After the battles of the end have been won by Christ, the resurrected followers of Jesus and the armies of heaven will begin to descend upon the earth. The next series of events that are prophesied to occur after this point all relate to securing the Earth from further harm and identifying or choosing the people of the Kingdom.
In the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John had a vision of one of the most important things that will happen at the start of this new age. This one event will actually make possible that the thousand-year Kingdom Age will be one of true peace. The Apostle sees a single angel coming down from heaven having the key to something he called the bottomless pit and having a great chain in his hand. John continues by saying,
“And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, who 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.”
This prophecy describes one of the most significant events that will ultimately stop the cycle of violence and evil on the Earth (other than the Return of Christ, of course). This is the capture and forced imprisonment of Satan. Outside of the inherent evil of mankind at the end of the age, the primary instigator who will lead the nations to the point of Armageddon will be the constant prodding of the Devil and his agents, the demons or fallen angels. When Satan is finally banished from heaven and cast to the Earth at the midpoint of the final seven years (see Rev. 12:7-12), he will go forth with tremendous fury to incite the final battles, which will ultimately lead to the destruction of the world in a fiery nuclear holocaust. However, after the Dragon’s followers are defeated, the Lord will make certain that there will be no more temptation towards evil during the entire period of the Kingdom Age. Jesus will command one of his most powerful angels to bind Satan in a place called the bottomless pit for the entire thousand years of His reign. No doubt the fallen angels will also be removed from the Earth, too, thus ensuring true peace and safety.
Some have equated this bottomless pit prison with the grave or perhaps even a very deep cavity or chasm within the Earth. But this interpretation doesn’t seem quite strong enough to be able to hold a powerful being like the Devil. I have often wondered if the bottomless pit might not be within a super-massive black hole in space, where gravity is so strong that not even light can escape and a “bottomless” singularity of collapsed matter, space, and time exists at its core. However, whatever this inescapable pit actually turns out to be, it is obvious that it will be a very secure prison from which Satan will never be able to escape or come back on his own. Thus, from that point on, peace will finally reign supreme on the earth for the entire time of the Kingdom Age, and all because the originator of evil will be completely removed from the scene.
However, before we get too far into the details of the Kingdom Age, we need to first establish the primary basis for all of these prophecies. Up to this point we have merely assumed that there would be a Kingdom where the Lord himself will rule on the Earth and also that it would last a thousand years. But where does this information come from? Again we turn to the book of Revelation for the answer.
Immediately after the prophecy concerning Satan’s imprisonment, John goes on to describe some of the basic characteristics of Christ’s reign on Earth. This is what he says:
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years”
There are many prophecies concerning the coming Kingdom Age of Christ, but this is the only one in the entire Bible that tells us the precise length of time that the Lord will reign on the Earth. John says that when Christ returns he will set up a new world order of blessing and life that will last exactly one thousand years. He further indicates that all those who have suffered and died in the last days by refusing to follow the Antichrist or by refusing to obtain his Mark will be resurrected to live and reign with Jesus for this entire period. Thus, the initial reward for a short period of suffering in the End Times will be a Millennium of peace on earth with the Son of God in new immortal and incorruptible bodies. The “birth pains” of the End Times will finally yield to the new birth and manifestation of the sons of God who will reign with Christ 1,000 years.
“For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God.”
Although in this prophecy in Revelation the Apostle John does not actually describe the rapture and resurrection in the same degree of detail found in other parts of the Bible, he nevertheless adds a very important piece of information which should not be overlooked. Remember, in the sections concerning the Return of Christ it was stated that there will actually be two resurrections, one for the righteous and one for the wicked. Here the Lord reveals that there will really be a thousand-year span of time—the one thousand years of the Kingdom Age—which will occur between the first resurrection for the followers of Christ and the second resurrection for all the remaining people who have ever lived.
This fact also correlates with the overall Biblical chronology concerning what will happen after the Kingdom Age is over. As we will see, the second resurrection is predicted to immediately precede the final judgment and also occur immediately before the creation of the New Heavens and the New Earth. But more on that in later sections.
At this point we have at least established the framework for the Millennial Kingdom and the relationship of the resurrections to it. Now let’s go on to discover how the Kingdom will be set up and also identify the people of the Kingdom who will ultimately inhabit it.
The Gospel of Matthew actually describes the first event to happen once the Lord has returned to the Earth with his people. Chapter 25 of Matthew tells us of a worldwide judgment that will occur for all the people still left alive on Earth after Armageddon ends and Christ’s Return occurs. As will soon become apparent, Christ’s initial judgment only relates to the survivors of the Tribulation period—in other words, all those who: 1) were not resurrected and gathered along with the rest of the believers at the Lord’s coming, 2) were not found to be followers of the Antichrist, and 3) were not killed in the final battles. This is how Matthew begins to describe this event:
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.
