We have been taught that in the millennium we will be kings and priests teaching the world God's way of life and bringing salvation to all humanity. But that work has already started. The work of teaching people in the millennium didn't start in the Old Testament. It didn't start in the first century Church of God. The apostles Peter and Paul did not do it. It wasn't done by Peter Waldo. It wasn't even being done 100 years ago. But it is being done today.
The period of time we are in is unique. It is unlike any period of time from the time of Adam through 1900 A.D.
For the first time in 6,000 years, in these years we are living in now, most of the first generation in the millennium are alive now!
If the Church's understanding of the general timing of end-time events is correct, and I believe it is, we are very close to the return of Christ and the beginning of the millennium. No one can know for certain, but my estimate is that we have between 10 and 25 years before the end of this age and the beginning of the millennium. I could be wrong. But I am sure we do not have 50 or 100 or 200 years.
Most of the people who will survive the tribulation and the Day of the Lord and live into the millennium and be the first generation in that age have already been born and are alive right now. And the percentage of that first generation in the millennium that are alive now keeps increasing as we get closer to the end. That has never been true in past generations.
When we preach the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public, we are teaching the truth to men, women, and teenagers who will live into the millennium and apply what we are teaching them now. Even if they are not being called in this age and do not come into the Church at this time, even if they do not believe us now or act on what we teach, they will remember in the millennium some of what we are telling them now. Today, they may be like those described in Ezekiel 33:30-33: "As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass—surely it will come—then they will know that a prophet has been among them."
Some of those who hear our message may enjoy listening to it, but not act on it. Others who hear our warning may scoff now, but they will remember later in the tribulation that they were warned. They will know that God provided a warning to them while they had time to repent and escape the punishment. This will help them to repent because it will be easier for them to accept responsibility for rejecting the message. They can say, "I should have listened." But if they do not hear our warning until it is too late, then in the tribulation they might say, "God is not fair, I never had a warning, I never had a chance. I thought I was doing the right thing to keep Christmas and Easter. I thought the Sabbath was changed to Sunday. Nobody told me these things were wrong." The lack of a warning can be a stumbling block.
But if they hear our warning before the tribulation, and I believe they will, then that warning becomes a critical first step in the process leading up to their conversion.
That first generation of Israel is to be a model nation for the rest of the nations to see and want to imitate (Deuteronomy 4:5-6, Isaiah 2:3, Micah 4:2, Zechariah 8:21-23). Their repentance and conversion is critical to God's whole plan. The first step, leading to repentance, is for the people to acknowledge their responsibility, to know that they had a chance to learn the truth and heed the warning but that they refused to take advantage of the opportunity. That is how we are helping them today, by giving a warning message. Every person who hears the true gospel and the warning today can remember in the tribulation that he heard it, but refused to listen. Every person in that category will find it easier to accept responsibility and repent than someone who never heard the warning. Every Israelite who begins to repent in the tribulation is being prepared to be part of the model nation God will use as an example to teach all mankind.
In a sense, those who hear our message on TV or radio or read it in print or on the Internet can be thought of as prospective members who can become actual members of the body of Christ in the millennium. Our message is laying the groundwork for an important lesson they must learn. They are not fully learning it at this time. They will learn it completely later, but the part we are doing now in making sure they know they have been warned is critically important for their future conversion.
That is why I say the work of the millennium has started now. It has started in the sense that what we do affects the attitude and conversion of those who will be the first example-setters in the millennium. It is important that we show to them that God is merciful and fair to give them a warning before it is too late. This is for their good and for God's glory, and is an important part of God's plan for mankind.
The preaching of the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel is not just for bringing those God is calling into the Church. It is not just for making new members, making disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). It is also for a WITNESS (Matthew 24:14). Why? So that people going into the tribulation, some of whom will live into the millennium, will know that God sent someone to warn them, and so they can be prepared (Ezekiel 33:33). It is God's nature to show mercy by giving warnings, and those warnings are a preparation for what is to come (2 Chronicles 36:15, Jeremiah 35:15). No one should say in the tribulation, "God never warned me." No one in Israel, the model nation for other nations to follow, should say in the millennium, "I had to go through the tribulation because I never had a warning."
There is a misconception among many Churches of God that the preaching of the gospel is only for making new members. Some fellowships think that the preaching of the gospel is over because God is not bringing new members into the Church of God while we are divided.
But all Israel needs to hear the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning, BEFORE the tribulation begins. They not only need to know that God was fair and merciful to warn them, but they will need the hope of the gospel to endure the suffering of the tribulation. They need to know that their suffering will have an end, that it will not go on forever, that Christ will soon return to rescue them.
Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:
God's 7,000 Year Plan -- Are We in the Last Days?, Chapter 1
The Feast of Tabernacles - the Millennial Rule of Christ, Chapter 2
The Ezekiel Warning, Introduction, Chapter 3
The Great Tribulation, Chapter 3
The Blessings and Curses, Chapter 3
The Responsibility of a Watchman, Chapter 3
The Ezekiel Warning, Chapter 3
The Effect of the Holocaust, Chapter 4
My Comments and Conclusion, Chapter 4
The Two Witnesses and God's Fairness, Chapter 4
The Church, Chapter 4
Why the Gospel Must Still Be Preached to the World, Chapter 4
Is the Church Commissioned to Preach the Gospel to the World?, Chapter 5