Great Controversy Errors Investigated: The Millennium
By Brother Anderson
This article will examine Ellen White's teachings in the Great Controversy regarding the Millennium and compare them to what the Bible teaches on this subject.
Great Controversy's teachings on the Millennium
1) According to Ellen White, at the Second Coming of Christ, the wicked are slain and the righteous are whisked away to heaven:
"Angels 'gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.' Little children are borne by holy angels to their mothers' arms. Friends long separated by death are united, nevermore to part, and with songs of gladness ascend together to the City of God."1
2) The wicked are annihilated and the earth is left empty and desolate for a period of 1,000 years:
"At the coming of Christ the wicked are blotted from the face of the whole earth--consumed with the spirit of His mouth and destroyed by the brightness of His glory. Christ takes His people to the City of God, and the earth is emptied of its inhabitants."2
3) Satan is left to wander the earth alone during the Millennium:
"And as the scapegoat was sent away into a land not inhabited, so Satan will be banished to the desolate earth, an uninhabited and dreary wilderness."3
4) At the close of the 1,000 years "Christ again returns to the earth" in a Third Coming and all the wicked are resurrected.4
5) Jesus "descends upon the Mount of Olives" and along with the saints and the angels. There, upon the old, defiled earth, the New Jerusalem descends:
"As the New Jerusalem, in its dazzling splendor, comes down out of heaven, it rests upon the place purified and made ready to receive it, and Christ, with His people and the angels, enters the Holy City."5
6) Satan and his armies attack the New Jerusalem and are burned up with fire. "While the earth was wrapped in the fire of destruction, the righteous abode safely in the Holy City." After the fire is extinguished, a new heaven and a new earth are created.6
Is this the picture of the Millennium portrayed in the Bible? Are the saints actually in heaven during the Millennium? Is the earth entirely desolate during the Millennium, inhabited only by Satan? Is there a Third Coming? Does the New Jerusalem descend before the new earth is created? Let us examine the Biblical evidence regarding the Millennium to determine if this is accurate.
Do the Saints go to Heaven at the Second Coming?
The Bible teaches that at the Second Coming many of the wicked are slain (Rev. 19:15,17,20,21; also Isa. 34, 11:4, Jer. 25:29-33, 2 Thes. 2:8, Zech. 14:12, Micah 4:13, Isa. 66:15,16). The righteous dead are raised to life and "we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." (1 Thes. 4:17). The question is, after we meet the Lord in the air, do we return back down to the earth? Or do we go up to heaven and stay there for the duration of the Millennium?
Revelation: Righteous to reign upon the earth
The book of Revelation states that the resurrected righteous will rule with Jesus for 1,000 years:
"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." Rev. 20:6.
The question is, what are the righteous "reigning" over? What is their kingdom? Are they reigning over heaven? Or earth? The Bible clearly states that the righteous shall reign "upon the earth":
"And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." Rev. 5:10; also Isa. 32:1.
Does it make any sense for the righteous to be ruling over some part of heaven? No, because the Bible teaches that mankind was created to "have dominion" over "the earth" (Gen. 1:26-28), not heaven!
Revelation: The saints are living on the earth when Satan is loosed
At the end of the thousand years, when Satan is released for a season, the Bible clearly states that the righteous are living upon the earth at that time. Notice carefully in the text below that the righteous are living in "the beloved city." Remember, this city could not possibly be the New Jerusalem because it does not descend to earth until after the first earth passes away, as a bride prepared to meet her husband (see Rev. 21:1,2).
"And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city." Rev. 20:7-9; also Ezek. 38,39.
The saints are occupying the earth, the old Jerusalem, when Satan is loosed at the end of the Millennium.
Daniel: God's Kingdom set up on earth!
