A Thousand Years of Peace?
Key Thought: The popular thought is that during the last thousand years of earth's history there will be a great revival work taking place on planet earth. The authors carefully go through the Bible to show what the Bible teaches on this important topic.
The word, millennium, signifies a thousand years. The popular view of what is called the temporal millennium is that the gospel of Jesus Christ will yet so far control the minds and hearts of men that the whole world will be converted, and become holy by its influence, and that this happy state will continue one thousand years; and that during this time Christ will reign with his people spiritually, and that at the close of the millennium he will come the second time when the judgment will take place.
But a careful examination is sufficient to fully convince the intelligent student that the sacred Scriptures do not teach that at any period of time all men will be converted to God. There were but few righteous men from Adam to Moses. And the numbers of the just in the Jewish age, compared with the multitudes of the unbelieving, were very small. Neither does God's plan in the Christian age embrace the conversion of all men. The gospel is preached to all nations, and thus God visits "the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name." Acts 15: 14. Among the finally saved will not be found all of any one generation; or all of any one nation; but some out of every age and every tongue will join in the song to the Lamb: "Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." Rev. 5 :9.
From the very nature of the case the conversion of the world is an impossibility. God is the same during all time. He deals with men and nations impartially. The devil is the same, excepting that the experience of six thousand years has made him more artful in seducing men and women into sin. The fallen race is the same, only that each succeeding generation degenerates physically, mentally and morally, till the world becomes fully ripe for her final doom. This is seen in the metallic image of Dan. 2. Here five universal kingdoms are the subject of prophecy. Four of these pertain to the mortal state, one to the immortal. The four earthly monarchies, Babylon, Persia, Grecia and Rome, are severally represented by gold, silver, brass and iron. We not only see in the symbol the depreciation of value from gold to silver, to brass and to iron; but the last divided condition of earthly governments, just before the opening glories of the immortal kingdom, is represented by iron mixed with miry clay.
God's Plan to Convert Sinners Has
Already Been in Operation Six Thousand Years
God's plan to convert sinners, and to save all who would obey him and believe in Jesus, has been in operation about six thousand years. A crucified and risen Jesus has been preached with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven for more than eighteen centuries; yet the world has not been converted. And the prospect of its conversion to Bible holiness never looked darker than at the present time. In the forcible words of another we would inquire:—
"And what are the present prospects of a church that has set out in all confidence to convert the world? How may those now putting on the harness boast of greater expected success than is warranted by the experience of those who have put it off after having fought the good fight? The prophets could not convert the world; are we mightier than they? The apostles could not convert the world; are we stronger than they? The martyrs could not convert the world; can we do more than they?” The church for eighteen hundred years could not convert the world; can we do it? They have preached the gospel of Christ; so can we. They have gone to earth's remotest bounds; so can we. They have saved 'some;' so can we. They have wept as so few believed their report; so can we.
"Has God a mightier Saviour—a more powerful Spirit? Has he another gospel which will save the world? Where is it? Is there any way to the kingdom other than that which leads through much tribulation? Is there another way to the crown besides the way of crosses? Can we reign with him unless we first suffer in his cause ?"
Considering the Bible
The doctrine of the world's conversion, and a temporal millennium, being based upon false interpretations, and incorrect quotations of certain portions of the sacred Scriptures, it is proper that we should here notice those texts usually quoted to prove this doctrine, and show that they do not mean what they are said to prove:—
1. "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." Ps. 2.: 8. As sufficient evidence that this text does not prove the conversion of the world, we quote the verse following it: "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."
2. The stone cut out of the mountain without hands, shall roll until it becomes a great mountain and fills the whole earth. All the proof for the world's conversion found in the above, is in quoting the text wrong. Here is the text as it reads: "Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them; and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth." Dan. 2: 34, 35.
In this remarkable passage, the following points are worthy of notice: (1.) The stone smote the image upon his feet, and brake the iron, clay, brass, silver and gold to pieces together. Here is destruction, not conversion. (2.) They became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors, and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them. Here is illustrated the removal of all earthly governments. (3.) Then the stone became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. In this prophecy, the stone has nothing in common with the image. The image, a symbol of earthly governments, all wicked men, is first removed, and then the stone fills the whole earth. But if it be urged that the dashing of the heathen, (Ps. 2 :9) and the breaking of the image, (Dan. 2: 34) mean the conversion of the world, then Paul's words: "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under our feet shortly," means the conversion of Satan.
