The Millennium

Revelation 20:1-7 teaches a 1,000-year time where Satan is bound and believers are raised to life and reign with Christ. There are three main views.

take Rev. 20:1-7, as well as other Biblical prophecies as true, non-misleading statements of the future. Now prophecy often does have some symbolism, so 1,000 years might mean a long period of time. Premillennialists believe:
Satan is not now locked in the abyss (Rev 20:3)
The nations today are not deceived (Rev 20:3)
None have yet been beheaded for not receiving the mark, and then raised back to life. (Rev 20:4)
Believers do not reign with Christ for just this time. (Rev 20:4,6)
Regardless of a person's theology on other points, believing the plain meaning of the future Millennial reign of Christ in Rev. 20 makes one a premillennialist. Concerning the rapture, premillennialists can be pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, pre-Wrath, or "pan-trib" (We do not know when the rapture will occur, but it all pans out in the end!) Premillennialists might view others as "end-time liberals", who do not take Jesus seriously in Rev. 1:3; 22:7, and say this book of the Bible has little meaning for us today.

deny a millennium on earth, but instead believe the millennium, in an allegorical sense, has been occurring in Heaven since the start of the church age and/or right now in believer's lives on earth. The primary difference between a premillennialist and an amillennialist is not interpreting certain passages, but rather that amillennialists view most of the book of Revelation as true but indecipherable. They also interpret most prophecies, such as in Daniel, as non-literal, not actual predictions of the future. Amillennialists do affirm that the full consummation of God's kingdom awaits the future return of Jesus, and there will be the rapture. They think premillennialists give man's dogma as God's word, contrary to 1 Cor. 4:6 and Proverbs 30:5-6.

are so similar to amillennialists in their non-literal interpretation, that it can be difficult to determine whether Augustine and others were amillennialists or post-millenialists. The main difference is that post-millennialists believe the millennium is happening on earth now, and that the world will get better and better until Christ finally comes. This view was more popular before World War II.

Who Believes Which View

Premillennialists in the early church include Papias (died 163 A.D.), Letter of Barnabas (Implied) (100-150 A.D.), Justin (138-165 A.D.), Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.), Tertullian (207 A.D.), Commodianus (240 A.D.), Victorinus of Petau (martyred 307 A.D.), Methodius (270-311/312 A.D.), Lactantius (c.303-c.325 A.D.), and Augustine before encountering the Donatist Tyconius.

Premillennialists today
include Dispensationalist theologians, Bible churches, most conservative Baptists, many Charismatics, and some in Independent Christian Churches. Famous premillennialist writers include Chuck Swindoll, John Walvoord, the Left Behind Series, and many others. Dallas Theological Seminary used to only let premillennialists graduate, but, according to a current student, they have changed this policy.

Those denying a literal 1,000 years
in the early church include Dionysius of Alexandria (c.265 A.D.). By Eusebius' time (around 325 A.D.), many of the Christian leaders were not premillennialists. Both a- and post-millennialists say Augustine later held their viewpoint. Post-millennialism looked attractive once Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Amillennialists today
include Covenant theologians, Lutherans, a minority of Baptists, Catholics, most Presbyterian and Reformed churches, Hank Hanegraff, and R.C. Sproul.

Even as early as Justin Martyr's time (138-165 A.D.) he said genuine Christians disagreed on the literal millennium. Even in the early church both groups accepted each other in Christ.

Pros and Cons

So does the Bible teach rapture before a literal millennium on earth or not? While I think it does, my purpose here is not to convince you, but rather to give you both sides, to decide for yourself.

Here are three interpretations of Revelation 20

The Premillennial Position

1-2) In the future, an angel with the key to the bottomless pit will capture Satan, and bind Him either for a 1,000 years or else a longer period.

Satan will be cast into the bottomless bit. Since Satan can only be in one place at one time, Satan will not be on earth, in Heaven, or anywhere else. Currently Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion according to 1 Peter 5:8.
Today many nations are deceived in the sense of denying the truth of God and persecuting God's servants. The nations of the earth will acknowledge Christ during the Millennium

Those who were beheaded for not worshipping the beast, or receiving the mark on their foreheads or hands were physically resurrected and lived with Christ. The beast and these beheadings have not occurred yet.

The rest of the dead were not raised to life yet. (same Greek word for raised given in verse 4)

Those in the first resurrection will be priests and reign during the Millennium. All unfulfilled Old Testament promises to the Jews will be fulfilled, and there will be a Millennial Temple.

After the Millennium, Satan will be released and deceive the nations.

Then the nations will gather in a vast army and surround Jerusalem. This is the judgment in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, not Armageddon, which happened over 1,000 years before. Fire will come from Heaven and kill them. This is a different battle then the one in Revelation 19.

