In my previous readings of the Bible, when I came to Revelation 21 which describes the New Heavens and New Earth, I thought this pertained to the time beyond the Millennial Reign of Christ. Now, after reading this chapter again, I’m not so sure.
The entire Tribulation is a 7-year period that is split into half. It begins with the confirmation of the peace covenant confirmed by the Antichrist. At the midpoint of 3 1/2 years, Antichrist breaks the agreement by entering the newly built temple and proclaiming himself as god. The false peace that Israel has known during this time is shattered, as the Jews realize Antichrist is not Messiah or any other type of savior. In fact, at the time he desecrates the temple, he begins severely persecuting Jews and Christians. This begins the final 3 1/2 years known as the Great Tribulation.
Both Revelation and Daniel agree that the entire Tribulation is comprised of two 3 1/2 year segments of 1260 days each. The conclusion of the Great Tribulation is the point that Zechariah speaks of multiple times as “on that day” (see Zechariah 12-14). The description of the Lord’s coming is one of the most graphic in all of Scripture. Consider first Zechariah 14:3-4:
Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.
The armies of the earth have gathered on the plains of Armageddon in their deception to fight against God and His Chosen People Israel. Surely His awesome appearance causes all who have come to this place to greatly fear. And rightly so, as Zechariah 14:12 describes a scene right out of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (in fact, the movie producers certainly crafted their climatic scene based on this):
And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
This is the very moment also described in Revelation 19:15 when Jesus speaks the Word of God in destructive fury:
From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.
Following this great (and easy) victory over the forces of darkness that have consumed the earth, along with the many plagues that God has sent, the world is an absolute mess. The blood of billions of people – those belonging to Christ and those who didn’t – has drenched the planet. The abominations of sin that brought mankind to this final climax of anti-God fervor have reached so high as to almost taint the heavens. These last 1,260 days have seen the greatest slaughter and ensuing bloodshed that has ever been known. How could the Millennial Kingdom – this 1,000 years of peace, joy, and abundance – begin with the world in this awful state? The answer is that it doesn’t.
Daniel 12 describes an extra 75 days following this dramatic conclusion of the Tribulation period. The prophet breaks this up into a 30-day period and another 45-day period, i.e. 1,290 days to begin, and a full 1,335 days to its end.
We’re not told exactly how this time period plays out, but consider Revelation 21:1-2:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Here is where I think I’ve been mistaken in the past. I’ve always seen this passage as referring to the final cleansing of the earth after the Millennium. However, when we add Isaiah 65:17-25 into the mix, that seems to change things:
“For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
and her people to be a gladness.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not fill out his days,
for the young man shall die a hundred years old,
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain
or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord.
This surely describes the Millennial 1,000 years. However, the earth must be cleansed in some way following the Tribulation because it is so steeped in the sin and blood of man. We see in 2 Peter 3:10 that tells us how God brings a holy fire to sanitize the world:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Is this the same cleansing of the world right after the Tribulation? In other words, does this dissolving of the earth and its remaking refer to the period following the Tribulation, or is this describing a subsequent time after the Millennium? Could there be two such instances?
The reason I’ve always thought the New Heavens and New Earth with the cleansing fire occurred following the Millennium is that sin remains in effect and continues to stain the planet during that time. The final uprising of mankind at Satan’s instigation will bring more and final bloodshed upon the planet. To move glorified man into God’s eternal glory after the White Throne Judgment concluding the Millennial Reign, it has only made sense to me that this is when the world gets a complete makeover.
We see this 1,000 years of Jesus personally ruling from His throne in Jerusalem with the subsequent blessings upon all things. Revelation 21:22-23 tells us:
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
This is astounding. Is this the reality during the Millennium? Certainly no physical temple is necessary because Jesus is its personification. These descriptions only give me a greater sense of awe.
To tie loose ends together: It’s probable that in the 30 days following the Tribulation, i.e. bringing us to 1,290 days, this is the period in which whatever makeover of the earth happens, this is it. That sets the stage for the remaining 45 days, which brings us to the total of 1,335 days. Two events may occur in these final 45 days. First would be the judgment of the nations via the Sheep and Goats Judgment of Matthew 25:31-46. The second would be the Wedding Feast of the Lamb where the Bride and all her friends (i.e. OT saints, Tribulation saints, etc.) gather for this celebration as Jesus describes in Matthew 22:1-14.
These events would then propel the world into the Millennium with Jesus sitting on His throne in Jerusalem.
But, 1,000 years is only a drop in the bucket of eternity. Beyond this period, God has even more planned for those whom He loves. How thankful I am that my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life! How about you?