"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 (NKJV)
Opening prayer: Father, this all sounds very strange and new. Help me understand the future world that you will restore, and the role you have chosen for me to fill, I pray.
This is a continuation of our series on the Revelation of Jesus the Messiah. If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to study our previous lessons in this series:
Rev. 1: The Revelation of Jesus
Rev. 2-3: I Know You!
Rev. 4-5: Preview of Heaven
Rev. Study: Prophecies of Daniel
Rev. Study: Raptures and Resurrections
Rev. Study: Ezekiel's War
Rev. 6: Overview of the Tribulation
Rev. 7: Some Special People
Rev. 8-9: Danger! Rough Road Ahead!
Rev. 10-11: Seven Thunders; Two Witnesses
Rev. 12: The Woman and The Dragon
Rev. 13: The Last-Days Dictator
Rev. 14: The Last Train for Glory
Rev. 15-16: The Last Plagues
Rev. 17-18: Who is That Woman?
Rev. 19A: A Mysterious Marriage
Rev. Study: The Day of the Lord
Rev. 19B: Doomsday
Rev. 20: Heaven and Hell
In our previous lesson, Heaven and Hell, we made a curious discovery: the end of the world isn't the end of the world. When Jesus returns to this Earth, He sets up His Kingdom here on earth for a 1,000-year period. This period is popularly called The Millennium.
The whole concept of a 1,000-year reign on this planet really troubles my logical mind. I grew up thinking that Heaven was some cosmic place in another dimension or galaxy, and that we would live there forever. So why don't we just go there and ride around on pink clouds all day? A Millennium period on this earth poses some real logical issues:
- Much of the Earth will be rendered uninhabitable during the Great Tribulation, so how can this planet qualify as heaven?
- What will living conditions be like?
- Who will be living during that 1,000-year period?
- What will happen to present earthly governments?
- What will people do during that period?
Let's start by reviewing Revelation 20 verses 1-3:Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he 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. (NKJV)
This passage gives us several items of information:
- The devil will spend the 1,000 years in the bottomless pit, as we discussed in our previous lesson.
- By implication, the lesser demon creatures will also be imprisoned, although Scripture does not give clear guidance on this point.
- After the Great Tribulation period is completed and the devil is locked up, some people will still be alive on Planet Earth. As we saw in previous lessons, the plagues and wars will kill more than half the world's population. Nevertheless hundreds of millions of people will survive.
- The surviving nations (the Greek word in Revelation 20:3 above is ethnos meaning tribes or races) must be vulnerable to deception. This confirms that unsaved people in flesh bodies will survive the Great Tribulation period and finish their lives during the reign of Christ.
Let's continue in Revelation 20 with verses 4-6:4 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. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 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. (NKJV)
In our previous lesson, we learned that the redeemed of Israel and the redeemed followers of Jesus will return to earth with Jesus and be seated on thrones. These may be physical thrones or just symbolic of our positions of authority under our Lord.
We will be joined by another, smaller group: "...those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the Word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands." They will be late bloomers: choosing Jesus over the Last-Days' Dictator, but not soon enough to participate in any of the rapture events described in the lesson Raptures and Resurrections. These brothers and sisters will pay dearly for their faith, but the Lord will reward them and exalt them in a special way.
This limited group of martyrs will be fortunate. The Lord will allow them to live long enough to make a quality decision for Jesus. Unfortunately, most of the English-speaking world will have been destroyed or rendered radioactive in the first half of the seven-year period, so it's risky to hope you can postpone your decision to follow Jesus.
The resurrected saints will join us in ruling and reigning with Jesus. Everyone else will be under our authority. The unsaved mortals will need to submit to the Lordship of Jesus and be born again (just like we did) if they want a chance for eternal life after the 1,000 years are completed.
What will life be like during the 1,000 years?
Actually the Bible has quite a bit to say about the Millennium. The Book of Revelation is primarily concerned with giving the sequence of events. Other books fill in the details.
Let's begin with Psalm 46, verses 1-7:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah 4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. 6 The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. 7 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Portions of this Psalm are familiar to us, and have brought comfort to millions of troubled people over the years. Ordinary life has always been difficult, and will soon become exceptionally difficult. This lesson was originally in early 2003; the moral environment has deteriorated since then, but the worst is yet to come. Nevertheless take heart: the Best (our Lord Himself) will come soon, and set the world right.
Notice that verses 2-3 and 5-6 speak of the Great Tribulation period, as the pagan nations rage against Israel. But the God of Israel is a consistent refuge and strength in times of trouble.
Not only does God protect Israel, He physically moves to this Earth (verses 5 and 7) and makes Jerusalem His capitol. Note verse 4, which speaks of both a physical river and of the Rivers of Living Water -- the power of the Holy Spirit poured out upon and through those who trust in Jesus, the Messiah of Israel.
Now let's read the rest of Psalm 46:8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has made desolations in the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. 10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah (NKJV)
The Messiah's reign will bring remarkable change upon the earth. He comes with power to destroy the truly wicked. But after destroying the nastiest people and putting the devil in prison, He uses His power to bring peace on this Earth.
The book of Isaiah has many similar passages, beginning in chapter 2:2 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 unto it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, 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 pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.
