1000 Years of Revelation (v.20:1-6)
Revelations has been one of the hardest books to understand in the entire bible for thousands of years. Many Christians rely on their church leadership, notable scholars, and authors of biblical interpretation, pastors and leaders in media (i.e. radio, television, and internet). Many Christians forgo reading Revelations due to its style of writing, metaphorical usage, and its methodology of interpreting events.
Revelations 20:1-6, is a selection of verses that are paramount to understanding the prophetic events in Revelation, determining the sequence of which you may interpret these events, and the critical understanding of Satan. Revelations 20:1-6 focuses on the time period of one-thousand years, often referred to as the millennium. There are three interpretations of thought on the millennium: (1) premillennialism; (2) amillennialism; and (3) postmillennialism. In looking into the millennium we will also gather a better understanding of the events that occur during Revelation. These events will include: the Church Age, the tribulation, the rapture of the church, the binding of Satan, the second coming, the first resurrection, the Great White Throne of Judgment, the second resurrection, and other events as well. Some of the people that we will discuss will be: the Antichrist, the beast and the false prophet, Old Testament saints, tribulation saints, the Messiah, and many others will be mentioned. In this discourse of we will dig into the depths of scripture to see the biblical narrative as God revealed to John the Revelator. John reveals to us in Revelation 1:3, that we are blessed for reading and hearing the prophetic word. Revelations 1:3 states, “The one who reads this is blessed, and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it are blessed, because the time is near!”
Before we attempt to dive into the scripture, we first need to have an understanding of the three main millennial views. The first view we will highlight is amillennialism. Hindson states, “Amillennialism means ‘no millennium’ – that is, there will be no literal kingdom on earth. Millennial prophecies cannot be considered literal and thus would need to be fulfilled in nonliteral ways.” In this view Hindson points out that they do not believe in a literal interpretation of prophecy. Amillennialists interpret the thousand years as symbolic. They believe that the church age and millennium occur at the same time and are followed by the second resurrection with all judgment. In addition, amillennialists believe that the first resurrection is a spiritual conversion like postmillennialist do. Open theist and extremely bias author Gregory Boyd states, ”Not only do Amillennialists interpret the thousand-year reign spoken of in Revelation 20 symbolically, but they also interpret the multitude of Old Testament prophecies about a future world peace symbolically.” There is no biblical support for this viewpoint, as most amillennialists offer a weak defense by negatively refuting premillennialism and postmillennialism. This view is mainly constructed on broad theological concepts that lack consistent hermeneutic or contextual interpretation. One major contention for amillennialism is that the number one-thousand is never mentioned anywhere else in scripture and therefore must not be literal. It should be stated that it is obvious that amillennialism will refute both premillennialism and postmillennialism, because they are both literal interpretations whereas amillennialism is a symbolic interpretation. The symbolic nature of this viewpoint does not explain then why God would even describe all the things to happen during the millennium if they were not literally going to occur.
Postmillennialist believe that Christ will return after the millennium. This viewpoint places the church age and millennium at the same time, which is followed by the second resurrection and all judgment. In addition, postmillennialist believe that the first resurrection is a spiritual conversion like amillennialists do. John Walvoord states, “Postmillennialism. Originating in the writings of Daniel Whitby (1638–1725), a unitarian controversialist of England, postmillennialism holds that through preaching the Gospel the whole world will be Christianized and brought to submission to the Gospel before the return of Christ.” Postmillennialist do have some biblical support for their belief as it does support the kingdoms continued expansion as is addressed in the New Testament. In addition, the continued expansion of the kingdom is not supported in amillennialism or premillennialism. They also find some credibility in eschatological support found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17; which states, “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” This is an area in which they have ability to preach of the impending rapture. Boyd states, “With postmillennialism, eschatology becomes an asset to evangelism rather than a liability.” Both amillennialism and postmillennialism believe we are currently in the time of the kingdom. Hindson states, “Those who hold to this perspective believe that the world will continue to get better and better until the entire world is Christianized, at which time Christ will return to a kingdom already flourishing in peace.”
