This brings us to the end of the Revelation-portion of this series. The following post will conclude the series. Revelation 19:17-21:5 should be read before continuing with this post.
The Thousand Years – the Millennium
The term “Millennium”, meaning thousand years, is taken from Revelation 20. Its nature and timing in relation to other events are among the most disputed points of interpretation for the Book of Revelation.
The position of the Early Church was that it is a period of time following the return of Christ. This is known as “premillennialism”, because the return of Christ is placed before the Millennium in the chronology. This is my own view and is a popular view amongst Protestants.
This view later fell out of favour as other interpretations arose, until it became popular again in the 19th century. “Postmillennialism” places the return of Christ after the Millennium and views the Millennium as a period when the Church rules the world, leading up to the return of Christ.
“Amillennialism” (meaning no Millennium) views the Millennium as symbolic, covering the entire Church Age. This view, while technically distinct from postmillennialism, still has more in common with it than it does with premillennialism.
I do not propose to go into great detail defending my position, but would advise the reader to consult Alan Kurschner’s writings. The following points serve as an introduction.
(1) Satan is bound during the Millennium, but the New Testament does not present Satan as bound in this age. The issue is resolved if the Millennium is placed after the return of Christ.
(2) There were no chapter breaks in the original composition of the Revelation; they were added later by editors for ease of navigation and reference. The narrative does not break between chapters 19 and 20. Accordingly, the most natural and obvious reading presents the following sequence:
- Christ returns
- Satan, the Antichrist, and False Prophet summon armies to prevent Christ from taking over the earth.
- They clash with Christ in the Battle of Armageddon, in which Christ is victorious.
- Following the Battle, Satan is taken and imprisoned as a defeated foe.
- Christ then reigns over the earth in peace, His enemies having been removed.
- Satan is released at the end of the Millennium to test the nations one final time.
(3) Functionally, the sequence outlined above, built on a premillennial framework, makes sense theologically in terms of the matter of sin. The fact that humanity rebels once more after the Millennium demonstrates that our hearts are so sinful, that even with Christ ruling us externally, unless we are inwardly converted, our souls are dark. David Pawson addresses this point in his book, When Christ Returns.
(4) We see the Millennium prophesied in the Old Testament. This only makes sense in a premillennial framework. The passages indicate that God (i.e. Christ) is ruling on earth, and so He must have returned, but the new heavens and new earth have not yet come, because humans still die, albeit after long lives. This is the period in which the promises to Israel are fulfilled. They are not fulfilled in this age, because Israel has been blinded, as St Paul teaches in Romans.
(5) Premillennialism was taught by the Early Church (St Hippolytus, Lactantius, and others). This should make us consider the possibility that St John understood Revelation 20 in this way and passed this teaching on to the following generations.
Further arguments could be added, but these form a beginning.
New heavens and the new earth
The new heavens and new earth clearly follow the return of Christ. Among premillennialists, they are generally believed to come after the Millennium rather than at its inception. While not dogmatic on this point, I tend to view them as coming after the Millennium. The Great White Throne Judgment clearly takes place after the Millennium (Revelation 20:7-15) and the proximity and placement of the new heavens and new earth to this event in the narrative suggests we are meant to view this renovation as following that event.
- Confirmation of the covenant by the Antichrist: the 70th Week begins
- Invasion of Israel by the Antichrist and Abomination of Desolation
- Great Tribulation
- Darkening of the heavens
- Christ appears in the sky with His angels
- Resurrection and rapture of the saints
- Day of the LORD: Trumpet and Bowl judgments
- Battle of Armageddon
- Satan is bound and cast into the Abyss
- The Millennium: Christ rules with the saints; promises to Israel fulfilled
- Satan is released: final rebellion of humanity, (second) war of Gog and Magog
- Great White Throne Judgment (the Last Judgment)
- New heavens and new earth