And so, when Jesus Christ comes to Mount Zion to establish His glorious reign over all the earth, there will be a "regeneration," and "times of refreshing from the presence (not absence) of the Lord" (Acts 3: 19). Satan will be cast into the bottomless pit and a seal set over him, that the nations may no longer be deceived. The resurrected saints and martyrs will awake from the dust, and be judged. The land of Canaan will be restored, and the promise made to Abraham and his seed fulfilled to the very letter. Moreover, when the glorious reign commences, the world will know peace as it has never known before. Indeed, many men have often longed for "peace on earth, good will toward men" (Luke 2: 14). But, in its broadest meaning, such will never be possible until the Prince of Peace takes up his abode with us. To these events we look forward.
Let us now discuss the exact conditions that will prevail on earth during the Millennium. In our last article, we talked of the living waters, and of the immense healing properties they contain. Wherever the waters shall come, life will be restored. It is only natural that the Creator of all life should bring life more abundantly when He establishes His presence among us. And such will be needful. There is evidence in the word of God that during the times of Antichrist the world will be overrun by sin and wickedness. The land itself, in many quarters of the globe, will be devastated by warfare and industrial pollution. The prophet Joel speaks of wide-scale famine, and failure in agriculture. Isaiah corroborates this when he writes: "The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left" (Isaiah 24: 5-6).
The prophet gives us just a peek into what the world's condition will become under Antichrist. And anyone who has followed ecological affairs may see how these visions can easily become a reality. It will be quite possible for one given power "over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations" (Rev. 13: 7) to harness the world's resources in a manner that substantially results in its destruction and defilement. And Isaiah seems to allude to this when he writes: "Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms: that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof: that opened not the house of his prisoners?" (Isaiah 14: 16-17).
Lactantius, that great Chiliast, writes of the general state of the world in the time of Antichrist: "Cities shall be utterly overthrown, and shall perish; not only by fire and the sword, but also by continual earthquakes and overflowings of waters, and by frequent diseases and repeated famines. For the atmosphere will be tainted, and become corrupt and pestilential--at one time by unseasonable rains, at another by barren drought, now by colds, and now by excessive heats. Nor will the earth give its fruit to man: no field, or tree, or vine will produce anything; but after they have given the greatest hope in the blossom, they will fail in the fruit. Fountains also shall be dried up, together with the rivers; so that there shall not be a sufficient supply for drinking; and waters shall be changed into blood and bitterness." (Divine Institutes, VII. xvi.).
Thus, when Jesus Christ comes, He will effect a great salvation in the administration of the world; and the defilement of the world will be washed away. The kingdom of the lawless one will be brought to nothing, 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" (Dan. 7: 27). Then "all peoples and languages and nations" shall serve Christ (Dan. 7: 14).
When Jesus Christ returns to the Mount of Olives, the living waters will break forth and will bring health and healing to the world. And life will flourish where death previously prevailed. Paul seems to refer to this great event, when he writes: "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the the Sons of God" (Romans 8: 19). That is, the whole creation waits for the time when Christ shall be "revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 1: 7-8). It awaits this time with longing, for then shall the world be released from vanity and the bondage of corruption. We take this to mean that all created beings will share in and enjoy the blessedness of Christ's Millennial reign.
For what is signified by the term 'creature?' Certainly St. Chrysostom had it correct when he wrote: "Now, what is this creation? Not thyself alone, but that which is thy inferior, and partaketh not of reason or sense, this too shall be a sharer in thy blessings. For 'it shall be freed, 'he says, 'from the bondage of corruption,' that is, shall no longer be corruptible, but shall go along with the beauty given to thy body; just as when this became corruptible, that became corruptible also; so now it is made incorruptible, that also shall follow it too." (On Romans, Hom. xiv.). Thus, all the creation over which Adam was placed shall become a partaker in the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8: 21). The whole created world shall partake of the rich blessings which flow from the city of Jerusalem, because of the mercy and beneficence of its Great King. And this is doubtless to what certain Scriptures relate when they speak of lions and lambs dwelling together in peace.
