Monday, January 20, 2014

A Thousand Years With Jesus

The millennial rule of Christ and His saints begins with a battle – Armageddon!

The Conquest of the Sword

Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, shouting to the vultures flying high in the sky:  “Come! Gather together for the great banquet God has prepared.  Come and eat the flesh of kings, generals, and strong warriors; of horses and their riders; and of all humanity, both free and slave, small and great.”  Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army.                                      Revelation 19:17 - 19 (NLT)           
The Armageddon event begins with the forces of evil gathering together, and God's burial detail (buzzards) being summoned in preparation for the devastation. 
This is one of the most gruesome thoughts in Scripture. God will gather all the world's scavenger birds in anticipation of a 100% casualty rate of His enemy’s soldiers.   
There will be no way to bury them.  The carcasses will feed the birds for months, and the bones of every evil man will be a monument to God's final victory for the entire thousand years of Christ's rule.
The question that has always been in my mind is:  Why does Satan bother?   After all, he knows he can't win.  David asked that same question,
Why do the heathen rage....    Psalms 2:1

Why, indeed!  Why does he do it? 

¨  Why does Satan fight a losing battle? 
¨  Why do the nations allow themselves to be deceived and follow along?  The answer to our question is found in the character of Satan himself:
Wealth is treacherous, and the arrogant are never at rest.  They open their mouths as wide as the grave, and like death, they are never satisfied.  In their greed they have gathered up many nations and swallowed many peoples. Habakkuk 2:5 (NLT)
Satan cannot stand God -- He would rather suffer in the abyss forever than to not fight against God.  He can't be satisfied with anything less than total control. 
He can't win; and he is committed to taking as many people into that misery as he can deceive!  It's a losing battle, and Satan's evil character is here unmasked, and will be displayed at Megiddo. 
He will be soundly defeated, and his armies will be history!  The Bible tells us that everything he stands for is on borrowed time.
For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.  These are not from the Father, but are from this world.  And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave.  But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.   1 John 2:16 - 17 (NLT)
The Battle of Armageddon is the event of the second coming of Jesus Christ.  Satan and his minions gathered to murder Him the first time at Bethlehem and Calvary; there's no surprise here about their rage the second time. 
And do not miss this reality – when Jesus came to planet earth the first time it produced evil's most savage accomplishment, the crucifixion of God’s Son...and God used it to produce the blood which cleanses us from all sin, and the resurrection that echoes triumph through the universe! 

Armageddon will produce no less than the companion to that last advent – but there will be a new message, He has overcome death and Hell, and Satan is defeated!  Even when Satan takes his best shot, God's sovereign will is going to be the outcome.
And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast—miracles that deceived all who had accepted the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue.  Both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse.  And the vultures all gorged themselves on the dead bodies.   Revelation 19:20 - 21 (NLT)
The battle of Armageddon is over in a single word.  All the amassed weaponry, technology and personnel are beside the point.  It is the single, powerful and unequivocal Word of God that settles this dispute. 
¨              The sword that goes out of His mouth is symbolism for His word.  Jesus spoke one word to the wind one time and it ceased whipping up the Sea of Galilee;
¨              He spoke to a fig tree and it withered;
¨              He spoke to a legion of demons torturing a man from Gadara and they threw themselves into a herd of hogs, and the man was made whole. 
Here Jesus, the living Word of God, speaks and the battle is over.  The beast and false prophet are thrown down (violently) into hell, the place burning with fire and brimstone. 
With that word, Jesus withdraws the breath of life from a billion man army.  The breath of life was given by God, and it can be taken away in an instant.
He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.    Colossians 1:17 (NLT)
The word consist means to hold together.  When Jesus lets go, everything comes unglued. 
And, immediately the scavengers move in.  Armageddon is over.  Victory is in Jesus, alone!

