of course not! You’ve got to take the whole of society into account as well.

Socratease: So it’s really not the individual that determines good and bad, but each individual society?

Bob: I guess that right.

Socratease: That’s interesting. That being the case, the German society of the 1940s, under the leadership of Adolph Hitler, would have been correct in killing over 6 million Jewish people from all over Europe, because they as a society determined Jewish people were bad. Is that right?

Bob: That’s crazy talk. No, that’s not right. It can’t just be individual societies that determine good and bad; it must be the human society as a whole.

Socratease: So the human society of the world determines good and bad?

Bob: Yes, that must be right.

Socratease: You have red hair, Bob. Are you saying that if the human community could somehow agree on something and decided red-haired people were bad, and needed to be eliminated, that it would be good for them to kill you?

Bob: OK Socratease, it’s obvious there has to be another way of determining what is good and bad besides individual people and societies, or even the whole human society of the world. So what else is left?

Socratease: If there is no reasonable and equitable way we can determine what is good and bad as humans or societies of this world, then could there be someone beyond this world, who might be responsible for this world, who could determine that?

Bob: I don’t know, Socratease. That’s a pretty antiquated belief, there being someone like a God, who created this world and sets the boundaries of good and bad.

Socratease: So you’re saying old ideas and things are bad?

Bob: Oh, I can’t keep going on like this. My brain is getting tired.

Socratease: Your brain? Or is it your logic and beliefs that are getting tired? Have a “good” afternoon, Bob.

1 ©™ Dr. Rick Taylor, 2008.

Biblical Families: Parenting

There are a lot of misconceptions about parenting. Rick and Judy discuss what the Bible says about helping children learn how God designed life to be lived, and how they should respond appropriately to a parent’s authority, and ultimately, to the authority of God.

 

Why is Morality Changing in America?

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There are so many things happening currently in the United States that are concerns: an escalation in the racial divide, growing immigration debates, gay rights disputes, political dysfunction and distrust, a tepid and yet volatile economy, and a decline in religious tolerance. All of these are very real and present issues that should be concerns for all Americans. But there is one subtle phenomenon that is of even greater concern to me than all these issues, because, if not checked, will impact all of these issues and more, making them worse.

What I’m most concerned about is a major shift in the moral foundation of our country. Morality has to do with determining what is right and wrong, but it is also rooted in something that guides it in that decision-making process.

America was settled centuries ago by those seeking religious freedom from nations, mostly in Europe, that had shifted their moral base away from the church and into the halls of the political elite. Determining what was right and wrong had moved from a quasi-biblical basis to the whims of monarchies and government officials. The result was a severe persecution of those who held the former moral base by those who had the new moral base.

Many fled to America with the hope of being able to re-establish an essentially Judo-Christian moral base for making decisions about what is right and wrong. This Judo-Christian moral base was essentially the Bible, and what it taught about right and wrong. Now skip to today in America.

Over the last 60 years, that moral base has shifted significantly in America, as it had in Europe centuries ago. Today we hear much discussion and debate about Supreme Court decisions legalizing such things as abortion and gay marriage. We are told things either are or are not Politically Correct (PC). But all of these more recent experiences are simply expressions of a national morality base that has shifted and continues to shift away from the Bible, and more to what might be called the “what feels good” base of morality.

The grave danger of this shift in our morality base is that the “what feels good” base is a clear shift away from God and His perfect design to mankind and his fallen nature. It is this shift in moral base that historically has led to “every man doing what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). For a glimpse of what this leads to in a culture, just read Judges 17-21.

This has been developing for several decades, but in recent years the floodgate has been opened and the raging waters of change are already beginning to sweep through our country. My deep concern stems from seeing the results of this morality base historically, but also from considering, “what’s next?”

Abortion is justified by what has been dubbed Pro Choice: the right of the mother to choose whether she wants to give birth to a baby that’s in her womb or kill it. We talk about a woman’s right to choose. What we are saying is she has the right to do “what feels good” to her in the moment, even if that means killing an unborn, living baby (see Psalm 139:13-16, for instance).

The Supreme Court has said we no longer need to follow God’s original design for marriage between a man and a woman (see Genesis 2:24, for instance), but we can do “what feels good” to us at the time, including gay marriage.

So with that logic from our new moral base, what can we expect in the future? Our American culture has opened up Pandora’s box.

