Today we continue our study of the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ on earth. In past lessons, we have studied a number of characteristics of this 1,000-year period. A week ago, we saw what the Bible says about those who are going to be here, both mortal and immortal, and the relationship they will have to each other. We also discussed how the longevity of life will increase dramatically. Today we are going to look at the changes in nature.
WHAT CHANGES WILL THE MILLENNIUM HAVE ON NATURE THAT IS, THE PHYSICAL EARTH, AND PLANTS AND ANIMAL LIFE?
The presence of sin in the world, as well as Satan's presence, does more than corrupt people. It also affects nature. When mankind sinned, it resulted in a number of curses from God.
o The serpent would no longer walk upright, but would crawl on its belly, eating the dust of the earth.
o Satan was cursed in that the woman's offspring would crush Satan's head.
o The curse upon Eve was that her childbearing would include great pain.
In Genesis 3:17-19 (NIV), we find the curse given to Adam.
17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."
The physical earth was also cursed. Not only on its surface, but all the way through the planet. When you and I are bothered by intense fear and uneasiness, we get ever tightening knots in our abdomen and fiery churning in our stomachs. That is how sin has affected the earth. But, we label the ever tightening knots as "earthquakes" and the fiery churnings we call "volcanoes." The fall of mankind impacted all of creation, at least so far as this planet is concerned.
Listen to the way Romans 8:19-22 (NIV) puts it.
19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration [KJV = vanity], not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
The word "vanity," used in verse 20, is a word used often in the Old Testament. This verse is one of only 3 times the word is used in the New Testament. The word "vanity" describes something which does not measure up to that for which it was intended. Hence, "frustration" as it is translated in the NIV. So all creation groans because it is frustrated in doing that for which it was created.
The Phillip's translation renders verse 19 this way. "The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own."
All creation is eagerly waiting for the coming of Christ to earth with his children, because, when He does, the curse upon the earth will be lifted.
Psalm 96:11 tells us that during the Millennium the physical earth will be joyful. We will see flourishing vegetation that has never been seen since the Garden of Eden. Within a very short time, all our present ecological disasters will be turned around.
Acts 3:21 NIV
21 He [Christ] must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.
The restoration mentioned here is the removal of all the affects of sin. Christ will not come until it is time to end the curse upon the earth.
The removal of the curse not only affects the physical earth. It also will have a large impact on the plant life.
Isaiah 35:1-7 NIV
1 The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus,
2 It will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.
3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;
4 Say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
Think of it. All nature will finally do what it was created to do. It will exist in harmony and perfect balance. There won't be any earthquakes, hurricanes, or volcanic eruptions.
Joel 2:21-24 NIV
21 Be not afraid, O land; be glad and rejoice. Surely the LORD has done great things.
22 Be not afraid, O wild animals, for the open pastures are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
23 Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.
24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.
There will be no more famines. The rains will be just right for growth of all kinds of vegetation.
Let me quote Mark Twain, from his book "The Innocents Abroad." He is describing the land of Palestine, as he saw it in 1869, a time when there were very few Jews living there. Specifically, he was describing the territory around the Sea of Galilee. He called it a "blistering, naked, treeless land." He spoke of the villages as "ugly, cramped, squalid, uncomfortable and filthy." He adds, the villages are a "solitude to make one dreary….unpeopled deserts….rusty mounds of barrenness, that never, never, never do shake the glare from their harsh outlines…this stupid village of Tiberias, slumbering under its six funereal plumes of palms; yonder desolate declivity where the swine of the miracle ran down into the sea, and doubtless thought it was better to swallow a devil or two and get drowned into the bargain than have to live longer in such a place."
Since the Jews returned to this land, things have changed dramatically. One author in the 1800's counted the trees in Palestine and reported there were less than a thousand. Today there are more than 300 million fully grown, mature trees. There was a conscious and concerted effort by the Jews to plant trees. Today, half of their trees are forest trees - half are fruit trees. And currently, Israel exports about 80% of its fruit harvest. As good as it is in the land today, during the Millennium it will be increased dramatically.
