The Millennium Is For Missions
by Rev. Vernon Pollema
Faith Comes by Hearing...
The Millinnium is for Missions
Revelation 12; 20:1-3
Rev. Vernon Pollema
You and I live during the time of missions, in the days of salvation. I’m sure we’re all aware of the missions mandate given by our Lord just before He ascended to His Father and our Father in heaven. To refresh our memories: “And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:18-20). “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
We see the results of obeying this command throughout the book that is appropriately entitled, The Acts of the Apostles: In response to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Only a short time later, after Peter had performed the miracle of healing the lame man and used the occasion to preach Christ, we read: “. . . many of them which heard the word believed: and the number of the men was about five thousand” (Acts 4:4).
The gospel is on the move! The apostle Paul becomes God’s chosen missionary to the Gentiles. We read in Acts 13:46,47: “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put if from you, and judge (condemn) yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.”
Jesus himself, while yet on earth, had given a preview of what the gospel would accomplish. The fourth chapter of the gospel of John tells us about our Lord’s conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus asks her for a drink of water, using that as a way to introduce the subject of living water which only He could give. Jesus amazes this woman in several ways: by speaking with her, a Samaritan; by knowing all about her sinful past; by revealing to her the way of salvation. The woman, in turn, is so filled with joy that she cannot contain herself, and runs back to her people, neighbors, friends, and relatives with the good news: “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? Then they went out of the city, and came unto him” (John 4:29,30). It’s in this context that later Jesus says to his disciples: “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35). The Samaritans are coming! It’s the day of salvation. The time for missions has come. Jesus has ushered in the time for sowing and reaping.
However, we should understand that that was not always the case. Before this time, before the time of missions, it was a time of shadows and great darkness. For only a very few, for one small insignificant nation, one minor race of people, was there any hope. And even in their midst there was great wickedness and rebellion. In the time of the Old Testament salvation was limited to the people known as the Jews or Israelites, and, often, only a remnant among them, as many perished in their wickedness.
The hope that there was looked to the future, to the day when the darkness would be dispelled and the promised Messiah would appear to bring light to the sin-darkened world. Jesus, when he entered upon his ministry, spoke of this very thing: “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt.4:16,17).
With the coming of our Savior, the age of missions first dawned upon this world that sat in darkness. In order that we may appreciate and understand the significance and the opportunities of this age, of this time of missions, we must be aware of the way it was as compared to the way it is today.
To see how it was we go to Revelation 12: The scene is Bethlehem. The Christ-child is about to be born. Throughout history Satan, the dragon, is bent on the destruction of the Christ-child and engulfing the world in darkness. He camouflaged himself as a serpent in the garden of Eden. In the book to Esther he assumed the guise of Haman. In Egypt he worked through Pharaoh who had all of Israel’s male children murdered. He was the inspiration behind wicked king Ahab and his whore, Jezebel. From the time of the fall, Satan had been successful in deceiving the nations. He had made much darkness to spread over the world. And now, once again, he would seek to destroy the one who was the only hope of a world lost in the darkness of sin: “and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born” (Revelation 12:4b).
As we read these words, we remember the wise men of the east. We see them in the audience-chamber of Herod. Herod speaks: “Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also” (Matthew 2:8).
We know that Herod’s intention was to kill the child. But the wise men, warned of God, returned to their country another way after they had found and worshipped the Christ-child. Satan refuses to admit defeat. The infants of Bethlehem and the surrounding area, two years and under, are brutally murdered (cf. Matt. 2:16). But Herod failed and so did Satan. The Christ-child was safe with his parents in Egypt. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is God’s victory over Satan, the dragon. His life, his death on the cross, his resurrection, ascension and enthronement at the right hand of the Father is further victory. John condenses all of this in Rev. 12:5: “And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule the nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and unto his throne.” We see a reference to Psalm 2:9 where we read, “Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron.” Here we have the comforting assurance that Jesus protects His people from the onslaughts of Satan by applying the rod of iron to her enemies. He is fully in control of world affairs, gathering His church from all nations, and keeping them from harm and danger.
