(The Story Tim And Jerry Should Have Written)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
I recently read what I assume is the last book in the Left Behind series. Theologically I’ve been right with the authors through the whole series … until now.
It always surprises me how many commentators still hold to the traditional treatment of the last three chapters of The Revelation. By doing so, they miss that there’s a 1,000-year gap between Rev. 20:6 and Rev. 20:7. The reason for this gap is that beginning with Rev. 20:7 and continuing through the end of the chapter, John carried his thoughts about the disposition of Satan and the final judgment of unbelievers to their ultimate conclusions, both of which take place at the end of the Millennium. Then he went back to the beginning to finish his description of the Kingdom Age. Rev. 21 deals with the New Jerusalem, home of the redeemed, and Rev. 22 begins with a brief look at things on Earth following the restoration of Israel. There’s nothing in the book about Eternity because the Bible is written for the Age of Man, which began with Adam and ends with the Millennium.
We know this is so, partly because John’s description in Rev. 22:1-5 is almost identical to Ezekiel’s more detailed view of the same scene, (Ezekiel 47:1-12) which then continues with the dimensions and workings of the Millennial Temple and the division of the land at the outset of the Kingdom Age. Simply stated then, Rev. 21 & 22 need to be inserted into the gap between Rev. 20:6 and Rev. 20:7 in order for the end of the book to make sense.
What’s The Alternative?
If we don’t view Rev. 20-22 in the way I’ve described, we’re required to push the arrival of the New Jerusalem back 1,000 years to a time after the Millennium ends, and disconnect John’s view of the restored Israel from Ezekiel’s nearly identical one. And that causes a lot of problems, one of which is having to place the Church in their perfected state, among believing Jewish and Gentile Tribulation survivors who are not.
This means that for the first 1,000 years of our eternal state of bliss, we’d be required to live shoulder-to-shoulder with a growing population of unrepentant sinners, and watch helplessly as what began as a near-Utopian society once again sinks steadily into the cesspool of its own sin, just like every one that has preceded it. After waiting so long to enter the Kingdom, we’d find that soon it would be little more than a repeat of our earthly lives, only a lot longer. And that’s the best reason that Rev. 20-22 can’t unfold the way scholars have traditionally seen it.
On the other hand, viewed the way I’ve suggested, the Church will return with the Lord to occupy the New Jerusalem at the beginning of the Millennium after enjoying our 7-year heavenly honeymoon. On the way, we’ll watch excitedly as our Bridegroom defeats His enemies with nothing more than the word of His mouth. We’ll see Satan brought cringing before Him, chained and led by a single angel, to receive and begin his 1,000-year prison sentence. We’ll see the anti-Christ and the False Prophet cast into the lake of fire. We’ll observe the Sheep and Goat judgment where Tribulation survivors are separated, believer from unbeliever, to either be ushered into the Kingdom where they’ll rebuild Earth’s society and re-populate the nations, or swept away into the outer darkness, gone forever. (Rev. 19:11-20:6 & Matt. 25:31-45)
We’ll see the Temple cleansed and the Shekinah Glory return after 2600 years to once again take up residence among God’s people. We’ll watch the triumphant procession of Tribulation Martyrs as they begin their duties as His servants in the Temple. We’ll stand in awe as the Earth is restored to its pre-Adamic state with its year-round sub-tropical climate where no storms ever blow and no harmful rays ever shorten life again. We’ll see the water of the River of Life bubbling from beneath the south side of the Temple in Shiloh to flow southward into the giant east-west valley created by the earthquake that the Lord’s return triggered. This earthquake will have split the Mount of Olives in half and forever changed the topography of Jerusalem. As it fills the valley with torrents of bubbling living water it becomes a mighty river that buries forever the remnants of the polluted Jerusalem Temple Mount with its pagan houses of worship lying in ruins at its bottom. It will flow both directions along the valley, half to the Mediterranean in the West and half to the Dead Sea in the East, bringing it to life again. Fish from the Mediterranean will swim and jump in the Dead Sea in such abundance that fishermen will line both banks, their catch never exhausting the supply.
Along both banks of the river, we’ll see the fruit trees that will grow in abundance there. Before our eyes, they’ll sprout from seed to maturity with fresh fruit weighing down their branches. They’ll grow a new and different crop each month for the refreshment of God’s people, and the touch of their leaves will prompt immediate healing. (Ezek. 43:1-9 & 47:1-12, Zech. 14:4-8, Rev. 7:14-17 & 22:1-5)
Welcome To Your New Home
And then we’ll take up residence in our New Jerusalem homes where there’ll be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain. We’ll walk along streets of gold so pure as to be almost transparent in an atmosphere of total peace and tranquility. Our eternal home will be a spacious paradise, one-sixth the size of Earth, and will orbit in its proximity. There’ll never be anything to fear so its gates will always be open. We won’t need a temple because the Lord Himself will dwell among us and be our Temple. We’ll no longer need the sun or moon because He’ll be the source of our light, and from us this light will shine forth to illuminate the Earth. Finally, the Church will truly be the light of the world, just as He promised us. (Rev. 21)
From our mansions in the sky, we’ll venture forth with newly acquired abilities that are beyond imagining. All we know now about the extent of these abilities is that they surpass the limits of our current understanding and that they’ll approximate those of our Lord from whom they come. If so, we’ll not be confined by either time or space and will be able to plumb the depths of a universe designed specifically for our exploration and endless enjoyment. We’ll have boundless energy, limitless power, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Having been released from the bonds of our sin nature, we’ll finally achieve our destiny as beings created in the very image of God with all that entails. We’ll be more creative than Da Vinci, more brilliant than Einstein, with skills surpassing all of history’s greatest athletes, engineers, artists, and musicians combined. We’ll begin at our peak and never lose our edge. There’ll be no end to our potential and no one to hold us back. We’ll love without reservation, worship without hesitation and live without limits forever. (1 Cor. 2:9 & 1 John 3:2)
Meanwhile, Back On Earth
On Earth things will start out almost as good. The curse will be gone so the earth will become a lush garden giving forth its bounty joyfully. The mountains and hills will fairly sing with relief at being freed from the curse. There’ll be peace among the animals and between animals and man. The notion of a food chain will be forgotten. No longer will one have to die for another to live.
