Built Upon the Rock
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 24:  The Millennium and the End of Sin

Fundamental Belief #27 The millennium is the thousand-year reign of Christ with His saints in heaven between the first and second resurrections.  During this time, the wicked dead will be judged; the earth will be utterly desolate, without living human inhabitants, but occupied by Satan and his angels.  At its close, Christ with His saints and the Holy City will descend from heaven to earth.  The unrighteous dead will then be resurrected and, with Satan and his angels, will surround the city; but fire from God will consume them and cleanse the earth.  The universe will thus be freed of sin and sinners forever.
[Revelation 20; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; Jeremiah 4:23-26; Revelation 21:1-5; Malachi 4:1; Ezekiel 28:18-19]

Another major end-time event brought to view in the Bible is the millennium.  The word millennium comes from two Latin words together:  mil, meaning “a thousand,” and annum, “a year.”  It may surprise some that the millennium is mentioned explicitly in only one passage of Scripture, Revelation 20.  Certain Old Testament passages are also seen by some Bible students as referring to the millennium — but these references are not specific.

Suffice it to say, this topic has led to great speculation and dispute in the Christian church through the centuries.

Three Views

Three main schools of thought exist today regarding the millennium:  pre-millennialism, post-millennialism, and a-millennialism.  For the most part, each is tied to one of three approaches to interpreting the prophetic book of Revelation:  historicism, preterism, and futurism.

Let’s first outline what each school of thought believes, then turn to the standard Adventist interpretation of the millennium.  What we said, early on in our study, is that Seventh-day Adventists believe that the only correct way to understand the millennium is to examine it in the light of the great controversy between Christ and Satan, the broader picture of the everlasting gospel.

Pre-millennialism teaches that the Second Coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of believers who have died will precede the millennium.  Then, after the thousand years, a second resurrection will occur — in which only the wicked will come back to life.  While Adventists accept this general interpretation, they differ from pre-millennialism on one major point:  Adventists believe that, during the thousand years, the saints will dwell with Christ in heaven.  Most pre-millennialists believe that, when Christ comes the second time, He will set up a kingdom on earth, where the saints will reign with Him for a thousand years.

Post-millennialism, as a school of thought, regards the thousand years as being either a literal or an indefinite period of time preceding the Second Advent of Christ.  To post-millennialists, the first resurrection is simply a spiritual revival of the Christian church prior to the Second Advent.  This revival will overthrow evil and peace will reign on earth during the millennium.  This, in turn, will usher in the Second Coming of Christ; hence, the Second Advent is to come after the millennium.

A-millennialism asserts that Revelation 20 is making no literal reference to a period of time, but is simply teaching spiritual truths in symbolic language.  To a-millennialists, the two resurrections — one of the righteous, the other of the wicked — will take place at the same time, when Christ comes the second time to judge the world.

As members of the pre-millennial school, Seventh-day Adventists believe that the millennium represents a literal thousand-year period between the two resurrections.  The first resurrection takes place at the Second Advent, when the dead in Christ are raised to join the living saints and together ascend with Christ.  The second resurrection takes place at the end of the thousand years, at the third coming of Christ, when the wicked are raised to be judged and destroyed.

The Millennium and the Great Controversy

To correctly interpret the millennium, one must look at it in the setting of the great controversy.  Revelation 19 and 20 present a continuity of thought about the Second Coming of Christ.  Chapter 19 focuses on the marriage feast of the Lamb that will take place in heaven following the Second Coming.

When Jesus comes the second time, the Bible declares that the wicked will be destroyed by His brightness, while both the living and resurrected saints will be taken to heaven.  This marks the beginning of the millennium:

Revelation 19:1-8
After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:  “Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments.  He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.  He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
And again they shouted:  “Hallelujah!  The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne.  And they cried:  “Amen, Hallelujah!”
Then a voice came from the throne, saying:  “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!”
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:  “Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.  Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

According to Revelation 20, at this time the wicked are destroyed by the brightness of Christ’s glory, and Satan and his angels are restricted to a desolated earth for the next thousand years.  The apostle John describes it this way:

Revelation 20:1-3
And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.  He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.  He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.  After that, he must be set free for a short time.

During the thousand-year period, the saints will reign with Christ in heaven and judge the wicked:

Revelation 20:4-5, 11-15
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge.  And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God.  They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands.  They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.
...Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it.  The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  Another book was opened, which is the book of life.  The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.  The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.  Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  The lake of fire is the second death.  Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Their future is guaranteed, and the second death — the wages of sin — no longer has any power over them...

