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 6: 9-17 mean to us now?

 

The Sixth Seal is opened and it is given to us in cataclysmic, exaggerated language and metaphors often used for God’s judgments and the end of days (Judg. 5:20; Psalm 18; Isa. 13:10-17; Jer. 4:20-28; Joel 2:10, 31; Acts 2:20). For in Jewish apocalyptic and poetic literature such as the Old Testament, and apocryphal literature such as “Profetes,” “Sibylline Oracles,” “Petronius,” “4 Maccabees”; “4 Ezra,” 1 Enoch,” “Joseph and Asenath,” “Jubilees,” “Simititudes of Enoch,” and the “Qumran Texts,” to name the main ones (there are many more), as well as in the culture then, these images are “metaphoric,” or symbols of specific themes in judgment. The obvious is that the actuality of this passage is pointing to God’s power, but these events are not necessarily verbatim, as it would be seemingly impossible. How could one star, much less billions upon billions land on this plant that is a billion times a billion smaller? The answer is it is figurative, and it is a mystery how this will be eventually played out and what we will see. This is a depiction, just as a first century Jew would read and write. What we do know is it will not be the same! The point of this passage tells us that no one is immune from experiencing God’s judgment. The entirety of the universe will bear witness to God’s will as incredible phenomenon, displayed in the cosmos, will herald Christ’s Second Coming (Mark 13:24-26; Luke 2:25-27). 

Talking about judgment is not a “happy-go-lucky” subject; it is a reality. Judgment is about His grace and His love. How can this be love? Because, love protects and love cares. If there were no consequences for misappropriate action and sin, then love would be absent and God would not care for His creation or the ones He has chosen to elect (Rev. chaps 7; 10-11). Yet, His judgment is His grace; His love is there, and His care is there, protecting His saints. We are His, and when we are His, we have no need for worry, fear, or doubt in what will happen. We can trust Him; we have no need to fear these events that one day will come about in their fruition. 

Questions to Ponder: 

  1. What would be your fears and emotions if these seals were opened and suddenly this stuff started to happen?  What does it mean to remain true to the faith, regardless of circumstances?
  1. What do you see as the point of this passage? Which of these four views appeals to you? Are there characteristics from each one that are plausible or true, are they all nuts, or are they perhaps a bit of both?
  1. Do you see the excitement and awe in this passage? How does God again show His faithfulness? How does He show His faithfulness and love to you? 
  1. The issue here is not who or what the images are; rather, it is what they are doing and pointing to, which is God pouring out His judgment. Do you consider this statement to be true, false, or what?
  1. What area in your life are you trying to hide from God? Why? What can you do to be more trusting by allowing Christ into your inner most thoughts, fears, aspirations, secrets, and life? 
  1. What does it mean that God clothes us with His grace and faithfulness? How does this help you get through the tough times of life? How can you focus on Christ and trust Him even when you have been wronged or persecuted, or even if you would lose your life?

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

The Four Main Views of Revelation 6: 9-17

 

The Preterist view: They see this passage as taking place prior to 70 A.D., and the Christians in the early church suffering as they are slain like animals by Jewish oppressors. Their blood cries out for vengeance; they are still being persecuted and Jerusalem is judged for it (Matt. 23:35; 24:29-34; Luke 13:1-3). The preponderance of this passage is its symbolic imagery dealing with the Olivet Discourse of Jesus and the destruction and judgment of Jerusalem (Mal. 3:2). The astronomic imagery refers to the end of the Temple as corresponding to the fall of Edom (Isa. 34:4; Ezek. 32:7-8). The hiding in the caves is literal, as the Christians did this during the Roman carnage of Jerusalem. This view is perhaps an application of the passage but misses the main point. 

The Futurist view: They see this passage as the state of the tribulation taking place in the future. The souls crying out are the people remaining after the rapture who are suffering during the tribulation. They see the Martyrs either as not Christians, or people converted after the rapture. The astronomic imagery refers to the catastrophes that the last days will entail, the scope of thought ranging from the literal to the representative, as signs in the heavens. Such things include literal earthquakes, civil wars, government oppressions or breakdowns, nuclear war, volcanic eruptions, terror, and chaos. Subsequently, there are several schools of speculative thought on how and when the rapture and tribulation comes about from this passage, even though this passage does not teach anything close to it. This view makes for good novels and fun discussions, but not good, biblical theology. The rest of this passage they see as the representation of Christ’s martyrdom. 

