Section1. The aim in this first section is to show that the Lord and/or Paul referred to another age, other than this one and eternity. As “every Scripture is for teaching … and instruction in righteousness”, we will use other references also. More could be cited, but for the sake of brevity we will limit the extent.
The method adopted is to show what marks the eternal state; then look at what is said about another future age which cannot be this one, and cannot be eternity.
Put another way, it can be demonstrated that ‘the age to come’ is not eternity. That is described as ‘for ever and ever”, or more accurately as ‘the ages of ages’.
All would agree that Rev. 21:1-7 refers to the eternal condition as it will then be. It will be a new and better ‘Eden’ – that word means paradise. I say 'better', because God will be known in a greater way than in the condition of innocence. In innocence, Adam knew only the goodness of God - His provision and bounty.
I would add another important reference to eternity in 2 Peter 3:13: “But according to His promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness”. Note the concept of righteousness “dwelling”, as permeating everywhere. This is distinct from righteousness “reigning” – a concept that implies the suppression of evil. Another element of the kingdom – a king.
Note some of the key points: all things new; no sea;God dwelling with men – they will be His people and He, their God; no tears; no death; no grief, cry, distress; all things new . I will omit discussion on the holy city, except to say that it is not said to come down on to earth. As it was in Eden before the fall, there will be no procreation - in the absence of death, the population would become infinite.
In Eden, prior to the fall, there was no need for a mediator, nor a system of sacrifices for a sinner to approach God. It was, and will again be, God and men.
All things new – note that it is not just a cleansed earth, but a new one.
No sea – that which now divides nations, and is a great cleanser and source of evaporation for rain, is said to be absent. Perhaps it will be as it was prior to the flood – a mist went up and watered the ground.
God dwelling with men – perhaps in the way that He communed with Adam in Eden. Note the absence of ‘nations’. These were unknown until the destruction of Babel. And God has undone all the works of the devil.
Note carefully that God is emphasised. There is no mention of ‘rule’ or ‘reigning’ over – i.e. no kingdom; rather the dwelling or tabernacle of God is with men.
No tears – not even tears of repentance are needed then .
No death – it shall not exist any more. This involves the absence of sin, the absence of all sickness, disease and pain. These are all associated with a world where sin is present.
No grief, cry or distress completes the picture, and points to the fact that there will be no need for any form of healing – hence no call for medicine or miracles.
The above comments may seem simplistic and obvious, but they will become important when we study the scope of Scripture and prophetic statements.
Let us take a statement from the Lord, as given in Matthew 12:32b – “but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age nor in the coming one”. In the eternal state, people enjoying blessing will be in a condition to which sin does not attach. And the wicked are already in the lake of fire. There must therefore be an intermediate period of responsibility.
The Spirit of God has a reason for not naming the writer to the Hebrew Christians, but it is obvious to most that Paul was the writer. In Heb. 6:5 he writes of those who “have tasted the good word of God and the works of power of the age to come”. That is, they had witnessed or benefitted from the miracles of Christ when He was present among them. This verse confirms that Christ’s works were a testimony to the power of the kingdom of God. Paul tells us that these works belong to the age to come. Is that age eternity? No, there will be no healing then.
Signs, Paul tells us, were for unbelief. The Lord confirmed the word by the signs following upon it, Mark 16:20. There will be no need for this because all enjoying the presence of God in eternity will be ‘believers’, persons of faith.
Therefore the age referred to is that between this one and the eternal one, namely, the kingdom of God. More on the kingdom later.
There is man’s day; there is Christ’s day; there is the period when God is all in all.
Paul speaks of this as “man’s day”, 1 Cor. 4:3, when man’s glory is prominent. The earth is now the scene of universal rebellion against God. 1 John 5:19, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the wicked one”; Luke 4:5-6, “And the devil … showed Him all the kingdoms of the habitable world … I will give thee all this power, and their glory; for it is given up to me, and to whomsoever I will I give it”. How can persons say that Christ is ruling now?
Christ’s day is not to be confused with “the day of the Lord” - a day of judgment - Isaiah… Joel 2:1-11, 31, 3:14-16; Zeph. 1:14-18; Matt. 24:29; Acts 2:20; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2-3; 2 Peter 3:10; Rev. 6:12-18.
Your father Abraham exulted in that he should see my day, and he saw and rejoiced”, John 8:56. Christ’s day is still a future thing. It is mentioned twice by Paul as a future time in Phil. 1:10, and 2:16.
Our period is not Christ’s day; the last the world saw of Him was upon a Roman cross! Try starting a discussion about Jesus with the person next to you on a bus, and see if He is ascendant in people’s thoughts. Those who seek to give God His rights in their life, who come into the good of the kingdom now, must suffer now. It must be a future period. In the eternal condition it is “God … all in all”.
