Will there truly be no death and disappointment in the Millennium?
This Feast of Tabernacles, I heard someone say something truly profound. Perhaps you won’t think it so. After all, it is in a very real sense pretty obvious. As a youth in WCG in the seventies, I heard a lot of speculation, and many times that speculation peaked during the fall holy day season.
The profound statement was that there would be healing during the Millennium, but we don’t know exactly how God will deal with death. It was common during the seventies for ministers and lay people alike speculate that sinners would simply disappear rather than some form of capital punishment. Of course, no biblical verses could backup this speculation directly, although there might be hints here and there that death and danger could be unknown. Still, it always seemed to me to be more of an attempt to assist God (after all, He really needs our help, right?) and sanitize His entire plan.
The older I get, the more I believe that in spite of the wonderful things that will occur after Christ’s return, part of the plan of God will still involve death and disappointment in the Millennium.
Now, I cannot in reality point to specific verses to prove this, but I believe the verses and logic built upon them outweigh the attempt to sanitize God’s actions.
Not Hurt Nor Destroy In All the Earth?
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.
~ Isa 65:25
The above is the closest we can come to saying that death and destruction will not occur in the Millennium. However, there are several problems with that interpretation. Many of these we will discuss later, but the most obvious is that it specifically mentions “in My holy mountain”, which means Mount Zion, the earth headquarters that will be established when Christ returns.
It does not say “in all the earth”.
Sacrifices in Millennium
There are several passages that show that animal sacrifices will be re-instituted in the Millennium. However, the most obvious are in Ezekiel 43 – 46, where detailed instructions about sacrifices of the future are given. So, to say there is no death in the Millennium is obviously not true, since at the very least animals will die.
Furthermore, in order for animals to not die in the Millennium, human beings themselves would have to become vegetarian. I don’t read this in the Bible at all.
It Is Appointed to Die Once
Some believe that Adam would have died whether or not he ate of the Tree of Life. Frankly, I disagree. It is clear that death is the penalty for his sin, not the natural result of decay in a perfect environment, which would be a contradiction.
Yet, once he left the protective hand of the Creator and was kicked out of Eden, all of humanity came under a curse, and that curse is death and decay.
27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
~ Heb 9:27
This famous verse is quoted by TV evangelists all the time, and even they understand that human beings will all eventually die. The Bible only makes a small exception for believers who are alive at Christ’s return. There is no indication that there will be further exceptions after that one-time special event.
We recognize that physical human beings die. Adam and Eve proved that unless the consequences of sin are experiences first-hand, the tendency is to dismiss those consequences without really thinking about them.
The first resurrection will seal the fate of the saints with eternal life. The second resurrection will occur to allow those who have already experienced death to learn how to avoid it again via the second death.
Law and the Death Penalty
One of the lessons that must be learned is obedience to God’s Law. However, God’s Law comes with consequences for breaking it. If we believe that somehow people will mysteriously learn to not break God’s Law by not experiencing the consequences, then we are engaging in magical thinking.
Several laws involve the death penalty. Chief of those is murder. Do we really believe that hatred will not exist ever in the Millennium? Do we really believe that as the population once again climbs that, in billions of people, no one will experience hatred and anger to the point where they will not kill another?
Again, magical thinking.
Example of Death
Most in the COG recognize that Ezekiel 38 – 39 take place during the Millennium. Most worldly churches confuse it with the event after the Millennium prophesied in Revelation 20. However, the latter timeline makes no sense, and the fact that this occurs just before God calls Jacob’s descendants out of the pagan nations of the earth tells us this is at the beginning of Christ’s reign.
This proves that not only does death exist, but the death penalty does as well.
Disappointment in the Millennium
We are not just talking about death, but we are talking about death and disappointment in the Millennium. Will disappointment occur in the Millennium? You bet!
Again, I point to the Gog and Magog example. They are obviously driven by greed for possessions and power. They are disappointed, and they drive this disappointment into a lust that destroys them. They are the number one example of death and disappointment in the Millennium.
Consider as well Adam and Eve. They lived in a perfect environment. What more could they have really needed? What needs were not met? It should be obvious that it was not enough. Satan planted dissatisfaction and disappointment in Eve’s mind. Sin was the result, and death was the result of sin. There was death and disappointment in the Garden of Eden, and there will be death and disappointment in the Millennium.
Speaking of Satan, he was created perfect. He was given a power over a third of the angels. He was given the biggest responsibility ever known up to that point in time: Prepare the earth for the children of God. Obviously, he was not satisfied in this role. Most likely, he was jealous that puny human beings could become sons of the Most High. There was disappointment even in that environment, and much of what the fossil record shows is death and decay in the world he was supposed to care for. There was death and disappointment even before man stepped foot in Eden. There will be death and disappointment in the Millennium.