The devil will join the beast and false prophet, who were already cast into the Lake of Fire in Revelation 19:20. They will be in conscious torment forever.

Then the dead will stand before God, and some were judged according to the Book of Life, and others according to their works. Everyone whose name is not in the Book of Life suffers the second death in the Lake of Fire.

Amillennial [& Postmillennial] Positions

1-3) Satan was bound while Christ was on earth. Satan has already been bound and "cast into the bottomless pit", at Christ's resurrection, [or else around 325 A.D.]

Satan is not deceiving the nations on earth anymore right now, though he will do so at the end. Deceived here might mean giving up their sovereignty to follow Satan.

Those who were beheaded for not worshipping the beast probably include all Christians. They are reigning with Christ in heaven right now [or else Christ is reigning with believers right now on earth]. Verse 4 does not refer to physical resurrection, but a spiritual resurrection of a new life in Christ.

The rest of the dead will not be resurrected physically until after this period. [A variant of this view is that since the Greek words are the same in the same context, this second resurrection is only spiritual too.]

The first resurrection either refers to either our new life in Christ, or else a physical resurrection of only believers after this time. Believers reign with Christ now in Heaven [or also Christ reigns in their hearts now on earth].

In the end, Satan will use direct power again.

Then the nations will gather in a vast army and surround Jerusalem. The battle of Armageddon and the Valley of Jehoshaphat are the same battle. Fire will come from Heaven and kill them. This is the same battle as the one in Revelation 19. Indeed, all of Revelation 20:1-10 is a "recap" of earlier parts of Revelation from a different angle.

The devil is thrown into the lake of fire immediately after the beast and false prophet are thrown in. They will be in conscious torment forever.

Then the dead will stand before God, and some were judged according to the Book of Life, and others according to their works. Everyone whose name is not in the Book of Life suffers the second death in the Lake of Fire.

Premillennial Arguments on Rev 20

"And" (kai in Greek) is the first word of Rev 20:1. This often indicates following the previous.
John was shown the same events in two visions, one right after the other.

1,000 years
is mentioned six times in chapter 20. If God really meant exactly 1,000 years, how would amillennialists postulate God could say exactly 1,000 years so that they would not dismiss it as a symbol? 1,260 days, 42 months, etc., are literal times in Revelation, so why single out 1,000 years as being figurative?
2 Peter 3:8 and Psalm 90:4 show that 1,000 years can mean a long period of time.

If Satan were currently bound,
how is he still:
Be now at work in Ephesians 2:2
Be prowling around like a roaring lion -1 Peter 5:8
Hinder Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:18
Enter into Judas Iscariot in Luke 22:3
Fill the heart of Ananias in Acts 5:3
Have people handed over to him in 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20
Satan can still tempt us (1 Cor 7:5)
Trap people (2 Timothy 2:26)

If Satan is now locked up in the abyss
, how is he at the same time still prowling around like a roaring lion 1 Peter 5:8

The nations today are deceived
contrary to Revelation 20:3 in the Millennium.
Satan can outwit (deceive us) in 2 Cor. 2:11.
Satan still blinds unbelievers. (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
Nations will be deceived to follow the Antichrist.

Have believers already been beheaded for not receiving the mark of the beast
and not worshipping the beast or his image in Revelation 20:4? - not by a long shot. It is one thing to say some passages are symbolic, but it is another thing entirely to make entire passages not only entirely devoid of meaning, but to say that the plain meaning misleads people.
There have been many Christian martyrs who refused to worship the Emperor.

Have the believers already been resurrected
who have allegedly already been killed for not receiving the mark of the beast as Revelation 20:4 says? They certainly have not!
When Revelation 20:5 refers to being raised to life, it may refer to them being spiritually raised to new life in Christ. They are alive in Heaven right now in a spiritual body.
The Greek for raised to life in Rev. 20:4 is the same word for the dead being raised at the end of the Millennium in Revelation 20:5. Interpretation this symbolic calls into question whether there is any bodily resurrection at all, contrary to 1 Corinthians 15:12-14.
Counter-counter Rebuttal:
The resurrection in Revelation 20:5 might be physical (despite the same Greek word) or it might have a spiritual meaning. If it has a spiritual meaning, then there might also be a physical resurrection not mentioned in Rev. 20.

Revelation 20:4,6 means reigning with Christ on earth
; otherwise it would mean we only reign with Christ in Heaven for this period.
Revelation 20 never explicitly mentions the end of the reign of believers with Christ.

A literal 1,000 year millennium
was understood by some Jews, as 2 Enoch and the Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 97b show. Using a literal concept that was already held, without any mention of correction, shows the author held the concept as true.
Others did not hold to a Millennium.

