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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.

Prophecy: The Great Tribulation

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Imagine someone who has never seen a football game before coming to America in January and hearing one conversation after another about the Super Bowl. They don’t understand, so they ask you to explain what the Super Bowl is. You begin by telling them a little about the game of football and how it is played. They stop you and then say, “Oh, I’ve seen the Super Bowl. I just didn’t know that’s what it was.” “When did you see the Super Bowl?” you ask. “I saw some young boys playing that game in the park on the way over here today.” Then you say, “Well, there are many football games played by many different players. But there is only one Super Bowl each year.

People have faced many tribulations over the centuries, but the Bible makes it clear there will be only one “Great Tribulation” that will yet occur, and it will be unlike any other tribulation the world has ever seen.

The prophets of old first introduce this Great Tribulation in the Old Testament:

For thus says the Lord, I have heard the sound of terror, of dread, and there is no peace. Ask now, and see if a male can give birth. Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth? And why have all faces turned pale? Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress…. – Jeremiah 30:5-7 (NASB)

Later Daniel writes about this time, and talks about the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He records that it will be a desolate time (see Daniel 9:24-27).

Referring to this period as “the day of the Lord,” Joel chimes in with this:

The Lord utters His voice before His army; Surely His camp is very great, For strong is he who carries out His word. The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome, And who can endure it? – Joel 2:11 (NASB)

Daniel tells us when this period will begin, what will happen (in a nutshell) and how long it will last (Daniel 9:24-27). Many other passages from the Old Testament also allude to and/or describe this yet future period of great tribulation.

This Great Tribulation will be a 7-year period (Daniel 9:24-27) that will have two halves. It will start on the day the leader of the western coalition of nations signs a 7-year treaty with the nation of Israel.

In Revelation 4-18 we get a graphic depiction of what this period will be like. We are told that halfway through the 7-year treaty period, this leader of the western coalition of nations, called the beast or antichrist, will break the treaty with Israel, and will unleash his fury on the Jewish nation and any believers in Christ who have come to faith in Him after the church was raptured. We are told there will be a great revival of the people of Israel and 144,000 of them will be sealed and sent as missionaries all over the world. The response will be multitudes of people beyond counting that will receive Christ.

While the antichrist is carrying out his reign of terror on believers, God will unleash His judgmental fury on the whole world. God’s motive is to get as many people as will to turn to Him and away from this false impostor of Christ, the antichrist.

God’s judgment, this Great Tribulation, will see disease and plagues affecting the world, all sea life will die, all fresh water will be contaminated and sun bursts of energy will fry the flesh of people and animals, along with ongoing darkness as well as unrelenting earthquakes, volcanoes and 100-pound hailstones all over the world.

And the response of the people of that world in that day who have not already received Christ? It paints a picture of people climbing to mountaintops and shaking their fists at God, cursing Him, and crying out for Him to just kill them and get it over with. Not repentance. No pleas for mercy. Just get it over with.

By the end of this time, over half of the world’s population will have died, the planet will be an ecological disaster and the world will be on the brink of a world war that includes all the nations on the planet, converging on the Middle East to do war with God.

According to Revelation 19 this Great Tribulation will end with all the armies of the world gathered under the command of the antichrist, with the goal of defeating God and His angelic army, the hosts of heaven. But it will not end well for the antichrist or any of his followers. They will all be slain in one fell swoop by Christ, as the Lord of hosts, in the Valley of Megiddo of northern, modern-day Israel.

Some claim this tribulation has already taken place. Some say it just represents hard times in life. But you can’t truly study all the passages of Scripture that deal with this period of time and claim it has already happened – unless you are willing to fudge on a normal, literal interpretation of the Bible. But if the Bible does not speak authoritatively on this and other prophecy, then we have undermined the Scriptures from being the final authority and made ourselves or our theology the final authority.

There are many football games but only one Super Bowl. There are many tribulations in this world, past and present, but only one Time of Jacob’s Distress, Day of the Lord: The Great Tribulation. And it is yet to come.

Prophecy: The Church

Prophecy-The_Church

The church is referred to with various images in the New Testament. It is called “the body of Christ,”[1] “the bride of Christ,”[2] “the gathering,”[3] “the flock,”[4] “the household of the faith,”[5] “the pillar and bulwark of the truth”[6] and “the Way.”[7] But there is another expression used in the New Testament to describe the church: the Mystery.

Different things are labeled a mystery in the Bible, but clearly in Romans 11:25 and Ephesians 3:3 Paul reveals the mystery that God has set the nation of Israel aside for a period of time until the time of the Gentiles, His church, is finished.

