Prophecies Indicating a Literal Millennial Kingdom
This article is an edited excerpt from the author’s book, “The Return of The King: A Prophetic Timeline of End-Time Events.”
This short chapter is added for the benefit of some who argue against a Messianic Kingdom.
It is the belief of some groups that the idea of a Millennial Kingdom (or “Messianic Kingdom” – a literal one-thousand year reign of Christ on Earth) is a product of the book of Revelation, only. This belief, contrary to that of the author, is that the book of Revelation is metaphorical in its content and should not be taken literally. Thus, they reject the idea of a literal Messianic Kingdom on Earth. Amillennialism, for example, teaches that the millennial reign of Christ is figurative, and began upon Christ’s resurrection. However, there are many biblical prophesies that can only literally be fulfilled at a future date; specifically, a date incorporating a literal millennial reign of Christ.
This chapter will demonstrate from writings other than the book of Revelation that the millennial kingdom noted in Revelation refers to a literal kingdom of Christ upon the earth. The basis for that position are the numerous Old Testament prophesies that remain unfulfilled in their entirety, which can only be fulfilled in the context of a millennial kingdom, such as a prophecy concerning another King in Israel.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV) 6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
While this text has rightly been interpreted as a messianic prophecy, or a prophecy concerning the coming Messiah, what is missed by many is the observation that this prophecy has not yet been fulfilled in its entirety. It cannot be literally fulfilled outside of an earthly kingdom of Christ. While Christ did come as Messiah, he has not fully done so in the manner described in this, and numerous other texts.
Verse 6 notes, “the government will be on his shoulders.” Many properly maintain that Christ has established his kingship and that he rules the universe from the father’s right hand. While this assertion is certainly valid, it does not incorporate the language used in Isaiah concerning the nature of the unique kingdom prophesied about in this text. Specifically, “the government” is referenced to be on his shoulders. And, by reading the text as a whole, the government is further stipulated to refer to a human, earthly government; specifically the government of David, Israel’s most glorious and celebrated king. Christ, prior to his return and establishment of the millennial kingdom, has not had a governmental position of any kind. While he was exalted to the father’s right hand, this position could not be rightly understood to be a governmental position within the kingdom of David. In the millennium, however, he will be the King, an absolute monarch of a literal earthly kingdom from a throne in Israel; David’s throne. The government “shall be on his shoulder.”
Verse 7 notes, “of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” And, verse 7 notes this government to be the same government as that of David. “Upon the throne of David” notes a literal throne of a literal Israeli king. Jesus, the universally understood “child” of this prophecy, has not sat upon David’s throne in any capacity nor for any amount of time at this point in history. There has in fact been an end to that which may have formerly been understood as the fulfillment of this prophecy. David’s throne has been vacant for thousands of years. Israel today is not a monarchy and does not have an heir of David upon a throne in rule of the nation.
To that end, considering this text literally, this prophecy has not been fulfilled. Yet it shall be in a literal millennial reign of Christ, when Christ, David’s human offspring, will take his throne forever over Israel.
To understand a prophecy which denotes a throne of a legitimate historical king, one must conclude a legitimate historical throne. David’s throne was not a metaphorical throne in scripture, but a tangible one. This literal, tangible throne is the very throne the prophecy notes that Christ will rule over. Verse 7 notes, “He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom.” Since when was Christ’s sitting at the right hand of God equated with the throne of David? Truly, Jesus rules over the universe, even now. Yet the prophecy does not speak of a breadth of government which includes the former throne of David. It speaks of a literal rule from the very throne of David. For this prophecy to be fulfilled, then, Christ must return physically and establish himself as king over David’s throne in Israel.
Jeremiah speaks very literally concerning a coming literal descendant of David for an eternal reign as well.
Jeremiah 33:14-21 (NIV) 14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. 15 “‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.’ 17 For this is what the LORD says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, 18 nor will the priests, who are Levites, ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.'”
19 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 20 “This is what the LORD says: ‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, 21 then my covenant with David my servant–and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me–can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne.
God’s covenant to David, known as the Davidic covenant, is outlined in this text.
In verse 15, a righteous branch will sprout from David’s line who will do what is just and right. This righteous branch is understood universally, among all differing eschatological views, to refer to a literal descendant; Christ. Christ literally was a descendant of David through his mother Mary. Yet, many of those who interpret verse 15 literally must quickly change to a metaphorical interpretation for verse 17 if they are to presume a literal kingdom is not referred to, for verse 17 states, “David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel.” If the offspring is literal, then the kingdom must also be understood literally. Jeremiah speaks of a literal offspring of David who will sit on the literal throne of David’s government.
Verse 18 speaks of a literal priestly office which will not “ever fail to have a man to stand before me” and give daily offerings.
Here, one should note that the substance of these offerings should not be equated with a return to the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. The final sacrifice for sins has been offered by Christ, and there will never be a return to a substitutionary atonement system outside of Christ. Yet, there will be a new variety of Temple worship which will exist in the Millennial Kingdom. The nature of that system and these offerings will be discussed in chapter nine.