This clearly describes future times. The prophet specifically says it will happen in the last (Hebrew: akhareeth or very last) days. Some other specific truths in this passage:
- The center of the world will become Israel.
- The Messiah will live in Jerusalem and rule the world from there. He will not live in Rome and share His authority with the Catholic Church. He will not live in Mecca and share His authority with Mohammed. He will not live in New York and share His authority with the United Nations. He is the Messiah of Israel, the Son of God, Son of David, King of kings.
- The entire world will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord: "...He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths." All the other belief systems will be exposed as worthless.
- Jesus will establish and enforce world peace: "...and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
- Jesus will make His joy and peace available to all who willingly follow Him: "...let us walk in the light of the Lord."
Now let's look at Isaiah 4, verses 2-6:2 In that day the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious; And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing for those of Israel who have escaped. 3 And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. 4 When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, 5 then the LORD will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering. 6 And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain. (NKJV)
From other passages of Scripture, we learn that the "Branch of the Lord" refers to the Messiah, Jesus. This passage reconfirms that Jesus will return bodily to this Earth and live in Jerusalem.
The city of Jerusalem will no longer be a dangerous place, inhabited by a contentious mixture of Jewish, Islamic, Christian and godless people. In that day, the Messiah Himself will make the old religious labels obsolete. When God Himself lives next door, it's foolish to worship anybody but Him.
Did you notice that the Lord will re-establish the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day? In the days of Moses, the pillar was a visible demonstration that the Lord was in the camp of Israel. Furthermore, the pillar would sometimes move, to lead the camp of Israel to another location.
Fortunately, after the Great Tribulation experience, Israel will never again be forced to live in the wilderness or to spend 40 years moving from place to place. The Lord will make the canopy of fire and cloud hover above Mount Zion for 1,000 years. The canopy will be proof that the children of Abraham will finally be home and that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be dwelling in their midst.
Isaiah chapter 9 also speaks of Messiah and His reign:1 Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, as when at first He lightly esteemed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward more heavily oppressed her, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. 3 You have multiplied the nation and increased its joy; they rejoice before You according to the joy of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4 For You have broken the yoke of his burden and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. 5 For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle and garments rolled in blood will be used for burning and fuel of fire. 6 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. 7 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. (NKJV)
Several points in this passage should get your attention:
- This passage predicts that Messiah would appear to come from the Galilee region, which Jesus did.
- The reign of Messiah will bring joy, rather than the terror that usually accompanies earthly government. For the 1,000-year period, all the world will experience the joy and peace that you and I can experience today if Jesus rules our hearts.
- All the nations who have oppressed Israel -- and all the nations presently raging against Israel -- will be ashamed and subdued. Their power will be broken. They will finally know the truth, and be humbled by it.
- Israel will gather weapons and war materials left behind after the Battle of Armageddon. And just as they did after Ezekiel's War, they will recycle the war materials and burn them as fuel.
- The Child is described in terms that require Him to be the Son of God: "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Remember what Jesus told the disciples: "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." (John 14:9)
- The Son of God will rule in peace and justice upon the throne of David forever.
- This passage severely limits the potential candidates for the Messiah. He must be a legitimate heir to the throne of David, yet He must also be God and must also begin His public ministry in the region of Galilee. Only one Person has ever met these criteria.
Now let's turn to Isaiah chapter 11 for an extended look forward:1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. 3 His delight is in the fear of the LORD, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; 4 But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist. (NKJV)
This remarkable passage speaks of the entire Holy Trinity:
- God, the Son, shall somehow be a physical descendant of Jesse.
- The Holy Spirit "shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord."
- The Son of God will reverence God, the Father.
To be honest, I don't understand how all this works, but it will make perfect sense when we see Him.
Note a few other interesting aspects of the Messiah:
- He will judge with perfect righteousness, protecting the poor and weak from their enemies.
- He will be completely intolerant of evil. Your friends who worship "tolerance" will need to find a different religion.
- His power will be like nothing ever experienced by men before. He will destroy His enemies with a single spoken word: "...and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked." This will first be displayed at Armageddon (Revelation 19:21) and repeated as necessary to silence troublemakers.
- Don't waste any energy feeling sorry for the lack of "dialog" about how the world should be governed. Jesus will rule with righteousness and equity. Jesus will only slay the wicked. He's smart enough to know the difference between evil folks and those who are merely confused or ignorant.
Let's continue with verses 6 through 9 of Isaiah 11:6 “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. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. 9 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. (NKJV)
Remember that in Isaiah 2 we first observed that the rule of Messiah will bring peace to all men and women. Now we read that Messiah will do a miraculous work to bring peace between different animal species. This will become practical when the Lord restores the Earth to its pre-Flood climate. Certain animal species that now must be carnivorous will be able to thrive on a diet of plants. By implication, human beings will likewise be enabled to thrive on vegetarian diets.
This passage should also remind you of God's message to Noah immediately after the great Flood, as we read in Genesis chapter 9:1 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.
Apparently animals did not fear human beings before the Flood, because they weren't on the menu yet. But as you have probably noticed, very few animals actively seek the company of man in our day. Mosquitos seem to enjoy inviting us to dinner, but their motives are suspect.
