on the Promised Millennium
by Craig J. Ostler
assistant professor of Church history and doctrine
at Brigham Young University
The prophetic voice of Isaiah records the word of the Lord: "For in my own due time will I come upon the earth in judgment, and my people shall be redeemed and shall reign with me on earth. For the great Millennium shall come" (D&C 43:29-30).
The coming of Jesus Christ is the singular event that sets the Millennium apart from the present conditions of the world. Isaiah described the day of the Lord's coming as a day of destruction on the earth in which "he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it" (Isa. 13:9).
The Savior will return wearing red apparel (Isa. 63:2). The red is symbolic. The illustrative reference is to those who tread upon grapes in a vat used for making wine. As the grapes were crushed under the feet of the workmen, their clothing became red in color. Normally several individuals worked together to accomplish this task; however, the Lord indicated that he will be an exception to this custom. The Lord explained,
"I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come."Thus, the red color of his garments represents the Lord's role in the destruction of the wicked at his coming. The Lord's role in destroying the wicked may be literal, as was the case when He caused natural disasters which destroyed the wicked of the Book of Mormon peoples (3 Ne. 9:1-12). Or it may be symbolic, as represented in latter-day revelation that describes the Lord withholding his Spirit that "the wicked shall slay the wicked" (D&C 63:33). In either case the destruction of the wicked before the Savior's coming in glory will usher in an era of peace.
The Lord's red apparel also represents the shedding of his blood in atoning for sin and redeeming the world. The Prophet Joseph Smith revealed that at the coming of Jesus Christ the righteous
"shall mention the loving kindness of their Lord, and all that he has bestowed upon them according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, forever and ever."Isaiah further testified, "every knee shall bow" (Isa. 45:23) in reverence and acknowledgment that Jesus Christ is Savior and Redeemer.
Isaiah testified that the Lord "shall destroy the sinners" (Isa. 13:9) and that "the slain of the Lord shall be many" (Isa. 66:16). In addition, Isaiah identified that among those destroyed will be "the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth" (Isa. 24:21). The destruction of many prominent leaders of the earth will open the way for the transition to the millennial government of the kingdom of heaven. They will remain in spirit prison until the end of the Millennium, when those who inherit the telestial kingdom and those who became sons of perdition in mortality are called forth from the grave to be judged.
The destruction of the wicked appears to be associated, in part, with a time of war. Isaiah spoke of the Lord's indignation upon all nations and his "fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter" (Isa. 34:2). The prophet Ezekiel amplified Isaiah's message concerning the battles between Israel and the armies of Gog from the land of Magog. Many will die as the Lord intervenes in behalf of his people.
The destruction of the wicked will also be related to the burning associated with the Second Coming as "the inhabitants of the earth are burned," with the result that there are relatively "few men left" (Isa. 24:6). The outcome will be that "many houses shall be desolate.” Isaiah described a world that will have fewer inhabitants due to the destruction of the wicked.
In addition to this destruction, those who remain upon the earth will witness other changes. Christ will return as the Eternal Judge of the inhabitants of the earth. Isaiah emphasized that Christ
"shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth."This explanation clarifies the concept that for the righteous and the meek, the judgment shall be a blessing. The coming of Jesus Christ as Judge will improve the justice system of nations and peoples. The courts will not be influenced by the wickedness of corrupt laws and judges that are now part of the fallen earth.
The hopes and dreams of good people through the ages will be realized as righteousness becomes the standard of judgment and equity is bestowed upon all of the inhabitants of the earth.
Christ revealed that "in time ye shall have no king nor ruler, for I will be your king and watch over you, and you shall be a free people” (D&C 38:21).
Jesus Christ's government will include other rulers, or, as the Bible refers to them, princes. Isaiah declared, "Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment" (Isa. 32:1).
Latter-day revelation broadens our understanding: "For in my own due time will I come upon the earth in judgment, and my people shall be redeemed and shall reign with me on earth" (D&C 43:29).
The Prophet Joseph Smith suggested that
"Christ and the resurrected Saints will reign over the earth during the thousand years. They will not probably dwell upon the earth, but will visit it when they please, or when it is necessary to govern it."The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that "the place for the city of Zion" (D&C 57:2) and the center place where a temple should stand is Independence, Missouri. This location and the Jerusalem of Palestine have been identified as the two world capitals from which the Lord will reign during the Millennium. Temples will be built in both cities. It may be that these houses of the Lord will become the actual residences of Jesus Christ as he reigns on earth during the Millennium.
Included with those who are counted as the righteous are many classes. Clearly, the saints of the Most High, who are worthy, shall dwell on the earth and reign with the Savior. This group will include both those upon the earth and resurrected beings who will return to the earth with the Lord. As the revelations declare, "these are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people" (D&C 76:63).
