The “Thousand Years”—Not a False Hope
1. What must be said on whether a man-made kingdom can endure for a thousand years?
TO ENDURE for a thousand years, a kingdom would really have to be good—strong. Such a royal government could not be planned, installed and maintained by a mere man or succession of men. No man-made kingdom in the hands of kings of a certain family line has ever lasted for even near a thousand years.
2. Why is royal rule by a single human monarch out of the question?
2 What, then, about a kingdom in the hands of a single continuing monarch for ten centuries? An impossibility! No man has ever lived that long. According to the oldest genealogical records, the man Methuselah in southwestern Asia lived the longest of any human creature on earth. But even he came short of a millennium by thirty-one years.a In our own modern times the life expectancy of a man has been set far from that extraordinary age. In the most advanced lands of the day it has been brought to a life-span of less than seventy years by the aid of medical science. Woman has been given an edge of around six years over man. So royal rule for a thousand years by just one man or woman, no matter how good the subjects might think their ruler to be, is out of the question.
3. What did the most recent “Thousand-Year Plan” envision for mankind?
3 Logically, then, we are not talking of a millennial kingdom from that human standpoint. We, as well as many millions of others yet alive, are able, as personal observers, to remember the most recent effort for a government a thousand years long. This “Thousand-Year Plan” was that of Adolf Hitler, Nazi dictator of Germany 1933-1945 C.E. Shortly after the United States was plunged into World War II, information on this Nazi plan was gleaned from seized Nazi documents and from German agents who had been taken into custody and from various other sources. This plan aimed at a Nazi world order that Hitler, if successful in World War II, would mercilessly enforce upon the world of mankind. It envisioned a virtual slave program, the workers for which would be recruited from non-German countries. This plan covered the thousand years to come.
4. What earlier empire did Hitler evidently have in mind, and how did a priest testify thereto?
4 The Nazi leader Hitler, who came from the land of the Hapsburg family of kings, Austria, evidently had in mind the Germanic Holy Roman Empire, which lasted from the year 962 to 1806. In fact, we have the words of a Roman Catholic priest to that effect. Speaking on the night of February 16, 1940, to a capacity audience in the Memorial Continental Hall in Washington, D.C., Dr. Edmund A. Walsh, the regent of the Foreign Service School of Georgetown University, outlined the German war aims as a “re-establishment of the Holy Roman Empire.” “Dr. Walsh said that he had heard Adolf Hitler say that the Holy Roman Empire, which was a Germanic empire, must be re-established.”—New York Times, February 17, 1940.
5. What did Hitler boast concerning the Nazi Reich, but how did his plan fare?
5 Boastfully the Nazi Fuehrer Hitler had said: “The National Socialist Reich [Empire] will endure a thousand years.” But his police chief, Heinrich Himmler, was even more confident and responded: “Ten thousand!” Once embarked on his egocentric plan, Hitler would be satisfied with nothing less than world rule or world ruin. In the book The Last Days of Hitler, the author, H. R. Trevor-Roper, says: “It was always understood that Hitler would remain true to his original programme Weltmacht oder Niedergang,—world-power or ruin. If world-power was unattainable, then (it was agreed by all who knew him) he would make the ruin as great as he could.” At this—and with good reason—some will be inclined to exclaim: “How like the Devil!” At any rate, there was no reestablishment of the Holy Roman Empire, as many people of Hitler’s religion had hoped—and the Nazi “Thousand-Year Plan” failed inside twelve years.
6. What earlier non-Germanic ruler learned a lesson that Hitler may not have, and who interpreted this ruler’s dream correctly?
6 The would-be world ruler Hitler may not have learned the lesson, but he ran smack up against the hard irremovable fact that a much earlier world ruler had to learn in the hard way. This was a non-German, non-Aryan man who ruled longer than Hitler, that is, for forty-three years (624-581 B.C.E.). He was the king of Babylon, and his name was a long one, Nebuchadnezzar. We may recognize him as the Semitic world conqueror who destroyed the Jewish city of Jerusalem in the year 607 B.C.E. and who deported whole populations just as Hitler did, dragging the surviving Jews, for the most part, into exile in distant Babylonian territories. Among the deported people was the Semitic prophet Daniel of the Jewish tribe of Judah. King Nebuchadnezzar had a strange dream, to which he attached great importance, and the slave, the prophet Daniel, was the only one able to interpret it. Daniel’s interpretation came true.
7. On what occasion did the dream begin to come true, and what lesson was the ruler to learn from his debasement?
7 A year after the dream, Nebuchadnezzar as head of the Babylonian World Power began to brag, glorying over his capital city Babylon on the Euphrates River. Hardly had he finished his boast, when he heard a voice out of the invisible—out of heaven—saying words that he had heard in his dream. In Nebuchadnezzar’s own account of this, which was preserved by the prophet Daniel, he writes: “To you it is being said, O Nebuchadnezzar the king, ‘The kingdom itself has gone away from you, and from mankind they are driving even you away, and with the beasts of the field your dwelling will be. Vegetation they will give even to you to eat just like bulls, and seven times themselves will pass over you, until you know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind, and that to the one whom he wants to he gives it.’”—Daniel 4:29-32.