Amillennial Arguments on Rev. 20

There are six "whys" to ask on Revelation 20.
Why is there a "gospel of sight"
when Christ is visible during the Millennium, succeeding the gospel of faith that is now?
Why is there a postponed kingdom
of Christ?
Why is there a long separation
between Christ's coming, the resurrection, and the judgment, which the Bible shows together?
Why are there two great battles and two resurrections
Why is the rest of the New Testament silent
on connecting the second coming with an earthly kingdom centered at Jerusalem?
After you die as a Christian, why do you expect to be resurrected to live with wicked people on the same earth?

Do not base a major doctrine on only one passage.
A literal millennium on a great number of other scriptures, as the next section shows.

Premillennial Arguments besides Rev 20

Best explained by an earthly millennium
After the Euphrates dries up, a highway for the remnant of God's people. (Isa 11:16; 35:8-10)
Armageddon is prior to the Millennium. (Rev 16:16; Zech 12:7-11; 14:2-8,12)
Israelites attack non-Israelite land. (Isa 11:13-14)
Jacob makes servants of his captors. (Isa 14:1-17)
After the great battle, the other nations must celebrate the Feast of Booths. (Zech 14:12-21)
After the great battle, non-Israelite survivors will entreat God. (Zechariah 8:21-23)
They will bring offerings to the Lord, and some will be selected as Levites. (Isaiah 66:20-21)
Eunuchs in the temple and foreigners offer sacrifices. (Isaiah 56:3-7)
The Temple will be filled with glory. (Haggai 2:7)
The Temple during the Millennium. (Ezek 40-48)
Animal sacrifice in the Temple during the Millennium. (Ezekiel 40:38,42; 43:20-22)
Room to wash the burnt offerings in the Temple. (Ezekiel 40:38-42)
The Levites will never fail to have a man to offer burnt offerings before God. (Jeremiah 33:18)
Purify the Levites, have men bring offerings, as in days gone by. (Malachi 3:3-4)
The host on high are punished. (Isaiah 24:21-22)
Evil angels judged. (1 Cor 6:3; Revelation 20:10
Sodom returns to its state. (Ezekiel 16:55)
People unfortunate if they die at 100. (Isa 65:20)
God settling disputes between peoples. (Isa 2:4)
Whole earth knows the glory of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14; Zephaniah 2:11)
Lion and lamb will lie down together. (Isa 11:6-8)
Abraham's descendents getting all the land up to the Euphrates River. (Genesis 15:18)
God turns back the enemy, and Jerusalem will never again fear any harm. (Zephaniah 3:13-16; Zechariah 12:7-11; 14:2-8,12)
Jerusalem (not the new one) will be holy. (Isa 4:3)
Jews will mourn the one they pierced (Zech 12:10)
Prophecy will pass away. (Zechariah 13:3-6; 1 Corinthians 13:9; Micah 2:6)
David as a prince will reign. (Ezekiel 34:23)
Some Christians' loss of rewards might possibly include loss during this time. (Heb 6:4-12)
Wicked resurrected. (Daniel 12:2; John 5:29)
[A few think] Gog and Magog. (Ezekiel 38-39)
Valley of Jehoshaphat judgment. (Joel 3:1-2)
Jerusalem surrounded at the end. (Joel 2:20; 3:10)
Miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem. (Isa 29:5-9)

Amillennial Arguments Besides Rev 20

Just as Messianic prophecies were not clear in Old Testament times, the endtime prophecies are blurry in our time. They are either symbolic, or fulfilled prior to Christ's return.

Two triumphant returns
of Christ, defeating His enemies in two battles, seems redundant. The similarities suggest a simpler solution: there is only one battle and one triumphant return.
While God can do things as many times as He wishes, Christ does not "return" at the end of the earthly Millennium. Revelation 20:6 says that we reign with Christ for 1,000 years.

Why is there a Millennial Temple
, when the old Covenant is obsolete (Heb. 8:13)? No, the Millennial Temple is a heavenly one, of which the earthly temple is a copy, as Heb. 9:23-24 shows.

There is no longer any sacrifice for sin
in Heb. 10:18, because in Heb. 10:9 Christ set aside the first covenant. Heb. 9:10 said the animal sacrifices were external regulations applying only until the new order. Likewise, the former regulation (of Levitical priesthood) is set aside by our better hope in Hebrews 7:18. (See also Heb. 9:12,24,25)
Since all Christians agree on this, why are sacrifices offered in an alleged Millennial Temple in Ezekiel 40:38,42; 43:20-22? Why is there a room to wash burnt offerings in Ezekiel 40:38-42? These will not be done on earth again; rather, they are symbolic of Christ our high priest in heaven.
Perhaps all the physical dimensions and ceremonial details on earth are for the same reason amillennialists have to say Levites have rooms for washing bull's blood right now in heaven! Some think this is for a sin offering (even after Christ), but others say it is only a memorial.
Ezekiel 43:19 says the bulls were a sin offering to the priests, and verse 20 says to purify the altar and make atonement for it.
1,000 years are to:
1. Reign triumphantly on the old earth -Rev 20:6
2. Give some an opportunity to rebel -Rev 20:8-9
3. Fulfill every Old Testament promise
As in days gone by (Mal 3:3-4) there will not only be sacrifices (Zech 14:12-21; Isa 56:3-7), but God will select some Gentiles to be Levites (Isa 66:20-21). Just as God used the period of law to teach the Jews, God may teach them a lesson for a time.

