May 31, 2009

Life on Earth in the Millennium

Jack KelleyBy Jack Kelley

Hal Lindsey once speculated that at his judgment Satan hurled two accusations at God. “You’re not just and You have no love.” In our last study we saw how God demonstrated His perfect justice with Israel and His perfect love with the Church. Israel lived under an absolutely just system of law. It was clear and concise, made no exceptions, and showed no favoritism. There was blessing for obedience and punishment for disobedience in an obvious cause and effect relationship. What they did determined what they got. God said to them,

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6)
The Church was shown the incomparable riches of God’s grace. We’re the most blessed of any group of humanity and the only thing asked of us is that we accept by faith the free gift of salvation, purchased in advance for us with God’s own life. Yes, God is pleased if we live our lives in a manner that expresses our gratitude to Him, but the only thing He requires is that we believe in the one He has sent.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
In the Kingdom Age believers will be saved by faith, like the Church, but will be required to keep the Law as evidence of their belief, like Israel. Perfect justice, perfect love. This will be God’s final answer to Satan and His final attempt to dwell among His people in peace. Will it work, or like Israel and the Church before it, will the Kingdom Age end in failure?

We’ve only talked about Law and Grace but there were actually four other attempts at peaceful coexistence between God and man leading up to them. For a complete understanding of man’s history with his Creator, we’ll need to review these others as well. They’re called dispensations, or administrations, and all together there are seven of them.

The 7 Dispensations

Throughout history God has dealt with His people in different ways as part of the process of revealing His character. Each of these dispensations began with an agreement between God and man that man subsequently violated, ending the relationship in failure and requiring a judgment from God.

1) Innocence … Between the Creation and the Fall of Man God interacted freely and personally with man. Man was created immortal and while he had agency (the power of choice) he didn’t have a sin nature. God placed Adam and Eve in His garden and gave them only one restriction. But they violated this restriction and were expelled from the Garden. Adam, Eve, and the Serpent were all judged, the Creation was cursed, and sin entered the world.

2) Conscience … Between the Fall of Man and the Great Flood God allowed man’s conscience to rule without Divine interference. Because of man’s newly acquired sin nature, the result of this was...
“the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)
After repeated warnings, God destroyed all but 8 members of the Human race in the Great Flood.

3) Human Government … from Noah to the Tower of Babel. After the Flood, God allowed man to establish his first system of government. But the people disobeyed God’s commandment to go forth and replenish the Earth, setting about instead to build a great city and a tower to protect themselves from another flood. They also used the tower to study astrology, a corruption of the Gospel that God had written in the stars using the names of 12 constellations. So God gave each of the 70 families of man a unique language that other families weren’t able to understand. This caused confusion and distrust among the people and they drifted apart to be scattered through out the world, and God destroyed the tower.

4) Promise … God set Abraham’s descendants apart as His Chosen People and promised Abraham and Sarah a son through whom He said He would bless the world. But they grew tired of waiting for Him, and they produced a son on their own, calling him Ishmael. Later, when God gave them Isaac, the son He had promised, Ishmael was sent away causing bad blood between Ishmael (Arabs) and Isaac (Jews) that continues to this day.

5) Law … from Mt. Sinai to Pentecost. After God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, He gave Moses the 10 Commandments and offered the Jews the land He had promised to Abraham along with a life of peace and plenty if they obeyed His Law. After 2000 years of vacillating between obedience and rebellion that resulted in them rejecting the Messiah, God finally had enough, expelled them from their land, and dispersed them throughout the world.

6) Grace … The Church Age. No longer requiring that righteousness be earned through obedience to the Law, God imputed His own righteousness to man by grace through faith in the completed work of the Lord Jesus, promising eternal blessing and a place in His own house to all who accept. It was the most outrageously lavish gift ever bestowed, free for the asking. But by the end of the Age of Grace most of humanity will have rejected His gift, choosing instead to live on their own terms, betting that either God doesn’t exist, or if He does He’ll allow them into His kingdom anyway. After removing the relative few who have accepted His gift so they’ll be safe with Him, He’ll punish the rest through the most severe time of judgment ever visited on Earth.

