All we have touched on so far are events that happen before Jesus’ second coming. Now let us look at Jesus’ return and the thousand years. Revelation 1,7 says: Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they [also] which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. Jesus himself told that He shall come back and redeem his faithful people. The second coming of Christ is the blessed hope of the church and the great highlight of the gospel. And if anyone is in doubt; The Saviour’s return will be real, personal, visible, and worldwide.
Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave His disciples the promise of the Holy Spirit, and they stood staring up into heaven after Jesus had disappeared. There were two angels with the disciples, and we can read in the Acts of the Apostles the following: … And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1,9-11)
So we have a promise that Jesus will return, and the angels say that this will be a visible return, and in Matthew 24,27 Jesus himself says that … For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. What is said can in no way be mistaken. But, despite what the Bible teaches, there are still many churches that teach that Jesus’ return will take place in secret. These are false prophets that Jesus spends almost the entire chapter of Matthew warning us against. Jesus says Take heed no man deceive you in Matthew 24,4 and follows up in verse 5 by saying … and shall deceive many, in verse 11 many false prophets shall ride, and shall deceive many and in verse 24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if [it were] possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
We see that Jesus emphasizes stronger and stronger each time he repeats the warning, and then he continues in verse 25 to say: Behold, I have told you before, … and in verse 26 He says: Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, [he is] in the secret chambers; believe [it] not.
Through the ages many have presented themselves as Christ, and this problem has only increased in scope in recent years. People from all over the world are now claiming to be the promised or expected Messiah. But as we read above here, this is exactly what Jesus warns us against especially in chapter 24 in Matthew. (See also chapter 17.) Luke also tells us that Jesus’ return will be visible: And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Luke 21,27
In Revelation 14,14-16, John describes what the Son of Man will do when he returns: And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud [one] sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
This is a picture of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15,51-53: Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality.
What then happens to the people on earth? It is quite obvious that there are two groups of people, something it has done since Cain (the line of Cain) and Abel’s days (the line of Set).
The line of Cain is described in Revelation: It isthe fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars (21,8) … and … it isthedogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie (22,15). The line of Set is described as follows: They are: those who fear God; they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus; those who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ, and the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, (the line of Set and the line of Cain see the 2300 evenings and mornings.)
The Bible is clear that God’s faithful will be taken to heaven when Jesus returns. This is the reward that Christ brings with him to those who have overcome the self, and Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15,50-55 this: Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where [is] thy sting? O grave, where [is] thy victory?
Those who overcome will thus receive the gift of immortality from Christ when He returns, while the wicked will perish only at the sight of the glory of the Saviour when they see Him in the cloud, and the wicked will say to the mountains and rocks: … .. Fall on us and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. (Revelation 6,16).
The thousand years
I beheld the earth, and, lo, [it was] without form, and void; and the heavens, and they [had] no light. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, [there was] no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. Jeremiah 4,23-25
There are many who talk about a millennial kingdom on earth where peace will reign, but we find another picture in both Revelation 19 and Jeremiah 4, where it is stated that the earth will be empty and desolate sometime in the future. Revelation 20,4 says that those 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. Are there any contradictions here?
It is widely believed that the thousand years is the Messianic Kingdom established on earth before the New Jerusalem descends from heaven, and that Christians at this time will reign in heaven for a thousand years with Jesus Christ. But is this really what the Bible says? The expression the thousand years appears in the Bible for the first time in Revelation chapter 20 and in verse 2 and occurs a total of six times in Revelation 20,1-7: And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. 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. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
So the Bible speaks of a period of a thousand years, and it is something completely different from a millennial kingdom. As a curiosity, I would mention that the last who dreamed of creating a millennial kingdom was Adolf Hitler. The belief in a millennial kingdom where Christians will reign in heaven with Jesus, while those who had not received Christ, the non-Christians still live in the best prosperity on earth is nothing but dispensational. It is simply believed that the millennial kingdom is the time when the Jewish theocracy with the temple, the sacrificial system and the Mosaic Law is restored, and the Old Testament prophecies about Israel’s future political triumph over the Gentiles are literally and physically fulfilled. The funny thing is that many Pentecostal charismatic churches interpret Revelation and the book of Daniel on the basis of the dispensational principle, despite the fact that this is contrary to their view of tongues (gifts of the spirit). We have looked at the dispensationalist interpretation earlier, but I insert it here as well.
* Dispensationalism, roughly speaking, is about dividing human history into seven periods. It is Robert Bellarmine, cardinal, and Jesuit (1542 – 1621), who is behind this model of interpretation. According to this interpretation, the Jews will receive the gospel during the millennium, which they count as the seventh period, following the secret rapture. In short, the doctrine is that God has two special peoples, Israel, and the church, and that the church has therefore not replaced Israel in God’s program and believes that the promises made to the Jews in Old Testament times will be fulfilled in the millennium. In other words, this interpretation makes God, who is a God of order, a God of disorder in that he first has one people, Israel, and after Jesus’ death on the cross, God has the church as his people, and then sometime in the future to have Israel as its people again. But then only after the secret rapture of the church.
