Revelation Lesson 57 - Joy to the World . . . At Last!
Joy is coming again to the world but not in the form of a humble Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And this time . . . it's not coming quietly.
Joy to the World . . . At Last!
If you were with us in our last study together, we began asking and answering questions related to John’s Revelation in chapter 20 about coming Millennial Kingdom.
The reason we believe in a coming, literal, physical kingdom and her King is the same reason we believe in the first coming of a literal, physical King. The Bible tells me so.
It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
The Bible tells me so.
If we believe the Bible’s 109 prophecies related to the first coming of the Lord – and all the details we surveyed made it very clear He fulfilled those prophecies physically and literally, then we have every reason to believe all of the 220 remaining prophecies of His second coming will also be literally and physically fulfilled.
The Kingdom and the King is coming to planet earth.
We also answered the question, who is the King exactly?
The prophets clearly declare that He is the Old Testament Messiah, prophesied and fulfilled in the New Testament person of Jesus Christ who most often called Himself the Son of Man – His favorite title, connecting Him to the prophet Daniel – corresponding to the Psalmist King David who wrote in that great Messianic Psalm – they surrounded me and pierced my hands and my feet (Psalm 22:16).
Isaiah also wrote of His first coming humiliation and suffering on our behalf when he wrote in chapter 53 that He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities and on Him the iniquity of us all was laid.
That was the plan. And according to the prophecy of David, for one, He was not abandoned by the Father but rose from the dead (Psalm 16:10) and this resurrected Messiah is returning again to establish His kingdom according to the prophecies of Daniel, David, Micah, Zephaniah, Zechariah and on and on.
In fact 36 Old Testament prophets spoke more of the second coming than the first coming.
There is a coming Kingdom of God on earth and who is the King? David writes in Psalm 2 that the crowned Sovereign will be the Son (capital S) of God; David quotes God the Father speaking, “I have installed my King upon Zion – that is, in Jerusalem – I have given My Son the nations as an inheritance; listen oh kings of the earth . . . do homage to the Son, that He not become angry.” (Psalm 2:12)
Revelation 19 has already shown us that dramatic future event where God the Son, the returning Messiah, will riding from heaven with the hosts of heaven as he returns to earth and on his royal garment with the regal seal and monogram, which reads, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:16)
And the prophet Zechariah says of that day, Israel will look upon Him whom they pierced and mourn . . . yet the Lord will pour out on the house of David the Spirit of grace (Zechariah 12:10)
Who is the coming King? He is the Messiah of Isaiah and Daniel – the Son of Man who came to seek and to save those who were lost (Luke 19:10)
The King happens to be, recorded in Matthew 16:16, as none other than Jesus the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
That’s who the King is.
Then we answered the question, how long will the kingdom last?
Can we really be sure? John reveals for us the 6 uses of the same phrase in the opening verses of Revelation chapter 20. If you weren’t with us you ought to turn to Revelation chapter 20 and underline all the references to this time period.
God wants us to know:
- one thousand years (v. 2);
- one thousand years (v. 3);
- one thousand years (end of verse 4);
- one thousand years (verse 5);
- one thousand years (end of verse 6);
- one thousand years (verse 7).
He tells us six times . . . He’s probably serious.
If your wife asked you to take out the trash you could possibly tell her later that you didn’t hear her. If she asked twice you might think she was serious about it. If she asked you 4 times, you’d be running out of excuses. If she asked you 6 times, your dead meat – you need counseling, or the city of refuge . . .
You would have to twist and distort every hermeneutical principal that takes anything seriously from the word of God related to timing and toss it out if you don’t take this time period seriously.
And do you really want to tamper with God’s references in Revelation to time periods?
The Book of Revelation says that heaven, following the Kingdom and judgments, will last – how long – take a guess – forever!
That’s a really long time – but you’re gonna take that seriously. I’ve never met anybody who said, “We who believe in Christ get to live in heaven forever? God probably wasn’t serious.”
