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The Next Age of Man: What Will It Be Like?

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The Next Age of Man

What Will It Be Like?

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We hear a lot of bad news about the future of mankind. It's frequently reported from various studies that our days are numbered from this or that major peril. Something has to give, and soon. Prospects are bleak, the experts tell us, for the human race indefinitely maintaining its standards of living and improving the conditions of the impoverished.

But what if we told you that a reliable source promises that the human race will survive—and not only survive, but thrive as never before?

Consider what this source says: Deserts will become incredibly productive. All people will have land to live on and produce a good living for themselves and their families. War will be no more. Crime will be non-existent. Disease will be eradicated.

The failure of man's efforts

Think it can't happen? Think again! For it can, and it will. The next age promises to be something mankind has never experienced since the Garden of Eden. This seems impossible, and it is if left up to man to bring about. After all, the history of humanity has seen civilizations come and go despite promises of fixing the problems of the past.

Solving mankind's problems hasn't been a real priority for most civilizations in the past. New civilizations have been based on power-hungry individuals carrying out their own utopian visions, with them at the top and in charge. The few were benefited while the majority suffered.

More recently Western democracies have promised equality for all people, and with it hopes of a prosperous future. But that prosperous future is now in doubt. The free world and life as we know it will be changing soon—and not for the best in the near term.

The next age is unique in mankind's history

The Bible explains that there will be an age of 1,000 years—known to many as the "Millennium," Latin for "1,000 years"—that will be completely different from anything that's ever come before.

This 1,000 years will provide everything mankind has only dreamed about. Strive as we may to achieve it, human beings will not produce this next age of ourselves. It will be done by God for us and will demonstrate that His way is right after all.

The apostle John recorded his vision of this future time following Christ's return in Revelation 20: "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; and 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. But after these things he must be released for a little while" (Revelation 20:1-3).

Again, the setting here is after Jesus Christ has returned to earth as He said He would. Revelation 11:15 says that at the time of the sounding of the seventh of seven trumpets, the kingdom of this world will become His. We see Jesus pictured later on Mount Zion with the firstfruits of God—"the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes"—alongside Him (Revelation 14:1-5).

We then read about a warning message being sent out to the nations of the world that "Babylon" is about to fall (Revelation 14:8). This name signifies a great governmental and religious system rooted in ancient Babylon that exercises a great deal of control throughout the world. The Bible describes it being led by Satan through deception. Revelation lists seven vials or bowls, symbolically containing the final plagues to be poured out on the corrupt system controlling the nations. Chapter 16 describes these final plagues.

In chapter 19, we have the armies of the nations, marshalled by an individual called "the Beast" who sits at the head of the Babylonian system. He is shown moving toward Jerusalem, where he and his armies will attempt to defeat Jesus Christ. These armies will of course be destroyed. Jesus will then begin to reign over the nations of the earth.

There is one thing left to happen, however, before Jesus Christ can successfully rule. The devil will be locked away, as we just read from Revelation 20, to remove his influence over mankind for the rest of the millennial period.

A literal period of 1,000 years

The next few verses mention the 1,000 years and describe specific conditions that will exist.

Revelation 20:4 refers to those who sit on thrones, stating that they will live and reign with Christ during the Millennium. The authority of judgment is given to them because they are loyal to Jesus Christ. These are His faithful followers, who refused to compromise the way of life God revealed to them, even to the point of being willing to lose their lives.

The book of Daniel also foretold that a literal kingdom would be given to the saints—that is, the sanctified ones or those set apart, the true and faithful servants of God: "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).

Those faithful individuals who rule with Christ over all nations at that time will have had to overcome the world in this age. As Jesus promises: "He who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations . . . [and] 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 2:26; Revelation 3:21).

Only those who will not be conformed to the ways of this world, but rather overcome the world though Jesus Christ, will be the ones who will "sit on thrones" and judge or rule the earth with Him.

Only those who are living by God's Word in the Bible, obeying His laws, are qualified to administer the rule of Christ and His laws through His righteous government.

First and second resurrections

Returning to Revelation 20, we are told in Revelation 20:6 - "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"

The saints, also called firstfruits of God, will be resurrected to immortal spirit life in what the Bible calls the "first resurrection." But if there is a first resurrection, does that mean others will follow?

The book of Revelation continues with an amazing and little-understood truth.

Revelation 20:5 answers the question of what happens after the Millennium. The "rest of the dead" will live again in a judgment where they will have an opportunity to know God and His Word. Amazingly, people who have not heard or sufficiently understood the truth of God, not having been called in this age, will be called in a future age—specifically when the 1,000 years are finished.