8. Who was the one that smote the boastful king, and who healed him?
8 What followed immediately? It is understandable why what now happened was not preserved for us in the Babylonian historical records, or why any record thereof by a Babylonian chronicler was removed or destroyed. But the honest, true-to-fact prophet Daniel, who was personally implicated in the matter, was inspired to make a record of it, for our consultation more than two and a half millenniums later. The proud King Nebuchadnezzar was instantly smitten with madness—and it was not his most revered god, Marduk (or, Merodach), who smote him. It was the Almighty God who foretold this madness that smote the boastful king, the king who had destroyed the sacred temple at Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. And, just as predicted and ordained, “seven times” literally did pass over King Nebuchadnezzar while he was insanely chewing at grass like a bull out there in a nearby field. The mad king did not commit suicide, as Adolf Hitler did in 1945 just as his capital city Berlin was falling into the hands of the Red Communist armies of Russia. At the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s seven years of madness, the Divine Smiter of him healed him and restored his sanity.
9, 10. How does the account preserved by Daniel (4:34-37) show whether the king of Babylon learned his lesson well concerning God’s absolute rulership?
9 Did the king of Babylon learn his lesson? We can determine this from his own account, as preserved for us by the prophet Daniel. The account, given in the first person, reads:
10 “And at the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up to the heavens my eyes, and my own understanding began to return to me; and I blessed the Most High himself, and the One living to time indefinite I praised and glorified, because his rulership is a rulership to time indefinite and his kingdom is for generation after generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are being considered as merely nothing, and he is doing according to his own will among the army of the heavens and the inhabitants of the earth. And there exists no one that can check his hand or that can say to him, ‘What have you been doing?’ . . . Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, am praising and exalting and glorifying the King of the heavens, because all his works are truth and his ways are justice, and because those who are walking in pride he is able to humiliate.”—Daniel 4:34-37.
11. Little did the king of Babylon know what with regard to those “seven times” during which he proved his unfitness to rule?
11 Nebuchadnezzar himself tells us that he was restored to the throne of the Babylonian World Power, the Third World Power in a succession of seven world powers spoken of in the Holy Bible. (Daniel 4:36) Little did he know that that period of “seven times” in which he proved his unfitness to rule were prophetic of a greater period of “seven times” of larger duration, “the times of the Gentiles.” Little did he know that during those larger “seven times” five world powers would dominate the earth—the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Grecian, the Roman and the modern-time British-American. Little did Nebuchadnezzar know that those “seven times,” comprising all together 2,520 years, began in the year of his desolating of Jerusalem and its temple and would end in the year that would see the world of mankind embroiled in the first world war—1914 C.E. (Luke 21:24, AV; Daniel 4:16, 23, 25, 32) Yes, little did Nebuchadnezzar know that at the end of those “seven times” of Gentile domination in 1914 the “King of the heavens” would give the “kingdom of mankind” to the one whom he wanted to—His Messiah!—Daniel 9:25.
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12. What do worldly politicians still think regarding the “kingdom of mankind,” but whose hand have they been unable to check as to human affairs?
12 The politicians of all the nations still think that the “kingdom of mankind” is their proper concern and is the proper field for their activity. Long ago King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon thought so. Quite recently Adolf Hitler, with his dream of a thousand-years-long political system, thought so. But the One concerning whom Nebuchadnezzar was finally obliged to admit, “His rulership is a rulership to time indefinite and his kingdom is for generation after generation,” this One still proves to be the “Ruler in the kingdom of mankind.” This kingdom over human affairs is still His rightful field of interest and operation. The worldly politicians, backed by the clergymen of Christendom, have been unable to “check his hand,” nor do they have the authority to say to him: “What have you been doing?” (Daniel 4:34, 35) He did not consult those politicians and their religious backers regarding the one to whom He should give the “kingdom of mankind” at the end of the “times of the Gentiles” in 1914 C.E. The politicians and their religious allies are not of that importance as consultants, whereas He is “the Most High himself, and the One living to time indefinite.”
13, 14. Upon the basis of whose word can any prediction for a thousand years to come be made confidently? And why?
13 Reasonably, then, upon the basis of whose word can any prediction be made regarding a thousand years to come? Man cannot foretell even what will be tomorrow. “You do not know what your life will be tomorrow,” said an observer of more than nineteen centuries ago. (James 4:14) But with “the Most High himself, and the One living to time indefinite,” this is different. What is time to Him?