What is the effect of this great victory? There is a battle in heaven: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; nether was their place found anymore in heaven” (Rev. 12:7,8). We may wonder about war happening in heaven. That is the home of God and His angels. How can there be war? We learn from the book of Job that even after his fall from grace, Satan continued to have access to heaven: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it” (Job. 1:6,7). From Rev. 12:10 we learn that Satan accuses the elect before God day and night. But that is about to come to an end. What is the result of this battle? “And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him”(Rev. 12:9,10).
Satan is banished. Expelled. Evicted. God will no longer tolerate his presence or his accusations. No longer can he go about deceiving the nations, bringing the accusation that there is no salvation. No longer is he able to point to the unfinished work of the Savior. Christ’s atonement has been fully accomplished. The justice of God has been satisfied. The demands of God’s law have been met. Complete satisfaction for sin had been rendered when Christ arose victorious over sin, death and the grave, and ascended to heaven, leading captivity captive (cf. Eph. 4:8). John hears “the loud (triumphant) voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ . . . and they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 12:10, 11). And now the ransomed of the Lord can exultingly say with the apostle Paul: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:33,34).
Satan, having failed in his many attempts to defeat Christ, now looks for an easier target and turns his attention to the church, i.e., the followers of Christ, whom John depicts as a woman: “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast down unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child” (Rev. 12:12, 13). But the Lord protects His church which John depicts as a woman who flees into the desert: “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent” (Rev. 12:6, 14). The desert is a place where a person is completely dependent upon God who bore His people as on eagle’s wings (cf. Ex. 19:4). He provided them with quail; He sustained them with good health; and their clothes and shoes did not wear out. God shielded them from the blazing desert sun by covering them with a cloud, and during the night He kept them warn with a pillar of fire. He protected them from stings and bites of scorpions and snakes. Thus, in the desert of affliction, on a long and often difficult pilgrimage, God prepared a place for His people who were the apple of His eye (cf. Deut. 32:10), and nourished them with the spiritual manna of His Word. So protected and provided for, the church resides “away from the face of the serpent,” i.e., away from Satan’s most direct and deadly attacks. Satan cannot destroy the church, try as he might. To be sure, he tries to engulf the church in a stream of lies, false doctrines and teachers, doubts, persecutions, hypocrites, etc., but the true church is not deceived. This makes the devil all the more angry and he stalks about as a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may destroy” (I Pet. 5:8). John Calvin says he goes about dragging his chains with him. (More about this later.)
Now this period of time during which the church experiences the attacks of Satan and the special care of God making it impossible for Satan to prevail and destroy her; this time during which the people of God are called, gathered and nourished with the manna of the Word and enjoy a certain degree of tolerance and security on earth during which her warfare is accomplished, the Lord having prepared a place for her in the desert; this time is described as “a time, and times, and half a time.” The same space of time is meant here that is mentioned in verse 6 and called “a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” Biblical scholars agree that both expressions refer to a period of three and a half years. The expression “a time, and times, and half a time” occurs first in the book to Daniel. There it refers to the period of the antichrist. John, in his first epistle emphasizes the fact that the antichrist is in the world already (I John 4:3). Hence, in the book of Revelation, this period of three years and a half refers to the entire Gospel age, the millennium, that period during which the church still must deal with the spirit of the antichrist, but a time when she is nourished “away from the serpent,” a time when Satan’s influence is curbed, restrained, i.e., a time during which he is bound.
And so we have arrived at the way it is today, the time for missions; and the time for missions is the millennium. For confirmation of this we go to Revelation 20 where we read that an angel bound the dragon, who is Satan, and threw him into the abyss, where he is to stay for one thousand years (cf. Rev. 20:2,3). This 1000 years is called the millennium, which is the Latin word for 1000. With variations, there are basically three views or positions with regard to this millennium. The pre-millennial view says that Christ will return just before (meaning of pre) the 1000 years begin and set up a literal 1000 year reign head-quartered in Jerusalem where He will rule over the reestablished Jewish nation. The post-millennial view says that Christ will return after (meaning of post) the 1000 years are finished which they believe is symbolic of a victorious gospel age. Reformed Christians are generally neither pre-millennial nor post-millennial in their understanding of this biblical prophecy. [Editor's Note: Nonetheless, there are many Christians who identify themselves as being both Reformed and post-millennial.] They have therefore been called a-millennial. But this is an unfortunate label. It is a combination of “millennial” and “a” which means no millennium. It seems to say that those who hold this view deny the very existence of a millennium. They do not for the Bible clearly says: “and bound him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:2). It would be better to say that Reformed Christians believe in the millennium as a present reality. In that respect they agree with the post-millennialist.
