A Literal Millennium? (Part I)
What is meant by the term “literal millennium”?
Millennium is a Latin word meaning a thousand years. Revelation 20:1–10 speaks of a thousand year period six times. Some interpret this to mean that after Christ returns, He will reign on earth for a thousand years with peace and prosperity for all. In other words, there will be a literal millennium.
Is this thousand year period literal or symbolic? Will it occur before or after Christ’s return?
The best way to know if a scripture is symbolic or not is to examine it in the light of the rest of the Bible. Here are five significant reasons why this thousand year period symbolizes a long period of time before Christ’s return:
1. An examination of the four events that are associated with the millennium, in light of the rest of the Bible, indicates that the thousand year period occurs before Christ returns.
• The binding of Satan for a thousand years so that “he should deceive the nations no more” (Rev. 20:2,3). Since Jesus bound Satan at His first coming and will destroy all the nations at His second coming, the thousand year period occurs before Christ returns (Matt. 12:28,29; Rev. 19:15,21).
• The loosing of Satan for a short while to deceive the nations when the thousand years are fulfilled (Rev. 20:7,8). Since Satan is loosed in the person of the Antichrist to deceive the nations and since he will be judged with the nations at the Second Coming (2 Thess. 2:1–8; Rev. 19:18–21; 20:8–10), the thousand year period occurs before Christ returns. See Chapter Twenty–one.
• Believers living and reigning as priests of God for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4,6). Since, by a spiritual resurrection, believers are presently living and reigning as priests (John 5:24,25, 1 Pet. 2:5,9) and will inherit heaven at the Second Coming (Matt. 25:34,46), the thousand year period occurs before Christ returns.
• The resurrection of “the rest of the dead” after the thousand years are finished (Rev. 20:5). Since all the dead will be raised and judged at the Second Coming (John 5:28,29; Matt. 13:30,39–43), the thousand year period occurs before Christ returns.
Since these four events show that the thousand year period occurs before the Second Coming and the impossibilities of them being fulfilled in a literal millennium, we know that the thousand years symbolizes a long period of time before Jesus returns.
2. The exact term “a thousand years” (Rev. 20:2,4,6) is used four other times in Scripture—not once literally, but each time symbolically.
• “Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?” (Eccl. 6:6).
• “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (Psa. 90:4).
• “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8).
3. The number “thousand” is often used symbolically in Scripture:
• The apostle John mentions “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” of angels (Rev. 5:11). We know this is a symbolic figure because Hebrews 12:22 says, “an innumerable company of angels.”
• “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills” (Psa. 50:10). Clearly, there are many more than a thousand hills; therefore, the Lord was speaking symbolically.
• “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee” (Psa. 91:7). Obviously, “a thousand” and “ten thousand” do not denote an exact number of people, but many and a great multitude.
• “He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations” (Psa. 105:8). Note, “a thousand generations” is symbolic of “for ever.”
4. Other symbolic terms are also used in Revelation 20: The bottomless pit and its key, a great chain, the dragon, that old serpent, and Satan’s prison. For example, “the dragon” and “that old serpent” symbolize Satan. Also, “the bottomless pit” is referred to as Satan’s “prison” (20:3,7). It is also referred to as “the sea”: John saw the beast ascending out of the bottomless pit in Revelation 11:7 and rising up out the sea in Revelation 13:1. Thus, Satan being cast into the bottomless pit is another way of saying that his power is bound or restrained until he is loosed.
5. Nowhere does the Bible specifically mention a literal millennium.
In summary, the four events associated with the thousand years occur before the Second Coming. In addition, “thousand” is often used symbolically in Scripture, and other symbolic terms are also used in Revelation 20. Moreover, when interpreted in context, Scripture does not support the teaching of a literal millennium. Clearly, then, the thousand year period is not literal, but symbolizes a long period of time before Christ’s return.
Are there a thousand years between the resurrection of the righteous and the resurrection of the wicked?
Revelation 20:5 states, “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” This verse implies a thousand years difference between the two resurrections, but Daniel 12:2 gives no such indication: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” The Bible teaches that all the dead will be raised when Jesus returns to gather His Church, at the end of the world.