God will apparently change all that. "Wild" animals will live at peace with each other and with human beings. Life will be very different.
Now verses 10 through 12 of Isaiah 11:10 “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people. For the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.” 11 It shall come to pass in that day That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left, from Assyria and Egypt, from Pathros and Cush, from Elam and Shinar, from Hamath and the islands of the sea. 12 He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
We saw a partial fulfillment of this promise when Israel was reborn as a nation in 1948. The complete fulfillment is yet future.
Even politics will be different as we see in verse 13:13 Also the envy of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim.
For your homework, research how the nation Israel was split into two warring groups after the death of Solomon. The ten northern tribes were led by the tribe of Ephraim, while Benjamin and Levi followed Judah and the descendants of King David. In our lifetime, every nation on Earth today is divided into political factions within its own borders. That will be changed. Petty arguments and power struggles will become obsolete for 1,000 years.
Let's continue with Isaiah 11 verses 14 through 16:14 But they shall fly down upon the shoulder of the Philistines toward the West; together they shall plunder the people of the East; they shall lay their hand on Edom and Moab, and the people of Ammon shall obey them. 15 The LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt; with His mighty wind He will shake His fist over the River, and strike it in the seven streams, and make men cross over dryshod. 16 There will be a highway for the remnant of His people who will be left from Assyria, as it was for Israel in the day that he came up from the land of Egypt. (NKJV)
It will be a relief when the presently Islamic nations around Israel begin to quiet down and learn the truth of Jesus Christ. It will be a relief when the present political parties within Israel and within the United States quiet down and learn the truth of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, there will be troublemakers in the countries surrounding Israel. These people have been taught to hate Israel since childhood. Muslim tradition holds that Jesus will return to Earth as a Muslim and will help Muslims track down and kill all remaining Christians and Jews. Muslims believe that the very rocks and trees will cry out and tell Muslims where Jews and Christians are hiding, so the "infidels" can be killed.
Fortunately, many present-day Muslims will gladly receive the Prince of Peace, and will welcome the change from the oppressive rule of Islam. Others will be unable to accept the truth; their belief system is not rational today and will not respond to reason then.
The troublemakers will make trouble, and will be permanently silenced (verses 14-15 above). Everyone else will be free to live and travel in peace.
Isaiah chapter 35 speaks of a day when both dry land and dry hearts will be watered:1 The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; 2 It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the excellency of our God. 3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6 Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. 7 The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitation of jackals, where each lay, there shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
Since the rebirth of Israel in 1948, verses 1-2 have seen a partial fulfillment. Extensive irrigation projects have enabled Israeli farms to be incredibly fruitful. Israel today is the largest exporter of fresh fruit to Europe. This has been the result of intense human effort, blessed by God as a picture of what He will accomplish during the Millennium.
When the Lord returns and renovates the Earth's climate system, we shall see the full meaning of this passage. Desert areas all over the world will bloom: "The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water..." (verse 7).
God will heal the land, but the greatest blessing will be healing for people (verses 5-6). Ever since Jesus walked the Earth 20 centuries ago, He has been healing blind, lame and mute people. He healed people in person during His public ministry. He has been healing people through Spirit-filled believers since Pentecost. But the past miracles are just the beginning. The very best part is still future. This passage speaks of healings on a scale we've never experienced.
Now let's read the remainder of Isaiah 35:8 A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray. 9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; it shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there, 10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (NKJV)
The language is symbolic but the meaning is clear. God is calling us to walk with Him, now and forever. When Jesus first began calling disciples, His first instructions were "Repent!" and "Follow Me!" It's worth noting that unless we get these first two steps right, nothing else about the Christian walk makes sense. Fortunately, Jesus gives us a clear trail in Scripture to enable us to follow Him down the narrow path through the narrow gate. In the near future, He will give us instructions in person.
The second part of verse 8 makes me chuckle: "Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray." All of us are foolish (to a greater or lesser extent) before we start following Jesus. If we follow Jesus, He will not lead us astray. If we do not follow Jesus, we will remain foolish. If we follow Jesus half-heartedly and wander off the road, we will rapidly become even more foolish than we were before. Let's follow Him with our whole hearts.
Jerusalem: A Light to the Gentile Nations
Now we come to the last chapters of Isaiah, which focus tightly on the reign of Messiah during the Millennium. Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, will rule the world from Jerusalem and all the world will be blessed.
Let's begin by reading the first five verses of Isaiah chapter 60:1 Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. 2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people. But the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. 3 The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. 4 “Lift up your eyes all around, and see: They all gather together, they come to you. Your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side. 5 Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you. (NKJV)
The picture is of the Earth after the Great Tribulation period. The world has been shaken to its foundation, but now there is a peaceful quiet. The world has been very dark, but now there is an amazing light spreading from Israel.
The people of Israel have been scattered abroad, but now they will be regathered.
The people of Israel have been persecuted and tormented, but now they will be honored.
