When Christ, who is now seated on His Father's throne, returns, having received the kingdom, and sits with His glorified saints on His own throne, then will be ushered in the dispensation of the fulness of times, during which every principle that has crumbled and failed in the feeble hands of man (Israel and the Gentiles) in all the previous dispensations, shall be established and maintained in unfailing glory and righteousness in the hands of the Second Man, the Lord from heaven, who will exercise universal dominion, and bring everything into order and blessedness under His supreme authority, resulting in a subjugation so complete that there will not even be a blade of grass that shall not be subjected to His power and blessing.
Our God and Father has been pleased to confide to us in Ephesians 1:9-10, the secret of the mystery of His will, and how it is His purpose for the glory of His Son,
“in the dispensation of the fulness of times, to gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in Him.”
In other words, He acquaints us of His intention to establish another economy, which is to displace this one, and which will be characterised by the coexistence of two united yet distinct states of glory — the things which are in heaven and the things which are on earth. Not the earthly things sublimated into the heavenly, much less the heavenly reduced to the level of the earthly, but both, in their several domains, brought together under one Head — Christ. Nothing is more certain than that such a condition of things does not exist now, for there is no union of heaven and earth, nor any general gathering together of all things heavenly and earthly under the headship of Christ at present. So far from this, the earth-rejected Lord of glory, is sitting on the right hand of God expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. Nor is it one iota more applicable to eternity, for in the eternal state it will not be heading up and subduing, but Christ delivering up after He has subdued all things — that God may be all in all. In the millennial age alone could such an association of the heavens and the earth be brought about, an association which maintains the distinction between the heavenly and the earthly, and at the same time effects the combination of the two, according neither with the present time, nor the eternal future; but with the glorious epoch, when the whole of heaven will be emptied to pour honours on the Head that once was crowned with thorns. When He appears to inaugurate the new dispensation, “He will come in His own glory, and in His Father's and of the holy angels;” and I leave you to imagine what, after such a train of accompaniments, will be left behind in heaven. We also know that, when He appears, the Church, His body and bride, will appear with Him; for the last Adam must have His Eve, companion of His joy, and co-heir with Him in the inheritance of all things in heaven and earth. This He chooses not to take as God, though His by right of creatorship, but He takes it as man, on the ground of redemption, that He may associate her with Him in it. Thus, nearest to Christ, and reigning with Him, there will be the heavenly people, His Church occupying the central position in the heavenly sphere, with all the other heavenly things grouped round it; while there will be the earthly people, the Jews as the central thing in the earthly domain, with all other earthly things grouped round that — not reigning, however, but reigned over. Now, though both these will cast a mutual brightness on each other, enhancing one another's blessing and joy, there will be no incongruous mixture of the one with the other, for each will have a sphere that is proper to itself, and a distinct centre to which all the other things in that sphere will be subordinate — Christ being Head over all. In the heavenly circle, there will be Christ and the Church, and round them angels, principalities, and powers; and in the earthly circle, there will be the favoured nation of Israel, and round it all the other nations of the earth.
As regards the characteristic principle, it will neither be divine government, as seen of old, under the dispensation of law administered by mere fallible human agents, nor will it be divine grace, as seen in the Church now, the good suffering in the midst of evil; but it will be the glorious palpable manifestation of both divine grace and divine government, simultaneously and conjointly under One Infallible Head, who will be the bright sun of two systems of unveiled glory, separate in their nature, but combined in their display; so that Christ will manifest Himself gloriously in the one, according to that which is celestial, and in the other according to that which is terrestrial. The united effect of the whole realised scheme will constitute one grand magnificent display of the wonders of God's sovereign grace, which will be suitably exhibited in the heavenly parts, called in Scripture “the kingdom of the Father, where the righteous shall shine as the sun,” that is, a Magdalene, the thief on the Cross, and a Saul of Tarsus, in the same glory as Christ; and, on the other hand, of God's government of the world, which will be exhibited in the earthly part, called in Scripture “the kingdom of the Son of Man,” out of which all scandals will be purged, the happy reign of the Prince of Peace, subsequently exerting its beneficent sway over a refreshed and solaced earth.
That there are heavenly things and earthly things in the kingdom of God, ought to be neither new nor strange to the student of Scripture, for Christ distinctly announced these in their twofold character to Nicodemus, only intimating that the heavenly were more difficult of apprehension than the earthly. The fact is, the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation is largely occupied with the conflict between Christ and the arch-enemy of God and man in relation to these two spheres; that is, the combat with and final triumph over Satan in the heavenly places and earthly places respectively, in his capacity of prince of the power of the air on the one hand, and of prince and god of this world on the other. Nor need this surprise us, for the overthrow of the adversary in both domains is absolutely necessary, if God is to carry out His purpose of gathering together all things heavenly and earthly in Christ in a future dispensation, as He has explicitly declared.
