In considering the reality of the coming kingdom of God on earth, we have examined the first stages of the kingdom of God: the Acts Period, the Premillennial Kingdom, and the Revolt Against the Kingdom. Yet three stages remain. When it comes to these final stages, we have little information about these three in the Word of God. This is no doubt because the Bible focuses much more on those stages that are much closer to those of us reading the Bible today: the Premillennial Kingdom and the test that follows it. Yet the Bible does contain some information on these final three stages of God’s prophetic calendar as we have it set forth in His Word, and so we will see what we can find about them. Our examination will mostly be from the book of Revelation, which, after focusing on the revolt against the kingdom for most of its first nineteen chapters, then gives us a brief outline of the final stages of God’s plan at the conclusion of the book.
The Thousand-Year Parousia of Christ
The next great epoch of the kingdom of God that follows the revolt against the kingdom is the thousand-year parousia of Jesus Christ. Many call this “the millennium,” but that is man’s name for it. The Bible calls it the Parousia. The word parousia is usually translated in our Bibles as “coming.” This has led many to believe that it refers only to Christ’s coming to earth the second time, and not to the time of His presence on earth afterwards. This translation was probably first made by the early English translators because they believed the childish view of the Middle Ages that all Christ is going to do when He comes back to earth is to snatch all His people out of it and then burn up the rest at the “end of the world.” By mistranslating parousia as “coming,” they could maintain this unbiblical idea. Yet the word does not mean “coming,” and this is not at all what the Bible teaches about the return of Jesus Christ.
The Greek word parousia means literally “to be present,” but there is another Greek word that more typically means “present,” the Greek word pareimi, and parousia in contrast takes on a technical meaning. It means a presence because of who you are and what you do. One could also say it means an official presence. Thus, though Christ was present on earth during His first coming, He was not present as Who He was: God and Lord of all. Yet when He comes back, He will be present in just that official capacity, and He will be here in that capacity for a thousand years.
One great question that needs to be answered by those of us who believe that there is a premillennial kingdom period prior to the revolt against the kingdom and the thousand years of Christ’s Parousia is how exactly the Parousia of Christ differs from and is an advance on the Kingdom of God stage the precedes it. If the Premillennial Kingdom is Stage One of God’s great plan, the Parousia is Stage Two, and the New Heavens and the New Earth is Stage Three, then how does Stage Two differ from Stage One? Is there no difference other than the fact that Christ reigns from heaven in the Premillennial Kingdom and from the earth in the Parousia? No, I believe that the difference is greater than this.
First of all, I think we must avoid the idea that we need to make the Premillennial Kingdom lesser in order to make the Parousia greater. It is my conviction that there are very few passages in Scripture that describe the period of the Parousia of Jesus Christ. The many marvelous passages that describe the wondrous conditions on earth, the glorious future of Israel, the complete renewal of nature, the glorious alteration of the character of mankind, and all the other glorious things that are promised in God’s future are all talking about the Premillennial Kingdom, the very first stage of God’s great future plans. This is the stage we are raised into, and I do not believe we are raised into “sort of better than this life but nothing like the thousand years.” We are raised into all the great promises of God being fulfilled on earth. The Parousia following this is another kingdom period. The glorious conditions of the thousand years will follow up on those glorious conditions we know will exist in the kingdom of God, with some exceptions that will make it even more glorious. Yet the Premillennial Kingdom itself will also be a great and glorious time to live in this world. There is no need to think of it as less wonderful in order to have something for the Parousia to do.
I suppose that none of us who live in this fallen world really grasp fully what it will be like to live in God’s glorious kingdom. Therefore, perhaps it is even more beyond us to grasp what conditions will be like in the Parousia, and so that is why God has not told us very much about it. But from those passages that do speak of it, I think we can establish some ways that it is different from the Premillennial Kingdom, and how it is an advance on it.
Let us consider the matter from the book of Revelation. We will start off in Revelation 19:19-21.
19. And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.
This describes the final battle between the forces of Satan and those of Jesus Christ. Of course, this is not actually much of a battle, but it is really a slaughter of the forces of the kingdom of Satan, all of whom are completely wiped out save for the two instigators of Satan’s kingdom, the beast and the false prophet. These two are captured, tried, and cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone, where they meet their final and ignominious end. The rest are destroyed by the sword which proceeds from the mouth of Jesus Christ. We can read more of this final battle and of the slaughter of the wicked in the book of Zechariah.
Revelation 20:1. Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
John sees an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. The “bottomless pit” might better be called “The Abyss,” though it is a few times given the fuller title of “The Well of the Abyss.” It appears to be the place where God imprisons heavenly beings, whether they be angels, spirits, or cherubs, until the day of judgment when He will decide their final fate. We know that for Adam’s race, once sin and death catch up with us we await the day of judgment in Sheol, the state of death with resurrection in view. Yet heavenly beings, when God puts a stop to their wicked careers, are incarcerated here, in God’s great prison for such creatures.