The Confinement of Satan

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit and a heavy chain in his hand.  He seized the dragon—that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan—and bound him in chains for a thousand years.  The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished.  Afterward he must be released for a little while.   Revelation 20:1 - 3 (NLT)
The abyss is the bottomless pit.  It is what the demons feared most:
The demons kept begging Jesus not to send them into the bottomless pit.
Luke 8:31 (NLT)
John Phillips, an author, tried to imagine what Satan will be doing during his imprisonment. 
There is a poetic justice in God's dealings with Satan.  Centuries ago, the evil one saw to it that the mortal remains of God's beloved Son were shut up in a tomb and sealed.  Throughout the Tribulation era, Satan has opened the abyss to plague mankind, once with horrible demons and once with the recalled soul of the Beast.  Now he himself is consigned to that dark hole and sealed in by an act of God, and there he rages in the most secure prison cell in the universe.  It is the condemned cell, and he knows it.  He has his thoughts to keep him company, and terrible thoughts they are -- thoughts of the day of his creation when he sprang mature, magnificent, and mighty from the hand of God; thoughts of the wide world that once he ruled as the anointed cherub; thoughts of the ways in which once he led the worship of the angel hosts; thoughts of God's throne and his attempts to seize it for himself; thoughts of his fall, of his entrance into Eden, of his short-lived triumph over the first human pair; thoughts of the sentence passed upon him and of his futile efforts to prevent the coming of the promised Seed; thoughts of Calvary and of his utter defeat; thoughts of the fleeting moments when he brought the world to the foot of the Beast and had seemingly triumphed at last; thoughts of the lake of fire just ahead.  He is given a thousand years in confinement to think.[1]
Anyone who has ever seen an interview with a Death Row inmate can imagine this scene.  There is nothing to do but think about what might have been, and what is coming. 

Satan had his chance.  He was a perfect specimen -- a powerful angel, second in command in the universe only to Jesus.  He decided to fight against God.  It was a bad choice. 

Satan once had the keys that unlocked the pit to unleash havoc upon the earth.  Now he's turned in his keys and he is the one who is locked up.  Because of that, on earth, during the thousand year (millennium) rule of Christ there is....
The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished.  Afterward he must be released for a little while.                                Revelation 20:3 (NLT)

Dr. Phillips suggested how the absence of sin will seem in the Kingdom,
Prosperity is evident from pole to pole and from the new river, which now graces Jerusalem, to the ends of the earth.  Poverty is unknown.  Every man has all that heart can desire.  There are no prisons, no hospitals, no mental institutions, no barracks, no saloons, no houses of ill repute, no gambling dens, no homes for the aged and infirm.  Such things belong to a past and lesser age.  The bloom of youth is on everyone's cheek, for a man is a stripling at a hundred years of age.  Cemeteries are crumbling relics of the past, and tears are rare.  The wolf and the lamb, the calf and the lion, the cow and the bear, the child and the scorpion, are all at peace.  Jesus has come, and the Millennium is here.  The golden age, so frequently heralded by the prophets of Israel's past, has dawned at last, and the earth is filled with the knowledge of God.  Jesus is Lord, and He rules the nations with a rod of iron.  His reign is righteous, and the nations obey.  The principles of the Sermon on the Mount are the laws of the kingdom, and men obey them because infractions are not allowed.  Sin is visited with swift and certain judgment.  The era lasts for a thousand years.[2]

What a day that will be!

So we have the Conquest of the Sword, Confinement of Satan, and…

The Coronation of Saints  

Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge.  And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God.  They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their forehead or their hands.  They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  This is the first resurrection.  (The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.)  Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection.  For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years.   Revelation 20:4 - 6 (NLT)

There are two outstanding realities about this passage:
There is a great reward in store for those who have remained faithful to Christ, especially during time of persecution. 
Serving Jesus will have its reward.  William Shakespeare (1564-1616) said, Rather let my head stoop to the block than these knees bow to any, save to the God of Heaven. 
Saints who faithfully serve their Lord, through difficulty, and even good times, will sit with Him in Glory.
“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.                    Matthew 19:28 (NLT)
In the judging that the saints do, there are those who are judged.  This is a time for the tables to turn:
Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world?  1 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT)

What will this judging be like?  It won't be revenge.  That judging is going to consist of carrying out the will of Jesus.  We will be ministering throughout all eternity.  It would do for all of us to practice here what we will be doing there.)
       And finally….

The Convulsion of Sin

This is it!  This is the final convulsion of sin for eternity.  After Satan has been bound up for a thousand years, and Christ has ruled in peace over the earth, there is one more sinful uprising.  (Only one more – He promised!)
When the thousand years come to an end, Satan will be let out of his prison. Revelation 20:7 (NLT)
Can you imagine the state of mind when Satan is let out?  His hate and solitude mixed together in the abyss for a thousand year bake off.  Wow! What an explosion!  We think his activity is bad now; wait until he is let out of the pen.  He will have had a thousand years to plot his moves and his mayhem.  What will he do?
He will go out to deceive the nations—called Gog and Magog—in every corner of the earth.  He will gather them together for battle—a mighty army, as numberless as sand along the seashore.  Revelation 20:8 (NLT)
He will use the same tricks he's been using since Eden.  Satan is cunning.  His chief weapon is deception.  He waits until he finds our weakness, then, when we drop our guard, he moves in for the kill. 

