We have just reached the 20th chapter of Revelation in our Bible Study series. After reading of all the miseries and wretchedness of the Beast system, and the cunning craftiness of Satan, it was like a breath of fresh air to read that the earth had been rid of them for a thousand years, and that God’s elect were being prepared for kingly rule. And so we investigated the theme in some detail, and came up with some very interesting information, which we should now like to share.
First of all, we were confronted by an assertion expressed by an amillennialist, (i.e. one who does not believe in a literal millennium) put in this way. “If you have endeavoured to show that Revelation is mostly figurative language, how can you be sure that the 1000 years is not also figurative?” It was a good point, and one that needed to be addressed before going any further. Two things came to mind. First of all the whole pattern of the Revelation is based upon a series of sevens, which are divided into SIX plus ONE. And it is impossible not to connect this with the first chapter of Genesis, the six days of work and one of rest. When this is coupled with the knowledge that earth-history is now almost 6000 years old, it does provoke the thought that a thousand-year “day of Sabbath rest” is just round the corner. Also, the past millennia have been divided into FOUR plus TWO. Our Lord’s appearance on earth occurred around the 4000-year mark, “when the fullness of time was come”. So also the visions in Revelation are divided thus. The first four seals, and the first four trumpets form groups, and the bowls of wrath are linked with the trumpets. It is hard to get away from this pattern. In fact one almost wants to say that Genesis One is the key to understanding the Book of Revelation. If this be so, then the Millennium in Rev.20 is to be the Lord’s Day of Rest, even as the Weekly Sabbath has been Man’s Day of Rest. And we are encouraged to “enter into His rest.”
The second point more particularly concerned the use of figurative language in Revelation. We saw that although most of the sequences were indeed figurative, yet many things were quite literal. The person of Christ, as the Lamb, the Archangel Michael, Satan, the Overcomers, the Great Multitude who wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, the Prayers of the Saints, just to mention a few. And from this point of view there is no reason why the 1000 years should not also be literal. In fact the literal items in the Book are usually those which are stated factually in passing, rather than being woven into visionary material.
We then tackled the subject of “Kings and Priests” in the Millennial Rest, and found that it was the culmination of a plan set out from the days of Abraham onwards, but particularly through Moses at Sinai. Who were said to reign with Christ? John saw the souls of those beheaded for the witness of Jesus. “And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”And then, “Blessed and holy is he who has a part in the First Resurrection. – – – They shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” Although the beheaded ones had a special mention (no doubt a type based upon John the Baptist), we see that the “net of the elect” is spread wider to include all those worthy of having part in the First Resurrection. And from our previous studies in Revelation, we were also aware of the other two occasions when“reigning with Christ” was mentioned. In 1:6 – “He has washed us from our sins in His blood, and made us kings and priests (or a kingdom of priests) to God and His Father.” And in 5:10 – “You have purchased us by Your blood out of every tribe, tongue, people and nation, and made us kings and priests (or a kingdom of priests) and we shall reign upon the earth.” Here is a fact which contradicts the majority of evangelical theology concerning the future. The sphere of reigning is UPON THE EARTH, not in heaven. One only needs to thumb through a few hymn books to see what the general idea of the future is considered to be. “When we all get to heaven – -” sums up the majority. Evangelicals have been indoctrinated for centuries into thinking that our future is AWAY FROM this earth. Some people have called it “Pie in the Sky”. It is a sort of escapist theology. “I can’t wait to get away from this evil world. How long O Lord before I can rest secure in heaven with You, while You deal with all the rest?” Or as the hymn says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through; if heaven’s not my home, then Lord, what shall I do?” But the truth lies elsewhere.
