Allow me to set the stage for what I think is the saddest verse in all of Scripture.
The second coming of Christ has taken place as has the Millennial reign of Jesus – 1,000 years of perfect rule under the only perfect ruler that has ever existed. In addition, Satan, the great deceiver of humanity, has been banished and forbidden to interact with those alive in the world, making for a first-ever safe spiritual environment (Rev. 19-20).
I get chills just thinking about it.
But what’s also happened is that the planet has been populated by the offspring of those who were alive during Jesus’ second coming and who entered into His Millennial kingdom. All of them have been face to face with the King of kings and eyewitnesses to Jesus’ righteous rule.
But then it happens.
The devil is released by God and, true to his nature, works to deceive humanity just as he did in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3). He gathers the nations together to fight against Jesus in some kind of crazed, last-ditch effort to supplant the Son of God.
After 1,000 years of seeing Jesus’ picture-perfect reign, you would think that the number of those involved in the conflict would be infinitesimally small. But no, actually the reverse is true.
This leads me to what is in my opinion the saddest verse in all the Bible – it’s Rev. 20:8. Let’s read it in context with verse 7:
“When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore” (Rev. 20:7-8, my emphasis).
That particular revelation from the Apocalypse is beyond depressing to read. It’s not just a few of those alive during the Millennium that rebel against Jesus, but so many that you can’t count them. How awful is that?
It doesn’t matter which media group computes the numbers, when all is said and done, no one comes close to Jesus of Nazareth in terms of historic popularity or influence. Even leading figures of competing religions like Hinduism’s Gandhi acknowledge the unique beauty and perfection of Christ among other world leaders, religious or not.
And yet, both Revelation and the gospels tell us that Jesus’ popularity with certain people is something that can change in the blink of an eye.
Jesus’ biographies tell us that there were many who were face-to-face with Christ back in His day that appeared to love Him. Right from the start we read, “And the news about Him spread throughout Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and severe pain, demon-possessed, people with epilepsy, and people who were paralyzed; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan” (Matt. 4:25, my emphasis).
Large crowds following Jesus are also mentioned in Matt. 5:1, 8:1, 12:15, 13:2, 15:30, 19:2; Mark 3:7; Luke 5:15, 6:17, 6:19, 14:25. Further, let’s not forget the feeding of the 5,000 men that is chronicled in all gospels (Matt. 14; Mark 6; Luke 9; John 6), whose number can easily be expanded to double or triple when women and children are counted. The same goes for the 4,000 fed, which are recorded in Matthew and Mark.
They loved Him when He was doling out free food, healings, deliverance from Satan, and even were left breathless from His powerful and poignant teaching. But when it came to His preaching on repentance and change of lifestyle, that’s when things took a different turn.
In Matthew 11:20-24, Christ rebukes the cities of Chorazin and Capernaum because, even though they had witnessed His miracles first-hand, they would not submit to Him and His preaching of sin. In fact, that aspect of Him got under their skin so much, that they made it a point to be at His crucifixion and mock Him while He was on the cross (Matt. 27:39).
That’s a whole different level of nasty.
But, sadly, it’s nothing new. It’s the same type of behavior we see in those who will one day live with Jesus for 1,000 years and then turn on Him.
The devil made me do it
But wait, you say, we’re told in Rev. 20 that Satan is the one who goes out to deceive the people of the Millennium. Surely, it’s his fault and not theirs, right?
Nope, it’s theirs.
While the devil supplies a push in the wrong direction, ultimately the people make the choice. It’s what they want to do.
Those that enter the Millennium after Jesus’ second coming are just like we are right now: people without a glorified body and not free from sinful imperfections. And, just as Adam fathered children “in his own likeness, according to his image” and not in God’s image (Gen. 5:3), they will do the same, which produces a set of sinful humanity ripe to hear what they want to where Jesus is concerned.
The sad thing is, it doesn’t matter whether you can’t see or touch Jesus, like the situation we find ourselves in today, or one where you’re literally face to face with Him in an impeccable environment, sin still makes rebellion possible.
Even one where, after 1,000 years of perfection, the number of rebels is like the sand of the seashore.
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.