Thursday, December 25, 2014

THE THOUSAND YEARS (Revelation Chapter 20)

Revelation 20:1-4, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain.  And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.  Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”

This passage speaks of what is commonly referred to as the millennium which has to do with the thousand-year reign of Christ over the earth.  The phrase “thousand years” appears six times in the first seven verses of this chapter.  There are three main views regarding the nature and duration of this period.

Premillennialists understand the millennium to be a literal thousand year period in which Christ will reign in fulfillment of numerous Old Testament prophecies (Cf. Psalm 2; 45, 110; Isaiah 2:1-5, 11:6-12, 24:23, 60, 61-3-62, 66; Jeremiah 23:3-8, 32:37-44; Ezekiel 40-48; Daniel 2:44-45; 7:13-14; 12:2-3; Micah 4:1-8; Joel 3:9-21; Amos 9:8-15; Zechariah 12:10-14:21).  Christ will return after the Great Tribulation to establish His Kingdom.  A great rebellion takes place at the end of the millennium (Cf. Revelation 20:7).  A new heaven and new earth is then established after the Great White Throne judgment (Cf. Revelation 20:11-21:1).

Postmillennialists say that Christ will return after the thousand years.  According to their view the thousand years is merely symbolic of a period of world-wide turning to Christ.  As J. Vernon McGee has pointed out, “This viewpoint has become obsolete as it could not weather the first half of the twentieth century, which produced two world wars, a global depression, the rise of communism, and the atom bomb with which worldwide destruction is imminent.”

Amillennialists understand the thousand years to be merely symbolic of a long period of time.  The addition of the prefix “a” serves to negate the term.  This view typically interprets Old Testament prophecies of having being fulfilled in a spiritual sense through the church.  Most amillennialists fit the millennium into the present age and the events of Revelation into past history.

What difference does it make what one believes about such matters?  God made specific promises to Israel that are yet to be fulfilled.  God has not abandoned Israel (Cf. Romans 11:25-27).  He promised to them a kingdom and God is always faithful to do that which He has promised.  Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum has commented on this, “The belief in the Messianic Kingdom does not rest on this passage (Revelation 20:4) alone. In fact, it hardly rests on it at all. The basis for the belief in the Millennial Kingdom is twofold. First: there are the unfulfilled promises of the Jewish covenants, promises that can only be fulfilled in a Messianic Kingdom. Second: there are the unfulfilled prophecies of the Jewish prophets…The only real contribution that the book of Revelation makes to the knowledge of the Kingdom is to disclose just how long the Messianic kingdom will last—namely one thousand years—for which the term Millennium is used. This is the one key truth concerning the Kingdom that was not revealed in the Old Testament.” 

John Walvoord has written of the nature of this coming kingdom, “For the whole period of one thousand years the earth will revel in the immediate presence of the Lord and His perfect divine government. Israel will be exalted and Gentiles also will be blessed. The major factors of the millennium, therefore, include a perfect and righteous government with Christ reigning in absolute power over the entire earth. Every nation will be under His sway, and God’s purpose in originally placing man in charge of the Garden of Eden will have its ultimate fulfillment in the Last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will reign over the earth.  The prominence of Israel in the millennial scene is evidenced in many passages of the Old Testament…Gentiles who share in the kingdom blessings have unparalleled spiritual and economic benefits, and the thousand-year reign of Christ is a time of joy, peace, and blessing for the entire earth. Though problems in understanding this period persist due to the fact that there is not a complete revelation on all details, the major facts are sufficiently clear for anyone who is willing to accept the authority and accuracy of Scripture and interpret language in its ordinary sense.”

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