Serious Bible students should interpret the Book of Revelation, which contains much symbolic language, in the light of scriptures that are plainly understood, such as the gospels and the epistles, not vice versa. With this in mind, consider the following fifty–four clear biblical references. They show the righteous and the wicked will be resurrected at the same time. Although some have been cited previously, they are very important and merit repeating here.
First, there is only one bodily resurrection of the dead. When the Scripture speaks of “the resurrection,” it’s always singular. Hebrews 6:2 records the doctrine of the “resurrection of the dead.” Martha mentioned “the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). Jesus spoke of “the resurrection” and “the resurrection of the dead” (Matt. 22:30,31; Luke 20:35). Moreover, Paul emphatically stated, “there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15). See also Acts 17:32; 24:21. “Resurrection” is never mentioned in the plural, thus implying one bodily resurrection.
Scripture clearly shows that the resurrection of all the dead occurs when Jesus comes to gather His Church. When will both the righteous and the wicked be raised?
• When all that are in the graves shall hear Jesus’ voice—“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice. And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28,29).
• At the appearing of Jesus—“The Lord Jesus Christ . . . shall judge the quick [the living] and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:1).
• On the last day—“And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Obviously, the righteous will not be raised a thousand years before the wicked, but on the last day.
• At the end of the world—“So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:49,50). See also Matt. 13:39–43.
• At the seventh and last trump, which is “the time of the dead” when both the wicked and the saints will come forth—“The seventh angel sounded . . . And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name [the just], small and great; and shouldest destroy them [the unjust] which destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:15,18).
• On the Day of the Lord when the righteous are “caught up” to meet the Lord and the wicked face “sudden destruction” (1 Thess. 4:17; 5:3). See also 2 Thess. 1:7–10; 2 Pet. 3:7–10; Luke 17:26–30; Psa. 50:3–5; Isa. 26:19–21.
In summary, the coming of Jesus is “the time of the dead” (Rev. 11:18) when “all that are in the graves” (John 5:28) shall come forth. “All” includes all nations (Matt. 25:32); every man ( Rom. 2:6); the living and the dead (2 Tim. 4:1); the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15; Matt. 13:49); the small and great (Rev. 20:12); they that have done good and they that have done evil (John 5:29).
On that day, the divine verdict will be either life or damnation (John 5:29); life eternal or everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:46); eternal life or wrath (Rom. 2:5–7); inherit all things or be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15; 21:7,8); everlasting life or shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2).
These scriptures show that the resurrection of the righteous and resurrection of the wicked are not separated by a thousand years.
What is meant by “the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:5)?
This term is found only in Revelation 20:5,6: “This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in thefirst resurrection: on such thesecond death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” Since the Bible tells us that “the second death” is everlasting death in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14), we know “the first resurrection” represents the opposite, that is, everlasting life.
Furthermore, they who have the assurance of everlasting life by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ are blessed and holy ( Rom. 4:7,8; Heb. 3:1) and are priests of God on whom the second death has no power (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 2:11). The first resurrection, therefore, is a metaphor representing the believer’s resurrection from eternal spiritual death. In other words, it is the experience of salvation—being saved, converted, born again, regenerated.
The first resurrection, which “now is,” and the bodily resurrection, which “is coming,” are two definite resurrections made possible by the quickening word of Jesus (John 5:24–29).
1. A spiritual resurrection raises us from the deadness of sin to the life of God and His righteousness, and from the second death to everlasting life. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God [the gospel]: and they that hear shall live [everlasting life]” (verses 24,25). Indeed, this is the first resurrection!
2. The bodily resurrection involves “all that are in the graves.” “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming [when Christ returns], in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (verses 28,29). According to John 5:24 and Revelation 20:6, only those who had part in the first resurrection will come forth unto “the resurrection of life.” The rest of the dead will come forth unto “the second death,” which is “the resurrection of damnation.”
Here are some other scriptures that relate to the believer’s first or spiritual resurrection from the deadness of sins.
“And you hath he quickened [to make alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins. . . . But God, . . . even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised [resurrected] us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:1,4–6).
“And you, being dead in your sins . . . hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Col. 2:13).
“For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24,32)—a parable that speaks of spiritual resurrection.
“If ye then be risen [resurrected] with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1).
“For the wages of sin is death [the second death]; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? (John 11:25,26). See also John 8:51.
“Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph. 5:14).
