The Bible foretells a 1,000-year period when Jesus Christ will create on earth a world of peace and justice without war and suffering.
The book of Revelation contains the astonishing story explaining why our world contains so much evil and how a new age will come—not by the hand of man but by the direct intervention of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
On the prison island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, the apostle John received an astonishing vision that has fascinated and perplexed many. Is this prophecy just an old man’s meaningless dream that couldn’t possibly come true? Or is it the sure Word of God? Can this mysterious book really be understood? Does it hold answers for us today? You can know, and the answers will give you hope!
A world in chaos
Are you tired of bad news? Are you frustrated with the anger, division and conflict we see around us today? There has been a lot lately. In the Middle East we see a world aflame with rioting, overthrow of governments, and the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of religious extremists and unstable dictators.
Our world is going through a period of volatility, producing fear and uncertainty about the future. We wonder what lies ahead for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.
People need hope in the future—hope that problems can be solved, hope that life will get better. Without hope people wither in despair and often turn to destructive behavior for escape. God understands that you and I need hope every day, and He has provided that hope in His revealed Word, the Bible.
Beyond Today is about hope. We give understanding and help for living by God’s purpose and will. We have learned that the Word of God is the only sure source for lasting hope in this often-chaotic world.
A thousand years of peace
There is a biblical truth that promises a world of peace and prosperity for all. It is the scriptural teaching of the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ on earth, often called the Millennium. The world “millennium” is a Latin word that means 1,000 years. The Bible describes this millennial age as a time of peace and harmony on earth. This teaching is not something invented by human imagination.
The truth of Christ’s reign on earth connects with some of the Bible’s earliest statements. It is found in virtually all the Hebrew prophets. And it continues to hold the imagination of many in spite of attempts to undermine and explain it away.
God’s promise of His 1,000-year reign on earth stands as a symbol of hope for all mankind. A study of the sayings of the Scriptures and a review of efforts to overturn this teaching help us to understand our world and the promised peace of the Kingdom of God.
In the book of Revelation the apostle John records that after the second coming of Jesus Christ, the saints will reign with Him for 1,000 years. Here’s what it says: “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to 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 . . . blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4, emphasis added throughout).
There you have it! This passage in Revelation provides the capstone to a teaching that begins in the writings of the Hebrew prophets. It’s a summary of many other biblical descriptions and promises about the millennial age, a peaceable Kingdom.
The hope of Israel of a transformed world
God through His servants foretold this period repeatedly. It was the hope of Israel’s prophets throughout much of the nation’s history, especially during periods of decline and captivity.
This same hope was shared by the apostles as they questioned Christ about the restoration of Israel’s ancient kingdom. Before His ascension to heaven, His disciples asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). The disciples eagerly expected to see the Messiah’s rule begin at that time. They knew the promise of a restoration foretold by so many of the prophets.
The prophet Isaiah had offered a very clear picture of this future when he wrote of a time when Israel would be reunited under one Ruler and the knowledge of God would cover the earth (Isaiah 11:1-10). This was written during the period of Israel’s decline, but it pictures the future Millennium. Notice what that prophecy says about peace in nature and among all people:
“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. 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 11:6-9).
Isaiah’s words have crystallized the idea of the Millennium. What is described here is a complete change in all parts of this world—a time when the nature of wild animals will be changed. A child will walk among them in safety with no fear. And this passage further shows, in light of the last verse here, that even the nature of man will be changed!
Think about this for a moment. The deception that has gripped the world will be turned back. The knowledge of God’s plan will spread throughout the human race. This is going to happen, and it will only happen through the return of Jesus Christ to earth!
A time without war
Isaiah wrote another long section of prophecy foretelling a time of world peace when war will be neither learned nor waged. It’s worth reading in its entirety:
“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 [speaking of God’s place of rule being at the apex of all nations]; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people 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 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).
Ancient Israel never experienced this type of society. Nor has any other nation in the history of the world. Think about that for a moment. This scene that we just read out of the book of Isaiah provided the inspiration for a statue that stands at the United Nations building in New York City.
Ironically that statue was a gift from the Soviet Union back in 1959. The bronze statue represents the figure of a man holding a hammer in one hand and in the other a sword he is beating into a plowshare. It symbolizes man’s desire to put an end to war and to convert destructive weapons into productive tools for the benefit of all mankind.
This scene remains unfulfilled. No nation in history has brought it to pass. Wars and conflict continue to rain death down on towns and villages, killing and disrupting the lives of many. Refugees pour into other nations looking for safety and a place to rebuild shattered lives.
