The Millennium

Posted: April 17, 2011 in Revelation

Revelation 20:1-10, “The Millennium”

It would be tough to plan a more appropriate text out of Revelation to study on Palm Sunday than today’s text!  On the 1st Palm Sunday, Jesus was presented to Jerusalem & they hailed Him as the coming Messiah King…only to quickly turn on Him when they realized He was coming to suffer; not overthrow their Roman enemies.  In Revelation 20, we actually see the reign that the Jews rejoiced over, shouting “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  THIS is the time they were expecting to see; and this is the time that will most definitely come when the Lord Jesus returns to reign.

Context: Babylon has fallen – the false religious & political system of the world has been overthrown.  Heaven rejoiced in response, and proclaimed the marriage of the Lamb.  The Beast (Antichrist) gathered the armies under his control & went for one last final battle against God, only to have Jesus Christ come back in power & glory with a sharp sword from His mouth, decimating the army & leaving a feast of flesh for the carrion birds.  The beast & false prophet of Antichrist were taken captive & thrown into Hell…forever condemned.

So what happens next?  The Antichrist & false prophet have been thrown into the lake of fire, but what about S

atan?  God turns His attention to the Devil next, but has a bit of a different plan for him.  At this point, Satan will be bound & the saints will rule alongside the Lord Jesus Christ.  A fulfillment of prophecy, but also a glorious act of victory!

Revelation 20:1–6 (NKJV)

1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

  1. The chronological order is interesting here.  There’s no break in the narrative or visions – no phrase “after these things” that introduces a new section.  This is simply what immediately follows.  After John has seen Jesus coming as King of Kings – after he has seen the Church accompanying Jesus as His army – after the Beast & false prophet were cast into Hell & the rebellious army was destroyed – then an angel comes down to address Satan.  Almost as an afterthought, Satan is addressed by this angel.  Who’s the angel?  We don’t know – he’s completely unidentified.  He’s not even labeled as a “mighty” angel. Yet even this angel is strong enough to bind Satan.
    1. When God wants the devil to be bound, he will be bound.  For God, it’s not even a struggle!  We see the same principle at work when Jesus was casting out the demons left & right/  The Devil is powerless in the presence of God!
    2. How important this is to remember in our own spiritual warfare!  When we come against the Devil, we do not come against him in our own strength.  (How could we?  We’re far weaker than he is & we’d fail every time!)  Instead, we come against him in the name & power of our Lord & Savior, Christ Jesus.  Satan simply cannot defeat Jesus, no matter what he’d like to try.
  2. The angel had “the key to the bottomless pit.”  Remember the last time we saw this key was in Rev 9:1. At that point, a fallen angel (likely Satan himself) had the key & released the demonic horde of locusts during the 5th trumpet.  Who has the key now?  An angel of God.  Satan’s hold on the key was strictly temporary!
  3. The angel also had “a great chain in his hand.”  Some have said this chain must be symbolic, as no physical chain could truly hold a powerful being like the Devil.  Yet if the key to the pit is real, why wouldn’t we think the same of the chain?  If God can create the heavens & the earth, surely He can create a chain that will hold the Devil without difficulty!

 

2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;

  1. Just as the Lord Jesus had 4 names in Rev 19, the Devil is shown with 4 names here.  Review: (1) Faithful & True, (2) Unknown name, (3) Word of God, (4) King of Kings & Lord of Lords.
  2. Name #1: the dragon.  This is how the devil has most commonly been described throughout the book of Revelation.  Obvious analogy to his evil & his power.  Peter describes the Devil as a lion – Paul called him the prince of the power of the air.  Our enemy is indeed powerful; but he’s obviously no match for God.
  3. Name #2: the serpent.  We go from the last book of the Bible to the very 1st.  Satan’s 1st appearance in the Scripture was as the serpent in the Garden of Eden. [Gen 3]  From the dawn of history, the Devil has caused problems for mankind – but at the end of the age, he will be dealt with & thrown into the abyss!
  4. Name #3: the Devil = “slanderer/accuser.”  It’s interesting that although the Devil will constantly lie to us (as is highlighted in verse 3), he’ll speak the truth to God…or at least part of the truth.  Apparently Satan takes pleasure in slandering us – accusing us – dragging our names through the mud as he brings up the depths of our depravity.  Just as he accused Job attempting to find fault in him (though there was none), he accuses us.  Yet though we have an accuser, we also have an Advocate: Jesus Christ the righteous! Jesus defends us through His blood & by His grace!
  5. Name #4: Satan = “adversary.”  Make no mistake, we have an enemy.  More than our enemy, Satan is GOD’s enemy.  Satan hates God & wanted to be God, and thus has always rebelled against God & warred against the people of God.  Yet the glorious promise of this passage is that one day the fight will be over.  The enemy’s power will be stripped from him as the Millennial Kingdom begins.
  6. What happens to him?  He’s bound/imprisoned for 1000 years.  This is described further in verse 3…