Whoever studies this Book of Revelation and walks away thinking that John wasn’t serious about the kingdom physically existing and Christ as literal King and the Kingdom literally lasting one thousand years has wax in his ears and blinders on his eyes. Or, more likely, he has his hands pressed against his ears and his eyes tightly shut so that he will he will not hear or see.
There is a coming thousand year reign, theologians refer to as the Millennium. The word “millennium” is derived from two Latin words - mille and annum which means “one thousand years”. / Sam Gordon, Worthy is the Lamb: Revelation (Ambassador, 2000), p. 404
There are 4 different views of the millennium, I’ll comment on briefly.
Four Views of the Millennium
There is Preterism – this is the belief that most of the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled at the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Preterism has a number of interpretive problems, not the least of which is the simple historical fact that Revelation was written about 20 years after the fall of Jerusalem. And yet John the Apostle was not writing history, he was writing prophecy – of things yet to come to pass – Revelation 1:1.
Furthermore, if the judgments of God fell when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D., when was the mark of the beast required? Where is the record of cosmological disturbances including 100 pound hailstones pummeling the earth? You’d think that would have shown up in some historian’s notebook. And when did the Euphrates dry up and why was Israel dispersed for the next 2,000 years?
Enough of that view, which requires anything but a literal, common-sense approach to scripture.
Another metaphorical view of the millennium is Postmillennialism. They believe the kingdom will actually be brought about gradually by evangelism as the world grown more and more civil and organized and Christianized.
This is the view that the human race is going to get better and better and through Christianity the world will finally arrive at a state of peace and prosperity.
You can call postmillennialism the Optimist’s Club.
Things are gonna get better. This is the theology of the world system, by the way. Mankind has the power to make everything better and people more civil and institutions more caring and compassionate.
It was primarily developed in the 16th century but fell out of popularity when? After 2 world wars, the Great Depression and a rather obvious record of moral decay and crime.
The world isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse. Which is exactly what the Apostle Paul said when he wrote, “Men will go from bad to worse.” (2 Timothy 3:13)
You see, man isn’t basically good and happens to do some bad things every so often; man is basically sinful and happens to do some good things every once in a while.
The human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, Jeremiah 17:9.
So we have preterism and postmillennialism.
Another view is Amillennialism which believes the church has inherited the promises of the kingdom. Christ is simply ruling in our hearts and there will be no literal, physical kingdom on earth. In order to believe this, they must make prophecy after prophecy spiritual and figurative instead of literal.
The final view, which I believe the Bible clearly teaches, is premillennialism.
There will be a literal one thousand year reign and Christ will return to earth to launch it. / Adapted from John MacArthur, Because the Time is Near (Moody, 2007), p. 296
Now let’s answer some more questions.
- Who will be the subjects in this coming kingdom?
Daniel 7:27 promises that the Old Testament saints will reign in the millennial kingdom. New Testament believers are also promised that they will reign with Christ.
So we have Old Testament believers, New Testament believers, and John mentions a third category of people present that you might wonder about since they died during the tribulation.
Notice Revelation chapter 20 verse 4. Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
In other words, Jesus Christ keeps his word to those who resisted the agenda of the Antichrist and refused to worship him and instead chose to worship Christ. These tribulation martyrs will be both Jewish and Gentile who accepted the gospel of Christ during the Tribulation.
By the way, that phrase in verse 4 – they “came to life” cannot refer to some sort of spiritual resurrection – or simply a reference to the new birth through salvation.
The word is ezeson (ezhsan) and whenever it is used in the context of someone who had physically died, it always refers to a literal physical, bodily resurrection. / John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 2000), p. 238
Finally, there are the living, mortals who survived the Tribulation without dying – several million of them – while most of the population of the world is killed in the upheaval of all the cataclysmic and demonic attacks on earth’s population.
Let me summarize the subjects of the kingdom this way.
There will be two categories of people occupying the earth during the millennial kingdom.
Those with glorified bodies and those with earthly bodies.