I have no idea how an angel, or a cherub, or especially a spirit, might be held, so I do not know if the chain this angel is carrying to bind Satan with is literal or not. II Peter 2:4 also speaks of chains.
2. For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;
The words “cast them down to hell” are a translation of the single Greek word tartaroo, which we could English as “Tartaros-ized.” Tartaros in Greek mythology was a prison for the gods. I do not believe that God’s great prison is named “Tartaros,” but rather He uses this word to mean that he cast these angels into a prison for heavenly beings. There, they are delivered into chains of darkness. Mr. Sellers translates this as “imperceptible bonds.” What exactly these bonds are it is hard to say, but whatever they are they hold these rebellious beings there, just as this “chain” will hold Satan.
2. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;
This angel uses the chain to bind Satan, the great Enemy who instigated the revolt against the kingdom of God, and to keep him bound for a thousand years.
3. and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.
The angel uses the key to The Abyss (God’s name for the place, not “Tartaros,”) to cast Satan into it, shut him up, and seal him there for a thousand years so that he cannot deceive the nations any longer during that time, as he did to bring about the revolt against the kingdom. Here we see our first great difference between the thousand years of Christ’s Parousia and the Premillennial Kingdom that precedes it. Satan will be free during the Premillennial Kingdom. Yet during the thousand years of the Parousia, Satan is going to be imprisoned, and will no longer be able to work his schemes.
I do not think that we should get carried away here, though. The fact that Satan is free at that time does not mean that terrible things are happening all throughout the Premillennial Kingdom. When God’s kingdom comes to earth at last, it will come with so much authority, so much strength, so much power of the Holy Spirit, that Satan and his forces will be overwhelmed. This situation is described in the very first prophecy of the kingdom of God in Genesis 3:15.
15. And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
These words, spoken by the LORD God to Satan, tell of a time when the Seed of the woman, Jesus Christ, will “bruise” Satan’s head, and Satan will “bruise” His heal. Yet the word for “bruise” here, shuwph, might better be translated “overwhelm.” Satan’s head is going to be overwhelmed. The “head” stands for the outflowing source, and I believe this speaks of the very source of Satan’s power. It will be overwhelmed by the coming in of God’s kingdom. It will be like Satan is being hit by wave after wave, the water is filling his mouth and going over his head, and he is utterly helpless before it. This has not happened to Satan yet, but this is exactly what happens to him in the Premillennial Kingdom. All his power and influence on earth is suddenly overwhelmed by the much greater power of God, and Satan is completely helpless before it. All the strength he can muster to throw back against Jesus Christ is just like a few little waves lapping at His heels.
Yet it seems after centuries of helplessness that Satan finally does get his feet back under him. We can see this in the parable of the tares among the wheat, as well as its interpretation.
Matthew 13:24. Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25. but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.
Matthew 13:37. He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.
This is the secret work of Satan that finally gets him an inroad into God’s kingdom and causes the Lord to bring about the first great testing period that results in the revolt against the kingdom. Yet I do not believe Satan succeeds much at this until the kingdom has already been running for centuries of time. Satan’s overwhelming does not last for a day. He only gets a foothold when the Lord intends him to get a foothold, which is toward the end of the glorious Premillennial Kingdom of God.
Yet when the Parousia comes, Satan is not allowed another chance to get a foothold. He is imprisoned in The Abyss, something which all must admit he has deserved for a very long time. Thus, there will be no opportunity for him to cause more problems on earth. He is out of the picture, and the Parousia can shine all the more gloriously because of it. This is one difference, then, between the Premillennial Kingdom and the Parousia.
4. And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
Now John sees thrones, which are seats of government. He says “they” sat on them, and judgment was committed to “them.” Yet oddly, there does not seem to be any antecedent for this “they” and “them” in the immediate context. To find whom this refers to we need to go back to “He Who sat on the horse and His army” of Revelation 19:19. He and His army sit on the thrones, and they judge or set in order everything once more. Things have gotten seriously out of order during the revolt. Now, He will see to it that everything is brought back into kingdom order, as it should be.
Next John sees the souls of those who had been beheaded during the revolt for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God. These had refused to worship the beast or his image or to receive his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. Now, they are raised back to life, for they by no means deserved death, and they reign with Christ during the thousand years. We will say more about this after verse 6.
5. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
The rest of the dead, however, are not raised at this time, but they are preserved in death until the final resurrection a thousand years later. This is called the first resurrection, but really this means it is the first resurrection during the Day of the Lord. There is another resurrection previous to this one in the day of Christ of which Revelation says nothing, since it is focused only on the Day of the Lord.
6. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
Those who are raised in this first resurrection are blessed and holy. No one who is raised at this time need fear the second death, for it has no power over them. These are the overcomers of the tribulation period, those who died for their faithfulness to Christ. Now, they will be promoted to be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
This is a change that takes place in the Parousia as well. We know that, among the many who will be blessed to live in the time of the Premillennial Kingdom, there will be those who will receive the special blessing and privilege of reigning with Christ in that kingdom. Many will hold exalted and honored positions that they have earned through faithful service in this life. Yet the severe test of the Revolt Against the Kingdom will result in a new group who will, by great acts of faithfulness, have earned their own exalted positions among Christ’s most honored people. These will now be exalted next to their brothers and sisters already holding these places, and will reign with Him. So while the fact of some reigning with Him will not be new, there will be a new company of the overcomers who will be added to those already reigning with Him at this time.