 

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. …

  1. Satan’s not merely bound; he is firmly imprisoned!  Note the 3 affirmations: (1) in the bottomless pit, (2) shut up there, (3) sealed to remain there.  Hardly a stronger picture could be painted of the extent of Satan’s imprisonment.  When Satan is finally cast into the abyss, there is no way he’s getting out at all until God so allows him.
  2. What is the effect of Satan’s imprisonment?  The nations will no longer be deceived.  Recall that deception was a major component of Satan’s strategy to get people to worship Antichrist…it was one of the primary functions of the false prophet (Rev 13:14, 19:20).  Deception has been a major component of Satan’s strategy from the very beginning! (Has God said?  Gen 3)  The Devil is a liar & the father of lies.  He still lies today & people still get caught up in the deception. 
    1. We’re not immune!  Even Christians get caught up in the lies of Satan when we start buying into false doctrine or getting caught up in the wisdom of the world in opposition to the wisdom of God.  Right now, Satan is looking for people to take down, and it’s certain that born-again believers are right in his crosshairs!
  3. Yet notice that during the Millennium that Satan can no longer deceive the nations.  This is a huge argument against amillennialism, which teaches that the 1000 years are symbolic of the Church Age as a whole & that during this time, Satan is simply restricted from deceiving people as much as he normally could.  The amillennial position teaches that people are free to hear the truth of the gospel, and that in itself constitutes the binding of Satan.  The only problem is that this is not what the text says at all.  The text is absolutely clear that the Devil is completely bound with no way of getting out, and that not only is his deception of the nations reduced – it’s completely eradicatedduring the 1000 year reign of Christ.  The Bible makes it plain that today, Satan is not bound.  Examples:
    1. The Devil has an active mission.  Today, he does not come except to steal, kill, destroy. (John 10:10)  The Devil has active authority – he’s the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2).
    2. Our battle is active.  We don’t fight against flesh & blood, but against powers & principalities, against the rulers of the darkness of this age & against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)  Today, we fight a battle & must take up the shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. (Eph 6:16)  If you’re a believer in Christ, you’ve fought the Devil & his forces – even if you haven’t realized that’s what you were doing!
    3. If there is any further question, the Bible explicitly tells us that the Devil is free to roam about the earth right now.  1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” []  Has our enemy been defeated at the cross?  Sure – without question.  But the Bible could not be clearer on the fact that right now the Devil is NOT bound.  Satan’s imprisonment is a future prophecy; not a present-day reality.  It WILL happen…be assured!

 

… But after these things he must be released for a little while.