The people of Israel have been captured and exiled, but now they will be restored by the wealth of their former captors. This concept is repeated in verses 10-14 of Isaiah 60:10 “The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you; For in My wrath I struck you, but in My favor I have had mercy on you. 11 "Therefore your gates shall be open continually. They shall not be shut day or night, that men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, and their kings in procession. 12 "For the nation and kingdom which will not serve you shall perish, and those nations shall be utterly ruined. 13 “The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the pine, and the box tree together, to beautify the place of My sanctuary; and I will make the place of My feet glorious. 14 "Also the sons of those who afflicted you shall come bowing to you, and all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet; and they shall call you The City of the LORD, Zion of the Holy One of Israel. 15 “Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, so that no one went through you, I will make you an eternal excellence, a joy of many generations." (NKJV)
Notice the flavor of these verses. God is speaking through the prophet in the First Person Singular: "I have had mercy on you...I will make the place of My feet glorious...I will make you an eternal excellence, a joy of many generations." All these good things will not happen to Israel because of Israel's strength or military power. It will be God's power.
As we have said before, not everybody will be able to accept the rule of Messiah. Notice in verse 12: "For the nation and kingdom which will not serve you shall perish and those nations shall be utterly ruined."
Some of my readers might think: "That's not FAIR! Why should the other nations serve Israel? Why can't everybody just get along?" The answer is that God is not fair. He is righteous. There is a big difference.
God never asks us to be "fair." He requires us to be righteous, but we know we can never be perfectly righteous in our own strength. That's why Jesus, the creator of the Earth, walked this Earth in human flesh as a servant, and died to pay the price for your sins and mine. He paid the penalty for your sins and mine so that we could claim His righteousness as a free gift, through faith. See the Transformed Life lessons elsewhere on this site for details.
And there is another reason why it is good for other nations to serve Israel. People who know Jesus have learned that the greatest joy comes from being a servant like Jesus was. By serving Israel in faith, willingly, the Gentile nations will participate in the joy and blessings of Messiah. If this still sounds peculiar, you need to read my book Durable Joy to get the full picture.
The Messiah Brings Personal Blessings
Now let's read Isaiah 61, verses 1-5:1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, 3 To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” 4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. 5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the foreigner shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. (NKJV)
The first two verses of this passage are very familiar. Our Lord Jesus read these verses in the synagogue at Nazareth very early in His public ministry. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 4, we see this account:16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
When you compare the two passages, you notice that Jesus abruptly stopped reading in the middle of a sentence. He stopped before mention of "the year of vengeance of our God." Since He read those words, we have been able to experience a portion of those blessings. But the day of vengeance and the complete blessings are still future, as of this writing.
Note the flavor of these verses. The blessings are very personal and directed to individuals rather than the nation. Jesus offers His blessings to people that are poor, captive, blind, oppressed and depressed. When He walked this Earth in human flesh, He brought great healings and miracles. Jesus delivered people from the chains of poverty, disease and religious delusion. He will do that and more when He physically returns and establishes His kingdom.
Human government rules by enslavement. Jesus will rule by setting men free.
Not only will human beings be set free, they will enter into a very personal relationship with Jesus, their Messiah, as we see in Isaiah 61, verses 10-11:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its bud,
As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (NKJV)
As we saw in the earlier lesson, A Mysterious Marriage, Jesus desires a very personal relationship with each of us. This is the tender love that a Bridegroom has for his bride. We can freely partake now in the blessings of being His beloved and His betrothed. Soon we will experience the full measure of being His bride.
Have you ever wondered why God often speaks of His love for Jerusalem? God is not talking just about the physical residents of the city Jerusalem. He speaks of loving those who abide daily in Jesus, as described in our lesson on The Fruit of the Holy Spirit, who worship God in Spirit and in truth. Isaiah 62, verses 4-5 speak of God's blessings for those of us who earnestly seek Him now, in our quiet times of worship and prayer:4 You shall no longer be termed Forsaken,
Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate;
But you shall be called Hephzibah ("My delight is in her"), and your land Beulah ("Married");
For the LORD delights in you,
And your land shall be married.
5 For as a young man marries a virgin,
So shall your sons marry you;
And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
So shall your God rejoice over you.
God loves Jerusalem, the city. He chose to put His name there, to make Jerusalem the place of worship for the whole world. Then He chose to have His Son sacrificed there, to make His Son the new center of worship. On Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Jerusalem, that devout Jews of every nation could hear the Good News and take it home with them. Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has lived in the hearts of men and women who respond to the Gospel message and make a quality decision to follow Jesus.
Today, Jesus can rule peacefully in our individual hearts even though the outside world is in great turmoil. A submitted heart, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is a picture of the Messiah's future reign in Jerusalem.
Today, the city of Jerusalem is the center of great turmoil, but Jesus will return and bring great peace.
The First Renewed Earth
As we have seen, the Lord will make this Earth a very different place after He returns. He will bring peace between warring nations. He will bring peace between warring individuals. He will bring peace between warring animals. He will bring peace between animals and human beings.
We have also seen hints that the world's environment will be restored to its pre-Flood condition. There is further evidence of this in Isaiah 65, verses 17-25:17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing,
And her people a joy.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
And joy in My people;
The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her,
Nor the voice of crying.
20 “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
They shall not plant and another eat;
For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,
And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain,
Nor bring forth children for trouble;
For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD,
And their offspring with them.
24 “It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking, I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
The lion shall eat straw like the ox,
And dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,”
Says the LORD.