Already we are seeing courts being told by defense attorneys that incest, pedophilia and even rape are justified, essentially because the person doing the act was just following the “what feels good” moral base. Incest, pedophilia and rape have been considered wrong in our culture because of our biblical moral base of the past. But with that being replaced by the “what feels good” base, there is no moral reason to not condone them in the near future.

One book publisher is already being sued for publishing a book – the Bible – which teaches against homosexuality and dares to call it a sin (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:8-10, for instance). The “what feels good” morality base is challenging the biblical base of the past in open court.

It seems obvious to me this same reasoning will lead to churches being challenged for teaching against incest, pedophilia, bestiality, rape, polygamy and homosexuality from the Bible. How long before the PC police and courts step in and shut down churches altogether for teaching the Bible and its moral base? It has happened before. It is headed in that direction in American now.

I think it is time for Christians who still hold to a biblical morality base and haven’t been seduced into the “what feels good” morality base to do two things: first, stand for biblical truth unashamedly and secondly, pray that God would grant us peace in the midst of this mounting morality storm in our country.

Biblical Families: Submission

Submission from The Well Community Church on Vimeo.

Many people cringe at the concept of submission. Rick and Judy explain what mutual, biblical submission in a marriage is and isn’t (Ephesians 5:21-33), and how it plays out practically and beneficially in real life.

 

 

Submission

Prophecy: The New Heaven and Earth

 

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The Bible speaks about many things that are yet to come, things such as:

But after all is said and done, there is going to be a new heaven and a new earth. But why? What’s wrong with this earth?

We get a glimpse of the need for this in Romans 8:19-22:

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

This planet has become polluted by evil over thousands of years now. And after the Great Tribulation, it will be virtually unrecognizable from what it is today. And God has promised to re-create this planet and its whole atmosphere in the future.

We see the most detailed description of this in Revelation 21:1-8:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Here are some observations:

  1. The earth and its atmosphere, as part of this solar system, will come to an end.
  2. There will be a re-created heaven and earth.
  3. There will be 71% more land mass, since there will no longer be a sea.
  4. There will be a new Jerusalem that will be three-dimensional.
  5. God Himself will dwell among mankind.
  6. There will be no pain or sorrow by those living in this eternal state, and no death.
  7. This new heaven and earth will only be inhabited by believers.

This will truly be a “heaven on earth” experience. Heaven is where God dwells, and He will dwell on this new creation with us, in our midst, without any wants or needs, no crying or pain and no death, eternally!

Prophecy: Judgments & Resurrections

The Judgments

There is often much confusion about different judgments and resurrections in the Bible. This will help simplify and spell out these two areas of prophecy.

The Judgments

Before the Great Tribulation

1. Judgment of the work of the church saints. The picture is painted of church saints who will have their works weighed, whether they were done in faith or not. This judgment is a rewards judgment that will result in church saints being rewarded for their deeds done in faith. I believe this will happen when the church is raptured prior to the Great Tribulation (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

At the End of the Great Tribulation

2. Judgments of those still alive at the end of the Great Tribulation. Jesus tells us there will be a judgment for those who survive the Great Tribulation. This is often referred to as the judgment of the sheep and goats. Those who are believers will live and go into the Millennium, and those who are unbelievers will die and wait for another judgment (Matthew 25:31-33).

3. Judgment of the nations. At the end of the Great Tribulation, Jesus will bring the nations of the world before Him and they will be judged. This will be the same as the judgment of the sheep and goats, but it often refers specifically to the nations, which are made up of both sheep and goats, believers and unbelievers (Matthew 25:31-46; Joel 3:2).

4. Judgment of Israel. At the end of the Great Tribulation there will be a judgment of Israel that will weed the unbelievers from the believers. This too is part of the judgment of the sheep and goats (Ezekiel 20:37-38).

5. First judgment of Satan. When Jesus returns and defeats the antichrist and all the nation’s armies in the battle of Armageddon, He will also lock up Satan for the period of the Millennium, until the very end (Revelation 20:2-3).

After the Millennium

6. Judgment of Satan and the fallen angels. There will come a time after the Millennium when Satan will be loosed one last time to lead a rebellion against Jesus, the God-King. When Satan is defeated, Jesus will cast him and his demonic angels into the lake of fire for all eternity (Revelation 20:7-10; Jude 6; 1 Corinthians 6:3).

