Previous articles in this series have taken us from Old Testament prophecy through the Rapture and various events following up to Armageddon and Israel’s repentance. In terms of the book of the Revelation this would bring us up to chapter 20, which commences with reference to a 1000 year period. This is, I believe, a literal millennium of Christ’s restitution of Israel and perfect rule over the whole earth, indeed over the whole universe. Later in this article, we will consider the sort of conditions which will exist during this period, but first we must go back to events not yet considered in Revelation chapters 4 and 5, where the Lord Jesus is presented as ‘the Lamb’, is recognized, and invested with the absolute right to rule.
As covered in a previous article,1 chapter 4 commences with John hearing a voice like a trumpet, and being called up to heaven, which, it was suggested, is a picture of the Rapture. This event will fulfil the promise of the Lord Jesus given to His disciples to ‘receive you unto myself’, and His prayer on behalf of all believers that ‘they may behold my glory’, John 14. 3; 17. 24. In verse 2, John describes a throne, its occupant, and the scene surrounding it. The One on the throne is revealed in appearance like a ‘jasper and a sardine stone’. When first mentioned in Exodus chapter 28, these stones represent the last and first of Israel’s twelve tribes. If arranged by birth, they are Benjamin and Reuben, whose names mean ‘the son of my right hand’, and ‘behold a son’ respectively. Alternatively, they may represent the tribes as they camp ‘according to their tribes’, in which case they speak of Naphtali, which means ‘struggling’, or ‘wrestling’, because his mother said ‘I have prevailed’, and Judah, the tribe entrusted with the sovereign right to rule. Either way, this speaks of the Lord Jesus. God is about to cause the assembled multitude to behold His Son, the Son of His right hand, who is also ‘the lion of the tribe of Judah’, and the One who has ‘prevailed’, Rev. 5. 5.
Although an emerald rainbow also indicates mercy, primarily this throne is set for judgement. It is encircled by twenty-four ‘elders’, and four ‘beasts’, or living creatures. Much has been speculated about these beings, with many seeing the ‘elders’ as representative of the church. However, the ‘elders’ are surrendering crowns they already have, even though the Lamb is not yet invested. These crowns are not the ‘diadems’ associated with the Lord. The elders are seen as mature males, whereas, the church is seen as a young female, ‘the bride’. Perhaps, most importantly, John refers to one of them in chapter 5 verse 5 and chapter 7 verse 13, which suggests that they are twenty-four individuals, most likely angels. These ancient ones, who have been involved in the administration of earth and the nations for centuries, are now relinquishing all rule and power. This will now reside solely in the sovereign, prevailing One. This transfer is climaxed in the Lamb taking the scroll from the right hand of the throne-sitter. The scroll is written on both sides and sealed, the precedent for which is found back in Jeremiah chapter 32. This suggests that the scroll is the title deeds of the universe awaiting its seals being opened in Revelation by the Lamb. The fact that He is so incomparable and uniquely able to do this is emphasized by a search of the celestial, terrestrial, and subterranean realms, which reveals no other able even to look at the scroll, far less open the seals. Little wonder this moment results in a three-fold doxology of praise to Him.
At the end of the initial period of judgement, chapter 20 introduces the thousand year period of rule, but gives little detail of conditions during this millennium. That detail, as we will see, is found particularly throughout the Old Testament, as it is primarily concerned with earth, not heaven. However, the description of the Lamb, given in chapter 5 verse 6, gives an indication of the conditions. The Lamb is described as having ‘seven horns’ and ‘seven eyes’; a survey of scripture will soon reveal that these are indicative of power and perception, and, having seven of each, they are seen in absolute or complete terms. This One has perfect understanding and total power; He is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent One and His rule, though marked by unchallenged sovereignty, will be characterized by justice, equity, and benefit to the whole earth and all upon it. Many Old Testament passages give us detail of various aspects of this thousand year period, some of which we will consider more in the next article in this series, which will seek to justify a literal interpretation of the thousand years. But, to conclude this study, Psalm 72 will serve to summarize conditions which will prevail.
