The Three Prevailing Millennium Views in Revelation

 

Revelation chapter twenty is about the three main views of the Millennium: Post-millennium/Postmillennial, Pre-millennium/Premillennial, and Am-millennium/Amillennial (see background article) that intersect into the four views. Chapters twenty-one and twenty-two deal with the literal versus the non-literal interpretation of Scripture. Each of the four views takes various positions within each of these millennia views.  

This passage starts the millennial viewpoints. Most theologians in Church history from the early church fathers such as Augustine, and including the Reformers Calvin and Luther, saw this passage as metaphoric; “Amillennial” as in not a literal but symbolic interpretation. This is mainly because it is what the texts stated by the usage of the Jewish metaphoric words and genre. There have been some that have seen a future “premillennial” viewpoint such as Irenaeus, Justin Martyer, and most famous, Isaac Newton (there debate is whether this happens before or after Christ’s return; most see after). But, these people were not well schooled in biblical languages or well read in this subject. There is another group who are versed in biblical languages and well educated that takes a “postmillennial” view and include Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and Charles Finney (he was not well educated, not that education is that important, but gives one more tools to examine and more information to see what God has to say) that a millennial Kingdom would precede Jesus’ second coming. Hence, there was a lot of controversy in the mid-twentieth century when most people who wrote on this subject no longer looked to genres, historical background, original languages, or were just biblically illiterate, so all kinds of theories exist through to today. One example is not realizing that so much of this is dependent on the Old Testament metaphors used in places such as in Jeremiah. The main problem is that Christians divide over this, regarding their position as the solely correct and imminent one when Christ Himself told us in Matthew 24 what will happen and not to theorize or fret over it, just be prepared. That means to grow in faith in Him, not spend our energies in argumentation. Ironically, people who engage in vicious debate and fight over this only serve Satan and not Christ!  

The word millennium is a combination of two Latin words, mille, meaning a “thousand,” and annus, meaning a “year”. The debate is over if this is to be taken literally as 1,000 definite years, or interpreted metaphorically (as the language suggests), meaning a long, indeterminate period of time. There are three main popular views to this subject:   

Amillennialism: This millennium portrays the present reign of Christ, God’s kingdom, which will be followed by Christ’s second coming. The souls of the departed are with Christ in heaven. Most in this camp believe that after Christ’s final judgment, the new earth will be formed—His eternal, perfect kingdom. This is the most popular view from the Early Church Fathers, the Reformers, and most denominations today. They believe that Christ through His work, death, and resurrection defeated Satan and he is restricted, and bound in power and scope to allow the spread of the Gospel and the building of the Church. This view sees us now in the millennium. Many sensationalists today say this view is heresy, but it is not; it is within the scope of biblical theology as clearly defined by Scripture. Such sensationalists rarely read the Bible for what it says or in its context! This is also not an essential matter (Matt. 12:9; John 12:31; Col. 2:15; Rev. 17:8; 19:9)!

Premillennialism: We are living in a partial aspect of God’s kingdom which in time will become the great climax of Christ’s return when He will start His Kingdom full on, which says that the Second Coming of our Lord will take place before the millennium. Then, Jesus will literally reign on earth for a thousand years that will merge into the eternal kingdom, in an age of peace and righteousness on a new earth. 

Postmillennialism: This world will eventually all or mostly be converted to Christianity; then and only then will the millennium of a new earth filled with peace and prosperity begin. This view has Christ returning after the millennium, and we Christians in charge; it is up to us to engage this before His second coming. Then, Christ presides over the final judgment and eternity.

Just like the four views, Preterist, Futurist, Idealist and Historicist, all these views are also mostly read into the text. There is truth and error in each one, since Scripture does not teach any of them fully (see background article for more information). 

 

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Exegetical look into Revelation 20:4-6

 

