New Earth, Eden Restored


53 The Millennium

by Hubert F. Sturges, www.everlastingcovenant.com, December 2013

This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. Revelation 20:5, 6

Why 1,000 years? Satan has had 6,000 years to challenge the law of God. This time has been a frenzy of activity. Now that Jesus has come the wicked are killed by the brightness of His coming, and the righteous are transported with Christ to heaven. During the millennium only Satan will be alive on this earth. God will set aside 1,000 years for Satan to wander alone over this ravaged earth and contemplate what he has done. At the end of the 1,000 years, Satan will demonstrate that his character has not changed. Satan will marshal evil angels and humans into an army and attempt to take the holy city!

God is careful and orderly in everything He does. Since His character is one of love, freedom, and persuasion, every person and angel in the whole of creation must be convinced that He is merciful and just. Every human being and every angel must understand that God’s judgment is fair and that He has done everything possible to save even wicked human beings. Before God brings the New Jerusalem to Earth and imparts His eternal blessings, the angels, the redeemed saints, and Jesus Himself must judge the actions of God for 1,000 years, answering every question.


Mercy and Justice in Jesus

Before the redeemed enter the Holy City and inherit the earth made new, there is one more step to be completed. Christ takes His people to heaven into the very presence of God Himself and places them on thrones of judgment, and “they lived and reigned with Christ for one thousand years” (Rev. 20:4). What judgment do the righteous carry on in heaven?

Often, Christians will look on the plan of salvation as focused primarily on the salvation of the righteous. This is a weighty consideration, but it is not the only consideration and it is not even the most serious one. In the great controversy between Christ and Satan, it is God Himself and His law that Satan has challenged. Is God arbitrary and vengeful, seeking to destroy all those who do not obey Him, as Satan has alleged, or is He a God of love, grace, forgiveness and mercy, seeking to save all that He possibly can? Is the law of God just and reasonable? Is it a help to humans and angels?

If God is just, then how can He also be merciful? If He is merciful, then how can He also be just? In the cross of Calvary, “mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Ps. 85:10). All heaven declares Jesus Christ to “be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Jesus showed His mercy in taking the penalty for the broken law upon Himself and opening the door for humans to be saved and restored to the purity and happiness of Eden. He showed His justice in giving His life to make this possible.

The plan of salvation, as worked out on this earth, is of intense interest to all intelligent beings, “for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men” (1 Cor. 4:9). The experiences we go through here are “things the angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12).

During this earthly reign of sin and redeeming grace, one makes observations and tentative judgments but does not receive answers to all questions. Jesus saves some known sinners and He condemns some kind and generous people. Why is that? In the eternity of the earth made new, God purposes to have every question answered.

How could angels, who lived in the presence of God, ever sin? How could Lucifer, the highest angel and the closest to God Himself, rebel and sin against God? These questions must be answered. God entrusts to the redeemed of all ages the judgment of not just of unsaved men, but of the fallen angels (1 Cor. 6:3). Through this judgment, everyone will become perfectly satisfied that God is a God of love. “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Rom. 14:11).


A Thousand-Year Cease Fire

“Millennium,” the word for one thousand years is not found in the Bible, though John does use the thousand-year period in Revelation 20. Just before this, the earth has received God’s judgments. These are the last events on this old earth and include plagues, judgments, and resurrections. Many people have drawn charts attempting to locate each event precisely. This may be impossible. All one can do is have a clear expectation of coming events and then recognize the events as they come. Besides this, one must learn faith and trust in God now. There will not be a “second chance.”

A time of trouble will come on the earth. Matthew 24 described it in detail. The Holy Spirit withdraws from the earth, and the wicked are unrestrained in doing evil.1 This brings on the “time of trouble such as never was” (Dan. 12:1). At the same time, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the righteous with power (Joel 2:23, 28-32).

Probation for mankind closes (Rev. 22:11). This means that all people have made their decisions for good or evil. The Holy Spirit seals the righteous, and the wicked receive the mark of the beast.2

During this time, the church gives the three angels’ messages (Rev. 14:6-12). These messages urge repentance, warn against living in error, and present the fearful results of failing to choose for God. The loud cry of the fourth angel follows these messages, calling God’s people to come out of those churches where truth has given way to confusion (Rev. 18:1-4).

After the close of probation, angels pour out the seven last plagues on the earth (Rev. 15:1; 16:1- 21) while angels shield the righteous (Rev. 15:2-4). The battle of Armageddon (the seventh plague) is Satan’s last attempt to destroy the people of God. However, God stands up for His people in this battle, destroying Satan’s institution of evil (Rev. 16:16-21).

Jesus then, Jesus comes the second time, accompanied by all the angels of heaven, with a glory never before seen on earth (Heb. 9:28; Matt. 24:27, 30, 31; 25:31). Jesus raises the righteous dead, and with the righteous living, takes them all to heaven. The wicked that are still living are slain by the brightness of His coming.3

The one thousand years begin. An angel binds Satan in the bottomless pit, an apt metaphor for an earth when it is in utter destruction with no life on it but Satan’s. He has one thousand years to contemplate the results of his rebellion (Rev. 20:1-3). At the same time, the righteous are in heaven, doing a work of judgment. Among the righteous are martyrs from the last climactic time of trouble (Rev. 20:4-6).

At the end of the one thousand years, the holy city, New Jerusalem comes down from God out of heaven (Rev. 21:2). An angel looses Satan, and the wicked are raised to life (Rev. 20:7, 8). In spite of the destruction all about them on the earth and the immensity and strength and beauty of the Holy City, the wicked still listen to Satan. They form an immense army, which surrounds the Holy City (Rev. 20:8, 9).

Their march comes to a sudden halt as the majestic white throne appears above the city, and God opens the books and passes judgment. Each person will see the part he played in disobeying and refusing to believe God (Rev. 20:11-13). Every intelligent being--whether human or angel--will bend the knee and confess that God is merciful and just in His judgments (Rom. 14:11). It is too late for the rebellious to be saved.


The Final Conflagration

God looks on the heart in judgment. It is not just a matter of being “a good fellow.” If a person is kind and generous on this earth, he cannot be saved unless he accepts Christ (Acts 4:12). If a person has never heard of Christ and has had no opportunity to learn of Him, God is merciful (Rom. 2:14-16). God determines whether a person still harbors pride and selfishness in his heart. He reads the struggles of difficult and abusive persons. He will be merciful in judgment.

Among the saved in the new earth, Jesus Christ is first in thought, word and action. This must become a habit now. No one will give free reign to habits of anger, domination, profanity, or immoral jesting. If people love brutal sports, alcoholic binges, gambling, drugs, or if they desire to attract attention to themselves, they would be unhappy in the new earth.

God knows these things, and all His decisions are merciful and just. He gives the answer to every question as to why the wicked are lost. Every knee bows to recognize Jesus as Lord--even those of the wicked and Satan himself. After 1,000 years, God brings this stage of judgment to an end.

The Bible is crisp and concise. Satan, his angels, and all the wicked are cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20; 20:10, 13-15).4 The Bible is also clear at this point: to be cast into the lake of fire is to suffer the second death. It is not an eternity of suffering and anguish. It is a quick and merciful death.5

God has not chosen that anyone should die. All people choose their own future by the decisions they make (2 Peter 3:9). The lake of fire is also a purifying fire. Fire cleanses the earth of all sin and sinners. The planet, now cleansed, is ready to be made new to receive the Holy City, New Jerusalem, where the righteous shall dwell forever. Not only the righteous, but God Himself shall dwell with them (Rev. 21:3)!


Endnotes

1. At a certain point, in human history, the Holy Spirit withdraws from the earth (Ezek. 9:3; 10:4, 18, 19; 11:23).

2. The righteous receive the seal of God, and the rebellious receive the mark of the beast (Rev. 7:1-8; Isa. 8:16; Ezek. 9; Rev. 13:11-18).

3. Jesus resurrects the righteous and takes them to heaven; the wicked die (1 Cor. 15:51-55; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 1:7; 2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 6:12-17).

4. “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Rev. 20:10, original italics retained). The italicized “are” was supplied. The verse does not give a time sequence of when the “beast” power and his agent “the false prophet” (which corresponds to the second beast on the land in Rev. 13) are destroyed. But, even if it did, they are not individuals as the devil and his angels are. Their destruction in symbol is the end of the institutions they represent.

5. The lake of fire consumes the wicked and purifies the earth (Mal. 4:3; Rom. 16:20; Ezek. 28:18, NCV).