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Revelation 20: The golden era and a final test


Imagine a homeless person living on the streets, struggling daily to survive with no shelter, food, or support. One day, an incredibly generous and compassionate stranger notices his plight and decides to help him. This benefactor provides the homeless man with a marvelous house, groceries, new clothes, and financial security. The homeless individual is given a fresh start, enabling him to pursue any dream or aspiration he desires.

Initially, the homeless man is overwhelmed with gratitude. He is living a life of comfort and happiness, enjoying the privileges that previously he was only able to dream about. However, as time passes, he becomes increasingly thoughtless and unappreciative — forgetting the spring from which his many gifts flow. He starts to ignore his benefactor’s acts of kindness and instead, unduly feels slighted and demands more.

Eventually, the homeless man’s ego starts to swell, and he begins to believe that what he has in life was achieved by his own merit. Blinded by arrogance, he severs ties with his charitable backer, convinced he no longer needs him. Ignoring the warning signs of his poor judgment and foolish behavior, he believes he can live independently.

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Inevitably, his good life gradually crumbles piece by piece, and he discovers the hard truth: he is only able to succeed because of the immense support and opportunities provided by his sustainer’s unmerited grace. Without the provisions and safety net he once had, he finds himself back on the streets again, back to where he was before with all of its misery, but this time with a heavy heart and tears for what he’s lost.

This same scenario is seen several places throughout the Bible.

In the very beginning, Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden. They lived in a world that was in a state of perfection. There was no suffering or death. There were no diseases, no terrible storms or natural disasters. The land was lush and fertile and nature cooperated with and was subject to humanity. There were numerous fruit-bearing trees and vegetation, providing an abundance of food and resources. No conflict or discord ever interrupted or strained Adam and Eve’s relationship, there was always peace and harmony. The animals weren’t aggressive, nor did they attack one another or mankind. God gave Adam and Eve meaningful and satisfying work to do in tending the Garden. According to the book of Genesis, the first couple lived in a pristine, harmonious, and bountiful environment. They were fully secure and safe, with no anxiety or fear.

Whether it took a long time or a relatively short time is not stated, but the Bible makes it clear Adam and Eve doubted God and began to feel that he was holding out on them. Although their lives were full and rich, they coveted more. In one fateful instance of pride, they rebelled against their Creator, their Great Benefactor. Their love, devotion, and appreciation of the Lord were tested when Satan, the Serpent, tempted them to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Consequently, they lost everything. They lost their state of innocence, their harmonious relationship with God and each other, their privileged dwelling in the perfect environment of the Garden of Eden, and their exemption from sickness, suffering, sorrow, and death (Genesis 1-3). The planet was cursed by their actions and would no longer oblige their efforts. Life would not be the same (Genesis 1-3).

The Bible teaches that thousands of years ago God made a covenant with Abraham, promising to make him the father of a great nation and to bless all the nations of the world through his descendants. God kept his promise and the covenant he made with Abraham laid the foundation for his unique relationship with the Israelites.

Through miraculous signs, God delivered Israel from their enslavement to the mighty and oppressive Egyptian Empire. In his love, God led them to Mount Sinai and there gave them a timeless morality code, The Ten Commandments, which transcends every culture and generation. These divine guidelines provided an incomparable underpinning for harmonious living, a universal source of wisdom, and flawless directions for a just and compassionate world.

God declared the nation of Israel to be his chosen people, a treasured possession above any other nation (Exodus 19:5-6). God’s choice was not based on their greatness, but wholly on His sovereign will and affection for them. No nation in human history was ever so favored.

God promised the Israelites the land of Canaan, a land that was plush, plentiful, and prosperous — a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7-8), where they would dwell as a unique and holy nation. By God’s power, they overcame superior armies and civilizations and ultimately every obstacle in the way of their claim to the promised land.

However, despite God’s miraculous acts on their behalf, their abundant provisions, and the accumulation of extraordinary wealth, power, and influence in the known world, they started to grumble, complain bitterly, and covet being like the sinful nations whom the Lord rejected.

In their arrogance, the Israelites repeatedly turned away from God, engaged in gross idolatry, and disregarded God’s commandments. They engaged in full-blown, willful immorality and injustice, and followed the wicked practices of neighbor nations.