  • ·Souls. Refers to those who have been martyred because they remained faithful to Christ or that these people are the most noble and worthy to receive reward. This does not mean other faithful Christians and saints are excluded or there is a second class or a second resurrection for the others. It also signifies suffering, being wronged, and persecution, but the application is that they remained true to the faith, regardless of circumstances. In context, this image indicates that the martyrs are like sacrifices, just as Christ was when he represented the Passover Lamb, innocent and undeserving, whose blood was shed. In Christ’s case, it was for our redemption; in the martyr’s case, it was seemingly in vain, but in reality, it glorified God (Phil. 2:6-11; Rev. 6: 9-10).
  • Beheaded. Rome would behead with a big ax its citizens who were deemed as criminals, as it was considered quick and painless as compared to being crucified. Of course, they were usually beaten first as Paul was on many occasions.
  • Rest of the dead. May refer to those who are “spiritually dead,” or the wicked, and not necessarily dead bodies.
  • The first resurrection. This perhaps refers to our “rapture” to meet Christ, meaning we are taken bodily to meet Him when He returns. The various theories of the rapture and end-times usually are not based on Scripture. “Rapture,” which is not even a biblical word, comes from the Latin to “meet in the air,” and simply means (from Biblical exegesis) to meet with Christ. It is not necessarily even up in the air, as that is a metaphor to meet as two warring parties would in the middle of a battlefield to discuss terms. The context and language suggests two resurrections, but this may refer more to a contrast between our bodily death and the second death, which is spiritual and eternal. Our physical is temporary; our soul is primarily more important. The theme of resurrection is our hope for today, because we are with and in Christ, our “being” is made for eternity. What matters most to God is our trust and faithfulness in Him, for which we are rewarded. This is more fully explored by Paul in Philippians, chapter 3 (Is. 65:20; Dan. 7:14-18; Amos 5:18; Matt. 19:28-30; 25:14-30; John 5:24-29; 1 Cor. 15:51-57; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; 3; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 5:1-3; Rev. 6:9-10).
  • Second death. Refers to Hell and eternal damnation that as Christians we do not need to fear.

 ·Priests. In the Old Testament, this meant that all God’s people were holy to Him. Under law, there were specific roles in the priesthood that people were called and ordained to fill. Priests were to be bridges from God to man. Now, through Christ, we have direct, intimate access to Him, and in the future, each of us will reign with Him. Each of us is a royal priest as a representative of Christ (doctrine of the priesthood of all believers) on earth, and as ministers, we model His character and thus have no need for a Temple. God’s Kingdom is now; those who say the Temple must be reconstructed before Christ returns do not get this vital point (Ex. 19:1-6; 20:6; Lev. 10:10-11; Isa. 66:20; Matt. 21:43; 28:19-20; Rom. 15:16; 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 2:1-10; Heb. 7; 10:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:1-10; Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:9-10; 20:4-6).

  • Reign with him. This means the reign of the faithful—God’s people—and our responsibility as we serve for and with Him

 

Exegetical look into Revelation 20:1-3

 

  • Abyss/bottomless pit means “very deep” (the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament word for bottomless). Jewish tradition saw this as a literal, subterranean place, used for the imprisonment of evil demons and Satan, who was actually on the earth. Angels were assigned to guard it and were given keys to it. Now, with our better understanding of science and biblical interpretation, most scholars see this as an extra dimension or residence; the exact locale we cannot fathom. John is using this vibrant imagery not necessarily to be a literal place we can go see, but rather to show that hell is real, Satan’s punishment is real, and demons are real. (Gen. 1:2; 7:11; Prov. 8:28; Luke 8:31; Rev. 9:1; 20:1).
  • Seized the dragon. The context shows us it is Satan. Literally meaning “serpent” or “sea monster” such as the leviathan, it symbolizes monstrous evil and Heracles and his battle with the hydra. A dragon is also a description of Satan who is the archenemy of God, a terrifying and destructive beast who seeks the total devastation of God’s people. Satan has been in rebellion against God since even before the fall of Man. He has been judged and will exchange his earthly throne for a bottomless pit, his finality rendering him powerless and bankrupt. This is a reference to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. It is also a description of Satan’s ways and strategies to lead the whole world astray (apocryphal book “Bell and the Dragon;” Gen. 3:1-15; Job 1-2; Psalm 74:13-15; 89:9-10; Is. 27:1; 30:7; 51:9; Ezek. 29:3; Matt. 25:41; Luke 10:18; 11:14-23; John 12:31; Col. 2:15; Rev. 12:3, 7-9; 13:2; 19:20; 20:2).  
  • Bound him refers to one’s power being suppressed or muted. Satan’s power and influence are constrained by God’s will and are under His judgment. The theme of imprisoned demons is seen in 1 Enoch and Tobit where they are evil and waiting trial before God. (Is. 24:21-22; Dan. 12:2; Matt. 27:62-66; 1 Cor. 6:1-3; 1 Tim. 5:21).
  • Reigned with Christ. Most people seem to read in what they think this should say and not what it actually says. Basically, it means we have peace and responsibility when we are in Christ (Matt. 10:33; 1 Cor. 6:2; 2 Tim. 2:12)!
  • Thousand years. A thousand years, or “ten one hundreds,” was a common Jewish and Greek metaphor for an age of peace. Plato used it too. Jewish usage of time is not usually literal; rather, it means ages or periods such as in Genesis 1. The word is Yom, and means a time period, not necessarily a literal day. Many futurists see this as the beginning of a new era, dispensation, or church age called the “millennium,” filled with prosperity and peace. This may be so, but this is not what the text is saying. It is saying that we have peace when we are in Christ! Some saw this as an intermediate state between death and the afterlife of heaven or hell. Also, in Jewish thinking, this was the messianic period or” travail,” from which comes the Amillennial view, as in the age of Christ or Christianity until He returns. The Catholics picked up on this for their theory of purgatory. Purgatory is not a biblical representation, but rather a Jewish cultural view, from which John draws his language to show us the main point of trusting in Christ, He is our “All in All” in and for all situations, that Paul explains in Romans 8 (Psalm 90:4; Is. 65:20; 1 Thess. 2:18; 1 Pet. 5:8).
  • Deceiving the nations. Refers to deception and false prophets that allure people away from logic, clear thinking, relying on God, and trusting in His Truth (Deut. 13:1-3; Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:9; Rev 13:14; 16:14; 19:20) 

