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) â€” 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.â€™
…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)â€”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.