Revelation 20:6
Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection.  The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

...since Christ experienced this death on the cross as their substitute:

Hebrews 2:9
But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

At the end of the thousand years, however, all hell breaks loose at the resurrection of the wicked — those who have rejected God’s free gift of salvation since the Fall.  They will be called back to life, and Satan will once again attempt to use them to destroy God’s people.  This is known as the “second resurrection,” which takes place at the third coming of Christ, when He descends from heaven with the saints in the holy city, the New Jerusalem (literally, “city of peace”):

Revelation 21:10
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

John describes the dramatic scene in these words:

Revelation 20:7-10
When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth — Gog and Magog — and to gather them for battle.  In number they are like the sand on the seashore.  They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves.  But fire came down from heaven and devoured [destroyed] them.  And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

This final battle in the great controversy between Christ and Satan is the continuation of the War of Armageddon which began at the beginning of the great tribulation.  It is interrupted by the Second Coming, but resumes when the wicked are raised.  Satan will now have the entire unrighteous population, from all time, on his side.  Even so, he is no match for Christ.  In this final showdown, Satan and all who have joined him will be destroyed forever:

Matthew 25:31-33, 41
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  ...Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”

This scenario represents the culminating events in the great controversy between Christ and Satan, which began first in heaven and continued on earth, at the Fall:

Revelation 12:7-9
Then war broke out in heaven.  Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.  But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.  The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

This conflict of the ages (see Chapter 5 in this book) began in the mind of Lucifer, the most-honored angel in heaven.  He envisioned a new philosophy for happiness — one completely at odds with the nature, character, and government of God.

The prophet Ezekiel describes what happened:

Ezekiel 28:15
You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.

Then the gospel prophet Isaiah tells us what that iniquity (Hebrew, “to be bent”) was all about:

Isaiah 14:12-14
How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn!  You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!  You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.  I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

Isaiah writes that the rebellious idea in Lucifer’s mind centered around elevating self to the highest level of importance in life.  This, in time, transformed Lucifer, a holy angel, into Satan, the enemy of God.  But Lucifer’s downfall was internal — in his mind, where all sin begins.  The great controversy began inside Lucifer.  And how will the great controversy end?  The prophet Isaiah makes it clear that it also ends with Satan:

Isaiah 14:15-16
But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.  Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate:  “Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble...?”

The End of Satan

Revelation 20 tells us that, at the beginning of the millennium, an angel of the Lord chains Satan and throws him in the Abyss (NIV) or “bottomless pit” (NKJV):

Revelation 20:1-3
And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.  He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.  He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.  After that, he must be set free for a short time.

The word Abyss or the phrase “bottomless pit” describe the very conditions that existed on earth before Creation:

Genesis 1:2a
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep....

The earth was both shapeless and lifeless — as it will be for a thousand years following the Second Coming.

Out of the original chaos, God created a perfect world in six days, and gave Adam and Eve dominion over creation:

Genesis 1:3-31
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”  And there was evening, and there was morning — the first day.
And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”  So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it.  And it was so.  God called the vault “sky.”  And there was evening, and there was morning — the second day.
And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.  God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.”  And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation:  seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.”  And it was so.  The land produced vegetation:  plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning — the third day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.”  And it was so.  God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night.  He also made the stars.  God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning — the fourth day.
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.”  So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.”  And there was evening, and there was morning — the fifth day.
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds:  the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.”  And it was so.  God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds.  And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.  They will be yours for food.  And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food.”  And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.  And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day.

But then Satan came along and deceived them and stripped them of their dominion, claiming it for himself and, in turn, offering it back to Jesus, if Jesus would become his vassal:

Luke 4:5-6
The devil led him [Jesus] up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.

Jesus openly acknowledged Satan’s claim and called him prince, or ruler, of the world:

John 14:30a
I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming.

Satan’s purpose in taking control on earth was to demonstrate the superiority of his philosophy.  He argued that he could improve on what God had created and make life more enjoyable.  He attempted to do this by introducing the principle of self-first — the concept he had introduced in heaven and for which he was expelled.  But now the great controversy rages on earth, where self-interest is now acknowledged as the prime motivator in society.  Yet however natural it now seems, it lies in complete contradiction to the principle of God’s agape-love, which:

1 Corinthians 13:5
It [Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Contrast this with:

Isaiah 53:6
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all.
Philippians 2:21
For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

One purpose of the millennium, then, is to give Satan a chance to contemplate what his principles have wrought on earth.  Instead of improving creation, it brought deterioration, bringing it back full cycle to the way things were before Creation — shapeless and devoid of life.  Thus, the true character of sin is expressed graphically to the universe, and all will confess to God that “just and true are your ways”:

Revelation 15:3
...And sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb:  “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.  Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.”

