“The millennium” is a term familiar to most students of Scripture. It simply means “the thousand years,” and derives its origin from Rev. 20:4-6, where alone this period is defined.
It is there described as that epoch during which the Lord Jesus Christ and His saints shall reign over the earth. No longer despised, rejected, oppressed, the meek shall inherit the earth, the mourners shall be comforted, the pure in heart shall see God, and those who hitherto have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, shall inherit the kingdom. (Matt. 5)
It has already been shown by many Scriptures that this period of blessing and glory, for which the whole creation groans, is to be introduced by judgments unprecedented. It must needs be so; for God cannot display His glory where sin is tolerated. “Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne” (Ps. 92:2); hence, where He reigns He must reign in righteousness; and if earth is called upon to rejoice before the Lord, it is because “He cometh to judge the earth: He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with His truth.”
That the heavenly department of the millennial kingdom will be occupied by Christ and His saints has already been shown in chapter 15. First, He associates His saints with Himself in the execution of judgment, and then He appoints them to their service of rule and blessing during the age to come.
Though pre-eminently heavenly, theirs shall also be a ministry towards earth, of joy and blessing; for hereafter heaven will be open, and upon the Son of man, like Jacob’s ladder, shall heavenly messengers ascend and descend, fulfilling the commands of Him who then shall be manifested as the “Blessed and only Potentate: the King of kings, and Lord of lords.”
As to earth, the centre of all God’s plans of blessing for it is the nation of Israel. Next to the manifestation of the sons of God, in their heavenly glory with Christ, come the restoration of God’s ancient and beloved people to their own land, and their establishment and blessing there.
It is of this that the Old Testament prophets spake more abundantly than of almost any other future event, ever connecting Israel’s restoration with the glory of their Messiah and King, and showing that all blessings for other nations was to be consequent upon the fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham’s seed. Thus, in Luke 1:32, it is written: “Thou shalt bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” Again, in Isaiah 9:6, 7, “For unto us a Child is born, and unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder… Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” Again, in Psalm 72:6, “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. In His days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace as long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow down before Him; and His enemies shall lick the dust.”
Nor is it in Old Testament prophecy alone that we find the coming kingdom and glory of Christ foretold. Above His cross the superscription written by Pilate declared Him to be the “the King of the Jews;” and the Lord Himself acknowledged to Pilate, “Thou sayest that I am a King. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world that I should bear witness unto the truth.” Again, it is evident that of these things Paul spake in his preaching; for in Acts 17:7 he is accused of “doing contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another King, one Jesus.” And in writing his second epistle to Timothy, as though to impress upon his son in the faith this special aspect of the authority and glory of Christ, he says, “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead, according to my gospel.” (2 Tim. 2:8.)
Unquestionably, then, must it be concluded from these Scriptures that the coming reign of the Lord Jesus, as David’s son and heir, will not be a merely spiritual dominion, such as He now exercises in the hearts of His saints, but a personal visible reign as King at Jerusalem, and exercise of government, as David and Solomon had done before, though in an infinitely more glorious manner and degree.
But let it ever be borne in mind that, during that period of earth’s deliverance from sin, and Satan, and curse, the heavenly and the earthly shall be blended as now we cannot conceive.
Doubtless even now messengers wing their way from heaven to earth, ministering for those who shall be heirs of salvation; but a veil is drawn over all such intercourse, which even the most spiritual cannot penetrate. Not so then; for the long-closed heavens shall be open, as once for a moment to the eye of the martyr Stephen, and earth shall find its rest and blessing in the very beams of the presence and glory of God.
When the truth of this coming personal reign of the Lord Jesus and His saints is seen and received, many Scriptures, otherwise dark, become full of meaning, and their application simple and direct. For instance, take that little group of millennial psalms, from the 96th to 100th. Who has not felt their inappropriateness to the present age, even though by means of sundry mental reservations and ingenious processes of spiritualizing they may have been sung with a measure of sincerity? Without doubt there is a spiritual application of every word of Scripture, and there is a kingdom of God “within” the principles of which are identical with that kingdom which is to come. This inward and spiritual application of Scripture is not lost, but intensified, when the primary and literal application is seen arid admitted.
Of these psalms the key-note is, “The Lord reigneth.” It has been observed that never, under any previous dispensation, did God seem to retire so far from the management of affairs in this world as during the present age.
The “signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost,” whereby God gave witness to the heralds of the gospel (Heb. 2:4), have passed away, and, to the outward sense, there is no apparent interference by the living God with the ordinary course of nature, with all its corruption and apostasy.
Not a sound from heaven has broken the silence of the eighteen centuries, and only to faith is it apparent that, while Satan, as prince and god of this world, is indeed ruling and carrying it to perdition, God is over all, and overruling for ends known and purposed by Himself.
But the time is approaching when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever. Then shall the elders before the throne give thanks, and the nations instead of rejoicing shall “be angry,” and before the reign of righteousness shall ripen into peace and joy the fire of judgment shall destroy those which destroy the earth. (See Rev. 11:15-18.)
Then shall these millennial psalms be sung by redeemed Israel with an intelligence and fervour unknown before. When He shall have remembered His mercy and His truth toward the house of Israel, and all the ends of the earth shall have seen the salvation of our God; when the Lord shall “sit between the cherubims,” and send the rod of His strength out of Zion; when the heavens declare His righteousness, and all the people see His glory, then shall it be fitting to sing—
“All people that on earth do dwell
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice;
Him serve with mirth, His praise forth tell,
Come ye before Him and rejoice.”
Meantime, to sing this is to invite the children of the devil to sing the praise of God: it is not the message suited to the present age. “God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained.” (Acts 17:30, 31.)
Repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ having taken place, men are welcome, through grace, to sing His praise; but without this change they had better weep than sing. But, blessed be God, the time will come when the tares, being gathered and burned, the goats severed from the sheep, the sinners destroyed out of the land, the enemies of the Lord visited with judgment, the earth filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, all that remain upon earth having come to trust in the shadow of His wings, shall be welcomed to the courts of the Lord’s house as worshippers to thank and bless His name.