For several decades, scholars from all different evangelical convictions debate the meaning of the Millennium described in Revelation 20. In one of the last passages of Scripture, Christ is seen seizing “the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer until the thousand years were ended” (Rev. 20:2-3). During this time, Christ and his faithful people reign on earth for a thousand years; “blessed and holy is the one who shares” in this glorious time in God’s providence! “They will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6). After this period, Satan and his army are released and rebel against Christ; however, he puts Satan and his army to an end abruptly by throwing them “into the lake of fire and sulfur . . . and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). After this, Christ pronounces judgment on everyone “according to what they had done” for him (Rev. 20:12). As Matthew 25:31-46 describes, Christ will judge according to who trusted him as Lord and Savior, first on the basis of being justified by grace through faith in him alone, then by both their words and deeds. Those who reject Christ will suffer in hell for all eternity, but those who submit to him will rejoice in him forever.

Many scholars and evangelicals disagree on when and how these things will take place. Sadly, discussions of eschatological doctrines such as the Millennium tend to generate more heat rather than light. In this article, my hope and encouragement is that I not only clearly explain each position but also encourage you with the Gospel-centered meaning behind the doctrine of the Millennium.

Premillennialism

The first view on the Millennium is Premillennialism. Biblical historians have traced this view as far back as the writings of the Early Church. Premillennialism understands Revelation 20 as a literal prophecy of Christ’s return and how he defeats Satan. Christ literally rules for 1,000 years with his people. He rules with righteousness and justice that no nation on earth has ever witnessed; he is the Perfect Ruler. After this 1,000-year reign, Satan and his foes are literally released from their imprisonment, and they have one last opportunity to rebel against the Lord and deceive people into their cause. Does this mean that this is a contradictory view? To answer the theological quandary, Premillennialists suggest Satan is released for two reasons, one being for the purpose of awaiting Christ’s judgment and another being to show that salvation does not come by political legislation but rather by being born again by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, 

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. – John 3:3

Amillennialism

The second proposed view of Revelation 20 is Amillennialism. The most well-known theologian to propose this view is Augustine of Hippo. Many of the Reformers also strongly stood by this understanding in eschatology. Those who interpret from an Amillennial perspective argue that Revelation 20 is symbolically describing Christ’s rule and reign over the cosmos already taking place because he rose victorious over Satan, death, and the forces of evil. As Christ reigns and advances his Kingdom, Satan reels back in retreat. It’s only a matter of time until he sees his day of judgment.

Postmillennialism

The third popular view of Revelation 20 is Postmillennialism. Many of the Puritans, such as John Owen, advocated this interpretation of prophecy. Postmillennialism suggest rather than Christ returning to establish the 1,000 years of peace on earth, Christ has commanded the Church to establish global peace on earth. Once Christianity has brought lasting peace for 1,000 years, Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. They interpret Revelation 20 as a battle between God’s people and those who are in allegiance with the forces of evil. Because of Christ’s victory on the cross, God’s people must advance victoriously.

Unified Statements on Christ’s Return

It’s easy for Christians to simply choose a position without knowing other positions in eschatology. It’s also easy to become defensive when we discover we disagree with other brothers and sisters in Christ over his return. To avoid unnecessary disagreements, it’s important to lovingly disagree on the secondary details, but firmly resolve to agree in the fundamental teachings surrounding the Millennium. Here are some foundational statements in eschatology:

  1. The victory forever belongs to God (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57; Revelation 5:9-10, 12).
  2. Christ has already established his Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven with his First Coming (Matthew 4:17). 
  3. The consummation of the Kingdom is yet to come (John 18:36).
  4. Because Christ has already accomplished his work in triumphing over death, he’s already enthroned as the King of kings (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 28:18).
  5. He is returning in glory to rule for a definite and distinct period on earth in God’s providence (Matthew 25:31-46).
  6. God’s people cannot sit back idle; we’re called to advance his Kingdom no matter the cost (Matthew 28:19-20).
  7. Christ’s return means judgment and eternal damnation for the unbelieving, and rejoicing and eternal life for the believing (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

With these basic truths in eschatology, all of God’s people can live peaceably and agreeably for the sake of the Gospel. May we “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” as we await the return of our Glorious King (1 Corinthians 15:58)!

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