- To use the language of the Apostle Paul, we’ll call these co-reigners with Christ, the immortals, and the human race that ultimately populates the earth as mortals.
The glorified bodies or immortal saints who will reign with Christ from Jerusalem and throughout the whole earth will include three categories according to a number of passages that we can compare.
- First, immortals will include believers from the Old Testament who are resurrected and given glorified bodies according to Daniel’s prophecy in chapter 7 and chapter 12.
This will include both Jewish and Gentile followers of God by faith in His plan of atonement.
For example, Ruth would be included, even though she was Gentile. She chose to follow the God of Naomi and came to Bethlehem where she met Boaz and was redeemed by him.
She would be included in this immortal company, by the way, as well as her mother in law – a former Gentile prostitute named Rahab who lived in Jericho, but abandoned her foreign gods and followed after the true and living God after the walls of her city miraculously came tumblin’ what? down. She also chose to follow the God of Abraham.
- Secondly, in addition to Old Testament believers, immortal saints with glorified bodies will include New Testament believers who were raptured and or resurrected at the close of the church age.
They will be clothed, Paul wrote, with immortality (I Corinthians 15).
The church today is also composed of Jew and Gentile. In fact, the first church created by the Spirit of God was primarily Jewish – and it all got started in what city? In the city of Jerusalem!
Like the Old Testament prophets before them, the 12 Apostles of the New Testament church were Jews. In fact, the great ambassador to the Gentile world was a converted Jewish rabbi named Paul.
Paul reminded the Corinthian believers composed of Jew and Gentile converts that the church would one day be among those who actually judged or ruled the world (1 Corinthians 6:2).
- The third group of immortals John specifically mentions in Revelation 20 and verse 4 as the martyred, resurrected Tribulation saints – again, both Jewish and Gentile.
So these then are the immortals – the reigning, glorified believers with their Messiah in the coming Kingdom of Christ.
- Now on the other side of the column is the second category of Kingdom subjects. They are the mortals who are still in their natural, non-glorified, earthly bodies they were born with.
They haven’t died. They will become the population of the world over which we – the immortals – will reign.
At the close of the Tribulation period, those believers who have survived will be allowed to enter the kingdom of Christ.
Matthew 25 informs us that when the Son of Man comes in His glory back to earth, he will judge all who are still alive. Those who did not believe the gospel will be ultimately sent to the place of torment (Matthew 25:46).
However, those who believed the gospel of the one true and living God, presented throughout the Tribulation period, will be given the wonderful news that they have inherited the kingdom of God. (Matthew 25:34)
By the way, if the church is not raptured at the beginning of the Tribulation, but goes through the Tribulation and then merely goes up to meet Christ when He returns and then comes right back down with him, as posttribulationalists believe, there is a problem.
You have the Kingdom immediately populated with earthly mortal people who came to believe the gospel during the Tribulation and, according to Matthew 25 and the prophetic description of the world’s population, they will physically enter the kingdom era without having died.
They will still have their physical bodies – not only that, but they will be healed of all their diseases (Isaiah 33:24) and given the ability to live for a very long time – but they will still die (Isaiah 65:20) and will need to be given their eternal glorified body.
According to the prophets, throughout the one thousand year kingdom, these mortals will marry, have children, flourish and enjoy all the kingdom benefits.
Their children will have children, and so forth, until the earth is literally populated with billions of people once again.
These children will have to accept the gospel of Christ as they grow up, by the way. God has no grandchildren of faith.
They will be sinners in need of salvation. Just because their parents are confirmed believers and allowed into the Kingdom, the next generations to follow must also believe if they hope to be allowed into the next phase of God’s plan – the new heaven and the new earth.
But God in His grace will make it very easy to understand the nature of the gospel through the development of the millennial temple system which we’ll talk about.
Alright, so far we’ve answered the question, in fact, let’s take a pop quiz.
Who is the King? Christ. We’re starting out with a simple one!
- How long is the Kingdom
– 1,000 years?
- Is the Bible really clear about that? Yes.