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith explained:
"During all these years men dwelling in mortality will have the privilege of associating with those who have received their resurrection. Our Lord and Savior will be a familiar figure among the righteous saints. Instruction will be given by resurrected prophets. . . . Those who have passed through the resurrection will not, however, dwell with those in mortality. They will not stay in earthly, or human homes nor sleep in the beds of mortals."On the other hand, Isaiah wrote that those who have not known the Lord's name will also be spared at the beginning of the Millennium (see Isa. 66:19). Those who have not known the name of Jesus Christ, or the non-Christian peoples, are referred to as heathen nations. God revealed that "the heathen nations [shall] be redeemed, and they that knew no law shall have part in the first resurrection; and it shall be tolerable for them" (D&C 45:54).
It should be remembered that those who lived in wickedness in mortality live not again until the thousand years are ended" (D&C 88:100-101). But many among the heathen nations will be able to abide a terrestrial law and enjoy the blessings of the Millennium.
The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote, "While in conversation at Judge Adams' during the evening, I said, there will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years."
Evidently, these statements refer to those who are wicked or sinners in the sense that they exercise their agency in rejecting the fullness of the gospel. Yet, they are able to abide the terrestrial law that prevails during the Millennium.
Joseph Fielding Smith explained,
"There will be millions of people, Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, Mohammedans, people of all classes, and of all beliefs, still permitted to remain upon the face of the earth, but they will be those who have lived clean lives, those who have been free from wickedness and corruption."Many will be given the opportunity during the Millennium to learn of God and receive the priesthood.
Isaiah stated that during the Millennium "the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed" (Isa. 65:20). The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that the millennial wicked are those who will not receive the Lord but will be able to abide the millennial day as they are honorable and clean living.
Those who will die and be resurrected without accepting the fullness of the gospel will have had ample time, at least one hundred years according to Isaiah, to make the choice of whether they are willing to abide celestial or terrestrial law. At the time of their change to a resurrected state they will be quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory, which they chose to enjoy. Whether they will be caught up to dwell on another globe or remain on the earth during the Millennium has not yet been revealed.
The discussion thus far concerns those who are living on the earth when the Millennium begins.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote that as the Millennium proceeds, "Earth's main inhabitants will be those who continue to come here from celestial realms to gain their bodies and to prepare themselves for immortal glory." These are they who will be born during the Millennium, raised in millennial conditions, and "grow up without sin unto salvation" (D&C 45:58). These children "shall die an hundred years old" (Isa. 65:20), at which time they "shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up" (D&C 101:31) to dwell with other resurrected beings awaiting the end of the Millennium and the change of the earth to a celestial globe.
The Lord revealed to Isaiah that as the Millennium begins dramatic physical changes will occur on the earth and in the heavens. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote that
"it shall appear to man on earth as though the stars in the sidereal heavens are falling. And in addition, as here recorded, some heavenly meteors or other objects, appearing as stars, will fall `unto the earth.' Indeed, the events of that day shall be so unprecedented and so beyond human experience, that the prophets are and have been at an almost total loss for words to describe those realities pressed in upon them by the spirit of revelation."Isaiah further explained the changes in the heavens:
"For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. . . . Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place."Regardless of the causes, it is evident from Isaiah's description that there will be great changes in the heavens as the millennial era dawns. The Lord testified to Isaiah of the results of these changes, saying, "I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering" (Isa. 50:3).
The Lord did not state how long these conditions would last, but, according to Isaiah, in time "the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days" (Isa. 30:26).
Among the physical changes upon the earth itself will be the restoring of Edenic conditions that existed at the time Adam and Eve were placed upon the earth. The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote "that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory" (Article of Faith 10). The new earth of the Millennium will be a physical paradise of luxuriant verdure and beauty.
Isaiah continued to explain the process by which the desert will be changed into a place as verdant and fruitful as Carmel, Sharon, or Lebanon: "for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water" (Isa. 35:6-7).
Another change to the face of the earth will be that "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low" (Isa. 40:4) 34 "for the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed" (Isa. 54:10). In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord included these words of Isaiah in connection with a time when the earth will tremble and "reel to and fro like a drunkard" or "as a drunken man" (Isa. 24:20; D&C 49:23). He further stated that the rough places will become smooth.
From latter-day revelation we know that the Lord "shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land; and the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided" (D&C 133:23-24).
Isaiah's voice concerning this event is shrouded in poetic imagery. With reference to the renewal of the lands of Zion he prophesied: "Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate, for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married" (Isa. 62:4).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie saw in Isaiah's imagery of lands that are married the coming together of land masses. Further, he suggested that the joining of the Palestinian Zion and the American Zion might come through bringing the continents together amidst the present-day area of the Atlantic Ocean.
It is clear from Isaiah's prophecies that the coming of the Lord and the ushering in of the Millennium will bring immense changes to the earth as we know it today.