In connection with the thousand years, two different resurrections are mentioned. The first resurrection in Revelation 20,6 which is for those who have died in Christ, and the second resurrection in Revelation 20,5 which is for the wicked.
These two different resurrections are separated by a thousand years, and it is this period that is incorrectly called the millennial kingdom. The thousand years thus begin with the resurrection of the righteous and then end with the resurrection of the wicked. We find evidence for this in Revelation 220.127.116.11. We must take into account that when John wrote down the Revelation, there was no comma, period or other form of punctuation. Some of the sentences as they appear today may then have been constructed out of a desire to lay down guidelines for what people should believe, nor was the Bible divided into chapters and verses when it was written. All of these are modern inventions that have come up in recent times to make it easier to search in the Bible. Verse 5 in Revelation 20 is such a verse, and if we read it as it is today, it makes no sense in itself. It is therefore very important to read the text in its context, and verses 4, 5 and 6 undoubtedly belong together as a unit, and this reads as follows: 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.
It is thus from this section that it emerges that there are two resurrections. First, those who had not worshiped the beast or the image of the beast and did not receive the mark of the beast on the forehead or hand, mentioned in verse 4. Then we see in verse 5 the other dead who did not live until the thousand years had passed, and then it says that this is the first resurrection. This sentence points back to verse 4 and those who came alive and reigned with Christ, and verse 6 concludes by saying that this group is blessed because they are to be with Christ. It must be precisely so because it says about the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.
The section begins as we see in Heaven where John saw thrones and that someone sat on them and was given the power to hold judgment. He describes those he saw in this way, 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. These are they who are described in verse 6 as follows: they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with him a thousand years.
To rule or reign as kings must be understood in the right context. Both before and after Jesus’ time, it was one of the king’s tasks to judge between people, as Solomon did, and that is the authority the saved will have during the thousand years they reign with Jesus in Heaven. They are co-judges over the wicked and see that God’s judgments are righteous.
The thousand years is thus the period of time that lies between the first and the second resurrection. So how is it here on earth in that period? Do we find any clues in the Bible?
In Revelation 19, John describes what will happen and how things are here on earth during this period. In verse 11 it is said that Jesus is coming again: And I saw heaven opened and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him [was] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
In verse 15 it is said that Jesus comes with the judgment that is symbolized by the twoedged sword, and that He is the Ruler who will rule the nations as the iron rod symbolizes. It is now that He will separate the wheat and the weeds: And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
In verses 17 and 18 we are shown what will happen after the first resurrection when the saved are taken up to heaven with Jesus: And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all [men, both] free and bond, both small and great. (see Ezekiel 39,17-20).
Verses 19 and 20 tell us what will happen to the beast and the false prophet. These two must not be confused with the devil, Satan, the ancient serpent, for the devil has already received his provisional punishment, (see Revelation 20, verse 2): And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
After this, there are no living people left on earth. In other words, there are no living people that the devil can seduce. This is the beginning of the thousand years, and this is what the first three verses of chapter 20 are about: And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
That the old snake is bound must be understood figuratively. The devil’s self-imposed task is to seduce people, lead them away from the truth of the Lord and entice them to apostasy. During this period of a thousand years there are no people to seduce, and hence the statements bound him, cast him into the bottomless pit and shut him up and set seals upon him.
After the thousand years then the devil will again be loosed from his prison, which must be understood together with the second resurrection in verse 5 a: But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.
The thousand years, or the so-called millennial kingdom, is the millennial period, between the first and the second resurrection in which the saints reign in heaven with their Saviour, Jesus Christ. During this time all the wicked are judged. This appears in Revelation 2,26 and 3,21, among others. Also 1 Corinthians 6,2 refers to this event. Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? … … The earth will be without any living man but inhabited by Satan and his angels.
During the thousand years, therefore, the saved will be co-judges and will judge the wicked and Satan and his angels. At the end of the thousand years, Christ will descend out of heaven with the saved and the holy city. The wicked dead will be raised to life, and together with Satan and his angels they now surround the city. But fire from God will consume them and cleanse the earth. Then the universe will forever be free from sin and sinners. That Christ and the saved are in heaven for the thousand years we find evidence for in Revelation 20,4.