It is the author’s unconditional conclusion that without a literal millennial kingdom, the promises concerning the Davidic covenant would have been broken by God. While some promises of God are conditional, being promised under certain circumstances, this particular promise is not. In fact, God gives an utterly uncompromising certainty as to the unconditional nature of his promise in verse 20:
‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, 21 then my covenant with David my servant–and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me–can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne.
Or, stated another way, “unless someone can make the day and night cease” God promises that his covenant with David will not be broken. Clearly, this is not exemplary of a conditional covenant, but an unconditional one. God speaks clearly what he will do.
For thousands of years, Israel has had none of these promises in a literal form. The starting point of this promise must be understood to refer to a future date.
Further clarification can be found in Luke 1, as an angel prophesies to Mary concerning her coming child.
Luke 1:30-33 (NIV) 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
God reiterates the Davidic covenant to his promise to Mary through an angel.
Her son will be given the throne of David. He will reign over Israel forever. His kingdom shall never end.
The only way to escape the reality of a literal coming kingdom of Christ from this series of texts is to use a metaphorical interpretation of each of them. In such cases, the throne of David is spiritualized, his reign over Israel is a spiritualized Israel (the church) and that his kingdom refers to the kingdom of Heaven rather than a literal kingdom. Yet, those who hold to this position must come to terms with heaven being equated to “David’s throne” in these texts, which has no biblical legitimacy. Heaven is God’s throne, not David’s.
The first rule of biblical interpretation once again comes into necessary consideration. “When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense, but take every word at its primary literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context clearly indicates otherwise.”
There are no immediate contextual reasons that these prophesies must be metaphorized. They are simply stated truths. Thus, the literal interpretation of the above texts should serve as one’s only interpretation. The throne of David is literal. It is the throne of reign over Israel. The reign over Israel is literal. This future King will indeed be a governmental ruler. The kingdom is literal.
The millennial kingdom, or the messianic kingdom, will be the literal fulfillment of prophecy.
Another area of scripture demanding a literal millennial kingdom is that area which describes the land which was promised to Abraham’s descendants.
Originally, the Lord stated to Abraham,
Genesis 15:18-21 (NIV)
18 … “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates– 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
Once again an unconditional promise is noted, “to your descendants I give this land.” Indeed, God did give vast real estate to Israel. Yet, the specific boundaries noted in the text do not equate to the boundaries settled by Israel. The boundaries, states as being “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates,” are somewhat debatable, especially in light of which river is referred to in Egypt. Yet, the Euphrates is clearly known and universally understood as the eastern boundary of this covenant land. Without unnecessary debate over the western boundary, Israel has never in her history occupied the land which is described. The nearest portion of the Euphrates river is hundreds of miles from its closest portion of historical Israel. Since the promise is unconditional, it must be understood to be a yet unrealized prophecy.
Still another necessary observation from Old Testament texts which require a future millennial kingdom are the numerous texts which speak of a life which simply does not- and cannot- exist on the earth outside of a fundamental change on the earth. Part of that fundamental change requires the seat of the earth’s law to flow from Israel, as noted in Isaiah 2.
Isaiah 2:2-4 (NIV)
2 In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. 3 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. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Isaiah speaks in chapter two of a world that is virtually inconceivable outside of a literal millennial reign, with Christ himself as King. Clearly, the “last days” are referenced as the timing when “all nations will stream” to the mountain of the Lord’s temple. And, in this future world, (as it certainly reflects no historical past world) “the law will go out from Zion,” or Israel, and the Lord himself will “judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many people.”
If this text speaks not of a millennial kingdom of the Lord Christ upon the earth, precisely what does it speak of? One cannot argue that it speaks of Heaven. How will disputes exist in Heaven where there are neither nations nor a sin nature from which a dispute must originate? How can it be the earth which the Lord will settle disputes unless indeed the Lord is the King on earth? Indeed he will. And, under what other circumstance could it possibly be stated on earth that nations would no longer train for war, unless all nations are unified under a singular righteous King? Clearly Isaiah 2 speaks also of a situation that can only refer to a literal millennial reign.
Isaiah 11 speaks of a wolf lying with a lamb and a calf, lion and yearling together with a small child leading them. It speaks of infants playing with snakes and no harm coming to them. These attributes, all concerning a life on this earth unknown to anyone since Adam and Eve, clearly depict a new Kingdom on earth, where indeed things are uniquely changed on a fundamental level. Changes of such profundity have never been observed with the advent of a human government, regardless of how charitable. Isaiah speaks of changes in the very conduct of nature itself, which seem to insist on deistic intervention.
More attributes concerning the millennial kingdom will be observed in chapter nine. As for this chapter, let it be understood that there are numerous scenarios which can only be played out in scripture in light of a literal millennial kingdom.