Written By Matthew McGee
After the rapture of the church, after the seven year tribulation, and after the second coming, Jesus Christ will reign in His kingdom. What will the kingdom be like? Here we will examine some of the basic characteristics of the kingdom.
The Duration of the Kingdom
One of the most concise and informative passages on the kingdom occurs in Revelation. After the description of the Lord’s second coming in chapter 19, but before the great white throne judgment in Revelation 20:11-15 and the eternal kingdom in chapters 21 and 22, we have this description of the kingdom.
Revelation 20:1-10 says, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which 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. 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 which had not worshipped 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. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
This passage makes several things very clear. Satan will be bound and unable to influence mankind. The first resurrection, the resurrection of the Old Testament saints (Daniel 12:2-3 and 12:13) and tribulation saints, will occur at the beginning of the kingdom. This resurrection is not to be confused with the resurrection of the Christians at the rapture, which will occur seven years earlier, prior to the tribulation. The rapture was a mystery first revealed to Apostle Paul and is not the subject of either Old Testament prophecy or prophecies given in Christ’s earthly ministry.
The duration of this kingdom will be one millennium. This passage makes this very clear by telling us not just once but six times that it will last one thousand years. Satan will be released for a brief period after the one thousand years. This passage may bring questions to the minds of many readers, but hopefully, the remainder of this paper will adequately address most of them. For a description of the eternal kingdom which will follow this one thousand year kingdom, one may read Revelation chapters 21 and 22.
Animals Become Peaceful
Now regarding the character of the kingdom, the book of Isaiah is rich with kingdom prophecies. In Isaiah 11:6-9 it is revealed that “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. 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.”
First of all, we see that animals that are presently carnivorous, will begin to eat vegetation only, so that the animals will not fear one another or harm people. Many have taken this passage and tried to spiritualize (allegorically interpret) the truth away from it, saying it is not literal. However, not only will all animals literally be herbivores in the future, but all animals once were herbivores, since neither man nor beast ate animal flesh prior to the great flood.
Genesis 1:29-30 “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.”
The Hebrew word “oklah” translated “meat” by the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) simply means food or that which is devoured. Notice that the beasts are neither given for Adam’s food, nor for one another’s food. Both Adam and the beasts are given the herbs and fruits to eat. So man and beast were all vegetarian. However, God changed things after the great flood
In Genesis 9:2-3 God says to Noah, “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.”
So the animals began to fear man, because man was given permission to eat the animals. This is also when many animals became carnivorous. Further scriptural evidence of animals becoming peaceful in the kingdom will be provided in the next section.
The world we live in today is filled with people who deny the deity of Jesus Christ, including many who even deny the existence of God. But that will not be the case in the kingdom. Isaiah 11:9, quoted above, states that, “… the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”
Life Spans Increased
Here is another passage which is loaded with information. Isaiah 65:20-25 says, “There shall be no more thence 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. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. 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.”
There are many key statements in this passage. We see a great increase in life spans. Like the previously mentioned Isaiah 11 passage which says that “… the leopard shall lie down with the kid …”, many have taken what this passage says about the long life spans and tried to spiritualize (allegorically interpret) the truth away from it, saying it is not literal. However, not only will life spans literally be longer, but this too was this way before the great flood.
In the genealogy from Adam to Noah given in Genesis 5 and 9:29, there are extremely long life spans. When we exclude Enoch who was taken by God (Genesis 5:24) at the age of 365 years and Lamech who died at the age of 777 years, we find that all of the other eight lived between 895 and 969 years. After the great flood, there was a rapid drop in life span to a little over 400 years. Around the time of the tower of Babel, life spans dropped to a little over 200 years. Then they began to slowly decrease to more modern life spans over a period of hundreds of years.