“And before him shall be gathered all the nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.
“And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels…
“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.”
Matt. 25:31-34, 41, 46
Though the wars of the final seven years before Christ returns will completely devastate the world and leave billions of people dead, the Bible indicates that there will still be many survivors who will be found in almost every corner of the globe. Of course, most of these survivors will probably consist of people who lived primarily in remote regions or in Third World countries and were therefore not completely affected by the Antichrist’s system or by the wars. At least it seems reasonable to assume that the system of the Beast will at first rapidly take hold in the Western Alliance and main Developed Nations, and then only slowly spread out to the less developed world. In the short span that the Antichrist is predicted to reign (42 months; see Rev. 13:5) it’s simply not going to be possible to have the marking program reach every last person on earth. In fact, many millions of people will not only escape its effects but also go on to live through all the wars and destruction of the end. This doesn’t mean that they will escape any form of suffering as a result of the Tribulation—only that they won’t die as a consequence of it. Everyone will suffer during the dark days of the Great Tribulation. A number of the survivors might actually be children who could not be expected to make a moral decision to follow or reject the Antichrist.
Whoever these people ultimately turn out to be, we know for a fact that they could not possibly have been followers of Christ at the moment of the Second Coming, because in that case they would have been already transformed and gathered by the angels at the rapture. However, they also couldn’t have been followers of the Empire-Beast, because then they would have been previously gathered and thrown into the lake of fire along with the rest of the Antichrist’s people (see Rev. 19:20).
Matthew predicts that as soon as the Lord returns and begins to organize the world, one of the first things he will do is gather all the surviving people before him and judge them as to whether or not they are worthy to enter His Kingdom. The apparent basis for this judgment will not merely be the obvious dividing line of personal belief in Christ or lack thereof—which would have made each person either a “Christian” or a “non-Christian”—but will be based solely on the kind of lives the people lived immediately before the Second Coming. In other words, each person will be judged by their righteousness or lack of righteousness they displayed in their lives, particularly within the last few years of this age.
The reason for this special judgment is actually very logical. During the last seven years of the End Times, the Lord’s people will flee into the furthest parts of the world to escape the persecution of the Antichrist. They will retreat into the underdeveloped nations and wilderness areas and form new communities of people who have turned away from society and have totally rejected the Antichrist’s system. Many natives of these regions will actually aid Christians by hiding them and providing the necessities of life. These represent the sheep at Christ’s judgment and are the good people of the world who may not actually have been Christians themselves at the time, but nevertheless showed a love for God’s outcasts by helping them in their time of need.
Other people, however, will hate the followers of Christ and turn them in to the authorities or simply ignore their plight altogether. In God’s eyes these are the evil people of the world who do not care about their neighbors, nor do they have a love in their hearts for the poor and the needy. Their mentality will be like the militant survivalist groups of today who plan for World War III by storing up food and arms—preparing to fight and even kill anyone who dares to try and take what they believe is rightfully theirs.
When it’s all said and done many of these people, both good and bad, will go on to survive the entire Tribulation period and actually become eyewitnesses the Second Coming of Christ. They will experience first hand the resurrection and rapture of Christians as well as the subsequent gathering of the followers of the Antichrist to judgment. As a result of this experience one thing will be true of all these people: no matter what they may have believed beforehand concerning the Bible and the reality of Jesus, at the point of the Lord’s Return no one will be able to deny the truth any longer. The very presence of the Lord on the earth will make every nonbeliever an instant believer. At that time even the staunchest of atheists or agnostics will have to accept the basic fact that Christ is real and the Bible is true.
But this also poses a problem. At the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, both the good and the evil survivors of the Tribulation will suddenly come to “believe” in the Lord. Both groups will seek to save themselves from Christ’s judgment by trying to appease him with their new-found faith. The Bible says that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11). However, the Bible also tells us that the true followers of the Lord are those who don’t merely intellectually believe in him, but those who also are willing to turn away from evil and follow after righteousness. Remember, the act of repentance will always be one of the most important parts of faith and without it there can be no salvation. The true followers of Christ will want to do good things and live righteous lives.
Unfortunately, for some of the survivors who go on to become believers only after the Second Coming, goodness and righteousness had never been a part of their lives. They will have come to believe simply because they have seen the truth firsthand in the person of Christ and not because they thought they needed to turn away from sin and be forgiven. They will become believers out of fear and out of the stark reality of Christ’s Return, but in actuality they will be impersonators, only masquerading as followers of Christ, but with no previous life evidence to back them up.
