45. The Two Millenniums

 

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
 

The Concordant Version


CHAPTER 20:1-10


     1And I perceived a messenger descending out of heaven, having the key of the submerged chaos and a large chain in his hand.
2And he lays hold of the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the Adversary and Satan, and binds him a thousand years.
3And he casts him into the submerged chaos and locks it, and seals it over him (lest he should still be deceiving the nations) until the thousand years should be finished. After these things he must be loosed a little time.

     4And I perceived thrones, and they are seated on them, and judgment was granted to them. And the souls of those executed because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who do not worship the wild beast or its image, and did not get the emblem on their forehead and on their hand—they also live and reign with Christ a thousand years.
5(The rest of the dead do not live until the thousand years should be finished.) This is the former resurrection.

     6Happy and holy is he who is having part in the former resurrection! Over these the second death has no jurisdiction, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will be reigning with Him the thousand years.

     7And whenever the thousand years should be finished, Satan will be loosed out of his jail.
8And he will be coming out to deceive all the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to be mobilizing them for battle, their number being as the sand of the sea.
9And they went up over the breadth of the earth, and surround the citadel of the saints and the beloved city. And fire descended from God out of heaven and devoured them.
10And the Adversary who is deceiving them was cast into the lake of fire and sulphur, where the wild beast and where the false prophet are also. And they shall be tormented day and night for the eons of the eons.

THE TWO MILLENNIUMS

"THE MILLENNIUM" has become a much abused and overworked phrase. Many use it for all future bliss. Its definition has vanished into a nebulous mist. There are two distinct periods of time in the day of the Lord, each of which is a thousand years in duration. So there are really two millenniums, one of which begins and ends a bit before the other. Satan is bound for a thousand years seventy-five days before the saints are roused to reign, and he is loosed a like period before their rule is over. Such clear-cut predictions are found only in the latest revelation, found in the apocalypse. The ancient oracles knew nothing of any millennium. The thousand years are never mentioned. The prophets usually refer to Yahweh's day, a longer period. They are especially concerned with the judgment era which precedes the thousand years.

As the thousand years' reign of the saints is brought before us in only one short passage, there should be very little difficulty in determining what the Scriptures have to say concerning it. Only three verses (Rev.20:4,5,6) contain all there is. To begin with, we are informed of the first, or former, resurrection. This precedes the thousand years, for the saints cannot reign until after they themselves have been raised from the dead. Some time after the thousand years, at the great white throne, the dead, great and small, are raised and judged (Rev.20:12). Lest this should not be believed, lest some ancient Hebrew prophecy be misconstrued, we are specially and strikingly assured that the rest of the dead do not live until the thousand years are finished (Rev.20:5).

Nothing could be taught more clearly or could be more carefully guarded, than the fact that there is no resurrection in this thousand years. Saints are vivified before, sinners are raised thereafter, but no one is raised therein. This is the only passage which deals specifically with this period of time. It is the final word. It recognizes the possibilities of error, so puts the matter both positively and negatively. If we have been led astray by a false interpretation of previous revelation, it is the utmost folly to discredit the divine warning which seeks to set us right. The motorist who consults a road sign and finds he is traveling in the wrong direction does not destroy it and go on. He is thankful for it and turns back. God's word will not change to accommodate us. Let us bow our hearts and heed it.

Although there is no resurrection in this thousand years, there will be death. The life span of men shall be lengthened as the trees, nevertheless, sin will not be absent, so that "a youth of a hundred years shall die" (Isa. 65:20). These go to join the dead of previous eras, "who live not until the thousand years may be finished" (20:5), and later stand before the great white throne (20:12).

A great many passages in the Hebrew Scriptures are supposed to find their fulfillment in the "millennium." Such loose language is misleading. Doubtless much prophecy does apply to this period of time. But it will never do to use every passage dealing with the future day of the Lord, or day of Yahweh, and say "this is in the millennium." The thousand years of the saints' priestly reign is only a part of the day of Yahweh. This day begins a good while before, and it ends a good while later. We cannot say that, since the resurrection occurs in the day of the Lord, therefore it is in the millennium. The opposite is true. Both the former and the latter resurrection occur in the day of Yahweh, but neither is in the thousand years. One occurs in the period before it, the other in the era that follows.