  1. As assuredly as the Devil will be bound for 1000 years, it’s also sure that after that time is up, he will be released for a time.  The question is: why?!  Once Satan is bound & Jesus is reigning upon the earth, why would God ever allow Satan to be released – even if only for a temporary time?  What would be the purpose in it?  For some, this very idea is the reason why they have a tough time holding to a doctrine of a literal millennial kingdom…they just can’t imagine Satan ever being released again after a 1000-year long physical & spiritual restraint.
  2. Yet, that is exactly what the Bible tells us.  The text is clear that there is a 1000 year period of time during which Satan is bound, and at the end he will be released – or “paroled” as the case may be.  Upon his release, Satan will again engage in worldwide deception & will lead one final rebellion against God, which will be quickly dealt with & then the Devil will finally be cast into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:7-10)  Why?  Perhaps many reasons – one of which being to underscore mankind’s sinful nature.  For now, it’s important for us to understand that we need to be willing to take the Bible at face-value for what it says.  We cannot dictate to God what Biblical doctrine ought to teach.  We cannot presume to tell God what He can or cannot do.  God is the one who tells usthese things.  There are surely things that today we do not fully understand – but that does not make them untrue.  Who among us can fully understand the incarnation of Jesus Christ – or the extent of which He took our sin upon Himself?  Yet not only do we affirm these doctrines, we cling to them as being central to the gospel of salvation! We may not fully understand why God chooses to release Satan at the end for a bit, but we can trust that God knows what He’s doing & that His full purpose will be revealed in time.
    1. It comes down to an issue of trust.  Do we trust our God?  The Bible tells us that His ways are higher than our ways – and praise God for it!  If God were like us, NONE of us would be saved!  Yet His ways are not like ours – so some of the questions we have remain unanswered for the time being.  At the end of the day, we affirm our trust in God & know that He is good.

 

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.

  1. John’s attention moves from Satan to the saints.  Verse 4 shows thrones, but the 1st question is: who exactly is sitting upon them?  We know that the Tribulation martyrs are certainly included in this number – but are the thrones onlyfor the martyrs of the Tribulation time, or are they just a part of a larger whole (all Christians through history)?
    1. We know the promise given to the overcomers of Laodicea (and thus all of us who overcome the same temptation) to sit with Christ on His throne (Rev 4:21).
    2. We know the promise that all Christians are joint-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17).  We’re specifically told that we will reign with Him (2 Tim 2:12).
    3. We know that all believers will judge the world & even angels (1 Cor 6:2-3).
    4. Altogether, the overall weight of the New Testament seems to conclude that ALL Christians will reign with Christ during the Millennial Kingdom.  Rev 20:4 simply describes only one portion of this group.  Whether there were only enough thrones for the 12 apostles, or for the 24 elders, or for every Christian through history is uncertain – but we’re all represented there.
  2. So why are the martyrs specifically pointed out?  Because they were the ones who had been persecuted throughout the narrative of the book!  In Rev 4:9, the first of their number had cried out from under the altar asking how long it would be until God showed forth His vengeance.  In Rev 7:9 the full number of them are shown giving glory to God.  In Rev 12:17, they were shown being persecuted by the dragon (Satan) who made war against them.  In Rev 13:7, the war against the martyrs was carried on by the Beast (Antichrist).  In Rev 13:15, the false prophet kills all of those who did not worship the beast, nor took his number on their foreheads or hands.  After all of this time of persecution, now we see the martyr’s long awaited promise of victory.  After all the time of refusing to bow their knee except to Jesus Christ, now we see them in glory at Jesus’ side – blessed by their Savior (and ours), and given the privilege of reigning at His hand.