Many other Scriptures tell us the same story in expressions such as “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”, 1 Cor. 1:8, 3:13, 5:5, etc. It should also be noted that on the basis of righteousness, the Father will ensure that Christ is glorified in the scene where He has been rejected; He will reign where Israel denied His kingship.
“The day of God” is described in 2 Peter 3:12. It differs from the day of the Lord, but it is also a day of judgment. This verse introduces the eternal condition, with everything being totally renewed. It links with Rev. 20:1. As stated above, it is then God and men. Of course Christ will have a pre-eminent place, but Paul shows that Christ will have given up the kingdom to Him who is God and Father.
This means again that the day of the Lord Jesus is future, but not eternity.
That is brought out in 1 Cor. 15:20-28 - His coming, ... then the end, when he gives up the kingdom to him who is God and Father; when he shall have annulled all rule and authority and power. For he must reign until he put all enemies under his feet… that God may be all in all. The kingdom therefore has an end and that then is the precursor to the eternal “period”.
The kingdom. In Romans 14:17, “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit”. But Jesus said in Luke 13:29, “And they shall come from east and west, and from north and south, and shall lie down at table in the kingdom of God”. In one case it is not eating and drinking and in the other it is marked by it. How is that? The difference is in the periods to which these apply.
In Romans it is now - the time of Christ’s rejection. In Luke it is the coming kingdom, which we will show is not eternity. In Matthew 26:29, “I will not at all drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father”. [Emphasis mine.]
In Mark 4:11, “To you is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God”. It is not observed now with human sight, John 3:3 (Nicodemus). Now it is in mystery - then it will be in display. The Jews expected the establishment of the kingdom by Christ then. “Lord, is it at this time that thou restorest the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6.
Of the future, in Matthew 6:10 when teaching the Jewish disciples to pray, the Lord says: “Let Thy kingdom come.” According to Hogg and Vine, in their ‘Exposition on Thessalonians’ – “the verb ‘come’ is in the point tense, precluding the notion of gradual progress and development, and implying a sudden catastrophe as declared in 2 Thess. 2:8”.
The kingdom now involves us in opposition and suffering; then, rule and suppression of evil, and healing. Matt. 12:28, “If I by the finger of God cast out demons, then indeed the kingdom of God is come upon you”. Their refusal of Christ led to the change of tone and direction of His ministry, as begun in Matt. 13, and there the mysteries of the kingdom (as experienced now) were made known.
“There remains then a rest to the people of God”, Hebrews 4:9. From the context, “people of God” means Israel. Joshua failed to bring them into God’s rest in Canaan because of their unbelief. This is not rest from the burden of sins, but the rest involved in enjoying the inheritance. Christ will do this where Joshua failed.
The prophets. In Ezekiel the division of the land among the tribes of Israel is shown to be bounded by the great sea (Mediterranean) on the western sides of their allotments. The trees beside the river shall be for food and medicine (Ezek. 47:12.)
Their prince will have sons – Ezek. 46:16, therefore he is not the Lord. The priesthood is active, with the Jewish offerings. Therefore it is not the eternal state that is the subject of the prophecy. Neither sacrifices nor the priestly system and its offerings in approach to God, nor procreation, nor sea are seen in the eternal state. It did not eventuate B.C. It will not in our era; therefore it belongs to a future age prior to eternity.
Why is it not in our period? We know that in this day of grace, that Israel has no pre-eminence with God now. It is still the “times of the Gentiles” – Arabs dominate the Temple Mount and other sensitive parts of Jerusalem. They are to be grafted in again, Romans 9:23, “And they too, if they abide not in unbelief, shall be grafted in again; for God is able to graft them in”. This is not in eternity.
The prophecies of Zechariah and Joel include the western sea (Mediterranean), and the prophecies are not yet fulfilled. Further, Zech. 8:18:23, “And many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek Jehovah of hosts in Jerusalem, and to supplicate Jehovah. Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: In those days shall ten men 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.” This and many other verses show that the Jew will be held in honour, whereas now, anti-Semitism is still rife. These prophecies relate to a period between now and eternity. I could quote many of the prophets.
God hides periods
In Acts 13:17-21, Paul steps through Israel’s history and from the exodus until king Saul, he counts 490 years; add 40 years for Saul and David’s reign respectively, plus 3 years into Solomon’s reign and we get 573 years to the start of the temple. But in 1 Kings 6:1 this period is stated as being 480 years, leaving 93 years unaccounted for. Suddenly the critics have ammunition and the faithful are puzzled and something is declared to be wrong and all agree to reject it! Consider the following.