The following diagram may help to make this plain:

unveiling45A

We are in man's day. Near the end of this day, perhaps very near its close, there will be an eclectic resurrection of the body of Christ. No other saints will participate in this. Hence it is designated by the special prefix, out (Phil.3:11). It is not known in the Hebrew scriptures, nor is it found in any of the later writings except Paul's epistles. After the introductory judgments of the Lord's day we have the "former" resurrection, so-called in contrast to that of the rest of the dead, which comes near its close. Between these two is the thousand years, popularly called the millennium, in which there is no resurrection. As the rest of the dead go into the second death, these must be made alive at the end of the day of God, when death is abolished.

We have tried to distinguish the two periods of a thousand years by using double daggers(‡) to indicate the first. No one knows the length of man's day, or Yahweh's day, or the day of God. But the two millenniums are each exactly a literal thousand years long. The small variant between the two millenniums is exactly and literally seventy-five days (Dan.12:11). Christ's Epiphany, or appearing, for the Circumcision, will be precisely twelve hundred sixty days from the center of Daniel's seventieth heptad. From this time, when the daily offering is taken away, until it is resumed, will be twelve hundred and ninety days. Forty-five days from this event, the Circumcision saints are raised. These periods may be shown graphically thus:

unveiling45B

Of one thing we may be sure. We cannot find definite time limits for the day of Yahweh, the day of God, the new creation, and particularly the millennium, in the Hebrew prophets, especially the earlier ones. The later the revelation, the clearer it is. There is much in Daniel which cannot be found in Isaiah. But there is ever so much more in Peter's epistles and John's Unveiling than in any previous unfolding. There is progress in disclosing God's prophetic program. In the final unfolding the earlier ones are separated and segregated. No inferences from the Hebrew prophets have any weight when they are not in harmony with later revelations. A careful study of the original usually reveals that the inference is based on a misconception, or a loose translation.

The intelligent student of prophecy will note the gradual development of prophetic detail. The earlier predictions group together much which later unfoldings distinguish. Both are true, but both are not equally discriminating. Many a one who has seen a mountain range at a distance has imagined that it is one unbroken ridge. On closer approach it develops into a series of ridges divided by wide canyons. So with the Hebrew prophets. The earlier give us a broad, sweeping view of the future, while the later ones develop the detail. Yet it is to the pre-exile prophets that we are usually referred for the finer distinctions. Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and especially Isaiah are early prophets and do not distinguish the times after the first advent of Messiah.

One of the chief hindrances to clearness in acquiring prophetic truth is an unbalanced consideration of the Hebrew prophecies. They are appealed to indiscriminately, as though they all were equally definite in their outlook on the future. Few have the acumen of our Lord, Who when He read Isaiah 61:1,2, stopped in the middle of the verse, though, in the Hebrew, there was not even the comma of our English version to keep Him from proceeding (Luke 4:18,19). He knew that the acceptable year of the Lord had come, but the day of vengeance had not. We can easily imagine a modern expositor insist that, being all one proclamation, they must be in the same period. At least this is the method often employed in dealing with other of Isaiah's prophecies.

As we have not the spiritual insight of our Lord, we cannot sort Isaiah's predictions into their proper time periods apart from the light of later revelations. The only wise course is to seek satisfaction on such subjects in the final unfoldings, especially in the Unveiling, and use this in interpreting the earlier predictions. In the future Isaiah sees an acceptable year, a day of Vengeance, a time of joy and comfort, and a new creation. But he does not segregate these into distinct periods. He never mentions a "millennium." He does not even distinguish between the two advents of our Lord. The day of Yahweh and the succeeding day of God are all one to him. This matter is more fully explained in the chapter on "The Development of Prophecy."