The real question should be not whether or not fickle human beings will be disappointed. The real question should be whether or not it is justified. Disappointment can be justified or unjustified. Eve’s disappointment was unjustified. Satan’s disappointment was unjustified. Gog and Magog’s disappointment will be unjustified.
There will exist death and disappointment in the Millennium, but the disappointment that leads to death will be mostly unjustified.
The Real World Invades
One other thing makes it obvious that there will be death and disappointment in the Millennium, at least to me. The Feast of Tabernacles is a type of the Millennium. We study, have fun, fellowship, eat and drink and engage in various forms of positive behavior. However, that does not stop the “real world” from invading.
The fall holy days picture a time of healing. However, I have suffered disappointment after disappointment by having my second surgery first postponed and then cancelled until I see my primary care physician. In fact, the cancellation was via a voicemail that I received while at services on the very first day.
Not only that, but going to the Feast does not stop people from dying. Today, my sister was found dead in her apartment. In many ways, it was not a surprise. In fact, it happened exactly how I predicted it would occur, simply because her behavior often worked contrary to her own health. That does not take the sting away, though. Still, going to the Feast does not protect one from death.
Going to the Feast does not guaranty that all will go well. Certainly, God will often bend events to the benefit of the faithful, but then again He does not always protect the saints from persecution, tribulation and even death.
People have freewill. People will make choices, both good and bad, and they will experience the consequences both good and bad. Will God change this scenario after 6,000 years? Does it make sense that He would? The examples of Gog and Magog prove that Christ will institute painful justice upon those who go too far.
And, 1,000 years is a very long time to live. Even Adam died short of 1,000 years. Prophecy indicates that the elderly will watch the very young play in the streets, but it does not indicate that people will never die of old age. Like the pre-Flood times, it may well be that 1,000 years is the upper unattainable limit, but do we truly believe that will change overnight? More likely, healing will take time, and even 500 years may be unattainable until a couple of centuries of healing have occurred.
Death is painful. It is supposed to be. It is something to avoid. However, without the experience, will people truly fear it? I doubt that.
Therefore, I do believe that there will be death and disappointment in the Millennium. However, there also will be a very real difference. Justice will prevail. People will die of old age more often than anything else. Those who choose to kill will be killed. Those who follow Christ wholeheartedly and become converted will avoid the second death, and there will be many more who will choose this because the great deceiver will be put away.
Speaking of the deceiver, not only will there be death and disappointment in the Millennium, but there will be both shortly thereafter when Satan is once again let loose. Think about why this might be.
If the earth does heal, there will come a generation who has never had to face Satan. They will live from the Millennium into the post-Millennium era. Perhaps longevity will increase to allow as many as possible to live into this time period, of those who did not come out of the devastation and calamities of the Great Tribulation.
In short, they will lose their fear of death. Have we ever considered that death may be a blessing in disguise?
There may well be death and disappointment in the Millennium, but that does not mean things won’t shift as God is allowed to bless people more and more as they become more and more willingly obedient. They will be less and less disappointed, and they will less and less experience death.
The unfortunate side effect is that death and disappointment become points to ponder rather than experience. They become ideas instead of reality. They lose their power to influence.
Eve took of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Did not Adam and Eve already know good and evil? Did not God already explain His way of life to them? Did He truly leave them rudderless and without direction? I think not. The difference is that partaking of the tree allowed them to experience the consequences of good and evil, and thus making the knowledge real rather than just an idea. They did not fear death, as it was just an idea, and even at that was diminished in their minds by the lie of “Ye shall not surely die.” Death did not yet have its sting.
I think I have made a better case that there will be death and disappointment in the Millennium than the fanciful notion that attempts to sanitize reality and God’s plan. However, I fully admit that this is far from “hard proof”. It is OK to speculate to some extent, and sometimes even necessary. However, when we turn speculation into doctrine, we are on dangerous ground.
What I hope that this truly shows is just how important our present circumstances and experiences really are. We will be teachers, coaches and mentors as well as leaders with a rod of iron. I think sometimes we concentrate too much on the rod of iron and not enough on the fact that people will come into the Millennium and will during the Millennium with some real problems. We will be the ones who will have to assist with solving those real problems.
More to the point: The Millennium is not Eden. In fact, it is not even really the Kingdom of God. It will be the time of Christ’s rule, and at its end, He will turn it all over to the Father.
There will be, I believe, death and disappointment in the Millennium, but by the time the New Jerusalem descends upon the new earth, those things will end. It is part of the process towards a goal, but like our physical bodies is a temporary thing that will go away in the Kingdom of God.