The Doctrine of the Millennium—Part III:Social and Economic Aspects of the Millennium

The Doctrine of the Millennium—Part III:Social and Economic Aspects of the Millennium John F Walvoord Wed, 07/18/2007 - 06:00

Social and Economic Aspects of the Millennium

The reign of Christ on earth during the millennium, featuring as it does His righteous and universal government over all nations and characterized by spiritual blessing, obviously will affect all phases of life on the earth. Though the principal effects of the reign of Christ will be manifested in righteous government and in the spiritual realm, the rule of Christ will have extensive impact on the economic and social aspects of life on the earth.

Universal justice and peace. The fact that wars will cease during the millennium will have a beneficial effect upon both the social and economic life of the world. Instead of large expenditure for armaments, attention no doubt will be directed to improving the world in many various ways. Even under present world conditions, a relief from taxation due to military expenditure would have a great effect upon the economy. This coupled with absolute justice, resulting in greatly reduced crime and assuring minority people of government protection, will establish a social and economic order far different from anything the world had ever experienced prior to the millennium. Many of the prophetic Scriptures such as Psalm 72 and Isaiah 11 testify to these unusual millennial conditions. (Isa 35:1-2). The rest of the thirty-fifth chapter of Isaiah continues in the same theme. Plentiful rainfall characterizes the period (Isa 30:23; 35:7 ) and abundance of food and cattle are pictured (Isa 30:23-24). Though the curse on the earth is only partly lifted as indicated by the continuance of death, and will remain in some measure until the new heaven and the new earth are brought in (Rev 22:3), the land of Palestine will once again be a garden. The world in general will be delivered from the unproductiveness which characterized great portions of the globe in prior dispensations.

General prosperity. Widespread peace and justice, spiritual blessing, and a bountiful supply of food in every land will result in a general era of prosperity such as the world has never known (Jer 31:12; Ezek 34:25-27; Amos 9:13-14). The many factors which produce poverty, distress, and unequal distribution of goods will to a great extent be nonexistent in the millennium. Labor problems which now beset all nations will be solved, and everyone will receive just compensation for his labors (Isa 65:21-25; Jer 31:5). Thus the curse which creation has endured since Adam’s sin (Gen 3:17-19) will be in part suspended as even the animal creation will be changed (Isa 11:6-9; 66:23 ).

Health and healing. One of the predictions regarding the coming of the Messiah was that healing from sickness would characterize His reign. Though Christ healed many in His first advent, most of the prophecies seem to point to the millennial situation. Thus Isaiah writes: “And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity” (Isa 33:24). Those who have physical disability shall be healed of blindness and deafness (Isa 29:18) and healing will be experienced in a similar way by others. Again Isaiah states: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert” (Isa 35:5-6). The brokenhearted will be comforted and joy will replace mourning (Isa 61:1-3). Longevity will apparently characterize the human race for Isaiah speaks of the death of a person one hundred years old as the death of a child (Isa 65:20). The freedom from these human ills so common in the present world is in keeping with the lifting of many other aspects of the curse upon nature. Not only will people live much longer, but there will be also a tremendous increase in birth rate as children are born to those who survive the tribulation. Of this Jeremiah says: “I will multiply them, and they shall not be a few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small. Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me” (30:19-20 ). This blessing will not only characterize Israel, but also the Gentile in the millennial kingdom (Ezek 47:22).

Taken as a whole, the social and economic conditions of the millennium indicate a golden age in which the dreams of social reformists through the centuries will be realized, not through human effort but by the immediate presence and power of God and the righteous government of Christ. That mankind should again fail under such ideal circumstances and be ready to rebel against Christ at the close of the millennium is the final answer to those who would put faith in the inherent goodness of man.

Physical Changes in the Millennium

According to millennial prophesies, many topographical changes will take place in the land of Palestine in connection with the establishment of the millennial reign of Christ. While some of these may be due to the lifting of the curse upon the earth, the alterations seem to be more extensive than this.

The cleavage of the Mount of Olives. In connection with the return of Christ to the earth, Zechariah 14 pictures the battle for the possession of Jerusalem which in its early stages seems to be in favor of the Gentiles. This is reversed, however, by the return of Christ described in the following words: “Then shall Jehovah go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east; and the mount of Olives shall be cleft in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zech 14:3-4). In view of the fact that the Mount of Olives nowhere in Scripture is given a spiritualized interpretation, it seems clear that this refers to the physical Mount of Olives to the east of Jerusalem. When Christ returns, there will be where the Mount of Olives now stands a great valley extending toward the east with the Mount of Olives split in two.

The purpose of this cleavage seems to be indicated in the context as providing a temporary route for flight for those who are caught in the warfare about Jerusalem. Zechariah pictures it: “And ye shall flee by the valley of my mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach until Azel; yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the day of Uzziah king of Judah; and Jehovah my God shall come, and all the holy ones with thee” (Zech 14:5). Other phenomenal things will occur at the same time. In the succeeding context a long day is described when “at evening time there shall be light” (Zech 14:7). Subsequent description pictures the “living waters” which “shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the eastern sea, and half of them toward the western sea: in summer and in winter shall it be” (Zech 14:8). It should be clear from this description that the character of the land to the east of Jerusalem shall be much different than it is now and that the changes mentioned will be a preparation for other features of the millennial kingdom. Ezekiel adds more details concerning the river with special attention to the eastward flow of the river into the Dead Sea (cf. Ezek 47:1-12). The river like the cleavage is miraculous as to its source and brings life and fruitfulness to the land through which it goes (cf. Ezek 47:7-12). The effect on the Dead Sea is to bring healing to it and not only cause fruitfulness of trees and vegetation, but also to permit fish to thrive in its waters.