Like the theories of Karl Marx, which proved disastrous in practice, the principles of Satan will be seen for what they are — a failure in actual experience.

This is why God allowed sin to enter the world and play itself out, to the bitter end, under Satan’s dominion.  Satan will realize the extent of his failure during the millennium.  The wise Solomon declares:

Proverbs 14:12
There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

When all is said and done, sin produces chaos and death.

Living for self may sound good in theory, but it leads to greed, strife, wars, and self-destruction.  The millennium will give the originator of sin and his angelic followers an opportunity to realize just how poisonous the principle of self really is.

But a thousand years of contemplation will do nothing to change Satan’s nature or character.  He is a victim of his own invention and, when the wicked are resurrected after the thousand years are finished, Satan and his angels will manifest the same spirit as before.  This will be true, as well, of the wicked, who will be resurrected with the same dispositions they possessed when they died.

They will attack God and the saints, as they come down from heaven in the holy city, proving beyond all doubt that Satan and his followers are unfit to dwell with the righteous in the earth made new.  God destroys out of mercy, in a world where there is no longer room for self.

When Christ came to earth some 2,000 years ago, He set out to deliver mankind from the curse of the law as well as from the principle of self — which the apostle Paul calls the law of sin and death.  This deliverance is part of the good news of the gospel.  In Christ, the entire human race was set free from this law of sin and death:

Romans 8:2
...Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

In receiving Christ by faith, therefore, his followers surrender their sinful, selfish nature to the cross:

Galatians 5:24
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

The cross of Christ is God’s verdict on sinful flesh, dominated by the principle of self.  Jesus made it clear to Nicodemus that the flesh cannot change or be saved:

John 3:6
Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

It is fit only to be consumed.

The millennium is clearly part of God’s Plan of Redemption, to dispose of sin and its effects on creation.  Up to that point, God Himself will have assumed blame for sin’s terrible effects, for He has allowed it to take its natural course.  But the millennium and the resurrection of the wicked will prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, the viciousness of sin, even after a thousand years of quarantine.  Clearly God is not the author of the rebellion; Lucifer and his seductive system have deceived millions, and now that system is being fully exposed for what it is, to the universe.

That which happens in the millennium was prefigured in the ceremonies of the Old Testament’s Day of Atonement, when the blame for sin was finally heaped on the scapegoat, who represents Satan:

Leviticus 16:20-22
“When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat.  He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites — all their sins — and put them on the goat’s head.  He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task.  The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.”

The issue on this solemn Day of Atonement was this:  “Who is really responsible for the sin problem on earth?”  God, because He is sovereign, has assumed the blame all along, admitting:

Isaiah 45:7
I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster [“evil” — KJV]; I, the Lord, do all these things.

But on the antitypical Day of Atonement, the blame for the sin problem finally comes to rest on the head of its true author, Satan.  This solemn day reveals that:

Leviticus 16:22
The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man [an able-bodied goatherd] shall release it in the wilderness.

This service of the two goats, performed once a year on the Day of Atonement, points to the millennium, when Satan will be let loose on a wilderness-like earth, in payment for the sin problem he alone introduced.

But while Satan whiles away the eons on earth, the saints in heaven will be studying how God has been dealing with the problems created by sin.  Every facet will be scrutinized, every act of God examined.  The saints will even judge the unfallen angels — those who have played a vital role in the affairs of men.  Paul himself reminds us:

1 Corinthians 6:3a
Do you not know that we will judge angels?

By the end of those thousand years, righteous and wicked alike will confess that God’s way is right.  In light of the evidence, Satan himself will admit to God’s justice and superiority.  As David wrote:

Psalm 119:7
I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.

What a glorious day when all doubts about God and His dealings will be cleared away!

Then, and only then, will God eradicate sin and usher in everlasting righteousness.  The great controversy that began in heaven closes, and the claims of the gospel give Christ the right to make all things new.  This is how Ellen G. White describes the end of the conflict:

The Great Controversy, p. 678
The great controversy is ended.  Sin and sinners are no more.  The entire universe is clean.  One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation.  From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space.  From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.

The millennium is clearly the culmination of God’s great Plan of Redemption and, in the end, every knee will bow and confess that God’s ways are best.  John the Revelator saw all this in vision and penned these words:

Revelation 5:11-13
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand.  They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.  In a loud voice they were saying:  “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:  “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”


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