Who Will Be Left For Us To Rule in the Millennium?

The Dilemma for Post-tribulation Rapture Only?

A question that eventually comes up after studying end time prophecy long enough is who is going to be left to populate the earth during the Millennium, especially the start of it. The question arises from two discoveries:

  1. The righteous go up to heaven in the rapture and then come back glorified to rule.
  2. The unrighteous go through God’s terrible wrath (which means being subjected to hundred pound hailstones among other things – Rev 16:21) and seem to all die from many verses (1Th 5:3; Ps 2:12; Zeph 3:9; Mal 4:1; 2Th 1:7;2:12)

For pretrib rapture believers, who position the rapture seven years before #2 above, they believe some of those left behind after the rapture become righteous (such as Jews) and survive into the Millennium. They argue that the post-tribulation rapture must be false because, with it coming at the end, there is no time between the rapture and the start of the Millennium for any unbelievers to be converted and saved

The Surprising Solution

Despite many verses that on their own seem to point to utter destruction of all unbelievers in God’s wrath, there is a very clear verse which pretribbers overlook specifically talking about survivors from Armageddon:

Zechariah 14:16-18 (HCSB) —16 Then all the survivors from the nations that came against Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of Hosts, and to celebrate the Festival of Booths. 17  Should any of the families of the earth not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of Hosts, rain will not fall on them.  18 And if the people of Egypt will not go up and enter, then rain will not fall on them; this will be the plague the LORD inflicts on the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Booths.

How can this be?

First, while the Battle of Armageddon will result in complete destruction of the Beast’s armies (God’s enemies) as Zechariah clearly depicts (Zec 14:12), this is only the armies who come against Jerusalem. The rest of the people left behind in the nations where the armies came from will not be destroyed by God at the Battle of Armageddon.

Secondly, even with hundred pound hailstones that fall before Armageddon comes, some of these people left behind will find cover and survive. Zechariah 13:8 suggests that as many as one third will be left after God’s wrath.

What About the Mark of the Beast?

There is still another problem with the unrighteous survivors of the tribulation which many will think of. Everyone who is not raptured and is not martyred will have the Mark of the Beast within five months — except for the 144,000 who have the seal of protection from the locusts (Rev 9:4) that allows them to witness unhindered for the entire Great Tribulation).

At first glance, it seems that those who took the mark and worshiped the Beast’s image will be tormented forever (Rev 14:11). This naturally reminds Christians of hell. However, the passage does not explicitly say the torture itself lasts forever. It only says the smoke of their torment rises forever which is impossible and cannot be meant literally.

What’s the difference? It is an idiomatic expression which is used previously in the OT. It is found in that form and others such as the worm of the dead not dying (Isa 34:10; 66:24). Similarly, Revelation says later about the destruction of Babylon that her smoke rises forever, too. We understand that Babylon is not destroyed, burning or tortured forever. The hyperbole about smoke rising forever seems to convey the seriousness of the judgment.

Where it says that those who worship the Beast have no rest day or night, that’s talking about how bad the cup of the wrath of God (Rev 14:10) will be that they must face. It’s not talking about hell. The lake of fire comes over 1000 years later at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-14).

Thus, the implication of Zechariah 14 that survivors will come up to worship (or receive no rain) is that the mark of the beast that was on all of them was removed when the Kingdom of God begins to reign. Satan is bound at that time (Rev 20:1-3) and it stands to reason the mark and enslavement of people it brought is also terminated.

Why the Marked Don’t Deserve Damnation

This releasing and forgiveness of the marked would only be fair of God when you consider the circumstances. People who take the mark will have been deceived into thinking the Beast is God himself (2Th 2:4). They will also be coerced into taking it by the fact that they cannot buy or sell without it (Rev 13:17). Plus there are the locusts that are unleashed at the start of the Great Tribulation on people (Rev 9:4-10). They torture people with pain like from the sting of a scorpion for five months (Rev 9:10). Probably only those who have resisted taking the mark receive this torture. (For more on the locusts and what they probably are read my Mark of the Beast article.)

As you can now see, there will be survivors who make it through the Great Tribulation, the wrath of God and the mark of the beast. These survivors, although not righteous or believers, will become the subjects of the Kingdom during the Millennium. The point about there being punishment if they disobey God’s instructions fits the fact that these people are not starting out as believers or even welcoming of Jesus. They will no doubt have resistance to the new king of the Earth who has just arrived and changed everything without their consent.

Will There Be Poor In the Millennium?

A reader sent me an interesting question about poverty in the Millennium period:

The Sheep and the Goats discourse (Mt 25:32-46) seems to imply that there will be poor people who are sick and hungry. But how can that be if the Millennium will be a time of complete peace and abundance and health and longevity? Thank you for your time and may God bless you.

The above verse citation is a discourse of Jesus called the Sheep and the Goats or “The Judgment of the Nations.” (I already wrote an article on when the Sheep and Goats separation is that is a good background on the timing of it.)

If I have the timing right of judgment of the nations correct after the Millennium, then this means that what Jesus said here…

Matthew 25:35-36 (HCSB) — 35 For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.’