Those who are worthy of sharing in the First Resurrection will be KINGS and PRIESTS. And it doesn’t take much logic to realise that Kings need subjects to rule over, and Priests have no work without “parishioners”. So who are these people, and where do they live? They are UPON THE EARTH. And that is where God’s elect will be working. They will be servant-kings, taking the character of their Master, Who laid down His life for the sins of the world. And they will be priests after the order of Melchisedek, under the High-Priesthood of their Messiah and Lord. And “when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” And because Satan is bound, and deceit non-existent, “Many will say, come and let us go up to the Mountain of the Lord, and there learn of His ways.” Neither of these verses from Isaiah has yet come to pass. But they will in the Millennium, and the Overcomers will be the Teaching Priests, and the Governors in the Kingdom. Far from heaven being a sort of Paradise-Retirement-Home for Tired-Saints, the Lord has been looking for, and training, His elect for a most exacting work to last for a thousand years.
So let us go back and see how the Lord has expressed His desire from the very earliest days. When Abraham was willing to offer up Isaac, his only son, the Lord highly commended him, and said, “Because you have not withheld your only son, I will greatly bless you, and multiply your seed as the stars of heaven – – and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” There are three important factors here. First of all God’s blessing was based upon obedience of the most rigorous kind. Second, Abraham was to be a CHOSEN vessel of the Lord. And third, that blessing would ultimately be for the blessing of the rest of the world. This is the whole basis of the subject of Kings and Priests. First of all, those who are selected for this high office, are “Called, and Chosen, and Faithful.” They are“Overcomers”. They are those who are “Worthy to attain that Age, and the resurrection from among the dead. And they shall be equal to the angels.” They are those who make proper use of their “Talents”, and their “Pounds”, rather than hiding them in the earth. They are those who have been “Faithful in little things,” and will later be made to “Rule over Ten Cities”.
And second. They are therefore God’s Chosen ones, His Elect, His Little Flock, His Peculiar People, His Jewels, to name but a few of the epithets the Lord has used for them. They will have many privileges above others. They will be like the Firstborn Son in Israel, who had “A Double Blessing.” They will be “The Head”, and the rest of the world will be “The Tail”, a reverse of the situation which has obtained throughout history.
And third. This “firstborn” privilege will not be a selection FOR THEIR OWN SAKE, but like the Firstborn Son in Israel, his double blessing was to enable him to fulfil a most important role, that of “Patriarchal Priest” to the rest of his brethren. Should any of them get into trouble, it was his duty to help them, to bail them out, to watch over their welfare. This needed funds, and so the “double blessing” gave him adequate potential to fulfil the role. If a brother died without offspring, it was his duty to “Raise up seed to his dead brother” via the man’s widow. If a brother, by vitue of hard times, was sold into slavery, then it was his duty to buy him back, and thereby give him another chance of making good. He was not to question the REASONS why sad times had come to his brethren. He was not to act as JUDGE AND JURY and condemn a brother who had wasted his substance on riotous living. He was his brother’s REDEEMER, the one who would buy him back from the pawnbroker’s shop, so to speak, and say, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” And it will be like that in God’s Sabbath Rest. The Kings and Priests will be presenting the Lord’s Great Character to the rest of the world. Where they see ignorance, they will be teachers and instructors. Where they see misery, they will bring comfort. Where they see wrong attitudes, they will encourage people to think positively, to show love and care for others, instead of demanding their rights. And as the Kingdom grows, so “the earth shall be full of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”Privilege is therefore coupled with responsibility. These will be “The Church of the Firstborn enrolled in heaven.” They will be “a Kind of Firstfuits of His People.”
After the days of Abraham, came the Nation of Israel, and the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai in this wise. “Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people, for all the earth is Mine, and you shall be a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” All three factors are present once again. First the obedience factor. Second the privilege factor. And third, “all the earth is mine.”Worthiness was to be based on obedience, and privilege was to be the resources of responsibility. The “Holy Nation” was not to think of itself as an end in itself, but rather to be the Priest-nation to all other nations, and the King-nation to all the world’s peoples. But forty days later this magnificent vision was dashed to the ground. The people had made a golden calf, and Moses discovered that the tribe of Levi alone had remained faithful.
