Beyond Today

Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow | Learn more...

You are here

Just What is the Millennium?

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up

×

What does the word millennium bring to mind? Futuristic, science-fiction images? Computer glitches? Horrific prophecies of destruction? A utopian fantasy world?

As the year 2000 approaches the word millennium has been used so commonly that most people have even learned to spell it correctly.

What is the millennium? The word is derived from two Latin words: mille, meaning “thousand” and annus, meaning “year.” ( annus ). Millennium simply means 1,000 years.

Many will mark the beginning of the third millennium on Jan. 1, 2000, although in reality, according to the calendar used by most of the Western world, it will begin a year later, on Jan. 1, 2001. We are fast approaching the time many assume will mark 2,000 years since the birth of Jesus Christ.

But is the birth of Jesus the only connection between the Bible and the millennium?

Confusion about the Millennium

Many people have heard that the Bible talks about a period of peace known as “the Millennium,” but they aren't quite sure what that means. The many views among Christian denominations and religious teachers don't help clear up the confusion.

What is the Millennium described in the Bible? Is it merely a nice-sounding ideal or an allegory? Or is it a time the Bible describes as real? How will the Millennium come about? Does the Bible tell us where it will be? Can we know when will it come about? Let's explore the answers straight from the Bible.

Although the word millennium never appears in the Bible, it speaks specifically and clearly of a period of 1,000 years that will serve as the turning point for mankind. It reveals that during that time the world will finally achieve the elusive ideals of peace, prosperity and purpose. It is assuredly not merely a dream, wish or fantasy; the Millennium holds a sure promise of hope for humanity.

To understand the prophesied Millennium (not to be confused with the third millennium according to our modern calendar), let's set the stage by briefly describing events that will take place immediately before the beginning of this 1,000 years.

A world in peril

Shortly before His death Jesus's disciples asked Him what events would occur before the end of the age and His return to earth (Matthew 24:3 Matthew 24:3And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world?
American King James Version×
). Jesus warned that the future would bring religious confusion and deception, war, natural disaster, persecution and tribulation, even as the gospel would spread to all the world (verses 4-14). Then He told them that those who are watchful and obedient could be protected from the destructive events that would yet occur (Luke 21:18 Luke 21:18But there shall not an hair of your head perish.
American King James Version×
, 28, 36).

Jesus went on to prophesy that immediately before His return the world would be gripped by unparalleled difficulties so severe they would threaten humanity with extinction: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×
).

He said the time of turmoil would be followed by dramatic signs in the heavens, and then He would return in power and glory. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (verses 29-31).

From Paul's writings we learn that the gathering of “His elect” at the “sound of the trumpet” is the resurrection of faithful Christians: “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 by no means precede those who are asleep [dead]. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
American King James Version×
).

Rejoicing or rebellion?

Jesus said the “tribes of the earth will mourn” at His return (Matthew 24:30 Matthew 24:30And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
American King James Version×
). That statement seems odd, since you would expect that all would rejoice at His second coming. Why does mankind resist, rather than rejoice, when Christ returns?

Revelation 18 gives us more background information. This chapter describes the destruction of an economic, political and religious system called Babylon the great (verse 2). But before its destruction it will be the source of great wealth to those who are part of this pervasive system: “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury” (verse 3). Verses 9-20 describe the abundance and prosperity this system will bring to the nations, and their shock and fear at its sudden destruction.

In a vain effort to protect their system, and because Satan has deceived them, the armies of the world will fight against Jesus when He returns (Revelation 19:11-19 Revelation 19:11-19 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war. 12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13 And he was clothed with a clothing dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 And out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treads the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And he has on his clothing and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. 17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the middle of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together to the supper of the great God; 18 That you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. 19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.
American King James Version×
). Verse 20 describes the destruction of the political and religious leadership of this ungodly system.