The term the millennial kingdom is not found in the Bible and is therefore not a biblical event. That it is called the millennial kingdom (Millennium) is really a misrepresentation. It must be the thousand years. This is a period where, according to the Bible, there are no living people on earth, only the devil and his angels are here during this period. The thousand years begin with the second coming of Christ where he brings his people, both the dead in Christ who He raised up and the living and bring them to heaven. The wicked are killed and the earth lies desolate for a thousand years. Note in particular that Jesus does not touch the earth when he comes to fetch his faithful remnant:
* And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Luke 21,27
* Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4,17
* Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they [also] which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. Revelation 1,7
* And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: Revelation 6,16
After the thousand years, the second resurrection follows, the resurrection of the wicked, who now receives their judgment and is thrown into the lake of fire by Jesus who has returned with his people. There are no indications that Jesus will rule here on the earth for the thousand years. It says that God will be in the New Jerusalem that also comes after the thousand years, and since sin cannot exist with God, this cannot happen until sin is eradicated for ever. That is why Jesus does not touch the surface of the earth when He returns. It is at the end of the thousand years that all sin is blotted out, and then the Creator will create a new heaven and a new earth, Revelation 21,5: And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
The judgment is enforced and the restoration of the earth
After the thousand years come what God has been waiting for since Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, when sin made it impossible for men to see God and live. Now all sin and not least the originator of sin will finally be annihilated, and the earth will be recreated so that it will be as it was from the Creator’s hand on the day the earth was created. But first, when the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven, the Lord will raise the wicked to give effect to the final judgment. In this way, Satan again gets someone to seduce, and he mobilizes the largest army that has ever been mustered on earth to attack the city of God.
The term used here, Gog and Magog, has given rise to many myths about a great war in the end times. There are many explanations for who or what Gog and Magog are, and they differ as much as they are resilient. Many says it is about certain nations that are going to fight a physical war they explain as Armageddon, and it is only the imagination that sets the limits for what this is. According to the Bible, the answer is much simpler than that.
Gog is the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal (Ezekiel 38,2-3) and Magog is a country or nation (Ezekiel 38,2), the term Gog and Magog therefore symbolizes all people and nations who unite in the last was against God.
Gog and Magog are portrayed in Ezekiel 38 and 39 as enemies of Israel. As we have seen many times, prophecies can have double fulfilment. So also with this prophecy in Ezekiel, and this is what we see in Revelation chapter 20. Here Revelation deals with God’s people in Christian times, i.e. the church – not a special nation. When the devil gathers all the wicked in the largest army the world has ever seen, this army consists of all who were in opposition with God while they were alive, and this attitude they have in the resurrection. In other words, it is God’s enemies who are attacking the beloved city.
Also here in Revelation 20,10 there is an expression that has brought despair and sorrow to many people because it was a church that used this expression in the wrong way. It is the expression for ever and ever. Many have cursed God because he allows their loved ones to be burned in the fire of hell for all eternity, with no possibility of escape. But is that right, and what does the expression for ever and ever really means?
It says that the devil, the beast and the false prophet will be tormented forever. I believe, as I said, that the beast and the false prophet represent two religious systems, but that does not necessarily mean that all the members of these religious systems are lost. Furthermore, it says in verse 13 that all will be judged according to their deeds, so the devil will receive the most severe punishment, but I do not even think he will burn for all eternity, it is not compatible with the nature of God. The Greek word that has been used here for the expression for ever and ever is aiô’nôn and means an age, a cycle (of time), especially of the present age as contrasted with the future age, and of one of a series of ages stretching to infinity, time, life, generation, eternity, eternal time, ancient days, the beginning of times, (this) world, the universe.
Translating aiô’nôn with eternal time in this sentence I think is wrong. It is beyond any doubt that the punishment is differentiated, and that the individual is judged according to his deeds and that the devil will receive the harshest punishment, but the most important counter-argument is that such a punishment that never ends is contrary to God’s nature. God is love and will not allow anyone to be punished with torment forever and ever. We too, in our time, use this term for ever and ever in a figurative sense. I do not have numbers on how many times I have stood and waited for the bus in something that for me has seemed like an eternity, yet it has only been a few minutes. This is how we must also understand the use of eternity in this context.
Revelation 20,10.13.14.15 summarizes the judgment on the wicked. First we see in verse 10 that the devil, the origin of sin, is thrown into the sea with fire and brimstone, then follows the beast and the false prophet, or the beast from the sea which is the Roman Catholic Church, and the false prophet which is the fallen Protestant church. And dead and hell have delivered up the dead, and man’s greatest enemy except the devil – death and hell – is thrown into the lake of fire, and finally all those who were not found written in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire. And then, the whole universe is cleansed of sin.
The ring closes
Now comes the big moment.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. Revelation 21,1-5
Now Gods people will once again walk with their God and Creator in a world more beautiful than any living person can imagine. This planet, which has been the home of sin for over 6,000 years, will be the place where God will dwell – with His people – and we will see the face of God, and have the name of our God on our foreheads because He has bought us with His own life.