The Idealist view: They see this passage as symbolic for the suffering church, including political upheavals through the ages, the faithful who have died crying out for relief and vengeance, and those who cry out for justice. This passage’s main theme is sacrificial essence and character of the faithful. Also, it is about the distinctions of people who live for God versus the people who live for themselves and evil (1 Pet. 4:6; Heb. 12:26; Rev. 4:13). They see this passage as still dealing with the Seven Churches and as metaphorical for God’s judgment. They do not see the great Judgment appearing until chapter 20. Thus, the astronomic imagery is the judgment for Jerusalem and Rome for their persecution of the Christians. Some, having this viewpoint, share similar beliefs to the Historicists. This view is an application of the passage, but, again, misses the main point. 

The Historicist view: They see this passage as comforting those who are being persecuted, as God consoling them. They see these sufferings happening under the emperor Diocletian (384-303 A.D.) and/or Maximian (270-383 A.D.), called the “era of the martyrs” in church history because of the carnage and suffering the church endured. The images represent the fall of paganism and the rise of Christianity in the world, from the time of the Romans on to today. After this period, Constantine became Emperor and Christianity slowly became accepted and then became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Others see this passage as the Christians suffering by Jewish oppression in the early church. The earthquakes represent spiritual revolution, and the astronomic imagery is earthly dignitaries in rebellion to God and/or the shaking of Jerusalem for its evil. This view is an application of the passage but also misses the main point.

Exegetical look into Revelation 6: 12-17

 

  • Great earthquake is often associated with end times and divine visitations (Ex. 19:18; Isa. 2:19; Hag. 2:6; Zech. 14:4-5; Ezek. 38:20; Amos 8:8). Severe earthquakes often devastated these seven churches and the Asia Minor region. Such imagery was absolutely terrifying as everything would be lost.
  • The sun turned black refers to “darkness” as a sign of judgment, as God did with Pharaoh. This does not mean the sun will literally go dark, as all life in our solar system would perish instantly. However, if God chose to do so, He could because He can do anything (Ex. 10:21-23; Isa. 13:9-10; 24:23; 50:3; Ezek. 32:7-8; Amos 5:18; 8:9; Joel 2:10, 31). 
  • Moon turned blood red may refer to an unusual lunar eclipse or even something more spectacular. These events being described are not literal, astronomic events as many today think.
  • Stars in the sky fell to earth means the cosmic scope of God’s judgment, as all will be affected (Isa. 34:4). This was also a sign for the coming of Christ (Mark 13:25-26). It may also refer to angels coming down or some stunning event that all will see in the sky (Isa. 24:21; Dan. 8:10; 10:13; Rev. 12:4).
  • Late figs refers to the green figs that grow in the winter after the leaves have fallen, ones that easily fall off the tree in winds.
  • The sky receded like a scroll refers to Isaiah 34:4 and how a reader would open a scroll with the right hand and then role it up with the left. This meant the End of Days is at hand. Some see this as Armageddon (Jer. 4:24 or Nah. 1:5; Rev. 16:16, 20; 20:11).
  • Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man. Here are seven typical castes of people in the ancient world, but not different kinds. All are either saved or are in sin. Seven means completeness, so this means God’s judgment will be complete and perfect and not have any social, class, or economic barriers to it. God vindicates us! It is judgment time for those people who are unjust and evil oppressors. These are comforting and encouraging words for those who are being oppressed by the rich and mighty, as vindication is in sight.
  • General was a Roman commander who led a “cohort” or “Legion” of 1,000 men.
  • Hid in caves. People will seek to conceal themselves from God’s wrath, but it will not work, for God is all seeing and all knowing (Judg. 6:2; Isa. 2:10-20; 13:6; Jer 4:29; Hosea 10:8).
  • Wrath has come, and who can stand. Judgment is coming (Joel 2:11; Mal. 3:2). God’s wrath and righteousness are a reality; Christ covers our sin for us (Zeph. 1:14-18; Na. 1:6; Mal. 3:2; Rom. 1:18; 3:9-23; 6:23; Rev.19:15). This is also rhetorical to those in Christ and not meant as condescending to those who are faithful. There is hope and assurance when our trust is in Christ. He is our hope even when the very foundations of the universe are collapsing around and under us. When our hope is in Christ, nothing can shake us (Luke 12:32-34; 1 Cor. 7:29-31; Heb. 12:25-29).