- What are the two categories of subjects in the kingdom?
Immortals and Mortals (this is an open screen quiz.
- And who are the Immortals?
Old Testament believers
New Testament believers
That is the category of immortals who will reign with Christ.
- Last question – the other category of people who enter the kingdom are?
These are tribulation believers who go on to populate the earth.
Excellent, you got an A+ because you can read so well.
Now let’s ask and answer another question.
- Where is the actual location of Christ’s throne – better yet, where exactly is the capital city of His Kingdom?
Short answer . . . Jerusalem – the city of God – also called the mountain of God.
David wrote, Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion in the far north, the city of the great King (Psalm 48:1-2)
David refers to God’s mountain . . . to the beauty of the city’s elevation . . . and universal joy.
Go all the way back to Abraham and he was looking for a city, constructed supernaturally, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10).
So there is something different about Jerusalem. It will be elevated, magnificent, divinely conceived and designed and built by God’s own creative power.
Which leads me to another question . . .
- What will Jerusalem, the Kingdom’s capital city look like?
John Walvoord’s classic work on the Millennial Kingdom refers to the prophecies that allow us to understand that topographical changes are going to take place that will literally reshape the surface of the earth. / John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (Zondervan, 1959), p. 321
Zechariah 14:10 records for us that, quote, “All the land will be changed into a plain [south of] Jerusalem; but Jerusalem will rise and remain on its site from Benjamin’s Gate as far as the place of the First Gate to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s wine presses (in other words, Jerusalem proper, inside the city walls.” Then Zechariah adds, “They will live in it, and there will no longer be a curse, for Jerusalem will dwell in security or peace.
In other words, the city will be inhabited on its ancient site and there will be peace in Jerusalem at last.
The prayer request of the Jewish nation for centuries has been, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”. Peace will genuinely and finally come to pass, in the Millennial Kingdom as Christ rules on planet earth.
Our world does not security or peace. One author said that whenever he hears of someone being arrested for disturbing the peace, he wonders where in the world the guy found it. Where did he find peace to disturb?
Peace will one day come . . . when the Prince of Peace comes.
The prophet informs us that the Lord will make the wilderness regions of Zion like unto Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody (Isaiah 51:3)
Now, all the topographical changes around the globe are specifically formulated to create a high mountain or plateau upon which Jerusalem sits and commands with a commanding view for many miles.
In Ezekiel’s vision (chapter 40 and verse 2) God takes him into the land of Israel and sets Ezekiel on a very high mountain and on it to the south there was a structure like a city.
Janet Willis is the author of an intriguing study on the Kingdom as well as the New Jerusalem – I have a enjoyed her research and her paintings on this subject.
We’ve had her husband, Scott Willis, preach for me in the recent past.
Janet is creative artist who painted numerous sketches based on the coming kingdom and the New Jerusalem.
She agreed to allow me to use her paintings to help provoke our imagination with the grandeur of the physical, literal, reign of Christ during the millennium.
If you’re listening to us live right now through our Colonial internet site or you’ve just downloaded this podcast, or you’re listening on the radio, go to colonial.org or wisdomonline.org and pull up my manuscript entitled, “Joy to the World . . . Finally.” The manuscripts are free to download and Janet has allowed these pictures to be included in my manuscript.
If her sketches do anything, they allow us to imagine what will be only a small sliver of the glory of our future with Christ.
Now this issue studied immediately raises a pretty healthy debate among evangelical Bible scholars.
Many scholars believe this capital city of God will actually hover above the earthly Jerusalem during the Kingdom and we, the immortals will travel between it and their places of responsibility on planet earth.
Other scholars believe this divinely created capital city of the Millennial Kingdom – New Jerusalem – is planted upon the raised plateau during the Millennial Kingdom – that’s what is pictured here – and we the immortals dwell here and travel about the planet serving Christ.
Either way, it’s a win, win, right?
Every immortal will have at least two homes, not one. One residence will be inside the city of God and the other residence wherever God has determined that you serve and rule as a co-regent with Christ.
