Life in the Millennium, final
Aug 24, 2016
The idea of a Messianic Age has been ingrained in Judaism for thousands of years. It was also called “The Age” and was identified with the great Sabbath Millennium, the seventh thousand-year period in earth’s history. It was to begin with the coming of the Messiah, and it was said that during that time, the glory of God would fill the earth.
Revelation 20 reflects this belief, though with Christian interpretations. One of the most misunderstood terms in the New Testament is the Greek term aion (“age”) and its adjective, aionian (“age-abiding, pertaining to an age”). It is usually translated “eternal” or “forever” or “everlasting,” but the word itself speaks of an indefinite and unknown period of time. It is best translated “age.” In fact, our English word eon comes from the Greek word aion.
Indefinite, Not Infinite Time
The point I want to make is this: when you read “everlasting” or “eternal” in the Bible, you cannot take these translations at face value. The Hebrew word olam and its Greek equivalent, aionian, properly mean “an age, an indefinite period of time.” In fact, in the end, it hardly matters how the Greeks used their word aionian, because (in the Septuagint translation) it was only the word which the rabbis chose to express the Hebrew concept of olam. Hence, when we read aionian in the New Testament, we ought to assign it the same definition as the Hebrew word olam.
The word olam comes from the root word alam, which means “to hide, to conceal.”
In other words, the length of time involved is indefinite, because the time may vary according to the context. It might mean a few days, as in Jonah 2:6, or a few centuries, as with the “perpetual priesthood” given to Phinehas in Numbers 25:13. (The line of Phinehas was replaced by Zadok during the time of Solomon.)
When applied to God, the Hebrew text normally uses the word ad (“everlasting Father” in Isaiah 9:6 KJV) or qedem (“eternal God” in Deuteronomy 33:27). Yet ad comes from the root word adah, “pass by, advance.” And qedem means “ancient, eastward.” While these words may imply an eternal quality, this was not their primary meaning. Nor do these words really matter to us, because the key Hebrew word to study is olam and its root alam. Everywhere in the Septuagint, the rabbis used aionian as the equivalent of olam.
Indefinite time is not the same as infinite time. To insist that olam must always refer to infinite time is to limit its meaning in Scripture. In fact, this confusion has served to hide the very important prophecy of the Messianic Age and the reward of immortality during that Age.
Hebrew thinking in Jesus' day looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, in which He would rule the earth with His people in a Great Sabbath millennium. This idea was expressed in the phrase, “The Age” and “The aionian Kingdom” (2 Peter 1:11), i.e., the Kingdom Age.
There are at least four modern translations that render the word aionian correctly. Young's Literal renders it “age-during.” Rotherham's The Emphasized Bible renders it “age-abiding.” Wilson's Emphatic Diaglott and The Concordant New Testament leave the original Greek word intact, simply using aionian.
A good example is found in Matthew 25:46 KJV, which says,
46And these shall go away into everlasting [aionian] punishment; but the righteous into life eternal [aionian].
Both “everlasting” and “eternal” here come from the Greek word aionian. The Cambridge Bible Commentary, by A.W. Argyle, comments on this verse, saying,
“46. eternal punishment, i.e., punishment characteristic of the Age to come, not meaning that it lasts for ever.
“eternal life, i.e., the life that belongs to the Age to come, the full abundant life which is fellowship with God.”
I show this so that no one thinks that I am pulling these things out of thin air. The word means an indefinite period of time, which, as Dr. Bullinger says in Appendix 129 of The Companion Bible, “may be limited or extended as the context of each occurrence may demand.”
Immortality in the Messianic Age
One of the most tragic casualties of this mistranslation of aionian has been the understanding of the Ages and specifically “The Age,” which was a reference to the Messianic Age to come. We read often of “the age to come” or “in the ages to come” (Ephesians 2:7). Of particular note is Mark 10:30, where Jesus says, “and in the aion to come, aionian life.”