Next in our consideration of things that are different during the Parousia than they were in the premillennial kingdom, we have the record of Matthew 13:40-43, which tells us more of what is going to take place in the Parousia.
40. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.
The Lord here is giving His interpretation of the tares among the wheat, the parable that tells about the Revolt Against the Kingdom, as we already briefly considered it above. In the parable, a farmer plants good seed in his field, but an enemy comes later and plants tares, a weed that looks like wheat while it is growing, but at the end produces no good wheat but only worthless heads. The farmer allows them both to grow until harvest time, when the good and bad will be obvious. Then, he has the tares gathered and burned in the fire. The Lord explains that this is how it will be in the end of this age.
This phrase “end of this age” in Greek is sunteleia tou aionos toutou. Sunteleia does not mean just an “end,” but a “consummation.” For example, a breakup can “end” a courtship, but only a marriage consummates it. An abortion or a miscarriage can “end” a pregnancy, but it only consummates in a birth. So what Christ is referring to here is the consummation of this age, not the end of it. As for “age,” the word aionos would better be transliterated eon. It means basically an outflow, and speaks of the time of God’s great outflowing to the world in the kingdom of God. The Premillennial Kingdom of God does not end, as if it failed or was only limited in time. Instead, it consummates into the Parousia of Jesus Christ. So it is at the start of the Parousia of Jesus Christ, when the Premillennial Kingdom consummates into it, that something like the gathering of the tares takes place.
41. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness,
At that consummation, the Son of Man, Who has just returned to earth for His Parousia, sends out angels. Yet this Greek word means “messengers,” and in this context more probably means human messengers than heavenly ones. The Lord’s messengers are sent to gather out of the kingdom all things that offend. Yet the reality is that “things” do not offend in and of themselves. Thus the idea is of things that would cause one to offend or to stumble. The very first thing in this world that caused to offend was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Yet that Tree is not the only thing that might cause one to stumble in this world now! We think of the many, many traps of wickedness that exist in the world as it is now. No doubt this number will have been greatly reduced during the Premillennial Kingdom of God, yet it will have grown again during the Revolt. Yet now, at the start of the Parousia, all things that would ever cause anyone to offend are removed from the Son’s government. There will be no cause of stumbling anywhere in the world at that time!
Yet it is not just things that cause to offend. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil might have done nothing to cause Adam and Eve to offend had Satan not also been in this world. He will be taken out of it at this time, as we saw earlier, by a messenger the Lord will send. Yet he is not the only one. All those who practice lawlessness will likewise be removed from the Kingdom.
42. and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
They will all be cast into a furnace of fire. This is not for eternal, conscious torment. For one thing, both the “things that offend” AND “those who practice lawlessness” will be cast there, but does God intend to eternally torture “things”? Not at all! The lake of fire is for the purpose of destruction. As God has said from the very beginning, the wages of sin is death, and those who are gathered out of His kingdom at this time will suffer that final, ultimate punishment.
The result is that there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. The idea of this seems to be of great sorrow and great regret. Anyone who has seen the glories of God’s earth during the Premillennial Kingdom will hate to be destroyed out of it after the period of the Revolt. Yet these will certainly deserve it, since they chose lawlessness and rebellion against God, just as did Satan, their wicked master.
43. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
This great removal results in the righteous shining forth all the more in the kingdom of their Father. The reality is that for many years the righteous have lived alongside those who really are only acting in Godly ways to blend in and go along with the kingdom rules so that they can avoid destruction. The kingdom has had stumbling blocks in it, and those who urge others to stumble as well. From time to time in the Kingdom, it may be that one would rebel against the order and receive punishment of illness or death. Yet in the Parousia, no such thing will interrupt the progress of the kingdom. All things that might cause one to offend and all people who might urge one to offend are gone. None but the righteous remain on the earth, and so the kingdom shines forth all the more brightly because of this. Thus, no one will offend for the remainder of that period. There will be no sin and there will be no death throughout it. These things might happen occasionally during the Premillennial Kingdom, but they will never happen during the Parousia.
These are the only specific differences I can see between conditions in the Premillennial Kingdom of God and conditions in the Parousia of Jesus Christ. They are interesting differences, but no doubt they are not complete as a list of the differences between these times. I believe that there is much more God will show us about His Parousia before that time comes. Yet we must wait for the Premillennial Kingdom of God for Him to reveal these things to us. For now, let it be enough for us to know that Christ will be on earth rather than in heaven at that time, that Satan will be bound and unable to work, that all things and all people who might cause one to stumble will be removed so no one will stumble or do wrong throughout the Parousia, and a large company of overcomers from the tribulation period will join those who have special, privileged positions with Christ.