Therefore, at the same time that Jesus sets up of his Kingdom, He will also seek to separate the true believers from the false ones by carefully considering how each individual treated His people in the years before He returned. Two main groups are said to result from this judgment. The ones gathered on the Lord’s right hand are called the “sheep” and are said to have proven their right to enter the Kingdom by giving food, drink, clothing, and shelter to his people (see Matt. 25:35-40). By contrast, those gathered on the Lord’s left hand are called “goats” and will be cast out of the Kingdom to suffer eternal wrath in a lake of fire as a direct result of living evil lives and doing just the opposite of the sheep—not helping his people during their time of need (Matt. 25:42-45). Thus, two groups of survivors who will no doubt both openly profess to believe in Christ at the beginning of the Kingdom, will nevertheless obtain two radically different fates solely because their previous works revealed their true character.
Let me emphasize, however, that this process of separating the sheep from the goats does not constitute salvation by works for the ones being saved. Forgiveness of sins simply cannot be earned by doing good deeds. The Bible states in no uncertain terms that in the Lord’s view every person who has ever lived has committed sins and is therefore worthy of being condemned just like the goats in the above prophecy. This means that even the best of people could never hope to earn or buy their way into the Kingdom of Heaven by performing good works of righteousness. No matter how many good deeds people may do, they will always fall short of making it to heaven because of the sins they also have accumulated against themselves. In fact, it is only through the mercy of God and His unmerited favor (grace) that we are provided a way to be saved at all. And the only path that God’s mercy has provided for forgiveness is through Jesus Christ. It is only through his death, where Christ actually took the punishment for our sins upon himself, that we can ever hope to be forgiven. According to God’s Word, then, all we have to do to obtain forgiveness is to turn away from the very evil that condemns us in the first place and place our full trust in Christ. Anyone willing to do this will be instantly forgiven and delivered from the judgment to come.
This also means that just believing in Christ will not be enough to save anyone. Think of it this way: the Bible says that even the evil demons believe in God, and tremble (James 2:19)! In order to be truly saved, along with the obvious outward belief there must also be a repentant heart and lifestyle which results from a sincere desire to follow the Lord and do what is right. Thus, without a willingness to turn away from evil, mere belief becomes meaningless. The Bible says that the Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
This is why all the survivors of the End Times will not just automatically enter the Kingdom Age after Christ returns. Certainly everyone will openly profess to have faith in Christ after he comes, in fact they would be crazy if they didn’t given the circumstances, but only some of them will have shown their willingness to resist evil and do good works in the Last Days. This is precisely what James meant when he said that faith without works is dead (compare James 2:14-20). The “goats” will not enter the Kingdom, because they will have proven themselves to be followers of evil, and the Lord will not allow such people to live. The “sheep”, however, were willing to show goodness to the Lord’s people at the very moment when the entire world was heading into its deepest time of wickedness. Their desire to do what was right coupled with their new-found belief at the moment when the Lord returns will be enough to ensure complete forgiveness and a full entry into the Kingdom.
Perhaps the most unexpected result of this judgment and the prior resurrection is that two groups of people will then go on to enter Christ’s Kingdom. Yes, two very different groups! The first group will come from those believers who were followers of the Lord before he came and were therefore delivered in the resurrection and rapture at the time of the last trumpet. According to the prophecies we have previously discussed, these transformed believers will be immortal and incorruptible and also possess powerful new bodies similar to Christ’s. These are the new sons of God who will reign with Christ a thousand years.
The second group, however, will be significantly different from these immortals. They will be the “sheep” of the above prophecy who will come to believe only after the Lord returns. As a result of the goodness they displayed toward the Lord’s people in the last days, they too will be allowed to enter the Kingdom, but only in their mortal bodies. These people will then return to their homelands and form the new nations of righteousness which will make up the world community in the thousand-year Kingdom of Heaven.
As amazing as this sounds, the Bible actually supports through several different prophecies the view that there will be two groups of people inhabiting the Kingdom Age. In the book of Zechariah these statements can be found:
“And it shall come to pass that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
“And it shall be that whoever will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.
“And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain, there shall be the plague, with which the Lord will smite the nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
“This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.”
The timing of Zechariah’s prophecy comes immediately after his description of both the Return of Christ and the defeat of the armies which have attacked Israel at the end. Notice that he definitely confirms the fact that there will be people left among the nations to repopulate the Earth. More importantly, though, he also indicates that these nations will still be able to sin during the time of Christ’s reign. Specifically with regard to the commandment to come to Jerusalem and celebrate the yearly feast of tabernacles, Zechariah acknowledges that at least it will be possible for the nations to disregard the law and not follow the Lord. Of course if any nation does try to ignore it, he says the Lord will subsequently send a drought upon their homeland. The country of Egypt is used here as an example, but this judgment could ultimately happen to any nation who decides not to obey the authority of Christ during the Kingdom Age.
