Q. Will the millennial reign be on earth or in heaven? Revelation 20:6 seems to indicate that we’ll be priests with Christ, and we will reign with Him for a thousand years, and Isaiah 65:25 seems to say it will be on the earth.
A. The passages in Isaiah and Revelation do not go together sequentially. When I first read about the millennium, I understood it to mean a thousand years of peace here on earth. But a problem occurred when I realized the true sequence of events that happens when Jesus comes.
In 1 Thessalonians we see the description of Jesus descending from the clouds to take up His followers. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout … and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (4:16, 17). This is the “rapture” … being physically and literally caught up to meet a visible Jesus waiting in the sky.
In John 14:2, 3, Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” This tells us that He will take us to the mansions that He has prepared for us.
Then in Revelation 21, we read, “I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven” (v. 2, emphasis added). But Revelation 20 says that the righteous “lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (v. 4). So if New Jerusalem is where our mansions are, and it has not yet come down to earth by the time of Jesus’ second coming, where are we going to be during the 1,000 years? I believe this means we’re not going to be on the earth.
Another clue comes from Isaiah 24:1, where we get a picture of the conditions of the earth during this 1,000 years: “The LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down.” And Jeremiah 4:23 explains, “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens … had no light.” Of course, this sounds like it’s right out of Genesis 1:2, but if you keep reading: “I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled” (4:24, 25).
We can easily conclude that since the mountains are now gone, they must have been there before. But if there is any doubt, Jeremiah continues, “I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down” (V. 26). Now we have cities that are broken down, so this cannot be at the time of the garden of Eden or a pre-creation picture.
But what breaks it all down? The Bible says “the presence of the LORD, and by his fierce anger.” This chapter also says that there is no life on earth at this time, and moreover, the slain of the Lord covers one end of the earth to the other. Furthermore, “They shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground” (Jeremiah 25:33).
So according to both Jeremiah and Isaiah, the earth is in a condition where nobody’s alive, it’s dark, and the cities are broken down. When could this be? Well, it’s very simple. When Jesus comes down with power, the righteous, both the living and the dead, who are resurrected, are caught up with Him, and the sinful living are destroyed by the brightness of His coming. And as Revelation 20 says, “The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished” (v. 5).
Jesus also speaks of the second resurrection, a time when the wicked come forth from their graves at the end of the 1,000 years for their judgment — meaning there are two distinct resurrections. When I first heard that I thought, “What?!” But I kept studying, and it became very clear. It all really means that there won’t be anybody alive on earth during the 1,000 years. The earth is desolate and dark, and Satan is bound, having no one to tempt or manipulate. Thus the saved will be in heaven with Christ, until we descend with Him when New Jerusalem comes to the earth.
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