The people of Earth will return to the agrarian society that brought such peace and satisfaction in times past, only this time there won’t be any weeds and thistles to contend with. Everyone will have fertile land to call their own without anyone conniving to take it from them, and a home free from mortgage. Children will play in the streets without fear, and will find no environment in which they aren’t safe. There’ll be no war, no need for armies or even police departments. The relationship between effort and reward will be clear and proportional, and no one will labor solely for the benefit of others. It will be as near to a utopian society as is humanly possible.
Everyone will be healthy, happy, and hearty and will live a long, productive and fulfilling life, free to follow his or her own unique dream under the benevolent care of the Almighty. (Isaiah 2:2-5, 35, 55:12-13 & 65:17-25, Micah 4:1-4)
Natural man will still be contaminated by the sin nature and although at the beginning everyone will be an enthusiastic believer, by the end of the first century the children they bear will reach a time when they’ll have to decide whether or not to accept the Lord’s death as payment for their sins just as you and I have. They’ll have this Utopian society as an example of the benefits of belief, the experiences of their Tribulation surviving parents to learn from, and regular Temple observances to remind them of the deadly effects of sin and the life giving remedy that the Lord’s shed blood has made possible.
At the beginning most will choose life, but even in these enviable circumstances a few will reject the Lord and die the death of the accursed. In each generation there’ll be a few more who reject the Lord, and little by little the number of unbelievers will grow. As this happens the society of Earth will begin to show the effects of this increasing contingent of rebellious ones among them. As it does, the Earth of the future will look more and more like the one of the present.
As the 1,000th year comes to a close, Satan will be freed and once again a great multitude of unbelievers will join him in his final effort to defeat the Lord. But this time there’ll be no more chances, and the Lord will show no patience. Those who’ve sided with Satan will be immediately swallowed up by the fire the Lord sends and Satan will be thrown into the Lake of Fire to be tormented day and night forever. (Isaiah 65:20, Ezek. 45:19-46:24 & Rev. 20:7-10)
The contrast couldn’t be more vivid. On one hand, the perfected Church shining forth in the New Jerusalem, and on the other the unbelievers of Earth, reduced to a smoldering pile of ashes. What a difference the Lord makes.
Why Even Have A Millennium?
If you hold to a dispensational view, you know that the Millennium will be the seventh time that God has tried to bring sinful man into a working relationship with Him, and each one has ended in failure, just like He knew it would. So why will He allow it again? Why not just go straight into Eternity after the 2nd Coming? No one knows for sure, but I think it will be done to eliminate the three main excuses that man has thrown at God in a pathetic effort to justify his failures.
The first one is as old as the human race. It’s all Satan’s fault that we can’t behave. This one started with Eve in the Garden.
Through out the Millennium, God has Satan bound, removing his bad influence from Earth.
Man’s second excuse has been the unhealthy example of unbelievers. This one originated among the Israelites after they gained the Promised Land. Having failed to drive out all the pagans, they soon succumbed to their influence and adopted their ways, just like the Lord warned them would happen, and within one generation their miraculous escape from the bondage of Egypt had been all but forgotten. (Judges 2:1-3, 10-15)
When the Millennium begins, God has all living unbelievers removed from the planet. No more bad influence from them either.
And the third one actually began with the Church. “Lord, you went away and left us to fend for ourselves. How could you expect us to live up to your standards on our own?”
In the Millennium The Lord will dwell among them, and rule over them.
So then, here’s Man’s challenge for the Millennium. Can natural man live a life pleasing to God with the devil bound, all the bad influence of an unbelieving world wiped away, and the Lord Himself living in their midst?
And the answer is? A resounding NO. As soon as Satan is freed, there’s a multitude waiting to follow him. And so in seven different attempts, God has made it completely clear. There’s no circumstance in which natural man can live a life pleasing to Him. Only when you put a Redeemer into the mix is it possible. And that Redeemer has to be God Himself. (Mark 10:26-27) Aren’t you glad He agreed to do it?
I’ve tried not to embellish the Bible’s references to the Millennium in describing it to you. With a little study, you’ll find that the verses I’ve cited confirm everything I’ve written. Imagine if you can the amazing account that two talented fiction writers could have built upon this foundation. This is the story Tim and Jerry should have written. Had they done so we all would have learned that where the Lord is concerned, fact is often more exciting than fiction and their incredible series could have ended on the high note it deserves.