3. A nation shall be born in a day. Here is another incorrect quotation. Isa. 66:8 reads: "Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children." This text has no allusion to the conversion of sinners; but evidently refers to the resurrection of the just.
4. "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." But let it be borne in mind that this is under the third woe, when it is also said: "And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldst give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldst destroy them which destroy the earth." Rev. 11: 15, 18.
5. "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Matt. 24:14. Those who teach the world's conversion would have the gospel preached to all nations, every individual hear it, believe it, obey it, and all become holy by it. What then? The end? No, not until the world has enjoyed a sinless period of one thousand years. But the text does not say that every individual will even hear this gospel of the kingdom. It does not state that any one will be converted and made holy by it. And we find it far from intimated that the world would be converted and remain so a thousand years.
6. "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Micah 4:3. See also Isa. 2:4. The reader will please notice that Micah 4:1, speaks of the exalted state of the professed church of Christ in the last days. Mountains mean earthly governments. The church, here represented by "the mountain of the Lord's house," was to be exalted above the hills. It was to be established in the tops of the mountains.
In verses 2-5 is a statement, not of what the Lord declares would take place in the last days, but what the multitudes of popular professors, who are looking for the conversion of the world, would say. The statement commences thus: "And many nations shall come, and say." Verse 2. But the Lord speaks in verses 6 and 7, as follows: "In that day, saith the Lord, will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted." "In that day" when "many nations" are prophesying of peace and safety, the Lord's remnant people are driven out and afflicted. But we have more and very decisive testimony in regard to the state of the nations in the last days by the prophet Joel. This subject may appear still more clear and forcible by arranging what many nations say, and what the Lord says:—
Many Nations Say: “And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob ; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths ; for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks ; nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Micah 4 :2, 3.
The Lord Says: “Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles: Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about; thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.” Joel 3 :9-12.
7. "They shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them." Jer. 31:34. This is in the promise of the new covenant, and relates, first, to the condition of each individual with whom the new covenant is made; and secondly, to the fullness of the blessings of the gospel, when all are brought into harmony with God in the everlasting state. Both ideas are embraced in the promise. But that every individual will be converted, or that all of any generation this side of the immortal state will be converted and come to the knowledge of God, the Scriptures do not teach.
8. The glory of the Lord shall fill the earth, as the waters cover the sea. "But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord." Num. 14:21. "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." Isa. 11:9. "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." Hab. 2:14. "Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth." Matt. 5:5. This glorious state, however, is not brought about by the conversion of all men. It is introduced by the destruction of sinful men, the restitution of the earth to its condition as it came from the hand of the Creator, and the gift of immortality to the meek of all ages. "For evil doers shall be cutoff; but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be; yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." Ps. 37 :9-11.
9. "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem, a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 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." "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock; and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord." See Isa. 65 :17-25; also chapter 11:6-9.
This prophecy is said to be a figurative description of the condition of things during the temporal millennium. We, however, regard it as a prophetic description of the state of things after the restitution of the earth and man to their primeval glory. Before the fall, man was upright, and the earth and all the living creatures that God had created upon it, as viewed by the Creator, were seen to be "very good." Gen. 1:31. The Scriptures do not teach the annihilation of all things by the fires of the great day, and the creation of all new things for the future state. But they do distinctly teach the restitution of all things. Thus saith the great Restorer: "Behold, I make all things new." Rev. 21:5. Isaiah and the Revelator both speak of the new heavens and the new earth. The prophet Isaiah is either giving a figurative description of a very happy condition of things in this mortal state, or he is portraying the literal glories of the restitution after the second advent and the resurrection of the just. To the figurative view we find serious objections:—
(1) Our temporal millennium friends, in order that all parts of their figurative theory may harmonize, must have in their figurative new heavens and earth, figurative houses, figurative vineyards, and they must eat the figurative fruit thereof, and behold around them figurative wolves, and figurative lions, feeding with figurative lambs and figurative bullocks, to say nothing of figurative serpents. If it be said that the gospel is to convert all these wolves, and lions, and serpents, we reply that if they are converted, they are no longer wolves and lions and serpents, and during the entire period of the millennium there will be none but figurative lambs and doves.
(2.) The apostle has so clearly identified the three worlds, namely, the one before the flood, the one that now is, and the new earth which is to come, as to entirely preclude the figurative view. He says: "For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water; whereby the world that then was being overflowed with water perished. But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." "Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." 2 Pet. 3 : 5-7, 13.
