Many people today wonder what is the future of our planet. There is widespread anxiety about the financial situation, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism,the environment, social disorder and violence. Any number of world situations could suddenly tip us over into a frightening new crisis which either creates chaos and anarchy or a dictatorial world government with huge technical resources at its disposal to control the population.
Today we see events shaping up in the Middle East, in the world political scene,in the breakdown of moral values and spread of false religion that tie up with Bibleprophecy and are preparing the way for the last days’ tribulation prophesied by theLord Jesus: ‘For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been sincethe beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless thosedays were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those dayswill be shortened.’ Mt 24.21-22.
But is there a hope for the future of the earth as well? Will there ever be a timewhen the words of Isaiah 2.1-4 will be fulfilled? ‘Now it shall come to pass inthe latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on thetop of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills and all nations shall flowto it. Many people shall come and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain ofthe Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways and we shallwalk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the Law and the word of the Lordfrom Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations and rebuke many people; theyshall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nationshall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’
Is this just a pious dream or a real hope of something which will one day happenon the earth? If it will happen, how will it come about? The pre-Millennial view,which takes a literal view of the scripture, says that there will be such a timeon the earth following the physical return of the Lord Jesus to the earth. We willnow look at how this view is applied to scripture.
According to the book of Revelation this present age will end with a time of greattrouble on the earth as the nations gather for the final battle at Armageddon. ThenJesus will return as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, with all the power of God atHis disposal. This coming will be entirely different from His first coming whenHe came to fulfil the prophecies of the suffering servant Messiah by laying downhis life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Then He came to be born as child,a Son descended from King David, to live a perfect life without sin, and to demonstrateHis divine power through His miracles. He was rejected and put to death on the crosswhere he took the sins of the world upon himself. He rose again from the dead andsent out his disciples to preach the message of the Gospel, that sins are forgiventhrough repentance and faith in his death on the cross. Those who accept this salvationare born again and will be resurrected to eternal life and saved from hell.
He promised that He would come a second time in an event which will demonstrate thesupernatural power of God and bring a total change to the earth. In Acts 1.11 theangel told the disciples: ‘This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heavenwill so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’ Jesus ascended in the‘clouds of heaven’ (the glory of God) so He will return in the clouds of heaven (Daniel7.13). He ascended from the Mount of Olives on the east side of Jerusalem, so Hewill return to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14). He will come as the ReigningKing Messiah of Hebrew prophecy. ‘The government will be upon His shoulder’ and Hewill reign as ‘the mighty God’ upon the throne of David (Isaiah 9.6-7).
At his first coming He submitted to the unjust rule of wicked men who put Him todeath by crucifixion. At His second coming the wicked will submit to His judgement(Revelation 6.15-16). He will make war with the armies gathered by the beast (antichrist)and false prophet in the final battle and defeat them, throwing the beast and thefalse prophet straight into hell (Revelation 19.19-21). The survivors of the tribulationperiod will be gathered before Him for judgement. The wicked will be cast off theearth into the place of punishment and the righteous will enter into the kingdom(Matthew 25.31-46). The devil will be bound ‘for a thousand years, and he will casthim into the bottomless pit and shut him up and set a seal on him so that he shoulddeceive the nations no more until the thousand years were finished.’ (Revelation20.3-4).
When Jesus returns the saints will be with Him (in New Testament terms ‘saints’ simplymeans those who have saving faith in the Lord Jesus). In Zechariah 14.5 we read,‘Thus the Lord my God will come and all the saints with you.’ Jude 14 says, ‘Beholdthe Lord comes with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgement on all.’ InRevelation 19 John sees Jesus coming as ‘KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS’. ‘Andthe armies in heaven clothed in fine linen white and clean followed him.’ Revelation19.14. Those clothed in fine linen white and clean have already been identifiedin the chapter as ‘saints’ (Revelation 19.8).
So those who have been redeemed through the blood of Jesus in the present age willcome back with the Lord in glorified bodies and reign with Him in the renewed earthof the Millennial period. The people who will take part in this glorious event arethose who have been previously taken to be with the Lord at the Rapture of the Church:‘For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of thearchangel, 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 together with them in the cloudsto meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.’ 1 Thessalonians4.16-17. They will have new eternal bodies (1 Corinthians 15.53-54) not subjectto death or decay.
He will also resurrect those who were martyred for their faith during the tribulationperiod. ‘Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness toJesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image andhad not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived andreigned with Christ for a thousand years. … They shall be priests of God and ofChrist and shall reign with him a thousand years.’ Revelation 20.4-6. Those whocame to believe in Jesus during the tribulation after the rapture of the church willalso be resurrected, and reign with Jesus in the Messianic kingdom.
The redeemed of Israel / the Old Testament period will also be resurrected: ‘Atthat time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sonsof your people; and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since therewas a nation even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered,everyone who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dustof the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlastingcontempt.’ Daniel 12.1-2.
Following the return of the Messiah and the judgement of the wicked the Lord willreign over the earth bringing a period of universal peace and prosperity. The Biblesays that at this time the nations will go up to hear the word of the Lord in Zion,streaming to the Lord’s temple rebuilt on Mount Zion which will be lifted up abovethe other hills around Jerusalem.