The prophet Daniel teaches that Christ's Kingdom is established upon the earth and is described by Daniel as a "mountain" that occupies the earth:
" and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever." Dan. 2:35,44 (see also Micah 4:1, Isa. 11:9)
Daniel states that God will destroy the kingdoms of this earth and "in those days" will establish a kingdom that fills "the whole earth"--not heaven--and would "stand for ever." Why would God establish a kingdom to fill the earth if the saints are up in heaven and the only person on earth is Satan? Is Satan the king of God's kingdom upon the earth for 1,000 years? Daniel says nothing about God's kingdom being "in heaven" or being absent from the earth for 1,000 years. Daniel says the kingdom will be established in the earth and that kingdom will rule for ever.
Job: God to stand upon this earth
Job's idea of the Second Coming of Christ contrasts sharply with Ellen White's. Instead of God meeting the saints in the air and then whisking them away somewhere into heaven without ever touching the earth, Job says that he will meet his redeemer upon the earth:
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. (Job 19:25,26)
When the angels explained to the disciples how Christ would return, notice carefully that he would return in "like manner" as His departure:
...Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11)
What was the "manner" or pattern of Jesus being taken up into heaven?
Mountain ==> Air ==> Clouds ==> Heaven
Consider this: If He is going to return "in like manner", then what is the reverse of this process?
Heaven ==> Clouds ==> Air ==> Mountain
The Bible clearly teaches that in the "day of the Lord",
...his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives... (Zech. 14:1,4)
Jesus: Heaven is not our home
Jesus taught that the reward for the righteous was to inherit the earth, not heaven:
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Matt. 5:5
Jesus taught that heaven is not intended to be the habitation of humans:
"No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven -- the Son of Man." John 3:13 (see also Acts 2:29)
Jesus taught his disciples that they could not go where He was going:
"My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come." John 13:33
So where did Jesus go after the resurrection that his disciples could not follow?
"I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." John 20:17
Jesus went to heaven to sit at the right hand of God. But He explicitly stated that where He was going, we could not come! Instead, Jesus told us He was preparing mansions for us (John 14:3), and the Bible, in Revelation, describes a beautiful city, the New Jerusalem, that will descend upon the new earth. As the New Jerusalem descends upon the new earth, John hears a voice say:
"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
This verse announces a new era for mankind. God will be physically with them. They will live together in the same city. Think this through: This announcement, that God will now be dwelling with men, would not have made any sense if the righteous had already been dwelling with God in heaven for the past 1,000 years!
Is the Earth Void in the Millennium?
Ellen White saw the earth as an "uninhabited wilderness" during the Millennium. However, we have already seen that the righteous are occupying at least one city during the Millennium. Is the rest of the earth desolate?
Birds and animals occupy the earth
Birds are found on earth during the Millennium:
"And I saw an angel saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God and all the fowls were filled with their flesh." Rev. 19:17,21
Plants and animals will inhabit the destroyed cities of the wicked during the Millennium:
"For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter But the cormorant and thebittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles andbrambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls. The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow: there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate." Isa. 34:2,11,13-15
Humans occupy the earth
Isaiah 24 is used by Adventists to describe the condition of the earth during the Millennium. The chapter clearly states that there are inhabitants on the earth during that time:
"Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof." Isa. 24:1
This verse indicates that there are inhabitants of the earth and that they are "scattered abroad." Isaiah continues:
"Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left." Isa. 24:6
This passage indicates there are inhabitants on the earth during the Millennium. Ellen White in her book The Great Controversy quotes Isaiah 24, but leaves out parts that show people alive upon the earth during the Millennium. Notice the passage from her book below. We have added, in red all the Biblical words she left out of the passage--words which reveal an entirely different picture than the one painted by Ellen White:
"At the coming of Christ the wicked are blotted from the face of the whole earth—consumed with the spirit of his mouth and destroyed by the brightness of his glory. Christ takes his people to the city of God, and the earth is emptied of its inhabitants. 'Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.' 'The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word.' [The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof;] 'Because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned'[, and few men left.] (Isaiah 24:1, 3, 5, 6)."7
Notice several important facts White left out of the Holy Bible's account:
Is Satan Roaming Earth During the Millennium?
