The King Reigns In His KingdomErwin W. Lutzer | November 7, 2010
Selected highlights from this sermon
“Thy kingdom come.” That’s a phrase we all know from The Lord’s Prayer. But what are we expecting? What does it really mean? At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus returns to Earth to rule for 1,000 years. This is the Millennial Kingdom.
Those living on Earth when Jesus returns will live and grow and have children just like before. But with a twist. God Himself will be living with them.
And even though they have unprecedented access to the King of kings and Lord of lords, many will still side with Satan for one final rebellion against Jesus at the end of the Millennium.
Evil doesn’t change just because you have an honest ruler.
I begin my message today with a question. When you pray “Thy kingdom come,” in the Lord’s Prayer, what are you praying for? What are you expecting God to do? What do you think this kingdom would be like if it were to ever come?
The idea of utopia is something that is in every human heart and every generation has looked forward to utopia since the time when the word was invented by Thomas More in the year 1516 when he wrote a book entitled Utopia.
Well today I am going to speak about utopia, its coming, and some things about it in God’s time and in God’s way. And we’re also going to talk about your part in this utopia, so I want you to listen carefully. Today I have many passages of Scripture to give you. In some instances, I will simply summarize them and in other instances quote them, and then eventually we will turn together in the Scriptures but I need to do some background work first.
In 2 Samuel 7, God came to David and said something interesting. He said, “David, after you there’s going to be a son who is going to build the temple, and I will discipline him when he becomes evil, but in the end you will have to know that your house and your kingdom is going to endure forever.” Has that happened–“house” meaning genealogy and “kingdom” meaning territory over there in Israel-where David ruled? I don’t think so. When Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb, you remember the angel said this to her. He said, “He shall be great and shall be called the son of the most high and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David and he shall rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Has that been fulfilled? Has Jesus reigned over the house of David and over the tribe of Jacob? Has that happened? I don’t think so. Jesus has never ruled from Jerusalem. He has never ruled over the territory that David ruled over.
What is this business of Jesus ruling on earth? You know it is interesting that in the Old Testament you have chapter after chapter oftentimes devoted to this idea of utopia when the Messiah reigns.
May I invite you to turn to Isaiah 2 for just a moment? You’ve read these passages and you’ve asked yourself the question, “Where do they fit?” Isaiah 2:2 says, “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow into it (the house of the Lord, speaking of Jerusalem), and many peoples shall 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 his ways, and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion (by the way Zion is a poetic name for Jerusalem) shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He (Messiah) shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples, and 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 anymore.” Most assuredly that has not happened.
Do you know what’s interesting about verse 4? If you go to the United Nations building in New York and then you cross the street to the plaza where there is a wall, on that wall is inscribed one-half of verse 4, not the whole thing, just the last half. “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” That is all that is there. Obviously they didn’t include the first part (did they?) that he (that is, Christ) shall judge among the nations. The United Nations may be doing many good things but one thing they are not doing is trying to establish peace on earth under the authority of Jesus. So they snatched the last part of verse 4 and then at the base of it, it simply says Isaiah. They didn’t even give the reference unless somebody happened to look it up and realize that it’s a Messianic passage. And that’s why that wall is referred to you today, and you can Google it on the Internet. It’s referred to today as the Isaiah Wall. Well, the Scripture is going to be fulfilled but it’s going to be fulfilled when He (Jesus) judges among the nations.
There are so many passages like this. I shall turn to another one very briefly. Isaiah 11 says, “His delight (speaking of Christ in verse 3) shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, (In other words he’s not going to govern by hearsay.) but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.” And then notice this. “The wolf and the lamb shall dwell together.” Another text says the lion and the lamb are going to lie down together. Well, that isn’t happening today. You notice very carefully today that when the lion and the lamb lie down when the lion gets up the lamb is missing. (laughter) “The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fatted calf together, and a little child shall lead them.” What is Isaiah talking about? He is speaking about the rule of Jesus on earth in the coming kingdom.