Note that the Lord will create a "new heavens and a new earth" (verse 17). The word "new" translates the Hebrew word hadas (sometimes spelled chadash), which can mean either brand new or renewed. In the Septuagint translation, the Greek word is kainos, meaning renewed rather than created from nothing. In this passage, the Lord is describing changes that make it seem like a completely new and different world.
This passage doesn't directly describe the climatic changes, but instead describes the results:
- Human beings will be healthier, as evidenced by the lack of infant mortality.
- Humans will live longer. A person 100 years old will be considered a child. If somebody dies younger than 100 years old, people will wonder "Why?"
- Because of their longer lifespans, people will have more time to enjoy the fruit of their labors. Today, men have to retire from their jobs long before they reach 100 years of age. Even very successful men must retire and step aside for younger men to take over.
- People will have long and healthy lives like they did before the Flood: "As the days of a tree so shall be the days of My people." Trees can live hundreds of years. Before the Flood, human beings often lived more than 900 years. After the Lord returns, human beings will again live up to 900 years.
- When the pre-Flood environment is restored, the land will be more fertile. Vegetables, fruits and grains will again contain the nutrients that God intended. We will no longer need to eat meat for protein and trace nutrients. Therefore, meat will disappear from the diets of men and animals: "The wolf and lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox" (verse 25).
Let's close our study in Isaiah with two passages describing the Messiah's return and Israel's regathering as a nation. The first passage is Isaiah 66, verses 18 through 21:18 “For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. 19 I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. 20 Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the LORD out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the LORD, “as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD. 21 And I will also take some of them for priests and Levites,” says the LORD. (NKJV)
Notice the beginning of verse 18, "For I know their works and their thoughts." God takes a very personal interest in you and your family. He knows your works and your thoughts. He knows your genealogy all the way back to Adam through Noah.
God will gather His people to Himself at the start of the Millennium. Furthermore, He will send ambassadors to faraway nations to proclaim the Good News to everyone.
Notice in verses 20 that God will call people of Israelite ancestry out of all nations. They will come to Jerusalem and worship. Furthermore, in verse 21, "...I will also take some of them for priests and Levites." This is another indication that the Lord will re-institute animal sacrifices in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. We will study more about that subject in a few minutes.
Now let's read the last three verses in the book of Isaiah, chapter 66, verses 22-24:22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth
Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the LORD,
“So shall your descendants and your name remain.
23 And it shall come to pass
That from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the LORD.
24 “And they shall go forth and look
Upon the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
God's final message through the prophet Isaiah is an interesting mixture of personal encouragement and grim warning. The Lord is giving a personal pledge to the faithful believers within Israel that He will honor His extravagant promises of care and protection. On the other hand, the Lord will also honor His promises of eternal torment to those who rebel against Him.
Verses 23 and 24 clearly connect this passage to the Millennium period. As mentioned earlier, the Lord will direct the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, and He will reinstitute animal sacrifices. Throughout the Millennium period, people will come to Jerusalem to worship.
After leaving Jerusalem, many pilgrims will board tour buses and visit Megiddo, to see the (perhaps radioactive) remains of the armies that attacked Israel during the war described in our earlier lesson, Ezekiel's War. That war is still future as this lesson is being updated (July 2013). But the war will surely happen, as will the tours of the toxic remains during the Millennium.
Visions of Ezekiel
In our lesson on Ezekiel's War, we studied chapters 38 and 39. Those chapters speak of the heathen world's first attack on Israel at the beginning of the seven-year tribulation period.
The very next chapter begins a different series of revelations. In fact, chapter 40 begins with a calendar reference, to help us recognize that these visions were given at a different time than the previous chapters:1 In the twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was captured, on the very same day the hand of the LORD was upon me; and He took me there. 2 In the visions of God He took me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain; on it toward the south was something like the structure of a city. 3 He took me there, and behold, there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze. He had a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand, and he stood in the gateway. 4 And the man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here so that I might show them to you. Declare to the house of Israel everything you see.” 5 Now there was a wall all around the outside of the temple. In the man’s hand was a measuring rod six cubits long, each being a cubit and a handbreadth; and he measured the width of the wall structure, one rod; and the height, one rod.
The previous calendar reference, at the beginning of chapter 32, spoke of the 12th year of their captivity. This vision came to Ezekiel in the 25th year of their captivity.
In this vision, Ezekiel is shown a vision of future Israel, and he encounters "a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze." This person speaks with authority and is neither an angel nor any man that you or I will see walking through a Home Depot store. This person was the Lord Jesus Himself, in what theologians call a "theophany" -- an appearance of the Lord Jesus before His physical birth.
The Lord was carrying a measuring rod six cubits long. In this case, the cubit is longer than the traditional 18 inches. The Lord is measuring in units that are each "a cubit and a handbreadth," or about 22-24 inches. There are two possible reasons for the different unit of measure:
- The cubit was a convenient man-centered measurement, universally understood. During the Millennium, human beings will again enjoy the pre-Flood environment and larger cubits will be appropriate for larger people.
- A more-likely reason is that the Lord is using a "royal" cubit, a special unit reserved for measuring holy buildings and objects.