Isaiah 41:18-20 (NIV) speaks specifically of the land of Israel.
18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.
19 I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together,
20 so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Before going further with regard to the reversal of the curse that was given to plants, I need to state that it appears that the lifting of the curse is partially conditional. In the Old Testament, the punishment for Israel's disobedience was often upon the Land of Israel as well as the people of Israel.
2 Chronicles 7:14, (NIV) speaks about this.
14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
The health of the land appears tied to the spiritual condition of those living there. Even though there will be far more blessings in the earth during the Millennium, it also seems that the land's productivity and the harvest of bountiful crops is still tied to the spiritual condition of the people living there.
Zech 14:16-19 (NKJV) points this out:
16 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
17 And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain.
18 If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
Fortunately, most people will obey God and the land will, for the most part, have the curse lifted. The land will again be so fertile that those harvesting the crops will be overtaken by those ready to plow the ground for the next cycle.
Amos 9:13-14 NIV
13 "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills.
14 I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
Isaiah compares this time to a perpetual feast with the best of everything.
Isaiah 25:6 NIV
6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine -- the best of meats and the finest of wines.
Well, I don't know how God is going to do it, but when Christ comes and takes over the whole world, the trees and the fields are going to rejoice.
Ps 96:12 NKJV
12 Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the LORD.
There will no longer be any weed, thorns, thistles or briars. The ground will be ultra fertile and bring forth in abundance.
Changes in the Animal Kingdom
We also find changes in the animal kingdom of similar magnitude. But in the case of the animals, God's approach is going to be different. From the Bible, we learn that God can speak with the animals. We know He spoke to:
o Balaam's donkey
o Elijah's ravens
o Daniel's lions
o The colt Christ rode into Jerusalem
o Jonah's big fish.
In Job 41:3, it is implied that God could also converse with Leviathan, which, in my opinion, is one of 2 dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible. And in Psalm 104:21 tells us that the Lion waits upon God for its food. So God is able to converse with the animal kingdom.
And the Bible tells us that at the beginning of the Millennium, God is going to have a talk with all the animals. Really!! He is!!
Ezekiel 34:25 NIV
25 I will make a covenant of peace with them [all the animals] and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in the forests in safety.
Hosea 2:18 NIV
18 In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.
There is going to be an enormous and radical change in the animal kingdom. This will be especially so with the wild animals.
o no longer will there be any wild animals.
o animals will not prey on other animals
o all animals will become herbivores - vegetarian.
At least, it appears that all land animals will become vegetarian. I can't find any Scriptures that speak about sea animals.
Comedian Woody Allen once quipped that the Millennium would be a period where the lion might lie down with the lamb, "but that the lamb wouldn't get much sleep."
He is wrong on two accounts. Firstly, the Bible doesn't say a lion will lie down with the lamb. It's a wolf. Secondly, the lamb will in fact sleep very well because Christ is in control. In any regard, the Millennium will be utopian for animals as well as humans.
Isaiah 11:6-9 NIV
6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.
9 They [the animal kingdom] will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
These verses make it sound like most animals will be more like pets. Maybe that was the way it was prior to the flood.
We just read where animals which eat meat today, like the lion, will eat straw like an ox during the millennium. This is echoed in Isaiah 65:25 (NIV).
25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox…..
Let me ask you a question. We have talked about the reversal of the curse upon the animals and the earth.
WILL THE CURSE BE REVERSED UPON THE SERPENT?
Just a moment ago, I read Isaiah 65:25, but I only read part of the verse. Let's read it all
Isaiah 65:25 (NIV)
25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain," says the LORD.
The curse was given by God to the Serpent in Genesis 3:14. Part of that curse was that the serpent would crawl on its belly. This verse indicates this part of the original curse will continue - will not be reversed. But all snakes will become non-venomous, as we read in Isaiah 11 a moment ago.
Again, back to the subject of the lion eating straw like an ox. I believe all animals will become vegetarian, just like they were in the Garden of Eden before sin arrived. I also personally believe that Adam and Eve were vegetarian in the Garden as well, and mankind will be again during the Millennium. Isn't that the way God stated it after creating Adam and Eve.