Now what we have to do is to put this in context. If you’ve been with us, and this happens to be message number eight in a series entitled When He Shall Come [retitled The King is Coming], you know that we have emphasized that it is best to see the return of Christ in two stages. First of all, Jesus comes for His Church, and we are with Him in glory. Then antichrist arises and you have the tribulation period. You have the temple being built in Jerusalem, and as we learned last time, there’s this glorious appearing of Jesus to the Mount of Olives, and the nation Israel looks on Him whom they have pierced and multitudes of Jewish people who are alive at that time recognize Jesus to be the Messiah, and they look on him who they have pierced, and they believe.
There are several reasons for the glorious return of Christ that we spoke about last time. One reason is to judge the world because of its evil, and the judgment, as we learned, is terrifying. But there’s another reason, and that is to establish the kingdom, to finally fulfill all the promises that God made all the way through the Old Testament about a coming golden age, about utopia with Jesus to reign. And so that’s why He returns to Jerusalem to finally fulfill the promises.
Now, when you look at it that way you begin to understand here that this particular age of the coming of Jesus is very important. The topography of Jerusalem changes. We learned last time that Mount of Olives splits in two. Jerusalem is exalted. It says, “Jerusalem is going to be on a plateau at that time,” and what a kingdom it is going to be.
Now because we have to hurry I have to answer another question. Who gets into the kingdom? Well for this let’s turn to Matthew 25. You’ll notice is says beginning in Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” I understand that sheep and goats don’t get along very well, and sheep are usually quite docile whereas goats are very unruly, so this would be a familiar image, and He will place the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my father, and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.’” And so there’s going to be a separation at the end of the tribulation period when some people go into the kingdom, and some do not.
Many people (if we took time to read the text) think here that Jesus is changing his view of salvation because he says that you’ll get into the kingdom because you did kind things to my brothers. They were in prison and you visited them. They were hungry and you fed them. They were naked and you clothed them. So is that the way to get into the kingdom? We need to understand. Remember during the tribulation period there are those who do not take the mark of the beast. They are under persecution. They are jailed. Many of them are killed, and during that period of time many Jews are coming to recognize Jesus as Messiah, and those Gentiles and others who recognize that these Jews are believing, if these Gentiles are believers they are going to do all that they can to support the Jews. They are going to bless them, and what we find here is not the root of faith but the fruit of it, showing that true faith always is seen by works. Those who took care of the Jews, who refused to take the mark of the beast, the Jews who believed on Jesus and trusted Jesus, now recognizing him to be the Messiah, they obviously are in the company of those who are blessed because they too have put faith in Jesus Christ. The bottom line is all those who enter into the kingdom will be believers but they will be in their natural bodies.
Is everybody still with me? It’s maybe a little like drinking from a fire hydrant today but I want you to stay with me because we’ve got some things to still share that will dazzle your imagination.
What are some of the characteristics of this kingdom that we hear about? Well one of them most assuredly is that Jesus rules. I mean you can go to the Psalms and you can see that. Psalm 2 says, “I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” All the way through God is talking about a time of utopia on earth when Jesus Christ rules. So Jesus rules. The curse is partially lifted—not totally lifted.
There is another passage in Isaiah that says a child shall die when he is a hundred years old. That’s obviously not a reference to heaven. That’s a reference to the kingdom and it means that there will be longevity. In other words, if you die at the age of a hundred you’re dying young, whereas today to die at the age of a hundred is to die very old. And “the lion and the lamb shall lie down together.” There’s not going to be any overt rebellion, but eventually there will be, and Jesus shall rule.
By the way, do you understand now that Christmas carol that all of us love–Joy to the World? I often sing it with a smile, especially when we get to verses 3 and 4 because, you see, the first stanza can apply to the coming of Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem. “Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her king.” But when you get to the other stanzas–2, 3 and 4–that’s millennial reign of Jesus. In stanza 4 it says, “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glory of his righteousness and the wonder of his grace.” I don’t think so. I don’t see that today when I read today’s headlines. Jesus is not making the nations prove anything. He’s being faithful to His people but that is millennial reign on earth. In fact, another stanza says, “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground.” You’ve got to be kidding. I’m a farmer’s boy. There are plenty of thorns infesting the ground. Those are millennial passages but we sing them at Christmas, and it’s fine to sing them, but just know that Isaac Watts was not only thinking about the first coming of Jesus but the second coming of Jesus in Bethlehem.