7. The Great White Throne Judgment. The last of all the judgments will be for all unbelievers for all time. John refers to this as taking place before a great white throne upon which God sits as judge. The result of this judgment is that all unbelievers for all time will be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity – where Satan and the demons live also (Revelation 20:11-15).

 

The Resurrections

Before the Great Tribulation

1. Resurrection of the church saints. Prior to the Great Tribulation, church saints will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air. This will include those who are living and those who are dead. These dead church saints will be resurrected for this rapture of all church saints (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

At the End of the Great Tribulation

2. Resurrection of Old Testament and dead Tribulation saints. At the end of the Great Tribulation, all Old Testament saints and all dead Tribulation saints will be raised from the dead so they can enter into the Millennium along with living saints who survived the Great Tribulation. This is also called the first resurrection, referring to the first general resurrection, and it is believers only (Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:4-6).

After the Millennium

3. Resurrection of all unbelievers. All unbelievers for all time will be raised from the dead to stand before God on His Great White Throne and His judgment. They will face their judgment and be cast eternally into the lake of fire. This is also called the second resurrection, being the second general resurrection, and it will be unbelievers only (Revelation 20:11-15).

Prophecy: The Millennium

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The word millennium is a way of delineating the thousand-year period mentioned specifically in Revelation 20:2-7. However, over the last century, there has been a growing debate over the purpose, nature and even the reality of this period mentioned in the Bible. Personally, I take the Bible at face value.

When it refers to this period of time specifically as “a thousand years” or “the thousand years” six times in those six verses, I take that to mean there is going to be a specific thousand-year period, not a long, indefinite period of time, where the world gets better and better. Why would John call it a, or the, thousand years, six verses in a row, if he meant something less specific?

So what do we know about the Millennium from the Scriptures?

Psalm 2:1-12 forecasts that God the Father will establish His Son as King over all the nations of the world.

Daniel 2:44 prophesies that this Messiah King will bring an end to all earthly kingdom and usher in His own perfect and just kingdom.

Isaiah 7:6-7 declares that He will be in the lineage of King David, and as the Prince of Peace, will usher in “world peace” for the first time in human history.

Jeremiah 23:5-8 further promises that this King, in the lineage of David, will usher in a world of peace and justice, but will bring the Jewish people from all over the world to dwell in a restored land of Israel.

Isaiah 2:2-4 tells us that in this future kingdom, Jerusalem will be the focal point of the world, and the coming King will reign here over all the nations of the world.

Isaiah 11:4-9 makes it clear this period will not only be a time of peace but also of absolute justice for all on the earth.

Isaiah 35:1-7 paints a picture of healing on the earth during this period of time, healing of both the land and all the people who enter in there.

Isaiah 49:14-26 promises the future King will deal with all of Israel’s enemies justly and restore the nation of Israel to their promised land.

Joel 2:26-27 adds to this the promise that the nation of Israel will never again be put to shame in the world.

Ezekiel 40-43 portrays the new, future Temple in Jerusalem in great detail. It will be the most magnificent Temple ever and will be indwelt by the God King-Priest Himself.

Daniel 7:18, among other Old Testament passages, seems to indicate that part of the population of the Millennium will be Old Testament saints, especially believing descendants of Abraham. That means they would be raised from the dead to enjoy the kingdom promised them.

Revelation 20:4 clearly spells out that martyred saints from the Tribulation will be raised from the dead and enter into the Millennium as well.

Revelation 3:21 is a record of Jesus promising church saints that they will rule and reign with Him in the Millennium.

Revelation 20:2-3, 7-8 prophesies that Satan will be confined and have no influence during this thousand years until the very end when he will be released to lead any who want to revolt against the God-King. The Millennium will begin with only believers and saints, but over time they will have children, who will each have to choose whether they are willing to put their trust in Jesus. Some will not, and will follow after Satan at the end of the Millennium.

Revelation 20:7-10 tells us that at the very end of the Millennium Jesus will defeat and banish Satan forever.

These are but a sampling of the hundreds of passages that speak to this aspect of prophecy.

To put the Millennium in perspective, it is promised to be a thousand-year period that will follow the Great Tribulation. This will be a time marked by Christ being the Priest-King, ruling in a new Jerusalem from a new Temple, and will rule with love and justice over a world kingdom, over all the nations.