A Desolated Earth for a Thousand Years?
“COME now, and let us reason together.” “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (Isa. 1:18; 1 Thess. 5:21) In their search for the truth Christians will do well to always heed these Scriptural admonitions.—Acts 17:11.
According to the belief of some, such as the Seventh-Day Adventists, “the present life is given to man as a probation. Death closes it.” An “investigative judgment” determining the fate of each individual takes place before the return of Christ; and at his return the righteous will be rewarded with heavenly bliss, the wicked punished with destruction, and the entire earth will be desolated by a great earthquake.
It is further held that this desolated earth will be the abyss into which Satan and his demons will be cast, they thus being bound by a “chain of circumstances”. At the end of a thousand years the saints will return to the earth and the wicked will be raised from the dead. Then the wicked, under the direction of Satan and his demons, will come up against the saints, and “just as the final blow is to be struck by the attacking army, lo, fire comes down from God out of heaven and devours them”. So the Adventists teach.
THE ABYSSING AND BINDING OF SATAN
Is a desolated earth the abyss into which Satan and his demons are cast? Those who so teach use as proof the fact that the Hebrew word rendered “deep” at Genesis 1:2 may also be translated “abyss”. “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep [abyss].” But the mere fact that that Hebrew term of Genesis 1:2 rendered “deep” may also be translated “abyss” cannot be used as proof that the abyss mentioned at Revelation 20:1-3 (NW) into which Satan is cast is the earth. Why not? Because there is no proof whatever that the earth and the deep of Genesis 1:2 refer to one and the same thing.
Today the ocean is referred to as the deep. The ancients spoke of it as an abyss because it was a great deep whose depth was unfathomable or bottomless as far as they were concerned. The deep mentioned at Genesis 1:2 undoubtedly is the great expanse of water in suspension which covered the globe like a canopy and which was divided from the waters on the earth for the formation of the atmosphere or “vault” of the heavens. (See Genesis 1:6, 7, 20, Mo.) Also note that when Christ was on the earth certain demons begged him not to send them “out into the deep” or the abyss at that time. Since they already were on the earth it surely could not be the abyss they referred to.—Luke 8:31.
Then what is the abyss into which Satan and his demons are cast? The death state, just as Jesus in death was said to have gone to the abyss. (Rom. 10:7) Certainly it would not require an angel to come from heaven with a chain to thus abyss and bind Satan if it were done by a chain of circumstances. (Rev. 20:1) Clearly the point is not that the people, but that the Devil, will be removed.
EARTH DESOLATED FOR A THOUSAND YEARS?
Is there any Scriptural proof for the claim that the earth will be desolated for a thousand years? True, Revelation 16:18, 19 speaks of a great earthquake, but must we necessarily conclude that this is a literal one, with so many obviously symbolic expressions in other parts of this prophecy? Also note that after the earthquake a great hail fell (not literal hail) and men blasphemed God because of this hail; thereby indicating that the earthquake had not destroyed all wicked human creatures.
Endeavoring to find further support, advocates of the desolated-earth teaching cite the prophecies found at Isaiah 24:1-6 and Jeremiah 4:23-28 which speak of Jehovah desolating the earth and making it an empty waste without man. However, a careful study of these prophecies shows that they had a literal fulfillment in the desolation of the land of Judah from 607 B.C. to 537 B.C., which desolation is the theme of the entire book of Jeremiah. Telling of the restoration back there is the following: “Thus saith Jehovah: Yet again there shall be heard in this place, . . . in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness.”—Jer. 33:10-14, AS.
That these prophecies do not teach a complete emptying of the entire earth of human creatures is apparent from the context. Note Isaiah 24:6, AS, “Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, . . . and few men left.” And Isaiah 24:12-14, AS, tells that in the city that is left desolated there will be “gleanings” and that “these shall lift up their voice, they shall shout; for the majesty of Jehovah”. And at Jeremiah 4:27, AS, we are told: “The whole land [of Judah] shall be a desolation; yet will I not make a full end.” And Jer 4 verse 29 of the same chapter shows that men shall flee into the thickets and climb upon the rocks. The entire earth was not desolated in the miniature fulfillment in 607 B.C. to 537 B.C., neither will it be when these scriptures have the greater fulfillment at Armageddon.
Why desolate the earth for a thousand years? What purpose would it serve? Since the earth was not created in vain, would it not have been created in vain at least as regards the thousand years if it were desolate that long? (Isa. 45:18) To claim that the saints will judge wicked men and angels to determine the degree of their guilt and punishment and that this will take a thousand years merely shows the weakness of the position taken. All the wicked will have been judged guilty to a degree meriting their destruction; a judgment passed and executed before the saints start the thousand-year reign with Christ. Since Adventists are agreed that death, not purgatory or eternal torment, is the reward of the wicked, how can it be according to degrees? Death is death. The degree of guilt of those destroyed would be inconsequential.
God has appointed a day for Christ Jesus to judge the world, and the saints will be associate judges. This judgment day will be a thousand years long and the rule is that, when Jehovah’s “judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness”. (Isa. 26:9, AS; Acts 17:31; 1 Cor. 6:1-4; 2 Pet. 3:8) If desolate, who learn righteousness?
Further, the Scriptures show that all the families of the earth will be blessed by the seed of Abraham which seed consists of both Christ and his body members, the saints. If this seed is to be taken to heaven and then return after a thousand years to enjoy the blessings of earth, who are all the families of the earth that the seed is to bless?—Gen. 22:17, 18; Gal. 3:16, 29.