Well folks, now we get to the biggie. It’s time for you to take your Bibles and we’re in Revelation 20, and what a book it is. Now, what we need to do is to read a few passages from Revelation 20. In chapter 19 we learned last time that Jesus returns. Chapter 20 now follows with the millennial kingdom that we’ve been describing and all the promises of the Old Testament. It says, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.”
Wow! It’s time for us to stop. By the way, when it says the pit that is not hell yet. That is a holding place for evil spirits, and Satan. I love this passage. Jesus says to an ordinary angel—an unnamed angel (we don’t know who in the world it is), “Hey, come here. I have a job for you. I’m going to empower you. Take Satan and put him into the pit.” Now undoubtedly the chain is probably symbolic, but the point is he has the chain; he has the key to the bottomless pit, and all that the angel has to do is to say, “Satan, I am under God’s authority now. Come over here. We’ve got a place for you. You’re going to be incarcerated for a thousand years. Come on. Get into the pit.” And Satan says, “If God says it I have to do it.” Don’t you like that? The absolute authority of Jesus and His angels over Satan!
And when you read this, six times you read “for a thousand years.” Have you ever wondered where the idea came from that the millennial kingdom was a thousand years? Well, it’s in this passage.
What I am teaching you today is called pre-millennialism. The word millennial refers to a thousand years. Pre-millennial means that Jesus returns before the millennium. You ask, “Well, is there any other view?” Yes, there are some other views. For example, there are those are a-millennial. A-millennial means that they don’t believe that there is going to be a millennium here on earth. They tend to spiritualize all of these passages and say that they are going to be fulfilled somehow in heaven and that when the angel said that Jesus was going to rule over the kingdom of David that that actually is heaven. So they don’t take these passages literally. But we believe the Bible the way it is written and if it says that Jesus is going to rule from Jerusalem, we’re naïve enough to believe that God is going to do exactly what He said.
Now with that introduction, let’s go through the passage. So one of the other characteristics of this period of time is that Satan is bound. By the way, this is a parenthesis. I read a-millennial people who believe that we are in the millennium now. That’s one of the ways to explain it and I have in my library a book on counseling that says if you ever encounter someone who says that he has encountered a demon or the devil, you can be sure he’s wrong because this is the millennium and Satan is bound. Does anybody out there believe that? I have to say today that if Satan is bound in this era he’s got a very long chain. I need to tell you that. (laughter) No, we believe this is future.
So, we continue. Satan is bound and then there are a host of people who rule with Jesus. Verse 4 says, “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed.” Let’s stop there before we go onto this other category of people. Who is going to be ruling with Jesus in the millennial kingdom? Got your pen and paper? There are four different categories at least. Number one, the Old Testament saints! That’s what it says in the book of Daniel, chapter 7, verse 27. It says, “His holy ones are going to be ruling with him.” So we know that they will be there for sure. There’s going to be David and there’s going to be Abraham and a whole host of other unnamed ones who are going to be ruling with Christ in the millennial kingdom. The apostles certainly will be ruling with him. Jesus said to them one time, “You are going to sit with me on twelve thrones ruling over the tribes of Israel.” Oh really? Yeah, that’s what Jesus said, so we know that they are going to be there—the eleven apostles for sure.
What about us? Well, here’s the good news, folks. This was worth coming to church for today. All present believers will also be ruling with Jesus. Throughout the New Testament you have the promises that we shall reign with Him. “If we suffer with him we shall reign with him,” Paul says. Jesus said to the churches of the book of Revelation, “He who overcomes, to him I shall grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I overcame and sat with my father on his throne.” It also says in Revelation 5:10 that He has made us kings and priests and we shall reign on the earth as kings (and I assume also as queens), sitting with Jesus and carrying out the responsibilities that He gives us.