“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:11). Our spiritual resurrection now is the pledge of our bodily resurrection to glory hereafter.
What is meant by the statement, “and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4)?
This statement is given in the context of the souls whom John saw in heaven. “And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hand; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4).
For the following reasons, we know that John referred to the continuance of spiritual resurrection life that believers enjoy even after death, not to the bodily resurrection of the dead:
• As in the fifth seal, John saw in heaven the souls of martyrs before the coming of Jesus and the bodily resurrection (Rev. 6:9–11).
• We have already seen that the dead will not be bodily resurrected until after the thousand years are finished, that is, at the Second Coming on the last day.
• Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are also seen as risen and living in heaven before the bodily resurrection of the dead. Jesus said, “And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living” (Mark 12:26,27).
• Paul indicated that believers live in heaven before the bodily resurrection of the dead. “It is a faithful saying: for if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him” (2 Tim. 2:11); “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2
Cor. 5:8). “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . . . For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:21,23).
• Jesus declared that believers live on after death. “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25,26).
Thus, the statement, “and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” refers to the souls of those who died in Christ. They are living and reigning in heaven awaiting the bodily resurrection of the dead.
Who are the “rest of the dead” in Revelation 20:5?
In contrast with the souls who “lived and reigned with Christ” (verse 4), or those who had part in “the first resurrection” (verse 5), the “rest of the dead” are the unconverted dead who have not passed from spiritual death to spiritual life by believing on the Lord Jesus. They will be physically resurrected on the last day only to face the judgment and the second death, which is the lake of fire burning with brimstone (Rev. 20:14,15; 21:8).
When will believers reign as priests of God (Rev. 20:6)?
Revelation 20:6 says, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: . . . they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” All who experience the first resurrection have the wonderful privilege of reigning as priests of God during the period of time from Christ’s first coming to His Second Coming.
Peter wrote to “lively stones,” who “are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. . . . Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5,9). John wrote that we have been made “kings and priests unto God” (Rev. 1:5,6). That believers have been made “a royal priesthood” and “kings” indicates they are now reigning as priests.
As a holy and royal priesthood, believers are clothed with the garments of salvation, righteousness, and humility (Psa. 132:9,16; 1 Pet. 5:5). They also have the blessings and responsibilities of approaching God in prayer, offering up of spiritual sacrifices, keeping God’s commandments, and interceding for others. Since Calvary, every believer has access to God at all times. In the Old Testament this was not so; only the high priest could enter “the holy of holies,” and that only once a year with a blood sacrifice. But now, every believer is a priest and should have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19). See also Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:18; 3:12; Heb. 4:16.
As a holy priesthood, believers “offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). These sacrifices include “the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb. 13:15); sacrificial gifts as “an odour of a sweet smell” (Phil. 4:18); doing good to others (Heb. 13:16); ministering the gospel (Rom. 15:16; 2 Cor. 5:17–20; Isa. 61:6; 66:20,21); showing mercy and having the knowledge of God (Hos. 6:6); and, most demanding, the giving of our own selves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1; Phil. 2:17).
As a holy priesthood, believers also have the responsibility to keep the commandments of God by obeying His Word (1 Pet. 1:14–16; 2:1,2). Also, they must intercede before God for men (1 Tim. 2:1; Rev. 5:8; 8:3,4; Mal. 1:11) and before men for God (Matt. 28:19,20; Rom. 15:16). After the Second Coming, however, believers will no longer need to intercede and to evangelize souls. Then, it will be too late for unbelievers to be converted; the door will be shut (Matt. 25:10; Luke 13:25).
The New Testament proclaims that believers are already in “the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13), reigning “in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (compare Eph. 1:20 with 2:6). (The following verses show that Christ is reigning now: Acts 2:33–36; 3:22; 5:31; 1 Cor. 15:25; Eph. 1:20–23; Phil. 2:9; Col. 1:16–19; 1 Tim. 1:17, Heb. 1:8; 7:1–3 and 1 Pet. 3:22.)
Revelation 1:5,6 states, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
Who or what do believers reign over?
Through Christ, believers are “more than conquerors” over every trial of life, whether it be “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” (Rom. 8:35,37). They also reign victoriously over sin. “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. . . . That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:17,21); “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body. . . . For sin shall not have dominion over you” (Rom. 6:12,14). See also 1
Believers also reign victoriously over Satan because it is written, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4) and “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19).
