The change will be bigger than we imagine.
By David Macdonald
“I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void.… I beheld, and indeed there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled. I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness” (Jer. 4:23-26, NKJV).*
With all the news about climate change it would seem that the words of the ancient prophet may be fulfilled sooner than we think. Scientists now tell us that the earth is headed toward such a state as Jeremiah describes.
Jeremiah is deliberately making a link with Genesis 1:2 in an attempt to shock Israel to prepare for the impending invasion under Nebuchadnezzar. He uses hyperbole to describe the terrible destruction Nebuchadnezzar will bring. He says the earth will be as it was before Creation—“without form, and void.” When John wrote the book of Revelation, he also made a link with Genesis 1:2 when he used the Greek word abussos (Rev. 20:1), which parallels the Hebrew word tehom, translated by most English versions as “deep” (Gen. 1:2) and as “abyss,” “bottomless pit,” “deep pit,” etc. (Rev. 20:1).
Today we see Jeremiah’s text not only as a reference to the past but, more importantly, as prophetic of the future millennium.
But this seems to be a point lost in translation. Do you see God’s plan? Before the first heaven and the first earth were created, the earth was said to be formless and void, in a state of tehom. At the end of time the earth reverts back to this same condition of being tehom. God is now getting ready to create a new heaven and a new earth. Sin marred our story. God is now wiping the slate clean to begin a new work. God is going to start again. His intentions for Planet Earth will be fulfilled. Paradise is not lost. He is not frustrated by sin or Satan. “He is the Rock, his works are perfect” (Deut. 32:4).
Yes, climate change is coming. But it will be far more radical than is being predicted.
The earth is formless and void and in a state of tehom during the 1,000 years because of what happens at the beginning of that period. Peter tells us that “the heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10). Considering the language Peter uses, Planet Earth seems to be headed for thermonuclear fusion—15 million degrees Kelvin, if you like!1
Getting It Right
It is vital that we grasp this truth about the condition of the earth during the millennium. Failure to do so leads to the adoption of unbiblical models for the millennium. Adventists believe all the saved will be in heaven with Jesus during this time. Jesus said: “In my Father’s house are many rooms” (John 14:2). He went on to say: “I am going there to prepare a place for you” (verse 2).
Jesus is preparing a place in heaven for us. It is only the devil and all his demons who will inhabit this dismal place we know as Planet Earth during the 1,000 years. And only at the end of the 1,000 years does the “Holy City, the new Jerusalem,” come “down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Rev. 21:2).
Another factor, and probably more important, that leads to mistaken models for the millennium is the idea of a political kingdom and rule of the Jews and/or the church over the nations. One scholar identifies this error as common to all other models. This is serious, as it in effect renders the second coming of Jesus a non-event. How disappointing it would be if after the Second Coming life were to continue as we know it, albeit with a righteous rule under the direction of Jesus? If 1844 was a disappointment, this will be the mother of all disappointments!
No, we must get rid of the idea of a political kingdom for the Messiah. It is a mistake the disciples made. Judas betrayed Jesus and Peter denied Him—in fact, all the disciples were unprepared for the events of the cross—because of their mistaken views of a “political” Messiah.
The millennium is the thousand-year reign of Christ with His saints in heaven between the first and second resurrections. During this time the wicked dead will be judged; the earth will be utterly desolate, without living human inhabitants, but occupied by Satan and his angels. At its close Christ with His saints and the Holy City will descend from heaven to earth. The unrighteous dead will then be resurrected, and with Satan and his angels will surround the city; but fire from God will consume them and cleanse the earth. The universe will thus be freed of sin and sinners forever. (Rev. 20; 1 Cor. 6:2, 3; Jer. 4:23-26; Rev. 21:1-5; Mal. 4:1; Eze. 28:18, 19.)This view is also fraught with the danger of misleading “multitudes, from the least to the greatest,”2 to be deceived by Satan’s impersonation of Jesus at His second advent—what Ellen White called that “strong, almost overmastering delusion.”3Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). When are we going to realize the true significance of His words? Thermonuclear fusion would have taken place at the cross, and not at the end of time, if the Messiah’s kingdom were political!
For a third point: the millennium is the final chapter in the story of God’s covenant, the commitment He made to save “whosoever” will. What God promised Adam and Eve outside the gates of paradise and to all succeeding generations is now coming to be. A “loud voice” from the throne pronounces this in the typical language of the covenant: “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3).
God is winding up the story of salvation. Here we view the final disposition of all things; the final destiny of all those who accept God’s salvation; the final destiny of all those who reject salvation; the process of judgment that reveals these destinies and vindicates the name of God; the final destiny of Satan and the agencies he has used on earth to fulfill his awful deeds; and, specifically, death is dealt with and destroyed. Finally the new heaven and the new earth are introduced in all their amazing glory. And yes, it is Jesus who brings these promises to reality. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Cor. 1:20).
Yes, climate change is coming. But it will be far more radical than is being predicted. The second coming of Jesus is not going to be a change in gear for Planet Earth. Earth as we know it will terminate. Time will stop. If the cross divides history, the Second Coming ends it. If the cross is central to the story of salvation, the Second Coming is the final chapter to that story. No one should deceive us into thinking otherwise.
The 1,000 years forms a link that keeps a whole lot of apparently unrelated ideas together; but the watershed for all things eschatological is the Second Coming. A beautiful harmony settles in the mind as we see how God is going to close the story of salvation.
*Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture references in this article are taken from the New International Version.
1 The temperature of our sun at its core: Mark R. Chartrand III, Skyguide: A Field Guide for Amateur Astronomers (New York: Golden Press, 1982), p. 202.
2 The Great Controversy, p. 625.
3 Ibid., p. 624.
David Macdonald is pastor of a church in Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia.