The Millennium – 1000 Years
In the Bible, Revelation chapter 20 is one of the frequently debated passages due to its controversy regarding the second coming of the Christ. When going through commentaries on this chapter, it seems that there are as many explanations and understandings as there are authors. What makes the passage unique and of such great interest is that it is the book that takes the time to explain in details about the millennium. The coming of the Christ is discussed in other books and chapters within the Bible, but Revelation chapter 20 is more comprehensive about the issue. The questions that theologians of the contemporary times are trying to answer about the passage are: “What is the millennium? Are these 1000 years literal or symbolic? How long is the millennium? Where does the millennium take place? And, is that millennium physical or spiritual? All these questions put together make the Book of Revelation a unique peace to read and seek in-depth understanding even to those who do not take a lot of time to read the Bible.
The principal focus of this paper is to give a foundational explanation of the three most basic understandings about the issue of millennium. Secondly, the analysisl follows some common and basic hermeneutical principles that guide the theories explaining the issue and exegete the passage to get the most explicit understanding about the scripture. Finally, the paper offers different perspectives of arguments about the issue and settles on the most relevant one.
General Understandings of Millenium
Reading the scripture, the three most fundamental and commonly adopted understandings about the millennium may seem a little different from each other depending on the one who explains them. Thus, they can be categorically broken down into three distinct points of views, namely, premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism. These are the great diversities where a principal difference can be singled out for an explanation. Today, it seems that the most predominant opinion is the premillennialism. This point of view clings to the idea that Jesus Christ’s second coming to the world will precede the millennium time. This means that the Millennium will be a period after Jesus has come to the earth and made the judgment of the living and the dead. According to the book Hermeneutics, by Henry Virkler, premillennialists believe that Jesus will descend to the earth and put up a literal 1000-year kingdom that is purely earthly and its headquarters will be located in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is fundamental in the lives of Christians and particularly the life of Jesus since it is the place He was conducting His miracles when God sent Him to the earth to spend time as a human and preach to the people. However, it is vital to understand not all premillennialists entirely agree with all the details about their side of the argument. Within the premillennialism, two divisions are traditional and dispensational. There are many disagreements in the foundational understanding about millennium based on its purpose and nature. Nonetheless, to be a premillennialist, the proponents have to agree entirely with the argument that Jesus will come before the millennium and set up the fate for it. Postmillennialism, on the other hand, according to Virkler, “is the belief that the world will be reached for Christ through evangelism of the word of God. This argument holds that Jesus will come to the earth after the period of the millennium ends. As a result, the world will be filled with joy, peace and love because people will be obedient.
However, the believers of post-millennialism hold to the notion that not everybody will be a Christian by that time, but the whole society will be confined to Christianity. Amillennialism on the latter, following Virkler, is just another way of defining postmillennialism. According to this theory, the millennium period refers to a gap between the first and the second coming of the Christ to the earth. Therefore, Jesus Christ will come after the millennium period is over, and thus, this approach agrees with postmillennialism. Between the first and the second coming of the Christ, the rules will be written and enclosed in the hearts of the people and not in the books. One key difference between amillennialism and premillennialism is that the former does not believe in the kingdom that Jesus will set up for 1,000 years as proposed by the latter. Amillennialists believe that Jesus will come at the end of the cruel and confused period but will not set up any earthly kingdom.
The terms amillennial and postmillennial are sometimes used interchangeably depending on who is defining them since both holds the belief that Christ will return after a period that depicts some millennium. This discussion employs the definitions offered by Virkler in shedding light on the deeper sides of each of the three primary arguments. A significant difference between the amillennial and postmillennial theories is that the latter believes that Christianity will grow and spread across the world in preparation to usher in the time of joy, love, and peace. Amillennialists, on the other hand, do not hold to the belief that there will be any ushering of peace by Christianity as a universal affair since they ascertain that peace is kept in the hearts of people in person. In the history of the universal Church, different forms of these two divergent positions have been the dominantly relevant.