By God’s grace, believers will reign victoriously until the end, even having victory “over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name” (Rev. 15:2).
When will judgment be given unto the saints (Rev. 20:4)?
The Bible teaches that the saints will judge the wicked when Jesus comes (Rev. 19:14,15; Dan. 7:22). Jesus also promised that those who continue with Him in His temptations now will eat and drink at His table in His heavenly kingdom and “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29,30).
Moreover, in this present day, all who have the life of Jesus are given grace, authority, and wisdom by the power of the Holy Spirit and the instruction of the Word to “abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” (Phil. 1:9). “ Zion [the Church] shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness” (Isa. 1:27). “The Lord is exalted; for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness. And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure” (Isa. 33:5,6). See also Psa. 119:66; Pro. 2:1–9; Matt. 12:17–21; Heb. 8:10. Believers are given judgment or spiritual insight for the following purposes:
• to “prove all things” (1 Thess. 5:21)
• to “try the spirits” (1 John 4:1; 1 Cor. 14:29)
• to judge ourselves (1 Cor. 10:29; Rom. 14:13)
• to “discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14)
• to “judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24)
• to speak “wisdom” (Psa. 37:30)
• to be “comforted” (Psa. 119:52)
• to be revived (Psa. 119:156)
• to be helped (Psa. 119:175)
• to “mark” and “avoid” those who are false (Rom. 16:17,18)
• to settle disputes (Matt. 18:15–17; 1 Cor. 6:4)
• to maintain proper church discipline (1 Cor. 5:12,13)
Paul declared, “He that is spiritual judgeth all things” (1 Cor. 2:15). The Lord Jesus spoke of “the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith” (Matt. 23:23). When believers “approve things that are excellent,” they will “be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10). See Isa. 56:1. They will also have a purifying influence in the earth. “When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isa. 26:9). Unfortunately, believers often fail to judge with righteous judgment. When we slip from this responsibility, worldliness, spiritual darkness, wickedness, apostasy, and desolation follow.
“Therefore is judgment far from us . . . we walk in darkness. . . . We are in desolate places as dead men. . . . Our sins testify against us: . . . in transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God. . . . And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the Lord saw it, it displeased him that there was no judgment” (Isa. 59:9,10,12,14,15). “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Pet. 4:17). “Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times” (Psa. 106:3). See also Jer. 5:1–9.
What assumptions do many make about Revelation 20?
We will consider fourteen false assumptions about this often misunderstood chapter and will endeavor to show from God’s Word its true meaning. Since much of this chapter is written in symbolic speech, we must interpret it in the light of the books that we understand such as the gospels and the epistles.
1. Many assume that when Jesus returns, Satan will be bound a thousand years “that he should deceive the nations no more” (Rev. 20:1–3).
Not once do the gospels and epistles teach the binding of Satan for a thousand years as an event of the Second Coming, but that he is already bound (Matt. 12:29; Col. 2:15). Further, they show that when Jesus returns, He will judge the nations, therefore, none will be left for Satan to deceive (Matt.
13:39–43; 25:31–34,41,46; Luke 17:27–30; 1 Thess. 5:3; 2 Thess. 1:7–9; 2 Pet. 3:7–12). In fact, Revelation 19:18–21 shows that even the remnant will be slain.
2. Many assume that Satan will be loosed to “deceive the nations” and “gather them together to battle”(Rev. 20:3,7,8) after a literal millennium.
The gospels and epistles teach that Satan, in the person of the Antichrist, will be loosed to deceive the nations a short time before the Second Coming. (Compare Matt. 24:24 with 2 Thess. 2:6–12.) See also Rev. 17:8,13,14; 19:18–20; and Chapter Twenty–one. The thousand years symbolizes a long period of time before Christ’s return.
3. Many assume that verse four speaks of earthly thrones. Whenever the gospels and epistles speak of thrones with reference to the Church, they are heavenly thrones. All who are “quickened . . . together with Christ” are seated in “heavenly places” (Eph. 2:5,6).
