What happens during the millennium?

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What happens during the millennium? I’m confused. Please help. 

Your clearly stated question is one that might be asked by many earnest Bible students. Our shorthand reply aims to anchor the one thousand-year reign of Christ — the millennium — in several Bible texts that offer broad answers. Our first and last texts are bookends that tie the other five or more together.

Revelation 20 says that Jesus’ return (pictured in chapter 19) begins a one thousand-year period when Satan will be bound while the immortalized saints rule and reign with Christ. Few millennial details are given here, but the chapter ends with a last great resurrection and judgment scene. Some understand this as offering salvation to the resurrected dead who never heard or knew of God’s grace in Jesus. If this understanding turns out to be accurate, it would be their first opportunity for salvation, not a second chance. 

More than one Old Testament prophet foretells a time in the last days —the day of the Lord — when Yahweh will appear on earth as a Davidic King to rule and reign over the nations. From Mount Zion and Jerusalem, the word, the law, and the light (gospel) of the Lord God will be preached to all the earth, until peace prevails at last (Isaiah 2:1-5; 65:17-25; Zechariah 14, especially vv. 1-11). 

In the New Testament Gospels, this future age of peace is confirmed (Luke 1:69-79). Our Lord Jesus apparently refers to the same era of judgment and rebirth in Matthew 19:28, using the word translated “regeneration” in many English versions. And in Acts 3:20-23, we read of the promised time of restitution-restoration of all things, to be completed when Christ returns from His ascension into the heavens. 

First Corinthians 15 is our last text — and maybe the strongest — to support and explain a millennial-like era in the world’s future. Verses 20 through 28 of this resurrection chapter affirm that Jesus was the firstfruits from among the dead, and that we who belong to Christ will be next to rise to immortality — “at His coming” again to earth (v. 23). What happens next? 

Paul resumes with “Then . . .” (v. 25). The content that follows strongly implies that the word then cannot, in this case, refer to the next hour or day, but covers an unspecified period of time between verses 24 and 25. How so? Follow this reasoning closely, please.

Verses 25-27 go on to tell what happens during the Then right after Christ returns, and here it is: Christ reigns; He puts an end to all other authority and rule; He reigns until all enemies are put “under His feet” (v. 25). The last enemy He will destroy is death. Then when all things are under His authority and Christ rules supreme, Jesus the Son will deliver up the kingdom to the Father so that God will be recognized as all in all (v. 28). 

How long will be needed to accomplish all of this — restoring the created order to a pure and flawless kingdom of God, and reconciling the human family to their intended immortal perfection, spoken of by the prophets, by Paul, and by the Lord? The most obvious biblical answer is a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6). 

So what happens during the millennium? The answer is in all the verses above: Resurrection, redemption, restoration, restitution, regeneration, and renewal will happen, ending in a new heavens and a new earth, new bodies, and a new world wherein dwells righteousness. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, come! 

— Elder Calvin Burrell

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    Calvin Burrell is former editor of the Bible Advocate and former director of G. C. Missions. He retired in 2015 and lives with his wife, Barb, in Stayton, OR. They attend church in Marion, OR.