Premillennialism, being the least among the arguments held, started to gain grounds about 300 years ago. This situation followed the spread of the dispensationalist view, although the impact was not that notable to many people since that was not the origin of the views. In fact, Hodge states, “In opposition to postmillennialism the doctrine guiding premillennial advent of Jesus Christ has been significantly and strongly held since the old days of the Apostles to present.” The two world wars made a sufficient contribution to many people’s reconsidering of their ideas that the world has been improving for a millennium and helped in the adoption of the premillennialism by the majority. This is considered the turning point of this view to becoming predominant.
General Exegesis of Revelation 20
In this section of the analysis, the attention is turned to the Bible as the guiding text on the issue of millennium based on insights into different books and verses where the second coming is discussed. The objective of finding the truth about this Scripture is to try and find out what the author of the text originally meant. Accomplishing this objective requires attention to the historical and contextual analysis of the idea of millennium. Some essential structural details are needed in the analysis, including who the author of the word was, where and when the writing was completed, and what was the state of affairs during that time. These circumstances would help in understanding the factors that motivated and influenced the writing of the scripture. These questions can become hard to responded. At the same time, they can be sufficiently explained by the scriptures since their solutions are available, though they require uncovering of the underlying motives of the author and the targeted audience.
Most scholars who take an interest in the Bible attribute the composing of the Book of Revelation to around 90-95 AD. In chapter 1:4, the author of the scripture identifies himself as John. According to a scholar by the name Robert H. Mounce, the early tradition is in agreement that the Apocalypse was composed and written by John the Apostle. More insight into the historical foundation of the scripture can be located in Revelation 1:9. The verse says, “I, John, am your brother, and your companion in tribulation, and also in the patience and kingdom of Christ, was on the isle of Patmos, for the God’s word and the testimony of Christ.” Following this verse, it is clear that the author of the Book of Revelation was targeting an audience that was facing persecution, and the author himself had got into exile because of opposition due to his preaching of the word. Gordon D. Fee writes in his books that, the central themes in the scripture are abundantly clear that state and the Church are on a collision course. He goes ahead to confirm that initial victory will belong to the state, warning the church for the suffering and death that lies ahead.
Based on Fee’s arguments, the situation will be worse before they begin to improve. This assumption is also found in Revelation 6:9-11. The message from John was that the church should hold onto the faith and not cease to resist the takeover by state and worldly things because the key to the history of the word was with Jesus. One day, the wrath of God would be manifested against those who continuously persecute the church and condemn the word. According to Fee, the Book of Revelation is also known as the “apocalyptic literature,” something that was common around 90-95AD time. In the books of the Old Testament, Zechariah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and some parts of Isaiah offers perfect examples of apocalyptic literature. Most scholars believe that the majority of apocalyptic literature was composed between 200 BC and 100 AD.
Fee sums up the understanding of this scripture by the explanation that the Apocalypse was born either during the persecution or great oppression. Therefore, the concern of the authors was not the history of God and His people but an end to the oppression through a violent termination of the world and judgment for those who used to persecute the church. This little explanation reveals the history of the word and the original audience as well as the author of the same. The next step is to uncover the facts about the word itself. Petite interest is shown in the promises of God to the people in the past. This is the setting on which the Book of Revelation is founded. Most people who have taken the time to evaluate the three fundamental views of the millennium believe that Jesus will come and mark the end of suffering and sin, and this time the beast will be destroyed. This is according to Revelation 19 which elaborates the second coming of the Son of God to the earth. Chapter 20 of the same book continues to explain that the controller of the beast, who is Satan in the form of a dragon, will be thrown into a deep pit. In this case, Jesus will resurrect those people who died before they could fall into the kingdom of darkness and took the mark of the beast and rule with Him for the next 1,000 years.
After the period, which is the millennium, the second resurrection of the saints will take place and the Final Judgment Day will be held. This is the predominant view of the premillennialists, who seem to believe that Jesus will not come during the judgment day, rather, He will come and prepare people for the day for a thousand years. There will be no sin since the beast will have been destroyed together with its master. The fundamental question is where the millennial reign will be held and when it will take place. This view by the premillennialists does not specify how many years the world will have to wait before the coming of Christ; it only intensifies in the explanation of the life after that day. This gap in the explanation has made people live in fear of that day coming anytime in their lives, with others preparing themselves for it.