7) Kingdom … the 1000 Year Reign of the Lord, also known as the Millennium. At its outset Satan will be bound, all unbelievers will be expelled from the planet, the curse will be removed, and God will once again dwell in the midst of His people. You would think that finally man could live in a manner pleasing to Him. Whether he will or not is the subject of our study.

Who Are You Calling a Failure?

Some in the Church might question the view that the Age of Grace has been a failure, but that’s because we’re among the few who have accepted the Lord’s free gift of pardon and will therefore enjoy its benefits. Remember, God’s desire is to reconcile us to Himself (Colossians 1:19-20). He doesn’t want for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). And yet over the last 2,000 years most people have turned down His gift and gone their own way. After doing everything He could, short of violating man’s free will and forcing him to accept the pardon He offered, most of mankind will have rejected Him. Can you blame Him for being so angry as to unleash the full fury of His wrath against them?

A principle of motivational compensation holds that when you give people something they haven’t earned and don’t deserve, you don’t gain their respect, you gain their resentment. Never before has God given the world so much more than we deserve, and never before has the world resented His presence more than today.

Even in the Church the response to God’s gift of eternal Life has been more apathy than adoration. When less than 10% of people who claim to be born again have adopted a Christian worldview, it’s clear that there’s been a serious disconnect between His gift and our gratitude. When compared to the desired goal, the Age of Grace has been a failure.

None of this is any more of a surprise to God than the outcome of His previous attempts. He doesn’t do things so He can see how we’ll respond. He already knows that. He does things so we can see how we’ll respond. Paul said everything that was written in the past was written to teach us. (Romans 15:4) So far the lesson has been that no matter what God has done to draw us near, man is untrustworthy and rebellious, pushing God away and bringing judgment upon himself.

Now for the Kingdom

OK, so what about the Kingdom Age, will it be a failure too? A study of the Kingdom Age shows that at the beginning life will be as close to heaven on earth as one could imagine. There will be peace on Earth and goodwill toward man, just like the angel promised to the shepherds on the night of the Lord’s birth. (Luke 2:14) The newly freed creation will respond eagerly to man’s husbandry. Perfect weather and overflowing bounty will make his work a joy instead of a burdensome toil. Long life spans will return as sickness and disease become a thing of the past.
“Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” (Zech. 8:4-5).
This will be true throughout the world because the Lord will settle disputes between the nations and peace will flow like a river.

The Bible only describes the beginning and end of the Kingdom Age, but because of the shocking difference in the two, we can surmise that after a period of time things start going downhill fast. The Lord’s administration will be just but inflexible. He’ll rule them with a rod of iron and His punishment for disobedience will be harsh and swift. (Remember, the Age of Grace will end at the Rapture.) At some point the people of Earth will rebel. Psalm 2 tells the story.
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One.

“Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (Psalm 2:1-6)
Once again created beings will presume to free themselves from the rule of their Creator. But the King ruling the Earth was put there by God Himself, and that makes Him the King of their kings. Then He’ll remind them of their position in the hierarchy.
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD : He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:7-12)
In an event that was later modeled in the Biblical adoption ceremony (Galatians 4:4-7), the Father formally named His Son heir of His estate and bequeathed His inheritance to Him. All the nations are His, and He has the authority to rule them as He pleases. Man’s choice will be to obey or suffer the consequences. Obedience will be rewarded with blessing, but rebellion will bring swift destruction.

We’re neither told how many will be saved during the Millennium, nor what their destiny will be. What we are told is at the end of the 1000 year Kingdom Age Satan will be freed and will have no trouble recruiting a large army for one last attempt to regain his lost empire. He’ll find a ready audience for his deception and his army will soon be as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore. From all over the world they’ll come to surround God’s people and His Holy City. But in one sudden burst of flame from Heaven they’ll be devoured and Satan will be cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity. (Rev. 20:7-10) Once again, man rebels, God judges and another Age ends in failure.
Then the end will come, when he (Jesus) hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, 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. For he “has put everything under his feet.” (Psalm 8:6)
Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:24-28)

God’s response to Satan’s accusations will be complete. Satan’s judgment will be final. Heaven and Earth will be purified. Eternity will begin. And God will reign supreme. Hallelujah!

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