The age to come is what they called the Messianic Age. Those who receive aionian life are those raised in the first resurrection, because they will enjoy immortality during The Age. The rest of the dead, however, will not be so fortunate, but will have to wait until that Age is completed. In other words, they will not have aionian life (during the thousand years), but will instead be given immortality afterward.
Hence, the Bible everywhere urges us to attain life in “The Age.” Unfortunately, this phrase is usually mistranslated “eternal life,” as if to say “immortality.” Thus, we miss the real significance of the phrase. Scripture admonishes us to strive to be an overcomer so that we may receive this immortality in the first resurrection. That way we have immortal life during “The Age” to come and do not have to wait around for an extra thousand years.
In short, aionian life specifically refers to TIMING, while immortality refers to a QUALITY of life. The reward of aionian life does not limit the overcomers’ reward, nor does their immortal state end at the conclusion of the thousand years. Rather, their reward comes earlier than others, continuing beyond the Kingdom Age.
This idea is expressed in the Hebrew phrase olam va'ad, “to the age and beyond” (used in Exodus 15:18; Psalm 9:5; Psalm 10:16; Psalm 45:6; and Daniel 12:3).
Conditions on Earth in the Messianic Age
As we have already shown, the Sabbath Millennium is designed to give the earth a rest from its labor—specifically, from its bondage to Mystery Babylon. This release, however, must be enforced by our Redeemer-King, because the Babylonian rulers “have refused to let them go” (Jeremiah 50:33, 34).
The coming of the rightful King of the earth changes the international order of things. First, He must secure a foothold in the earth. At least one nation must declare Him to be their King. He will not force Himself upon the nations, but yet the Holy Spirit will be poured out in order that whole nations will desire Him to be their King. His laws will then replace the laws of men, wherever there are disagreements and discrepancies. True justice will be the order of the day.
Isaiah is perhaps the main prophet who revealed the conditions in the Messianic Age. Health will be restored to the earth, as organic farmland is restored and genetically modified crops are banned. Over time, the earth will be restored to its original pristine condition, and as health improves, life spans will increase. Isaiah 65:20 says,
20 No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; for the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred shall be thought accursed.
In other words, if a man dies at the age of 100, it will be said that he died too young, perhaps because he was “accursed” in some way.
As far as international relations is concerned, Isaiah 2:2, 3 says,
2 Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. 3 And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
We see from this that people from all nations will not be forced to come and learn. They will desire to come and learn the ways of God, as revealed in His laws. This motivation is already prevalent among the true believers even today. Those who have no desire to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) are probably religionists of Christian persuasion, but not genuine believers. Growth is evidence of life, and if there is no growth, how can there be life?
Isaiah 2:4 continues,
4 And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.
It will be an age of peace, as the nations conform to the image of Christ, the Prince of Peace. Any disputes between nations will be settled justly and peaceably by the wisdom of the law.
Perhaps the important thing to understand is that it is not until the Great White Throne judgment that all men are summoned for judgment. Only then will Christ’s jurisdiction be granted over the whole earth. Every knee will bow at that time, for no one will have any choice but to submit to the King and the judgment of His law.
Only then will men from the beginning of time be held accountable for the sins that they committed during their life time on earth. Only then will the judgments of the law be enforced fully, and all who failed to claim Jesus Christ’s death as payment for their sins will be sentenced to be enslaved to the righteous.
This will inaugurate a New World Order. Every tongue will confess allegiance to Christ (Isaiah 45:23, 24). Hence, even though all who are sentenced to slavery will have to pay on their debt, they will not be abused, for it is unlawful to abuse a slave (Exodus 21:26, 27). Instead, the righteous will rule over them as Christ would rule, having His character and love for all men. They will teach their slaves by words and by example. Isaiah 26:8, 9 says,
8 Indeed, while following the way of Thy judgments, O Lord, we have waited for Thee eagerly; Thy name, even Thy memory, is the desire of our souls. 9 At night my soul longs for Thee; indeed, my spirit within me seeks Thee diligently; for when the earth experiences Thy judgments, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
This is part 164 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones