The 1000 Years of Revelation
To develop the understanding of the topics under discussion in this paper, the main passage under consideration reads as follows in the New King James Version (NKJV): Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.
But after these things he must be released for a little while. 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.
Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. Through history, scholars have not been able to agree on one interpretation of the millennium, the outcome intended of this paper is to provide the reader with adequate understanding of the interpretive issues of this passage. Through a review of the main elements of this difficult passage and the three main interpretive views that are supported today, the reader will be guided to reach his or her own conclusion on many of the issues that are in question.
What is the Millennium? The word millennium comes from two Latin words, Mille, meaning “thousand,” and annum, meaning “year. ” Simply put, “one thousand years,” but unfortunately that is where the simplicity ends. Now that we have a basis of a thousand years the question then becomes when does this thousand years fall into our past history, or is it to be some future event? This paper will consider the three major views which are post-millennialism, amillennialism, and premillennialism.
All three of these views in this paper are not only based upon the timing of the return of Jesus Christ to the earth but they also incorporate much more than just the arrangement of the events that surround His coming back. Post-Millennialism One interpretive view is that of the post-millennialism. With the prefix of “Post,” this view is supportive of Jesus Christ returning to earth after the 1000 years. One major problem with the postmillennialist view is that the thousand years is not taken literally. In that the “thousand years” is used figuratively as a nondescript amount of time.
Postmillennialists interpret the key text in Revelation 20 as that the Kingdom of Christ originally began in the first century with the preaching of the Gospel. Through the subsequent preaching and power of the Gospel the postmillennialist believes that the world has become and is becoming a better place. This view is often seen as the “optimistic” view of the millennium. In retrospect when looking at Christian history, this view must have gained credence with the advent of Christianity becoming the predominant religion of the Roman Empire under the Emperor Constantine.
Many attribute the postmillennialist view with that of Augustine in the fourth century. The problem with this view is that Augustine supported the amillennialism view, which will be discussed later in this paper. In the postmillennialist view, over time the power of the Gospel will cause a great revival in the world that would extend to all facets of society, i. e. politics, education, etc. and that they would all come under the influence of Christian principles. The post-millennialists base these beliefs on certain key Scriptures like Mark 1:15 to support their theology.
In the review of this passage, we see that Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel. ”(NKJV) The word “time” that Jesus used holds the very meaning of this message. The Greek word that Jesus used is kairos meaning right time or opportune time. With that meaning Jesus was simply telling the audience that with the advent of His coming there was now an opportunity before them to become part of the kingdom of God and that they should not pass this opportunity up.
If Jesus was trying to inform the audience that the time of the kingdom of God was beginning at that very moment, as the postmillennialists believe, then he would have used the Greek word, chronos, meaning chronological time. One major problem with the postmillennialist view is that since the coming of Jesus Christ, as a whole, the world has not become a better place, and except for rare occasions, such as the Reformations, society has not fallen under the influence of Christian theology.
In consideration of the postmillennialist view some verses that should be review are 2 Timothy 3:13, “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. ” (NKJV) In this passage, Paul is explicitly explaining that there will be more and more false teachers, not more true preachers of the Gospel. Another verse that sheds light on the inconsistency of the postmillennialist view is that of Revelation 19:15b, “And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. ”(NKJV) This is speaking of when Jesus comes back the second time to rule and that He has to do it with a rod of iron.
If He has to rule with an “iron rod” how can it be considered that we could do it under our own power? Amillennialism The next interpretive view that we should examine is that of the amillennialist. As stated previously, this view began to influence the church under the teachings of Augustine, the bishop of Hippo, in the late fourth century. Augustine interpreted the statements in the book of Revelation allegorically or figuratively, much like the postmillennialists. Using the prefix a meaning “no” gives the idea that there is no millennium or 1000 years.
Augustine believed that by looking at our spiritual blessings and riches that we have now, we now have as much millennium that we will ever know. In his views, Augustine did not stray too far from that of Origen in that the manifestation of the kingdom of God happens within the souls of man not the actual world. This symbolic interpretation of the Bible can become a “slippery slope. ” Anthony Hoekema a proponent of amillennialism stated, “Literalism is the most stupid and dangerous scheme ever advocated.
By not interpreting the Bible literally, some amillennialist believe that there is no future for Israel in that the church is now the believers and that there will be no literal tribulation and that the first of the two resurrections described in Revelation 20 is merely symbolic of the triumph of the Christian martyrs. In looking at our key verses, Revelation 20:1-6, as an amillennialist, in verse 1through 3 we see not a literal angel with the keys and chain but Jesus binding the Devil with His sacrificial work at Calvary.
The problem with interpreting this passage symbolically is all the proof texts that we read in the New Testament where the Apostles warn the believers that the Devil is very active such as 1 Peter 5:8. In verse 5 where we are told the martyrs would live and reign with Jesus was the “first resurrection,” looking at it in an amillennialist viewpoint, this was just “new birth” that is experience by all Christians upon salvation. The question to ask is, “Who are the rest of the dead that did not live until after the 1000 years were finished? ” Premillennialism
The last major interpretive view of the 1000 years that we will consider is that of premillennialism. Premillennialist believe in the literal interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6 that there will be a 1000 year reign of Jesus Christ upon the earth after His second coming. Where the Amillennialists try to use different scriptures to disprove this passage, such as the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalms 50:10) where they ask couldn’t God own the cattle on a thousand and one hills? The Premillennialists see this passage as proof text of God fulfilling His promises to both Israel and the church.
In consideration of the nation of Israel one passage, Psalms 22:27, 28: All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the Lord, And all the families of the nations Shall worship before You. 28 For the kingdom is the Lord’s, And He rules over the nations. Added to this and many other promises are the covenants made with Abraham that the nation of Israel would inhabit the land and the covenant with David that there would be a special ruler from David’s lineage, we can see that only the millennium will fulfill this promise.
In concern of the church we see the promise of the reward to faithful believers being fulfilled in the millennium such as 2 Timothy 2:11, “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. (NKJV) In a literal translation of the key scripture, the Premillennialist interprets it as a literal angel coming down and binding the Devil in the bottomless pit for a thousand years.
This is to assure that Satan does not interfere with Jesus Christ’s kingdom for a thousand years. A corresponding Scripture to this interpretation is Isaiah 24:21, 22. Those who have survived the tribulation and not taken the mark of the Beast will then be ruled by Jesus Christ and those who are spoken of in verse 5 and 6, “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (NKJV)
Those that are part of the first resurrection are the Old Testament saints, the believers who died before the tribulation, those who are taken at the rapture of the church and those Saints who are martyred during the tribulation. They will be different than those who survived in that they will have a glorified body just as Christ did when He was resurrected. (Philippians 3:20, 21) Conclusion In looking at the three views considered in this paper, two of these, post-millennialism and amillennialism, have tried to say that since the 1,000 years is only specifically referenced in Revelation than it should not be taken literally.
If this is true then should the seals, the two witnesses, the mark of the Beast, the twenty four Elders and other items that are described only in the book Revelation also be taken symbolically? When we consider some of the early Christians like Origen and Augustine and their beliefs, it would have been easy for any to speculate what the millennium actually was being that a thousand years had not transpired yet. However, now that we are in the second millennium their views require the discount of many key Scriptures that we have covered in this paper and many others not covered due to space.
My prayer is that through revelation of the Holy Spirit those who consider a view that Jesus will not literally reign on earth for a thousand years will consult His Word and see that John revealed a literal kingdom on the literal earth with Jesus Christ literally sitting on the throne and the Saints literally ruling with Him for a literal thousand years.