    1. Hold fast until the end!  It’s not over until it’s over…  It’s never easy to endure persecution, but we can be sure of the promise that awaits those who do. [Chinese underground church leaders arrested.]
  3. What happens during the 1000 years?  The saints reign with Christ.  At this point, it’s worth taking a deeper look at the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  Theologians have debated this for centuries…dating back literally to the very foundation of the Church.  Although the doctrine of the Millennium was not as developed as what we have today, the majority of the early Church Fathers for 300 years strongly affirmed a literal millennial kingdom period during which Jesus reigned over the nations as Lord, prior to the eternal state.  It wasn’t until Augustine that chiliasm (early millennialism) fell out of favor, and amillennialism took hold as the predominant position within the church until the last couple of centuries.  3 major viewpoints:
    1. Post-millennialism = things will only get better & the kingdom of God will manifest itself in the last days in glorious victory over the Devil & only after that time will Jesus return.  Problems: (1) the Bible specifically says that things will get worse in the last days.  (2) The chronology of Revelation has already shown the return of Christ in Ch 19.  (3) This places the victory in the hands of the Church rather than the hands of Christ – as seen in Dominion/Kingdom theology.
    2. Amillennialism = there is no literal kingdom; the Church age is what is referred to in Revelation 20.  The “kingdom” is simply the time period between Jesus’ 1st & 2nd comings & during this time Satan has no power over the gospel going forth.  Problems: (1) Satan certainly isn’t bound right now…if he is, the terminology means nothing.  (2) The text of Scripture is completely written off & ignored for it’s plain meaning. 
    3. Premillennialism = there is yet to come a future kingdom that lasts for 1000 years when Jesus reigns from Jerusalem over all of the earth.  What the text says is what the text means. 
  4. For those who follow the debate, there are passionate arguments back & forth, here are four common objections to Premillennialism:
    1. Objection #1: “But Rev 20 is the only place in the NT that specifically speaks about an exact 1000 year period.”  Actually, there are many other passages that refer to a literal kingdom of Christ (not the least being the expectation of the apostles at Jesus’ ascension in Acts 1!) – but even granting that Rev 20 is the only specific reference to a thousand-year-reign, what of it?  Simply because a fact is given once in Scripture does not make it invalid.  The magi/wise men that came from the East to see the Christ child are only mentioned once (Matt 2), but we do not doubt their existence.  Even in Rev 20, the 1000 years isn’t mentioned only once; it’s mentioned no less than SIX times in 7 verses.
    2. Objection #2: “Surely the 1000 years is figurative – a symbolic number contained within a highly symbolic book.”  If the 1000 year figure is symbolic in Rev 20, there’s little reason for language to bear any meaning whatsoever in the book.  After all, there’s an angel, a Devil, a pit, martyrs, thrones, etc., what would possibly indicate a switch to symbolic use now?  Besides, to this point in Revelation all of the numbers given have been literal numbers.  When John saw “7 lampstands” (Rev 1:12), there was a symbolic meaning behind the lampstands, but he definitely saw “7” of them.  When he saw 144,000 sealed of Israel, there’s no doubt he actually saw 144,000…after all, he gave the census count tribe-by-tribe.  When we’ve seen 7 seals, 7 trumpets, & 7 bowls, we could count them off one-by-one.  There may be symbolic meaning behind some of these numbers, but the numbers themselves have always been literal.  There’s no reason to assume the 1000 years would be any different.
    3. Objection #3: “If there was a 1000 year literal kingdom, where are the OT expectations?”  Actually, there were expectations for a literal Messianic kingdom all over the OT!  We could spend weeks in the Psalms alone showing the expectation of the Israelites concerning a future literal kingdom in which the Messiah of God would reign over the nations of the earth.  Just for a partial listing: (per Feinberg)