Moreover, Jesus promised, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. 3:21); “And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29,30). According to Revelation 19:1 and 9, this eating and drinking takes place in heaven. In addition, thirty–one verses in the Book of Revelation depict our Lord’s throne as being in heaven, never once on earth (Rev. 1:4; 3:21; 4:2–6,9,10; 5:1,6,7,11,13; 6:16; 7:9–11,15,17; 8:3; 12:5; 14:3,5; 16:17; 19:4,5; 20:11; 21:5; 22:1,3). The New Testament makes no mention of believers sitting on earthly thrones.
4. Many assume that the statement, “and judgment was given unto them” (Rev. 20:4) means that the Church will be given authority to rule on the earth during a literal millennium.
The gospels and epistles teach that judgment and authority is given to the saints now (Luke 10:19; 1 Cor. 2:15; Phil. 1:9), at Christ’s coming to judge the world (1 Cor. 6:2–4; Rev. 2:26,27; 19:14–21; Dan. 7:22), and in heaven (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:29,30). See Chapter Twenty–one.
5. Many assume that the verse, “And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, . . . and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4) refers to the bodily resurrection of the righteous when Jesus returns and to their reigning in a literal millennium.
The gospels and epistles teach that when Jesus returns, the righteous are resurrected and reign in heaven (Matt. 25:34,46; John 14:1–3; 1 Thess. 4:16–18; 2 Pet. 3:10–13). Revelation 20:4 refers to spiritual resurrection life after death and to believers reigning with Christ in heaven before His return and the bodily resurrection. As in Revelation 6:9, John saw in heaven “the souls [not resurrected bodies] of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus.” These believers died physically, but their never dying souls lived on in heaven awaiting the bodily resurrection. See Mark 12:26,27; John 11:25,26; Phil. 1:21–23; 2 Tim. 2:11,12.
6. Many assume that “the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:5) is the bodily resurrection of the saints.
The gospels and epistles teach that “the first resurrection” is a spiritual resurrection that occurs when those who are dead in their sins hear the voice of the Son of God and live (John 5:24,25). It is called “the first resurrection” because Jesus referred to two resurrections for everyone who hears the gospel and believes—the spiritual resurrection that “now is” and the bodily resurrection that “is coming” (John 5:25,28). A spiritual and a bodily resurrection are also seen in John 11:24–26 and Colossians 3:1,4.
7. Many assume that the statement, “The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished” (Rev. 20:5), speaks of a thousand years between the resurrection of the righteous and the resurrection of the wicked. The gospels and the epistles teach that all the dead will be raised at the same time, namely at the Lord’s coming, at the end of the world. Clearly, there’s no day after the end of the world. See John 5:28,29; Matt. 13:30,39–43; 25:31,32; Rev. 11:18.
8. Many assume that believers will be priests of God in a literal millennium (Rev. 20:6).
The gospels and epistles teach that believers are already in the spiritual kingdom of God on earth (Luke 17:21; Rom. 14:17; Col. 1:13) and that they are priests of God offering up spiritual sacrifices to Him (1 Pet. 2:5,9). Moreover, they are not seeking a temporary city in a future, earthly kingdom, but “one to come”—an eternal city, namely, heaven. “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us [as priests of God] offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb. 13:14,15).
9. Many assume there are two battles described in Revelation: the battle of Armageddon, which is fought when Jesus comes (Rev. 16:14–16; 19:11–21) and the battle of Gog and Magog, which is supposed to be fought a thousand years later (Rev. 20:8).
The gospels and the epistles teach that when Jesus comes, all the wicked will be destroyed by fire sent down from heaven (Luke 17:29,30; 2 Thess. 1:7–9; 2 Pet. 3:10–12), just as is described in the battle of Gog and Magog (Rev. 20:8,9). Thus, there is not a thousand years between the battle of Armageddon, which is fought when Jesus comes and the battle of Gog and Magog. The battles
described in Revelation 16, 19, and 20 are three accounts of the same battle. See Chapter Twenty–one.
10. Many assume that Satan will be destroyed a thousand years after the coming of Jesus and the destruction of the beast (Rev. 20:10).
The gospels and epistles teach that the man of sin (the beast) and the wicked are destroyed at the coming of Jesus (2 Thess. 1:7–9; 2:8). Similarly, Revelation 20:9,10 reveals that Satan and the wicked are destroyed at the same time. Therefore, both the beast and Satan are destroyed when the wicked are destroyed. That is, at the coming of Jesus, at the end of the world. Thus, there is not a thousand year lapse between the destruction of the beast and Satan.