 

Revelation 20:1-6

Introduction  

The Millennium! 

John now sees the angel coming from heaven with the keys to the bottomless pit attached to a heavy chain. Then, he takes control of the dragon, which is Satan, and imprisons him for a thousand years in the pit that he locks up. At this, Satan can no longer influence or deceive people and/or nations until his sentence is up. Afterward, Satan will be released for a short time, and then he will be rendered powerless. John sees thrones, with people sitting on them who have the authority to judge. We will reign as priests, serving Him for a thousand years. John sees those who have been martyred come to life—those who lost their heads and lives because of their faith in and testimony for Christ. They paid the ultimate cost for faith and preaching the Word of God. These people did not compromise their faith, and they did not worship what is false or accept his mark. They stayed loyal to Christ and to Christ alone. Because of their extraordinary faith, they were given new life and allowed to be resurrected first. Death holds no power or authority over those whose faith is in Christ. Those who are His do not need to fear death, for life in Christ is eternal.  

This passage echoes some of the themes of Genesis found in chapters one through three. Is this passage really about a Millennium or any of the three main views of the Millennium? The fact is, when you actually read the text in context, you will see there are far greater issues at stake. The rage of debate of a Millennium view is this: Is this passage literal or figurative? This is the crux of the debates on this passage and the founding of the three main millennial viewpoints. What are usually left out in these debates are the apocalyptic language structure and word meanings from the Old Testament prophets, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, chapters 37-48. Just knowing these two books clears up much of the debate. This passage is about how we can have real peace and contentment when we are in Christ! We also have the responsibility to produce faith and to be loyal. It also describes Satan, who was unable to prevent Christ’s incarnation and redemption, thus seeks to manipulate and destroy His followers. By knowing Satan’s fate, we can have trust in Christ and hope for our future. Satan cannot influence or deceive us outside of God’s will. His reign may be limited now, but at some point in time, He is completely neutered. 

What do you think life would look like in an age of peace or a in a Millennium when we will reign as priests, serving Him for a thousand (indeterminate amount) years? 

What does it take for you to stay loyal to Christ and to Christ alone? What gets in the way of your loyalty? What can you do to be more loyal to Him?

What does Revelation 13:5-10 mean to us now?

 

            We also see this beast fight against God and the righteous people of the faith. Yet for some reason, God lets him continue. This may seem strange; why would God allow evil? But, we have to understand that there is a greater eternal purpose that we do not always see (Heb. 11:35-40). This beast is a fake and a forger, taking what is hideous and convincing us that it is attractive. We must see through the ways of evil and its many imitations and implications, and not be deceived. Satan will fall and every knee will bow; so, whatever we follow, if it is not Christ, it is not only temporary but it is deadly to us as well (Phil. 2:10). 

The point John makes is that God wants us prepared so that our eyes are opened to how Satan and evil work and his repetitive patterns so we do not fall for them. Spiritual warfare tends to be more of a battle of our will than its metaphysical dilemmas. The bottom line is that God is still in control, even in persecutions and oppressions! Our call is that no matter what comes to us, we are not to be surprised; rather, we are to be prepared by faith. 