Premillennialism is the most widely accepted and biblically supported viewpoint of all three. Elmer Towns states, “This Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6) was prophesied to reign on the throne of David in an unending kingdom (Isa. 9:7). This will be accomplished in the Millennium. Christ will be the authoritative Leader and will rule in a way that all past rulers have failed to accomplish.” This viewpoint teaches that the second coming of Christ will occur before the kingdom. It also holds to the thousand-years as being literal. A major contention for this belief is that although one-thousand is only mentioned here, it is mentioned for times. In addition, at no time in the bible has a year been anything but literal. Hindson states, “One thousand and its varied combinations are used frequently in both Testaments. No one questions the literal interpretation of 5000 believers (Acts 4:4), 23,000 men killed (1 Cor. 10:8), or 7000 killed (Rev. 11:13).” Why would we interpret this passage of scripture on one-thousand years differently than other passages? A literal interpretation of the numbers Revelations makes the most sense and lines up with the events of prophecy. It does seem ironic that numbers are literal when there are so many metaphors and symbols in Revelations. Premillennialism places the church age as the current time we live in now, followed by the tribulation. The second coming of Christ and first resurrection will take place prior to the millennium, which then will be followed by the release of Satan from his binding for a time and the second coming of Christ with the great white throne of judgment. So now with a better understanding of each of the millennial views, let us take a look into the scripture of the thousand-years and what is to occur during it.
Satan’s binding & 1000 years begins (v. 1-3)
Revelations 20:1-3, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 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: and after that he must be loosed a little season.” The dragon referred to herein scripture is Satan or the Devil. It should be noted that he is bound, not killed and this is not his punishment that occurs later (v. 10). Prior to this the beast and the false prophet have been thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20-21). The Antichrist and the false prophet are tools of Satan. They are not Satan, as we can clearly see he is bound after they are thrown into the lake of fire later.. Revelations 20:10 states, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” So the bottomless pit where Satan is bound is a different place than the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and false prophet are. This is a large clue that the millennium has not occurred yet. We live in a time where Satan is not bound. During the time of the millennium Christ will reign and the curse will be lifted. The prophecy revealed in Isaiah informs us of many conditions of the millennial reign of Christ. Hindson states that these conditions are: “Joy (Is. 9:3-4); glory (IS. 24:23); justice (Is. 9:7); full knowledge (Is. 11:1-2); instruction and learning (Is. 2:2-3); the removal of the curse on the earth and the elimination of sickness (Is. 11:6-9; 33:24); longevity of life (Is. 65:20); prosperity in work (Is. 4:1; 35:1-2; 62:8-9); and harmony in the animal kingdom (Is. 11:6-9; 65:25).” One of the most intriguing things about this verse is why would God let Satan go for any duration of time after the thousand-year reign? As we can see from the conditions during Christ reign that people will experience earth at what some consider the closest it will ever come to its state during the garden of Eden. However, there will be people who will not become believers in Christ even though He will bring the greatest time of peace we have ever known. Satan is bound, but our own inward condition and affliction of sin will still prevent some from seeing the truth. What I believe this tells us and teaches us in practical application to our lives is that when troubled times befall us (like it will the earth after the thousand-year reign), we need to look to Christ as our savior. This concept is easily stated, but its application of not doing so obvious.
Christ reigns and the dead rise (v. 4-6)
Revelations 20:4-6, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 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.” This is an awesome point in scripture. It reveals to us that the rapture and tribulation had to occur prior to the thousand-years. How could those who had not received the mark of the beast be raised from the dead if they had not been raptured? These versus are speaking of the Old Testament saints when it refers to those who were beheaded for their witness and it also reveals the tribulation saints who were those who refused to receive the mark of the beast. Those of us who are part of either of these groups will be priest of God who will continue the work of Christ here on earth during the thousand-year reign of Christ. It is hard to imagine that if all those people are raised and witnessing with Christ among us how anyone could deny Christ. In these verses, scripture reveals to us that the first rapture occurs prior to the thousand-years and the second death did not occur. So we can clearly see that the scripture is being literal here. The issue some face in stating that these are symbolic is, what are they symbolic of? If these verses are not literal, than on what plane of analogies could they be interpreted as and be supported by scripture?
When we look at the whole of all these verses, we cannot deny the awesome power of God and the reign of Christ. In preparation for the final judgment Christ comes and is the King of Kings here on earth.
. Ted Cabel et al., eds., The Apologetics Study Bible: HCSB (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007).
. Ed Hindson and Tim LaHaye, eds., The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2004).
. Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum: Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009).
. John F. Walvoord, “Millennial Series: Part 1: The Millennial Issue in Modern Theology,” Bibliotheca Sacra 106, no. 421 (January 1949).
. C Walter, ed., Archaeological Study Bible: NIV (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005).
. Boyd and Eddy, Across the Spectrum: Second Edition.
. Hindson and LaHaye, The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy.
. Elmer Towns, Bible Answers for Almost All Your Questions (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003).
. Hindson and LaHaye, The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy.
. C.I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Study Bible: KJV (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1909).
. Hindson and LaHaye, The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy.
. Scofield, The Scofield Study Bible.