For the remainder of chapter 40 through chapter 42, Ezekiel describes the measurements of the Milennial temple. For your homework, you can read these chapters and perhaps read a commentary on the significance of the measurements to Ezekiel's readers. For this lesson, let's skip that passage except for chapter 40, verses 35 through 43:35Then he brought me to the north gateway and measured it according to these same measurements— 36also its gate chambers, its gateposts, and its archways. It had windows all around; its length was fifty cubits and its width twenty-five cubits. 37Its gateposts faced the outer court, palm trees were on its gateposts on this side and on that side, and going up to it were eight steps. 38There was a chamber and its entrance by the gateposts of the gateway, where they washed the burnt offering. 39In the vestibule of the gateway were two tables on this side and two tables on that side, on which to slay the burnt offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering. 40At the outer side of the vestibule, as one goes up to the entrance of the northern gateway, were two tables; and on the other side of the vestibule of the gateway were two tables. 41Four tables were on this side and four tables on that side, by the side of the gateway, eight tables on which they slaughtered the sacrifices. 42There were also four tables of hewn stone for the burnt offering, one cubit and a half long, one cubit and a half wide, and one cubit high; on these they laid the instruments with which they slaughtered the burnt offering and the sacrifice. 43Inside were hooks, a handbreadth wide, fastened all around; and the flesh of the sacrifices was on the tables.
"Modern" readers (like this author) have struggled with the concept of animal sacrifices during the Millennium. We were raised watching animal-centric cartoons about Bambi and Mickey Mouse. Isn't it cruel to kill animals like the Old Testament Law describes?
The answer is that it wasn't cruel in the Old Testament Law and it won't be cruel in the Millennium. The sacrifices were a graphic reminder that Adam's sin brought death into the world. You and I continue to sin (come short of God's glory) every day of our lives. All sin requires a death penalty, and Jesus paid that price for all who put their trust in His completed sacrifice.
Before Jesus paid the price, God commanded His people to offer animal sacrifices -- a picture of the Perfect Sacrifice to come. In the Millennium, the priests will also offer sacrifices -- a reminder to the surviving mortals that their sin deserves the death penalty and that they need to be take advantage of the Perfect Sacrifice that Jesus offered for them.
Jumping ahead to chapter 43, Ezekiel is shown a remarkable vision:1Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate that faces toward the east. 2And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. 3It was like the appearance of the vision which I saw—like the vision which I saw when I came to destroy the city. The visions were like the vision which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face. 4And the glory of the LORD came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east. 5The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple.
Earlier in his ministry, Ezekiel was shown a vision of the glory of God departing the Temple in Jerusalem because of the sins of the Jewish people. For your homework, you might read Ezekiel chapter 11 to get a feeling of the sadness God felt on this occasion. The glory of God departed through the Eastern Gate (Ezekiel 11:23). The glory of God will return through the Eastern Gate (Ezekiel 43:1).
The Glory of God's Presence
You and I cannot picture the glory of God. I won't even try to describe it to you. Your best hope is to seek the Lord in your morning and evening devotions, spending quiet (alone) time with Him. If you pursue Him passionately, He will meet you and reveal Himself to you. Perhaps tonight is the night that your heart's desire will touch His heart and bring you into His presence.
It is good to pursue the Lord's presence now, to sacrifice our television or our play time and earnestly seek His face. Too many "church people" treat God as a minimum-wage employee instead of as Lord, giving Him an hour-long Sunday service and then just "lip service" on the other six days of the week.
Do you think God cares about spending time with you now? Do you think God is too distant or too busy to care about you personally? Do you think He doesn't notice your attitude during morning and evening devotions?
God does indeed care about each of us personally, and it hurts His heart when we just go through the motions. God also is pained when pastors and TV "evangelists" are motivated by ambition and greed rather than by passion for Him. God makes this clear in Ezekiel 44, beginning at verse 9:9Thus says the Lord GOD: “No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart or uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter My sanctuary, including any foreigner who is among the children of Israel. 10“And the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after their idols, they shall bear their iniquity. 11Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, as gatekeepers of the house and ministers of the house; they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them. 12Because they ministered to them before their idols and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, therefore I have raised My hand in an oath against them,” says the Lord GOD, “that they shall bear their iniquity. 13And they shall not come near Me to minister to Me as priest, nor come near any of My holy things, nor into the Most Holy Place; but they shall bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed. 14Nevertheless I will make them keep charge of the temple, for all its work, and for all that has to be done in it.
All throughout Israel's history, there were Levites engaged in full-time "ministry." These men carried out the ritual sacrifices and collected tithes and offerings from the people of Israel. Like present-day Christian ministers, there were some who sincerely followed the Lord and some others who followed their "career path" for selfish interests.
In our present times, I've watched many gifted ministers lose their "first love" for God and pursue ambitious "ministry" goals. Many have fallen into gross sin and have left the ministry in disgrace; others have merely escaped detection. In some cases, we wonder "Are these guys still saved?" God gives us a partial answer in verses 10-11 above: "...they shall bear their iniquity. Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, as gatekeepers of the house and ministers of the house; they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them."
Notice that the hireling ministers (and Levites) who are saved will be allowed to perform services in the Millennium. But they will minister to the house and to the people. The words of verse 13 are especially chilling: "They shall not come near Me to minister to Me as priest, nor come near any of My holy things, nor into the Most Holy Place."