The Lord therefore made the tribe of Levi the Priestly Tribe over the rest of the tribes, instead of the whole nation being a Priestly Nation over other nations. Disobedience had brought its penalty, whereas Abraham’s obedience had brought blessing. In Deuteronomy 17 the Lord gives instruction concerning the duties of priests. They were to be arbiters and judges in all matters of controversy. Their final ruling was to be accepted without argument. Also they were to be the teachers of the law. And in the eventuality of a king ruling over the nation in later times, “he shall write out a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites, – – and he shall read therein all the days of his life – – that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren.” Isn’t the instruction clear? How can it be missed? There is absolutely no room for privilege to be considered equivalent to personal worthiness above other people. All men are sinners. All have been placed under a covenant of redemption. We are required to be obedient. How can we look upon that obedience as a mark of OUR worthiness? God demands obedience from His people. He has a right to call for it. If some offer willing obedience now, He uses them to help others later, NOT because the obedient ones are selected and the rest lost for ever.
The point comes out very clearly in Numbers 14, the passage that deals with the rebellion that arose when the spies returned from the Promised Land. The Lord’s anger waxed hot against the whole nation. He threatened to destroy them, and keep Moses alive. But Moses pleaded with God for the nation, and the Lord heard that prayer. This is what the Lord said. “I have pardoned according to your word. But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. Because all those men who have seen My glory, and My miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted Me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to My voice, surely they shall not see the Land which I sware to their fathers.” Once again we have the three basic factors, but this time they are based upon disobedience, rather than obedience. First the disobedience. Second the privilege is withdrawn. But third, the Lord will not be thwarted concerning His purpose. In effect He said, “Whatever the present outcome, I want you to know this. The whole earth WILL eventually be filled with My glory.”
And to show that there will be a continuance, Caleb and Joshua are chosen to go through into the promised land, because of their faithful stand. Why, they were in danger of being stoned to death by an angry mob, until the Lord intervened. We noticed another clear message here. All the rest of the nation who were not allowed to see the Promised Land, were nevertheless “pardoned according to (Moses’) word.” And so, many of God’s people will be excluded from Kingdom Rule in the Millennium, but nevertheless they will still be a redeemed people. God’s mercy is never ending. His purpose is not to destroy, but to create all things new. The history of the Nation of Israel in the Old Testament is a history of disobedience, and non-achievement. But whenever the nation lost its entitlement to blessing, God showed that He always had “Seven thousand who bowed not the knee to Baal.” It has crossed our minds that this figure of 7000 may represent the seven thousand years of earth-history, and speak of all those who are part of God’s elect. As John was told in Revelation 5, they come from “every tribe, people, tongue and nation” rather than just from the house of Israel. The “holy nation” will not be Israel. It will not be Britain, or America, or any other nation on this earth, either now or from any time in the past. It will be a “holy nation”, composed of “holy people”, “Called and chosen, and faithful”, a “peculiar treasure” unto the Lord from among all people of all nations. Put together, they will constitute God’s “holy nation”. They will be seen on this earth in resurrection in the coming days, and they will act together under Messiah’s Headship to govern this earth in righteousness.
Isaiah saw this message. In 61:6 the Lord spoke of the faithful remnant in this wise. “You shall be named the Priests of the Lord; men shall call you the Ministers of our God; you shall eat the riches of the nations and in their glory shall you boast yourselves. Instead of shame you shall have a double portion – – .” All the final chapters of Isaiah’s prophecies abound in this glorious theme. Furthermore, this coming Kingdom of the Lord will not be one to pass away, in the manner of all other earthly kingdoms. We are told in Hebrews 12:28 that it will be “a Kingdom which cannot be moved.”And this was the subject of the vision that Nebuchadnezzar saw, and which Daniel interpreted. The great image with the head of gold would finally be broken up and destroyed. By what? A stone cut from the mountains without (human) hands. That stone was thrown at the image’s feet. And then we are told in 2:35-44 “The stone that smites the image will become a great mountain to fill the whole earth. – – The God of heaven shall set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed. It shall not be left for other people, but shall break in pieces and consume all kingdoms and shall stand for ever. “And THAT will not be accomplished in a week!