That the millennium is now is also confirmed by Christ Himself in His dispute with the Pharisees who accuse Him of casting out demons in the name of Beelzebub or Satan. But “Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? . . . But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man ? and then he will spoil his house” (Matt. 12:25ff). Satan was the strong man, but Jesus, as the Son of God, had power over Satan and came to bind him. The 1000 years or millennium began when Christ came and will last until shortly before He returns at the end of the world when Satan “must be loosed a little season” (Rev. 20:3).
This view of the millennium as being present with us now has tremendous meaning for Christian missions. Consider the binding of Satan and what that means for missions. Satan was bound and thrown into the abyss “that he should deceive the nations no more” (Rev. 20:3). The book of Revelation was written toward the close of the first century A.D. when the Gospel had scarcely been preached throughout the Roman Empire. But here in Revelation we have a prediction of the spread of the Gospel over the entire earth until all nations shall have been touched by it. Following the raising of Lazarus and His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, there was much excitement and curiosity concerning Jesus. Certain Greeks (Gentiles), who had come to worship at the feast of the Passover, came to Philip with the request to see Jesus. Philip tells Andrew, and together they go to Jesus with the request. Here is part of Jesus’ reply: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:31,32). Christ was not a universalist who taught that all men individually are saved. The “all men” whom He intended to draw to Himself were men from every tribe and nation under heaven; not one group would be excluded. And this drawing of all men is related to the casting out of the prince of this world, i.e., Satan. This prince must be cast out in order that he may no longer deceive.
But is it not true that “your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour?” (I Pet. 5:8). Yes, it is true, but lions, as a rule, do not roar as they stalk their prey out in the wilderness. They roar when they are brought in cages into the arena, as they were in Peter’s day, in order to kill and eat Christians for the entertainment of the spectators. These lions, that Peter and his readers knew, were under the control of the lion trainers.
And Satan is controlled by God, like a dog on a chain or a lion in a cage. Such are still able to do great harm to those who enter their domain. But because Satan is controlled by God, the Kingdom of Christ has grown and can be found in most areas of the earth. It has grown like the stone in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, seeking to fill the whole earth (cf. Dan. 2:35). The Church has become truly catholic (universal). No longer is it only a European institution with a few outposts here and there. It has gained many converts and has taken root in the soils of North America, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Satan would never tolerate this if he had his way.
As Reformed Christians, we should be optimistic regarding the spread of the Gospel. We ought to be optimistic because our God reigns and He will cause His Kingdom to come. We ought to be optimistic because the millennial age in which Satan’s powers are limited, is now upon us. It is the time of missions. Judgment has been delayed. It is the time for sowing the seed, for preaching the Word. That Word is “mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (II Cor. 10:4).
The teaching in all of this is clear: We must work while Satan is bound, for the time is coming when he will be “loosed for a little season.” This is the time when the “man of sin” will be revealed, the Antichrist (cf. II Thess. 2). It is a period of severe persecution for the church known as “Satan’s little season,” when again he will be allowed such power that “except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matt. 24:22). We must be engaged in spiritual warfare now. This implies an urgency on our part, a burden for lost souls, which, I’m afraid, is too often lacking. We know and confess that we are to obey God, and do the work of missions, but the compassion is missing. We look around us and see all the sin and rebellion, the moral corruption and decay, and say, “Too bad. They’ll get what’s coming to them.” While true, such an attitude is not carrying a burden for the lost. Today is the time for missions. The millennium is now. The millennium is for missions. We must work now for the time is going to end.
The Church has been given the ministry of reconciliation through the work of missions. The Church can also be confident as she carries out this ministry. God, Who does not lie, has promised that His Word will not return to Him void, but shall accomplish all that He pleases (cf. Isa.55:11).
The question is: Are you and I, as members of the Church, faithful in supporting and doing the work of the Church? Are we taking advantage of the opportunities during this time for missions? Are we mission-minded as the Church must be? Remember, the millennium is for missions.
-Rev. Pollema is pastor of the Ebenezer Reformed Church of Shafter, CA.