14 To this One it was well said by a man who lived for just one hundred and twenty years: “A thousand years are in your eyes but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch [an ancient Jewish watch of four hours] during the night.” (Psalm 90:4 and superscription) By a mere dream of the night and by the prophet Daniel’s interpretation thereof to King Nebuchadnezzar, He was able to foretell what would happen in world history after a period of 2,520 years, ending in 1914 C.E. Could he not just as easily foretell with accuracy what will happen during a thousand years beginning with some point of time after 1914 C.E.? Most reasonably so! And what if He has already given us a description of such a thousand-year period? Then with that word as our basis, we can confidently speak of a thousand years to come.
15. What are the thousand years called by users of Latin or Greek root words, and what are believers therein called?
15 Those who use words drawn from the old Latin language would call that period of a thousand years a millennium, because the two roots of the word are the Latin mille, meaning “thousand,” and annus, meaning “year.” Over in Greece people would speak of it as a chiliastic period, because the Greek word chilia means “thousand.” So the believers in this particular period of a thousand years would be called chiliasts, as well as millennialists or millenarians. People of Christendom use those terms in a reproachful way.
16, 17. (a) What human experience with regard to 1000 C.E. shows we are not interested in the millennium because we are approaching 2000 C.E.? (b) Why is it well that man’s seventh millennium of existence should begin many years before 2000 C.E.?
16 Despite the reproach to which one exposes oneself from those who do not understand, there should be real interest in this approaching period of a thousand years. Information concerning it is recorded in the written word of “the Most High himself, and the One living to time indefinite.” Our own growing interest therein is not because we are approaching the year 2000 C.E., the end of the second millennium of our Common Era. That is not the significant thing. We remember what happened when mankind approached the year 1000 C.E., the end of the first millennium of our Common Era. Concerning this the New Catholic Encyclopedia says, under the subject “Millenarianism,” page 853: “As the year 1000 neared, millenarianism became more prevalent because many eschatologists believed that the 7th day of creation was to be realized in human history in A.D. 1000 and that there would follow a glorious 10-century reign of the Christ.”—Copyright 1967.
17 For one thing, the end of six thousand years of human existence on earth and the beginning of mankind’s seventh millennium of existence may come many years sooner than the year 2000 C.E. It is well that this is so. Today, with the world of mankind in such a deplorable condition and being threatened with destruction from so many angles, there are many students and investigators of these threats to human existence who express substantial doubts that mankind will be able to survive till the year 2000 C.E. They do not base their gloomy outlook for our future on any timetable in that most widespread sacred book, the Holy Bible. They base their outlook upon the hard facts of today and upon the now irreversible trend of things that involve all of us. These men who speak with authority give our human race far less than a thousand years to live on into the future. What reason have you, the reader, for not believing them?
18, 19. (a) Why is this information not confined to some secret eschatological society of initiates? (b) Over whose name is the Book of information written, and why?
18 To the very contrary of these gloomy prophets who speak from the purely human standpoint, “the Most High himself, and the One living to time indefinite,” cheeringly speaks of a thousand years yet ahead of mankind and then some, the grandest years in all human history. This hope-inspiring information is not the private possession of some secret eschatological society of special initiated ones who are in the “know.” The sources of this valuable information are openly accessible to hundreds of millions of people speaking 1,500 languages and dialects all around this globe. Wherever a person has a copy of the Holy Bible, this life-brightening information is available to him.
19 Although the Bible was written by men, mere imperfect men, as secretaries or amanuenses, that sacred Book does not in its own pages claim to be the word of man. It is the work of divine inspiration, and so it is written over the name of “the Most High himself, and the One living to time indefinite.” To this modern day of ours He takes the responsibility for what it says about the past and of the future before us. It is the Book of books!
20. In what Bible book do we find this information on the millennium, and who wrote it?
20 Where, then, in it do we find this information about those thousand years to come and the ages of eternity to follow? We find it in what is quite appropriately listed as the last book in the Holy Bible. It proves to be just what its name means, Revelation. Or, Unveiling, Apocalypse. O yes, it was written by a man, a man whom the Roman Empire branded as a criminal and put upon the penal island, Patmos, over there in the Aegean Sea and near the coast of Asia Minor, today Turkey. It is a real place, nothing mythical about it. As a young man this exiled prisoner had been a fisher at the Sea of Galilee in the then Roman Province of Galilee. He was John the son of Zebedee, and his fisherman brother was James. John tells us right at the start that he wrote Revelation, but under inspiration. But of what was it to be a revelation or an unveiling? As we read the answer, which should interest us of today, let us note to whom John assigns the responsibility for this book:
21. To whom does John at the start assign the responsibility for the Revelation?
21 “This is the revelation given by God to Jesus Christ. It was given to him so that he might show his servants what must shortly happen. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who, in telling all that he saw, has borne witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ. Happy is the man who reads, and happy those who listen to the words of this prophecy and heed what is written in it. For the hour of fulfillment is near.”—Revelation 1:1-3, New English Bible (1970).