11. Many assume that the great white throne judgment follows a literal millennium.
The gospels and the epistles teach that the throne judgment occurs at the Second Coming, not a thousand years later (Matt. 24:42–51; 25:31–46; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10). It is important to realize that the events of Revelation 20:11–15 do not follow the events of Revelation 20:1–10 in chronological order. Verse 10 comes to a climax with the destruction of the wicked and Satan. Verses 11 to 15 begin with another description of the Second Coming:
• Jesus returning on His throne of glory (compare Rev. 20:11 with 6:16,17; Matt. 25:31).
• Heaven and earth passing away (compare Rev. 20:11 with 6:12–14; 16:20; Matt. 24:29,35; 2 Pet. 3:10–12).
• No place for sinners to hide (compare Rev. 20:11 with 16:15,16; Luke 21:35; 1 Thess. 5:3).
• The resurrection of the dead and the judgment (compare Rev. 20:12 with 11:18; John 5:28,29; Matt. 13:48,49; 25:31–33).
• The righteous inherit heaven (compare Rev. 21:7 with 7:9–17; 15:2–4; 19:1–9; Matt. 25:34,46).
• The wicked receive the wrath of God (compare Rev. 20:15 and 21:8 with 6:15–17; 11:18; 14:14–20; 16:18–21; 19:14–21; 20:9; 2 Thess. 1:7–10).
12. Many assume that believers will not be present at the white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11–15).
The gospels and epistles teach that they will be present. See Matt. 12:36,37; 24:44–51; 25:14–30; 25:31–46; Luke 12:47,48; Rom. 2:4–11; 14:10–12; 1 Cor. 3:11–17; 4:4,5; 2 Cor. 5:9–11; Phil. 2:10–12; Col. 3:23–25; 1 Pet. 1:16,17. Further, Revelation 21:7,8 shows the righteous rewarded and the wicked damned into the lake of fire. See also Chapter Sixteen.
13. Many assume that Revelation 20 teaches a literal millennium of peace on earth.
The gospels and epistles teach that Jesus gives His peace now to all who make peace with God and are born again into His spiritual kingdom. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you” (John 14:27). “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” ( Rom. 5:1). “For the kingdom of God is . . . righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17). Moreover, peace is promised in heaven—there will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain (Rev. 21:4).
14. Many assume that after His coming, Christ will reign on earth for a thousand years (Rev. 20:2–7).
We have already seen that according to the gospels and the epistles, Christ will not reign on earth for a thousand years after His coming because:
• There is not a thousand years between Christ’s coming and Satan being loosed out of prison.
• There is not a thousand years between the bodily resurrection of the righteous and the wicked.
• There is not a thousand years between Christ’s coming and the great white throne judgment.
• There is not a thousand years between the battles mentioned in Revelation 19 and 20.
• There is not a thousand years between the destruction of Antichrist and the destruction of Satan.
• There is not a thousand years between Christ’s coming and the end of the world.
In addition, the gospels and epistles teach that at Christ’s coming, the righteous will inherit God’s eternal kingdom and the wicked will reap everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:34,41; Luke 13:24–29; John 5:28,29). Also, that the earth will be destroyed (Matt. 24:29,35; 2 Pet. 3:10–12). Who, then, will be left for Christ to reign over? And, how will Jesus reign on earth for a thousand years if it has been dissolved? In summary, many make three major assumptions about the order of events in Revelation 20:1–10.
1. Satan will be bound when Jesus returns the second time.
2. The saints, with new glorified bodies, will reign for a thousand years in a literal, earthly kingdom after Jesus returns.
3. Satan will be loosed to deceive the nations and to gather them to battle after a literal millennium.
In other words, many assume the events of Revelation 20:1–10 begin after the Second Coming of Christ and extend for a thousand years until the great white throne judgment.
By carefully studying Scripture, we’ve found these truths:
1. Satan has already been bound at Christ’s first coming.
2. Those who have had part in “the first resurrection” are now priests reigning with Christ in His spiritual kingdom on earth.
3. “For a little season” before the Second Coming, Satan will be loosed to deceive the nations and to gather them to battle against the Lord and His people when He returns.
In other words, the events of Revelation 20:1–10 begin at the first coming of Christ and extend until His Second Coming.