The question is, are you attracted to what is fake and deceiving ignoring who and what Christ is? You may not worship the beast, but what is first in your life? Is it righteousness, seeking faith and maturity, growing in character? Or, do you want what is convenient, what looks good, what is satisfying and appealing, and what is trendy, regardless of whether or not it is good for others around you? This applies to how we run our churches; do we do so to please our people, or do we do it to please Christ? Do you capitulate to gossip and seek to please who gives the most money, or do you seek His precepts and instruct your people about His Way, regardless of what they may feel, and, of course, always acting in love? 

Remember, this beast wants people to be terrorized into submission; in contrast, Christ offers grace and forgiveness, with love as His motivator! 

Questions to Ponder: 

  1. How would you contrast this beast with Christ’s offers of grace, forgiveness, and love? How does being terrorized help motivate people to submit to something they normally would not do? 
  1. Why do you suppose some Christian groups use this passage to worry and terrorize Christians? Does God want us to worry?
  1. Why does the beast demand our worship? What are the causes and motivations for humans to do this?  Why do this beast/ Satan / evil people declare war upon the faithful?
  1. Can you give an example of counterfeit praise? If someone who is evil takes praise that is meant for God and twists it, what would it look like? What about misplaced motives in some of our worship leaders who seek entertainment and praise for themselves and not honor for God; are they antichrist-like?
  1. Whom do you trust and upon what do you place your life? Is it good or evil? Is your faith in Christ, or will you allow yourself to be misled, seeking the desires of the flesh and not faith in our Lord Jesus Christ? What can you do about it?

© 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.intothyword.org

 

The Four Main Views of Revelation 13:5-10

 

The Preterist view: They see this passage as the cause and effect of Emperor Worship, which was prevalent with most of the Roman Emperors. If you did not worship the Emperor, you lost your land and often, your life too. The Jews and Christians were the only groups who refused this practice and that is shy they were singled out for persecution. Worship also meant allegiance and loyalty, which was not the problem; it was when they said they were god, or a god, that caused dissention (John 19:15; Rom. 12:1-2). Thus, the antichrist figure was also predominate through Roman history as opposing Christ, His people, and waging war—all things that took place then and continues to do so in various means today. Thus, this passage is about Nero and the other Roman persecutions against the Early Church. Given power is seen as God’s sovereignty, and make war as the devil’s ways and attacks on the believers as well as Nero’s attacks and persecutions to the faithful. Forty-two (42) months was seen as short time for God’s judgments and/or a literal time of attack on Jerusalem. It is interesting to note that Nero’s attack and siege on Jerusalem actually lasted 42 months—November 64AD to June 68AD. 

The Futurist view: They see this passage as the second half of the Great Tribulation as expressed by this phrase, 42 months. Most see this as a Europe possessed by Satan, who leads a revived Roman Empire (This is exactly what Hitler and Mussolini did and why this view saw him as the antichrist at that time), who creates peace in the holy land, and becomes a world ruler until Christ returns and defeats him. (As thrilling and exciting, and could possibly be probable, as self fulfilling, it is not found either in this passage or from the rest of Scripture.) Blaspheme is seen as Daniel’s “pompous words” and self-exulting words of the antichrist (2 Thess 2:4). Let him hear is seen as a warning to the seven churches and/or to us today. Captivity is usually seen as Satan being defeated by Christ. Endurance is seen as a call to the Church to be patient; God is in control and will win. 

The Idealist view: They see this passage as the command and control of evil governments who seek to subjugate and subvert their people, such as Nazi Germany and Communism. Governments have the right to expect loyalty, but not to seek what belongs to God alone (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). This is also about the influence of Satan as an ageless principle that evil’s influence and power are not absolute or unconditional like God’ love and grace are. Forty-two (42) months is seen as the siege of Nero against Jerusalem. Authority is seen as the persecutions to the faithful over the centuries, and captivity to some is being caught up in evil while others see this as the fate of the beast. 

The Historicist view: They see this passage as symbols and procedures of evil. Blaspheme is seen as one making him or herself equal with God or deceitfully convincing others that he or she is God. Usually in this camp, the Catholic Church and its papacy are the targets of being evil, because of the tribulations and persecutions of the faithful over the centuries, with very specific charges for most medieval popes. Forty-two (42) months is the span of 1260 years seen in chapter 11, with the time period of conflict being between the faithful and the apostate, medieval Catholic Church.