Psalm 72 concludes the first two books of psalms, many of which are attributed to David, hence, the closing summary ‘the prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended’, v. 20. While David wrote many of the subsequent psalms of the book, this one seems to conclude his desires, and is set when Solomon has been installed as co-regent while David is still alive. Though some ascribe the psalm as ‘of Solomon’, it appears to be the thoughts of David, and, maybe, better a psalm ‘for Solomon’. The mention of both the king and the king’s son in the opening verse support this suggestion. The psalm covers the greatest period of Israel’s monarchy, when the kingdom was at its largest, united, and most peaceful. However, there are aspects which clearly cannot be fully found in Solomon’s rule, such as the endurance of the kingdom in verses 5 and 17, and its extent in verses 8-11. These clearly point forward to ‘a greater than Solomon’, indeed David’s ‘greater Son’, the Lord Jesus Christ. His rule will be literal, just like Solomon’s, and will be perfectly characterized by the conditions outlined in this psalm. Verse 3 speaks of ‘peace’, even in the most unlikely and dangerous of places, while verse 7 confirms an ‘abundance of peace’.
It should be noted that in both verses peace is coupled with righteousness and the righteous. Peace, like many of the conditions we are considering, is something that men desire, and search for today. Yet, despite the growth of democracy, and so-called human advancement, peace still proves elusive. In fact, the last century saw more perish in wars than in all previous history. Why? Because mankind has rejected righteousness, without which peace can never be achieved. However, in the person of the Lord Jesus, ‘righteousness and peace have kissed each other’, Ps. 85. 10. This peace will extend beyond the realm of men, encompassing the animal kingdom, and, indeed, the whole creation, as seen in Isaiah chapter 11. Unlike every form of failed human government, He alone will bring true peace on a righteous basis. This is further seen in the repeated concern for the poor, Ps. 72. 2, 4, 12-14. The world’s dictatorships oppress the poor in their millions. The nepotism of communism has failed them, as have the corrupt emerging democracies. Even the much-lauded, including, sadly, by many believers, ideologies of capitalism and market forces have resulted in exploitation, and a widening gap between rich and poor.
These last conditions are condemned by prophets like Isaiah, Amos, and Micah, who long for days when the labourer reaps the just reward of his own labours, and poverty is removed. Rather than destroying unborn children, as governments of all types encourage today, Christ’s kingdom will resolve the problem of population, vv. 6-7, and provision for them, v. 16. Famine will be a thing of the past, as will economic crisis. He will achieve true prosperity, v. 15a, not the unsustainable ‘boom and bust’ of fickle stock markets. His rule will reach all peoples, regardless of their location, disposition, ethnicity, rank, or nationality, vv. 8-11. Verse 8 may also hint at another of man’s great concerns rectified by Christ in the millennium, that of pollution. ‘The river’ is often interpreted as the Euphrates in relation to Solomon, but, in Zechariah chapter 14 verse 8, we read of a new river flowing all year, and sending living waters to cleanse the polluted Mediterranean and bring life to the Dead Sea. From this river in Jerusalem Christ’s reign will extend to ‘the ends of the earth’, reversing the adverse effects of man’s misrule. Furthermore, the evils done by man’s religion, as seen over the centuries from the excesses of conquistadors and crusaders in the name of professing Christianity to the slaughters perpetrated in the names of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, and every other false religion, sect, and cult will be ended, as prayer and praise will be ascribed to Him alone, Ps. 72. 15b. The even greater atheistic mass murderers of the last century, like Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and those today in North Korea and elsewhere, who tried to establish dynasties and thousand year Reichs will be forgotten. But not so the King of kings and Lord of lords; the conditions He produces will not exist for a fleeting term of office, or even a generation or two, but, as we shall see, for a literal millennium. Despite the perfect conditions, sadly, the 1000 years ends with man’s further rebellion. The final judgement and the end of the heavens and the earth serve only to usher in an eternal state with new heavens and earth, Rev. 20 and 21. Then, righteousness will not ‘reign’ but ‘dwell’ permanently, 2 Pet. 3. 13, as our inspired psalmist confirms, Ps. 72. 7, 17, and 19.
Well might we, like the psalmist, burst forth in praise to Him ‘who alone does wondrous things’, vv. 18-19, and look forward with anticipation to His glorious reign. In the meantime, we must preach Christ to a groaning creation, and its fallen creatures, Rom. 8. 19-22, showing them that the answer to their and the world’s problems are to be found in Christ, not in the idealists and campaigners of the present age. Man’s greatest problem is not war, animal welfare, poverty, famine, pollution, or global warming, but the problem of sin! Christ alone can resolve the sin question, and one day He will rectify all the other issues it has caused.