But we will all have a place of residence inside the city of God – Jesus called it the Father’s house in John 14.
John Walvoord once suggested that this city would actually be built in the form of a pyramid with the throne of God at the top and the river of life wending its way from the throne down the various levels of the city. / Ibid, p. 334
And that’s the form Janet has taken with her artistic renderings.
And for good reason.
It’s interesting that from the beginning of the Old Testament, the ancients had been given the truth of God’s coming kingdom and this magnificent city, when man rebelled, we discover they pander toward a pyramid structure to signify their union with the heavens – the stars and planets.
When Nimrod rebelled against God, he build a city and a tower – a pyramid, whose top represented the heavens – this was literally, the creation of the zodiac, as we’ve studied in the past. (Genesis 11) Study even pagan historians of the zodiac and you will be taken all the way back to Babel and it’s infamous ziggurat or pyramid tower.
The creator God, whose throne is at the top of the eternal city, is replaced in these human counterfeit towers with pictures of the stars and constellations.
It is the classic fulfillment of Romans 1 where mankind denies the Creator’s rule and replaces Him with creation – symbols of planets and stars, the sun and moon.
Travel around the world and you will find ancient civilizations building step pyramids for their pagan worship; from Egypt to India to China to Mexico and to North America.
By the way, these same cultures also have their own versions of a great flood and animal sacrifices to appease the gods.
Which merely prove that the law of God has not only been written on the heart of mankind, but the gospel preached to Adam and Abraham and Moses and Noah and more are bound up in the cultures of our world that have chosen over generations to create their own worship that elevates nature and the stars, sun and moon.
With their ancient pyramids they mimicked the city of God they had heard about from their forefathers.
Even Abraham was waiting for the city of God.
Frankly, we can barely imagine the dwelling place of the immortals – this is the Father’s house in which are many dwelling places. (John 14:2)
As the King descends we will see this city descending and Jerusalem’s topography changing and rising to showcase the glory of God and the throne of His Son. (Isaiah 2 and Psalm 48)
Isaiah says that all the earth around it will return to conditions like unto the Garden of Eden where the wilderness will be a fruitful field. (Isaiah 29:17)
It will be unbelievably beautiful.
Let me ask and answer another question, briefly
- What will our worship system be like for us and for the mortals we rule?
Our communion as immortals will be face to face with Christ. We will be priests, John writes in Revelation 20 verse 6 which speaks of physical, intimate, communion with Christ.
For the mortals of the Kingdom, there will be a brand new system of worship revealed in Ezekiel’s prophecy.
Ezekiel informs us of the Millennial Temple located also on this raised plateau . . . a region totaling 37 square miles which includes dwelling places for the priests, fields for crops, the capital city and the Millennial Temple right in the middle of it. / Janet Willis, The New Jerusalem, unpublished notes, p. 30
The Temple will be the central piece in the worship of God throughout the Millennial Kingdom.
Now In this particular sketch you can see a portion of this region – the 37 square miles which includes our dwelling place inside the City of God and also to the left you can see a little golden building, representing the Millennial temple.
Just this view alone is stunning as you consider the scale of the golden city – Revelation 21:16 is more than likely a cubed measurement which would indicate this golden city is stretching about 11 miles into the sky – this particular view contrasting it to the normal dwelling places of the priests and temple workers who live nearby staggers the imagination.
The prophet Isaiah mentions that in the city of Jerusalem there will be this unique feature to that area where at night, the cloud canopy over the city will have the appearance of fire. In other words, in this city, both in the kingdom and throughout the new heaven and new earth, the curtain of glory and light will never be pulled closed. (Isaiah chapter 4, verses 5 & 6)
This particular sketch reveals that in this sketch of Jerusalem at night in the Kingdom.
Now Ezekiel informs us that the temple worship will reinstate animal sacrifices and blend in certain aspects of the Church age.