It should also be recognized that this passage could not be made to refer to “regular” Christians, either, since all the people who were believers before the Second Coming will be resurrected and/or transformed at the time of the rapture and will thus become incorruptible (i.e. not able to sin any more). This prophecy could only refer to another group of people entirely—people who must have had no part in the rapture but will nevertheless still be able to enter the Kingdom Age. Again, we are forced to conclude that only the “sheep” of Matthew’s prophecy could possibly fit this description. Therefore, these people will on the one hand be mortal and still have the capacity for sin, but on the other hand they will live in a world of perfection which will be ruled by the Lord himself—and without the author of evil around (Satan) to tempt people to do wrong.
Isaiah predicted an important characteristic of the kingdom which also indicates that there will be “normal” humans living on the earth in those days. His is a statement which not only comments on the blessings that Jerusalem will experience, but also on the general longevity of life.
“And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.
“There shall be no more in it an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days; for the child shall die an hundred years old, but the sinner, being an hundred years old, shall be accursed.”
Many people have the mistaken impression that the period of Christ’s reign on the Earth will see the complete elimination of death. Isaiah, however, says that even during the time of Israel’s tremendous blessing as the leading nation in the Kingdom Age there will still be the possibility of human death. In reality, though, this prophecy is not predicting the continuation of the rule of death as it exists today, but just the possibility that an individual’s death could occur. Isaiah is careful to emphasize the remoteness of this possibility by saying that if a person should die at even the age of 100 he would still be considered only an “infant”. It’s obvious that exceeding a 100-year life span will not only be possible, but normal in those days. In fact, a person one hundred years old in the Kingdom will be considered young by the standards of the time; it will actually be looked upon as highly unusual or rare if an individual were to die at such an early age.
In addition, just like in Zechariah’s prophecy, Isaiah also admits to the possibility for the existence of sin in the kingdom age. He makes it clear, however, that anyone who dares to live a life of sin will become immediately accursed by the Lord. Similar to Zechariah who previously saw a corporate punishment reserved for nations who refuse to follow Christ, now Isaiah says there will also be a personal judgment for the individual who decides to sin.
All of these prophecies indicate that when the Lord rules the Earth, He will no longer allow evil to occur without rapid consequences. Anyone who does evil and lives wickedly will immediately feel the sting of sin by being cursed in every area of his life. This will be similar to what Moses promised to Israel (see The Blessing and Curse). Unlike in today’s world, where good and evil people often seem to have similar chances in life—such as bad things happening to good people and good things happening to bad people—in the Kingdom Age, sinners will be actively separated by the curse and quickly judged.
These prophecies also indicate that there will indeed be a class of people living in the kingdom who will both be able to sin and be able to die. Once again we are led to conclude that the people in view here are none other than those who will survive the holocaust of the last days and then be allowed to enter the Lord’s Kingdom as the “sheep” of Matthew’s prophecy. Thus, normal humans and their descendants are going to repopulate the earth and form the new nations of the world during the 1000-year reign of Christ.
But this also leads us to a very important question: What will happen to the Christians who will be transformed and made into immortal and incorruptible beings at the time of the rapture? Will they simply live among “normal” humans as though they were equals—or will they have some other totally different fate? Several key prophecies help to give us insight into this question.
In the passage quoted earlier from chapter 20 of Revelation that predicted the exact length of time that the Kingdom Age will exist, John also saw that those who overcame the Antichrist “lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4). And he didn’t stop at that point. John went on to say that these Christians “shall be priests of God and of Christ” (Rev. 20:6).
In addition, in an earlier chapter of Revelation, certain heavenly beings are described as seated before the throne of God and are heard to confirm these predictions. Immediately before Jesus began to open the seven seals of the book of Revelation, the 24 elders are said to sing before the Lord a song which describes the fate of the redeemed. They prophetically sing that God’s people at this point will be made “a kingdom of priests, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10).
Therefore, from these two passages in Revelation it is evident that the Christians who are raised from the dead and transformed at the rapture into immortal and incorruptible beings will subsequently go on to become the primary rulers under Christ in the Kingdom Age. Jesus himself seemed to confirm this notion when in another parable he described his followers as becoming rulers over certain cities in his Kingdom as a reward for their faithful service (see Luke 19:11-27). Therefore, the world after the Second Coming will not only have Christ himself as its divine commander-in-chief seated in the Temple in Jerusalem, but it will also have his glorified followers as His primary representatives spread across the globe.
However, the rulers in the Kingdom Age will not be like the rulers of today. Those who rule over others today do so as masters or overlords, often bossing people around with their edicts and making life frustrating, difficult, or dangerous. The Christians who rule in the Kingdom will do so as servants and helpers, not as lords or commanders. As Jesus said, “whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant” (Matt. 20:26). With the help of millions of glorified Christians working as servants to the people of the world, God will completely transform the Earth and mold it into the righteous and peaceful place it was always meant to be: a beautiful Garden of Eden spreading the blessings of God to every living thing.
Next: The Redemption of Israel