The Kingdom is real and coming
The expectation of 2,000 years ago in the Holy Land was that a Messiah would overthrow Roman rule and restore an Israelite kingdom. Many who followed Jesus Christ, including His closest disciples, believed He was the One who would restore the kingdom to Israel. They later came to understand that this restoration would come later with Christ’s future return to establish God’s Kingdom over the whole world.
Beginning near the end of the first century, this truth of God’s Kingdom on the earth came under severe attack. The integrity of Christ’s teachings was corrupted by heresy. The Roman government killed many Christians, including Christian leaders. The apostle John was exiled on the prison island of Patmos. A great confusion about the Kingdom of God erupted within the Church.
At the height of this crisis, John received Christ’s revelation affirming the truths of the triumphal establishment of the Kingdom of God. The knowledge of the Millennium, the future 1,000-year reign, gave the Church during those years great encouragement, as it always has done for those who look to God for their hope and read this truth in the Scriptures.
During that tumultuous time the teaching of the literal Kingdom of God on this earth became mixed with forms of heresy, and it was discredited by many in the second, third and fourth centuries after Christ. The concept of a literal, earthly reign of Christ on this earth was being challenged and rejected by many.
In spite of Christ’s instruction there were misguided attempts to predict the time of His return.
Theologians who were influenced by Greek thought began teaching that the Kingdom was not literal, nor was it future, but it was only a vague spiritual metaphor. And the Kingdom became subject to many wild interpretations. The false teachers said that such scriptural references as those we’ve just read were meant to be understood as mere symbolism and allegory—not to be taken literally.
In the midst of these heresies, many still held to faith in a coming Kingdom as vital truth delivered through the apostles from Jesus Christ. The histories show us that a scattered remnant of faithful people holding to the “faith which was once for all delivered” (Jude 3) continued to teach the truth of Christ’s 1,000-year reign on earth.
By the fifth century A.D., the doctrine of the Millennium was overwhelmed by the teaching of one man, Augustine of Hippo. Augustine was the most influential theologian of the early Catholic Church. He taught that the Church was the Kingdom of God on earth. His false teaching replaced the biblical teaching that God would intervene in history, establishing a literal Kingdom on this earth, a Kingdom that would never end.
The removal of this central teaching of Christ and His Church had profound impact. What historian Edward Gibbon called “the ancient and popular doctrine” was in large part rejected. Gibbon wrote: “But when the edifice of the church was almost completed, the temporary support was laid aside. The doctrine of Christ’s reign upon earth was at first treated as a profound allegory, was considered . . . as a doubtful and useless opinion, and was . . . rejected as the absurd invention of heresy and fanaticism” (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Great Books edition, 1952, p. 188).
Overcoming false kingdoms
Now let’s pause, and let me ask you something. What was the result of the loss of this critical biblical teaching? It was a big loss, and it meant everything.
It meant that the church was now considered the Kingdom of God, acting and working with the authority of Christ. It meant that any political power that it joined with would wield immense influence over the hearts and the minds of men. It meant the formation of a spiritual and political tyranny that was not of God. This was a false and gravely heretical teaching! The Western world of Europe was plunged into a period that history calls the Dark Ages. It was as if the lights went out on learning and the advancement of culture on all fronts. Historian William Manchester describes the period as a “portrait . . . of incessant warfare, corruption, lawlessness, obsession with strange myths, and an almost impenetrable mindlessness” (A World Lit Only by Fire, 1992, p. 3).
To be blunt, whenever people have tried to create the biblical Millennium on the earth in their own way by politics and their own form of religion or philosophy, it has always failed.
The only way the Kingdom of peace prophesied in the Bible will come about will be by the direct hand of God as He intervenes in history and saves all mankind from extinction. No project of man will bring about a utopian society!
Put your faith in the King and hope for His Kingdom
It is vital that you understand Christ’s message of the coming Kingdom of God today. The Bible reveals that a world of peace will result from the return of Jesus Christ. Nations will seek the way of God. Fear will be banished from among the peoples of the earth as godly righteousness guides international relations.
After Christ comes back, endless conflicts will disappear, and the art of war will be lost. Families will grow stronger with each generation. At that time, there will be nothing to deny the Kingdom’s long-held promise and hope of bringing peace on earth.
As we’ve seen, the teaching of the coming Kingdom of God is found throughout Scripture, from the Old Testament on through to the book of Revelation. Christ’s last words on the subject are the clearest and plainest in the Bible regarding the initial era of this coming rule. Jesus Christ, the One through whom the book of Revelation came, says there will be a period of 1,000 years during which the resurrected saints will reign with Him in a just and benevolent Kingdom on this earth. And this will lead to a more amazing future still!
Will you take Christ at His Word? Will you believe what He said? The millennial rule of Christ, an idea older than time, will endure and ultimately transform the world!