In the mid-1960s, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, one of the top boxers in the world at that time, was wrongly convicted of triple homicide and sent to prison, sentenced to serve three life sentences. Failed by a flawed legal system, the gifted athlete was robbed of his dreams and was facing the rest of his life behind bars. It would be hard to imagine a more miserable fate for the young man who had shown such incredible promise in his career. Carter could easily have been forgiven for giving in to despair at this terrible turn of events. Many would have been ruined by the thought that, instead of enjoying the fruits of hard-fought success, life would be drastically different, defined by injustice.
More amazing than Carter’s celebrated career in sport, however, was how he dealt with the unbelievable setback of prison. He refused to give up hope. He cultivated a unique perspective on his life behind bars. Despite being deprived of his physical freedom, Carter decided that he was still free in his mind. He decided that rather than surrendering to a downward spiral of negativity, he would direct all his energies to proving the truth of his innocence. He spent his time in prison studying law, history and philosophy in search of a way to prove that he was not guilty. Carter’s refusal to give in to fatalism and his unique approach to his unjust imprisonment lasted for 19 years. Then, after two additional trials, Carter was proved innocent and set free. Incredibly, after his release from 19 years of unjust imprisonment, Carter decided to waste no time on revenge. He simply got on with his life without suing for damages or demanding apologies. He just moved on.
Carter’s story says a lot about the power of perspective and how it can help us deal with the injustices of life. It shows how important it is to see the horrible things that happen in life through the right lens. Carter demonstrated how powerful truth can be in the face of the tragedies of life. His story also suggests that the correct perspective, grounded in truth, can help us face the extremely difficult questions about injustice in this world.
These questions often involve God in some way. You’ve heard them. You may even have asked them yourself: If God exists, why is there so much suffering in this world? Why do bad people get away with doing terrible things? Why do children get cancer? If God is so good, how do you explain the Holocaust? Or the Rwandan genocide? What about 9/11? Why do we live under the threat of nuclear war?
Whether or not you believe in God, these are incredibly tough questions to answer. We live in a world where horrible things happen to good people and it can be tempting to chalk it up to the idea that life is meaningless; to a belief that there is no rhyme or reason to life’s tragic injustices. Many feel the way French author Jules Reynard did when, over a century ago, he bitterly quipped, “I don’t know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didn’t.” Reynard’s statement sums up the anger that many people in secular societies feel at the thought that God exists. If there is a God then why does He allow all these terrible things to happen? Where’s the justice in this life?
Can we, like Carter, turn to enduring truths that help us answer these questions? Is there a perspective that we can adopt that gives us hope in the face of injustice and tragedy? The Bible points to a thousand-year period that helps shed light on some of these questions and has given hope to countless millions.
The thousand years in question is commonly referred to as the millennium and is introduced in Revelation, the last book of the Bible. In a nutshell, the millennium is the thousand-year reign of Jesus, together with those He has brought to heaven, between what the Bible describes as the first and second resurrections. The thousand-year period of the millennium deals directly with the justice of God that has so often been questioned.
The biblical description of the millennium kicks off in Revelation 19:11–21 where the end of time is described in symbolic language. Christ is seen charging out on a white horse with the armies of heaven behind Him. His mission is to defeat God’s enemies. His success in this mission represents the Second Coming. By the end of the chapter, Christ is victorious in his mission, ushering in the millennium, which follows in Revelation chapter 20.
During the Second Coming, the perpetrators of injustice are destroyed and God’s faithful are resurrected. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 the Bible describes the Second Coming with these words: “the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” After this happy event, 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says that those who are alive and have remained faithful will join the resurrected in the clouds to meet Jesus.
At this point, the story of the millennium is just beginning; a thousand years in heaven awaits those who have accepted Jesus. The Bible says in Revelation 20:4 that God’s people will be given “authority to judge.” This means that the millennium will be a chance to review the heavenly records and see that God’s justice has actually been done. As sobering as it will be to witness that the evildoers have brought about their own destruction, the millennium will be a chance to see that the evil acts that caused so much tragedy and heartache on earth never went unnoticed. The record will make plain that justice has been done.
Meanwhile, Revelation 20 tells us, the devil will be confined to the “Abyss” (the destroyed world) with nobody to tempt. He will roam this wasteland for the entire thousand-year period.
But it doesn’t end there. At the end of the millennium, a new era begins as the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21:1–2 comes down from heaven and lands on the earth—a giant city in the shape of a cube. Here’s where the enemies of Christ are resurrected (Revelation 20:5) and Satan has one more chance to recruit them into his campaign against God. The master deceiver will lead God’s enemies in attacking the New Jerusalem. It is the ultimate showdown as humanity in its entirety is split between Christ’s friends inside the New Jerusalem and those outside who have refused Jesus’ sacrifice, joining Satan in his final assault.
Those attacking the New Jerusalem will not succeed. Instead, a consuming fire will destroy them and Satan once and for all (Revelation 20:10,15), bringing about a final end to injustice and marking the beginning of an eternal era of heavenly peace and joy for God’s followers. Instead of the pain of human existence, Jesus “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Here, at the end of the millennium, we see justice at last. The old order and those responsible for it have ceased to exist and all that is left is a future of harmony and a beautiful friendship with God. This powerful vision of earth’s future can fuel our sense of perspective through life’s trials and injustices. We don’t have to feel hopeless and betrayed. We don’t have to feel knocked down and defeated. We know that there is a final round, and what’s more, we already know who is going to be the clear winner.
After spending his childhood as a South-East Asian missionary kid, Bjorn Karlman has continued to live and work internationally in the UK, Thailand and Argentina as a writer, editor and humanitarian volunteer. He and his wife currently live in California.