We gather from our study of the word of God, that as soon as the Church is gathered out, and the last soul that completes the body and bride of Christ is brought in, our Lord, before His manifestation to the world, will descend to the air, or created heavens, and call the saints, raising the sleeping and changing the living, on high, to Himself, when He will thereupon initiate a new and fresh action for the purpose of restoring everything to its proper order by power, openly and manifestly, instead of merely continuing to overrule by secret providence behind the scenes, as in this dispensation of grace. He will commence this remarkable work by dethroning Satan as prince of the power of the air, and driving him, with his following of wicked spirits (through the instrumentality of Michael and His angels), out of the heavenly places, which they have occupied by usurpation as the seat of their diabolical government, and where they have too long been the active agents and prolific sources of the ills of humanity, and the misery of a world subjected to their power by sin. The heavenly places, thus purged and cleared of their Satanic occupants, will be taken possession of by Christ and His Church, and, in place of as formerly being filled for evil and misrule, they will then be filled for goodness and blessing to the millennial earth. I do not stop to speak of the dreadful havoc which will be made in this world by Satan, after being cast out of the heavenlies, during the short space before he is consigned to the abyss; and how, under his inspiration and direction, the Antichrist and the Beast, the two heads, religious and secular, of mischief and rebellion, will reach their climax of wickedness; but merely mention, that the glorious appearing of Christ with His saints will be the summary destruction of both; and then will come the other combat with Satan, to displace him as prince and god of this world from the earthly places, resulting in his being bound for a thousand years. It is a joy to think that this world will not be allowed to remain the sporting place and playground of the devil for ever; but that the Scriptures of truth tell us of a millennium, when this earth, so long under the, ruin and misery caused by man's sin and Satan's malice, shall enjoy the fruits of the victory and faithfulness of the second Man in happiness, peace and blessing, which will spread over the whole creation, now delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God. Souls have been converted through all the changing forms of God's different dealings, each age distinct from the other notwithstanding; but they will be converted in greater numbers than ever during the millennium, the Spirit being poured out in a measure exceeding anything that has yet been known, though He will not personally dwell as now; but His operation will be on a grander scale than any before, countless souls among Jews and Gentiles being blessed and saved.
It is this earth God has chosen to make the scene for the manifestation of His character and ways. It is here Satan has displayed his energy for evil. It is here, also, the Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us, here where He died, here where He rose. It is upon this earth sin and grace have both done their wonders, here where sin abounded and grace much more abounded. It is upon this earth that Christ, now hidden in the heavens, will be revealed; and what was once the scene of His humiliation, suffering, and shame, shall yet be the scene of His glory, joy, and honour. It is over this earth He will reign with His saints; the instruments and ministers of light and blessing to a world from which temptation and the tempter will be alike banished, when it will no more groan but be glad, when both houses of Israel will walk before the Lord in unenvying, unjealous love, and when all the ends of the earth shall fear God.
I would now appeal to every unprejudiced mind, whether a dispensation so comprehensive in its nature, so vast in its dimensions, and so glorious in its blessing, both heavenly and earthly, could ever be realised by the simple extension of what is going on in the world now? The mystery to me is how anyone can get himself honestly to believe that such a state of things as we have endeavoured to sketch and revealed in the bright visions of unfulfilled prophecy, could ever come to pass as the last stage of this “present evil age,” while Satan is the prince and god of this world. It demands for its accomplishment extraordinary interventions of Divine power, totally incompatible with the spirit and order of this period of grace and patient long-suffering. It is not possible, in the nature of things, for the dispensation of the fulness of times, with its display of separate yet associated systems under a common Head, to be brought about by the means of grace at present in operation, however extended you might conceive this spiritual influence to become, without the presence and absence of the respective persons as well as the principles that are essential to its existence. If ever such a hope might have been indulged, it was in Pentecostal times, when God was converting souls in thousands, and the ungrieved power of the Spirit was operating with marvellous effect. But did Peter for a moment imagine that the predicted millennium of all but universal blessedness could ever arrive, without the sending of Jesus from heaven? He unequivocally affirms the contrary, and in addition to the great yet partial turning to God then being produced by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; he took occasion therefrom to fervently urge repentance on Israel as a nation, IN ORDER THAT (the true rendering) those seasons of refreshing might come from the presence of the Lord — the personal presence as contrasted with Christ's personal absence at the time Peter spoke and since — which alone could bring in that restitution of all things in the earthly places, foretold by the prophets in glowing strains, and until which the heavens must receive that very Jesus who was the subject of his preaching.
But more striking still, the millennium and its manner of introduction are positively put by Peter in direct contradistinction to the work of the Gospel and the present action of the Spirit, which were never more encouraging or prosperous than at that moment.
The fact is, the idea of a millennium which included Satan and excluded Christ never crossed the mind of an apostle, nor will a trace of such a notion, but the opposite, be found in either the Old Testament or the New. The presence of Christ from heaven and the exclusion of Satan from earth, constitute two indispensable conditions to the establishment of a Scriptural millennium, and anything else is but a dream of the imagination. Moreover, to try and represent the mission of the Spirit, the destruction of Jerusalem, or the departure of disembodied spirits to heaven, as the equivalent of the sending of Jesus from heaven, is really to mutilate, not to interpret, the truth of God. Besides, consider the contrasts between the millennial age and this one.
1. Now, it is “Preach the Gospel to every creature;” in the millennium, “None shall need to say to his brother, know the Lord.”
2. At present the devil is going about like a roaring lion; he will be bound in the millennium.
3. Now Christ is seated on His Father's throne; then He will sit on His own throne.
4. At present He is hidden in the heavens; then He will be revealed on the earth.
5. Now His kingdom is not of this world; then the kingdoms of this world will become His.
6. He is acting in grace now; He will rule in righteousness then.
7. He is rejected by the world now; He will be King over all the earth then.
8. The saints suffer with Him now; they shall reign with Him then.
9. Jew and Gentile form one body now; they will be distinct then.
10. The tares and wheat grow together in this dispensation; all that offend will be gathered out of His kingdom then.
11. Now the Jews are scattered among all nations; then they will be gathered to their own land.
12. Evil is borne with now; it will be put down with a high hand then.
13. At present the Lord's people are a little flock; then the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
14. The whole creation groans and travails now; it will be delivered from the bondage of corruption then.
I need not multiply instances; but one could scarcely conceive two ages, which, in their special features, more markedly contrast with each other, whether in condition, circumstances, principles, or style of blessing — so much so, that they could not exist together; and, therefore, for the millennium to be a kind of closing phase of this dispensation, is out of the question. “I speak as unto wise men, judge ye what I say.”