Closely related to the doctrine of the Great Controversy is the Adventist teaching concerning the millennium. When we discussed the book of Job, and the unresolved nature of that book, we said that it would be resolved later. The millennium, and the events immediately following, will resolve the Great Controversy.
Whatever creatures there are outside of this earth, surely they were convinced that Christ was correct and Satan was wrong when they witnessed what happened at Calvary. The final tribulation will demonstrate, both in the people of God and in the followers of the beast, which way is right.
But when the redeemed are taken to heaven for the 1,000 years, no doubt they will look around and be surprised in many ways. They will find it difficult to believe that some people they find there were worthy of salvation. Others, whom they hoped and anticipated would be present in heaven…will not be. When someone who has tormented you or me shows up in heaven, we will wonder why. And if, God forbid, someone we deeply love is not there, we will also have some serious questions.
That’s why the millennium is so important. No matter who it is, no matter what they’ve done, no matter how evil they may have seemed, or how spiritual you may believe them to have been, you’ll be able to check out their records and see for yourself why they are or are not there. Why will this take 1,000 years? Well, for one thing think of the numbers. There are billions and billions of people now alive, and many more lived in the past. If even a small fraction of that number are redeemed, that will leave the fates of all the others to be questioned. You see, God wants each and every one of his creatures to be absolutely fully satisfied that he, God, is totally trustworthy. The only way to do that, the only way to reestablish trust, is to let each one see decide for themselves that what God has done in each case is just.
I don’t know what questions I will have. I don’t know how the investigation will go forward. But I suspect that after looking up several cases of those whose verdicts I doubt, and seeing what God did and how God dealt with each one, I will eventually come to realize that whatever the details the end will be the same. When I know what God knows, when I can see what he has done and what they have done, when I understand the lengths to which he has gone to save each individual, I will quickly come to really understand and be fully convinced in my own mind that God is just–that God is trustworthy.
Perhaps, given time, I will want to search every single case alike. Perhaps, even in the cases of the lost, I will be inspired and uplifted by the grace which God showered on each one and the efforts he made to win them.
Even if I come to realize that God is just, that does not mean that I will not mourn for some who did not make it. And that brings us the significance of the text that says “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
We know from our study of human emotions on this earth that grieving is a process that takes a certain amount of time, and is aided by tears. When my father died, my wife and I had just moved several states away from where he was living. I had reentered University after some time away from school. The new term of school had just begun, so we rushed back to my father’s funeral. There was no time to grieve, I told myself. Not so much consciously in words, but continually in my mind.
Twenty years later when I was blessed to go through counseling with a Christian counselor, at one point he asked me, “Did you ever grieve your father’s death?”
Choking back tears I said, “I don’t suppose I did.”
He simply asked me, “Don’t you think it’s time?”
And those words opened the floodgates. I had not allowed myself to grieve my father’s death, but given permission, invited to grieve, the tears flowed freely.
I was a grown man myself. More than 40 years old. A father of three children. Someone who had made his way in the world. And I cried like a child. But, I needed that.
I learned the hard way that grieving must take place. Either we let it take place naturally, or we grieve in 1,000 ways we don’t even recognize. After those tears, I found that I could speak about my father’s death without any tightness in the chest, without the sense of grief. Of course, I still miss him. I suppose I always will, and when I mention his death there is some sadness. But there is no longer an all-possessing grief that overwhelms me.
Now given the trauma we all will have gone through (and don’t forget, that positive events can be stressors as well), when we realize that some losses are indeed eternal, we shall need to grieve. There will be tears, but we will realize, having seen all that was said and done, that what God did was not only just but also merciful. For those who will not be happy cannot be happy. For them, to be in the New Earth would make them terribly unhappy. It would be, for them, hell. And so the millennium, this 1,000 years of researching, grieving, and comforting, is a wonderful doctrine. For it will give us, who have been in the heat of battle, the opportunity to discover again for ourselves that God is truly, and ultimately, trustworthy.