They will seek the Lord and walk in His ways. This implies a total change from thepresent world situation in which the overwhelming majority scoff and reject God’sword and walk in their own ways to destruction. There will also be a total changein how they relate to one another. Instead of war and hostility there will a peacesettlement between all nations – including the currently intractable Middle Eastsituation – and an end to all weapons production and military training. All thiswill happen because the word of the Lord will go out from Zion.
The Lord Himself will be there to judge between the nations and settle their disputes.Psalm 2.9, Isaiah 11.4 and Revelation 19.15 say that He will rule the nations witha ‘rod of iron’ – in other words they won’t be able to vote him out of power, orstart making weapons of war or doing drugs or pornography or anything else that isevil in the eyes of the Lord. This will be a benevolent rule which will be for thewelfare and provision of all the peoples on the earth.
The redeemed of Israel will be gathered to the land of Israel and dwell there insafety. ‘He will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersedof Judah from the four corners of the earth.’ Isaiah 11.11. There will be peaceand blessing on Israel and the neighbouring lands. ‘In that day there will be ahighway from Egypt to Assyria … In that day Israel will be one of three with Egyptand Assyria – a blessing in the midst of the land.’ Isaiah 19.23-24.
The Lord will bring about change in the natural world as the desert blossoms (Isaiah35) and the waters of the Dead Sea are healed and become fresh, teaming with fish(Ezekiel 47). Even the animal kingdom will change as ‘The wolf also shall dwellwith the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the younglion and the fatling together and a little child shall lead them.’ (Isaiah 11.6).There will be abundant provision for all: ‘But everyone shall sit under his figtree and none shall make them afraid.’ Micah 4.4.
Such miraculous changes can only come about through the power of God. No great mancan accomplish these things, so the Messiah who will do them must be more than agreat man. He must be Immanuel / God with us.
This conflicts with the Jewish idea of the Messiah which is that he is a great manwho brings Israel and the nations to walk in the ways of God and bring peace. Forall that has been described in the prophets to take place the One who causes themto happen must Himself be God. A number of prophecies in the Hebrew Bible speak ofthe reigning King Messiah as a divine person. This raises an issue of God as a pluralunity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) as opposed to God as an absolute unity of one.There is evidence in the Hebrew text of the Bible that God is a plural unity so thatit is possible for the Father to be reigning in heaven while the Son is reigningon the earth (further information on this subject available on request).
The prophecy of Zechariah 14 speaks of the time of the Messianic kingdom / Millenniumand shows that the One who will reign is the LORD (Adonai / Yahweh). It says ‘TheLORD will go forth and fight against those nations as He fights in the day of battle.And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which faces Jerusalemon the east. …
And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be – ‘The LORDis one and His name one.’ Zechariah 14.3-9. The word used for LORD here is the Hebrewterm Yahweh which only is used of God. So the LORD will stand with feet on the Mountof Olives (and the rest of a body!) and be king over all the earth. A number ofother prophets speak of the Lord being present in the midst of His people. ‘In thatday it shall be said to Jerusalem: ‘Do not fear Zion, let not your hands be weak,The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One will save, He will rejoice over youwith gladness.’ Zephaniah 3.16-17. ‘Cry out and shout O inhabitant of Zion, forgreat is the Holy One of Israel in your midst.’ Isaiah 12.6.
During this time all idols will be abolished (Isaiah 2.17) and there will only beone LORD and one way to worship Him (and one universal language!) The living Godrevealed in Jesus the Messiah will be the only God worshipped on earth. ‘For thenI will restore to the peoples a pure language that they all may call on the nameof the LORD to serve Him with one accord.’ Zephaniah 3.9. As people praise andwalk in the ways of the God who made them they will know peace and harmony and the‘earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.’Isaiah 11.9. There will be a good one world government and one world faith in oneGod.
During this time children will be born in the normal way to the survivors of thetribulation who go into the Millennium. Long life will be the norm but sin and deathwill still be a possibility (though not for those who have previously been resurrectedand come back with the Lord in glorified bodies): ‘No more shall an infant fromthere live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days, for thechild shall die one hundred years old but the sinner being one hundred years oldshall be accursed.’ Isaiah 65.20. Because Satan is bound and unable to deceivethe nations during the 1000 years and the Lord Jesus is ruling the nations, the abilityto sin will be very limited. But at the end of the 1000 year period ‘Satan willbe released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in thefour corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whosenumber is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surroundedthe camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out ofheaven and devoured them. The devil who deceived them was cast into the lake offire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormentedday and night for ever and ever.’ Revelation 20.7-10.
Those who have been born in the normal way during the Millennium and in their heartsare rebelling against the reign of the Messiah will join Satan in his final rebellionagainst the LORD at the end of this period. This futile rebellion will end in completedefeat for Satan and all who join with him.
This will be the end of the world as this earth is burned up and God creates a newheaven and new earth in which there will be righteousness and to which Satan andsinners will have no access. This will lead to the eternal state for believers andunbelievers alike – with only two possible destinies – heaven and hell. Now is theday of salvation. We need to accept Messiah as Saviour now so that we will havea part to play in His glorious coming Kingdom.