When Jesus Christ returns to earth He will initiate "the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets" (Acts 3:21, NRSV). Those prophets consistently assured ancient Israel and Judah that a righteous King would restore God's Kingdom to earth.
The prophets reveal the exact spot to which the Messiah, God's anointed King, will return: "And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east" (Zechariah 14:4). Starting with Jerusalem as His capital city, He will expand His reign to the world (Zechariah 14:9).
Once God's Kingdom is established in Jerusalem among the people of Israel, Christ will ask representatives of all nations to come to Jerusalem to learn about His laws. He will summon them to Jerusalem to attend God's annual Feast of Tabernacles: "And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles" (Zechariah 14:16; see Leviticus 23:33-44).
Not all nations will immediately cooperate. Remember, Satan will have organized these same nations to fight Christ at His return. They will not quickly accept Him even after Satan is bound. Therefore Christ will "judge between the nations, and rebuke many people" (Isaiah 2:4). Early in Christ's reign, strong measures still will be necessary to convince most nations that He intends to enforce the laws of God.
How will He make this clear, especially to nations who obstinately refuse to attend the Feast of Tabernacles? His means of communicating His message to them will be straightforward. He will simply demonstrate His control over the natural forces of earth. "And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain" (Zechariah 14:17).
The nations will quickly learn that their existence depends on God's blessing. Good weather and bountiful crops are blessings from God. From this time forward only nations that obey God will reap those blessings. All others will not. Such a system will serve as a convincing argument. In time, all nations will respond.
Let's now examine some of the specifics of Christ's reign.
Rewarding the saints
Jesus Christ has promised to reward people who through the ages have faithfully served Him (Revelation 11:18; Revelation 22:12). Notice their part in His Kingdom: "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 20:6). This future period is often simply called the Millennium (a 1,000-year span).
From the beginning of Christ's millennial reign the faithful servants of God—including many who will have suffered severe persecution and martyrdom—will serve as the teachers and administrators of that wonderful world to come. They will assist Jesus in teaching the ways of peace and righteousness to the nations. This will fulfill Christ's promise to His Church: "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Revelation 3:21).
The prophet Daniel foretold the same thing: "Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him" (Daniel 7:27).
Christ does not plan to change the world single-handedly. At His coming His faithful servants will be immediately transformed from flesh and blood into immortal spirit beings who can assist Him. Paul explained:
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:50-53).
These transformed beings will sit with Jesus Christ on His throne. They will serve with Him as teachers and administrators during His millennial reign. (For more details about the incredible future God has in store for mankind, be sure to download or request your free copies of the booklets The Gospel of the Kingdom, What Is Your Destiny? and What Happens After Death?)
The restoration of all Israel
Long ago God also promised: "The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch [his descendant, the Messiah], and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety" (Jeremiah 23:5-6, NRSV).
The restoration of all of the tribes of Israel as one nation under the reign of the Messiah is foretold again and again in the writings of the prophets.
Through Ezekiel God says: "Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again" (Ezekiel 37:21-22).
And through Jeremiah: "Now therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city [Jerusalem] of which you say, 'It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence': 'Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever'" (Jeremiah 32:36-39).
Since Christ will establish Jerusalem as His capital, the first people to experience the effects of His rule will be the restored kingdom of Israel. As their King, He will immediately establish a close working relationship with them: "Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst...Indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore" (Ezekiel 37:26-28).
The people of Israel will play a necessary role in helping other nations implement God's ways. Once God has forgiven their sins, Jesus Christ will begin using a humbled and repentant Israel to spread the knowledge of God's law to other nations. The whole world will gradually come under the administration of a unified code of law, the law of God. Jesus will coordinate this as He reigns over the nations from Jerusalem. The world will finally learn to obey God's law.
Israel will help the nations learn God's ways
Concerning the restored nation of Israel during Christ's millennial reign, God says: "Behold ... I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth. And I will cause the captives of Judah and the captives of Israel to return, and will rebuild those places as at the first. I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities ... Then [Jerusalem] shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it" (Jeremiah 33:6-9).
As the people of Israel learn to follow God's ways, their example will inspire other nations to seek the same way of life and to want to reap the same blessings: "Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you"'" (Zechariah 8:22-23).
Nations will see that keeping God's law works. They will come to Jerusalem to learn how they can apply it in their own lands: "Many nations 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 the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem " (Micah 4:2). Eventually "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).
The fruit of right knowledge
With Jesus Christ as King, Jerusalem will be the center of learning for the world. God's Word, the Bible, will provide a solid foundation for the development of education and knowledge:
"So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth...It shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off" (Isaiah 55:11-13).
Prosperity will increase while crime and corruption will cease: "Instead of bronze I will bring gold, instead of iron I will bring silver, instead of wood, bronze, and instead of stones, iron. I will also make your officers peace, and your magistrates righteousness. Violence shall no longer be heard in your land, neither wasting nor destruction within your borders" (Isaiah 60:17-18).
It takes much more than mere knowledge, however, to produce lasting peace and cooperation. A spiritual change is also necessary. It will be that spiritual change in the people of Israel that will inspire other nations to admire their way of life and want to emulate it:
"O house of Israel,...for My holy name's sake...I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them" (Ezekiel 36:22-27).
The spiritual restoration of humanity is the most important transformation that will occur during this millennial period when the world is transformed. The Spirit of God will enable people to willingly and enthusiastically obey Him from the heart: "But this is the covenant that 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 31:33; Hebrews 8:10).
God's Spirit will phenomenally transform people. Obedience will be widespread; people will exhibit honorable leadership and enjoy a stable society: "I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city" (Isaiah 1:26).
The changes will be permanent, lasting throughout subsequent generations: "Also your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever ... that I may be glorified. A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation. I, the LORD, will hasten it in its time" (Isaiah 60:21-22).
Each new generation will carry on this tradition of righteousness: "All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children" (Isaiah 54:13). People the world over will notice and respect their example: "Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the posterity whom the LORD has blessed" (Isaiah 61:9).
As people from other nations see what happens in Jerusalem and its environs, they too will want to serve the living God: "Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants—everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant—even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer...For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations" (Isaiah 56:6-7).
Finally the barriers between Israel and other nations will fall. This will occur because all will eventually realize "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).
As people the world over begin to obey God, first by getting their spiritual priorities straight, they will begin to experience unprecedented physical prosperity:
"'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 mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it...They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them'" (Amos 9:13-14).
Isaiah compares this time to a perpetual feast with the best of everything: "On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear" (Isaiah 25:6, NRSV).
Notice this inspiring description of blessings yet to come: "They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD—and their descendants as well.
"Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox ... They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord " (Isaiah 65:21-25, NRSV).
This vision of the millennial reign of Christ is not an illusion but a promise of reality. Jesus Christ will return to earth to spiritually transform its people and establish utopia, a paradise on earth. The combination of removing Satan's influence, giving humanity God's Spirit and teaching the world the laws and ways of God will produce 1,000 years of peace and a society blessed beyond its wildest dreams.
But, incredible as this sounds, prophecy reveals that an even more amazing period awaits mankind.