Now, at this point your theological mind has to be expanded a little bit because you say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, you taught us that when the rapture takes place that we are going to already have our heavenly bodies, and the people who enter the millennial kingdom during the judgment of the sheep and the goats will still be in their earthly bodies. They are going to be bearing children, and that is right. Does the fact that we’re going to have permanent bodies, and still be involved with those who don’t, trouble you? It shouldn’t trouble you. Think of Jesus after the time of the resurrection. Jesus was able to interact with the disciples. Now, mind you, He had a body the likes of which they didn’t have. He could go from Jerusalem to Galilee in a split second, but He ate fish with them. He communed with them. So we are going to be ruling with Jesus Christ over certain territories, carrying out certain responsibilities in the millennial kingdom, and we will rejoice in the fact that God’s promises were absolutely and totally fulfilled.
Now, we must hurry on. You’ll notice it says, “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded (I’m in the middle of verse 4) for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God.” What this means is those who died during the tribulation are raised now also to reign with Christ, which should not surprise us. Of course, they would be, and he’s simply commenting on that. It says, “They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.”
Folks, the rest of the dead refers to those who show up at the great white throne judgment that is described at the end of this chapter. I have been preaching at The Moody Church for more than thirty years. I know I look a lot younger than that, but this is the first time in my history here that I am almost fearful of the next message that I am called to preach in this series. What I am going to share with you next week is absolutely chilling—the great white throne judgment at which all unbelievers are conscripted to attend and they are thrown into the lake of fire forever and ever. I want to warn you. Pray for me next week especially because it is a chilling message.
So blessed are those, he says, who participate in the first resurrection. The first resurrection that we talked about is of all believers. The second resurrection is the resurrection of the unbelievers, and he says, “Blessed are those who participate in the first resurrection because over them the second death has no power.” The second death is the lake of fire.
Now, we get to the end of the millennium. What happens at the end? Unbelievably there is a rebellion. Verse 7 says, “And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog. Don’t confuse that with the Gog and Magog that is found in the book of Ezekiel that we preached about. The circumstances are totally different. Gog and Magog are sometimes used generally as nations that are rebellious against God, and you have a rebellion. Now how could that happen? Well, remember the people who go into the millennial kingdom have children, and those children grow up and some of them trust the king under whose authority they are, and others don’t. They still rebel against God, and so there is a brief rebellion. This is the last war of all of history on planet earth. After this comes eternity and there is no other battle. None! And then the Bible says that fire comes down from heaven. God takes care of it very quickly, and then it says Satan is thrown into the lake of fire.
I wonder who throws Satan into the lake of fire. An angel?
Maybe! I have friend by the name of Steven Davy who is a great preacher of the Word, and he suspects (though he can’t prove it—it’s speculation) that it might be Adam and maybe his wife, Eve, who get to throw Satan into the lake of fire. (laughter) I mean, wouldn’t that be great? I mean throughout all these centuries Adam has been pinned. I mean, it’s his sin and the sin of his wife that got us into all of this trouble anyway. You know, it’s Adam and Eve who sinned because they were deceived by Satan. Wouldn’t that be something if Adam had the privilege of throwing the serpent that deceived him into the lake of fire and brimstone forever and ever. We’ll have to wait to see if it’s true, and maybe it is.
How does this all end? Well, you’re going to have to take it by faith, but in 1 Corinthians 15 we have the ending of this era. After the thousand years it says in 1 Corinthians 15:24 (you can look it up later), “Then comes the end, when the Son delivers the kingdom to the Father,” that God may be all in all. That only makes sense. In eternity past God the Father said to God the Son, “I’m going to give you a people to redeem.” Sometimes we refer to them as the elect. Jesus always referred to them as those who thou hast given me. So Jesus comes and redeems these people. He dies for them. He wins victories over Satan and shows the superiority of Jesus, and shows the tremendous victory that Jesus Christ wrought, and when it is all done He who came to do the will of the Father now submits the kingdom to the Father, the Bible says. What is the Father going to do? Well, the answer to that is found in other passages that say very clearly that the Father then obviously gives the kingdom back to the Son because Jesus is going to rule forever and ever, and we will rule with Him forever and ever (applause). Things are going to get much better, and ruling with Him forever and ever actually and all that and eternity and the New Jerusalem are really the subject for the last message in this series.