Later in Daniel (chapter 7) we read, “I saw One like the Son of Man come with the clouds of heaven – – and there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom is that which shall not be destroyed. – – And the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom, even to the ages of the ages. – – – And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, Whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.” The thrill of all this language about the Millennial Kingdom mounts with every passage that speaks of it. Truly God’s Sabbath Rest will be a glorious time on earth, and those who are deemed to be faithful and worthy in God’s sight, though their days will be filled with much business for the Lord, will find such an abundance of blessing, their “double blessing” that they will hardly be able to contain it. But in resurrection they will have the wherewithal not only to contain it, but to enjoy it without it destroying them by pride.
Servant kings, and servant priests, they will act out their government with equity, righteousness, comfort, compassion, conciliation, and good humour. It will be a time of holy laughter, where tears are wiped away, illness a thing of the past, curses removed, environments restored, truth predominating, and worship “in spirit and in truth.” Our last reference must be from Peter’s first letter, chapter 2. The Lord is called the “Chief Corner Stone”, and His people, His faithful ones are called“living stones, built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. – – – You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” Peter draws forth the message that God gave to Moses on Sinai, and which was initially addressed to the nation of Israel, but he uses it to speak of the “servant nation” composed of the elect from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.” Here then is the culmination of a goodly theme, and we felt refreshed by the message the Scriptures had conveyed to us.
But at the same time, we were constantly aware that none of us can claim to have that privileged place of kingship with Christ. It is not a foregone conclusion that all those who name the name of Christ will govern in the Age to come. The subject of government is quite distinct from that of redemption. Remember what we read in Numbers 14. God said that His nation would be excluded from the Promised Land, but nevertheless they were “a pardoned people.” And so today we realise it’s possible to state categorically that we have been saved by the precious blood of Christ, because that is the Saviour’s finished work, and it depends on His worthiness alone, and none of ours. “We are saved by grace and not by works.” But when it comes to rulership, the parables of the kingdom apply. And only those who have allowed the image of God’s Son to be printed indelibly in their natures will be chosen by the Lord to share in His reign. It is futile for us to assess our brother’s worthiness. Likewise it is futile for us to assume that “we have made it.” Resting upon the immovable foundation stone of salvation by faith, we need to press on daily towards that goal, by much prayer, diligence, and obedience, so that the victor’s crown may be won.
At the end of Paul’s life he was told by the Lord that he had won that crown. I suppose few have ever heard such comforting words when their time is fulfilled on earth. Let’s hear again exactly what Paul said. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me that day, and not to me only, but to ALL THOSE WHO LOVE HIS APPEARING.”
Have I fought a good fight against the insistent desires and cravings of my own flesh? And against the pressures of the world around me, that invade my senses continually? And against the insidious, cunning, and deceptive works of Satan?
Have I finished the work that God has given me to do, not resting, not wasting my days, but pressing on towards that earthly goal which Jesus spoke to me about, perhaps years ago?
Have I kept faith with God in all that He has graciously taught me?
Have I shown others, helped others, been ready to teach others the ways of God – even in my own family, my fellowship, amongst my friends, by example of life as well as by speech?
Have I secretly held on to that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ?
Have I, as Paul put it, “loved His appearing”? Or am I still rather fearful of that Day?
O Lord, search me and see if there be any wicked way in me.
Reprove me, directly, or through my brothers and sisters, whenever ungodly, and unloving attitudes manifest themselves.
Purge me and purify me through the salt and the fires until I have white robes, clean and bright.
Leave me not to my own ways Lord. I cannot make my own way through.
Only as I walk hand in hand with you am I likely to make the sort of progress you are looking for.
Because Lord, I really have seen something of the glories of your Kingdom, and your Millennial Rest, and my heart yearns to be part of it, and I dare not take it for granted that I have reached that position.
And Lord, I am not looking for personal glories in the future. I want to be part of your “team”, so that I can be of assistance to others, to be a servant of mankind.
I don’t want my own name blazoned anywhere. I want people to see YOU Lord, not me.
Let the vision You have given me encompass me wholly, and be the vehicle to transport me there.