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). 

 

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 5: 8-14 mean to us now?

This is a picture of worship, as a congregation gathers to collectively praise and honor Christ and offer themselves to Him in sacrifice. John is actually calling his people, who are in dire straits, to forget their current struggles and picture themselves in a heavenly choir-worshiping Christ, surrounded by angels and breathtaking music, and receiving their reward and His love for their faithfulness. For the early church in persecution that was meeting in secret, fearing for their lives, this message came as a great comfort and reassurance that “doing” church and being a Christian community is meaningful, relevant, and important both for now and for eternity. The chorus we will be a part of in Him will be far greater than the “noise” we hear from our enemies and persecutors.

Did you notice that in the context of this passage, starting in chapter four, the praise for Christ grows and grows until is encompasses all that exists in the universe? Worship is what the Christian life is about. It is our goal, purpose, and call. It is where we start and finish and what we do in eternity. Heaven is a place of worship and our church is a mere shadow of this-a rehearsal that pales in comparison. Worship is our heart pouring out to His. True worship of Christ by our submission to Him with earnestness, sincerity, and serenity helps create our character and maturity, and prepares us for life both now and for eternity. It lines us up to Christ and away from our sin and agendas. We must allow our pride to yield to the necessity of being accountable to one another. The more mature people in the Lord must model and disciple the immature. All of us are equal in the Lord; however, we must never allow our maturity and growth to be a source of pride or use it to put others down! Remember, others have their eyes on us. If we stumble, others will, too. If we succeed, others will, too!

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What does it mean to your daily Christian life that Christ’s eternal power, authority, strength, and the completeness (the life He gave us) empowers us to live a life that is worthy? What would a worthy, spirit-filled, and empowered life be like for you?

  1. What is the sign of reverence and prostration that Christ asks of us? What must we do to worship Christ effectively and earnestly?

  1. How can the true worship of Christ by your submission to Him with earnest sincerity and serenity helps create character and maturity in you and prepare you for life now and for eternity?

  1. What does it mean to put Him first in all that we do in life? How do we maneuver our Church to be under His rule and kingship, rather than our committees and trends?

  1. How would you describe spontaneous and just worshipping Christ? What can you do to prevent your church’s worship from becoming a performance for themselves, for the members, or for a show of personalities? What can be done to do as we are called, that is, to be offerings of praise to the main and only audience-Christ our Lord?

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

The Four Main Views of Revelation 5: 8-14

Preterist view sees this passage as a start to the sentence of judgment as we will see in the following chapters. The Lamb invokes an outburst of extreme worship and introduces a new song to God’s praise and worth for our redemption. His old song refers to creation. The prayers refer to Christians pleading with God for relief in their persecutions, and their deliverance is made by destroying Jerusalem (I do not see how that spells r-e-l-i-e-f, or helps us now or in the future). They see the kingdom of priests as being the priests of Israel in Exodus 19:5-6 and replaced by the Church in Hebrews 7-8. The new song is a response by the angels, counted in the millions, giving a doxology for God’s glory, for He is worthy. Then, the worship climaxes when the elders fall prostrate and say Amen.

Futurist view: sees this passage as the beginning of the end of the present age and the start of the new age and the coming of Christ. Prayer of the saints refers to “thy Kingdom be done” and the fulfillment of God’s will. The reign on earth is seen as the millennial Kingdom as the Christians will rule the earth with Christ. The worship of Christ by countless angels as in Psalm 19 and 68 indicates power/strength and is seen as His Second Coming. They see every knee as referring to angels and/or to animals, because they believe the Church will be “raptured” prior to this (even though there is no biblical support for this theory, no matter how personally appealing it is, or how hopeful I am for it!). It also ignores many other scriptures.

Idealist view: They see this passage as the fulfillment of Daniel 7:9-14, where the “Ancient of Days” is to have dominion. The incense means prayers, and the new song is the response of God to them. Also, it means the New Covenant of the God of our redemption. The reign on earth is seen as the royal priesthood of all believers. They see the worship of Christ by countless angels as mainly metaphoric because their scope of reason cannot contort enough to see that all of creation can do that, thus not taking into account the omnipotence and omnipresence of God. They do bring up a valid point that in the following passages, mankind is still cursing God and being judged. However, this vision is not limited to a time sequence or chronology. Since God lives outside of space and time, it is rather a prediction of what will eventually happen.

Historicist view: sees this passage as God being benevolent and merciful as our Redeemer and the universe rejoicing in profound adoration because of this. God’s providence depicts that Jesus is the only One who is worthy to save. The reign on earth is seen as the ascendancy of Christianity to the world in its influence and scope. Some argue that all earthy rulers will be Christians before the Second Coming, although this is a big stretch. Others say this is referring to the “a millennial” spiritual reign of Christians in our present time as we will no longer be slaves to sin.

Exegetical look into Revelation 5:12-14

This passage is also a picture of our faithfulness reaching to God’s awareness. The incense He desires is the love and trust we give to Him and to one another, and our obedience as we remain in Him. Our authenticity and closeness to Christ is what touches and resounds into eternity. These are the lyrics of the angel’s songs of what Christ has done and how we are responding.

  • Voice of many angels is the representation of a heavily choir worshiping our Redeemer and Savior as God’s great plan has been fulfilled and has succeeded (Gal. 3:13).
  • Numbering thousands upon thousands means indefinitely and countless. Those are not actual numbers, because “ten thousand” was the largest single number in the Greek then, but is a rhetorical phrase for “beyond counting.” Frequently, ancient songs would exaggerate numbers in battle such as the song of David killing “tens of thousands,” but here, it is no exaggeration (1 Sam. 18:7-8; Dan. 7:10; Heb. 12:22).
  • They sang. What starts in Heaven resounds through the entire universe, and that is the worship of Christ. This is not about style or ethnicity of worship; rather it is about how we are diverse, yet one in Him by our celebration of Christ.
  • Worthy is the Lamb is a picture of all peoples saved in Him, celebrating their redemption. All peoples, tongues, and locations are unified in Christ (Gen. 22; Ex. 12:3; Isa. 53:8; John 1:29; 3:16; 2 Cor. 8:9).
  • Receive power, as in praising the Lord, everlasting to everlasting (1 Chron. 29:10-19; Rev. 7:12).
  • Every creature in heaven and on earth. This infers that eventually, in the end times, all will submit to God. This is also an image of God’s sovereignty and how all things in the universe are submitted to Him now. He allows our pride and free will to lead us into thinking we are submitted to no one, and in refusing His election and grace, we judge ourselves in our defiance to His authority and love (Isaiah 45:23; Rom. 14:9; Phil. 2:10; Col. 2:3).
  • Said, “Amen.” Nothing can thwart God’s will and purpose. Satan thinks he can, and our pride makes us think we can, but God is totally sovereign. Our control is merely an illusion and a delusion to ourselves and others that He puts up with so we can eventually learn to surrender to Him and be trusting and obedient to Him (Gen. 18:18; 22:18; Isa. 60:1-5; Rev. 7:9-17; 10:11; 12:5; 13:7; 14:6-8; 15:4; 17:15; 18:3; 19:15; 20:3; 21:24-27).