Though scholars who are not premillennial have tended to give this a figurative rather than a literal meaning, the details are such that a literal meaning makes sense in the millennial context. James M. Gray writes for instance: “The whole thing is literal in fact, and yet supernatural in origin” (James M. Gray, Christian Workers Commentary, p. 268).

The exaltation of the city of Jerusalem. More important than the changes concerning the Mount of Olives are those in which the entire land of Palestine is involved. According to Zechariah 14:10; “All the land shall be made like the Arabah, from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem; and she shall be lifted up, and shall dwell in her place, from Benjamin’s gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananel unto the king’s wine-presses.” The effect of all the changes will be to elevate Jerusalem above the surrounding territory and to change the topography of Palestine to suit millennial conditions. This will accommodate therefore the temple of Ezekiel which would not fit Palestine in its present form.

Nathaniel West describes the changes as follows: “Jerusalem and Mount Zion, by means of physical convulsion and geological changes suddenly effected through disruption, depression, fissure, and elevation, at the Lord’s appearing, shall be ‘exalted’ or ‘lifted high,’ above the surrounding hills, and the adjacent region be reduced ‘to a plain,’ like the Arabah, or Ghor, that runs from the slopes of Hermon to the Red Sea. ‘All the land will change itself,’ and the geographic center of the reconstruction will be determined by the boundaries of the ancient territory of Judah” (The Thousand Years in Both Testaments, p. 289).

Charles L. Feinberg summarizes these topographical changes as follows: “All the land will be depressed in order that Jerusalem might be elevated. See Isaiah 2:2 and Micah 4:1. The directions given cannot be determined with certainty, but they prove two things: (1) the description must be taken literally (else why the abundance of detail?) and (2) the city will be rebuilt in its former extent. Compare Jeremiah 31:37, 38. Geba was on the northern frontier of Judah, probably Gibeah of Saul (2 King 23:8). Rimmon south of Jerusalem is to be distinguished from the Rimmon of Galilee (Josh 19:13) and that in Benjamin (Judg 20:45-47). The city here designated was on the border of Edom given to Simeon by Judah. The subject of wera' amah is Jerusalem. The verb is probably an expanded form of weramah from rum, like qa'm in Hosea 10:14.

“The city will be inhabited on its ancient site (for the same use of the preposition see 12:6); it will possess its old boundaries. The gate of Benjamin was on the north wall, facing the territory of Benjamin (Jer 37:13; 38:7 ). The first gate is probably the old gate (Neh 3:6). The corner gate was westward of the old gate. Compare II Kings 14:13 . The winepresses of the king were probably in the royal gardens in the valley southeast of Jerusalem. See II Kings 25:4 ; Jeremiah 39:4; 52:7 ; and Nehemiah 3:15. Not only will the city have its former bounds but its population will live therein, not to go out as captives or fugitives. They will need to fear no further hostile attacks. There will be no more curse, that complete devoting to destruction when given up by God to a curse…. The description is literal and conveys the interrelation of outward fact with inward condition, as Genesis 3 (thorns and thistles resulting from the sin of man) and Romans 8” (Charles L. Feinberg, God Remembers, pp. 257-58).

Resulting changes in the land of Palestine. The top graphical changes seem to be the preparation for the new division of the enlarged land of Palestine now embracing the total area promised to Abraham (Gen 15:18-21). Palestine is going to be divided into three parts. The northern part will be divided into areas for Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, and Judah (cf. Ezek 48:1-7). The southern portion in like manner is devoted to the tribes of Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, and Gad (Ezek 48:23-27). In between the northern and southern parts of the land is placed the “holy oblation” of Ezekiel 48:8-20, set apart in a special way as holy to the Lord. The extent of this portion of the land is described as a square twenty-five thousands reeds on each side which is further subdivided into two fifths of the area for the Levites (Ezek 45:5; 48:13-14 ), another two fifths for the temple and priests (Ezek 45:4; 48:10-12 ), and the remaining one fifth for the city (Ezek 45:6; 48:15-19 ). According to Merrill F. Unger, it is probable that of the three different cubits used in ancient Babylon the one intended in Ezekiel’s prophecy was equivalent to 7.2 feet (cf. Merrill F. Unger, “The Temple Vision of Ezekiel,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 105:427-28, October, 1948). If so, the holy oblation would be thirty-four miles square and would contain 1,156 square miles. Though this would not fit in the present topography of Palestine, it seems that the changes in the land at the beginning of the millennium are in preparation for this. It would be almost impossible to ascertain any figurative meaning of these specific dimensions, and in keeping with the literal interpretation of other features of the millennial kingdom, description of changes in the land seem likewise to point to changes corresponding to the literal interpretation.

Dallas, Texas

(Series to be continued in the October-December Number, 1958)

This article was taken from the Theological Journal Library and posted with permission of Galaxie Software.