The Events of Revelation 19-21
When we examine the seven visions of Revelation 19-21, we find that there are four events to come.
- The Second Coming of Jesus
- The Millennial Reign
- The Day of Judgment
- The New Creation
We should say a word about the Second Coming, as this event is signified by the rider on the white horse, who is called “Faithful and True”. There is little doubt that this rider is Jesus. There are some, however, who view this appearance as Jesus’ first coming. If that were so, it would allow them to classify the Millennium as being our current era. Yet few, even among post-millennialists, take such a view. In Revelation 19:11, Jesus is seen as a conquering king. This is in contrast to His entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. Rev 19:13 states that His robe is dipped in blood. If this is the first coming, then the blood is Jesus’ own. Yet this image is reminiscent of Isaiah 63.
This describes a coming Messiah, whose robes are dipped in the blood of His enemies, whom He has trampled. Most commentators see Rev 19:11, therefore, as the Second Coming.
This brings another problem for the post-millennialist, however. The Day of Judgment would clearly be labeled by all as an event occurring after the Second Coming, and before the New Creation. So events 1, 3, and 4 are in the order that they will occur. So to me it seems obvious that event #2 must happen after event #1 and before event #3. But post-millennialists, who accept event #1 as being the Second Coming, as most of them do, have to re-arrange these events in the order 2, 1, 3, and 4. The only way for a post-millennialist to keep these events in the order 1, 2, 3, 4 is if event #1 represents the First Coming rather than the Second Coming of Jesus. That interpretation stretches credulity.
The Events of the Millennium
Revelation 20 gives only three events around the Millennium, following Jesus’ Second Coming. These are:
- Satan is seized, bound, thrown into the pit, and shut and sealed in.
- Jesus reigns on Earth for a thousand years, assisted by the saints, who come to life. There is, therefore, a resurrection of those who are saved, and who have died.
- At the end of the thousand year reign of Jesus, Satan is released, and is able to deceive the nations.
Other Scriptures have more details on these matters, and we will return to them, when we put everything together into a timeline of the future. For now, the first and third events of the Millennium raise some questions. Why is Satan not thrown into the Lake of Fire with the Beast and the False Prophet? And why is he released again, after the Millennial Reign?
These events tell us that the Second Coming of Jesus is not about bringing the world finally to an end. It is not followed immediately by the New Heavens and the New Earth. When Jesus returns, the present Earth still has a thousand years to run. It is an earthly kingdom, not a heavenly kingdom. The heavenly kingdom comes later.
It would appear that Satan has to be out of the way, so to speak, so that the world can see what things can be like, when the devil is not present to cause temptation. The fact that there will be people present, during the Millennium, who are not saved, will be discussed when we reach our timeline.
The fact that Satan is then released, and can deceive people is proof that, even after 1,000 years of benevolent dictatorship, even this does not change people’s hearts. So many people believe that all problems can be solved by a just society. That is, after all, the very basis of revolutionary communism. But it simply isn’t true. Humanity will get the final proof that hearts and minds are not changed by society – only by repentance and faith in the One, who is coming to reign. After this, God can get on with the final destruction of Satan, and all his acolytes, and the New Creation of a New Heavens and New Earth, which will be our abode for eternity. The Millennium Reign, therefore, following the Second Coming of Jesus, is not our abode for eternity – that is what occurs in Revelation 21 and 22.
But we need to retrace our steps a little. We have started to see a little of the purpose of this Millennium. So we can now turn to other Scriptures, which do not give a timescale of 1,000 years, but nevertheless do refer to the Reign of King Jesus, which can only be fulfilled in that Millennium.
Scriptures Pointing to the Millennial Reign
Before Jesus ascended back to heaven, the disciples asked Him an important question.
Jesus told them that it was not for them to know the time. But He did not tell them that their question was based on faulty premises. We can therefore see that the question’s presuppositions are correct, namely that Israel was once given a kingdom, Israel no longer had that kingdom, but that one day there will be a restored king. The disciples already knew that the heir to King David was Jesus Himself, which is why they were asking if Jesus was going to restore the kingdom. Jesus did not deny that He had the right to do so – He merely told them that it was not for them to know the time.
Given that David was the high water mark of the kingdom of Israel, we need to look back at what David said. There is too much to include in a book of this size, but I would suggest that Psalm 2 is a good place to begin, because Psalm 2 refers to the Reign of the LORD’s Anointed.
Two notes need to be made about the words used. The word LORD is all in capitals (usually shown with small caps – Lord). This is the way that most English translations represent the Tetragrammaton – the Hebrew word yhwh (יְהֹוָה), which, as Moses found out at the Burning Bush, represents God saying “I am”. The Anointed, or Anointed One is the Hebrew word mâshı̂yach (מָשִׁיח), or Messiah. Later in the psalm, we see that this Messiah is the Son of God, so we know that we are referring prophetically to Jesus. But verse 2 is referring to earthly rulers coming against God and His Messiah. In verses 7-8, we read:
This Messiah is being promised an earthly kingdom. There are plenty of passages referring to an ultimate heavenly abode, but this is preceded by the Messiah ruling an earthly kingdom.
In Jesus’ model prayer, He told His disciples to pray:
A post-millennialist would look at this and see a prayer for Jesus to take over the world, by society getting gradually better. But, in the biblical framework that we have now developed, we can see that a gradual improvement will not happen. So what is the kingdom on earth, for which Jesus instructs His followers to pray? It would make sense for this to be the earthly reign of King Jesus.
In 1 Corinthians 6:2, Paul asks “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” When will this earthly judgment of the world by saints happen? It makes sense to suppose that this will occur, when we are reigning with King Jesus over the earthly Millennial Kingdom.
1 Corinthians 15:23-24 gives a threefold order to resurrection:
First, Jesus was resurrected, second, those who belong to Jesus will be resurrected. The implication is that those who have died, who do not belong to Jesus, will be resurrected separately. Thus, there is a two-stage resurrection of humans – the saints (those who belong to Jesus) before the Millennium, to reign with Him, and then everyone else after the Millennium, before they are sent to the Lake of Fire.
Now, the Greek for resurrection is anastasis (ἀνάστασις). But in Philippians 3:11, we read something, which is not obvious in the English.
There is a slightly longer word used here for resurrection. It is exanastasis (ἐξανάστασις), which literally means “out-resurrection”. Paul is expressing the sure and certain hope of attaining the out-resurrection from the dead. The implication is that his resurrection – and ours too – would not be a universal resurrection of the whole human race, at the very, very end, but an earlier resurrection of just the saints.
One last New Testament passage (though we could quote many more).
This little verse, though capable of being interpreted differently, makes a good deal of sense within this pre-millennial model, as we expect to reign with Jesus, during His earthly Reign.
There are a some other aspects of our teaching about the End Times that we need to turn to now, and then we will later return to the big picture, as we piece it all together in a history of the future.
Our next issue will be to look at the difficult times ahead of us, in the years immediately preceding the Second Coming of Jesus. And it is here that we will find out that there are significant differences between those, who accept the Bible’s clear teaching of a pre-millennial return of the Messiah.