22. For us today, why is there a thrill in the words “For the hour of fulfillment is near”?
22 In those words, “For the hour of fulfillment is near,” written almost nineteen centuries ago, is there a thrill for us today in this twentieth century C.E.? Certainly, measured in terms of time, “what must shortly happen” would by now, after nearly nineteen hundred years, not be too soon in happening, especially the beginning of the foretold “thousand years.” We can fix better on the time when we read John’s account of the thousand years and what immediately leads up to them. Let us read from Revelation 19:11 on:
23. What features distinguish the rider of the white horse?
23 “Then I saw heaven wide open, and there before me was a white horse; and its rider’s name was Faithful and True, for he is just in judgement and just in war. His eyes flamed like fire, and on his head were many diadems. Written upon him was a name known to none but himself, and he was robed in a garment drenched in blood. He was called the Word of God, and the armies of heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, clean and shining. From his mouth there went a sharp sword with which to smite the nations; for he it is who shall rule them with an iron rod, and tread the winepress of the wrath and retribution of God the sovereign Lord. And on his robe and on his thigh there was written the name: ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’
24. (a) What invitation was given to the birds flying in midheaven? (b) What happened to those taking part in the battle?
24 “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried aloud to all the birds flying in midheaven: ‘Come and gather for God’s great supper, to eat the flesh of kings and commanders and fighting men, the flesh of horses and their riders, the flesh of all men, slave and free, great and small!’ Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies mustered to do battle with the Rider and his army. The beast was taken prisoner, and so was the false prophet who had worked miracles in its presence and deluded those that had received the mark of the beast and worshipped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the lake of fire with its sulphurous flames. The rest were killed by the sword which went out of the Rider’s mouth; and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
25. What is then done to Satan the Devil, to last for how long?
25 “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hands. He seized the dragon, that serpent of old, the Devil or Satan, and chained him up for a thousand years; he threw him into the abyss, shutting and sealing it over him, so that he might seduce the nations no more till the thousand years were over. After that he must be let loose for a short while.
26. Who sit upon the thrones seen in heaven, and what do they do?
26 “Then I saw thrones, and upon them sat those to whom judgement was committed. I could see the souls of those who had been beheaded for the sake of God’s word and their testimony to Jesus, those who had not worshipped the beast and its image or received its mark on forehead or hand. These came to life again and reigned with Christ for a thousand years, though the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were over. This is the first resurrection. Happy indeed, and one of God’s own people, is the man who shares in this first resurrection! Upon such the second death has no claim; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him for the thousand years.
27. On earth, what followed the loosing of Satan, and what happened to him?
27 “When the thousand years are over, Satan will be let loose from his dungeon; and he will come out to seduce the nations in the four quarters of the earth and to muster them for battle, yes, the hosts of Gog and Magog, countless as the sands of the sea. So they marched over the breadth of the land and laid siege to the camp of God’s people and the city that he loves. But fire came down on them from heaven and consumed them; and the Devil, their seducer, was flung into the lake of fire and sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been flung, there to be tormented day and night for ever.”—Revelation 19:11 through 20:10, New English Bible.
28. (a) So after what events do the thousand years begin? (b) Why, then, have those thousand years manifestly yet to begin?
28 We notice the use of the expression “thousand years” six times in that account. We notice also that those thousand years begin after a battle between the “King of kings” and the “kings of the earth” along with the “beast” and the “false prophet,” and then the chaining of Satan the Devil and flinging of him into the abyss. Those events are part of “what must shortly happen.” Up till now the world has had nothing to compare with such events. Quite manifestly, then, those “thousand years” have yet to begin. They do not mean some indefinitely long time period, a period that we cannot accurately measure. They are a literal thousand years.
29. What time length for those thousand years fits harmoniously with the proved timetable of God?
29 Students who argue that those thousand years stand for an indefinite time length say that they began on the festival day of Pentecost of 33 C.E., when God poured out his holy spirit upon his newly formed Christian congregation at Jerusalem. But this argument leads into difficulties and to attempted explanations that are contrary to what actually happened to spirit-begotten Christians all during the more than one thousand nine hundred and forty years since that day of Pentecost when the Christian congregation came to life spiritually until now. A literal millennium fits in harmoniously with the proved timetable of God.
30. Why should we not be able to refrain from examining in detail the prophetic picture of those thousand years?
30 What those thousand years usher in upon our earth is something vitally necessary to the endless life and happiness of the world of mankind. How, then, can we reasonably hold back from at once examining closely the prophetic picture of the marvelous millennium that the apostle John so beautifully drew for us?