Evidence of a Restored Israelite Kingdom in the Millennium

Premilleniallists believe the promises to Israel will all be fulfilled during the Millennium. (Unger's Bible Dictionary p.732; Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1119. There are some differences though. Some non-Israelites will even be selected to be priests and Levites in Jerusalem according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1121. However The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.569 says the view that millennium is to fulfill all the promises to Israel is not characteristic of all pre-millennialism, but of Dispensational premillennialism.

The Millennium in the Early Church

Justin Martyr (138-165 A.D.) "I and many others are of this opinion [premillennialism], and [believe] that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise." Dialogue with Trypho the Jew ch.80 p.239

(c.130-155 A.D.) Amongst these he says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection Fragment 6 p.154 from Eusebius Ecclesiastical History book 3 ch.39.
Letter of Barnabas
(100-150 A.D.) (Implied) ch.15 p.146 ""He finished in six days." This implieth that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years. And He Himself testifieth, saying, "Behold, to-day will be as a thousand years." Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished. "And He rested on the seventh day." This meaneth: when His Son, coming [again], shall destroy the time of the wicked man, and judge the ungodly, and change the-sun, and the moon, and the stars, then shall He truly rest on the seventh day."
Justin Martyr
(138-165 A.D.) "shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound' obscurely predicts a thousand years. For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, `The day of the Lord is as a thousand years, is connected with this subject. And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place." Dialogue with Trypho a Jew ch.81 p.239-240
Justin Martyr (138-165 A.D.) "For Isaiah spake thus concerning this space of a thousand years: 'For there shall be the new heaven and the new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, or come into their heart; but they shall find joy and gladness in it, which things I create. For, Behold, I make Jerusalem a rejoicing, and My people a joy; and I shall rejoice over Jerusalem, and be glad over My people. And the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, or the voice of crying. And there shall be no more there a person of immature years, or an old man who shall not fulfil his days. For the young man shall be an hundred years old; but the sinner who dies an hundred years old, he shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and shall themselves inhabit them; and they shall plant vines, and shall themselves eat the produce of them, and drink the wine. They shall not build, and others inhabit; they shall not plant, and others eat. For according to the days of the tree of life shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound.'" Dialogue with Trypho the Jew ch.81 p.239
(198-220 A.D.) "But we do confess that a kingdom is promised to us upon the earth, although before heaven, only in another state of existence; inasmuch as it will be after the resurrection for a thousand years in the divinely-built city of Jerusalem, 'let down from heaven,' which the apostle also calls 'our mother from above;' or citizenship, is in heaven, he predicates of it that it is really a city in heaven." Five Books Against Marcion book 3 ch.25 p.342
(c.240 A.D.) thousand years, indeed, that they may serve the saints, and the High One" Instructions of Commodianus ch.80 p.218. He also mentions martyrdom under the Antichrist, and that they will begat for a thousand years in Instructions of Commodianus ch.44 p.212
Victorinus of Petau
(martyred 304 A.D.) "lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection." Commentary on the Apocalypse from the Twentieth chapter v.4,5 p.359
(270-311/312 A.D.) "celebrate with Christ the millennium of rest, which is called the seventh day," Banquet of the Ten Virgins discourse 9 ch.5 p.347
(c.303-c.325 A.D.) "and now there shall be no war, but peace and everlasting rest. But when the thousand years shall be completed, the world shall be renewed by God, and the heavens shall be folded together, and the earth shall be changed, and God shall transform men into the similitude of angels, and they shall be white as snow; and they shall always be employed in the sight of the Almighty, and shall make offerings to their Lord, and serve Him for ever. At the same time shall take place that second and public resurrection of all, in which the unrighteous shall be raised to everlasting punishments. These are they who have worshipped the works of their own hands, who have either been ignorant of, or have denied the Lord and Parent of the world." The Divine Institutes book 7 ch.26 p.221. See also The Divine Institutes book 7 ch.24 p.219

For more info please contact Christian Debater™ P.O. Box 144441 Austin, TX 78714

by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.