It has been inferred from Isaiah 65:17-25 that the new creation is a millennial event. Isaiah does not say this. In reality he does not even imply it. He speaks of two creations, one, a new heavens and earth, the other, an exulting and elated Jerusalem. The latter is closely connected with the so-called "millennial" conditions which follow. The new creation is to be the subject of exultation and elation before it comes to pass. This is not clear in our versions, for the relation between the two is lost by translating a very uncommon combination of words by the make-shift "forever." Verse eighteen is not an exhortation to be glad and rejoice forever, that is, after the new creation comes, but "you should be elated and exulting until the future (odi od) which I am creating" (Isa.65:18, CV).

The same attitude toward the new creation is presented by Peter, in his second epistle (3:12). He bases his exhortation, which is especially in point during the day of Yahweh, in which the millennium is found, on the future day of God, which commences with the new creation. In the millennium they will be hoping for and hurrying the presence of the day of God. They will exult, not merely in present bliss, but in that which will then be future. They will live, as we do, in the power of their expectations.

TWO DISTINCT PERIODS

It is not generally perceived that there are two distinct though overlapping periods in the day of the Lord each of which lasts a thousand years. Satan is bound for that era (Rev.20:2) and the saints live and reign as priests for the same length of time (Rev.20:4). These two periods coincide for the most of their duration, but it is most improbable that they commence and end on exactly the same date. First Satan is bound, probably at or near the advent of Christ. The former or "first" resurrection, however, from which the second millennium dates, does not commence at that time, but seventy-five days later.

From the time that the abomination of desolation is set up in the middle of David's seventieth heptad, until the Epiphany or advent of Messiah will be three and a half years, or forty-two months, or twelve hundred sixty days. The continual daily offering will not be resumed immediately, but a thousand two hundred and ninety days from its discontinuance, that is, thirty days after His advent (Dan.12:11-13). But Daniel's entrance into bliss is to occur one thousand three hundred thirty-five days after the middle of the week, so that the former resurrection does not take place until forty-five days later. This gives us a period of seventy-five days, at the commencement of which Satan is bound, and at the end of which the saints are raised. Therefore, we have two millenniums, overlapping one another, but one lagging more than two months behind the other.

The same difference is observable at the end. There is a "little time" after Satan is loosed during which the saints still reign. We are not told how long it lasts, but we are assured that it is very short. During that time Satan must deceive the nations, mobilize them, and bring them up against Jerusalem. This could hardly be done in two months and a half today but, after a thousand years of peaceful progress, methods of communication and transportation will be far in advance of present conditions.

These two millenniums should be kept distinct, for one gives us the negative, the other the positive side of the blessings of that day. The former millennium begins with the binding of Satan and ends with his loosing. The latter millennium commences with the former resurrection and is followed by the resurrection of judgment. All the saints of the Circumcision are raised to enjoy it. All the rest of the dead forfeit it and are not raised until it is finished. The ecclesia which is Christ's body will have been vivified long before, so that it is not in view in these unfoldings.

THE BINDING OF SATAN

It is Satan's business to deceive. Not content with deceiving our mother Eve, and thus providing us all with deceitful hearts, he has been actively engaged ever since in inculcating error, and thus alienating humanity from God. One of the greatest problems of the eons is the manifestation of humanity to itself and to all creation. Up to the time of this millennium, mankind might claim that it had not been given a fair opportunity, because it has always been the slave of spiritual powers. What would Eve have done if she had not been tempted? What would mankind have accomplished if Satan had not at all times led them astray? What will humanity do when left to itself, without the influence of sinister spiritual enemies?

A great many, even today, seem to think that all that is necessary is to give everyone a "chance." Given an opportunity, they will manage very well without the power and grace of God. Such an idea is utterly antagonistic to God's great purpose to become All in all, and its falsehood must be demonstrated on a scale sufficiently vast to be conclusive. It is for this reason that Satan's influence is withdrawn for a thousand years. It is not, as commonly supposed, the final earthly paradise, but a probational period in which the environment of mankind is most favorable to its moral development and calculated to awaken its appreciation of the goodness of God.

