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by Paul B. Pixton
As a generic term, "Millennium" connotes any period of 1,000 years' duration. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, however, one such period stands preeminent, namely, that future time when peace and righteousness will prevail under the direct providence of God and his messiah.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of this time when "they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2:4). He further declared that the natural fears and enmities within the animal kingdom will cease, that "the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid" (Isa. 11:6-9; cf. D&C 101:26). Ezekiel prophesied that the earth, which lost its pristine character as a result of the Fall of Adam (cf. Gen. 3:17-19), will return to its paradisiacal state once again (Ezek. 36:35; cf. A of F 10). For the duration of the Millennium, Satan will be bound (Rev. 20:1-3). In place of the diabolical regime of the "prince of this world" (John 12:31; 14:30; D&C 1:35), the Lord Jesus Christ will dwell personally among the inhabitants of earth, ruling over the kingdom of God with the aid of righteous mortals and resurrected Saints from all ages (Isa. 35:2; Dan. 7:14, 27).
Christ taught his disciples to pray to the Father for the kingdom to come when his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). Jesus declared to them that he would be sent again by the Father at the end of the world for a day of judgment and an era of paradisiacal glory (cf. Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:22-29; Acts 1:3-8). Some early Christians appear to have anticipated the second coming of Jesus Christ and the onset of the Millennium as imminent, despite the Savior's caution that none but the Father knew the time of his coming, and despite both angelic and apostolic pronouncements concerning events that must precede the Millennium (cf. Matt. 24; Acts 3:19-21; 2 Thes. 2:1-4). Numerous church leaders in the Post-Apostolic (Patristic) period, such as Justin Martyr of Rome, Papias of Hierapolis, Irenaeus of Lyons, and Lactantius, accepted the notion of a literal Millennium following the resurrection of the dead, when a visible and glorious kingdom of Christ would exist on earth. By the late third and fourth centuries, however, church fathers such as Origen (d. c. A.D. 254) and Augustine (d. A.D. 429) had transformed the notion of a literal Millennium into an allegorical or figurative one: The millennial reign of peace for them took place in the hearts of individual men and women and began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:16-20). From that time until the sixteenth-century protestant reformation, belief in a literal Millennium was regarded as unorthodox by the institutional church. The restoration of all things in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times, affirms that Christ will return for a millennial reign of peace. During the Millennium, members of the Church of Jesus Christ from any era of time will help in the government of the earth under Christ's direction (Dan. 7:27; D&C 103:7; cf. Matt. 5:5).
John the Revelator saw that at the commencement of the Millennium a New Jerusalem would descend to earth from heaven. Traditional Christianity has generally associated this with a renewing of the city where Jesus ministered among the Jews during the meridian of time. However, the revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith show that the New Jerusalem in the Western Hemisphere will coexist with the old Jerusalem, each as a hemispheric capital. From them laws, decrees, and leadership in the kingdom of God will emanate. Thus the nuances found in Isaiah 2:3 that "out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" telling of two locations are not redundant or merely rhetorical. According to modern scripture, a New Jerusalem will yet be established within the borders of the state of Missouri in North America (D&C 84:2-4; cf. 57:2-3; A of F 10).
The Millennium symbolizes a sabbatical in human history (cf. D&C 77:12; Moses 7:64), analogous to the role of the weekly sabbath (cf. Ex. 20:8-11). The millennial period is patterned after the Lord's period of rest following the six creative periods (cf. Gen. 2:1-3).
Life will go on for those on earth: "And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands" (Isa. 65:21-22). Righteous mortal men and women who die after the beginning of the Millennium "shall not sleep in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye" (D&C 101:31), and children born in this era "shall grow up until they become old" (D&C 63:51; Isa. 65:20). The devil will have no "power to tempt any man," being bound because of the righteousness of the earth's inhabitants, and children will grow up without sin (1 Ne. 22:26; D&C 43:30-31; 45:58; 101:28-31). However, those who are wicked will not be resurrected or returned to the earth until after the Millennium of righteousness (D&C 76:81, 85).
Whereas numerous temples will already dot the earth prior to the Millennium, their number and distribution will increase during this time, providing places where priesthood ordinances essential to salvation and eternal life can be performed in uninterrupted calm. The work of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the inhabitants of the earth will continue under his direction. Meanwhile, a similar teaching program will continue among the spirits of those who have departed this life and are waiting the day of their resurrection (D&C 138). While such spirits may hear the gospel of salvation and accept or reject it in the spirit worlds, mortals on earth will perform saving ordinances such as baptism on their behalf (see Baptism for the Dead). Conditions of peace and righteousness will prevail during the Millennium to allow this work to proceed until essential ordinances have been made available to every individual who has lived on earth since the time of Adam and Eve (cf. D&C 138).
(See also New Heaven and New Earth; Time and Eternity; Basic Beliefs; The Gospel of Jesus Christ home page; The Last Days home page)
Doxey, Roy W. "The Millennium." Relief Society Magazine 54 (Jan. 1967):58-63.
Leonard, Glen M. "Early Saints and the Millennium." Ensign 9 (Aug. 1979):43-47.
McConkie, Bruce R. MD, pp. 492-501. Salt Lake City, 1966.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, Millennium
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
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