Perhaps you think this doesn't apply to you since you're not an ordained minister. Nevertheless, every believer should be engaged in ministry in some capacity. Every true believer should feel drawn to share the Gospel and to actively participate in his or her local fellowship.
Some folks watch sports on TV and feel motivated to do some type of exercise program. Others just become "couch potatoes."
Some folks attend Sunday services and feel motivated to engage in some type of ministry, and to pursue the type of prayer life that empowers their pastors. Other folks are content to be "pew potatoes."
Look at the rewards of pursuing God's face now, as described in verses 15-16:15“But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer to Me the fat and the blood,” says the Lord GOD. 16“They shall enter My sanctuary, and they shall come near My table to minister to Me, and they shall keep My charge.
What a radical difference. Those who seek God in faith, despite peer pressure and the bias of the politically correct school systems, will come near God Himself and be allowed to minister to Him personally. If that possibility doesn't excite you, then this lesson was written for you. If you can read this, it's not too late. The Lord has loved you all your life, and He wants to give you joy unspeakable in His presence, forever.
Ezekiel 44 concludes with an explanation of how His ministers will be supported during the Millennium:28“It shall be, in regard to their inheritance, that I am their inheritance. You shall give them no possession in Israel, for I am their possession. 29They shall eat the grain offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering; every dedicated thing in Israel shall be theirs. 30The best of all firstfruits of any kind, and every sacrifice of any kind from all your sacrifices, shall be the priest’s; also you shall give to the priest the first of your ground meal, to cause a blessing to rest on your house.
Unlike other inhabitants of Israel, the Lord's ministers will not be given parcels of ancestral land. They will live on land dedicated to the Lord. They will be supported by the tithes and offerings brought to the Lord. You and I will be responsible for giving our best to the Lord, and the Lord will distribute that to His ministers. That's how it should work today in our local church fellowships, and we do occasionally see groups obedient to God's pattern. We won't talk about the other groups, but you know who they are.
The River of Life
God's glory will fill the Milennial Temple, as we have seen. And streams of living water will flow from the Temple, as we see in Ezekiel chapter 47:1Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar. 2He brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gateway that faces east; and there was water, running out on the right side.
As we have seen in other passages, God will miraculously restore the Earth to its pre-Flood climate. People living in every part of the world will experience the difference. However, people in Jerusalem will see visible evidence that the healing and restoration are coming directly from God Himself, and not from "Mother Nature."
This flow of water sounds very much like the river that we'll see in our next lesson, but there are several important differences, as we shall see in later verses.
Verses 3-6 show that this is no ordinary river:3And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. 4Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. 5Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. 6He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he brought me and returned me to the bank of the river.
This is a very peculiar river. Ordinary rivers have multiple sources, each relatively modest. These individual sources flow together into the larger river, with the amount of water increasing as each stream joins it. However this river starts out from a single modest source and miraculously increases in volume. It begins ankle-deep near the Temple but becomes a mighty river a few miles downstream.
Not only is the volume of the water miraculous, its effect is miraculous:7When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. 8Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. 9And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. 10It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many. 11But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt. 12Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.”
Note that this river flows down through the valley to what we now call the Dead Sea. That lake will be miraculously changed to fresh water, and it will support an abundance of fish.
Along the way, the river will give life to an abundance of trees. These trees will miraculously bear fruit year-round, to provide food. Their leaves will provide herbs for healing. The fruit and leaves will be exported to every country on Earth, to extend mortal lifespans to the pre-Flood lengths of 800-900 years.
At first glance, this appears to be the same river we see in Revelation 22, which describes New Jerusalem after the Millennium. It has the same source and the same types of trees on either side of the river. But by that time, God says there will be no more seas. The present-day oceans and lakes will vanish somehow after the Millennium.
Prophecies of Zechariah
The prophet Zechariah was also shown a healing river flowing from Jerusalem:8And 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.
9And the LORD shall be King over all the earth.
In that day it shall be
The LORD is one,
And His name one.
In Ezekiel's vision, we only heard about the eastward flow of water, into what we now call the Dead Sea. The Lord allowed Zechariah to see that the water will flow both East and West. Some commentators theorize that the water will flow East and West via the rift through the Mount of Olives that Zechariah described a few verses earlier in chapter 14:3Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. 4And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley. Half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south.
We studied these verses in our lesson on The Day of the Lord. The residents of Jerusalem will run for their lives through that rift. During the Millennium, the Water of Life will run through that rift.
Besides creating a mighty, life-giving river, the Lord will also reshape the landscape around Jerusalem, as we see in Zechariah 14, verses 10-11:10All the land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be raised up and inhabited in her place from Benjamin's Gate to the place of the First Gate and the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king's winepresses.
11The people shall dwell in it;
And no longer shall there be utter destruction,
But Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.
Jerusalem has traditionally been a rocky, hilly area. For thousands of years, different groups have built a jumble of homes and buildings there, from huts to high-rise offices. The Lord will perform a unique type of urban renewal there, purifying the area of all traces of unclean activity. He will also level the ground in places, making it suitable to handle the immense volume of traffic during the Millennium.