…relates to those saved during the Millennium (the ones saved before the Millennium will already be changed and ruling during the Millennium).

How do we answer this if the Millennium is going to be a utopia?

First, realize that you don’t have to have a population of poor people to fulfill the conditions described in the discourse. For example, accidents will still happen in the Millennium and create hardships like those described. If your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, you might just need a stranger to take you in and give you food and water. People can also end up isolated and cut off from basic resources due to inclement weather or major storms such as hurricanes or tornadoes.

Second, no matter how perfectly well set up the world will be and well-taught its people, there is still the matter of free will. God gives us complete free will and choice and will not take that away, even for our own good. As a result, we know some will choose to even resist God still in that time which will result in consequences. Zechariah mentions no rain falling no peoples in rebellion to the new rules (Zech 14:17-19). We also read in the Sheep and the Goats that some will end up written out of the Book of Life for this if they continue in their rebellion. But the much more common result of free will will just be bad or foolish choices due to lack of wisdom or simple need to learn from some personal trial and error.

For example, there still will be alcoholic beverages in the Millennium and with that people so predisposed to addiction to it needing to find out that drunkenness has a high potential cost. This by the way is the one scenario that I imagine behind Jesus mentioning being “naked” and needing help from a good Samaritan with clothing =).

I think all the above reasons were what Jesus had in mind when he said “the poor will always be with you” (Mt 26:11)—including in the Millennium.

Perhaps more potentially disturbing than Jesus’ description of people in destitute or needy conditions is the mention of being in “prison.” I think the same explanations give above for the destitution would apply to that. There would need to be prisons for drunkenness and other crimes. For example, anyone even accidentally killing someone would have to be held in prison until the authorities could investigate what happened and decide whether to grant bond, etc.

The Millennium will indeed be a utopia compared to today due to the righteous government and comprehensive education in proper living. But the free will and randomness to life that contributes to less than ideal situations today will still be present. But this is necessary for people to learn and grow fully in the flesh according to God’s glorious plan to develop sons that can judge and love as he does.

A Tale of Two Kingdoms: Kingdom of God / Heaven

I received this emailed question:

Tim,

I would like to know what is the difference between Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven,

thanks, Brenda

Most of us reading the Gospels have wondered this same thing. Why are there two kingdoms talked about? Or are they two names for the same kingdom? And if so, why?

Cultural Context is Key

I never looked for the answer for this question directly but found it just the same. Living in Austin, Texas, I was introduced to the work of the Bible scholar Dr. Roy Blizzard, Jr. who lives there through a friend of his. Blizzard is the co-author of the classic The Difficult Words of Jesus (with David Biven) and is considered by some as the “father of Hebrew Roots” because of it. I was so impressed with his teachings (back before the Internet became my go-to source for Bible research) that I bought nearly all his teaching tapes.

On one of the tapes he addressed this very issue. Per his normal approach (and as you will find me do in my articles) he delved into the cultural context of the First Century Jewish audience who heard those words of Jesus. In that culture, they were under the influence of the ineffable name doctrine. This Jewish tradition maintained that God’s name was too holy to speak and should be avoided through the use of replacements and euphemisms.

If you ever wondered why some people write “G-d” instead of God, this is why. The doctrine is responsible for the use of Adonai or LORD instead of Yahweh/Yehovah in our Bibles as well.

Heaven = God: Examples

One of the euphemisms used to replace the word Elohim or God was (you guessed it) “heaven”. You can see this used in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke):

Luke 15:18 (HCSB) — I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.

The prodigal son had not sinned against a place called heaven that he had never even gone to. He had sinned against God (as well as his human father).

Mark 11:30 (HCSB) — Was John’s baptism from heaven or from men? Answer Me.

The options for the source of John’s authority in this verse are not truly parallel as written. It ought to either be “from heaven or from earth” or “from God or from man”. So if you read “heaven” as “God”  (just as that culture did) it makes sense.

Matthew 23:22 (HCSB) And the one who takes an oath by heaven takes an oath by God’s throne and by Him who sits on it.

This example is the clearest of all. In it Jesus directly exposes their habit of swearing by “heaven” (instead of by God’s name alone as the Torah commands – Dt 6:13) and shows how ridiculous it was to use a common euphemism like that to avoid being truly bound by the oath. Heaven still connected to God directly who was there sitting on the throne and made you bound!

As you can see, in Jewish culture,  the word heaven was used in place of God for various reasons. However, if you are still not convinced, here’s the coup de grace. You can frequently find parallel passages in the synoptic gospels that will use the two terms in tandem:

Matthew 5:3 (HCSB)  The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Luke 6:20 (HCSB) You who are poor are blessed, because the kingdom of God is yours.

 

Matthew 11:12 (HCSB) From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been suffering violence, and the violent have been seizing it by force.

Luke 16:16 (HCSB) The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is strongly urged to enter it.

Clearly, the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are exactly the same thing.

Once you properly tie in the cultural context of the Gospels or any part of the Bible like this, you can really begin to get to the bottom of many “difficult sayings.”