THE sin of all kinds that is prevalent throughout the world bears testimony to the power which Satan exercises over the human race. He is indeed “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). The pessimistic prediction of some sections of the Christian church is that the situation will become worse and worse until Christ returns. But what does Scripture say?
The promise of God is that Satans power will be restrained for “a thousand years”. The coming of that glorious Millennium was revealed to the Apostle John: “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season,” Revelation 20:1-3.
At this present time, when so many are participating in numerous worldly and sinful events to celebrate what they perceive to be the arrival of another calendar millennium, let us pray for the arrival of that glorious Millennium during which there will be unprecedented peace and prosperity, especially of a spiritual kind. It will be a period when sinners will flock to Christ, and when there will be an extraordinary fulfilling of the promise, “A willing people in thy day of power shall come to thee” (Metrical Psalm 110:3). “There will come a time,” said Thomas Goodwin, the Puritan, “when the generality of mankind, both Jew and Gentile, shall come to Jesus Christ. He hath had but little takings of the world yet, but He will have [much] before He hath done.”
The duration of that glorious period will not necessarily be an actual one thousand years. This number is used to symbolise, we believe, the long duration and constant blessedness of that period. Loraine Boettner says in his work, The Millennium, “In Revelation 20 we do not understand John to write of a literal dragon or of a literal serpent. Nor do we understand him to say that the angel has a literal key or a literal chain in his hand with which he binds the Devil. The thousand years is quite clearly not to be understood as an exact measure of time but rather as a symbolical number. Strict arithmetic has no place here. The term is a figurative expression, indicating an indefinitely long period of time, a complete, perfect number of years, probably not less than a literal one thousand years, in all probability very much longer.”
The universality of the latter day glory is indicated by the Saviours command, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Those who hold that there will be no Millennium on this earth, argue that while the gospel is to be preached worldwide, this does not mean that the whole world, during any one period, will be Christianised, but rather, at the most, that one part of the world after another, at different times, will be Christianised. However, when the Scriptures assert that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9), we must conclude that all the kingdoms of the world will, at the same time, be the kingdoms of Christ. In his Humble Attempt to Promote Extraordinary Prayer for Revival of Religion, Jonathan Edwards wrote: “I question whether it be possible to find out a stronger expression, to signify an absolute universality of the knowledge of the true religion through the habitable world, than that in Isaiah 11:9, The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. Which is as much as to say, As there is no place in the vast ocean without water, so there shall be no part of the world of mankind without the knowledge of the Lord.”
The spiritual and other blessings of that period will be exceedingly great and numerous. “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” (Isa. 35:1, 2). John Owen says that God in His appointed time will bring the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ “unto more glory and power than in former days”. He adds, “These six things are clearly promised: 1. Fulness of peace unto the gospel and the professors thereof. . . 2. Purity and beauty of ordinances and gospel worship. . . 3. Multitudes of converts, many persons, yea, nations. . . 4. The full casting out and rejecting of all will-worship and its attendant abominations. . . 5. Professed subjection of the nations throughout the whole world unto the Lord Christ. . . 6. A most glorious and dreadful breaking of all that rise in opposition unto Him.” Owens summary shows there shall indeed be “showers of blessing” (Ezk. 34:26).
This sure promise of God is calculated to be a comfort to His believing people as they mourn over the low state of His cause in this “day of small things”. Indeed, at times, it fills the hearts of many of them with gladness. Philip Henry, the father of Matthew Henry, said, “God will certainly accomplish and fulfil, in due time, all the great things that he hath purposed and promised concerning His church and people in the latter days; as, that Babylon shall fall; the Jews and Gentiles be brought in; the gospel kingdom more and more advanced; divisions healed. Oh! how have some rejoiced, and even triumphed in a dying hour, in the firm belief of these things! As Abraham rejoiced to see Christs day, now past, and died in the faith of it, so may we as to another day of His, which is yet to come, before and besides the last day.”
The approach of that glorious time ought also to motivate believers to holiness. Not only are they to use the Scriptures and prayer for that purpose, but also they should meditate upon the holiness and all other graces which will be prevalent in overflowing measure during the Millennium. In his work, The Crown and Glory of Christianity, the Puritan divine Thomas Brooks says, “There will come a time when in this world holiness shall be more general, and more eminent, than ever it hath been since Adam fell in paradise.” He adds, “Now, Christians, the more great and glorious things you expect from God, as the downfall of Antichrist, the conversion of the Jews, the conquest of the nations to Christ, the breaking off of all yokes, the new Jerusalems coming down from above, the extraordinary pouring out of the Spirit, and a more general union among all saints, the more holy, yea, the more eminently holy in all your ways and actings it becomes you to be. . . Ever remember that the more great and glorious things we expect and look for from God, the more holiness God expects and looks for from us.”
The promise of the latter day glory ought especially to send us to our knees, to plead earnestly, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” “What is meant by the coming or advancement of the kingdom of grace?” asks John Willison of Dundee, in his An Example of Plain Catechising. His answer is: “It includes the spreading and success of the gospel through the world, and removing of the impediments thereof. Also we pray therein, that the churches of Christ everywhere may have faithful ministers, pure doctrine, ordinances and discipline, with much of the presence and power of Gods Spirit concurring with the same.” It is to be noted that before the power of the Holy Spirit was demonstrated in converting thousands on the Day of Pentecost, the disciples had been engaged in earnest prayer. We are told, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplications” (Acts 1:14). Let us earnestly pray, as David did, “Let the whole earth be filled with his glory.”
Note: We are indebted to The Puritan Hope by Iain Murray, The Millennium by Loraine Boettner, and Israel and the New Covenant by Roderick Campbell, for obtaining, or being directed to, most of the Puritan quotations cited above.