The reason the church is called a mystery in the New Testament is because the full extent of God’s plan to set aside the nation Israel for a period of time and work in and through Gentiles all over the world was not so clearly revealed before. Paul explains:

By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…. – Ephesians 3:4-6 (NASB)

In this same passage Paul goes on to explain that he was called by God to preach to the Gentiles “and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden…so that the manifold wisdom of God might be known through the church…” (Ephesians 3:8-10, NASB). Paul also says, “Of this church…that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints…” (Colossians 1:25-26, NASB).

Just as the nation Israel has been and will be part of God’s prophetic message, so the church is living out its prophesied role in God’s plan. The church is living in the prophetic present right now. This is the first prophecy regarding the church. But there is more foretold about the church.

Regarding the prophetic future of the church, there are certain promises yet to come. In another prophetic promise we are told the church will be raptured, caught up to meet the Lord in the air – both living and dead church saints – to be with the Lord forever:

But we do not want you to be uniformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up (raptured) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NASB, parentheses added by author)

Here Paul is writing the church at Thessalonica informing them there will be a time when those who are part of the church – both those who have died and those who are still living at the time – will be raptured up to meet the Lord in the air. This is distinct from other resurrections. (More on those later.) It is not the picture we will see later of the return of Christ to the earth. This is meeting Him in the clouds. This is a promise to the church, unlike any promise to anyone else.

There is no little amount of debate about when this rapture will take place. I will not delineate all these positions and their arguments. However, I will say most biblical students who hold to a normal, literal historical and grammatical interpretation of all the Scriptures agree the text seems to point to this rapture taking place before the Great Tribulation described in Revelation 4-18. This is the view I believe best takes into account all of the Scriptures on the subject.

A third prophetic promise regarding the church, after we are raptured, is we will stand before the Lord to receive our rewards, as athletes stands on a platform to receive their medallions. Notice these words of Paul to Timothy:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done…. – 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NASB)

The church is presently living out the past prophetic promise that it would come into existence as a mystery revealed. But it is promised yet in the future that it will eventually be raptured to meet the Lord in the air, be rewarded, and in their glorified bodies, they will reign with Christ forever (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 22:5).

 

[1] Ephesians 4:12

[2] Ephesians 5:24-27

[3] Acts 1:15

[4] 1 Peter 5:2

[5] Galatians 6:10

[6] 1 Timothy 3:15 (NRSV)

[7] Acts 24:14

Prophecy: The Nation Israel

Keep Your Zipper Up

There has been a growing consensus within Christian theology students that God is finished with the nation of Israel. They believe either the church has replaced the nation of Israel or it is a spiritual form of Israel. From my study of Scripture, it seems abundantly obvious that God made promises to the nation of Israel that have not yet been fulfilled.

If God were finished with the nation of Israel, then one would have to conclude either God made a mistake in His promises to the nation of Israel or went back on His promises, which would make God fallible and a liar. Banish the thought! God doesn’t make mistakes and He doesn’t go back on His promises. God has a plan for both the church and the nation of Israel.

In Genesis 12, 15, 17 and 22 God promised Abraham several things:

  1. God would make from him a great nation (Israel)
  2. He would give this nation a land of their own, and He spelled out the boundaries of that land
  3. He would bless Abraham and this great nation
  4. He would bless those who blessed them and curse those who cursed this nation
  5. He would be a blessing through this nation to the rest of the world

God has kept His promises, but not all of those promises have been fully realized – yet. God did make Israel a great nation. We see the beginning of this recorded in the book of Exodus. Later when they were defeated by Assyria and Babylon, He brought them back as a nation as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah. In more recent times God brought them back together as a nation in 1948 after 1,878 years of being dispersed throughout the world following their destruction by Rome in AD 70.

God gave them a land as recorded in the book of Joshua, but they didn’t have all the land that was promised to them. King David and King Solomon expanded the borders of the land in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 Kings, but they still never came close to having all the land promised to them. That has not yet been completely realized either.

This prophetic promise of God using the nation Israel in the later days is seen developed beginning in Daniel 9:24-27. Daniel prophesied that God planned on accomplishing His work through the nation of Israel in a 490-year period. He said He would accomplish the first 483 years of this promise from the time a decree was given to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, with Artaxerxes in BC 444, until the promised Messiah was killed by Rome and Israeli authorities in AD 32-33. (Remember, Israel’s calendar had 360 days per year, not 365.25 days per year.)

