It has been said that the devil hates six chapters of the Bible more than any other. These chapters are also the ones, which seem to cause the most controversy among Christians. They are the first three chapters of the Bible and the last three. And it is, indeed, these six chapters that seem to cause all the controversies. They speak about the very beginning of the world, and the very end of the world – as well as the world to come.
As we have seen, the major eschatological positions define themselves in terms of what they believe about the Millennium. It seems, therefore, that our next step in determining our eschatology would be to look at the following issues:
- Is the millennium real or mythological?
- Does the millennium last for an actual thousand years, or is the number figurative?
- Will Christ return before or after the millennium?
One of the most frequent criticisms that I hear about the reality of the Millennium is this: the Millennium only appears in Revelation 20, and not in any other part of the Bible. This is a very weak argument. How many times does something have to be mentioned in the Bible, before we believe it? Admittedly, the Resurrection of Jesus is mentioned in each of the four Gospels, plus other mentions in other parts of Scripture. However, there are other events, historical or prophesied, which only have one detailed mention in Scripture. It could be argued that the events are alluded to elsewhere, but this is also not an argument against the reality of the Millennium, because, as we will see, the Millennium also is alluded to elsewhere. Moreover, the concept of a thousand years is not just passed over lightly in Revelation 20. It is actually repeated six times – Revelation 20 verses 2,3,4,5,6,&7. With that in mind, it makes sense to exegete these verse.
Revelation 20:1 starts with the word “then”. This word should remind us that Revelation – like every other part of Scripture – was not written with chapter and verse numbers. What is related in chapter 20 is clearly a continuation of what came in chapter 19. But is it merely a continuation of a narrative of discontinuous events? Or are the events themselves actually consecutive?
In Revelation 19:6-10, John is told by the angel of the marriage supper of the Lamb, who is Jesus. The Bride is the Church, and the angel has said that she has readied herself – now that Babylon has been destroyed. I cannot keep going back to go forward, so at this point I will overlook what I believe Babylon to be. The point is that the angel’s narrative is reaching a turning point, as he tells John to write. John is overwhelmed by what he has seen, and his instinct is to worship this glorious angel, but the angel prevents him from doing so. From this point on – until John next hears something, in Revelation 21:3 – there is a sequence of seven visions. David Pawson points out how important a sequence of seven is in Revelation1, as John has already been given three sequences of seven – plagues, trumpets, and bowls. In each of those other three sequences, there was a division of the seven into groups of four, two, and one by itself. We can assume that these seven visions follow the same pattern. Pawson lists them as:
- The rider on a white horse at the open door of heaven. (19:11-16)
- An angel invites birds to the ‘last supper’ of human flesh. (19:17-18)
- The battle with all anti-God forces at Armageddon. (19:19-21)
- An angel binds, banishes and imprisons the devil. (20:1-3)
- The saints reign with Christ for a thousand years, at the end of which Satan is released, defeated and thrown into the lake of fire. (20:4-10)
- The resurrection of the dead and the final day of judgment.
- The creation of a new heaven and a new earth; and the descent of the new Jerusalem.
In the 4-2-1 pattern discussed above, we see that there is a battle, which is a one-sided battle. Jesus appears, as the rider on the white horse, as a conquering King. Then, just before this battle commences, an angel is welcoming carrion birds to feast on the dead, making clear that this battle will be decisive. Then we have the battle itself, which ends with defeat for Jesus’ enemies, and the capture of the Unholy Trinity of Beast (Antichrist), False Prophet, and Devil – the first two of which are thrown into the Lake of Fire, becoming the first two humans to enter this final eternal punishment. And then the Devil himself is bound and imprisoned for a thousand years. This fourth vision of the first group is at the beginning of chapter 20, and therefore must be a vision of events which are consecutive, not just consecutive visions of discontinuous events.
The next group comprises of two visions taking place on the present earth – the actual Millennium kingdom, where Christ reigns, with assistance from the saints, and the final battle, when Satan is finally released. These are the two visions that we will need to look at in more detail, to see why they occur. Finally the seventh vision is the New Heaven and New Earth, previously prophesied in Isaiah and elsewhere. The seventh vision must be of events after the other six, but we can also see that visions five and six have to occur after that of vision four, so we have seven consecutive events prophesied in vision form. This is very important to understand, because a post-millennial worldview requires the events of Revelation 19 to happen after those of Revelation 20, and, to do this, the sequences of seven are not seen as consecutive events, but rather consecutive visions of discontinuous events. By looking through chapters 19 through 21 together, we see that the events themselves have to be continuous. This strongly suggests that the events are ones which have not yet occurred – they are prophecies of the future. This also suggests that the timings involved are likely to be literal, or at the very least nearly so. The earthly kingdom of Christ, therefore, will have a real period of time accompanying it, and the saints must be returned to reign with Him. It follows that the kingdom must last a thousand years, as a real period of time. It also follows that Christ must have returned before this kingdom comes about. This means we have answered our three questions above, as follows:
- The Millennium is a real event. To suppose that it is an allegory or mythology is to undermine whatever future hope we may have. It is only the Amillennialists – of either mythological or skeptical variety – who suppose the Millennium is not real.
- By looking at our sequence of visions, we see that the Millennium has to be an actual thousand years, because that is what Scripture is saying, repeating it six times.
- By seeing the whole sequence of consecutive events, we realize that the Second Coming of Christ occurs before the thousand years.
So, the Millennium is a future event, a real event, of a thousand years, following the return to Earth of Christ. Our brief look at this passage brings us, therefore, to a Pre-Millennial conclusion.
In order to underline these facts, however, we will now need to answer the question – why? Why will Christ come back to rule on Earth? Without a positive answer to this question, we could still return to a figurative length of time for the Millennium, drifting back into a Post-Millennial position. To answer the question “Why a Millennial Reign of Christ?”, we will need to look at some other passages of Scripture, and, in so doing, we will see that the Millennium, while not specifically enumerated as a thousands years in these passages, is nevertheless a necessary part of our understanding of other prophetic passages.
1Pawson, D. (1995), When Jesus Returns, (Travelers Rest, SC: True Potential Publishing), p.211.