Why is he let loose again?

Someone once said:  If you tell me the reason he was let out in the first place, I'll show you why God will let him out again.  God's reason is wrapped up in the sin problem.
He will go out to deceive the nations—called Gog and Magog—in every corner of the earth. He will gather them together for battle—a mighty army, as numberless as sand along the seashore. Revelation 20:8 (NLT)

Gog and Magog are symbolism from Israel's military history.  They represent the masses of enemies against God and His children. 

You ask the question:  Why doesn't God just do away with Satan, sin and the whole lot?  The problem is sin is not only in Satan – it's in us.  Didn't Jesus die to forgive our sin?  Yes, but He's not going to put up with it through all eternity! 

To deal with the problem of our sin nature, there must be one more demonstration of how deep the problem goes. 

We have people today – good, Christian people – who imagine that when Jesus comes, that will be the end of sin, and He will reign for a thousand years in perfect harmony. 
That is mostly true – except, during this millennial rule, while there will be no challenges to Christ's authority,
¨  There will be children born who know nothing of first-hand rebellion. 
¨  They will live without disease and crime. 
¨  They will truly enjoy the most peaceful time of all humanity.
“No longer will babies die when only a few days old.  No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life.  No longer will people be considered old at one hundred!  Only the cursed will die that young!   Isaiah 65:20 (NLT)

However, this rule of Christ is with a rod of iron.  No one will dare to rebel.  Man will be compliant out of fear.  After all, Jesus killed a billion soldiers to end Armageddon with just one word.
As soon as they hear of me, they submit; foreign nations cringe before me. Psalms 18:44 (NLT)
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!  Your enemies cringe before your mighty power.  Psalms 66:3 (NLT)
Sin will be a secret thing.  It will be – as it has been from the start – a matter of the heart. 
John Calvin said, The human heart has so many crannies where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood lurks, is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy, that it often dupes itself.[3]

Jeremiah told us about the sin that lurks in the heart:
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?  Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT)

When Satan is released by God at the end of the millennium, it will be for showing that even after a perfect rule of Jesus with a rod of iron – with laws that can't be broken – the one place that God cannot rule without permission, is a man's heart.  The one thing God has granted to human beings which he will never take back is free will….choice to obey or disobey.
And as long as sin is in the heart, sin will dominate and control. 

That is why God dealt with our sin problem by going to the root – paying the death penalty.  If He was to preserve our right to choose, then He could not just force us to be good – He had to do something about the cause.
The demonstration will be fully visible as Satan deceives the masses of those who have just been waiting for an excuse to throw-off the rule of Christ.  They will respond to this arch-deceiver and find out that sin's wages have not changed!
And I saw them as they went up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded God’s people and the beloved city.  But fire from heaven came down on the attacking armies and consumed them.  Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet.  There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  Revelation 20:9 - 10 (NLT)

Devil, Satan, the arch-enemy, back in solitary! 
Exit-stage down!  Final exit.  Satan is banished forever!  Hallelujah!

God has promised that this deceiver will never again ply his trade.   

There are two questions left over about hell --

Is hellfire and brimstone a reality or symbolism?

I believe the Bible says exactly what it means to say.  However, the possibility of symbolism exists.  If it is symbolic, then it is worse than if literal! 

Symbols are only representative; reality is always broader.  And the broader a punishment, the worse.  Satan had better hope for the heat!
Why did God make such an awful place like this for man's state?                 

The fact is that God didn't do that!  This place was not made for man.
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.
 Matthew 25:41 (NLT)

The fact is that God only sends people to this place who desire to follow Satan.  He has made it clear to us how to escape hell. 
¨  Give control of your life to Jesus. 
¨  Believe in Jesus. 
¨  Trust Jesus. 
Don't even listen to Satan's lies, and you won't go there. 

The great German reformer, Martin Luther dreamed the devil came to him and asked him to open the door of his heart so that he could come in and discuss some very important matters with Him.  He said he answered this way:  I don't have the keys to the door; God has them.  Ask Him if you wish.  That is a good answer.  It is like the one that says:  Satan came knocking at my heart's door.  I sent faith to answer.  There was no one there. 
Beloved, that is the best that can be said about Satan – he won't be there.  Much better to spend a thousand years with Jesus!
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

[1]John Phillips, Exploring Revelation, (Neptune, N.J., Loizeaux Brothers, 1993), 238
[2]Ibid, 237
[3]Reflections, Christianity Today. 4-5-93, 61

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