It is sometimes surmised that the millennium is one of those prophetic details which, although intriguing, has no significant relevance to the real business of day-to-day Christian living. But, when viewed properly, prophecy is vital to proper Christian living, for “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). A proper understanding of the millennium reveals two great truths concerning our Lord and His dealings with men.
In certain circles, it is taught that there is no real millennium. Israel forfeited her right to the kingdom by rejecting her Messiah. Consequently, she has been permanently set aside and God’s promises to her have been passed on in some spiritual sense to the church. Christ will not return to earth to reign from Jerusalem for 1000 years.
There are many godly believers who hold to this view. But they do so without realizing that it undermines the grace of God. Is this how the Lord works? Is the faithfulness of man the basis for the wonderful promises of God?
Psalm 89 deals specifically with this issue. After promising a literal, permanent kingdom to David and his descendants (vv. 20-29), God specifies what will happen if Israel is unfaithful (vv. 30-32). Far from saying that He will cast them off and replace them, He vows, “Nevertheless My lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips. Once have I sworn by My holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before Me” (vv.33-36). Notice the repeated references to “My.” The security of God’s people relies on the faithfulness of God, not the goodness of man.
But there is another serious problem with this viewpoint. If His people’s disobedience is sufficient grounds for God to rescind His promises to them, then it is not only Israel who is in trouble. If the hundreds of promises God made to His Old Testament people can be revoked (in violation of Romans 11:29) and given to someone else, on what basis can His New Testament people be confident He won’t do the same to us? On the basis of our faithfulness and goodness? Such self-righteous thinking is nothing more than salvation by works. A literal reign of Christ on David’s throne is inextricably bound to the grace of God.
The millennium is also designed to be a showcase for the glory of the Lord. In previous dispensations, man had convenient excuses on which to blame his sin: the devil, a fallen world, corrupt government. But during the millennium, Satan is bound, the world is returned to Edenic conditions, and perfect government prevails. Yet man rebels against God and against His Christ. The Lord is glorified as this last test proves once and for all that God’s assessment of sinful man is utterly accurate.
It is also vital that Christ be glorified in the same sphere where man crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8). And glorified, He will be! (Isa. 40:5) Christ will come in the glory of His Father and flaming fire (Mt. 16:27; 2 Thes. 1:7). The glory of God will return to the temple (Ezek. 43:2ff). Messiah will reign as the King of glory (Ps. 24:7ff). As Solomon promised in his millennial psalm, “let the whole earth be filled with His glory” (Ps. 72:19). “The Lord gives grace and glory” (Ps. 84:11). That’s why the millennium matters.