Animal sacrifices will be reinstated as memorials to the sacrificial death of our great King. They will be a memorial to teach and re-teach for a thousand years the entire story of redemption for Israel and the nations of the earth.
One author provoked my thinking when he said, “How needful these sacrifices will be; when dwelling in the blaze of Messiah’s glory, to have ever before them some memorial of the cross, some tangible record of the humbled Jesus, some visible demonstration of his sin-bearing work, by which they have been forgiven, saved and loved – they owe all their blessedness . . . to His grace. / Walvoord, p. 314
The Millennial Kingdom will require teaching – the exposition of scripture, which will require that mortals be taught the word of God. Christian, biblical language sites will explode around the world as Kingdom mortals attempt to reach their world with the gospel of Christ.
Mortals born into the Kingdom will need to be saved. And the plan of salvation will be the same then as it was in the New Testament, as it was in the Old Testament –
-the Old Testament believer looked ahead to the cross
and their atoning Savior;
-the New Testament believer looks back to the cross and
so shall the Millennial believer. The just shall live by
faith will not change.
And you would think that all the world would believe. However, as we will discover in our next study, at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, Satan is released and he will find millions of unbelievers who will willingly follow him to march against Jerusalem.
One more question . . . what will we do throughout the Kingdom?
- What will we do as immortal co-regents?
I’ll tell you what . . . I’m guessing, but I think I’m right . . . I don’t think we’ll be able to stop smiling!
Frankly, we forget that before we get to the final and new heaven and earth, we’ll already be enjoying the benefits of immortality.
If I’m teaching the Bible in some school or before some assembly one day in the Kingdom, I won’t need these glasses.
We’ll have our new bodies – perfected in holiness. That means there will be no more sin nature for immortals to struggle with; that body of death will be removed from us already in the Kingdom and forever beyond that.
Now, we’re not told what our co-regency will look like in real terms – will it be:
- Some educational leadership of some sort as the immortals strategically enlighten the growing millions of mortals;
- Could it be some cabinet position or political rule in a city or state or country?
- Could it be some agricultural post of high level decision making in order that the resources of the earth are managed properly?
- Could it be the highest levels of financial stewardship and monetary oversight for the nations of the world as the economies of the world flourish and grow at amazing rates?
- Could it be leadership in the worship of God through His ordained methods, whatever they may involve throughout the world?
- And what about the highest seats of judicial authority as the national issues are determined and wise counsel handed down in this land of perfect justice.
- Could it be chief positions in musical academies for the creation and composition of works performed in the presence of Christ the King or seasons of celebrating attributes?
All the above are not only possible, they are only the beginning of millions of options, I believe, for we who inhabit the Kingdom of our Lord will each have a royal position of leadership and authority and dignity and effectiveness and fruit and joy and wisdom and balance and more joy as we get to serve for Him and with Him throughout this one thousand year reign.
What absolute, unbelievable, lasting, deep joy.
Over and over again, Isaiah referred to the kingdom with that attribute – joy; joy that would overflow everything in this Kingdom.
Isaiah 51:3 is a text I’ve already referred to but not finished reading. Isaiah writes, Indeed, the LORD will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her wasted places and her wilderness He will make like Eden; and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and sound of a melody.
Isaac Watts attempted to capture the joy of the kingdom as it was so often described by the prophet Isaiah.
Unfortunately the hymn he composed about the joy of the kingdom ended up being relegated to the Christmas season.
There’s one brief phrase he composed, “Let every heart prepare him room” that probably relegated it to Christmas.
I don’t think he would have imagined the church using this hymn for the first coming of Christ instead of primarily the second coming of Christ.
Listen to some of the lyrics;
Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing . . . and heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy . . . repeat the sounding joy.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove,
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love . . . and wonders of His love.
Text: Isaac Watts Music: George F. Handel
What a great hymn for the coming kingdom. Truly, it is joy to the world . . . at last! Finally . . . joy to the whole world.
And the world will make melody Isaiah said . . . we will sing of the glories of His righteousness and the wonders of His love.
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