                                                                          i.      We’ve already seen Psalm 2 prophesy of the 2nd coming of Christ & the battle of Armageddon.  It also speaks of Messiah’s rule over the nations of the earth.  Psalm 2:10–12 “(10) Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. (11) Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling. (12) Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” []

                                                                        ii.      The Messiah’s reign will be glorious & righteous over all the earth.  Psalm 45:2–5 “(2) You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed You forever. (3) Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One, With Your glory and Your majesty. (4) And in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness; And Your right hand shall teach You awesome things. (5) Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; The peoples fall under You.” []

                                                                      iii.      The extent of Messiah’s reign will be far larger than anything ever seen under any previous king of Israel.  Psalm 72:8–11 “(8) He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth. (9) Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him, And His enemies will lick the dust. (10) The kings of Tarshish and of the isles Will bring presents; The kings of Sheba and Seba Will offer gifts. (11) Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; All nations shall serve Him.” [] 

                                                                      iv.      There had been glimpses of all these things during various reigns of David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and others – but none were literally fulfilled.  There spiritual truths that find it’s fulfillment in Christ among His people, but as of yet no literal fulfillment. There WILL be a literal fulfillment.  Every other prophecy of God has been literally fulfilled; the promises concerning the Kingdom will be likewise.

  1. Objection #4: “If you believe in a Millennial Kingdom of Christ, doesn’t that mean that one day Jesus won’t reign?”  Not in the slightest!  The 1000 years is only the first 1000 years of Jesus’ rule.  After the Satanic rebellion mentioned in Ch 20:7-10, the Millennial Kingdom simply transitions to the eternal state.  Jesus’ kingdom in one sense began the very moment of His resurrection – it will see its full fruition in the Millennium – it will see its everlasting fulfillment in eternity.
  2. What does the Millennial reign of Christ tell us?  It tells us that there is coming a day in which all the world will recognize Jesus as the King!  It tells us that one day, we will see government the way it ought to be, with man submitted to his Maker & God on the throne.  It tells us that God will keep every single one of His promises to the letter; not a single one will be left out.  All of the promises of God are yes & amen in Christ Jesus! (2 Cor 1:20)  It tells us of the kingdom we are to expect in the future & the kingdom we are to act as citizens of right now.  It tells us that when we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we’re truly praying for the 2nd coming of Christ & for the Lord Jesus to be recognized as God & King by everyone in the universe.  Praise God for the coming Millennial Kingdom! 

 

5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

  1. Keep in mind that the Church had already experienced its resurrection on the day of the rapture.  Scripture makes it clear that these events occur virtually simultaneously.  1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 “(15) For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. (16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” []  Some have suggested that there might be various stages within the resurrection of the just (beginning with Jesus’ own resurrection as the firstfruits, and continuing with ours, etc.), but whatever the case this much is true: there’s more than one resurrection.
  2. So what’s the 1st resurrection?  The one that had already occurred.  The context clearly shows that John was writing of those he had already seen sitting on the thrones of judgment & reigning – THAT is the 1st resurrection.  He’ll make the contrast clearer in verse 6…

 

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.

  1. Here’s the clarification.  Those who partake in the 1st resurrection have nothing to fear from the 2nd death.  What’s the 2nd death?  The moment when those who were raised apart from the 1st resurrection were cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:14).  Scripture makes it plain that there is a resurrection unto life & a resurrection for the condemned (John 5:29).  That’s the difference between the 1st & 2nd resurrections.
  2. Praise God for the promise of the 1st resurrection!  Praise God for the promises of life that we have in Christ Jesus!  Death may touch us briefly now, but in eternity it will never touch us again.  That’s the glorious promise Jesus shared with Mary & Martha prior to raising Lazarus from the dead.  John 11:25–26 “(25) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (26) And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” ” [] That’s the same promise ALL of us have who are in Christ!  Because Jesus is the author of life, we have the gift of life.  Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have the promise of rising from the dead.  Every singly believer throughout all history will rise again – a participant in the 1st resurrection, never again to taste death!
  3. Notice one last role for the believer.  In verse 4 we saw the saints & martyrs sitting on thrones with Christ reigning with Him & judging the world.  Now we see them also described as “priests of God and of Christ.”  What’s a priest?  Among other things, it’s someone who ministers unto God…  That’s exactly the blessing that was given to the tribe of Levi – they had a special inheritance apart from the land of Israel given to them specifically by God in order that they would minister to Him as priests (Exo 28:1, among others).  We’ll have the distinct blessing of serving directly in the presence of God for eternity – starting with the Millennial Kingdom!

 

Conclusion:

To look around at the world today, the words of Revelation seem so very far away.  For now, it looks like that the Devil is winning as he runs rampant through the earth.  But let’s be clear: the Devil ISN’T winning & he WON’T win.  Satan lost the war at the cross – and he’ll forever lose the remaining battles during the Millennial Kingdom.  Bottom line: the devil loses & the Lord Jesus is the victor!

Because Jesus is the victor, all the promises Jesus made will be fulfilled.  Every single one…down to the last jot & tittle.  Every verse that speaks of His literal reign – every promise that speaks of our inheritance alongside Him – every Scripture that speaks of us being made the children of God…all of these promises are true right now spiritually speaking, but we will actually see their literal & physical fulfillment in the day of the Millennial Kingdom.  It’s no wonder we look forward to that day with great anticipation & hope!  This is a promise in which we can greatly rejoice!

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