Of course many will say that the idea of humans having lived for more than 900 years is ridiculous. However, the following factors produced great changes in man’s environment and/or lifestyle. Without speculating on the positive or negative effects these factors may have had on life span, some of them are: (1) Prior to the flood it did not rain on the earth, rather the earth was watered by mist that came up from the ground (Genesis 2:5-6). (2) As previously mentioned, it was after the great flood that man began to eat meat for the first time (Genesis 9:3). (3) The removal of the vast layer of waters above the firmament (Genesis 1:7 and 7:11) may have effected the sun’s rays, the earth’s magnetic field, or the air pressure. (4) After the flood, the human race was replenished through only eight people (Genesis 6:18) which required the marriage of some near relatives. These factors and others not contemplated here may have had a tremendous effect on human life. We are not capable of determining what all of the effects might be, except to say that the ramifications would be great. So we should take God at his Word (something we should do anyway) when He tells us about the life spans of those who lived before the flood and those who will live in the coming kingdom.
In the Isaiah 65:20-25 passage we also see normal, everyday life taking place. Often people may incorrectly equate the kingdom with some popular idea of heaven. However, this prophecy does not describe people sitting on clouds strumming harps. Instead we see normal activities like building houses, living in them, planting vineyards, eating fruit, bearing children, and sometimes even death.
This passage also provides further evidence of carnivorous animals becoming herbivores, which we have already discussed.
One common misunderstanding is to think that only those who are resurrected or changed into immortal bodies will enter the kingdom. This would leave no one in the kingdom who could possibly sin or die. But Matthew 25:31-46 describes Jesus Christ dividing the sheep from the goats at the end of the great tribulation. This is the judgment of the Gentile nations (v. 32). All of the people gathered on the Lord’s right hand are survivors of the great tribulation and will pass into the kingdom in their mortal bodies. They will bear children who are mortal as well. The same is true for the many Israelites who will survive the great tribulation, and will bear children in the kingdom. Ezekiel 37:25-26 says, “And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.” All of these people and their descendants will be capable of both sin and death in the millennial kingdom, even though Satan will be in chains and unable to influence them.
An End to Wars
There will be no war during this one thousand years, until Satan is released (Revelation 20:7-9) for a short period at the end. In reference to Jesus Christ, Micah 4:3 says, “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.” Isaiah 2:4 is very similar passage. Not only will there no longer be any war, but the weapons will be dismantled and battle strategies will no longer be taught.
Israel will be at peace and dwell safely in the kingdom. “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jeremiah 23:5-6). This is certainly in contrast to the present with Israel surrounded by her enemies on all sides.
Jesus Christ’s Judgment and the Restored Judges
The Micah and Jeremiah verses above also refer to Jesus Christ judging the nations of the earth. He will do so in all wisdom and perfect justice, with a rod of iron. “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Revelation 19:15). He will reign as a literal king on a throne, dwelling in Jerusalem. He will also restore the judges to Israel. “And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city” (Isaiah 1:26). Who will the judges of the twelve tribes of Israel be? Jesus Christ told His disciples, “… Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28).
Israel will be a Kingdom of Priests
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:20-23).
“Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:5-6).
The Feast of Tabernacles
One very interesting prophecy occurring in Zechariah 14:16-19 concerns the Gentile nations keeping the feast of tabernacles in the millennial kingdom. “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 whoso 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, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen 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.”
Here we see that in the kingdom the Gentiles must keep the feast of tabernacles which was formerly a feast just for Israel. To do so, they must travel to Jerusalem once each year in the autumn to “worship the King”, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ will reign on His throne in Jerusalem like Ezekiel 43:7 says, “And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile …”.
Some may be unfamiliar with this feast, so we will review the feast of tabernacles in Leviticus 23:33-44, which is also known as the feast of booths. “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein. These are the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, every thing upon his day: Beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the LORD. Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” It should be noted that Israel’s calendar begins in the spring, so the seventh month is not July, but occurs later, in the autumn.
In addition to the annual feast, Deuteronomy 31:10-13 explains that the law was to be read to all of Israel once every seven years, at the feast of tabernacles. “And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.”
It may be that the feast of tabernacles takes on a slightly different meaning in the kingdom since Israel will no longer celebrate their rescue from Egypt, but rather, from all the nations to which they have been scattered. Jeremiah 16:14-15 says, “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.”
