I noted last time that there’s quite a bit of biblical material about the millennium. Assuming that the millennial passages should be taken with a reasonable amount of ordinary hermeneutic, this period will be characterized by
- Natural peace, such as the lion lying down with the lamb (Is 11.6), after the manner of “Peace in the Valley”
- Social peace, with nations beating their swords into plowshares (Is 2.4)
- Spiritual peace, with the nations full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Is 11.9)
- Political peace, as justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream (Am 5.24)
Our knowledge of the eternal state, however, is much less extensive. Most of it is confined to the last two chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21-22. The environment portrayed there seems to have two outstanding characteristics:
Perfect fellowship with God
God and the Lamb light the whole city (Re 21.23)—and likely the whole world, given that “the nations will walk by its light” (Re 21.24). Recall that at the Transfiguration, Jesus’ garments shone whiter than any launderer could bleach them (Mk 9.3); that Paul was blinded by Jesus’ heavenly glory (Ac 9.8-9, 18); and that when Jesus’ closest friend, John, saw him glorified, he fell at his feet (Re 1.17).
But there, all the barriers—sin, distance, visibility—will be removed. You and I are going to enjoy the open, intimate, personal presence of the Godhead.
Perfect service for God
There we will be in a position to worship God perfectly; we’re told that “his servants will worship him” (Re 22.3), in a time when we have bodies like Christ’s resurrected body (Php 3.21), and we will be like him in other ways as well (1Jn 3.2).
We worship him today, both in private and in public, but our worship is dented by our sinfulness, by distraction, by limitations of imagination and creativity, and by all sorts of other factors. Yet even in this broken state worship is highly satisfying, both to us and to God.
I recall attending church a few years ago in Arad, Israel, with a small Messianic Jewish congregation. They met in a house on Shabbat. As I entered, a young lady just inside the door asked, “What language?” When I answered, “English,” she twisted a knob on a small black box and handed it to me with a set of headphones. I entered the living room and sat down with 30 or 40 other people seated close together.
The preacher began speaking—in Hebrew—but I heard a live translation in English. As I looked around the room, I noticed that most had on headphones, but a handful had microphones as well, and they were speaking softly as the sermon continued. I learned afterward that translations were available in German, French, Spanish, Arabic, and a North African tribal language as well as English.
I couldn’t help thinking that this was a delightful foretaste of glory divine, of the day when every kingdom, tongue, tribe, and nation will be gathered around the throne, singing and shouting the praise of the Lion of Judah, the Lamb who was slain (Re 7.9ff).
Even here, worship can be delightful.
But there, there, all those limitations will be done away. We will worship him purely and completely, and we will serve him perfectly and successfully as well.
What will that service look like? Will there be white-collar and blue-collar jobs? Will there be physical kinds of service as well as spiritual? Will God send us shooting off through the regenerated universe on missions of importance to the accomplishing of his will?
All good questions; thanks for asking them. But by God’s choice—and his grace—we don’t know the answers. All we know is that we will serve him—and serve him perfectly.
So that means—to put it in absurdly simple terms—that everything’s going to turn out just fine.
And that presents us with a question: What do we do in the meantime? How do we think? How do we make decisions? How do we feel?
How do we live?
More on that next time.