Resurrected, they will stand before the Lord, with the books of the Bible opened for them (Revelation 20:11-12), meaning they will at last understand the Scriptures. In this age the books of the Bible have been closed to their proper understanding. So this is an opportunity for all those who have never heard the plan of salvation to hear and understand.

While Scripture says of those in the first resurrection 1,000 years earlier that the "second death has no power over them," the same is not said here. These people, the vast majority of those who have ever lived, are resurrected as physical human beings, subject to experiencing a second death if they pursue wrong choices. But they can also repent and turn to God and be granted the same gift of eternal life that those raised to eternal life in the first resurrection were given.

Satan released—why?

Revelation 20 also mentions the devil being released at the end of the Millennium—an enigma to many: "Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison, and go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea" (Revelation 20:7-8).

Revelation 20:9 says, "They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them."

What is happening here? Why does God allow Satan out of the bottomless pit, where he was confined 1,000 years earlier, to go out and deceive the nations again?

The picture becomes clearer when you understand that the world at this time will be one in which the devil has been locked away for 1,000 years. The people who will live into the Millennium will have experienced the terrible tribulation of the end of our age. They will form the basis of the world's population during this 1,000-year period.

The people who will be born and live during this time will not have experienced the devil's rule and deception over the world. All they will know will be what they were told. As generations are born in this 1,000-year period, the only world they will know will be God's world.

His release will follow a world at peace

We have a clear picture of this age in some of the great millennial prophecies in Isaiah 2:2-4: "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 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.'"

In the coming 1,000-year age, it will not be long until there are no false teachings and religions. People will know God's ways well and will happily live by them.

This period of time will be remarkable—1,000 years of peace. People will be taught God's laws and will enjoy the fruits and prosperity of God's reign and His ways.

We have an extraordinary picture of fierce wild animals not harming people or eating their traditional fare of weaker animals. The famous line, "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat . . . the lion will eat straw like the ox," are literal scenes of a world at peace (Isaiah 11:6-8). And they also depict peace among human beings, as is clear from the next verse.

Isaiah 11:9 concludes, "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."

The devil will lead multitudes in rebellion

Again, though, why would God allow the devil out to again deceive the nations? Let's consider this. The world will for the first time be without Satan's deception. It will experience 1,000 years where people will not have known Satan's lies and propaganda. This is a very good thing, but since this will be a time of salvation for all mankind, and God has intentions for them to be in His Kingdom forever, they must learn to choose right in the face of temptation or misleading.

Will they be able to successfully resist? Absolutely! However, just like people today, many won't be able to withstand the appeal the devil will make to their basic selfish desires. If a person hasn't made a firm choice to always choose God's ways of love, obeying His law, then they will be susceptible to this kind of temptation and deception. Obviously, some people at that time won't make the right choice to be faithful to God and Jesus Christ.

What might that deception entail? It will likely be the same line Satan threw out to Eve to turn her against God. It goes like this: "God isn't telling you everything. You can have so much more and be so much more if you'll just follow me and do things my way."

People will be influenced by these thoughts. They'll become angry and rebel against God's good government. People will believe they can do better for themselves.

Rebellion against God's righteous reign will spread among a significant part of the population. They are referred to as Gog and Magog. The international rebellion here can be likened to the great force amassed against Christ's reign earlier in the Millennium (see Ezekiel 38-39). Just like his attempt to derail God's redemptive work today, Satan's plan for God and Magog will fail. God's way works best. The self-serving way of competition brings only violence and harm to all. God will have no choice but to mercifully destroy those who rebel against Him.

The world prepared for the second resurrection

At this point the devil will be removed permanently, never to deceive and tempt anyone again. Then God will be ready to proceed to the next phase of His plan. The earth will be restored to a beautiful garden able to support the billions who will be raised in the second resurrection period mentioned earlier.

When they are brought back to life, the truth of God will be made clear to them, and they can learn God's ways and freely believe in them without the deceptions of the devil to turn them away. In their previous life they had already experienced the devil's deception. Now they will have their first opportunity—not a second chance—to attain salvation as others have before them. (To learn more, see "The Bible's Prophetic Festivals: Revealing God's Plan of Salvation".)

The Millennium soon to come is going to be an exciting period for man. The age in which we now live will end in human failure. But in the next age man will succeed because of the righteous and caring leadership of Jesus Christ. The barriers to success will be removed, including the reign of the devil.

You should know that this next age is a vital step in God's plan to bring salvation to all of mankind. It's celebrated in the observance of the biblical Feast of Tabernacles.

The United Church of God, which publishes this magazine, observes this commanded festival in anticipation of this coming age of peace and plenty. We understand the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles is necessary to help us prepare for the role Jesus Christ is offering us to be kings and priests who will reign with Him to make the world the place it should be.

Are you preparing for the next age?