Summary: Let's talk about 4 questions concerning the millennium (Material adapted from Alger Fitch's book, Revelation, Chapter 3 The Perspective of Advance, pgs. 59-74)
One day a guy died and went to heaven. He was curious about how God lived and said, “God, how much is a millennium to you?” God said, “One second.” “The man said, “God, how much is $1,000,000,000 to you?” God said, “One penny.” The guy thought for a minute and said, “God, can I have a penny?” God said, “One second.”
I like stories with happy endings, where “they all lived happily ever after.” The book of Revelation is the happy ending of the Bible. Much conflict and trouble throughout the book but it leaves no doubt that Satan’s onslaught will fail. The gospel will advance. At the end, this will happen Revelation 1:7. The final words of Jesus in the book are, Revelation 22:20.
Surprising agreement among Bible believers on these matters but when we come to Revelation 20, the agreement is shattered. The millennium divides us between premillennialists, postmillennialists, and amillennialists. Most in our ranks are amillennialists but back in the 1800’s most among us were postmillennialists and premillennialists. On few other things are the followers of Christ more divided than our views on Revelation 20. Here is the only place where we meet the millennium. How are we to interpret this?
To help us answer 4 questions: 1) Has a key been found to help us interpret this passage? 2) Has the Lord been crowned? 3) Did a trumpet sound? 4) Has the Devil been bound?
Thesis: Let’s talk about these 4 questions in that order
Has a key been found?
A sound hermeneutical rule is to take the Bible literally as much as possible. Obviously some things are not literal. We read that God “turned his back” or “wrote with His finger” or shelters us “under His wing.” We get the message without insisting that God has feathers, knuckles or a literal backbone. We can share the joy of Isaiah without insisting that, literally, “the mountains and hills will burst into song... and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12). We can gain insight from Jacob’s parting words to his sons, without limiting him to using only literal terminology. Was Judah in a literal way “a lion’s cub” (Genesis 49:9), or Benjamin “a ravenous wolf” (Genesis 49:27)? Since we should not take these things literally, certainly, in apocalyptic language, Jesus does not have to be on a “horse” or with “a sword in his mouth,” when He comes again. Satan is not a literal dragon with literal frogs coming out of his mouth (Revelation 16:13).
One thousand in other places of the Bible may only be indicating large numbers. In Revelation 20, it may be indicating many years. God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10). Jehovah keeps his covenant “to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9). Did Peter mean this literally: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8, NIV.
We must interpret the Bible with the Bible. How long will Jesus reign according to the OT prophets? “Forever” is the word used by Daniel (Daniel 2:44). He foresaw the Messiah receiving “an everlasting dominion” (Daniel 7:14).
What then, is the thousand years? Could they symbolize the indefinite but lengthy church age, of whatever length that may be? Will we reign with Jesus a thousand years, or will we reign with him forever? Both!
We need to realize that Revelation is a cyclical book that takes us from John’s day to the end of time, the events in chapter 19 may not chronologically precede the happenings of chapter 20. These are just different ways of viewing the same scenes.
If we consider the possibility that from the day of Pentecost of Acts 2 to the end of time, those who lost their lives in carrying out the mission are the winners, but in what sense are they “reigning”? John said that they are both “came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4)
The victories experienced on earth will continue to be enjoyed in Christ’s presence.
Transition: It is now time to search the Scriptures for prophetic and apostolic insight into the early church’s concepts about the King and the kingdom.
Has the Lord been crowned?
An important question must be asked: Can we speak today of Jesus’ being King of kings and Lord of lords, or must such terminology be reserved until after the Second Coming? Has the Lord been crowned? Is the kingdom a present or a future reality? Is the missionary efforts of the church on earth the extension of the Messiah’s reign or only its forerunner?
The book of Revelation tells us that it is both. Chapters 4 and 5 use the word “throne” 17 of the 49 times it occurs in the book. Christ’s throne is in Heaven, although His reign extends over all the earth (Revelation 11:15) Throughout the book Jesus is ruler, king, and Lord. He reigns, has glory, power, and the kingdom.