Long, long ago, before man was created, the universe was flawlessly beautiful. The morning stars sang together and the angels shouted for joy. That is how God Himself describes the wonder of creation before angels fell and man sinned (Job 38:7). In that glorious day there was no sorrow or pain in God's creation. Joy and peace reigned everywhere.
But when sin entered the universe through the fall of Satan and spread to the human race, God predicted that sorrow would replace joy. To Eve He said, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (Gen. 3:16).*
This prophecy has been dramatically fulfilled in history. Not only did early man have to work for a living, raise his food, and experience the natural ills of life, but sorrow soon entered that first family. Abel, their firstborn, was murdered by Cain, and the depravity of man spread its ugly pall on Adam's family.
Hope and Joy in the Midst of Sorrow
But even in this atmosphere of sorrow, there was hope. The promise was that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). And the grace that was typified in the coats of skin which God provided for Adam and Eve gave hope for a better day.
Thanks to the grace of God, joy is possible, even in a sinful world, and throughout the Old and New Testaments, again and again references are made to the joy of the Lord in those who put their trust in Him. But our present life does have many sorrows. Even the Son of God, in His first coming, was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And children of God experience disappointment, loneliness, and physical affliction.
But a day is coming, the prophets tell us, when joy will fill the earth. Isaiah describes that future day: "Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation" (Isa. 12:3). He further describes that time as one which will "give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified ... everlasting joy shall be unto them" (Isa. 61:3, 7).
The Secret of Joy
What is the secret of the joy of that future kingdom when Christ will reign on earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords following His second coming?
Although our present age is characterized by a fullness of work of the Spirit greater than any preceding dispensation, it is clear from Scripture that the millennial kingdom will be a time of even more abundant spiritual blessings. The source of the joy of the Lord will be the Holy Spirit Himself. On the Day of Pentecost Peter quoted from Joel 2:28-29 concerning the outpouring of the Spirit in the latter day. That great promise was partially fulfilled nearly two thousand years ago, but will be completely fulfilled at the time of Christ's return. We look for Ezekiel's declaration, "I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD" (Ezek. 39:29).
In the millennial kingdom, because Satan will be bound and the great majority of the earth's population will know and trust the Lord, there will be an abundance of spiritual life and a ministry of the Holy Spirit unequaled in any preceding dispensation. The filling of the Spirit found only occasionally in earlier ages will be the common experience of many in that future glorious period.
In the millennial kingdom, the earth will be characterized by righteousness and peace in a way that was never before realized.
In Psalm 72:7, in the prayer of David for Solomon, this future period is described, "In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth." The millennium will be a time when people learn war no more. As Isaiah expresses, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2:4).
The worldwide longing for peace that characterizes our modern day will have its fulfillment when Christ reigns on earth. There is a day coming when there will be no more of the sorrows that war brings. With perfect justice and perfect government, the social and political scene will provide a suitable setting for happiness among mankind.
No More Sickness and Pain
True to God's words to Eve, physical distress and weakness have characterized the history of mankind. Hospitals today are filled with those broken in body and mind. How many through the centuries have experienced the suffering or sickness, the weakness of age, and the many ills of which the human frame is prey. Physical suffering has often been attended by the mental anguish of anxiety, fear, and loneliness.
But in the millennial reign of Christ, there will be prosperity in health and in physical well being. Anticipating that glorious day, Isaiah wrote, "And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity" (Isa. 33:24). Poverty, hunger, distress, and unequal distribution of material things will be nonexistent in the millennial age.
Many Scriptures describe how God will bring physical blessings to the world in that future day. Human life will be greatly extended, and human ills will be comparatively rare. People will live joyously in the blessings that God showers on them.
Standing out supremely, however, in the millennial situation is the fact that Jesus Christ will be present as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In that day, as Isaiah expresses it, "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:9). Jeremiah declares, "After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more" (Jer. 31:33-34).
The presence of the Savior and His loving care of those who put their trust in Him will cause believers to draw water from the wells of salvation with joy.
What about Today?
You and I do not live in a world that is even remotely comparable to the millennial earth in the reign of Christ. But even in a world in which Christ said tribulation and trouble would be normal, it is possible for the Christian to experience inner joy and peace. The indwelling Spirit of God can produce His fruit of "love, joy, peace" (Gal. 5:22).
Paul expressed this in the four brief commands given in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19, "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit."
As we await His coming Kingdom, the secret of joy and peace is the ministry of the Spirit to us while we walk in fellowship with Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. God can comfort our sorrows. He can bring relief in physical suffering. He offers His soothing comfort to those in anxiety, and delights in filling the lonely heart with His presence. Even today, the joy of the Lord can be our constant experience and is our testimony to a world which is groping for hope in the midst of anxiety and sorrow.
But for the true believer, hope goes beyond the trials of today. Our faith is in the coming King. We look expectantly for His future Kingdom, and see the morning stars filling the firmament with song once more. And we see ourselves joining the angels in shouts of joy as we worship our great and glorious God!
*All Scripture quotations are from the Authorized (King James) Version.