Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Parameters of God’s Millennial Kingdom

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)
This passage at the end of the book of Matthew encapsulates the millennial reign of King Jesus the Messiah. At the cross, Jesus disarmed the principalities and powers, the demonic influences that pervert nations and cultures away from God (Colossians 2:15). Their power is now broken and cannot withstand the power and purpose of God in the world. At the resurrection, Jesus became the firstborn from the dead, the firstborn over God’s new creation (Colossians 1:18).

Then, after forty days of teaching His disciples about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3), He came to them and announced, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” This is the language of enthronement, the King receiving His kingdom. The next thing that was about to happen was His ascension to heaven, to His throne at the right hand of the Father,
far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:21-23)
The kingdom of God has come into the world and Jesus the Messiah, God’s Anointed King, has begun His reign. This is what all the Old Testament prophets pointed forward to, the time when God would change the world, rescue His people, Israel, and gather all the nations to know Him. It is the time figuratively represented in Revelation 20 as “a thousand years” (which is why it is called the millennial reign).

The millennial reign has already begun — it began with the ascension of King Jesus to His throne. It will reach its ultimate fulfillment when King Jesus returns at the end of the age. That is when all those who belong to Him will be resurrected, raised bodily from the grave, just as He was. Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 15:
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
But what happens next? Some believe that this is when the millennial reign of King Jesus begins. Others believe the newly resurrected are carried off to heaven for seven years while there is great tribulation and terror on earth, after which the resurrected ones will return to earth with King Jesus, and then the millennial reign begins. However, Paul says none of this, and what he does say leaves no room for it. What, then, happens after the return of King Jesus and the resurrection of all those who belong to Him?
Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:24-26)
“Then comes the end.” Not seven years of tribulation. Not even the millennial reign — that will have already taken place before the resurrection. But, “the end.” At this point, the millennial kingdom will have reached its fulfillment.

What happens at the end? King Jesus delivers the kingdom to His Father. At that time, every rule and authority and power that opposes God will be completely destroyed. Even death itself will be destroyed, cast into the “lake of fire,” as Revelation 2:14 says.

But what happens in between the beginning of the millennial kingdom, when Jesus ascended to His throne in heaven, and its completion at His return? Jesus rules and reigns, bringing every enemy under His feet. How does He do this? Through His body, the church, all those who belong to Him. For God has not only put all things under His feet — given Him all authority over them — He has also given Him as head over the church, which is His body.

King Jesus has already been given all authority on earth as well as in heaven. We are His body in the world, to exercise His kingdom authority and power on earth. How do we do this? By obeying the commission He gave us: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” That is our job until the end of the age, for Jesus said, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

These, then, are the parameters of the millennial reign of King Jesus the Messiah. It began with His ascension and all power being given to Him in heaven and on earth. It will reach its completion when He comes again. In between, we, His body, make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to follow Him in everything. When all the nations are discipled and following King Jesus, then the end of the age will come. Heaven and earth will be joined together as one (Revelation 21) and the will of God will be done on earth exactly as it is done in heaven. In the meantime, King Jesus is always with us, assuring the success of His kingdom and the commission He has given us to fulfill.

So, as a friend of mine likes to say, “Be encouraged.”