Israel’s thanklessness and persistent disobedience tried God’s patience too far. Thus, God allowed foreign nations to conquer and drive them from their homeland. Their sin and unfaithfulness toward their Great Benefactor, was the primary cause for the loss of their sovereignty, and dispersion throughout the world.

Many individuals in life and even great civilizations throughout history have experienced a similar pattern of rise and fall. Whether it was persons like Israel’s Kings Solomon, and Saul, Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar, or Roman Emperors Nero, Caligula, and Commodus. Whether it was the Roman, Byzantine, Mayan, Ottoman, or Inca Empires, Ancient Greece, or the Ming Dynasty of China, each followed a similar scenario. They were abundantly blessed with remarkable possessions and status but ultimately fell from their first estate because internally they became morally bankrupt and denied God. Therefore, the Lord, in His justice cast them down.

This state of affairs stands as the cornerstone of history. What was seen in the beginning with Adam and Eve, the first civilization of Sumer, (the “land of Shinar” Genesis 10:10), where the city of Babel (Babylon) was built, the situation has been repeated over and again from age to age.

In the very end, Revelation chapter 20 prophesies that notwithstanding the profusion of God’s boundless favors and grace during the Millennial Age, the greatest of which is the presence of Christ himself to rule and reign on earth, humanity will once again, defy God, their Great Benefactor.

Here is what the Scripture says:

When the thousand years come to an end, Satan will be let out of his prison. 8 He will go out to deceive the nations — called Gog and Magog—in every corner of the earth. He will gather them together for battle — a mighty army, as numberless as sand along the seashore. And I saw them as they went up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded God’s people and the beloved city. But fire from heaven came down on the attacking armies and consumed them.

Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:7-10).

How blessed is the Millennial Age? What are the characteristics of this time in human history?

First, it should be clarified that the Millennium will not be the same as the eternal state of heaven. It is a unique period when Christ literally and personally rules over the nations. During this time, the righteous who have survived the Tribulation will go into the Kingdom, and the elements of human existence, much as we know them will continue: marriage, familial relationships, reproduction, education and learning, work and productivity, worship and spiritual development, cultural identity, etc.

The saved who go into the Kingdom and the children born to them will still have their sinful natures. Those born of the redeemed will need to also accept Christ and be saved, but the Kingdom will be ruled by Christ and the saints who came back from Heaven with him. They will jointly lead, manage, and govern the world with “a rod of iron,” (Revelation 2:26-27; 19:15).

The Millennium will be characterized by a knowledge of the Lord that is pervasive. There will be perpetual peace and harmony.

One of the most beautiful verses describing this time in the Bible is from chapter 2 of Isaiah’s prophecy, which reads:

People from many nations will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. The Lord will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:3-4).

Today there is a bronze sculpture located within the United Nations Garden, known as “Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares.” It was crafted by sculptor Evgeniy Vuchetich and it portrays a human figure engaged in the act of hammering a sword into a plowshare.

The Millennium will also be a time of incredible prosperity.  Again, Isaiah wrote of this one thousand years, quoting the Lord, who declares:

“I will exchange your bronze for gold, your iron for silver, your wood for bronze, and your stones for iron” (Isaiah 60:17).

There will be no more poverty, famine, drought, floods, thorns or thistles. These things will be in the past because the earth is restored, and the curse on nature is removed. Everything environmentally will work as it should.

The prophet Amos described the Millennium this way:

“‘The time will come,’ says the Lord, ‘when the grain and grapes will grow faster than they can be harvested’” (Amos 9:13).

Amos’ depiction is one of agricultural abundance, with crops being harvested so rapidly that the reaper is still at work when the plowman begins, and the planter is already treading the grapes.

English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, in his famous work, Leviathan, reflects his view of the current state of nature as inherently hostile and characterized by a lack of order. Hobbes wrote:

“In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

But during the Golden Age of Christ’s reign, the Bible promises something completely different:

“The wolf and the lamb will feed together. The lion will eat hay like a cow”…(Isaiah 65:25). “The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm” (Isaiah 11:8).