And Revelation 20:5, 6 shows that the saints will be kings and priests for a thousand years. As kings ruling over whom for a thousand years, if the earth is to be desolate at that time? And whom can they serve as priests, if there are no men on earth at that time requiring the services of priests?
Also note that the Bible does not state that those who join the Devil in his final effort are loosed or raised from the dead with him. Rather it clearly shows that when he is loosed he will go forth to deceive those on the earth, indicating that there are people on the earth before he is loosed and who are not deceived.—Rev. 20:7-10.
ROOT OF DIFFICULTY
Evidently the difficulty lies in not appreciating that at Christ’s return, in addition to those Christians who will receive a heavenly reward, and those wicked ones who are destroyed, there will be another class of creatures upon the earth. The Scriptures are replete with proof showing that two separate and distinct classes will receive salvation, one to heavenly, and the other to earthly life. Jesus indeed promised a heavenly reward to some of his followers: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) See also John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:35-54; 2 Peter 1:4. However, he also spoke of “other sheep . . . which are not of this fold”, and he made it very clear that some sheeplike ones would not receive the heavenly reward. “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” But surely God would not fail to reward such a faithful servant as John the Baptist. How will he be rewarded? By a resurrection to life on the earth.—Ps. 115:16; Matt. 11:11; John 10:16.
Jesus likened this world’s end to the time of the Flood. (Matt. 24:37-39) The Flood cleansed the earth even as Armageddon will in the near future. A comparatively few righteous ones were spared then and a comparatively few righteous ones will likewise be spared now, those seeking meekness and righteousness. To the survivors of the Flood God gave the mandate to multiply originally given to Adam and Eve and he will again restate it to the ones surviving Armageddon. But whereas Satan soon corrupted the human race after the Flood, he will be bound after Armageddon so that he will not be able to do so then.—Gen. 1:28; 9:1; 10:8; 11:1-9; Zeph. 2:1-3.
Another difficulty in the teaching of the desolated earth is the failure to appreciate the great difference between spirit and human creatures. The Scriptures assure us that the heavenly creature is far superior to and cannot even be seen by a human creature. In fact man has no idea what a spirit creature looks like. (Acts 26:13, 14; Ex. 33:20; 1 Cor. 15:40-54) Christ divested himself of heavenly glory and became a human creature. He prayed that God might glorify him with the glory he had with his Father before the world was. Paul assures us that God did highly exalt him, even far above what he had before. Can we imagine Christ now in human form? And if his followers are to be like him, will they not also be glorious spirit creatures? And if such is the case, can we imagine that after a thousand years of existence as glorious spirit creatures in the heavenly realm they will be demoted or lowered to mere human conditions and bodies and be content to spend an eternity thus?—Rom. 2:7; John 17:5; Phil. 2:5-11; Hebrews 1 and 2.
But someone will ask, If the 1,000 years are to be used to judge the living and the dead, why does Revelation 20:5 state that the “rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished”? First of all note that modern translations all leave out the word “again”. See Moffatt, Goodspeed, American Standard Version, Weymouth, New World, etc. Also note that it does not state that the rest of the dead were not resurrected until the thousand years were finished, as if there were a thousand years between the first resurrection and the resurrection of mankind in general. It merely states that they did not “live” until the thousand years were finished.
The purpose of the 1,000-year reign of Christ is to bring life to mankind. However, even though resurrected from the dead they will not really be alive in God’s sight, perfected and having the ransom fully applied toward them and having the right to life, until they have proved their worthiness to everlasting life by withstanding the final test of integrity brought upon them by the loosing of the Devil and his demons. The Scriptures repeatedly refer to sinners as being dead though not actually so. “Let the dead bury their dead.” “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”—Matt. 8:22; Eph. 2:1.
HOPE FOR THE DEAD
If, as it is claimed, ‘the present life is given to man as a probation and death closes it,’ what will be the fate of all the heathen who never lived during a judgment period and never had the opportunity to hear of God, Christ and the Ten Commandments? If it is argued that all such will be saved because of ignorance, why not keep all humankind in ignorance and then save all? But all these difficulties vanish when we understand the provisions of the 1,000-year reign of Christ for such ones who in times past did not live during a special period of divine judgment.
In summing up: According to the Scriptures Christ Jesus will destroy all the wicked, seen and unseen, at the battle of Armageddon, which Bible prophecy shows is not far away, and at which time Satan and his demons will be bound in the abyss of the death state or unconsciousness for a thousand years. Those who survive that battle will be given the privilege of being fruitful, multiplying and filling the earth and subduing it. During this time the saints will rule with Christ in heavenly glory, having a part in judging the world in righteousness and in blessing all the families of the earth. During this time those unjust ones in God’s memory, in the memorial tombs (but not the willfully wicked, whose names will rot), will be raised. Not having previously been involved in Jehovah’s adverse judgments, they will then have the opportunity to learn righteousness.—John 5:28, 29, NW; Prov. 10:7.
By the end of the thousand years all in the tombs will have come forth and the earth will have been completely subdued, restored to a paradise state and filled with righteous creatures. (1 Cor. 15:24-28) Then Satan and his demons will be loosed for a little time to test all those on the earth. Those who fail in that test will be destroyed together with the Devil and his demons. Then, in the fullest sense of the word, being perfected and having the right to life, all survivors will live. Then there will be no more death due to inheriting Adamic sin, neither sorrow nor crying, nor any pain, for all former things will have passed away. (Rev. 21:4) Thus instead of the earth’s having been desolated for a thousand years, it will have been crammed full of opportunities, activities and blessings.