The Biblical Necessity of Jesus’ Reign
By Jonathan C. Brentner
In my last post, I looked at what Scripture teaches about our exciting role in Jesus’ glorious kingdom, which takes place between the Second Coming of Christ and the eternal state (see above timeline). For those of us in Christ, this thousand year period of time (the millennium) will be a thrilling time of renewal as we reign with Jesus for a thousand years sharing in His inheritance.
After reading my previous article, some might ask, “Is the millennium really necessary for us to experience the wondrous restoration you wrote about? Won’t these things also be true in the eternal state?”
Life in the eternal state will be spectacular. Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven, does a great job of expanding our imagination regarding what life might be like on the new earth and in the New Jerusalem after Jesus has forever vanquished sin and death.
However, the Bible also tells us of Jesus’ rule upon the earth during a time when people will rebel against Him and death will be present. Because these things remain during this time, it cannot be the eternal state. It must be the intermediate kingdom we call the millennium, which takes place after the second coming but before the eternal state.
Besides this, there are three other considerations that necessitate this intermediary rule of Jesus.
The Promise of the Father to His Son
In Psalm 2:7-8, we read this promise of the Father to the Son, “…The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” The context in Psalm 2 clarifies that this is a physical rule over the kingdoms of the world in which Jesus rules with a “rod of iron” (2:9).
The presence of rebellion, judgment, and death (Psalm 2:9-12) during this intermediary kingdom sets it apart from the eternal state when such things will no longer exist. Since the conditions of this kingdom do not match our current experience and cannot be the eternal state, it must be the millennium.
Daniel 7:13-14 provides us with a picture of the Father giving “one like the son of man” (a term Jesus often used of Himself) “dominion” over all the peoples and nations of the earth. His rule will be eternal, but the first thousand years will be the millennium, the time the Father gives the Son the nations of the world as He promised in Psalm 2.
The apostle Paul tells us more about this intermediary kingdom in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26, “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Once Jesus fulfills His purpose for the kingdom signified by destroying death, He will give His kingdom back to the Father and the eternal state will begin with the earth and heavens and the New Jerusalem, the glorious city (Rev. 21-22).
The Scriptural Prophecies Regarding Israel
Many Bible-believing pastors today deny the reality of the millennium because they erroneously assert either that God has rejected Israel or that He no longer deals separately with Israel since Jesus fulfilled all of the Old Testament. This brings me to the second reason for the biblical necessity of the millennium.
The Millennium is necessary because it offers the only opportunity for the fulfillment of the many scriptural prophecies regarding the restoration of Israel. Many Old Testament prophets wrote about a regathering and restoration of Israel in the last days (Jer. 30:3, 33:23-26; Ezek. 36:22-38; Zeph. 3:16-20; Amos 14:14-15; Joel 3:1). All these passages speak to a future restoring of a kingdom for Israel that has not yet happened.
Many today laugh at the question of the disciples in Acts 1:6, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Such scoffing overlooks Jesus’ reply in which He did not contradict their assumption, only the timing of the kingdom for Israel. Furthermore, if the disciples were terribly confused about the kingdom at this point, it reflects rather negatively on Jesus’ teaching ability since He had spent the forty days after His resurrection teaching them about the kingdom (Acts 1:3).
Those who claim that God has rejected Israel stand in direct contradiction to the teaching of Scripture. In Romans 11, the apostle Paul proclaims that “God has not rejected his people” (v. 2) and later in the chapter predicts the future conversion of “all Israel.”
Speaking of Paul’s assurances Romans 11, Eric Sauer wrote this in his book The Triumph of the Crucified, “In words which simply cannot be misunderstood Paul here confesses his belief in a full conversion of Israel, and explains how from it the greatest and most blessed effects will flow to mankind.”
Can you see the potential for serious problems that arise when one says that Paul’s clear words regarding Israel’s continuing place do not signify what they appear to mean? Over time, this approach to Scripture has had devastating consequences for the words of the apostle regarding many other things.
The Words of Scripture
One cannot deny the reality of a future millennium before the eternal state and at the same time interpret the words of Scripture in the way that authors intended.
Let’s take the words of the prophet Zechariah, for example. He prophesied that a time after Jesus’ crucifixion, a great number of the Israelites would repent and recognize Jesus as their Messiah. Using words that clearly apply to those of Jewish descent and no one else, the prophet pictures of time of much weeping as they the one “they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10-13:1).
If one dismisses a future for Israel and thereby denies the reality of the millennium, that person cannot take the words of the prophet Zechariah as he intended them or for that matter what his words meant to his original audience. The denier of the millennium must retrofit a understanding to the text that was foreign to the prophet’s understanding at the time he wrote concerning the future repentance of Israel.
All these things also apply to Zechariah 14 where the prophet describes the Lord as “king over all the earth” (v. 9) and one who reigns in Jerusalem during a time when rebellion remains possible on the earth (vv. 16-19). For reasons already discussed, this cannot be eternity.
In Revelation 20:1-10, John describes a thousand year rule of Jesus before the eternal state. Just as we saw in many other passages, it’s a time when sin is still present since Satan orchestrates a massive rebellion at the close of this time. If John’s words regarding this time are mere allegory, of what do they refer? Satan is not bound now and he will be totally destroyed before the eternal state. Even in a symbolical sense, there is not fulfillment to John’s words apart from the millennium before the eternal state.
The words of the prophets, Jesus, as well as the apostles speak of a coming time of great tribulation on the earth followed by the Lord’s return and His rule over Israel. Those who deny a future restoration of Israel and the reality of millennium cannot take any of the prophetic words regarding the future literally, in the way that those speaking intended them. They must retrofit the words with an understanding foreign to the prophets when they wrote.
As those redeemed by our Savior, we look forward to a wondrous time of restoration beginning with the Lord’s return for us and continuing on throughout eternity. While the time of the eternal state after the millennium will also be glorious for us. Our wondrous anticipation of this time finds its basis in a literal interpretation of God’s Word, which also teaches the thousand year rule of Jesus.
Taking the words of Scripture as the writers intended them necessitates the thousand year reign of Jesus that we call the millennium. During this time of renewal we will see God’s purposes come to full fruition as He also prepares us for our roles during the eternal state, or heaven, where we will enjoy all the wonders of the new earth and New Jerusalem.
Because sin will no longer exist in eternity and 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 indicates a change as Jesus hands over His kingdom to the Father, I believe our roles of reigning with Jesus will differ during this time. I believe the eternal state will provide us with additional opportunities to pursue our most cherished pursuits, the desires that the Lord has already placed on our hearts.
The millennium is a necessary prelude to the eternal state because without it, much of scriptural prophecy remains unfulfilled and God reneges on His covenants and promises regarding Israel.