Exegetical look into Revelation 13:5-10

 

  • Was given: This calls attention to the best as being subordinate to Satan, and Satan is subordinate to God; God is still in control (Greek is passive)!  
  • Forty-two (42) months: A metaphor for a limited time of unrestrained impiety, evil, and/or oppressions. This is symbolic, referring to grace, that He is still there and sets His limits of what persecution will take place, by His grace. See Revelation 11:1-6 study for more info (Dan. 7:25; 9:27; 12:7-12; Rev. 11-13).
  • Proud words and blasphemies: This too is a contrast, as Satan is proud and Christ is the Servant leader; Satan blasphemes while Christ edifies and praises God (Heb. 2:12).
  • Exercise his authority” God allows, but establishes limits for His purpose that we do not fully know, pointing to Daniel 7:21-22 and the antichrist-like figure or representation, meaning opposing Christ. It is perhaps a reference to perhaps Nero and/or Domatian who greatly persecuted the early Christians, actually setting them on fire to light their gardens at night.
  • Blaspheme God: refers to pride and the proud mouth. Also an image of Antiochus Epiphanes, 215–163 BC, who was a Greek ruler and a madman who greatly oppressed the Jews, tried to wipe them out, partily destroyed Jeruslum, and mocked God while demanding that he be worshiped. Most Jewsih scholars belive this is who Daniel was warning about (Dan. 7:8-25; 11:36; 1 Macc. 1:24; 41-43). 
  • Make war against the saints: The contrasting images of war and peace; on one side, Satan as a warrior leader who brings war; on the other side, the great, divine warrior Christ, who brings peace, both battling it out. The war is the persecution of those who refuse to worship what is false or evil. The good news here is that despite the persecutions, Christians of faith have victory as the prayers of the faithful that reach heaven are used to finally defeat evil and the beast (Ex. 15:3-11; Is. 59:16-18; 63:1-6; Dan. 7:1-8; Hab. 3:3-15; Zech. 9:13-16; 14:1-5; Rev. 12:17; 19:11-21).
  • Every tribe… all inhabitants: The contrast is to pledge our allegiance to Christ by His sacrifice, or to Satan by his deception. (See Revelation 5: 8-14 study). When we are in Christ, we are part of a greater Kingdom than one Satan can mimic or link us to.
  • Will worship the beast: The emphasis is the intimidation and persuasion to worship what is false, and people responding out of ignorance or desire. Neither is an excuse.
  • The Book of Life: This is basically the heavenly roster of the saints who have been found by Christ as faithful, who received their election, and who persevered. All ancient cities had rosters of those who lived there, and those added and expelled, like a census. Like a city roster, the Book of Life contains the names of all the people who are currently living. When a person dies, if he or she has claimed Jesus as Lord, has received his or her election, has let it become rooted in him or her, and has been faithful and obedient remains in this book. All others are blotted out. This also refers to predestination. Once our names are in His book and we are saved by His grace, we are secure in our faith and have eternal security (Ex. 32:32-33; Psalm 69:28; Dan. 12:1; Rom. 9:19-21; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:1-6; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12-15; 21:19, 27).
  • Was slain/Lamb slain: Satan’s attempt to mock the character and work of the Lamb who died to purchase the sins of those whom God has chosen. Satan can try to mimic but he can’t reproduce Christ’s work or take our salvation away (Is 53:7; John 1:29, 36; Rev. 1:18; 2:8; 17:8).
  • He who has an ear, let him hear: This is perhaps a warning to the seven churches that God means what He says (Ezek. 33:30-32; James 1: 21-27; 2 Pet. 1: 3-11)! This also means that God fulfills His promises. Do you take His Word seriously, learning and applying it? If not, why not?
  • Go into captivity: A warning to the barbarians, Romans, and other persecuting powers that invaded the Jews and threatened the Christians. This is also an image of judgment, and a warning against rebellion and the consequences for our own bad actions and decisions (Jer. 15:2; 43:11; Rev. 14:11-12).
  • If anyone is to be killed with the sword: Here, the beast forces worship, whereas a Christian worships God out of gratitude for who He is and what He has done. If the faithful do not comply, the beast kills them, as this has taken place countless times on countless occasions. The comfort we have is that our martyrdom does not mean the end; it means victory for us and Christ (Rev. 6:9-11; 19:11-21).
  • Patient endurance and faithfulness: This is the call to remain faithful and keep our trust in Christ no matter what comes our way in sufferings or the temptations of Satan. We are to focus on His Way, even in persecution and stress. This theme is prominent in Revelation (Matt. 26:51-54; 2 Cor. 10:4; 1 Pet. 2:19-24; Rev. 1:9; 2:2-3, 13, 19; 3:10; 6:11; 13:10; 14:12; 16:15; 18:4; 20:4; 22:7, 11, 14).