The results will become so familiar and natural to those who live during this time that "the former (heaven and earth) shall not be remembered, nor come into mind" (Isa. 65:17).
God will pour out his Spirit upon those who dwell on the earth during the Millennium. This blessing will aid the people in living righteously, and the Lord will reward them for heeding his counsels by additional outpouring of the Spirit. The dispensing of the Spirit and the righteousness of the people, combined with the destruction of the wicked, will bring peace to the earth.
A result of the destruction of the wicked and an increased outpouring of the Spirit will be the binding of Satan. As people fill their hearts with the Spirit of God, there will be no room in their hearts for Satan's influence. Truly, during the Millennium Lucifer will be bound and will "not have power to tempt any man" (D&C 101:28). Therefore, he will "have no place in the hearts of the children of men" (D&C 45:55).
In time, following the Millennium and the last great battle, Lucifer will be banished to outer darkness where he will "not have power over the saints any more at all" (D&C 88:114).
The Millennium will bring to pass changes dealing with physical handicaps and deformities of the body. Similar to the miracles that blessed mankind during the mortal ministry of the Savior.
Great blessings will come to those who have been prisoners in their own bodies, which blessings will prepare the way for freedom to act upon their righteous desires.
Further, death itself will no longer bear sway over the earth. "Children shall grow up until they become old; old men shall die; but they shall not sleep in the dust, but they shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye" (D&C 63:51). That is to say that the righteous who live during the Millennium will change from a mortal paradisiacal state to an immortal resurrected state.
Isaiah said, "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces" (Isa. 25:8) "and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in [Jerusalem], nor the voice of crying" (Isa. 65:19).
Various aspects of everyday life as we know it in mortality will continue during the Millennium. For example, Isaiah explained that in that day "they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them" (Isa. 65:21). Unlike mortals in the precarious present life, in which natural calamities, war, corrupt governments, or death often prevent one from enjoying the fruits of one's labor, those who dwell upon the earth during the Millennium "shall long enjoy the work of their hands" (Isa. 65:22).
Elder Dallin H. Oaks stated:
"Singleness, childlessness, death, and divorce frustrate ideals and postpone the fulfillment of promised blessings. . . . The Lord has promised that in the eternities no blessing will be denied his sons and daughters who keep the commandments, are true to their covenants, and desire what is right. Many of the most important deprivations of mortality will be set right in the Millennium, which is the time for fulfilling all that is incomplete in the great plan of happiness for all of our Father's worthy children. We know that will be true of temple ordinances. I believe it will also be true of family relationships and experiences."Elder Joseph Fielding Smith taught that those who died in childhood would have the opportunity to choose mates and have sealings performed in their behalf for eternal marriage.
As Elder Oaks pointed out, these blessings will be offered to all of those who missed out on them because of the precarious nature of mortality and the limited freedom that many individuals have in acting on their own will and desires. Thus, all of the righteous barren or unmarried will have the full blessings of the gospel. As Isaiah expressed, they will be more fruitful than the married wife was in mortality previous to the Millennium.
In general, during the Millennium "that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there" (/D&C 130:2).
Brigham Young explained that outside of the changes that have been noted, "All things else shall be as they are now, we shall eat, drink, and wear clothing."
In contrast to present conditions, however, there will be no enmity in the animal kingdom nor between animals and mankind. Isaiah proclaimed:
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox."As previously considered, there will be no death as we now know it during the Millennium. Therefore, those animals that kill and feast upon their prey for sustenance will have a change of physiology and diet. A little reflection will lead one to conclude that many of humankind will likewise have a change of diet consistent with the physical changes in their bodies.
The Lord set aside the millennial day as a time when the knowledge of God and his salvation will cover the earth. As the Millennium proceeds "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:9). This will take place through the preaching of the gospel.
Joseph Fielding Smith explained that missionary work and the preaching of the gospel will go forth "until all men are either converted or pass away."
The work of building and receiving inspired teachings in the house of the Lord will continue. Preachers of truth will search out listeners throughout the earth, and many will come to the houses of the Lord to learn more of his ways. The work of temple ordinances and blessings begun during this last dispensation will continue through the Millennium, and those who come into the fold will receive the fullness of blessings offered in the house of the Lord. They will learn of the celestial law, and when they die and are changed in the twinkling of an eye to a resurrected state, they will be quickened by a portion of celestial glory.
Among those who will come to the Lord are the remnants of scattered Israel. The great day of the return of Israel to the Lord will be in a millennial setting.
It appears that there will be more of the children of Israel who will join themselves to the Lord during the Millennium than there were in all previous generations.
Stakes of Zion will continue to be established throughout the earth. Zion will spread herself until she extends to cover the world over.
The equity and justice of God will be the millennial standard, and the obedient of God's children will receive all that God has in store for those who love Him. For in the words of Isaiah:
"For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him."
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