The Temple and the Law
The temple of the millennial kingdom is described in detail in Ezekiel chapters 40-44. Although we will not go into the details here, we will mention a few key points. The glory of the Lord will fill the temple (Ezekiel 43:5). The law given by God through Moses will still be kept including the sacrifices (Ezekiel 43:19-27). The Levites will still minister in the temple (Ezekiel 44:9-11). The laws and statutes delivered by Moses will be obeyed (Ezekiel 44:24). Ezekiel 44:25 and 31 show further evidence that some death of people and animals can and will occur in the kingdom. The sabbaths and feasts of the Israel will still be kept including the passover, the feast of unleavened bread (Ezekiel 45:21), and the feast of tabernacles (Ezekiel 45:25). It will be well known by all that Jesus Christ gave his life as the perfect sacrifice for all mankind. None-the-less, the prophecy reveals that the sacrifices will still be kept and the law of Moses strictly followed.
Geographical Changes in Israel
There will also be tremendous geographical changes in Israel. When Jesus Christ returns to the mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem, an earthquake will split the mountain in two. “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee” (Zechariah 14:4-5).
In addition, the fountain of living water described in Zechariah and Ezekiel will have a geographical impact. “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1). Then Zechariah 14:8 shows us where the waters will flow, “And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former (eastern) sea, and half of them toward the hinder (western) sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.” The living waters will flow out of Jerusalem in two directions, to the west to the great sea (western or Mediterranean Sea) and to the east to the Dead Sea (eastern or Salt Sea). Also see Ezekiel 47:1-7.
What effect will this have on the Dead Sea? The Dead Sea is about 10 miles wide and 50 miles long running north and south on along the eastern side of Judea. Its northern end is about as far north as Jerusalem. It has no outlet and is seven times more salty than the oceans. No fish live in the Dead Sea, and ocean fish placed in its waters soon die. Only certain types of microbes live in it. Yet In Ezekiel 47:8-11 we are told the waters of the Dead Sea will be healed. “Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi even unto Eneglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many. But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof (swamps and marshes) shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt.” Engedi, mentioned above, is on the western coast of the Dead Sea about 25 miles southeast of Jerusalem. A peninsula juts out into the sea from the east. South of this peninsula the Dead Sea is shallow, less than 20 feet deep in most places. But the majority of the sea is north of the peninsula, where the central and northern part of the sea is more than one thousand feet deep. Perhaps verse 11 refers to the shallow southern end, furthest from Jerusalem, that will remain too salty for aquatic life.
This passage is not in conflict with the passage that refers to there being no sea. That verse (Revelation 21:1) refers to the new heaven and new earth and occurs after the one thousand year kingdom that is being described here.
As the many following Isaiah verses show, the land of Israel will become much more fertile. The deserts will become fertile fields and the fields will become as forests.
“Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest” (Isaiah 32:15).
“Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?” (Isaiah 29:17).
“For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like 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).
“… the dessert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1).
The nation of Israel will also be given far more land than they presently possess. A general description is found Genesis. “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates …” (Genesis 15:18). God confirmed this promise to Abraham’s son, Isaac, in Genesis 26:3 and later to Isaac’s son, Jacob, in Genesis 35:12. A detailed description of how this land will be divided by the tribes of Israel is found in Ezekiel chapter 48.
These are just some of the changes to Israel’s geography and ownership that God’s Word says will take place when the kingdom comes. Further study is encouraged of passages such as Zechariah 14:10 which reveal other geographical changes.
Warning Against Allegorical Interpretation
These are only a few of the many prophecies about the kingdom in which Jesus Christ will reign on the earth from Jerusalem. The prophecies that God has provided are quite vast and detailed. There are those who would claim that the kingdom prophecies are only to be interpreted allegorically. That is, they attempt to say that all of these events are figurative and try to sweep their literal fulfillment under the rug. Typically, these are those which teach the false doctrine that the church has forever taken Israel’s place. Therefore, they despise the prophecies about the future prominence of the nation of Israel. While claiming to be more spiritual, they label as carnal, those who believe the literal meaning of the kingdom prophecies. But what could be more spiritual than faith, taking God at His Word? What could be more carnal than assuming that God did not mean what He said, and then trying to nullify His Word with the doctrine of men? As shown above, they truly have a mountain of truth to try to conceal. The evidence presented here is but a small sample of the teaching God’s Word has to offer on the kingdom.