Genesis 1:29 NIV
29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."
After the flood, God changed man's diet.
Genesis 9:3 NIV
3 Everything that lives and moves will be food (KJV = meat) for you, just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
Here, after the flood, animals were for the first time authorized for use as food. This indicates mankind probably had a vegetarian diet for the first 1,660 years of their history. It is possible that we will become vegetarian, but also eat fish.
The reason I add the fish part is because in Ezekiel 47:9-10 it speaks of those during the Millennium who are fishermen. This would imply that we eat fish.
Before proceeding in our discussion of the dramatic changes that Christ will make in the animal kingdom, I need to ask you a pertinent question. I have spoken about the changes in the nature of animals as if they are a reversal of a curse.
WHEN DID THE CURSE UPON ANIMALS OCCUR?
The only animal specifically cursed in the Garden of Eden was the serpent. And we noted a few minutes ago that this curse will not be reversed. We also know that at this time, God killed some animals, from which He fashioned clothes for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). Although all death is an effect of sin, it is not part of the curse God gave in Eden.
So, maybe my question is inaccurate. Instead of asking when the curse came upon the animal kingdom, I should ask it this way:
WHEN DID ANIMALS BECOME WILD?
I raise this question for you to think about. I am not sure I have the full answer to give to you today. Consider this: Could it be possible that all wild animals and beast became wild and beastly only after the flood?
We know that the parents of all animals on the earth today were on the Ark built by Noah. That thought raises some issues about these animals getting along with each other. Some of the options are:
1. God spoke to the animals when He summoned them to make their trek to the ark. Part of his conversation could also be to tell them to behave during their more than one year boat ride.
2. Most animals went into hibernation. This would eliminate much of the suppose clean-up that would be necessary.
3. All animals were friendly towards each other until after the flood.
While we are not told specifically when animals became wild, we do know that some changes in the character and temperament of most animals changed after the flood. Take for instance:
Genesis 9:1-2 NIV
1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.
2 The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea.
We note a major change made by God here in the animals. Firstly, for the first time, all beasts, fowls, ground creeping animals, and fish will fear mankind. In other words, all but cattle - domesticated animals - are included in this. Up until this time, they did not fear man. So, we can see that a major change occurs in the nature of the animals immediately following the flood. Could this also be when wild animals became beastly and some reptiles became poisonous?
We may not know the answer to this question until we arrive in heaven. In any account, we are told by God that all animals will return to being friendly to all other animals and also will again not be fearful of humans.
Summary - Closing
The psalmist said, "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." (Psalm 24:1)
This earth has never seen what God can do with it because it has been held in the grips of an usurper. But the Lord is coming personally, visibly and physically in His glorified body to possess it and redeem it from Satan's grasp. He will then transform and remake it into an instrument that can be used for His glory.
And the earth shall be full of the glory and the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. When He manifests the glory of God to this earth, we will be with Him. We will be sharing His reign and will be used as instruments to bring glory to Him. We will see Him display His power.
One of the most beautiful pictures in the Bible is that of a renovated physical earth, along with the changes that will occur in the flora and fauna on this earth. The Garden of Eden far surpasses any imagination we might have of it. That is, it was until sin came, and the ground was cursed for man's sake.
One of the specific parts of the whole curse was that the ground thereafter would bring forth thorns and thistles. It was more than 1,900 years ago that the Lord Jesus went to Calvary, wearing upon his head a crown of thorns - the very symbol of the earth's curse. And as the Lord of all the earth, He purchased redemption for the earth as well as fallen mankind.
As we read earlier, in Romans 8, all creation is waiting for the Lord to come to earth, so that the curse upon the earth will be lifted.
Isaiah 55:12-13 NIV
12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD's renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.
Instead of thornbushes and briers, there will grow great pine and myrtle trees.
As you can already imagine, the earth is going to be a tremendous place to live during the Millennium. It is going to be a place of:
o unified worship
o the glory of the Lord will fill all the earth.