No fact can be more plainly stated than that the world that perished by the flood is the same as that which now is, and is reserved unto fire. This is to be changed by fire, and then will appear the new heavens and the new earth, according to the promise of God. And it is a remarkable fact that the promise referred to by the apostle is found only in Isa. chapter 65. Thus, the apostle links the three worlds together. Are the first two worlds literal? So is the third. Is the new earth, mentioned by Isaiah, figurative? So are all three worlds figurative. But if they are all literal, then we see a harmony in Scripture respecting them. If they be regarded as figurative, then we are left to the following conclusion:—
That in the days of figurative Noah, the figurative heavens and earth, being overflowed by figurative water, perished figuratively. But the figurative heavens and earth, which are now, are reserved unto figurative fire, against the figurative day of judgment and perdition of ungodly figurative men. Nevertheless, we, according to his figurative promise, look for figurative new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth figurative righteousness.
True, the sacred writers use figures and parables. But we should believe that God in his word means just what he says, unless the connection shows good reasons why a figure or parable is introduced. If God does not mean what he says, in his word, who will tell us what he does mean? In case that God does not mean what he says, the Bible ceases to be a revelation, and he should give us another book to teach what this one means. But the Bible is the very book in which God has plainly spoken to the children of men.
With this view of the sacred Scriptures, we see spread out before us the living realities of the new earth, in all their grandeur and glory, as when Adam was lord of Eden. Before the transgression, all was purity and peace, even among the beasts which God had created. And who can say that these, with natures such as the Creator first gave them, will not be in place in the earth restored from the fall, as well as in the earth before the fall?
Having examined the principal texts quoted to prove the conversion of the world, and having shown that they do not mean what they are said to mean, we will call attention to some of the many direct proofs that no such state of things can exist prior to the second advent.
1. The prevalence of the little horn. "I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom." Dan. 7:21, 22. "But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever." Verse 18. Here it will be seen that the little horn makes war with the saints until they take the kingdom, and when they once obtain the kingdom, they hold it forever and ever. Where, then, is there room for that period of peace and triumph of the church called the temporal millennium?
2. The apostasy. In 2 Thess. 2 :1-7, Paul states what would take place before the second coming of Christ. Is it the triumph of the world's conversion? No, it is the sad apostasy, the falling away, and the manifestation of the papacy, the man of sin who will continue to the end. The apostle speaks of the manifestation and destruction of this blasphemous power in these words: "And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming." Verse 8.
3. The wicked continue with the righteous as illustrated by the parable of the wheat and tares, until the end of the Christian age. See Matt. 13:24-30. The friends of the doctrine of the world's conversion find this parable directly in their way, and they have wearied themselves in laboring to explain it away. But, as our divine Lord, by special request, gave an explanation of it, modesty suggests that we accept his explanation. See verse 36-43. We simply repeat, "The field is the world." "The good seed are the children of the kingdom." "The tares are the children of the wicked one." "Let both grow together until the harvest." "The harvest is the end of the world."
4. Persecution and tribulation were to be the portion of the church of God in all ages. The apostle speaks of the faithful who had lived and suffered before, who "had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonments; they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented (of whom the world was not worthy); they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise; God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." Heb. 11:36-40. He also points to the future, and says: "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." 2 Tim. 3:12.
5. The last days of human probation have been regarded as the favored period for the completion of the great work of converting the world. But the prophets of the Old Testament nowhere represent God as saying that the last days would be glorious. Jesus and the apostles of the New Testament never spoke of the last days as a period of triumph to the church; but rather as the days of her peril, which demand especial watching; the days of her mourning and tears and importunate prayers for deliverance. Paul describes the last days thus: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come; for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. From such turn away." 2 Tim. 3:1-5.
6. Peter says: "There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?" 2 Pet. 3 :3, 4. How could these scoffers arise and deny his coming, and persecutions and perils exist in the last days, if all were converted long before his coming?
7. The last days embrace the very last day, reaching down to the coming of the Son of man. The days of the coming of the Son of man were to be like the days of Noah and Lot. "And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." Luke 17 :26-30.
8. Destruction, not conversion, awaits the world at the very time when many popular professors cherish the delusive hope of a good time coming. They see no danger, and brand as fanatical alarmists those who obey the prophetic injunction, "Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain; let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand." Joel 2:1. But, says the apostle: "When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them." 1 Thess 5 :3.