The greater part of so-called "Christian" work is influenced by this false idea today. Environment, physical, moral, and spiritual, is expected to aid, if not displace, the grace of God. The fact that most of the real work is done under unfavorable circumstances, thus magnifying God's grace, does not seem to destroy confidence in human substitutes for God's evangel. Indeed, one of the greatest deceptions of Satan today is the use of religion and ritual, of sanitation and philosophy to displace the blood and cross of Christ.

In the first thousand years the greatest hindrance to the knowledge of God will be removed by the binding of Satan. The evangel of that day will not be false, the theology will not be fiction. The fearful confusion of conflicting creeds will not erect a barrier between mankind and God. False doctrine of all kinds will be absent. Truth will be apparent. There will be every "chance," so far as external environment is concerned, for everyone to accept the salvation of God and enter into vital union with His Christ. This is the negative side of the millennial era, and it is brought about by the removal of Satan from the scene.

THE REIGN OF THE SAINTS

Two different time periods are given in connection with the reign of the circumcision saints over the earth. We read that they will be priests of God and of Christ and they will be reigning with Him for the thousand years Rev.20:6. We also read, later on, that they will be reigning for the eons of the eons (Rev.22:5). As priests, they reign during the thousand years. When priesthood is past, then they reign as kings until the close of the eons. This, we believe, throws a light on the millennial era which has been unknown or neglected. The primary aim of the millennial reign is not political but religious. God's priests will minister to all nations and mediate between them and Yahweh. It is a sacerdotal sovereignty.

This is the positive side of the millennial experiment. Mankind has not only been the sport of spiritual powers, not only has it lacked the restraint of good government, but it has never had proper priests to teach it and mediate between it and God. The ideal "opportunity" demands not only the removal of every evil influence, but that it be replaced by good. The nations will be taught the works and ways of God by a perfect priesthood. There will be visible manifestations of God's power and glory in all the earth, especially in Jerusalem.

After the thousand years, in the new earth, there will be no priest, nor even a temple (Rev.21:22), for God Himself will tabernacle with mankind and no mediator is needed between Him and humanity. This is the great distinguishing feature of the two eras. In the thousand years mankind is still estranged from Him, and priests are necessary as go-betweens. This is the characteristic feature of the millennial reign. Man is given a perfect environment in order to discover whether his lack lies there or in himself. The sequel shows that his heart is wrong, even in ideal conditions.

If the human heart could be healed by external applications, a thousand years' treatment should be sufficient to effect a cure. After freedom from deception for so long a time he should no longer be susceptible to deceit. After a righteous reign he should not rebel. After a pure worship he should not apostatize. Yet this is precisely what he does as soon as Satan is loosed. The Slanderer is just as successful in dealing with the nations who have enjoyed the blessing of the millennium as he ever was with those who were immersed in ignorance and surrounded by sin and sorrow and deceit.

Do we realize what this great defection at the end of the millennium means? We talk of that day in raptures, and so we should, but let us remember that, so far as eonian salvation is concerned, a large proportion of those who are in it are lost. An innumerable host, countless as the seaside sands, instead of being reconciled to God by its marvelous environments, are so alienated and estranged in heart, that they seize the first opportunity that comes to show their utter hostility to God and His saints. The end of their seemingly happy existence is to be cremated by the fire of God's wrath (Rev.20:7-9).

It has been suggested that the millennial era is a season of second probation for those who had inadequate opportunities before. The only passage which seems to allow such a thought is Daniel's prediction of the resurrection: "And many sleeping in the ground of the soil are awaking, these to eonian life, and these to eonian reproach and repulsion" (Dan.12:2). Daniel, a prophet of the exile, distinguishes nothing beyond the second advent, consequently groups the former with the latter resurrection. It is on this account that John, in the Unveiling, to prevent any misunderstanding, interjects the parenthetical statement: "the rest of the dead live not until the thousand years may be finished" (Rev.20:5). We must not make an unfounded inference from an early prophet set aside the special statement which gives its proper interpretation in a later one. Daniel and John agree perfectly, only John expands and amplifies Daniel's prediction.