Although a postmillennialist, the late Presbyterian scholar and writer, Lorraine Boettner, eloquently asserted of the Millennium:

“No longer shall the bee sting, the dog bite, or the serpent smite; no longer shall man be afraid of any creature. Indeed, the blessings of creation shall extend to the utmost bounds. Both wind and waves shall be under control. Nevermore shall volcanoes belch forth their burning lava. Hurricanes and tornadoes, tidal waves and stormy seas, earthquakes, and earth tremors shall be unknown. The weather shall be perfect, with the seasons regulated for production of crops and the physical good of man.”

There’s still something else about the Millennium that can make the heart rejoice, longevity will be increased. The Scripture describes people as living for extended periods, similar to the longevity of individuals recorded in the book of Genesis. The Bible says:

“No longer will babies die when only a few days old. No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life. No longer will people be considered old at one hundred! Only the cursed will die that young!” (Isaiah 65:20).

Before moving on, there is one other matter that ought to be noted about the coming 1,000 year reign of the Savior. Israel, the wife of our Lord (Isaiah 54:5), will be restored and reconciled to Him. She will have repented of her apostasy and during the Millennium God will fulfill every promise he made to Abraham and his descendants. The Messiah will rule from Jerusalem, and Israel will play a central role in Christ’s worldwide government.

The marvels of this time are nearly inconceivable! Everything that every nation ever longed for in this earthly existence is to be provided during Christ’s Golden Age. But the Bible says at the end of the 1,000 years, Satan will be released from his prison (the abyss) and will go out to deceive the nations at every end of the globe. Unbelievably, a tragic rebellion will ensue as people will turn against the Lord and come against his faithful followers.

It is truly astonishing that after experiencing the unparalleled wonders and unprecedented boons ushered in by Christ's terrestrial dominion, a recurring pattern unfolds as a portion of humanity, akin to their predecessors in ages past, grows ungrateful, is consumed by hubris, and is madly driven to assert their own rule, forgetting the Lord and all his benefits, defying his benevolent sovereignty.

Of course, innumerable are those today who are puzzled as to why Satan would be unbound at the end of Christ’s thousand-year Kingdom. In Stan Campbell and James S. Bell Jr’s writing, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Book of Revelation, there is one suggested answer which is shared by many reputable Bible scholars:

“With the Antichrist and false prophet gone, and Satan bound [during the thousand years], life should be sweet. But as it was in the Garden of Eden, God will not manipulate people into obedience by removing all other options. If we consider that the forbidden fruit was in Eden not to tempt Adam and Eve, but to give them a choice of whether or not to follow God, we see a similar situation here in Revelation. Generations raised here under the leadership of Jesus would certainly have a religious slant in one direction. So, theoretically, perhaps Satan is unbound to allow them a choice of whether or not to go along with what they had been told.”

Authors Campbell and Bell correctly add that this “is a frequent explanation for this section.” Although speculation abounds, this reason does seem most consistent with other passages of Scripture and rises above any other.

This final rebellion, as predicted in Revelation 20, the apostle John associates with “Gog and Magog,” which seems to be a reference back to Ezekial chapter 38, where an unjust and ungodly attack is planned on God’s people. In this instance, the Lord promises to intervene by promising to pour out “fire, and burning sulfur” (vs. 22) on the enemies of his people.

Cambell and Bell note that in Revelation chapter 20 verses 7 through 10, something similar is being cited. And “in the great heavenly hourglass, he [the Devil] can kiss his last grain of sand goodbye.” The authors argue, “His time has run out. No war is fought. No struggle is experienced. Instead, fire falls from Heaven on all those who support him.” Then the Devil is thrown “in the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).

O what sinful and broken creatures we are if we have never been forgiven of our sins and transformed by the power of Christ’s sacrificial love. God provides us with every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Everyone of us is spiritually impoverished, bankrupt, and homeless. Yet God is most willing to fill our cups to overflowing if we will acknowledge him and give him his rightful place in our lives. He will make us safe and secure forevermore. But if we dismiss his goodness, doubt him, become full of pride, make our own way, rule our own lives, and love what he rejects and hate what he approves, we will be lost and there will be no remedy.

Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He was a pastor for twenty years before taking this position, having served five different Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina and one Independent Baptist in upstate New York.

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