Revelation teaches that Satan is bound for 1,000 years in the "bottomless pit":
"And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled." Rev. 20:2,3
The phrase "bottomless pit" comes from the Greek word abussos which Strong's defines as "a very deep gulf or chasm in the lowest parts of the earth used as the common receptacle of the dead and especially as the abode of demons." It is used nine times in the Bible and never refers to the inhabitable regions of the earth. Satan was cast down to this earth after he was expelled from heaven (Rev. 12:9). Revelation 20:1-3 depicts the movement of Satan from his current abode, the earth, to a prison, possibly within the lower regions of the earth, described as a "bottomless pit." From this region Satan is unable to tempt or harass those upon the earth for 1,000 years.
Paul: Abyss is not the inhabitable earth
In Romans 10:6,7 Paul writes:
"But the righteous which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep [abussos]? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)"
This verse tells us that Jesus went into the "bottomless pit" when He died. We are incapable of fully understanding this abyss, but it is evident that it is some place other than the inhabitable regions of the earth.
Does the New Jerusalem descend before the new earth?
According to Ellen White's teaching about the end of the Millennium, the wicked are resurrected, appear before the White throne of God to be judged, and are then placed back on earth to live again for years or even decades while their associates in evil are appearing before God in judgment. During this period in time the wicked begin developing weapons and training for war. Finally, when the judgment appearances of all the wicked are complete, the New Jerusalem sets down upon the old, defiled earth. Then Satan leads an army of all the wicked from throughout all the ages and attacks the New Jerusalem and he and all his wicked cohorts are destroyed by fire from God.
While this is an interesting tale, it does not fit the Bible description of events at all. Revelation 20:7-15 explains the events of the Millennium in precise chronological detail:
It is obvious from this chronology that the wicked dead are raised after the Satanic army has already been destroyed and Satan thrown into the lake of fire. The wicked are not given a "second chance" to attack and torment God's people. They are raised to appear before the white throne in judgment and then are immediately cast into the lake of fire to suffer the second death. There is nothing in this passage to suggest they are placed back on the earth to assault the righteous.
Ellen White is forced to twist the chronology of events in Rev. 20 because she erroneously teaches the earth is empty of humans during the Millennium. Since there are no humans alive to attack Jerusalem, the only way to get wicked humans on the earth during the Millennium is to say that God somehow put the wicked upon the earth after raising them to be judged at the white throne judgment. However, such a contrived view does not fit the chronology of Rev. 20, neither does it make any sense for God to permit such an action by the wicked.
Mrs. White is forced to twist the chronology even further since she teaches there is no occupied city of Jerusalem upon the earth during the Millennium for Satan to attack. So, in order to supply an occupied city of "Jerusalem" for the wicked throng to attack, she is forced to make the New Jerusalem descend upon the earth before the creation of the new heavens and the new earth. The Bible, on the contrary, explicitly states that the New Jerusalem descends after the new earth has been created (Rev. 21:1-2).
Notice below how the Bible chronology flows in perfect, logical order, while Ellen White must twist the events around and invent events not described in the Bible in order to make her system work:
As can be seen from the table above, Ellen White completely garbles the Bible's end-of-millennium chronology, placing events in the wrong order and inventing events not found in the Bible.
While humans have only a limited understanding of the Millennium, the weight of Biblical evidence presented above indicates:
Ellen White's teaching of a Millennium in heaven places Adventists in a very difficult position of having to try and explain away the dozens of obvious references to an earthly Millennium in the Bible. Adventists have never been able to adequately explain away all of these verses and the preponderance of Biblical evidence is heavily weighted against their view.
1. Ellen White, Great Controversy, p. 645.
2. Ibid., p. 657.
4. Ibid., p. 662.
6. Ibid., pp. 662-674.
7. Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 657, (1911), with Isa. 24:4 and part of Isaiah 24:6 entered into the text in the color red to illustrate how Mrs. White removed part of the Scripture which contradicted the SDA position on the Millennium.
8. Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, pp. 67-70.