Description of the Millennium
According to the earlier analysis of the three distinct points of view, amillennialists believe that the church fulfills the promises of the kingdom of God on the earth. Premillennialists ensure that Jesus will come and establish an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem, Israel and He will come at the end of the tribulation time. Lastly, the postmillennial belief ascertains that the coming of Christ will only take place after the millennium period. As a result, there will be no such kingdom established as the day He will come will be the end of the world ready for judgment. During the second coming of Christ, the promises of God upon Israel will be fulfilled, where He promised them a blessed nation full of His favors. Therefore, the anticipated millennium will come with unique favors and blessedness upon the people of Jerusalem, which is regarded the city of God in the Bible. According to the book of Isaiah 2:3, many people will call to the world and all is on their way to the house of Jacob in the mountain of the Lord.
Everybody will walk in the ways of God; the Mount Zion will go forth the Laws, and the word of God will come from Jerusalem. This will be the life during the years of peace and obedience after Jesus establishes His earthly kingdom for a thousand years. This is the underlying relationship between Israel as a nation and the millennium, since from the beginning; God was much interested in the activities of Israelites, whom He spoke to through the prophets who came from Jerusalem. However, this does not mean that Israel will be the earthly representation of heaven. Probably, it will be a place of fulfillment of the promises that God gave to Moses and Abraham that He will make Israel a blessed nation. Following the Book of Revelation 20: 2-7, the period of the millennium is emphasized as 1000 years, but the start of the period is not mentioned anywhere in the whole Bible. This means that there is nobody on the earth who knows the day that Jesus will come back or the Day of Judgment.
In the book of 1 Thessalonians 5:2, Jesus said that the day of the Lord, which is taken to mean His second coming, He will come like a thief without prior notice and will find people asleep without preparation. This is the day that peace and safety will rain upon those who have lived a righteous life and pain will be sudden like a woman who is just about to give birth. This is a definite confirmation that no one in the world has an idea of that day, and Jesus ensured that he warned people about it. The kingdom of Jerusalem will be under theocracy form of government where Jesus Christ will be the ruler of humankind. This situation is explained by Daniel 7:14 that emphasizes that Jesus will be personally ruling the world under His kingdom in Jerusalem. Drawing upon the book of Isaiah 11:4, the kingdom will have a perfect form of justice because Jesus will be in charge. The city of Jerusalem will be exalted and glorified as the seat of the government of the millennium kingdom of Jesus. This is found in the book of Isaiah 2:3 and Zachariah 14:10.
Those who lived the life according to Christ will be resurrected and given authority in that kingdom to rule over others. The saints and prophets of the old days will also be present as members of the ruling council. The subjects of the kingdom will be those people who will manage to see the end of the tribulation period and enter that kingdom with their earthly bodies. These will be the people upon whom the kingdom of Jerusalem will be formed for the 1,000 years. Thus, there will be no more deaths since agony and suffering will be replaced with peace and joy of Christ. All sicknesses will be eliminated, and there will be no more pain in that kingdom. Worship will be a primary activity as the word of God will cover the whole world, and every living creature will confess that there is God in heaven through His acts of mercy and love. There will be a different temple called the millennial temple which will not be like the earthly places of worship. This is where all the sacrifices offered in the past will be reinstated according to Ezekiel 45:18-25 and Zechariah 14:16-2.
Following the many explanations about the issue of the millennium and the expected coming of Jesus, one can base the arguments on the current state of affairs and have a grounded point of view. In light of the principal premillennial argument, I can relate it to the end of suffering that the world is currently going through. Therefore, Jesus gives us the strength to endure the ongoing suffering and temptations so that we can enter the kingdom with our earthly bodies still intact and live with the Saints. The period of persecution and tribulation is now, and its end will be the start of the 1,000 of millennium years’ period under the rule of Jesus Christ. This is the view of the premillennialists who believe that the coming of Christ will be the ushering of the joy and peace session. This is the view that I can hold on to, comfortable with confirmation from the Book of Revelation and others that confirm the events. The fact that Jesus said He will come like a thief is to mean that He will be coming during the trial moments, and those who will have successfully lived according to the God’ word will be heirs of the kingdom. This is a confirmation that at the end of this painful and sinful period, there will be a time of joy and happiness which is the millennium.