(Isaiah 11: 6-8) "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's den."
(Isaiah 65: 25) "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt and destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord."
(Hosea 2: 18) "And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely."
These blessings relate more particularly to the land of Israel, but they shall also extend throughout the entire world. And let no man allegorize these passages, for the blessings will be real and substantial. Irenaeus writes: "I am quite aware that some persons endeavor to refer these words to the case of savage men, both of different nations and various habits, who come to believe, and when they have believed, act in harmony with the righteous. But although this is true now with regard to some men coming from various nations to the harmony of the faith, nevertheless, in the resurrection of the just the words shall also apply to those animals mentioned. For God is rich in all things. And it is right that when the creature is restored, all the animals should obey and be in subjection to man, and revert to the food originally given by God (for they had been originally subjected in obedience to Adam), that is, the productions of the earth." (Against Heresies, V. xxxiii. 4).
As St. Chysostom implies, not only the animals themselves, but also that which neither partakes of reason nor sense, will rejoice in Christ's presence. For He is the Creator of all things. Indeed, there are many passages in Scripture which speak of the trees shouting for joy, and the gladdening of the everlasting hills. Although such verses may be taken allegorically, and almost generally always are, we believe that there shall be a real fulfillment when Christ comes to reign. Of course, we are not implying that trees will literally clap their hands or shout for joy, but that there shall be a universal acclamation among all created things, to such extent that the trees shall seem to sing praises unto God. Whereas even now the whole creation groans under the burden of sin and corruption, it will be delivered with joy when the Sons of God appear.
(Psalm 96: 11-12) "Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein; then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice."
(Psalm 98: 7-9) "Let the sea roar, and all the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh to judge the earth; with righteousness shall He judge the world, and the people with equity."
(Isaiah 35: 1) "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice, even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God."
(Isaiah 55: 12-13) "For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."
As we learn from Isaiah, the coming of Christ will result in a flourishing of life, of fruits and flowers and all pleasant trees. The creation, which once was cursed under the first Adam, shall be renewed and restored under the Second Adam; and after the Millennium, shall be made perpetual and eternal. "For as the new heavens and new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain" (Isaiah 66: 22). Hence, the nations which are saved will forever dwell with Christ in the new heavens and the new earth. But the beginning and commencement of these blessings is the Millennium. For it is according to the mercy of Christ that all men be given a chance to enter into eternal salvation. And the incentive will be great when they see the blessings that He brings to the renewed earth. For the goodness of God leadeth men to repentance (Romans 2: 4).
But our words are not sufficient to describe the wondrous changes that shall take place when Christ returns. We'll let Lactantius speak for us: "Then that brilliant darkness will be taken away from the world with which the heaven shall be overspread and darkened, and the moon will receive the brightness of the sun, nor will it be further diminished: but the sun will become seven times brighter than it now is; and the earth will open its fruitfulness, and bring forth most abundant fruits of its own accord; the rocky mountains shall drop with honey; streams of wine shall run down, and rivers flow with milk: in short, the world itself shall rejoice, and all nature exult, being rescued and set free from the dominion of evil and impiety, and guilt and error. Throughout this time beasts shall not be nourished by blood, nor birds by prey; but all things will be peaceful and tranquil." (Divine Institutes, VII. xxiv).
And thus will be the condition of the world during the Millennium. Naturally, it is needless to say that all of these things are yet future. And although men water down God's promises, Christ shall fulfill everything to the very letter. Wherefore He expressly affirms, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till Heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5: 17-18). That both the law and the prophets are comprehended in this promise can be seen by anyone who reads. Of course, we admit that there is still a way to go before the "heaven and earth pass away." And there is an intervening period between now and then, which the saints call the Millennium. We have not yet attained to that blessedness, but await its fulfillment as we look to the things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.
To be continued...