Dispensations: Kingdom

As outlined in the last article, ours is a tremendous privilege to live in the age of grace – an era in which God is “visit[ing] the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name” (Act 15:14 ESV), and our Lord Jesus Christ, as He promised, is building His Church (Mat 16:18). Someday very soon (perhaps today), this work will be completed, and the Lord Himself will come as He promised (Joh 14:3) and take us to be with Himself. That will be the beginning of the end of the current Dispensation of the Grace of God. At some point following that (possibly concurrent, or possibly some little time later), a peace treaty will be signed promising Middle East peace, and the prophetic clock will recommence, ushering in seven years unlike anything the world has ever witnessed.

This seven-year period (often referred to as “the tribulation”) will complete the detailed, time-specific prophecy outlined in Daniel 9:24-27. This prophecy predicted events that would span 490 years (70 sets of seven years), with a very specific starting point. The first 483 years have already been literally fulfilled – 69 sets of seven actual calendar years. There is, therefore, every reason to be confident that the remaining seven-year period will also be literally fulfilled. The events of these years, especially the last three and a half years, are outlined for us in Matthew 24, and in chapters 5-19 of Revelation (as well as numerous other Scripture passages). The final, climactic event of this period will be the literal, bodily return to earth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev 19:11-16).

This dramatic, spectacular advent will begin the literal earthly reign of Christ over the world that is His by both creatorial right and redemptive purchase. Revelation 20 states that this reign will last for 1,000 years – a time period that is mentioned six times in the first six verses of that chapter.  Dispensational Theology accepts these plain statements at face value and allows them to mean exactly what they say, embracing wholeheartedly the glorious expectation of the literal 1,000-year earthly reign of Christ, commonly referred to as “the Millennium.”[1]


Just as the Dispensation of Grace was marked by a remarkable, direct revelation of God at its commencement, so, too, is the Dispensation of the Kingdom. But instead of coming as a lowly babe in a manger, Christ will appear as a mighty conqueror, waging war on His enemies, asserting His rightful claim as earth’s supreme ruler and putting down all opposition. Every unbeliever on earth will be banished from His presence, and only true believers will enter into His kingdom. The words of Isaiah 32:1 will be fulfilled: “A king will reign in righteousness,” and for the first time in human history, a man will actually administer dominion and justice with perfect competence, as was always God’s intention. No human has ever achieved this purpose. Adam failed spectacularly, and from Adam down through successive ages, failure has been a constant, recurring theme. But in this “golden age,” there will be perfect government, justice for all, an earth bringing forth in abundance, and virtually all the effects of the curse on creation held in abeyance. Satan will be bound for the entire 1,000-year reign and will have no influence in the affairs of men.


Obedience will once again be man’s basic responsibility in the Kingdom Age (as it has been in every dispensation), but in the kingdom it will be very literal and real, with Christ actually here on earth governing directly, exercising universal dominion and ruling in righteousness. Every member of the kingdom will, therefore, be individually responsible to submit to divine rule and live by its righteous standards.


In most previous dispensations, rebellion and failure were seen almost from the beginning of the age (e.g., the golden calf in the Dispensation of Law, and the refusal to accept the message of the gospel, which was already evident in the very beginnings of the Age of Grace). In the Kingdom Era, open rebellion will not be the norm, as the King will rule with a rod of iron. There will be swift, certain judgment on any open sin or rebellion. As already noted, only the righteous will enter the kingdom (the unrighteous will be taken away for judgment at the end of the tribulation time). Mark Sweetnam aptly states, “The Millennium, then, commences with a redeemed and righteous people on a restored and resplendent earth.” But those born during the 1,000 years will still be born with unregenerate natures and will require salvation by faith, the same as those born in every dispensation before them.

When Satan is loosed at the end of the 1,000 years, he will, despite the perfect conditions on earth and the impeccable government that has reigned in righteousness and justice, still find among unregenerate humans receptive hearts that will readily rally behind him to rebel against the King! Man has always tried to blame his shortcomings on his surroundings or outside influence (beginning in the garden with Adam – “the woman whom thou gavest me …”). This final rebellion will be the final proof that man’s rebellion comes from within his wretched, fallen nature. Even in blissful perfection, he will choose to turn against the righteous rule of God on earth.


God’s final retribution on man’s final rebellion is swift and summary. Revelation 20:9-10 states, “Fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” (KJV). This final earthly judgment from God will not only signal the end of the 1,000-year direct earthly reign of Christ, it will also represent the very end of God’s purposes for the present creation. The elements of this current creation will melt with fervent heat (2Pe 3:10), and what is commonly referred to as “the eternal state” will be ushered in, marked by “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1), where righteousness will not only reign (as it has during the Millennium) but righteousness will dwell (2Pe 3:13). At the dawning of this eternal era, John “heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev 21:3 KJV).


It is impossible in one brief article to adequately convey the wonder, glory, splendour and significance of this 1,000-year period that lies just over the prophetic horizon in earth’s future. It will be a time when God’s purposes are all brought together and tidily concluded. His purposes for man, His pledges to the patriarchs, His prospects for Israel, and His promises to the Church will all find their perfect fulfillment in the personal literal reign of Christ. Outshining all of these, though, will be God’s personal vindication of His Son when He will “judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained” (Act 17:31 KJV). In the very place where He was once despised and slain, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will reign in resplendent glory, and everything that has been so wrong in every other age will finally be set right with “God’s man” rightfully on the throne of universal dominion.

[1] It is readily acknowledged that there has been abundant controversy over the Millennium for centuries. Certainly not every Bible scholar agrees that there will be a literal 1,000-year reign of Christ as King on this earth. The purpose of this article is not to present the range of views on the Millennial Kingdom, nor even to defend dispensationalism against other systems of interpretation. Any interested reader is encouraged to investigate this further by reading There Really Is a Difference by Renald Showers, or The Glory of the Ages by David Dunlap.