Starting to Look at the End (Part 6)

For the other available posts in this series, click here.

The Millennium

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb may well be the significant event that initiates the millennial period. Revelation has little to say about the Millennium, referring only to those who reign with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4). However, many prophetic portions of the Old Testament scriptures provide details, especially concerning God’s chosen nation Israel (see also Isaiah 40–66; Jeremiah 31–33; Ezekiel 40–48, and the final verses in many of the books of the minor prophets, such as Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah, Zephaniah, and Zechariah). A careful study of these and other scriptures shows us that in the Millennium:

  • The Lord Jesus Christ will establish his kingdom on earth, where righteousness reigns.
  • All of the promises made to Israel by God, through his covenant with Abraham, that are still outstanding will be fulfilled during this period. 
  • The Church, Old Testament saints, and those martyred during the Tribulation, will share with Christ the administration of his vast domain.
  • Regular temple practices will occur and Israel will celebrate its festivals, such as Passover and Tabernacles (Ezra 45, 46). It appears that Christ will be represented on earth for much of this time by a human representative, who is called a prince (possibly David?) (Ezekiel 44:1–3; 45:7–25).
  • The saved Gentile nations will experience the blessings of this kingdom age, mediated to them through Israel, and peace and prosperity will endure for a thousand years.
  • The present groaning creation will rejoice and flourish again, the desert will blossom as a rose, and animals will not harm one another or little children (see Isaiah 11:6–9; 35:1, 2).
  • Longevity of life will be the norm with most people living for a hundred years or more, and there will be no infant deaths (Isaiah 65:20).

At the end of the Millennium, Satan will be let loose from his prison and he will deceive many around the world and gather them together for war against the Lord and his people in Israel (Revelation 20:7–9). We might wonder how this could happen when the world has experienced such peace and prosperity and righteousness for so long. Several billion people will have been born during the Millennium to repopulate the earth after the Tribulation, in which several billion perish. Even though all outwardly show obedience to the Lord, each one individually will have to choose whether or not to accept salvation in him. Obviously, many will not and will be persuaded by Satan to go to war. However, as they are gathered, fire comes down from heaven and devours them (Revelation 20:9).

Satan is then thrown into the lake of fire, joining the two beasts who are still there after a thousand years, and there they are tormented forever and ever (Revelation 20:10). Then follows the judgment of the unbelieving dead of all the ages.

The Final Judgement 

Revelation 20:11–15 is, for us, perhaps the saddest passage in all of Scripture. We see the Lord Jesus Christ seated on a great white throne and all of the (unbelieving) dead standing before him. Graves will be opened, death and Hades will release their wretched inmates. Soul and body will be reunited for the great judgment. This is the second resurrection. Books containing all the sinful deeds of each unbeliever are opened, as well as the book of life. Each unbelieving person is judged according to his/her works and, because his/her name is not found in the book of life, they are thrown into the lake of fire (a place prepared by God for the devil and his angels [Matthew 25:41]). This is the second death, an eternal separation from God. 

At this judgment, death and Hades are also thrown into the lake of fire, no longer needed since sin will not mar God’s new creation. There are many different views concerning the reality of hell, or Gehenna, the lake of fire, and also the meaning of the words “eternal punishment,” quoted by the Lord in Matthew 25:46. This is a study in itself, and therefore I can only briefly indicate my interpretation of this and other relevant Scriptures. Certainly, eternal means forever and ever, as it always does in Scripture. The story of the rich man and the poor man, told by the Lord in Luke 16:19–31, refutes many false ideas such as; Annihilation, sleep of the soul, universalism, second chance, spiritism, and purgatory. It is evident that when the poor man (a believer) died, his soul went immediately into Paradise, the abode of God, whereas the soul of the rich man (an unbeliever) goes to Hades, a place for the unsaved after death, until the final judgement. Even in this place the rich man’s soul is continually in torment (verse 23) and in agony (verse 24).

Read and think about the following scriptures: Matthew 10:28; 18:8, 9; 25:46; Mark 9:43–49; 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9; Hebrews 6:2; Revelation 14:9–11; 20:10–15; and find God’s truth on this subject for yourself. 

The Eternal State

Little said in Scripture about life in heaven, and on earth, after God’s final judgments, probably because our finite minds could not appreciate the wondrous things he has in store for his redeemed in a timeless future. Though there are, no doubt, other Scriptures referring to this timeless future, specific and direct mention is found in 1 Corinthians 15:24, 2 Peter 3:13, and Revelation 21:1–4. From these Scriptures we find that there are new heavens and a new earth; Everything will be in harmony with God’s own nature; Righteousness will dwell everywhere; God will dwell with men and be their God.

Consideration of 2 Peter 3:7, 10, and 12 suggests that God will refine the present earth and heavens with fire of intense heat, destroying all the works of man created over the centuries, and removing every trace of sin and corruption by both men and fallen angels. Thus, the new heavens and earth will most likely be formed from the present heavens and earth, changed completely into something new for an eternal existence. Note the similarity to the change to be made by God of our natural bodies to spiritual bodies as described in 1 Corinthians 15:35–50.

Much of chapter 21, and the first part of chapter 22, of Revelation describe the holy city, the new Jerusalem, and life within it. John first sees it descending out of heaven from God. Some expositors consider the city to be a symbolic picture of the Bride of Christ, the Church (Revelation 21:2, 9). However, I believe this incredible city to be real and the eternal heavenly residence of the Church of the triune God, a place spoken of by the Lord in John 14:2, 3. This is where God dwells with his people. Its dimensions are vast with length, width, and height all of 12,000 furlongs, or 1500 miles. There are several shapes with such dimensions such as a pyramid or a cube. I think the latter is more likely, since in ages past the God of Israel was considered to dwell in the holy of holies, within the temple, and this inner sanctuary was a cube, with length, width, and height of twenty cubits (1 Kings 6:20). Many interesting comparisons can be made of specific facets of this city, as given in Revelation, with descriptions in the Old Testament of aspects of the Tabernacle. For example, compared the precious stones adorning the foundation stones of the city wall (Revelation 21:19, 20) with the precious stones on the breastpiece of judgment (Exodus 28:15–21), a priestly garment.

For us now it is enough to appreciate that this is where we will spend eternity worshipping and serving God. No longer will there be any death, mourning, crying, or pain, no more day or night, no need of the sun or moon. The glory of God and of the Lamb will illumine the city, providing light for those on earth, and we shall reign with him forever and ever. 

This series of posts has been adapted with permission from F. J. Hopton, From Here to Eternity: What Every Christian Should Know, Canada, 1999.