After that, Daniel said there would be one more period of 7 years (a week of years) for Him to use the nation of Israel to accomplish all He planned through them. He tells us that amounts to 84 months, or 2,520 days. This is the same accounting we see in Revelation 4-18. Daniel said this last period will begin when the antichrist, the leader of the Western world, signs a 7-year treaty with the nation of Israel. This 7-year period is often referenced as the Great Tribulation, the time of Jacob’s trouble – a tribulation like the world has never seen. (More on the tribulation period later.)

In Joel 2-3 we see that by the end of this period, the entire nation of Israel will repent and turn to Jesus as their promised Messiah – from princes and priests to boys and girls. And in response to this, God will fulfill His blessing and restore all the Promised Land to them, a land flowing with milk and honey. And He assures them from that point forward they would never again be put to shame as a nation.

Paul acknowledges God is not finished with Israel in Romans 11 as he paints a picture of God’s rich, rooted plan to reach out to the world with hope and love, in spite of humanity’s wholesale rejection of Him. He instructs the church at Rome, and all believers of the church who would follow, that God has indeed cut off Israel from being His primary instrument to reach out to the world with God’s image, love and hope, but He makes the point that this is temporary, not permanent, and He will once again use Israel as His primary missionary force in the world.

This last promise is expanded on in Revelation 4-18 where we see the nation of Israel as the primary mission force in the world through the 144,000 witnesses (12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel), who will lead innumerable people to faith in Christ, from every nation, tribe and tongue.

God has indeed blessed the nation Israel with the birth of the Jewish-born Messiah, Jesus Christ (as seen in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), and He has blessed the whole world through this incarnation. It is still promised that God will use them as the greatest missionaries the world has ever seen (Revelation 7:4-9). The nation Israel is still alive and well in God’s prophetic promised future. He is not finished with Israel yet.

Remember & Never Forget: Reflections on My Wanderings Through the Land of Israel

Remember-Part1

One of the first things apparent to anyone visiting Israel is that they are committed to their land. The State of Israel owns around 90% of the physical land. Virtually all homeowners lease the land their home is built on from the State of Israel. The same is true of businesses, schools and so forth.

I’ve walked their present land from Dan in the North (and even further to the Lebanese and Syrian borders) down to Beersheba and Arad in the South, in the Negev wilderness, from the western cities of Tel Aviv and Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea on the eastern border with the nation of Jordan. And at first glance it is hard to see why Israelis would make such a fuss over this small, mostly rock-infested piece of land.

Much of the land, except for the northern Galilee area and the coastal plains, is rocky terrain – hard to walk on and challenging to build on. Oh, but it’s in the Middle East, so there must be oil. Yet the land of Israel is the only major Middle Eastern country without oil. They have limited plant-able land, limited water supply and limited natural resources.

So why is this land so important to them?

Look back at the Scriptures, going back to the time of Abraham in Genesis 12 and following, and it all begins to make sense. Notice what God calls Abram to and what He promises:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” – Genesis 12:1–3 (NASB, emphasis added)

The promise made to Abraham (also known as Abram,) in Genesis 12, and repeated several times after, was that God promised Abraham and his descendants three things:

  1. He promised to make them a great nation through the loins of Abraham and Sarah.
  2. He promised to bless them and bless those that bless them
  3. He promised to give them a land. Not just any land, but specific real estate that would be their permanent home as a blessed nation of people.

Read on in Genesis 12, noticing what Abram did when he arrived in the land:

Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him. Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. Abram journeyed on, continuing toward the Negev. – Genesis 12:5–9 (NASB)

He came into the land of present day Israel from the North and proceeded South through Shechem, then down to Bethel and finally to the Negev. He walked the land, the land God had promised to him and his descendants:

  • Genesis 12:1-3 (the original promise of a land)
  • Genesis 13:14-17 (God tells Abraham to walk this promised land)
  • Genesis 15:7, 17-21 (God makes this an unconditional promise to Abraham)
  • Genesis 17:8 (God declares that this shall be an everlasting promised land)
  • Genesis 26:3-4 (God reiterates the same promise to Isaac, Abraham’s son)
  • Genesis 35:12 (God reiterates the same promise to Jacob, Isaac’s son)
  • Genesis 50:24 (Joseph’s last words were regarding the promised land)

The land was important to God. Why shouldn’t it have been important to the people in those days, as well as now? The land was and is an unconditional, everlasting, promised, specific gift to the people of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

This is one promise we should remember, and never forget.

What does this have to do with today?

 

To be continued…