Having destroyed Babylon, Jesus will deal with the unseen “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
American King James Version×
), Satan. “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:1-2 Revelation 20:1-2 1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
American King James Version×
).

The Millennium begins

The prophecy goes on to show that Satan is bound so he can no longer deceive humanity: “[The angel] cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished …” (verse 3). Although many Old Testament prophecies reveal what will take place during the Millennium, this is the first specific reference to a period of 1,000 years.

The “elect” gathered “from the four winds” (Matthew 24:31 Matthew 24:31And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
American King James Version×
), who had received eternal life when Jesus returned (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
American King James Version×
), includes those who were persecuted because they refused to be part of the ungodly system the Bible calls Babylon. Now resurrected and having received God's gift of eternal life, they will rule the earth with Jesus Christ during this time.

“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness of Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4 Revelation 20:4And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
American King James Version×
).

The reign of the Messiah

Daniel 7 contains another prophecy of events that culminate in the establishment of God's kingdom. Verses 13 and 14 describe Jesus Christ being given this kingdom: “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”

Jesus Christ's return to establish God's Kingdom on earth will fulfill the prophecy recorded long before His birth: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7 Isaiah 9:6-7 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from now on even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout).

Jesus will return to a battered and beaten earth. People will have endured a time of terrible tribulation, bloody battles and horrifying disasters. Zechariah 14 summarizes events surrounding Christ's return and the beginning of the Millennium.

Verses 1-2 discuss “the day of the Lord,” the time just before His return when Jesus begins to intervene in world affairs and set the stage for His second coming. Verses 3-5 speak of His battle against the nations and His descent onto the Mount of Olives just outside Jerusalem. Verses 6-9 describe Jesus' impact as He immediately begins to comfort earth's inhabitants and institute God's way of life.

The “living waters” mentioned in verse 8 symbolize the healing that will spread out to all lands from Jerusalem. “And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth …” (Zechariah 14:8-9 Zechariah 14:8-9 8 And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. 9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.
American King James Version×
).

A world of prosperity and peace

The Millennium is the first 1,000 years of the eternal Kingdom of God. The purpose of the Millennium is to establish God's government on earth and provide a way for every person, protected from Satan's deception and temptation, to prepare to receive an eternal inheritance in God's Kingdom.

Isaiah was inspired to record many prophecies of the Millennium. He summarizes the transformation of the earth after Jesus returns: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:2-4 Isaiah 2:2-4 2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
American King James Version×
).

Isaiah describes a world completely different from ours. Jesus Christ will rule over all the earth. People from all nations will seek to learn God's law and live according to it. As a result, society will have an entirely new orientation and approach based on godly values. Man's creativity and resourcefulness will be used for peaceful purposes instead of war and destruction.

Isaiah further prophesies that, not only will man's nature change for the better when Satan is removed from the scene, but even the nature of animals will be different: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den” (Isaiah 11:6-8 Isaiah 11:6-8 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
American King James Version×
)

A prophecy by Amos shows the earth benefiting under Jesus Christ's rule. The nations will be richly blessed. For example, crops will be so abundant that the preparations for the next year's will be slowed because the harvest hasn't even been completed. ” 'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord, 'when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountain shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it' ” (Amos 9:13 Amos 9:13Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that sows seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.
American King James Version×
).

Those who are part of the resurrection that takes place when Jesus returns are also described as teachers who will give people guidance and direction in God's way of life: “And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:20-21 Isaiah 30:20-21 20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not your teachers be removed into a corner any more, but your eyes shall see your teachers: 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
American King James Version×
).

Faithful Christians who prepare in this life for the Kingdom of God will reign with Jesus Christ in the Millennium. As kings, priests and teachers, they will have the privilege of assisting Him in governing and teaching mankind the way and the truth of God.

A world filled with purpose

Why will the world be so different during the Millennium? God will provide what is sadly lacking in today's world. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9 Isaiah 11:9They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
American King James Version×
).

