True Principles & Uncertain Details About Prophecy, Part 5
They shall reign with Christ a thousand years...
By JOE HILL
Read Time: 8 minutes
BASF Clause #26—That the Kingdom of God, thus constituted, will continue a thousand years, during which sin and death will continue among the earth’s subject inhabitants, though in a much milder degree than now.
BASF Clause #27—That a law will be established which shall go forth to the nations for their “instruction in righteousness,” resulting in the abolition of war to the ends of the earth, and the “filling of the earth with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea.”
BASF Clause #28—That the mission of the Kingdom will be to subdue all enemies, and finally death itself, by opening up the way of life to the nations, which they will enter by faith, during the thousand years, and (in reality) at their close.
BASF Clause #29—That at the close of the thousand years, there will be a general resurrection and judgment, resulting in the final extinction of the wicked, and the immortalization of those who shall have established their title (under the grace of God) to eternal life during the thousand years.
BASF Clause #30—That the government will then be delivered up by Jesus to the Father, who will manifest Himself as the “all-in-all”, sin and death having been taken out of the way, and the race completely restored to the friendship of the Deity.
THEY SHALL REIGN WITH CHRIST A THOUSAND YEARS
The Kingdom Age will last a thousand years, as the following verses indicate:
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Rev 20:4-6).
(The term “millennium” is derived from the Latin word for “thousand,” and belief in the millennium is called “chiliasm” which is derived from the Greek word for “thousand”.)
On the other hand, this is the only passage in the Bible that says this, and it is always precarious to base a first principle on a single passage, and especially when that passage is in the highly symbolic book of Revelation.
The Kingdom of God Will Last Forever
Moreover, other passages indicate the Kingdom will last forever, so it will have no end:
And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (Dan 2:44).
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Dan 7:13-14).
And when thy [David’s] days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever… And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. (2 Sam 7:12-13, 16).
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth for ever. (Isa 9:6-7).
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1:31-33).
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Rev 11:15).
This difference often causes baptismal interviewees to pause when asked how long the Kingdom will last. They hesitate between saying “a thousand years” and “forever,” both of which are correct, of course, when properly understood.
A Bible Idiom?
In fact, it may be the case that they are equivalent because “a thousand years” may be an idiom for “forever.” The following passages use “thousand(s)” to represent a large indefinite number:
And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Exod 20:6).
Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. (Exod 34:7).
The Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you! (Deut 1:11).
Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations. (Deut 7:9).
For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. (Psa 50:10).
For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. (Psa 84:10).
For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” (Psa 90:4). “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Pet 3:8).
In each of these verses, “thousand(s)” is a figurative way of saying a large, possibly innumerable, amount. Applying this idea to “a thousand years” harmonizes this phrase with the other ones quoted above (i.e., “shall stand for ever,” “everlasting,” “shall not pass away,” “shall not be destroyed,” “shall be established for ever,” “there shall be no end,” “for ever and ever.”)
Whatever the specific literal meaning of “a thousand years” might be, we can be sure that there is more to the phrase than a mere time period. In particular, 1000 = 10 x 10 x 10, which corresponds to the dimensions of the Most Holy Place, which was 10 cubits x 10 cubits x 10 cubits. This perfect cube represented the dwelling place of Yahweh in the earth, which was a pattern of things to come.
In like manner, New Jerusalem is depicted as a cube, “the length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.” (Rev 21:16). It represents the future Holy of Holies in the earth, the place where Yahweh will dwell, made up of Christ and the saints. Bro. Whittaker wrote:
“The Revelation is very largely expressed in terms of the symbolism of the sanctuary. All the visions introducing the seven-fold sections and much else besides have this basis. In harmony with this the thousand suggests a link with the 10x10x10 cubits, the dimensions of the Holy of Holies, which are again alluded to in the description of the New Jerusalem: ‘The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal’ (21:16).” (Revelation: A Biblical Approach, p. 229).
“The problem of a symbolic city in which ‘the length and the breadth and the height are equal’ (21:16) is resolved by reference to the tabernacle. The Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of God among His people, was a perfect cube. Hence: I see no sanctuary therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the sanctuary of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb. (21:22, 23). The Holy of Holies was without natural or artificial illumination. It was lit, only on the Day of Atonement, by the radiance of the Glory of God, declaring the putting away of sin through God’s acceptance of one sin-offering for the transgressions of the people. So this uninterrupted fullness of Glory in the New Jerusalem indicates the putting away of sin for all time, through the blood of the Lamb. And ‘the lamp thereof is the Lamb’ suggests that he is the Glory of God in the holy city: ‘With thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.’ (Psalm 36:9).” (Revelation: A Biblical Approach, p. 249).
God Will Be All in All
Although the Kingdom of God will have no end, the Bible does indicate that a transition will occur at some point:
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor 15:20-28).
There will be mortal nations during the millennium. This passage implies that there will come a time when death will be no more. This time is referred to as God being “all in all.” This phrase describes the ultimate fate of Yahweh’s creation.
But, again, this is based on only one passage, so we must be careful not to be too dogmatic about how strongly we insist on our own particular interpretation of these verses.
So, we all agree that the Kingdom of God will last “a thousand years” but also that it will continue forever beyond that initial phase. There will be a change at some point, not an end of the Kingdom but a transition to its most complete fulfillment.
(Austin Leander, TX)