On the Joyful March to Mankind’s Millennium
AMONG the precious promises the Scriptures contain for the faithful footstep followers of Jesus Christ is the one found at Revelation 20:6: “Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”
Are these thousand years to be understood literally or figuratively, and when do they take place? If anyone should know, it certainly would be the apostle John, to whom Jesus Christ revealed these things. And how did John view the thousand years? According to the testimony of Papias, a disciple of John, John believed these thousand years to be literal and in the distant future.*
The prospect of ruling as kings for a thousand years did not make Jesus or his faithful apostles anxious to rule before Jehovah’s due time, as was the case with some of the Christians at Corinth, whom the apostle Paul had to reprove. (Matt. 4:8-10; John 6:15; 1 Cor. 4:8-10) However, after the apostles fell asleep in death, grievous wolves entered into the Christian sheepfold, even as foretold. In time professed Christians were no longer willing to wait for a future rule of a thousand years but desired to rule as kings at once, in particular the bishops of Rome.
Thus it gradually came about that the teaching of Augustine prevailed. He taught that the thousand-year reign of Christ was figurative. But in what did their yielding to the temptation to rule as kings before God’s due time result? A glorious Messianic rule? Far from it! Instead, it brought about the Dark Ages!
Arguing against a literal future millennial rule by Christ, some have claimed that such a teaching would chill the missionary ardor of Christians to make disciples of all nations. (Matt. 28:19, 20) But not so! Today no people are more zealous in carrying out this missionary commission than are the Christian witnesses of Jehovah, who believe that the 1,000-year reign of Christ is literal and future. In comparatively few years these have grown to more than a million. Today they are carrying out this commission in 197 lands and islands of the sea and that in 169 languages. Last year they devoted 184 million hours to this work!
And no wonder. What good news they have to tell the people! They proclaim the good news that the millennial rule of Christ will begin with this generation and that it will mean ever so many blessings for the people: the binding of Satan and his demons for a thousand years; having a righteous heavenly government in full control of earth’s affairs. It will be an earth-wide rule of peace and prosperity; all mankind will learn righteousness. Even all the dead in Hades will be brought back to benefit from that Kingdom rule. Eventually there will be no more death, neither sorrow nor pain, neither mourning nor crying.—Isa. 26:9; Rev. 20:13; 21:4.
All who have made this hope truly their own might be said to be on a joyful march, in a victory procession, to mankind’s millennium, even as described at Psalm 68:24-28.* Yes, ever since 1919 the Christian witnesses of Jehovah have been marching in such victory processions. What victories Jehovah God has given them over their enemies, as can be seen by favorable court decisions and their great prosperity spiritually and numerically! And even as the women in ancient Israel played a prominent role in the victory processions, so today we find women have gained a prominence that cannot be overlooked or go unmentioned.—Ps. 68:11.
As Jehovah’s people share in this victory procession they keep feasting on God’s Word both privately and with one another at their congregational meetings and larger assemblies. At the same time they try to conduct themselves now as they know all will have to do when mankind’s millennium prevails under the beneficent rule of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom associates. More than that, they invite others to join them in this joyful march to mankind’s millennium by going from house to house, making return visits, conducting Bible studies, and incidentally as they have opportunity. And doing so gives them even more joy than did receiving the good news that was brought to them in the first place!—Acts 20:35.
For details see The Watchtower, April 15, 1967.
For details see The Watchtower, November 1, 1967.