In the Book of Judges, there were five periods when God gave Israel up to be ruled by others – they were “sold into the hands of their enemies” as discipline for their idolatry. They were slaves to the king of Mesopotamia for 8 years, to Moab for 18 years, to the king of Canaan for 20 years, to the Midianites for 20 years and the Philistines for 40 years - a total of 93 years! These were periods in which Israel’s national existence as Jehovah’s people were in abeyance. The servitude of Judges 10:7,9 affected only the two tribes and a half beyond the Jordan and did not affect Israel’s national position. Our God is amazing. He has His own calendars. So it will be with the church period. The earthly people Israel will have their prophetic clock re-started after the church has gone and He begins afresh with a faithful remnant.
Another set of omissions occurs in Matthew 1, where the generations from David to the carrying away to Babylon are said to be fourteen. A study of the Chronicles shows that four generations are omitted, beginning with the wicked woman Athaliah who killed the royal children. God has His own way of counting. It is what I call ‘morally accurate’ rather than ‘mechanically correct’.
Here we have the Lord giving three disciples an exhibition or display of the coming kingdom. In Matthew 16:28, six days prior to that event, He told them that some of them would see “the Son of man coming in his kingdom”. In Mark 9:1 they were to see “the kingdom of God come [literally ‘having come’, not ‘coming’] in power”. Note the words “in power”.
Such a physical and glorious presentation of the kingdom awaits a repentant remnant of Israel at that time. Paul gives us to expect nothing more than “perilous times” and then the Lord Himself coming for us. The kingdom of God now is in suffering rather than in power. This previews the coming kingdom.
Section 2. The aim in this second section is to answer a second request – “show passages from the new Testament that support the interpretation that Revelation 20 contains an additional age (Millennium) distinct from this age and eternity”.
I say that ‘the age to come’ is the millennium and that ‘the ages of ages’ is distinct and is the eternal age. See Rev. 20:10, “tormented … for the ages of ages”, &c.
I believe that I have responded to much of the second request fully in section 1 above, especially the reference to the kingdom as seen in power and glory.
Revelation 20 complements and defines what the Lord and the apostles speak of. Let me explain. The Lord – speaking anticipatively in Luke 10:18 – said: “I beheld Satan as lightning falling out of heaven”. Here John sees the angel descending from heaven – obviously after Satan’s fall - and securing and confining Satan.
The kingdom as anticipated by the Jews, looked for by the prophets and John the Baptist, and spoken of by Jesus and the apostles, is here given a duration. Christ and others who have part in the first resurrection (includes us) will reign with him for 1,000 years. That is ‘the age to come’, not eternity. [For more, see, Is there a General Resurrection?] I may add that we, of the church period, are to be “always with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17) and I believe in a special “wifely” relationship.
In 1 Cor. 15, Paul shows that the kingdom has an end; here we see that end. Further we see here in verse 14, death, the last enemy, is annulled as it says in 1 Cor. 15:26, and it is at the end of the kingdom period. It all dovetails.
The Lord spoke of the resurrection of the just – now in verse 5, we are told about “the rest of the dead” who had to wait a thousand years and they are raised in verse 13, for judgment, that of the unjust. They are judged according to their works. No Christian is judged according to his works – Christ has borne that judgment. Further, for those before the great white throne, there is no record of any going into life eternal. This is a contrast and is distinct from Christ’s judging the nations (the living) in Matthew 25. Here he raises and judges the wicked dead.
In Rev. 20, Satan is cast into the lake of fire; death and hades are cast there, as are the wicked in the last verse. Evil is now completely judged and confined, Christ gives up the kingdom (1 Cor. 15) and the eternal day begins – see Rev. 21:1-7.
As an observation – I noted a commentator struggling over details regarding the angel with the chain and the key of the abyss. How simple. For John’s sake he is shown a vision - Satan is confined (abyss), bound (chain) and secured (key).
God uses language symbols just like we do. A little boy wields a stick, and tells me that it is his sword, or later, his gun. I show you a photo and say: “That is my father”. It is only ink dots on paper, but it represents my father, and all know what I mean. So also the Lord said: “This is my blood …”. The wine is the symbol that represents it. But religionists have written volumes on it. [As an aside, priests who conduct several masses have been known to be drunk by the end of the sessions – impossible if it was actually blood.]
Why is Satan loosed at the end of the thousand years - verses 7-10? During the period of the kingdom, with Satan’s activities curtailed and the shepherding or ruling of Christ with a rod of iron (Psalm 2, Rev. 3, Rev. 19:15) – inflexible justice - it will pay everyone to do the right thing. But as always, even in that wonderful reign of peace, some will grow up and not possess faith. They will not be outwardly distinguishable from those with faith, because “all” are behaving; indeed they will be dealt with summarily if they do not. Only God knows the heart, so He will allow Satan freedom “for a little time” in order to deceive the nations. In this way, unbelievers will be found to take sides against Christ and His own. God allows them to express their ‘true colours’ by their works, so that they can be judged accordingly.
God does things so that neither men, nor angels nor demons will be able to say that He is not just. I long wondered why He loosed Satan. For what it is worth, this paragraph is the result of my meditations.
MM June 2009