"What traffic?" you ask. Zechariah answers that in verses 16-21 of chapter 14:16And 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. 17And 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. 18If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 19This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 20In that day “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” shall be engraved on the bells of the horses. The pots in the LORD’S house shall be like the bowls before the altar. 21Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the LORD of hosts. Everyone who sacrifices shall come and take them and cook in them. In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts.
These verses explain that Jerusalem will need to accommodate millions of pilgrims each year. The city will need incredible public transportation and infrastructure to handle this, and today's hilly terrain won't be suitable. And most of today's buildings are more of a blight than a blessing. The Lord will direct an unprecedented reconstruction of the holy city.
It will be wonderful to have the Lord Jesus in charge of that project. Unlike the politicians of today, Jesus has a perfect sense of what is right and what is wrong. Jesus knows what a city needs, and how best to accomplish His goals.
Unlike today's politicians, Jesus will understand perfectly which buildings should be torn down and which should be built up. He will not be deflected by campaign contributions or by complainers or by terrorists or by any of today's environmental nazi groups.
Notice that the millions of pilgrims visiting Jerusalem will be the remnant "...of all the nations which came against Jerusalem." This will include much of Europe and most of today's Islamic nations. Verses 17-19 explain that some folks (Egypt in particular) will be unwilling or unable to grasp the truth. God will gently (at first) send His judgments upon those people. The process is simple: they will get smart or die.
Human Nature is Human Nature
The world will be peaceful, but not everybody will be happy. After a few hundred years, nobody alive (except those of us in resurrection bodies) will have personal memories of the Great Tribulation. Like the spoiled children of today, the next generations will see great wealth and power in the hands of those who trusted in Jesus before Jesus returned to this Earth.
These mortals will grow up and be outwardly obedient, because of the provable consequences of disobedience. But they will stew in their resentment, envious of what you and I will have and ignorant of what our crowns really cost us.
Many will doubt the Gospel message. You can predict the shape their rebellion will take:
- They will not believe that human nature is corrupt, prideful, disobedient and intrinsically evil.
- They will not believe that man needs to be born again.
- They will not believe that the "ancient" world (today, as you read this) was as bad as the history books will tell them.
- They will not believe than human government is incapable of lasting peace.
- They will not believe stories about the devil and his deceptions.
Like the devil before them, they will look around at the peace and prosperity of their world and convince themselves that they deserve more of the glory. They will be easy prey for the devil when he's finally released. As we saw in the previous lesson, the unbelieving mortals will rise up against Jesus at the end of the Millennium and be destroyed. Then will come the Great White Throne Judgment where there will be only two possible verdicts. Participants will either be granted eternity in Heaven or eternity in the Lake of Fire.
The Power of Choice
It's not too late. If you can still read this, you still have the capacity to make the right choice. You can be on the winning side. Or you can be buzzard bait. God will respect your choice, and give you whichever you want.
But I'm too much of a sinner. I already KNOW I can't be good enough to deserve heaven.
Then you've already taken the first step, realizing that nobody is perfect. Because God isn't looking for perfect people. Just repentant and teachable people. He just wants His adopted children (you and me!) to love Him, respect Him, and spend quality time with Him. He wants us to approach Him through faith in the merits of His Only Begotten Son's sacrifice on the cross. He wants to give us a heart transplant -- the Holy Spirit living inside our hearts, giving us a new nature and eternal life. This is The Big Loophole -- how we can get to heaven even though we don't deserve it.
So how do I take advantage of The Big Loophole and get heaven as a free gift?
Just a few simple steps:
- Repent of self righteousness, and acknowledge that you can never achieve God's standard of righteousness perfection in your own strength.
- Acknowledge that Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, suffered and died in fullfilment of Scripture to pay the price for your sins and mine. Just as the Passover lamb died so the family inside the house would live, Jesus died so you and I might live -- forever.
- Pray a simple prayer, right now, asking God to forgive your sins on the basis of Jesus' perfect sacrifice.
- Ask God to send His Holy Spirit to live in your heart, to give you that new (born-again) nature that will equip you for eternal life.
- Ask God to take control of your life, through His Holy Spirit, that He may transform you from the inside out, making you a new person, filling you with His love and peace and joy.
But what if I already prayed that prayer some time ago?
Then walk in it. Live it:
- Feed your new nature with Scripture, prayer and regular attendance in local worship services.
- Read the Bible, paying special attention to the words of Jesus.
- Aggressively seek the Lord's presence in prayer, and seek to know Him as intimately as you know your own loved ones.
- Share your faith with the hopeless souls still walking in darkness.
- Give to the Lord's work -- not to gain a specific reward or because God needs the money, but because you need to exercise the faith of giving.
- Above all, remember that you have a new nature that requires care and feeding, like any newborn. Get involved in a local church ministry where people love God with all their heart and teach the truth of Scripture without the burden of denominational doctrine and traditions.
If you would like to ask further questions or discuss this in more detail, please feel free to send me an e-mail by clicking the "mail-to" link below. Explain your concerns and we'll respond as quickly as we can (assuming the first rapture event hasn't already happened).
Closing Prayer: Lord, I know that time is short and that You will soon come to establish Your Kingdom on this earth. Help me get started, today, in the life of faith that will transform my life by the power of Your Holy Spirit. I pray this in Jesus' precious name, Amen.