So what I want to do is to bring this down now very quickly to where we live. Why should what we have learned today change us? Why should we be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit?
First of all, a word to you who are believers in Jesus. I’m talking especially to those of you who perhaps are slothful Christians. You come to church as long as it doesn’t cost you anything to be here. When it is convenient you are here. When it is convenient you are willing to do something but you don’t want to put yourself out for Jesus. You are not loyal in terms of your attendance and commitment. You don’t give anything except, of course, if you happen to have something. You don’t witness for Christ. You never volunteer for something because that would take some energy, but you say, “I’m a believer so I’m going to make it.” My friend, that means that your position in the kingdom will be less.
Jesus talked about the fact that there were those who were faithful and they could rule over ten cities and others who were unfaithful got five or three, and Jesus said, “To him who overcomes shall I grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I overcame and sat on my father’s throne.” Don’t take it for granted that just because heaven is going to be wonderful you will have the same responsibilities as someone else who was faithful. That’s why the way in which you live in this life matters for all of eternity. I ask you and I plead with you today to repent of your lackadaisical uninvolved distantly related relationship with Jesus, if that applies to you. And every one of us should ask, “Is it I, Lord?” That’s for those of you who are believers.
Unbelievers, please hear me. Do you know why God went through all of this? I mean there are many reasons for the millennial kingdom, but one of the things God wanted to show is that a thousand years of incarceration did not change Satan’s heart. He came out of the abyss just as evil and with just as much intent to fight against God as he had before he went in. He was probably even more angry, because evil doesn’t change simply because you have an honest and perfect worldwide ruler, and Satan in his evil nature will be evil forever and ever and ever, and that’s one reason among a couple of others why hell is just. That’s Satan.
The children of human beings, under the authority of Jesus, living in the millennial kingdom (of course if you think of a thousand years and you have longevity and the earth’s population at this point is huge) grow up and they say, “Who is Jesus to rule over us? Yes, we took that field trip to Jerusalem. We saw that He is reigning there, and we see what he is doing, but why should he be the one to choose what mansion we get to live in? We don’t want him to reign over us. We’d rather be free in hell than servants in the millennium,” and so they actually are going to rebel. Satan is going to be let out of his abyss and in all of his stupidity and futility is going to take on Jesus one last time, and he is going to find a lot of people who are willing to get on his bandwagon. Imagine taking on Jesus. Satan should know better. I mean, for heaven’s sake, an angel threw him into the abyss. If an angel can throw him into the abyss, think of what Jesus can do by the breath of his mouth, and it’s all over.
If you have never trusted Christ as savior now I am talking to you and I hope the Holy Spirit is talking to you too. Would you believe on Him? See, the difference between you and the devil is this. The devil can’t repent and even if he did he couldn’t be redeemed because Jesus never died for him, but for you as a human being, you, if God has talked to you, you repent and receive Christ. Jesus said, “Unless you are born again, you’ll not enter the kingdom of God. You’ll not see the kingdom of God.” I don’t know what else to say to you.
The problem is that the children during the millennial kingdom are going to be Gospel hardened. They have heard it all. They have seen it all, and the more they reject the harder and the more indifferent they become. Don’t let that be true of you. Today if you hear His voice, harden not your heart.
I’m going to pray right now and if God has talked to you, you talk to Him right where you are. Maybe you are listening on the Internet, or maybe by radio. Wherever you are, you talk to God now. Let’s bow in prayer.
Father, we marvel at two things. Two things grip our imaginations and our minds. One is the evil of the human heart, and the other is the wonder of Your grace, and we never get over both, and we thank You that we can understand Your grace better because we understand ourselves better. We really do have a rebellious streak in us. Would you, Father, take that away? Would you overcome that in the lives of all who are listening who have never trusted Christ as Savior? Overcome that.
And now I am talking to you, that is to say the people who are before me and listening in other ways. Why don’t you tell God right now that you are repenting of your sin, and that you are believing on Jesus who paid for all who would believe on Him to be saved? If you desire to come, follow that desire and believe on Him.
Help us now, Lord, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.