9. The way to destruction is broad, and many go in it; and the way to life is narrow, and but few find it. When one asked Jesus: "Are there few that be saved?" he answered: "Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." Luke 13 :23, 24. Again it is recorded: "Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Matt. 7 :13, 14. The doctrine of the world's conversion, and that of universal salvation, are both directly opposed to this passage. The one has the way to life narrow at first, but growing wider, until all walk in it; while the other has the way to life always wide enough for all the world. But our Lord states a great fact in this passage, which existed when spoken, ever had existed, and which would exist until the close of probation; namely, that the way to destruction was broad, and many would go in it; and that the way to life was narrow, and few would find it.
But when the few of each successive generations, from righteous Abel to the close of probation, who have bent their lonely footsteps in the narrow path to Mount Zion, shall reach their everlasting rest, they will constitute that "great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues," arrayed in Heaven's purity. Not one of these had come out of that imaginary period of a converted world. No; not one. What an imposing scene! “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these that are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Rev. 7.
1. What does the word millennium signify?
2. What is the popular view of the millennium?
3. What facts stand in the way of this view?
4. For what purpose is the gospel preached?
5. Of whom will the company of the redeemed be composed?
6. Why is the conversion of the world an impossibility?
7. What is seen in the metallic image of Dan. 2?
8. How long has the plan of salvation been in operation?
9. How long has a risen Jesus been preached to the world?
10. What is the result so far?
11. What is the outlook for the future?
12. Upon what is the doctrine of the world's conversion based?
13. What is Ps. 2:8 sometimes quoted to prove?
14. What shows that it does not refer to the world's conversion?
15. How is Dan. 2:34, 35, sometimes quoted?
16. How does this differ from a true version of the text?
17. What is the first point worthy of notice in this text?
18. The second?
19. The third?
20. How is Isa. 66 :8 sometimes misquoted?
21. To what does it evidently refer?
22. What is to be said of Rev. 11:15, 18?
23. How do believers in the world's conversion have Matt. 24 :14 fulfilled?
24. What then takes place?
25. What points are falsely inferred from the text?
26. What texts are quoted from Micah and Isaiah on this subject?
27. Who makes the statement of Micah 4 :2-51
28. Where are the Lord's words recorded and what are they?
29. What does the Lord say according to Joel?
30. What does Jer. 31 :34 teach?
31. What is wrongly inferred from it?
32. Quote Num. 14 :21 ; Isa. 11 :9; Hab. 2 :14, and Matt. 5 :5.
33. What connection has this glorious state with the conversion of all men?
34. How is it introduced?
35. Quote Ps. 37 :9-11.
36. How is Isa. 65 :17-25 applied?
37. What is the more evident application?
38. What was man's condition before the fall?
39. Do the Scriptures teach the annihilation of all things by the fires of the great day?
40. What do they teach in this respect?
41. What is the testimony of Rev. 21:5?
42. What two views are the only ones that can be taken of Isaiah's language?
43. What is the first serious objection to the figurative view?
44. What is the second objection?
45. Quote 2 Peter 3 :57, 13.
46. What fact is plainly stated in this testimony?
47. How does that compare with the earth that now is?
48. What is to succeed this present earth?
49. In what single place is the promise found which is referred to by Peter?
50. If the heavens and earth referred to, be figurative, what does it prove respecting this present earth, and the earth before the flood?
51. What rule should be followed in interpreting figures and parables?
52. If God does not mean what he says, what would be necessary?
53. With the literal view of the Scriptures, what do we have described before us in these passages?
54. What text is referred to as direct proof that there can be no such thing as a temporal millennium?
55. What power is referred to by the little horn of Dan. 7?
56. How long does this horn make war upon the saints?
57. How is this little horn to be destroyed?
58. What room is there then for that period?
59. What is the next text quoted to disprove this doctrine?
60. How does it answer this purpose?
61. What is the third argument against the temporal millennium?
62. Whose explanation of this parable should we take?
63. According to this explanation what is shown?
64. What was to be the portion of God's church in all ages?
65. How does this affect the doctrine of the temporal millennium?
66. When is the millennium according to the views of its advocates, to be fulfilled?
67. How do the prophets of the Old Testament, and the writers of the New, represent the last days?
68. Quote 2 Tim. 3 :1-5.
69. What is Peter's testimony?
70. To what are the days of the coming of the Son of man likened?
71. When many are indulging the hope of good, what awaits the world? References.
72. What does Christ say in reference to the broad and narrow way?
73. How does this statement affect the doctrine of the world's conversion?
74. If this doctrine is true, how should Christ have described it?
75. Of what are the great multitude composed who will finally reach Mount Zion?
76. What is the experience of them all in this world?—U. Smith; J. White