But other considerations are just as convincing. The test of humanity under ideal conditions will end disastrously. If it is a second probation it is only so much greater in its failure. The millennial era is not a successful second probation for those who have had no chance, but a failure as a first probation for those who have every opportunity. It is not intended to save mankind but to demonstrate that God Himself is the only Saviour, and not man, no matter how ideal his environment may be. He may be happy and religious, yet have a heart ready to renounce God as soon as Satan has an opportunity to influence him. The great apostasy at the end of the thousand years is proof positive that God's goodness not sufficient to gain the hearts of His creatures. They can be captured only by His grace.

The great white throne is not set up until after the millennium. The rest of the dead will be raised to stand before it and to be judged during the period in which it operates. They will not merely be sentenced, but will undergo the pains and penalties which are their due. All the inequities of their earthly existence will be ironed out. All wrongs will be righted. During this judgment period all unbelievers will come into contact with Christ as the Judge. This, and the experience of His judging, will prepare them for salvation at the consummation. They have no eonian life, hence can have no part in the millennium or the eon following it.

All the eons, except the final one, end in failure and disaster, and this in increasing measure. The first brought on the disruption, the second the deluge. This one will end in the awful judgments of the apocalypse. But the worst failure of all is the millennial fiasco. It has the best "chance" (may God forgive the word!) of success. But God does not want it to succeed! He wants all His creatures to know that the most ideal conditions, the most perfect environment—everything suggested by such words as chance, opportunity, etc—cannot be substituted for the sovereign and imperious compulsion of His grace.

If environment could save, each creature would eventually become all in itself. If opportunity could deliver, God's grace would be unneeded and unheeded. The mistaken idea that all mankind needs is an adequate "chance" is so insidious, so ingrained in the human heart, that God is forced to stage a grand refutation. He binds Satan, He saves His people Israel and sends them to serve the nations. Every possible advantage is given to mankind that they may know and believe God. But the sequel shows that the most perfect and prolonged "chance" does not reach their hearts. In a few days they are alienated and arise in active rebellion against their benefactors.

The revolt at the end of the thousand years is one of the most illuminating flashes of light in the whole course of human history. It sounds the depths of human depravity. It reveals the great truth that the best "chance" for salvation lies in the lack of every proper influence. Sinners are saved today not only in spite of their surroundings, but because of the evil and sin which besets them. The binding of Satan does not lose him a single soul. It is more than likely that his present activities, the machinations which accompany his work among mankind, actually provides the best "chance" for God's salvation to operate. The empty stomach, the lean purse, the sense of shame and remorse are more potent influences in leading men to God than honor and prosperity and well-being. The best "chance" is no chance.

God will get no trophies of His grace in the millennium. Most of these will come out of the preceding judgment era, or in the present secret administration. All His blessings for the thousand years will not buy the heart's allegiance of one unbeliever, even though he outwardly conform to all the holy ritual. The only "chance" to be saved, at any time, in any environment, depends on the sovereign counsel of God's will and the operation of His holy spirit. No circumstances, no environment can hinder His work These are chosen, not to supplement His omnipotence, but to display it, and the grace and love which underlie it. God Himself will be our Saviour, and He is jealous of all help. He does not need our assistance, nor that of time and place, even though these are of His own creation.

This, then, is the lesson of the millennium. It is quite the opposite of that which is usually deduced. Its close is God's concluding word to all creation, warning them to beware of confidence in dead things and inviting them to trust in the living God. Once more He locks up His creatures in stubbornness in order that He may be merciful to them. The effect is most gratifying. Henceforth, in the new earth, He is on intimate terms with mankind. All need for priesthood vanishes. He has proved that environment is not salvation, so now He can combine them without danger of misleading His creatures. He will allow no such saviour to take His place. Every creature, in the consummation, will hail Him as their only Saviour from sin, their only Reconciler from estrangement.

 

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