Vol. 1 - No. 2
The “Thousand Years” In Revelation 20
by Hoyt H. Houchen
The book of Revelation is one of the most popular books in the Bible. To some it is regarded as a smoke cloud of mystery that cannot be fathomed, while for others it serves as a text for about every fanciful and sensational doc trine conceivable. The book provides special excitement for the premillennialists who believe that it proves their doctrine of a future one thousand year reign of Christ on the earth.
This brief study is confined to Revelation 20 because this is the section which mentions a "thousand years." Our consideration will involve two things: (1) the thousand year reign of the saints with Christ and (2) the binding of Satan during that period.
The Premillennial Doctrine
What is Premillennialism? Many have heard the word, but do not know what it involves. There are even some in this group who stand opposed to this system of teaching, but do not know why they oppose it.
As there are several aspects of the doctrine, all premillennialists are not agreed among themselves. They are united upon future events generally, but not all of them are agreed upon the specific order of these events. The general teaching of Premillennialism is summed up as follows: National Israel in the Old Testament was to be restored to its former political state and power at the coming of Jesus the Messiah. Because the Jews as a nation rejected Christ, the theocratic kingdom of the Old Testament which was to be restored, was postponed. In its place the church was established as a contingent (a substitute) and will continue until Christ comes again. At the end of this "church age" Jesus will descend and receive His bride, the redeemed. The living and the dead righteous will be transported to meet the Lord in the air. This is known as the "rapture." While the marriage of the Lamb takes place in heaven, there will be a period of "tribulation" on earth, unequaled to any ever known to the world. It is during this period that God begins to deal with Israel, and again will restore her to her own land. Toward the end of the "tribulation" period, the antichrist will make his appearance. Men will blaspheme God but Israel will be saved. Then Jesus will be revealed with His saints in flaming fire, and judgment of the nations will be executed. Premillennialists believe that this will be the second coming of Christ. It is then that the antichrist will be destroyed. The Beast and the False Prophet are to be taken, Gog and Magog will be smitten (the battle of Armageddon) and Satan will be bound. The tribulation saints will be resurrected, and then will follow the Millennium (1,000 years) during which Christ will reign on this earth with His bride. At the close of the millennium, Satan will be loosed for a little season and then destroyed with God and Magog. The resurrection of the wicked and the final judgment will then take place. Death and Hell (Hades) will be destroyed, followed by eternity (heaven and hell). This is the general outline of Premillennialism as set forth by W. E. Blackstone in Jesus Is Coming, and acclaimed by some to be the most forceful presentation of this view. It is the dispensational form and is most widely accepted today.
Paul declared that the church was "according to the eternal purpose of God." (Ephesians 3:11) A doctrine which reduces the church to the level of an afterthought of God, or a contingent, is contrary to the Bible at the very outset.
What Revelation 20 Does Not Mention
This treatise is primarily concerned with the "thousand years" in Revelation 20. Because the premillennialists believe that this chapter clearly teaches their doctrine of a future 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth, we need to consider what it does not mention. (1) ft does not mention the second coming of Christ, (2) a bodily resurrection, (3) a reign on earth, (4) a literal throne (of David), (5) Jerusalem or Palestine, (6) us, nor (7) Christ on earth. These points appear in chart form in God's Prophetic Word by Foy E. Wallace, Jr. (Revised Edition, p. 284). Indeed it would take a long stretch of the imagination,. no less than that which appears in Hal Lindsey's book, The Late Great Planet Earth to believe that Revelation 20 teaches a future bodily reign of Jesus upon this earth for 1,000 years.
What Does Revelation 20 Teach?
The book of Revelation is highly figurative and symbolical. This means that admittedly we do not have all the answers to the book. To suppose that we do, is to only deceive ourselves. But a contextual examination of Revelation 20 will lead us to what is in harmony with other scriptures. First, Revelation 20 depicts a martyr scene. Souls, not bodies, are under consideration. John reveals what he saw in the vision: "And I saw thrones, and judgment was given unto them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." (vs. 4) John saw SOULS reigning with Christ. These souls, along with those who had not worshipped the beast, etc., sat upon thrones and shared in this rule. Nothing in this symbolism indicates a literal reign of 1,000 years of the saints with Christ on this earth in the future. The triumph of these martyrs is called the "first resurrection." It is symbolical of the resurrection of a cause - the cause for which they died. We as Christians are now reigning with Christ, (Romans 5:17; 1 Corinthians 15:25, 26) but we are not involved in the scene of Revelation 20. We note that those martyrs not only reigned with Christ, but they "lived" with Christ. If we should suppose that the reign is for a literal 1,000 years, then so would their very lives be literal; and therefore their lives would terminate with the reign. This is only one difficulty to be encountered by those who would literalize this chapter. Symbolical or spiritual resurrections are seen elsewhere in the scriptures. (Isaiah 26:19; Hosea 13:14; Ezekiel 37:114) The second death will have no power over these martyrs in our scene. The second death is "the lake of fire." (vs. 14; 21:8)
Revelation 20:1-3 depicts Satan being bound for 1,000 years. His binding is best described in the synoptic gospels. Jesus said that the strong man had to first be bound, before entering his house and spoiling his goods. (Matthew 12:29) Jesus cast out demons, and while doing so, He was binding Satan. He foresaw Satan's downfall. (Luke 10:17, 18) The victory was accomplished by His death and resurrection. (Hebrews 2:14) The gospel is God's power to save those of every nation. (Romans 1:16) Satan is not deceiving the nations, (Revelation 20:3) as he has been bound. When accountable individuals in any any nation of the world obey the gospel of Christ, we are reminded that Satan is not deceiving the nations as he had. Satan exerts only such power over us today as we allow. Satan is bound to people of all nations who are faithful Christians. The "thousand years" began with the resurrection of the martyrs, and is a period of time that will continue until sometime before the coming of Christ when Satan will be loosed for a short while.
What Will Occur at the Second Coming?
The Bible clearly teaches that the following will take place on the "last day." (1) The righteous (2) and the wicked will be raised, (John 5:28, 29) (3) the wicked will be judged. (John 12:48) Since the resurrection of both classes (righteous and wicked) will take place at the same time, there can be no intervening period of even one day (much less 1,000 years) between the resurrection of the two classes. (4) Jesus is coming. (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17). Since the righteous are raised on the last day, (John 6:44) it is obvious that Jesus will come on that day - the last day. (5) The judgment will take place (John 12:48; Matthew 25: 31) and (6) the heavens and the earth will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:10). We ask: upon what will Jesus set His feet, if the earth is to be destroyed at His coming? These facts disallow Premillennial views.
We are safe when we submit our minds to what the Bible teaches, and not to what it does not teach. It is tragic that multitudes have been carried away by the wild and fanatical notions concocted by men. The endearing book of Revelation offers encouragement and hope to the Christian. It should be studied with an effort to harmonize it with other portions of the word of God. Premillennialism fails in this regard; rather it contradicts other plain Bible teaching. All need to heed the warning of Revelation 22:18, 19.