When people live according to the knowledge of God, they will experience peace and prosperity—the result of understanding the true purpose of life and how God intends man to live. It's difficult for us to grasp how negative an influence Satan is on our lives. We live in a world that lacks the knowledge of God, an understanding of His instructions and the purpose of life. We can only try to imagine what the world will be like when it is saturated with God's truth and man is free to pursue the purpose for his existence.

The prophet Jeremiah spoke of a new covenant between God and humanity. Jesus established this covenant (Matthew 26:28 Matthew 26:28For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
American King James Version×
), but, although Satan is present to spread his deceptions (Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
American King James Version×
), God has called relatively few to enter into that covenant.

During the Millennium, however, when Satan is bound and God fills the world with knowledge of Him and His ways, mankind as a whole will have an opportunity to enter into this covenant. “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt … This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jeremiah 31:31-33 Jeremiah 31:31-33 31 Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was an husband to them, said the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, said the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
American King James Version×
; emphasis added throughout).

The promise of salvation through the New Covenant will not be limited only to descendants of Israel, but will extend to all mankind. In reference to Jesus' work of salvation, one of Isaiah's prophecies puts it this way: “Indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be My salvation to the ends of the earth' ” (Isaiah 49:6 Isaiah 49:6And he said, It is a light thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give you for a light to the Gentiles, that you may be my salvation to the end of the earth.
American King James Version×
).

Eternal life offered to all

Societies will be based on the law of God, which will be taught to all nations (Isaiah 2:3 Isaiah 2:3And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
American King James Version×
). People will learn to obey God from their heart, motivated by understanding, love, devotion and appreciation.

The apostle Paul wrote that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 1 Timothy 2:3-4 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
American King James Version×
).

As Jesus rules on earth during the Millennium, people will have the opportunity to learn about Him and God's plan for salvation. All will have the opportunity to come to see Jesus as their Savior, realizing they can enter into eternal life only through Him (Acts 4:12 Acts 4:12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
American King James Version×
). Finally recognizing Jesus as Savior and King, people will honor, worship and obey Him (Philippians 2:9-12 Philippians 2:9-12 9 Why God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
American King James Version×
).

But what happens next? What about the rest of humanity, those who lived and died without ever hearing of Jesus Christ or knowing God's plan for salvation?

Beyond the Millennium

The Millennium helps us understand the future of those who have died in the faith, those who are alive when Jesus returns to earth and those who are born during the 1,000 years. But what about people who lived and died before the Millennium? How will salvation be offered to the billions who never heard the message of the gospel?

“But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished” (Revelation 20:5 Revelation 20:5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
American King James Version×
). When the Millennium is over, the “rest of the dead” will live again. They will have their opportunity for salvation too. (To understand more about this next and important step in God's plan, be sure to request our free booklet God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind. )

God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
American King James Version×
). These prophecies reveal that God will make His gift of salvation available to all who have lived.

Prophecy need not be confusing

Confusion and misunderstanding about the Millennium abounds, but the Bible is clear. The Millennium is the first 1,000 years of God's eternal kingdom. During that time Jesus will establish God's government, the world will be at peace, and mankind will flourish as the knowledge of God fills the earth. Humanity will come to understand and prepare for its eternal destiny in God's family and kingdom.

In His Word God has revealed much about the Millennium that strengthens our faith, sense of purpose and hope for the future. We hope that you will continue your study to learn of and prepare for your part in God's incredible plan for you.

This article has only briefly discussed some of the many prophecies of the Millennium and Jesus Christ's coming rule on earth. To discover more of what the Bible teaches about this exciting new world, be sure to request The Gospel of the Kingdom . To better understand how the Millennium fits with God's plan as laid out in Bible prophecy, please ask for You Can Understand Bible Prophecy . GN

You might also be interested in...

As we approach the threshold of a new millennium, what does the Bible say to...
These scriptures paint a picture of what Christ's rule on earth will be like.